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Joanne picked the phone up on the second ring. “Hello…”
“Hi Jo, it’s Roy.”
“Hi honey…What’s up?”
“Honey…Johnny got hurt today.”
Jo’s heart thumped a little harder…She’d tried very hard not to substitute Johnny for her little brother but it hadn’t really worked. The only thing was that now she’d adopted him as Johnny and not J.R…She saw insecurity and a vulnerability in John’s eyes that J.R hadn’t had and she sensed he needed them. She cared about him a lot but she couldn't say so or Roy would worry that she was getting too attached again and Johnny might be frightened by it. “How bad is it?” She asked worriedly.
“He’s gonna be okay Jo but Brackett doesn’t want him to go home alone for a few days. Would you mind if I brought him home…I know the guest room isn’t made up and it would be extra work but…”
“Roy…,” she interrupted. “Of course I don’t mind…You know how fond I am of Johnny. I’ll clean out the spare room today.”
Dixie pushed the door open to John’s room the next morning. The brown eyes turned toward her. His cheeks flushed with color as he remembered the events from the night before and he turned his face away. He knew that like Roy…Dixie would never believe those scars were caused by an accident.
Dixie smiled in understanding as she moved to the young man’s side. “Good morning handsome,” she said briskly as she reached to take his pulse.
“mornin,” he mumbled.
She reached over and turned his head toward her. “Johnny…” The embarrassed dark eyes lifted to meet hers and she gave him a gentle grin. “Nothing’s changed…You’re still my friend and I’m here if you need me but I won’t pressure you to tell me anything okay?”
John nodded hesitantly but after a moment a smile tipped the corners of his mouth. “Thanks Dixie.”
“How are you feeling?”
“My chest still feels tight. My shoulder and my leg aren’t so bad right now…,” he said tiredly. Dixie knew when the pain meds wore off he’d be hurting pretty bad.
“Kel will be up shortly. If your lungs are clear he’ll release you. We’ll be sure to give you antibiotics and pain killers before we send you home with Roy.”
“You um…Didn’t tell Brackett about…Last night?” he hedged quietly.
She smoothed the sable hair from John’s forehead as Roy had done the night before. Johnny didn’t know why but he found the gesture incredibly soothing. She smiled at him… “No Johnny…I didn’t tell him.”
John smiled in relief. The last thing he wanted was the crusty doctor knowing that he’d been abused as a child.
The door opened to admit the pretty blonde nurse from the night before. John grinned at the girl and Dixie smiled at the obvious interest he displayed in the woman. “Johnny…Have you met Delores?” She asked with a grin.
“We sort of met last night Miss McCall but he was pretty out of it. I doubt he remembers.”
John shook his head. “No I don’t…I wish I did,” he said softly.
Delores grinned. “I think I can rectify that,” she teased with a flirty wink. Dix left smiling.
Roy was at the hospital fifteen minutes after his shift ended. John turned his head as the door opened. His dark eyes were tired and he grimaced in pain with every move. “You okay?” Roy asked as he came to the bed.
“Meds are wearing off I guess,” he murmured.
“Do I need to call a nurse?”
“No…She’ll be back with em soon.”
“Okay…Did Brackett release you?”
“Not yet but Dixie was here already. She said he’d be up soon.”
Roy nodded and sat on the edge of John’s bed. The dark eyes lifted to Roy’s hesitantly. “Um Roy…About last night…”
Roy waited patiently for him to continue. John shrugged. “Thanks for um…” His face colored a bit. “Understanding…I mean for not asking a lot of questions and um…” He stopped and Roy knew he was embarrassed by being held in his arms as he’d wept.
“You’re welcome,” he said with a grin, not making him finish the sentiment.
John gave him a small smile and a nod but he said nothing more and Roy sighed in resignation knowing he wasn’t ready to talk just yet.
The door opened and Kelly Brackett came in. His eyes took in the two younger men and he shook his head. He didn’t understand everyone else’s fondness for this kid…John Gage could be so prickly sometimes. He pushed the thought aside and headed for the bed.
“Good morning gentlemen.” They nodded as he came toward them. “Let’s take a look at you John… Roy, could you wait outside a moment?”
Roy stepped out the door and leaned against the wall to wait. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned his head back and closed his eyes. A gentle, refined voice broke his reverie a moment later. “Excuse me young man. Is that John Gage’s room?”
Roy’s eyes snapped open to see an attractive, middle aged woman standing in front of him. Her hair was a deep russet brown and her eyes were green. She was tall and reed slender and she looked vaguely familiar. Her clothing and her bearing said she was of obvious wealthy upbringing and Roy wondered idly what she’d want with Johnny…None of his business he supposed.
“Yes ma’am…But the doctor’s with him right now. I’m waiting to take him home.”
“And you are…?” She let the question hang.
“I’m his partner…Roy DeSoto.”
“What happened to Tony?”
Roy looked at her in surprise. This was obviously someone who knew him well…Why hadn’t Johnny told her he’d moved to a different station? “Um…John’s not at station 10 anymore ma’am. He’s at station 51 with me.”
“Did he leave rescue?” She asked looking shocked.
“Yes ma’am…Well sort of. He’s a paramedic…or at least he will be once the bill passes. Um ma’am…Pardon me for asking but who are you?”
“Oh I’m sorry Mr. DeSoto…My name’s Rosemary Hughes…I’m John’s Aunt…The department called me and told me he was injured.”
Roy had started to offer his hand to the woman but he hesitated. “The Aunt in Santa Barbara…? The one who raised him…?” He asked warily.
“Yes…Well at least…” she stopped at the frigid look that crossed Roy’s face. “Is something wrong?” She asked, looking a bit indignant.
The blue eyes had narrowed suspiciously. Roy was afraid John would be furious with him but he had to know. “Ma’am…I know it’s none of my business and I might be over stepping here so please forgive me but Johnny’s my friend and I’m pretty fond of the kid…”
“Well that’s good to know,” she murmured, wondering where this was going.
“I don’t suppose you could explain the scars on Johnny’s…,” he hesitated, glancing around to be sure no one was listening. “His butt…?” He finished point blank.
She looked at him in surprise and then dawning understanding. “Mr. DeSoto…Are you accusing me of abusing my nephew?”
Roy glanced away, trying not to say anything in anger. “Not accusing…I’m asking if you know who did?”
“No one did…They were caused by glass in an accident when he was an infant. An accident that killed my brother and his wife,” she said frostily.
Roy looked at her in disbelief…Did she really believe that? Couldn’t she see how troubled the kid was? Her own nephew…? He shook his head… “No ma’am.” She looked at him hard…He had her attention. “Those scars were caused by something hitting him forcefully…I don’t know what. A power cord…A Razor strap…maybe a belt…But it was flat, wide and powerful to have split the skin. The fact is there’re too many, they’re a consistent pattern and some of them are older than others. They weren’t caused by any accident or by glass. He said you raised him so I was wondering…?”
Her hand flew to her mouth in horror and Roy knew…She’d been lied to by John the same way he’d tried to lie to Roy last night but if she’d raised him from the time his parents were killed and he’d only been a baby…? Then how could she NOT know? “He lied to me…,” she whispered in shock. “He told me…”
“He said you raised him…” Roy interrupted.
She shook her head… “Only the last three years...” She looked up him teary eyed. “He showed up on my doorstep one day when he was fifteen…A half starved, skinny little waif with just what he was wearing to his name. He rather arrogantly informed me that he was my brother’s son and that his mother’s family had thrown him out and he had nowhere to go. I took him in,” she whispered in dismay.
“I’m so sorry…I shouldn’t have accused…,” Roy started to apologize but she held her hand up.
“Don’t apologize…You were concerned for him and I’m glad he has someone to look out for him. I obviously didn’t do very well,” she said in disgust. She looked up at Roy. “I was so busy all the time I never really took the time to get to know him…I just assumed…The doctor’s told me he had scars but John told me he’d got them in an accident and the doctors didn’t tell me different…My God…I feel like I failed him. That poor child…,” she said sounding sick.
“Rosemary please…,” she whispered in tearful dismay.
“Rosemary…I’m really sorry I upset you. I was just…I mean he’s kinda special ya know…”
“I know…You didn’t upset me. I’m upset with myself for being so selfish and so intent on my own interests that I didn’t see that my brother’s only child needed me for more than just food and shelter.”
Roy nodded. “You took him in and gave him a home…The fact that he only says you raised him is telling I guess. He doesn’t want to remember anyone else.”
She looked at the young, blonde man in front of her, knowing he was giving her absolution but she wasn’t sure she wanted it. “Thank You Mr. DeSoto.”
“It’s Roy…Um…Maybe we shouldn’t mention this little discussion…I think he’d just be embarrassed by it…I haven’t got him to open up and tell me yet but I’m working on it.”
She nodded. “My guess is it’s the Aunt and Uncle that took him in after my brother and Kate died....His mother’s family. My brother had an insurance policy and they wanted the money…”
Roy shook his head in disgust as the door opened and Kelly Brackett stepped out. His eyes swept the older woman curiously but he turned to Roy. “He’s all yours DeSoto…I’ll send the nurse in with his prescriptions. Be sure you fill them before you leave and follow the instructions. I don’t want him having any complications. Bring him back in three or four days…I want to check the wounds. I’ll send him home if their healing well.”
Kel nodded curtly to Roy and turned to the older woman. “Ma’am,” he said shortly as he moved off.
Rosemary’s eyes watched him go. “Is he always so pleasant?” She asked snidely.
“Only when he’s around Johnny…?”
She looked at Roy in surprise and then began to laugh… “He can be a handful,” she said musefully.
Roy grinned. “That’s an understatement.” They went inside.
Roy pushed open the door to John’s room. The younger man’s eyes were closed and he looked to be asleep. Roy moved quietly to the side of the bed. He reached out and gently rested his hand on the top of John’s head.
The dark eyes flew open with a startled gasp. “I’m sorry Johnny…I didn’t mean to scare ya,” Roy said contritely.
John coughed a bit before his eyes fell on his Aunt… “Aunt Rose?” He gasped in surprise. “What’re you doing here?”
“The department called me this morning. They said you’d been hurt in a fire…”
“I’m sorry Aunt Rose…They shouldn’t have bothered you.”
Her heart sank that she’d let him down so much that he felt he was a bother to her when he should have been a priority. She took his chin and tilted his face upward. “You are never a bother sweetie,” she said softly, bringing a flush of color to John’s face. Roy grinned. Rose sat on the edge of the bed. “Tell me what happened?” John explained and she listened carefully until he was finished...Roy took up the story when he reached the point where he was unconscious and couldn’t remember what had happened.
“I’m so glad you’re okay…You could have been killed,” she said when they were finished.
“Only if it had hit something besides that hard head first,” Roy teased.
John looked indignant for a minute before smiling ruefully. “You’re probably right,” he said, his eyes were beginning to look tired.
“Your friend Roy here says you’re a paramedic now?”
“Yes ma’am…Well if the bill ever passes that is.”
“What exactly is a paramedic?”
Roy explained to the woman what it entailed and she nodded when he was finished. “Sounds a bit dangerous but if I know John…It’s something he’ll sink his teeth into.”
“When he wakes up anyway,” Roy said drily, indicating the now sleeping younger man.
Rose grinned as the door opened and Dixie came in with a wheelchair. “Good morning Roy.”
“Mornin Dix. Are you throwing him out?”
She nodded and handed Roy two prescriptions. “Get those filled right away okay?”
Rose took them from his hand. “I’ll take care of these. You help the nurse with John and for heaven sake, don’t tell him I paid for them or he’ll be trying to pay me back.” She left.
“Who was that?” Dixie asked.
“John’s Aunt…” Her eyebrows rose and her mouth set in annoyance. Roy chuckled. “Put your claws in Dix, it wasn’t her.”
Roy glanced over to be sure John was still asleep. “She thought they were from the accident too…She didn’t take him in until he was fifteen. She said his mother’s family took him in for the life insurance money from his father’s death. She’s assuming that they’re the ones who hurt him…”
“I’d love to get my hands on them…I could show them a few uses for that money they never dreamed of,” she growled. Roy chuckled but didn’t ask…He didn’t think he wanted to know.
“Let me wake up sleeping beauty here,” he teased, turning to Johnny and lightly shaking the young man.
The dark eyes cracked open and he frowned up at Roy. “Is it time to go home?” He murmured sleepily.
“Yeah Junior…Your chariot awaits.”
John looked toward Dixie and grinned at the sight of the wheelchair.”Where’s Aunt Rose?” He asked as he struggled to sit up…Roy quickly reached around to help him.
“She’s waiting downstairs.”
Another nurse came in and handed Dixie two syringes. John looked unhappy but he didn’t protest as she emptied them into his IV port. “Antibiotic and painkillers…Be sure you start taking them in pill form tonight.” He nodded. “Let’s get this out and then you can go home.”
John nodded as she removed the IV, wincing a bit as the needle slid free. Between the two of them they quickly got John dressed and headed to the elevators. Rose was waiting in the lobby when they stepped out. She bent down to kiss John’s cheek tenderly. “I’ll see you later.”
“You’re welcome to come to our house and visit Rosemary,” Roy invited.
She shook her head. “John looks tired and he needs to rest…I’ll come visit when you’re feeling better.”
“You don’t have too Aunt Rose…I know you’re busy.”
“Yes…Well I’ve been too busy for too long…It’s time to spend a little more time with the ones that matter most sweetie.” John looked at her in confusion but he said nothing. “I love you,” she said caressing his cheek. John blushed as Dixie turned the chair toward the door and Rose pressed the two bottles of pills into Roy’s hands. “Take good care of him Roy and thank you.”
The young man nodded and followed his friend out.
Joanne was waiting for them when they arrived home. Chris was watching TV and Jen was napping when she heard the car pull in. She went to the door and opened it expectantly. She frowned as she watched Roy help Johnny from the car. John looked tired and there were lines of pain etched in his forehead as he leaned heavily against the older man.
She pulled the door open wider as they came closer. “Oh sweetheart look at you,” she said sympathetically. John glanced up at her and gave her a wan smile.
“Thanks for letting me stay here,” he muttered, obviously in pain and too tired and hurting to blush at the endearment.
“It’s not a problem sweetheart. The guest rooms all ready Roy.” The older man nodded brushing a kiss on his wife’s lips as he passed.
“What happened to you Johnny?” Chris asked wide eyed.
“Little ac…accident Chris…d…don’t worry,” Johnny gasped not wanting to tell the child he got hurt on a rescue. Chris had no idea his father’s job was dangerous and he wasn’t gonna hear it from John.
“Let’s get you settled junior.”
John was hobbling with difficulty…The stitches pulling painfully against the damaged and bruised flesh. He sucked in his breath. “Maybe you could let me sit on the couch for a minute,” he pleaded through clenched teeth.
Roy glanced at his friends pale face. Sweat was beading his forehead and beginning to trickle down his cheeks. “Damn it,” Roy muttered, feeling stupid for not realizing that John was gonna be in a lot of pain walking on that leg. He knew John would protest but he didn’t care.
John suddenly felt his legs swept from under him as Roy hefted the younger man in his arms. Johnny gasped. “Roy…Are you crazy…? Put me down…I…I can walk,” he panted. Roy grinned at the embarrassed blush that was flooding John’s face but he kept going until he reached the guest room. He deposited the younger man on the bed. John looked up at him in mortification. “I can’t believe you did that,” he mumbled.
Roy ruffled the dark hair playfully. “Sorry junior but I just couldn’t stand to see you struggle…I know it was hurting.”
John opened his mouth to protest but Chris piped in… “Your face is all red Johnny.”
“Yeah well…Redskin runs in the family…,” he mumbled in embarrassment.
“What’s that mean?” Chris asked.
Roy and Joanne looked at him curiously as well. John shrugged. “I’m actually a little lighter skinned than most of my family…This is normal.” At their confused looks he continued. “I’m uh…Half Indian.”
Joanne gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. Roy’s eyes widened at her reaction and Chris and Johnny looked at her worriedly. Roy stood up and grasped Jo’s arm. “Jo, It’s not what you’re thinking…”
“But Roy…?” She began.
“Johnny…Chris, We’ll be right back.” He gently pulled his wife from the room, turning her to face him once they were out of ear shot. “Jo…What are the chances that he’s J.R.? I mean realistically…”
“But Roy…He’s half Indian. He reminds me so much of him…”
“Of course he reminds you of him and he just explained why…He’s half Indian just like J.R but that doesn’t mean he is J.R.”
“We can ask…”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea Jo…”
“Look…Didn’t you say they took him to Montana?” He said avoiding the question…Not wanting to tell her John’s secret.
“Well John was raised in California.” Roy said assuming his aunt and uncle had to have been close enough for him to find his father’s family, after all...no fifteen year old could’ve found his way here on his own without money or assistance…John had had neither.
“I met his Aunt this morning and she never mentioned that he’d been adopted by anyone…She said he was raised by his mother’s family.”
“But it was his mother’s family who took him from us…”
“At five Jo…Not as an infant and he was raised here…Didn’t you say his father’s family didn’t want him?”She nodded. “Well she certainly took him in quick enough when she had the chance.”
Tears welled in her eyes but she couldn’t let go. “He has the same initials…The same first name.”
Roy heaved a sigh. “John is one of the most common names in the world Jo and I don’t know what his middle name is but I think you’d just upset him for nothing by asking”
“Why are you fighting this so hard?”
“Because you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and I don’t want to see you hurt honey and the chances are so astronomical that he’d just walk back into your life fifteen years later…Honey…I think you just want him to be J.R. so badly you’d grasp at any straw.” Roy prayed he was right…She’d be devastated to know they’d taken him from them for money and not because they loved and wanted him…That they’d abused him so badly…No…He couldn’t be J.R.
Jo hung her head in resignation as the tears finally fell. Roy was right…There were as many wrong things as right…If he’d been raised here from the time he was a baby…? And his Aunt had obviously jumped at the chance to have him when they’d been told by the court that his father’s family didn’t want him. Besides she couldn’t very well march in there and ask him if he was her long lost adopted brother…He’d think she was a lunatic. “You’re probably right Honey.”
He held her against him… “I’m sure I am but you know…The kid could probably use some of that big sister stuff you’ve been laying on him the last few weeks…He’s hurtin pretty bad.”
Jo nodded and wiped her eyes. “Okay honey…Let’s go see what we can do for him.”
“Daddy…,” Chris said from John’s doorway. They looked over at him. “Something’s wrong with Johnny.”
Johnny bit his lip as Roy led his now very upset wife from the room. What had he said that had shaken the woman up so badly? He’d mentioned being half Indian. Was that it? John couldn’t believe Jo would dislike him for being a half breed. She didn’t seem the type though Johnny had had many people taunt him for it over the years. Bigotry was still out there after all. Maybe he should go home.
He looked at Chris who was looking equally confused but the boy finally shrugged and climbed on the bed beside his favorite playmate. “Did you fall down?” He demanded with a serious look.
John grinned. “Sort of Chris…Something fell on me and cut my leg and my shoulder,” he explained pointing at the immobilized right arm. “So the doctor said I need help for a couple of days and your mom and dad are letting me stay here til its better.”
The boy nodded. “Did you see any fires yesterday?” He asked excitedly.
John grimaced…He’d seen it a little closer than he’d wanted to but he just nodded. The boy’s eyes sparkled. “Tell me what happened?” John suddenly remembered another boy…He was blonde and a several years older than him…He told him about wanting to be a fire fighter and John had listened with the same rapt attention Chris was now showing. He grinned but the grin suddenly faded. “YOU WILL FORGET THOSE PEOPLE…” CRACK… “THEY DON’T WANT YOU ANYMORE.” CRACK. John flinched, knowing he'd broken the rules...He wasn't allowed to think of them.
“No…,” he whispered. “I didn’t do anything wrong…Don’t hurt me.” He cringed from the memory..."please...It wasn't them... " Sweat began to bead his forehead and his breathing was labored. He didn’t see Chris run from the room but suddenly hands grabbed him. Johnny tried to twist away, terror filled his mind at the thought of the beating he was about to receive.. “I forgot them…I didn’t do anything wrong,” he whispered frantically. “Don’t punish me…”
“JOHNNY…JOHNNY,” Someone shook him lightly and he finally looked up into blue eyes…Not the cruel black of his Uncles…
“He felt himself wrapped in two strong arms and he stiffened. “Shhh…It’s okay. I won’t let them hurt you. You’re safe now.” A voice reassured him gently as a hand stroked through his hair.
John remembered other arms…Arms that had held him…rocked him. A voice that sang to him and fingers that had stroked his head. CRACK. He flinched and drove the memories away…They only brought pain when he tried to remember them but this wasn’t them…This was different.
He recognized the voice of his friend, his partner. Roy wouldn’t hurt him, he’d protect him just like he did on the job besides he already knew something bad had happened and he’d promised he wouldn’t push him for the details. John relaxed against him and let his head drop to the man’s shoulder."You won't let him hurt me..."
“That’s right…I won't let him hurt you...That’s a good boy…You just relax now and sleep okay?”
John let his eyes drift closed. Roy laid him back on the pillows and pulled the cover to his chin. His fingers swept the dark hair from John’s forehead as he settled into sleep.
“I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what that was all about?” Joanne asked worriedly as she held a frightened Chris against her.
“Chris…Johnny’s okay…He just had a nightmare.”
“He wasn’t sleeping,” Chris whispered with wide eyes.
“Yes well…It was like a nightmare okay. Don’t you worry, he’s fine now. Why don’t you go watch TV while I talk to your mom?”
Chris cast one last glance at John before nodding and running off to the living room. Jo stood looking at Roy with her hands on her hips. Her eyes turned to John as he stirred restlessly on the bed. “Well?” She asked.
“Look honey…I promised him I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“I’m not just anyone…I’m your wife. He’s staying in my home and you’re asking me to look after him…I care about him a great deal so if there’s something I should know I’d really appreciate being let in on the secret.”
Roy sighed and looked away. She was right. He’d be away on duty at least one day while John was recovering and Jo would have to care for him. If he had a flashback and she was unaware of why or what she was dealing with, it could be a problem.
“Do you remember a few weeks ago when I said I thought John had some issues.”
“Yes…I agreed he seemed a bit shy and withdrawn.”
“Yesterday when Johnny got hurt…They cut his clothes off in the ER. Miss McCall had to give him an injection of antibiotics.” She nodded. “She pulled the sheet back to you know,” Roy hinted. Jo blushed a bit but nodded for him to continue. “Jo…There were scars…I mean a lot of them.”
“From what…?” She asked in confusion. Child abuse simply never crossed her mind.
“He’s been abused Jo,” he said flatly. She gasped in horror as her eyes flew to Johnny. “Someone’s beaten him so bad they left scars.”
Tears filled her eyes at the thought that this sweet young man she’d taken into her heart had been hurt so badly. “Oh Roy that’s horrible,” she whispered. “Did he say who?”
He shook his head. “He won’t tell me…I figure he will eventually maybe but Dixie…Miss McCall said not to push him.” She nodded. “What you just saw was a flashback. Dixie and I think he may have something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“I’ve heard of that but I thought only soldiers got it.”
Roy shook his head. “Dixie said it can happen to anyone who’s experienced a trauma. From the look of it he’s experienced enough to last him a lifetime.” She nodded. “Jo… please don’t tell him I told you. He was pretty embarrassed that Dixie and I figured it out and he begged me not to tell anyone.”
“Okay Roy…As long as I know what I’m dealing with I can handle it.
John was still sleeping several hours later when Joanne peeked in to check on him. His left arm was thrown over his face and Joanne giggled at the uncomfortable looking position. She moved to the bed and leaned over to wake the younger man for dinner.
Her eyes fell on the underside of the bicep of John’s left arm. She squinted…Looking harder. No she wasn’t mistaken. There was a fine, jagged, white scar marring the surface of the skin. It was obviously old and had almost faded into oblivion but it was definitely there.
She sat on the edge of the bed, her fingers reached out to delicately trace the thin scar. John stirred restlessly. “What are you doing?” Roy’s voice came from behind her. Joanne jumped.
She turned to see him looking at her almost jealously. She waved him over.
Roy was setting the table for dinner. Chris was upstairs washing up and Jen was already strapped in her high chair. Joanne came from the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel. “I’m going to go wake Johnny…See if he’s hungry.”
Okay,” Roy said as he continued setting out dishes.
He heard her light tap on John’s door. He went to the kitchen and returned with the ice tea. He glanced at the door to the guest room that was off the dining room and doubled as a small office and Jo’s sewing room. He figured if Johnny was hungry he’d need help getting to the table. He headed for John’s room.
He looked in and saw his wife’s fingers moving gently over John’s arm as the younger man slept. He shifted beneath the covers. “What are you doing?” He asked, feeling a bit annoyed. Why was she touching John so intimately?
Jo jumped and looked at him…She waved him over. “Roy, look at this,” she said tracing the scar once more.
Roy looked at it and shrugged. “So what…?”
“So what…J.R. had a scar in the exact same place…He got it the accident that killed his parents.”
Roy ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “Not again Jo…He’s not J.R.”
Jo bit her lip. “But the scar…?”
“For crying out loud Jo…I told you he had scars all over his butt…His legs, his back. What are the chances he doesn’t have them other places. God Jo…You’ve got to let this go.”
John stirred at the raised voice. He moaned softly as his eyes cracked open. Pain was making itself known. His leg was throbbing and his shoulder felt like it was burning. The only good thing was that his chest no longer hurt.
He turned his head to see Joanne sitting next to him…An angry looking Roy stood beside her. His dark eyes looked between them worriedly. What was going on? “R…Roy? Jo?” He whispered.
“Shhh baby, it’s okay.”
’Baby…’ John flinched for a moment…The endearment raising fear in the pit of his stomach at a vague memory. Memories were always followed by pain. He drove the word from his mind before the confused brown eyes turned to Roy.
Roy huffed out an angry sigh. “Jo…Please you’re upsetting him,” Roy whispered. “I’ll take care of Johnny…Can you just go finish dinner. Jo saw the confusion in John’s dark eyes and nodded guiltily.
“Okay Roy,” she said softly as she glanced once more at John.
The sleepy, pain filled eyes turned to Roy. “What’s goin on?” He asked with a frown. Roy curbed his annoyance. None of this was John’s fault and he needed to be sure he didn’t give him any reason to feel as if he’d done something wrong. The kid had enough problems.
“Nothing that concerns you partner. Jo and I were just having a disagreement about…Dinner.” John frowned again but didn’t argue. “Are you hurtin Junior…?”
“I’ll get your medication.”
Roy tossed Jo a glance as he came into the kitchen. “How is he?” She asked contritely.
“He’s in pain. I’m gonna give him his meds and if he’s up to it I’ll bring him out here for dinner.” She nodded as he returned to John’s room. He sat on the bed beside him and gave him his pills and the water and waited while he downed them.
John glanced at Roy… “It happened again didn’t it?” He said softly.
Roy smiled. “Yeah junior…”
John flushed… “I’m really sorry Roy. Is that why Joanne’s upset…? I mean if I scared Chris…Maybe I should just go home…I…”
“Knock it off Johnny…That’s not what Jo’s upset about at all and Chris is fine. There’s no reason to be embarrassed…You’ve got a lot of drugs in your system. You’re in pain…Injured. You got a little confused that’s all. It’s okay.”
John knew Roy was giving him the out and was still not pressuring him to talk. He smiled his gratitude.”Thanks Roy.”
“Good…” Roy pulled back the covers. John’s eyes took on a worried look.
“You’re not gonna carry me again are ya?”
The next three days passed without any further incidents and while Joanne caught herself watching the young man frequently, she finally decided Roy was probably right. John seemed to have no memory of her at all and if not, than the likelihood of his finding his way back to them was slim and ending up at the same station with Roy would be an almost miraculous twist of fate but still…She knew stranger things had happened.
Chances were good he’d forgotten them completely and gone on with his life in Montana. If he was being raised on a reservation somewhere as the social worker had told them, than chances were…Being a fire fighter wasn’t a career option either.
Roy helped John out on the deck the second day and the two spent a lot of time talking and getting to know each other a bit better...Not as partners but as friends. John was tense at first as if waiting for Roy to push him into talking about his past while Roy was hopeful…Hoping that John would relax and begin to open up. Neither of them got what they were waiting for but John finally relaxed enough to enjoy the older man’s company though he remained wary of saying too much. Roy refused to press him, taking Dixie’s words to heart.
The third day, Roy returned to work. He gave Jo a worried look as he got ready to leave and her words, though sounding disappointed, reassured him that she wouldn’t pressure Johnny either. “It’s okay honey…I realized that you’re probably right. J.R. is probably in Montana somewhere…Doing heaven only knows what but I doubt he’s a fireman…Okay?”
Roy nodded. “I’m sorry babe…I just don’t want you hurt.”
“It’s too late for that…I’ve been hurt for fifteen years,” she said softly as she sniffed back tears.
He hugged her tightly…There was really nothing he could say to make it better. “Call me if you need me but he should be okay. The swelling’s gone down a lot and it’s healing pretty good but if he has any other uh…Problems…Call me or Dr. Brackett. I left his number by the phone and don’t worry he only sounds like a bear with me and John.” She grinned and wiped the tears away.
Roy took Johnny back to Rampart the next afternoon. They stopped at the base station to visit with Dixie before Johnny’s appointment with Brackett. She glanced up and grinned broadly as they approached noting that John was barely limping. “Hey you two… Johnny…How are you feeling?”
“I’m much better Dix. My leg only hurts when I stretch it too far and my shoulder hardly hurts at all.”
“Good…Then you can go home and spend some time with a certain young nurse who thinks you’re pretty cute.”
John grinned in delight. “I have a date with her tomorrow if Brackett let’s me go home,” he whispered conspiratorially.
Dixie smiled. “Yes…She told me. She also told me it was for your birthday,” she said knowingly.
Roy’s head snapped around to look at Johnny. “You’re birthday? You didn’t tell me it was your birthday.”
“Oh…Well…I don’t usually celebrate it…Besides tomorrow really isn’t….”
“Tell you what Johnny,” Dixie interrupted. “If you don’t have any firm plans…Why don’t you come to my place with Delores? I’ll make spaghetti and we can invite Roy and his wife and your crew.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble…It’s just that it’s her day off…
“It’s no trouble…Besides Mike Wolski will be in town. Maybe he and Chief Sorenson can come too…Generate a little push for the program. Kill two birds with one stone.”
“That’s a good idea junior.”
John shrugged… “Okay…If you put it that way. Just…You know…Don’t tell anyone it’s for my birthday huh and no presents okay?”
“Hey now…,” Roy protested. “Joanne wouldn’t let me get away with that.”
“Your different Roy,” Dixie teased before Johnny could protest. “You’re family.”
John and Roy both grinned, pleased with the analogy. Brackett stepped from his office and spotted the pair of ‘paramedics.’ He headed to the base station. “John…You ready for your check up?”
“Yeah Doc…Let’s get it over with.”
They headed into the treatment room, leaving Roy with Dixie. “Any headway into getting him to tell you what happened?” She asked softly.
Roy shook his head regretfully. “Not yet but we’re still getting to know each other a bit…If he’s been hurt as bad as we think he has…”
She nodded…“Especially by his own family. They’re the ones he’s supposed to trust and they’re the ones that hurt him.”
“Yeah,” Roy said in disgust. “Hey…I’m glad you mentioned his birthday. I had no idea and I would’ve felt really bad if I’d missed it.” It would also be the final proof to Joanne that he wasn’t J.R. If John’s birthday was tomorrow then it was August 25th…J.R.’s birthday was August 28th. They were close but not the same day.
They had dinner planned for Monday with Jo’s sister and her parents as they did every year. This one was special for both Johnny and J.R. however…They would both be twenty one.
The door opened to the treatment room and John stepped out. His right arm was no longer pinned against his side but was braced instead by a simple sling. Brackett followed but turned and headed up the hall leaving John to rejoin the other two alone. John shook his head.
“What’s up junior?”
John just shook his head. “Man that guy just hates me…”
Dixie grinned. “It’s not personal…He just hates that you’re as stubborn as he is,” she teased. John looked indignant but Roy laughed.
“You can say that again,” he agreed. John shot him a glare.
“So what did he say?”
“I’m okay to go home, so you can have your house back,” John said drily. “And I can go back to work in a week after the stitches come out.”
“Good. I’ll drop you off on the way home and I’ll see you at Dixie’s tomorrow.”
They waved goodbye and left.
John and Roy had just left when Joe Early came by the base station, “Hey Dix.”
“I’m on my way up to see Helen, want to come along?” Helen was the young Asian girl who’d lost her arm.
“Sure...” They headed off together.
Forty five minutes later Dixie had Kel paged to the girl’s room... Brackett glanced at Dixie
“How’s it going?” He asked.
“Let’s show him Helen,” Dixie said with a smile as she touched the girls hand with a probe. The electrical impulse caused the girls finger to lift.
“Well whatta you know...” Kel said with a smile, “Joe Early still knows his way around a nervous system... How long…?”
“Joe found it a half hour ago… I called her parents...they’re on their way over now. “
“Has the nurse told you about a therapy program?” Kel asked the girl.
“Yes sir,” She replied softly.
“One of these days, if you work hard…very hard, you may just forget which arm you hurt.”
“Yes sir, thank you Doctor.”
“You already did that… Get some rest,” He instructed. Dixie switched the scope off.
They left the room together. When they got to the base station, Dixie turned to face Brackett. “I don’t want to underestimate what you did Kel, but it is a miracle isn’t it?”
“God always has a choice. I think this time some good emergency teamwork helped him make up his mind.”
“Also reminded me why you’re here instead of a lot more comfortable places you could be.”
“Your face when she moved her finger,” She said softly.
He glanced down sheepish, “Sentimental sawbones huh?”
“It was lovely.”
“Well I always was a sucker for happy endings, “he said softly.
“Have to do some bookwork,” she said turning away and giving Kel time to regain his dignity.
She suddenly had an idea. It might be chance to get Kel and John together in the same room on a social level...Maybe they could find some common ground. It could also be an opportunity to win the Doctor over to their side.
“Kel,” She said turning back to the Doctor. “I just decided to have a little wine and spaghetti get together tomorrow night. Will you come?”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Somebody’s birthday, but he doesn’t want me to tell anybody.”
“Why? Is he too young or too old?” He asked with a grin.
“It’s Johnny Gage…but he doesn’t want any fuss or presents.”
Kel’s smile faded to one of annoyance…he felt a twinge of jealousy at Dixie’s fondness for the young man. “Are you sure he wants me there?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Am I being silly?”
“I want you there.”
Their conversation was interrupted briefly as a woman came down the hall carrying her toilet seat. Her husband had painted it while she was at work and she’d become glued to it when she’d sat on the tacky surface when she’d returned. She glanced at them as she went by raising it as if in salute, obviously happy to be free of the embarrassing attachment.
Kel looked back at Dixie, “You’ll be there?” She pressed.
“Promise you won’t do any painting...” Kel quipped as he walked away. Dixie smiled as she watched him go.
Joanne looked up as Roy came in the house. She looked beyond him and her blue eyes came back curiously. “Where’s Johnny?”
“Brackett released him to go home on his own,” he replied.
“Oh,” she murmured, looking a little disappointed.
Roy had decided to just casually mention their dinner for John’s birthday the next night. Hoping she would do the math and wouldn’t feel like he was saying I told you so. “Um honey…Can you get a baby sitter for tomorrow night…I know its short notice.”
“Probably…Mrs. Baker next door is always offering to watch them if we want to go out…Why?”
“Oh…Well Dixie kinda planned a last minute birthday party for Johnny tomorrow.”
Jo looked at him… “Tomorrow’s Johnny’s birthday? Why didn’t he say anything?”
“I uh…Get the feeling it wasn’t exactly celebrated,” he said with a grimace.
“Oh,” she said sadly. Tomorrow…Tomorrow was the twenty fifth of August. She glanced at her husband and smiled in understanding. He’d just proved to her that John wasn’t J.R. but she appreciated that he hadn’t shoved her nose in the fact that she’d been wrong. Still…she loved Johnny like a kid brother and there was no way she was going to miss his birthday. “I’ll find a sitter…Don’t worry.”
Joe Early was keeping the guests amused. He was playing a lively tune at the piano as Dixie approached Johnny and his date…the pretty blonde named Delores. Dixie was carrying a tray of Hors d’oeuvres. Her pink dress made her stand out in the crowd.
She held out the tray to Johnny, “You first since its’ your Birthday. “ John took one, popping it into his mouth. He picked up his soda can…He wasn’t twenty one quite yet and didn’t want to get Dixie in trouble if he got pulled over on the way home.
“Delores…I don’t know if you’re interested in the way to his heart but you just saw the old road,” Dixie teased as John licked his fingers and nodded enthusiastically.
“Don’t tell me…,” the pretty blonde responded, “I come with a can opener…” She grinned up at the handsome young man next to her with a grin.
Dixie moved on to Chief Sorenson and Mike Wolski... “Ready for a second Chief…?”
“Oh…I’m fine thanks,” He replied with a smile. Dixie turned toward Wolski...he looked at her.
“Dix, can we hear the phone alright? I’m expecting a call from Sacramento.”
“Are you asking a bachelor lady if she can hear her own phone?” She joked... “In a hurricane…believe me,” She assured him as she moved on. There was a knock at the door...she headed for it.
Joanne and Roy stood just a few feet away, “Joanne, would you?”She asked as she started to hand over the tray.
Roy stepped in, “Here let me…I need the exercise.” He moved off into the crowd as Dix headed for the door... Kel stood there a bit apprehensive but covered it with a grin.
“The plague just arrived,” He quipped as he leaned down to kiss her cheek.
Joe Early glanced over his shoulder, seeing Kel he turned and broke into a little jingle... “Here comes old Doctor Brackett…No matter your ill he can hack it…he’ll peer in your ear and look up you’re…” He hesitated, “Nose…no matter your ill he can hack it.” He finished as Brackett and Dixie laughed appreciatively.
“Hey you know for a Doctor he plays pretty…bad…,” Kel joked moving into the room with Dixie. They approached Joanne DeSoto.
“Kel, I don’t believe you’ve met Roy’s wife...”she said directing his attention to a pretty auburn haired woman…“Joanne DeSoto, Doctor Brackett.”
“How do you do,” Kel said extending his hand.
Joanne looked him over with barely contained look of disapproval as she shook his hand. She’d heard a lot about him from both Roy and Johnny and his stubborn opposition to the program. It was one of the few things that seemed to raise John to boisterous irritation.
Dixie moved away, “Have to count empty glasses...,” She said as went to play Hostess.
“Roy tells me you’re the Magician of Rampart General…,” Jo said politely turning her attention back to Kel.
“From your expression when Dixie introduced us, I’d say he’s told you more than that.”
She smiled guiltily... “Well I don’t see any horns and tail so he must have exaggerated.” She grew pensive...”But seriously Doctor I’m pretty proud of my guy and what he wants to do... I don’t really understand why the two of you aren’t on the same side.”
“We are…in what we’d like to accomplish, It’s just a question of method...” He said with a smile.
“She nodded her head, but didn’t really understand.
Across the room, Dixie approached Wolski. “Mike…It’s your Sacramento call,” She told him as she passed by.
“Oh thanks Dix,” he said as he turned and headed for the phone.”
She joined Kel and Joanne with his drink at the same moment Roy returned…“Hi Doc,” He greeted sliding his arm around his wife’s waist… “I see you’ve met my fan club.”
“Oh that she is...,” He agreed taking the drink from Dixie. “Thanks,” He said raising the glass in a toast... “Happy Birthday John Gage wherever you are.”
Across the room John turned away from Delores... He threw a look of annoyance toward Brackett before turning back to his date.
“Look for a lovely named Delores and Johnny won’t be far away,” Dixie teased.
“Oh yeah,” Roy agreed.
Joe Early joined them…resting one hand each on Dixie and Joanne’s shoulder...”Hello good Doctor Brackett,” He greeted.
“Doctor Joe…What’s the king of the money bunch for lunch doin here? How is it you’re not tending to that private practice business of yours? “
“Well the pay and the hours are better than the sacrifice business I promise you. And where would you be if I didn’t so generously donate my time and talent to that medical madhouse of yours,” Joe said to a laughing Kel.
“Dr. Early...” He explained to Joanne, “One of my former Interns... Took a wrong turn somewhere and became successful,” he joked.
“I had you for a bad example didn’t I…?”
“Well now…are you the entertainment director tonight?”
“If you mean what am I doing here… I’m kind of the expert for the other side.”
“What other side?” Kel asked suspiciously.
“The other side of your side I guess,” Joe replied. Dix bit her lip nervously...”Hey wait a minute; this is friendly enemy time isn’t it?”
“It should be,” Dixie said looking at Kel.
Mike Wolski’s voice interrupted his reply... “Hey everybody listen…” He shouted. “Hold it down a minute will ya?” He said holding up his hands in a stop there gesture. Everyone turned to look at Wolski… It grew quiet. “I just heard from Sacramento, the Committee’s decided to hold open hearings on assembly bill PM11307... If they like what they hear they’ll send it to floor for a vote.
Johnny and Delores came up behind Roy and Joanne. Smiles broke out on all the faces as applause rippled out around the room… All except Kel Brackett…
“Okay, okay…” Wolksi said trying to calm them down a bit, “It’s not a win but at least we got a shot and now we gotta get the muscle to push the bill onto the assembly floor.”
“We’ll get it...” Johnny said enthusiastically. A broad smile broke across his features...
“That we will,” Wolski agreed…With a little bit of luck and a lot of help.” Applause broke out again.
Kel looked down with a rueful look... He wasn’t happy about this turn of events at all.
John turned Roy to face him shaking his hand broadly... “ I didn’t believe it,” He said excitedly... “You did but I didn’t.”
“I’m smarter than you,” He teased… “Anyway like the man said we just won a round, not the fight. “
Johnny glanced toward Brackett and seeing the annoyed look he couldn’t resist taking a shot... “What’s the matter Doc…disappointed?” He said with a flippant grin.
Brackett looked up sharply as Dixie gave the young man an irritated look…“Johnny…,” She snapped sounding like his Mom used to. Even Roy gave him an annoyed look for his insensitive comment.
John looked at her…the grin faded, “Alright maybe my party manners are lousy…,” He said slightly contrite, “but it’s a fair question…as long as you’re here Doc it’s a fair question,” He said again.
“I think I’ve given you my fair answer a number of times…congratulations and goodnight,” He said maintaining a polite but cold façade. Obviously he and John Gage were never going to get along. His opinion of John’s stubborn and undisciplined personality strengthened… “Thanks Dix,” he said as he turned to leave.
Johnny looked at Roy... He shrugged at his friend in an ‘oh well’ look and turned back to Delores.
Dixie followed Kel into the hall... “Kel…” She called after him. The dark haired Doctor turned to face her... “I don’t want you to go,” she said.
He came back toward her as Dixie turned to close the apartment door behind her.
“Well when do you want me to go? After a pep talk from the assemblyman…?”
“So John Gage stepped out of line... Stop being so sensitive….”
“I am sensitive about it Dix. You all know what you want, I’m the one who has the doubts and it’s eating me up... You’re right I am sensitive. “
“Can’t we forget that for a while and enjoy the party?”
“It’s not a party, it’s a meeting. Admit it Dix… You invited me here hoping I could be persuaded to join the cause.”
“That’s not the only reason but it’s a good one…yes. What am I supposed to do? Keep my hair neat and dust the furniture? Is that your idea of a woman?”
“My mistake…” Kel said… “I guess we really don’t understand each other at all,” Kel growled. “Good night Dix...” He turned and left.
John Glanced at Dixie as she re-entered her apartment, she shot him an irritated look and shook her head but continued on into the room to mingle with her guests.
He turned to Roy… “Sorry,” he muttered.
“You’re too much you know that. You could at least try and make an effort to get along with him for one night couldn’t you?”
John bit his lip knowing that Roy was angry with him. He grimaced and threw a uncomfortable shrug at his friend. Even Delores was giving him an annoyed look. “You too…?” He asked the girl.
“I have to work at that hospital everyday Johnny…I really don’t want Brackett any more uptight than he already is…Especially if he thinks I agree with you.”
“Well…I guess but…”
“Look…I’m sorry okay…He just…,” John shrugged and looked at Roy a bit guiltily and Roy couldn’t stand the hesitant look in the dark eyes.
“It’s okay junior…What’s done is done. Let’s just move on and be more careful huh?”
The younger man nodded and turned back to Delores. She smiled at him and kissed his cheek. John knew he’d been forgiven.
Roy and Joanne stood talking a while later. “I thought you maybe you’d like to invite Johnny to dinner with us on Monday,” she said quietly.
“I thought it was only family…I don’t want your Mom and Dad upset.”
“Johnny is kind of family now besides it would give you someone to talk to and I’d like my parents to meet John.”
“Why?” Roy asked suspiciously.
“Relax Roy…You’ve proved your point. His birthday isn’t the right day okay?” She said sounding a little aggravated.
“It’s okay…It just hurts to have your hopes dashed but anyway, I just think John’s a sweet kid and I’d like him to feel like he’s a part of our family.”
“Okay…I’ll ask him. He never passes up a free meal.”
Joanne giggled and followed Roy over to where John and Delores were getting ready to leave. He smiled at the older couple as they joined them before turning to Dixie.
“Dix…Thanks for the party it was great and I’m uh…Sorry about…You know…,” he grimaced contritely.
Dixie shook her head in affectionate exasperation with the younger man. She just couldn’t stay angry with John Gage. “It’s okay Johnny…He’ll get over it…eventually. Happy Birthday…”
“Johnny...?” Roy questioned getting the young man’s attention. Johnny looked at him curiously as Roy took his arm and led him away from the group.
“What’s up Roy?” He asked worriedly. Afraid that maybe his partner was still upset with him after all.
“Um Johnny…Joanne and I are having dinner with Jo’s parents and her sister on Monday night.”
John giggled in a combination of amusement and relief. “From the look on your face you’re not too happy about it either,”he gleefully pointed out.
“Okay wise guy…No…I’m not usually too happy about being around them. They uh…Don’t like my profession…They think I should be a doctor or a lawyer…” John grinned. “I just wanted to find out if you’d like to come along.”
John smirked at his friend. “For what…? Moral support…?”
“Yeah…Some but really because it’s a very special occasion for Jo’s family and she…We…Kind of think of you as a member of the family.”
The smirk fell away, replaced by a poignant half smile. “Thanks Roy…That means a lot to me?”
Roy gave John’s head a gentle scruff drawing an eye roll of annoyance as the younger man smoothed the hair back down. “So…You wanna come?” He asked with a chuckle.
“Sure…What’s the occasion?”
“Her little brother’s birthday…”
“I didn’t know she had a brother.”
“Yeah well it’s a long…”
“Johnny…,” Delores called.
“Coming…Sorry…I gotta go. I’ll see ya Monday night. Where should I meet you and what time…?”
“Got it and thanks for being here tonight,” Johnny called back giving Joanne a quick kiss on the cheek as Delores pulled him out the door.
“You’re welcome…Happy birthday…”
“Thanks but it’s not really…” Dixie closed the door behind them cutting off his reply.
Jo grinned and shook her head at Roy with a grin. “So does all that mean he said yes?”
Roy grinned and nodded.
Roy and Joanne met Arlene, Ron and Eileen at the restaurant on Monday night. Joanne kissed her parents and gave her sister a hug. Roy nodded to the ladies and gave Ron a handshake a little less enthusiastically than Joanne’s greeting had been.
“Mom, Dad…I hope you don’t mind but we invited Roy’s partner to join us tonight.”
Her parents looked surprised. “Another fireman Jo…?” Her mother questioned snidely.
“Obviously…Since he’s my partner,” Roy answered drily, drawing an annoyed look from his wife. Roy got along with Jo’s parents about as well as Johnny got along with Dr. Brackett. Jo almost giggled at the thought.
“Mom please…You’ll like Johnny. He’s a sweet boy…Just the same age as our J.R. He’s a little shy around strangers but I think you’ll really like him.”
“Why’s that?” She asked unconvinced.
“Well...Just wait’ll you meet him and I think you’ll understand.”
John pulled into the parking lot of Angelo’s. He glanced at his watch and winced. He was a few minutes late and hoped it wouldn’t cause any problems with Roy’s in laws for holding them all up. He was curious why Joanne had never mentioned a brother and shrugged. Guessing he’d meet the guy soon enough.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside. “Can I help you sir?” A man asked.
John glanced around and spotted Roy and Joanne. “Uh yeah…I’m supposed to be meeting them,” he said pointing at the group.
The man nodded a let John pass.
“So where is this young man?” Arlene complained looking at her watch.
“I’m sure he’s just running a little behind mom he’ll be here,” Joanne assured her.
Roy turned in his seat and spotted Johnny talking to the Maître’d. “There he is…I’ll go get him.”
Roy stood up and headed for the front of the restaurant. John saw him coming and grimaced. “Sorry man…I got stuck in traffic.”
“No problem…C’mon before she gets any more riled.”
Joanne grinned as she saw them approach...They were still quite a distance away when she grinned and whispered. “Mom, Dad…Eileen. You won’t believe this…You'll see why I want you to meet John Gage.”
Her father stood up and turned to face them. John glanced up as he walked beside Roy. His eyes caught the older man’s and he sucked in his breath in shock but he didn’t know why.
Ron’s mouth dropped open briefly before he caught himself. “Dear God,” he murmured.
Johnny’s face went pale…It got worse as Joanne’s mother stood up to look into her husband’s eyes in concern. She turned to look at whatever it was that had shocked her husband. John took a step backward. Fear…Paralyzing fear began to climb upward from his belly…He was frozen in place and he began to shake. The faces were familiar but he didn’t know from where but they brought pain and terror…
“YOU WILL FORGET THOSE PEOPLE.” CRACK…CRACK…CRACK. “THEY DON’T WANT YOU ANYMORE.”
John’s breath was coming in short gasps and sweat broke out on his forehead. Roy grabbed his arm to support him. “Are you alright?”
John pushed the images from his head. “Forget them…,” he whispered almost inaudibly. He got his breathing under control… “I’m sorry,” he whispered but Roy wasn’t sure who it was aimed at. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled again. He looked up at Roy but the eyes seemed vague, almost as if he didn’t know where he was. “I don’t know them…I don’t know them.” Roy wasn’t sure if he was promising him that he didn’t or was pleading for reassurance that he didn’t.
“No of course you don’t Johnny…This is the first time you’ve met them. Are you okay? Let’s sit you down,” Roy said gently as he reached out to swipe the dark hair from John’s forehead.
A waiter was on his way over to be sure all was well but Roy waved him off. “He’s fine…Just got a little dizzy.” The man nodded worriedly and moved away.
Arlene and Ron’s face had paled much the way Johnny’s had and Joanne grew concerned. Eileen’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “My God…He looks so much like J.R.” Ron mumbled.
Arlene’s eyes turned to Joanne. “Is he…?” She trailed off hoping but knowing it probably wasn’t what she wanted it to be.
Jo shook her head. “No…But he reminds me so much of him it’s scary,” she said as she watched Roy talk softly to Johnny. “He’s even half Indian,” she whispered.
“But you’re sure?” Arlene whispered forlornly.
“He was raised here in California by his mother’s family and then his Fathers sister took him in and his birthday was three days ago,” she informed them sadly. “But I was floored by it too. I really was hoping he was, believe me...I feel very close to him. ” They nodded in disappointment as Jo glanced over at the pair once more.
Joanne was beginning to grow concerned at the way Roy was holding John’s arm. The younger man looked almost ill…Worse he looked frightened, as he had that night in his room but after a moment it seemed to pass. The dark eyes rose to meet Roy’s. They must be talking even though she couldn't hear them. She saw her husband nod and reach out to sweep the dark hair back. Joanne smiled at the tender gesture.
“Floored is an understatement,” Eileen murmured. “Good heaven’s Jo, you could have warned us.”
“I was going to except Roy doesn’t like me comparing them. He thinks it tears me up too much and he doesn’t want me to spook Johnny…He’s uh…A little shy about getting close to people.”
“JOHNNY,” Her mother gasped.
“Shhh…Here they come,” Jo hushed them.
“Arlene, Ron…Eileen…I want you to meet my partner John Gage… Johnny these are Jo’s parents Ron and Arlene and her sister Eileen.”
Their eyes were locked on Johnny but the younger man’s dark eyes seemed lost and unfocused. “It’s a pleasure to meet you John,” Ron said holding out his hand.
The dark eyes dropped to look at it unseeingly. “Johnny…I want you to sit for a minute okay?” Roy said helping him into a chair.
The older man’s voice seemed to finally get through. He looked up at Roy and chewed his lip nervously. “I’m sorry…I…I don’t…” His eyes darted to the couple standing there.
“Roy is he alright?” Jo asked worriedly as she came to squat next to Johnny. “Sweetheart, are you okay?” She asked as she laid her hand on the young man’s arm gently. The others resumed their seats…Their eyes watched the boy in concern.
“Look at me Johnny,” Roy instructed. The brown eyes came back to Roy. “Are you alright? DO I need to take you to Rampart?”
“NO...I…I’m okay…,” he protested adamantly.
“Okay…Alright settle down.” Roy grabbed a glass of water from the table and held it to John’s mouth…”Take a sip…It’ll help some.”
John obediently drank some water…Finally reaching up to take the glass in his own shaky hands. “I’m okay…Man…I… I don’t know what happened…,” he panted, looking a little scared.
“It’s okay, let’s just get you relaxed and we’ll go from there,” Roy said calmly. John glanced around, blushing furiously as he realized the eyes of every other person in the restaurant were on him.
John drank the water down and set the glass back on the table, shooting a grateful look at his partner as Roy gave him a final gentle rub on his shoulders and resumed his seat.
John glanced at Jo’s family but turned his eyes away again evasively. He didn’t understand why it gave him such a feeling of unease…Almost fear, every time he looked at the couple? “I’m really sorry,” he murmured. “I guess I didn’t get off on such a good start,” he said quietly. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said holding out his hand to Ron and then Arlene. His eyes didn’t quite meet theirs and his face was flushed with embarrassment.
“It’s quite alright Johnny,” Arlene said gently.
John shivered…“It’s John,” he corrected quickly without knowing why the younger version of his name seemed to bother him coming from her.
Roy and Jo both looked at him oddly. They called him Johnny all the time…Most people who knew him did and it didn’t bother him.
“I’m sorry…John then,” she amended….her blue eyes watching the boy in concern.
He smiled hesitantly. “Elly…een…,” he began before correcting himself. He held out his hand and smiled. She didn’t seem to bother him as much as Ron and Arlene had but why had he almost called her Elly?
The waiter arrived a moment later and they ordered two bottles of wine as he handed them each a menu.
“Um…Shouldn’t we wait?” John asked hesitantly.
“Why Johnny…?” Joanne asked.
“Well…Roy said this was a birthday party for your brother,” he said looking around. “He’s not here yet.”
Jo laughed. “Oh sweetheart…I’m sorry…We didn’t get to explain…See my brother isn’t here…He’s not with us anymore but this is our way of remembering him.”
“I’m sorry,” Johnny murmured, thinking that the boy must have died.
“Oh don’t be…He’s twenty one today…”
John looked a little confused. “He IS twenty one?”
“Yes…See…He was adopted.” John frowned at that information. “His real family came back and took him from us after we’d raised him for several years…We never see him anymore so this is how we remember him.”
John grimaced. “Yeah well…Maybe you’re all better off…Being adopted ain’t all it’s cracked up to be for either party,” he said bitterly.
They all looked at him in shock. “Why would you say that?” Jo gasped.
John blushed at their hurt looks… “Oh…I’m sorry,” he muttered with a shrug. “I’m sure it was great for him…But it’s not always…Not when they decide they don’t want you and throw you back,” he murmured.
Jo and Roy both looked dumbfounded. “Johnny…?” Roy asked. “Were you adopted?”
John nodded matter of fact and sipped his water. “Yeah…But I guess I got to be too much trouble so they dumped me back on my Aunt and Uncle.”
“I’m sorry sweetheart,” Jo mumbled. Roy looked concerned. Hmmm…Another group of potential people who could’ve abused John were just added to his list. John shrugged indifferently but the hurt was reflected in his face.
“Why don’t we see what we want to order?” Ron suggested breaking the sudden tension.
They all nodded hoping to let the awkward subject die. They ordered dinner and ate quietly…Usually waiting til the end to set out a birthday cake and reminisce a bit about J.R. The waiter returned with the bottle of champagne and filled the glasses. They set out the birthday cake and raised the flutes.
John hesitantly raised his own… Ron smiled at the others a bit sadly as his eyes fell on John… wondering what his own son would look like now. “To our son...We hope wherever you are that you’re happy, healthy and loved. Happy birthday J.R. Hutchins…”
John’s face blanched…His hand shook. J.R. Hutchins…J.R.? “Happy birthday J.R,” a little girl’s voice whispered waking him from his sleep. Her smiling face crinkled as she tweaked his nose, drawing an impish grin…He was on the floor rolling with laughter…The girl’s voice returned. “Look out J.R….Here comes the tickle bug…” Her wiggling fingers descended on his ribs until he dissolved into breathless giggles. The girls red hair fell around him as the sound of her merriment joined his.
“Do it again Jolee…” he belly laughed gleefully.
CRACK… John flinched violently and began to shake. “THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU…YOU WILL FORGET THOSE PEOPLE…YOU’RE NOTHING TO THEM…” CRACK. John’s hand tightened convulsively around the wine glass…The stem snapped, cutting the young man’s hand as the flute crashed to the table, smashing and splashing champagne everywhere…The sudden pain driving the memories from his head. He snapped back to the present looking confused.
Roy’s eyes had been on John from the moment they’d raised their glasses. Half grinning at John’s hesitant raising of his glass. He saw his young partner’s eyes grow distant and then his frightened flinch and the stem of the wine glass snapped. Roy shot from his chair to grab John’s bleeding hand. He looked at it carefully to be sure there was no glass still in it before he snatched up a napkin and pressed it against the wound.
“What the hell happened Johnny?” He asked tensely as the others gathered around.
The waiter arrived quickly and saw the broken glass and the blood. “Sir…I am so sorry…We’ll ah…We’ll make this up to you of course.”
“It’s alright…,” John whispered. It was my fault…My fault.” He looked up at Roy and the dark eyes were haunted. He licked his lips nervously and let out a shaky laugh. “Guess I d…don’t know my own s…strength.”
“Do you have a first aid kit?” Roy asked the waiter.
“Yes sir…” The waiter left as Roy turned his attention back to his partner.
“That wasn’t it Johnny…You’ve been…Distracted… since you got here…What’s goin on with you Junior?”
“Nothing…It was nothing. I…Just…I guess it’s just my first time with a wine glass you know? I didn’t know they were so delicate… I’ve never been allowed to drink before,” he said with a half hearted chuckle and a crooked grin at Roy.
“Well until Friday…I’m sure Dixie offered you something,” Joanne teased him, trying to lighten the young man’s obvious embarrassment.
“She did but I didn’t want to get her in trouble if I got pulled over or something.”
“Why would she be in trouble?” Roy asked curiously as he lifted the napkin to check the wound. The bleeding was almost stopped.
“I wasn’t twenty one yet.”
“Friday was your twenty first birthday sweetheart,” Jo reminded him with a laugh.
John shook his head. “No it wasn’t…That was just the only night Delores had off.”
Roy looked toward Joanne and knew he had to ask the question…John’s behavior at the sight of Joanne’s parent’s coupled with his reaction to the name J.R. The fact that he was adopted and then sent to live with his mother’s family…The birth date had been his main argument against his being J.R.
There were other things that were out of sync but there was bound to be an explanation for those too. Roy closed his eyes briefly…“Johnny…When is your birthday?” Roy asked quietly, somehow already knowing the answer. The others held their breath as well.
John looked at him innocently. “Today...”
Jo gasped and sat down in her chair…Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes shot to Roy. Her parents looked ready to weep… “Oh my God,” Eileen whispered. John looked at them in confusion.
Jo opened her mouth but Roy held up his hand. “Don’t Jo,” he said firmly. “Johnny…It’s pretty much stopped bleeding… Why don’t you um…Go to the restroom and clean that up okay? I’ll bandage it up when you’re done.”
John nodded, casting a glance at the upset faces of the rest of the party…He flushed again at having been the cause of another commotion. “I’m sorry…,” he said again as he left. The waiter returned with the first aid kit. He cleared the broken glass up and left.
Joanne turned to her husband. “Roy…You know he’s J.R.…You can’t tell me he isn’t”
Arlene had tears in her eye while the others were smiling happily. “Joanne…I agree with you okay? I do think now that he is J.R…” The others looked excited until Roy held up his hand. “But you can’t tell him that.”
“WHAT?” She practically shrieked.
“Joanne…Did you see his reaction to the name J.R…To your parents when he saw them?”
“He…He looked scared,” she whispered.
“Exactly… He was having a flashback that terrified him. Worse… You heard what he said about being adopted. ‘They sent me back…I was too much trouble.’ Whoever raised him not only abused him…” His words drew a gasp of horror from Eileen and Jo’s parents…
“What do you mean abused him?” Ron questioned angrily.
He glanced at them and continued. “I’ll explain later but for now let’s just assume that they apparently told him you didn’t want him.”
“Then we’ll tell him the truth.”
Roy tipped his head back in exasperation. “Jo…He’s not gonna believe that. He doesn’t even remember you, not clearly anyway and whatever he does remember, scares the crap out of him. Now I don’t know for sure what they did to him or what they told him but until I know for certain that telling him isn’t going to traumatize him even more than he already has been…I’m asking…No I’m begging you…All of you…Please, please don’t upset him. I’ll try to find out what I can from him…”
John came back before he could secure their promise. Their eyes were on him and Johnny shifted uncomfortably. “Is something wrong?” He asked nervously.
Roy’s blue eyes looked at the others pleadingly before he turned and smiled at his young partner. “Nothing’s wrong junior. Why don’t we all sit down and have some cake?” Roy suggested. The others hesitated and Roy could see the desperation in their faces. They wanted their son…Their brother back but they finally all nodded their agreement and sat down. Roy bandaged John’s hand and then they lit the candles on the cake…“Hey um…Since your son’s not here and it’s Johnny’s birthday too…Why don’t we sing to him?”
“Oh no Roy…,” John began to protest.
“That’s a great idea Roy,” Arlene said.
John blushed as they all sang happy birthday. Joanne leaned over and touched his shoulder. “Blow them out baby,” she said softly.
The young man froze…His mouth trembled and his eyes took on a troubled vagueness. It was obvious to all of them that he was remembering something. John gasped as the memory of the same little girl as before wrapped her slender arms about his waist. ‘Blow them out baby.’ she whispered.
John shuddered as the memory continued…“Help me Jolee…,” he whispered softly as his eyes stared blankly at the table.
He choked back a terrified sob as black eyes stared back into his. “YOU WILL FORGET THOSE PEOPLE.” The thwack of the man’s heavy leather belt across his bare skin jerked him from the memory. He stood up abruptly…The chair flipped over backward.
“Johnny…” Roy said standing quickly.
John’s eyes were frightened… “I forgot them…I didn’t do anything wrong…I forgot them.” John turned and bolted toward the front of the restaurant. The others stood but Roy waved them back.
“You’ll only make it worse…I’ll take care of him.” Roy followed John out.
Arlene turned toward her husband. “What did they do him?” She whispered as the tears rolled down her cheeks. He put his arms around her comfortingly. Joanne exchanged a glance with her sister. “Roy said they abused him…What did they do?” Arlene pleaded softly.
She shook her head knowing that telling them would only rip their heart out the same way hers was being ripped apart. It had been bad enough to know that her friend Johnny had been abused and traumatized but know now that it was her baby brother tore at her soul.
“Mom…Dad. You don’t want to know…”
“Joanne Lee…I…We have a right to know. He’s our son,” Her father shot back angrily.
She swallowed tears… “Roy doesn’t know for sure himself…He’s trying to get Johnny to trust him enough to talk to him but…He said he’s been beaten.” Her mother choked back an angry sob. “He saw the scars on him…,” Joanne continued. “Johnny said they were caused from the accident that killed his parents but Roy and a nurse that was there too said no way.”
“Did he say where?” Ron asked.
“His lower back…His legs, his buttocks.”
Her father shook his head forlornly…“He didn’t have any scars from the accident on him there,” Ron affirmed.
They glanced up as Roy returned alone.
“Johnny…,” Roy called after his partner. JOHNNY…”
The younger man finally slowed to a walk…His steps faltering until he stopped, allowing Roy to catch up. The blonde fireman put his hand gently on John’s shoulder. “I…I’m sorry…I…I didn’t mean to spoil ev…everything.”
“Johnny it’s okay…You didn’t spoil anything. They’re all just concerned about you. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I don’t know…I…I…c…can’t remember…I can never remember…”
“Why Johnny…Do you know why?”
“Can’t tell you…Not allowed to tell you,” he whispered with a look of fear on his face.
“I wanna help you,” Roy said quietly as reached out to gently curl his hand around the back of John’s neck.
John stiffened and shook his head, flinching as the sound of his uncle’s voice snapped through his brain. ‘Ungrateful half breed…Telling your lies…Embarrassing us… You better never tell anyone again…No one believes you anyway…You’re worthless.’
John shook in Roy’s arms “Please Roy…I just wanna go home…I’m tired.”
Roy sighed… “Okay junior…It’s okay. Are you okay to drive or do you want me to take you home?”
“I’m okay Roy…I’ll be alright.”
Roy swept the dark hair from John’s face. The younger man flinched from the gentle touch as if he were afraid something horrible would follow…Roy looked at him sadly.
“Alright Johnny… Drive careful. Goodnight and um…Happy birthday,” he said ruefully.
John tried to smile. “Thanks.”
“What happened Roy? Is Johnny okay?” Jo asked worriedly as Roy approached the group.
“He’s okay…He went home. He’s uh…A little embarrassed about what happened.”
“Did he remember us?”
Roy shook his head. “Whatever he remembered, he lost again. He does it a lot. Something else always overpowers it…Something that scares him to death. I’ll keep trying to get him to tell me. I think he wants to but he’s scared.”
“My parents confirmed your suspicions. Johnny had no scars on him from the accident except the one on his arm,” Joanne told him quietly.
Roy nodded. “I pretty much knew that. Ron, Arlene…He looked to Eileen to include her silently. “I’ll do my best to help John and I promise…There’ll be a time when we can sit him down and tell him the truth and I know we don’t always see eye to eye but John’s my best friend and my partner…I care about him a lot…He’s kinda like a kid brother to me too so I’m asking you to please be patient and trust me.”
“I want my son back,” Arlene said adamantly.
“And I’ll do my best to help you get that but if you spring this on him too soon…He’ll run from you…You’ll lose him…Maybe we all will.”
“Mom, please,” Joanne pleaded gently. “Roy knows John better than any of us. Trust him.”
Arlene and her husband exchanged a glance and looked to Eileen. She was John’s sister and her opinion had to be considered. She nodded her agreement. “Okay Roy…I’ll give you some time…But I won’t wait forever,” Arlene warned.
John returned to his apartment still troubled by what had happened at the restaurant. Johnny had always had nightmares and occasional episodes like tonight but they were coming more frequently since he’d met Roy and his family and he didn’t know why.
John had been told that he was worthless and unwanted since he was young but somewhere in his mind there were other memories…Earlier memories of kind words…Words spoken with love and smiles and joy but He knew that the memories of his Uncles abuse and hateful words always overshadowed other people’s words of encouragement. And the encouraging words that people spoke always seemed to trigger the episodes…Maybe they were more frequent because Roy often spoke well of his abilities…But now it was getting worse. The sight of Joanne’s family had terrified him.
John rubbed a hand over his face…He’d made a fool of himself tonight and despite the fact that Roy had chased him down and told him everything was okay he was very afraid his friendship with the older man was most likely over. Joanne would probably be furious with him for ruining her brother’s birthday.
The thought brought an ache to his stomach and his heart. He’d become so close to his partner and his family. The idea of losing him hurt a lot but what could he do? The poor man had to be tired of these episodes. He hadn’t signed on to deal with John’s past and John couldn’t tell him what had happened, besides it wasn’t Roy’s problem. He’d come into this expecting to find a partner in John, not a kid to have to babysit for.
John dropped onto his bed feeling lost and very alone…He didn’t want to lose his partner. He decided to try some damage control but if that didn’t work…? John closed his eyes in resignation. He was gonna miss Roy.
John returned to work three days later. “Welcome back Gage,” Dick said with a nod.
The others carefully patted his back or shoulder in greeting. “John grinned his appreciation of their heartfelt assurances that they’d missed him but his eyes were on Roy as the older man poured them both a cup of coffee.
He returned to the table and set the cup in front of his young partner. John’s dark eyes rose to meet his. “Um Roy…?” About the other night…?” He began quietly.
Roy looked at him questioningly. “What about it?”
“Well… Look… I know I screwed things up at the…”
“Johnny, stop it,” Roy interrupted firmly. “I told you when it happened it was no big deal.”
“It was a special occasion for your family and I messed up your whole dinner Roy,” he said biting his lip nervously.
Roy grinned. “It was dinner with my in law’s junior…All you did was add a little excitement.”
John gave his partner a slight crooked quirk. “Still…I acted like an idiot.”
“No John you didn’t…You acted like someone who was scared by something...It’s not a crime ya know.”
John’s head snapped up…He glanced around at the others worriedly. “I wasn’t scared,” he protested indignantly, dropping his voice to a whisper. “I was upset that’s all.” He blushed, remembering the way Roy had held him…Swept the hair from his face as if he were a kid…The same way…No…He pushed that thought away before it could grab hold and bring the other memories behind it. Anyway…He hoped that wasn’t the way Roy saw him.
Roy’s blonde eyebrow climbed in disbelief. He leaned forward to speak quietly. “You were scared junior and I want you to know that I’m here for you when you’re ready to talk okay?”
“It’s not your job to listen to my problems. You didn’t ask me to be your partner to have to babysit some kid with personal hang ups and I’m really sorry. I’ll try to keep my personal life personal.”
Roy leaned his chin on his fist and looked at John in amusement, realizing that John was trying to convince him that he wouldn’t be a problem. “Johnny…As my partner you’ve had my back several times now…I have no regrets about that decision. As my friend…?” Roy shrugged and leaned back. “You’ve had a couple of tough moments when I wish you would have trusted me enough to let me help.” John worried his lower lip, wishing he could tell Roy the truth but it was so embarrassing. “Listen to me…The kids love you…You’ve got Joanne wrapped around your little finger. You’re a part of my family…”
John gave him a small smile. “Thanks,” he said sounding relieved.
“Let’s get our chores done huh?” Roy suggested, giving the back of John’s head a light pat.
John flushed at the familiar gesture and then grinned. He stood up and followed his partner.
They responded to several runs that morning and Johnny quickly found out on the first run to Rampart that Kelly Brackett hadn’t missed him at all. The frown he directed at Johnny as he approached the base station said it all. Friday night’s hostilities hadn’t been forgotten. John shot Roy an ‘Oh-Oh’ grimace as Brackett slotted the patient’s chart he’d been holding into the rack and stalked past them.
“He’ll get over it eventually junior,” Roy said with a chuckle. “Let’s get back to the station…It’s almost lunchtime.”
Two hours later the squad rolled on an MVA. A car had gone over a cliff on one of the steep canyon roads. John and Roy had already picked up Dixie and were racing along the curving roads trying to locate the accident site.
Dixie spotted the damaged guardrail first, “Broken railing..,.” She said pointing.
Roy began to slow the squad to a stop nearby as John picked up the Radio... “Squad 51 at scene, He reported. The two Paramedics climbed out and ran to the edge to assess the situation quickly, then headed for the squad to get their gear.
John grabbed to fire extinguisher and trauma box... Dixie took the Drug box. Johnny halted at the edge waiting for Dixie to get situated. She rested her hand on his shoulder for support and let him lead her down.
Roy picked up a mic... “LA Squad 5, we have a vehicle over the cliff with at least one injury... What’s the ETA on the ambulance?”
“Squad 51, the ambulance and Engine and Patrol 186 are responding... ETA unknown…”
John and Dixie reached the first victim. She began to assess his condition. “Breathing…” She told John as she moved to run her hands over the victim’s legs. “Both legs broken...” She noticed a woman unconscious in the overturned car, “Check vital signs...,” She directed Johnny.
“Weak pulse…” He said to her as she moved toward the car.
Dixie grabbed the door handle of the car letting go quickly and backing up as the car rocked precariously dislodging chunks of dirt and rock that plummeted down the cliff side.
John looked up from his victim in concern as Dixie once again reached for the car which continued to slowly teeter on the edge. He ran to join her as Dixie climbed in… John lay down and scooted in beside her.
Dix was checking the woman’s eyes... She turned back to him, “Fractured radius and ulna,” She told him… “Probable concussion…”
John was very concerned about the increased rocking of the car. Dixie really shouldn’t be in it. Her job was to assess a patient’s condition, not actively participate in a rescue. That was his job. “Let’s get her outta here quick...,” He suggested turning to get into a better position.
“Yeah...,” Dixie agreed. She swung herself around until she was half out of the shattered rear window.
Roy came down the hill carrying the splint box and Biophone. Seeing his Partner and Dixie in the dangerously rocking vehicle, he set them down and ran to help. He slid in beside John. “Climb outta there, it’s gonna go over,” He told Dixie.
“You heard him Dix…now we’ll get her out of here…,” John directed reinforcing Roy’s order, fear for the safety of the older woman in his voice.
“It’s half done,” She argued. “Get on the link to base…,” She told John. “The man is coming around, he’s gonna be in a lot of pain.
“Wha...?” Johnny started to protest then realized he just be wasting precious time arguing with the stubborn woman. He gave up and began to help Roy pull the woman out… The car rocked harder and fire broke out on the cars undercarriage.
Roy and John finally pulled the woman free. The car gave one hard jerk… The window frame clipping the nurse on the back of the head, knocking her out. The two Paramedics laid the victim on the ground a safe distance from the edge and turned to see the car in flames and beginning to slide over the edge. They suddenly realized their friend was still half inside.
“Dixie...,” Roy yelled as they ran back to the car. Grabbing hold of the frame and digging their heels in, desperately trying to hold the ton of steel from slipping over the edge, taking Dixie with it. Weight and momentum finally won. The car twisted from their grip, plummeting over the cliff…Fully engulfed in flames by the time it reached the bottom.
Roy and John stood in stunned shock. Johnny’s first thought was that he’d lost his friend and then realized Dixie hadn’t gone with the car. The Nurse lay bleeding and unconscious on the edge. John reached back and brushed Roy’s arm drawing his attention to where Dix was lying then they ran to her side… John reached for her wrist to get a pulse.
“Car musta pivoted right around her,” Roy speculated.
“Slow and weak,” Johnny announced standing up.
“Do what you can for the other two… Get me a BP cuff,” He called after John as he ran toward their equipment. He opened the drug box and grabbed the cuff out running back to Roy. John returned to the splint box and began to work on the man, setting the splints in place.
Roy took Dixie’s blood pressure… “What shape are you in?” He called to his Partner as he pulled the cuff free.
“Both in acute pain... What about Dixie?”
“Fast I.V. and some atropine,” Roy replied kneeling next to his friend.
“Pump it up...,” He directed the older man indicating the inflatable splints.
“Give me a minute,” He said setting up the Biophone.
“What’re you doin?” Johnny asked.
“What for…? So they can tell us we can’t treat em?”
“No…so they know we’re going to. Rampart, rescue 51… Rampart… Rescue 5-1. C’mon…c’mon…” He muttered impatiently.
“Go ahead 51,” Came Brackett’s voice.
“Doesn’t he ever take a day off?” Johnny growled in disgust.
“Vehicle over the cliff…three patients… one male, two female… Male victim approximately forty five,” He handed the phone to John.
“Compound fractures…both legs…acute pain. First female approximately forty…fractured radius and ulna…right arm... Probable concussion… Acute pain... Vital signs; Both stable, both need immediate IV’s along with Talwin…30 mgs. He handed the phone back to Roy.
“Third Patient…Female... Approximately thirty… Unconscious, probable concussion… Deep shock… Vital signs…60/40,… rate 30, respiration 8 – 10. Eyes unequal… Needs fast IV and 1 mg atropine...”
“Tell the nurse treatment confirmed...,” Brackett told them, John and Roy exchanged a quick glance.
“I wish we could do that Doc...,” Roy replied, “Dixie’s the third Victim.”
Kel stood in shock for a moment. DeSoto’s voice came over the speaker…, “Whatta ya say Doc?”
He pressed the speaker button, “I’ll have a back up Nurse out there on the double.”
“We’re forty five minutes from base.”
“Do what you can... Immobilize those fractures… Don’t treat em,” Kel ordered.
John looked away in disgust... He’d already known what Brackett would say. “These people are in pain and Dixie can’t wait,” Roy argued.
“Don’t treat them. A nurse is on the way… That’s an order.”
John reached over and plucked the phone from his disappointed Partner’s hand. He wasn’t about to lose a friend to this Doctor’s stubbornness… “To hell with the orders,” He snarled angrily at Brackett. He switched the Biophone off... Kel stared worriedly at the now silent link.
The ambulance arrived. The men loaded the three victims quickly. Roy and Johnny exchanged worried glances… They knew they’d be in trouble but there was really nothing else they could have done except let them die and that wasn’t an option. They headed for Rampart and whatever repercussions awaited them there.
They were met by Tom Jackson, Joe Early and Kelly Brackett. Each one following a gurney into a treatment room… Kel shot them a look of pure fury but knew now wasn’t the time… Dixie needed him.
The older nurse named Carol Jacobs approached them. She’d responded with them on several of their previous runs. “Hi guys,” She greeted them. They nodded at her… “Dr. Brackett asked me to tell you not to leave…He wants to see you in his office when he’s through with Dixie.”
They glanced at each other, and then gave the woman a nod. They knew the ax was about to fall.
An hour later Kel walked into Dixie’s room, an X-ray film held in his hand. The pretty blonde Nurse had regained consciousness and lay on the bed with a pounding headache. She looked up as he entered the room… “Hi,” He greeted.
“Don’t ask…tell...,” Was all she said in reply?
“How would you like to see a picture of your cranium?”
“I don’t know… Would I?”
‘You would...,” He replied, sitting on her bedside table. “By some miracle there are no cracks, no major contusions… The atropine did its job too. So if you don’t mind we’ll save this expensive bedside consultation for someone who needs it.”
“I’d trade it for a handful of aspirin... I have a miserable headache. “
“Well you didn’t expect to get off scot free for playing the perils of Pauline did you?”
“How are the other two?”
“Okay…,” Kel admitted reluctantly. “The man’s doing fine. He just cleared the cast room. But the woman had a fragmented radius and ulna. Good thing she was sedated and immobilized.”
“And who did all these proper medical procedures?” She asked in concern.
“You did... No one there except you had the authority to treat those people…”
“I see... Thanks Kel” She said in relief knowing he could ruin both of the two young Paramedics and the entire program if he chose too.
‘I’ll send the aspirin in...,” He said standing up. He dropped the X-Ray film on her stomach. “Oh, here...” He said lightly, “You might want to order a dozen 8 X 10’s...”
“Kel…,” She called after him.
He stopped and turned to face her… “You’re special,” She murmured.
“No I’m not...But I’m glad you think so,” He replied with a smile.
She closed her eyes.
Roy and Johnny stood waiting in Kel’s office. They’d been down in emergency for a while checking on their victims. They’d returned to Brackett’s office a short time ago. They’d been alternately sitting and pacing for the last twenty minutes.
Now they were both standing, casting occasional worried glances at each other. They knew they were in for it but were unsure just how bad ‘IT’ would get. John was staring dejectedly at the desk, his hands jammed deep into his pockets. Roy fiddled nervously with the handy talkie. They both looked up as Kel Brackett came in.
“We were told you wanted to see us…,” Roy said to the angry Doctor.
Kel closed the door behind him. “Let me tell you a story gentleman…about an automobile accident… About three victims, two females and one male,” He said as he walked past them.
Roy moved closer to Johnny…Backing up his young partner, knowing John would do the same for him.
Kel continued...”And two firemen with three months of medical training under their belts.” John glanced uncertainly at Roy… “With the best of intentions, but two unauthorized men treated those people out there.”
“We did the only thing that we could,” Roy replied stubbornly.
“Sure you did...,” Kel agreed…”and what would you have done if further complications had set in?” He asked turning to pace the room… and then whirled back to face them... “Diagnosed them on your own? Flipped a coin?” He asked angrily.
“Those people are alright…we just saw them,” John argued softly. In his head he knew Kel was right but he still believed they’d had no choice.
“Yes I know…,” Kel agreed, “I’m trying to tell you what could have happened. The two of you, The Fire Department and the County would have been sued to the hilt. You’d have earned the most destructive publicity possible for your precious program.”
“But it didn’t happen that way,” Roy reminded him.
“No but you were willing to roll the dice and lose the whole ball game. And to prove it…you shut down the link,” He said looking at Johnny. Kel believed the younger man to be responsible… Proving that Kel was right about John Gage… He was immature and reckless...Could Dixie really believe this is what Emergency medicine needed? He had no idea that it was Roy who had instigated the mutiny.
The young Paramedic looked up angrily, “Your fantasy might really have happened if we’d done nothing...” Johnny said defensively.
“You could have sat with them…on them if necessary, until help came…authorized medical help,” Kel snapped back.
“We couldn’t be sure there was time to wait...,” Johnny said, frustrated that Brackett didn’t get it.
“Right…and do you think a Doctor like me is sure about everything he does? The only sure Doctor is a fool. We do our best without getting sentimental about a patient.” Roy and John exchanged a look as Brackett continued… “That’s what a Doctor is and that’s what the two of you are not.”
“We never pretended to be,” Roy said softly… “And maybe you don’t like what we did Doctor…but it was our best.”
Kel stood…silently fuming at their stubbornness and unwilling to admit he might be wrong as well. Gage must be rubbing off on DeSoto. He never thought Roy would follow John’s lead…to act so irresponsibly. He’d hoped it would be Roy who rubbed off on Gage.
Roy broke his reverie…“Is that all?”
“Yes that’s all,” He snapped back. Johnny and Roy turned to leave. The thought crossed Kel’s mind that Dixie might well be dead if not for the impulsive actions of these two men… He relented just a bit... “You did fine,” He barked at the two retreating Paramedics.
John shot Roy a ‘what was that all about’ look...Then they left the room.
Joe Early came in. He looked at the silent, fuming younger Doctor. “Welcome to the wood shed… Where’s your razor strap Dad?” Kel shot him a dirty look. “That woman with the busted fibula...? She’s coming out of shock now. She might have stayed there if it hadn’t been for those two ninety day Kildare’s,” he said to his stubborn younger friend, wanting him to understand that even if John and Roy had been technically wrong, three people might be dead because they’d done the right thing.
“I looked over Ferguson’s shoulder in the cast room. The immobilization of that guy with the broken legs…Pete could have phoned it in. No distal blood problems…piece of cake.”
“And then there was Dixie. I don’t know Kel…Vasovagal syncope. Dixie might be in sliding drawer in the cold room if those two hose jockeys hadn’t known what they were doing out there. Call it there internship… I thought I knew it all when they handed me a diploma. They made the same mistake about that name plate we pinned on them.”
He turned to leave, hoping he’d gotten through. He turned back for one parting shot… “One thing’s for sure isn’t it…,” Kel glanced at him questioningly... “The program really works.” The older man left.
Kel’s eyes fell on the letter from Mike Wolski. He picked it up and looked at it. Joe’s words ran through his head once more… He was right. If Roy and John had followed his instructions all three of those people might have died.
While he still wasn’t sure about the practice of roadside medicine, he had to admit, it could save lives…a lot of them. This bill would hit the floor three days from now. Kel picked up the phone and began to dial.
Roy and John returned to the station. They made their way to the rec room in silence, each wondering if they’d made a mistake. At the time it had seemed right but Brackett had been correct. If anything had gone wrong, the whole program could have been wiped out because of their lack of discipline. They’d been lucky.
John heard his Uncle’s snide laughter in his mind… ‘Can’t you do anything right? You’re worthless…You will never amount to anything.’
“That’s not true,” he whispered.
“What was that junior?” Roy asked from behind him. Johnny jumped.
“Nothing,” he whispered. He looked at his partner. “I guess I really screwed up out there huh?”
“YOU...? I was pretty sure I was out there with you Johnny.”
“I shut down the link.”
“And I left it down. I do know how to use a radio you know?” John shrugged. “Maybe we shouldn’t have shut it down Johnny but we did do everything else right. Dixie and those other two people are alive because we did our job…I know we weren’t authorized but if it happened again right now under the same circumstances…I might well still make the same choice.”
John hesitated…He didn’t want to fail…To hear that gloating voice in his head as he always did when he made a mistake or when things in his life didn’t work out as planned.
“C’mon junior…Let’s go find the others.”
They located the rest of the crew in the parking lot out back testing hoses. Roy and Johnny jumped in to help.
They were almost done when one of the hoses split…Water spewed in every direction drenching John and Roy while the others laughed uproariously. Hal Travers finally ran to shut the water off. Roy noticed the others were dry and safely out harm’s way, he glanced at Johnny suspiciously. “I don’t know junior but I think we were set up.”
John laughed and nodded sweeping his dripping hair back. “I think you’re right.”
Fulton slapped his knee in amusement. “You two have managed to miss two hose checks now…We’ve been saving that until you actually made one…”
“That was your section to check Gage…He really screwed that up didn’t he Roy?” Henderson teased.
The smile fled from John’s face… ‘Can’t you do anything right…You’ll never be anything.’ The hateful words traveled through his mind. John eyes grew distant. Roy recognized the look in the dark eyes as John suddenly spun on his heel and headed inside trying to push the black eyes and hateful thoughts from his mind.
“John, are you okay?” Henderson called after him worriedly. He looked toward Roy worriedly. “I was just kidding Roy…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to upset him.”
“You didn’t…Something happened on our last run…I’ll take care of it.” Roy took off after his partner.
John was in the locker room stripping off his wet shirt when Roy came in. The older man leaned his shoulder against the locker. “You okay junior?”
John shot a glance at him. “I’m fine Roy…I just wanted to change.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
“Nothing to talk about,” he mumbled.
“Sure there is,” Roy said moving closer to his friend. “We can talk about whoever made you feel like you can’t do anything right.” The words ripped through John’s head and he froze in mid motion. His eyes flicked to his partner and away. “Just like that,” Roy pointed out.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“John please…Please talk to me…Tell me who hurt you…Who put those marks on you…What did he do to you?”
“I told you they were from an accident,” John muttered back.
“Don’t lie to me,” Roy snapped in frustration. He pulled away from the locker he was leaning on. He ripped at the buckle on his belt to change his own wet clothes. The wet leather making a slithering sound as it cleared his belt loops.
Roy heard a thump and turned to look at his partner…The younger man was pressed against his locker…His breath was coming in sharp gasps but his dark eyes were locked on the belt in Roy’s hands with a look of terror.
Roy glanced at the belt and understood that he’d just discovered John’s abusers’ weapon of choice. He flung the belt away into the corner and quickly moved to his partner.
“Johnny? Johnny, look at me…,” he said grasping the younger man’s shoulders. He could feel John shaking under his hands. The dark eyes lifted to his…His mouth trembled as he realized what he’d just given away.
“I…I…Please don’t tell him…I didn’t tell…Please…,” he said with a hitched voice.
“Oh God Johnny,” Roy said sympathetically as he wrapped his arms around the younger man holding him as he had in the emergency room. John went rigid for a moment before finally drooping to sit on the edge of his locker…His forehead rested against Roy’s shoulder…His body slumped in resignation. Someone else finally knew his secret and it was the last person he’d ever wanted to know. His friend…The best friend he’d ever had and he was sure Roy wouldn’t understand.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered in defeat.
“For what Johnny…? That you were a victim of child abuse? You have nothing to be sorry for.” John looked up at Roy seeking reassurance that his friend wasn’t disgusted or angry with him. “Can you tell me about it?”
John shook his head. “Not allowed to tell anymore,” he mumbled. “No one will believe me anyway…”
“Anyway…? Johnny did you tell someone that you were being abused and they didn’t believe you?”
He nodded. “Just got in more trouble so I stopped telling…”
“And he beat you with a belt didn’t he.”
John seemed to shrink a little into himself. “Yes.”
Roy stroked the dark head. “It wasn’t your fault okay? None of what happened to you was your fault...Understand?”
John finally looked up at his friend. Tears streaked his cheeks and his teeth worried his lower lip uncertainly. “He said…He said it was my fault…I couldn’t do anything right…I’d never be anything.”
There it was at least a small piece…Roy would bet there was more and he’d get John to open up a little at a time. “Well…You’ve already proved him wrong then haven’t you?”
John frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand,” he said softly as he wiped the embarrassing tears from his face.
“John, look at what you’ve accomplished…Fire fighter…Rescue, paramedics all before the age of twenty one…That’s pretty impressive. As a matter of fact you’ve even been noticed by Chief Sorenson.
John looked shocked… “I have?”
“He’s pretty impressed by what you’ve accomplished at your age too…”
“For real…?” He sniffed.
Roy grinned. “Yeah…For real…The point is junior that you can’t let him keep controlling you with those lies and that’s what they are… lies. You’ve proved him wrong so don’t let him keep tearing you down.”
John’s dark eyes shot to Roy. “It’s not that easy,” he murmured… “I’ve been told that all my life.”
“All your life partner…Wasn’t there some point in there where someone loved you?” Roy asked, hoping to subtly prompt his memory.
John stood up abruptly. “No…No there wasn’t…They threw me away…Like trash…”
“Who did Johnny?”
“Can’t tell you…”
“Your adopted parents…?” Roy questioned.
“NO…Not allowed to remember them…”
“What do you mean…Who told you that?”
“I can’t…I can’t…”
“Was it the same person who hurt you…Can you tell me who?”
“Please Roy…Don’t make me tell you...He’ll hurt me.”
“Okay Johnny… I won’t make you do anything junior okay…And I’ll never let him hurt you again,” Roy soothed, knowing that John had gone as far he could for now. He’d try again later. He smoothed the hair back from his friend’s forehead. The dark eyes looked up at him in fear…“But I want you to know I’m here when you’re ready okay?” The younger man nodded in relief. “Remember what I said…He’s a liar junior…You can do anything…I’ve seen what you can do.”
“Let’s get changed okay?”
John nodded, grateful once again that Roy had let it go…Afraid if he pushed, he’d tell him everything and his uncle would be angry with him...He'd be punished, besides he didn’t know if he could get through it without breaking down and making a fool of himself.
A letter addressed to Rosemary Hughes arrived at her home that same day. The address of her personal attorney emblazoned in the upper corner. Inside was a copy of the letter addressed to her nephew John Gage from the life insurance company that Roderick Gage had used to insure his son’s future. At Rosemary’s request, her attorney had paid the company a great deal of money to be sure she received a copy of it when this letter was mailed. It was unfortunate that Rosemary wasn’t at home to receive it. Her maid placed it on the desk with the rest until Rosemary returned from Sacramento next week.
Rosemary would have known to warn John that the original of that letter was on its way to John’s last known address in Montana.
Roy and Johnny entered the rec room and received three concerned looks from the crew. Roy grinned and nodded. They sighed in relief. They truly liked the kid and hadn’t intended to upset him. They were happy to see that John seemed to be fine.
Roy arrived home the next morning and Joanne was waiting anxiously. “How was he Roy? Was J.R. okay?”
“Johnny honey…It’s Johnny…The only memories he has of J.R. terrify him.”
She nodded. “Alright but did you talk to him?”
“I tried…He told me he was told that you threw him away like trash.”
“No,” she said in horror. “No…That’s not true. I was there…I remember.”
Roy nodded. “I also know it was a belt that left those marks. I was angry and we were arguing. I took mine off to change and he was scared silly.”
“That poor baby…Did he say who?”
Roy shook his head…“He did say that they told him he was worthless…That he’d never be anything and that he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what was being done to him.”
Jo looked horrified. “I don’t understand. Why did they go to such lengths to take him from us if they were just going to abuse him? Why didn’t they just let us keep him? We loved him?” She cried softly.
“I don’t know…I wish I could tell you that but it gets worse…Apparently he did tell someone what was happening and they either didn’t believe him or didn’t do anything about it…He was kinda vague.”
“How could they know that a child was being hurt and not do anything about it?” She asked in disbelief.
Roy shook his head. “What I can tell you is that he’s not ready to hear about you and your family.”
“Roy…I want my brother back…My parents and my sister aren’t going to wait long.”
“Joanne…I just told you what he’s been told and what he believes because it’s been beaten into him, understand? I can’t fix it in a day…Please let me handle this at my own pace…He’s so close to telling me… I know it but I can’t push him too fast.”
She nodded forlornly. “I’ll ask my mom and dad to hold on a little longer.”
Two days later on September 4th, Kelly Brackett was on a flight to Sacramento to meet Mike Wolski. Mike had been thrilled by Kel’s change of heart. They met in the lobby of the statehouse and walked together across the hall.
“We’re asking the state to spend a lot of money for training and equipment. Not for everybody, just for those people who eventually will need emergency treatment. It’s very noble but it doesn’t translate into a lot of votes.”
“Even though it could be anybody on the receiving end of that treatment…?”
“This is just one problem. The legislature has a bushel of problems all waiting in line…“
“I couldn’t have been the only Doctor you had in mind?”
“We got a gang of Doctors. Good men and good Doctors but they don’t have your reputation in the field. You’re a heavy weight. “
“If you say so…”
“Man if you don’t know what emergency medicine needs, who does? Dr. Brackett…the committee knows your reputation too. If you don’t come out for us…your silence will tell them something too.”
Kel considered the man’s words for a moment. He looked up at Wolski… “Take me to your committee,” He said finally. Wolski smiled in relief and led him down the hall.
They entered a large dimly lit chamber. Mike directed Kel to a seat then went to talk to the Chairman. After a moment he turned and rejoined Kel.
The Chairman brought the bill before them. “Dr. Kelly Brackett…Rampart Emergency Hospital, Los Angeles is with us today. I understand that he has some opinions concerning the Bill now before us…Dr. Brackett,” He said with a nod.
Kel exchanged a worried glance with Wolski then stood up and approached the podium. He buttoned his coat and cleared his throat nervously.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman,” he acknowledged…then began his argument.
“Gentlemen, you are all in danger...,” He stated. Several of the men immediately looked concerned… He had their attention.
“If an earthquake or a bomb hit this room right now, I might be the only Doctor available to all of you.” Several of the men glanced at each other. “Oh sure, independently owned ambulances with attendants would be here in a few minutes and rescue units from the fire department. But all they could do is carry you off to where another Doctor is waiting.”
“I wonder if you could all wait that long? Now what about first aid? Oh sure these men are permitted to render some elementary first aid, like your mother did when some kid bloodied your nose or your wife when she pulled a sliver out of your finger…,” He had their undivided attention.
“Have any of you seen a Freeway accident lately? I mean close up where you can’t tell the bodies from the steel, or have any of you had a heart attack recently? Seventy percent of all cardiac cases never live long enough to reach a Hospital.”
“How do you think your Mother or your wife or the good guy next door would make out under those conditions. Well those are the conditions we’re talkin about.”
“Now I’ve given you the impression that I’m in favor of Fire Department personnel with a crash course in Emergency medicine taking human lives into their own hands... I am not.”
Wolski looked concerned by that statement but Kel continued on. “I’d like to see a specialist handling every bloody nose so we’d know if it was the result of a good right cross or a tumor. I’d like to see a cardiologist on the scene anytime someone drops in the street with a killing pain in his chest. “
“But you can’t ask someone not to die while you’re trying to find out what’s wrong with him…,” Wolski was nodding in agreement as Kel continued, “And they do die Gentlemen. On the way from where it happens to my hospital. They die by the hundreds every year. Not from mortal wounds but from neglected wounds. Not from incompetence or indifference but from time… from lack of time.”
“I’m in favor of more Doctors, more Hospitals and better equipment, and I’m also in favor of this Bill until these other things come along…because it will save lives… Maybe a dozen lives, maybe a thousand, maybe just one…and who knows which one. “
Kel looked at them intently. He could tell they were truly thinking about it. He knew he’d reached at least a few.”Thank you Gentlemen for your time...” He turned and went to rejoin Wolski. He looked at Mike... “Well that’s it,” He said resigned to now having to wait for an answer.
Mike looked at him obviously impressed… “Dr. Brackett…you must be one hell of a Doctor.”
The Chairman spoke to the, “Gentlemen…the committee will recess for ten minutes, then call for a vote.”
Kel went to wait in the lobby while Mike stayed in the Chamber to wait for the results. Brackett cast anxious looks toward the door as he paced. He set down his briefcase and glanced at his watch.
In LA the rain had been falling for hours. Roy and John hated this weather…accidents and injuries kept them hopping all night… People seemed to turn to crazy when the weather was bad. They’d been called out for the 6th time that evening stopping to pick up Nurse Carol Jacobs from Rampart.
The ambulance backed into the emergency bay. Carol and Johnny climbed out with their Patient. The attendants pulled the gurney through the door... Roy joined them a moment later. Dixie was back on duty, but was limited to directing from the base station.
She came to meet them at treatment room three, where Joe Early was waiting... “Heroin O.D?” She asked Carol.
“Diacetylmorphine 2 CC’s…”
“Vital signs…?” Joe asked.
“Stable...,” Carol answered.
“I’ll take her in here...,” Joe directed pushing the door to three open. The attendants pulled the girl inside.
John and Roy followed Dixie toward the base station. “Fifteen year old girl,” Dixie said in disgust as she led the way… “Using up her future like she had a corner on it.”
“You know the place...,” John said. “The Shamrock on the lower east of fifth…Picked her up lying in the hallway, “He said as he sat down. He stretched his arms trying to ease the kinks from his back.
“Post graduate mainliner, “Roy added. “Sheriff’s follow up found two balloons of hash in her pocket...”
A crash of thunder caused them both to stop talking…glancing up in concern. “It sure is comin down out there,” John said.
The SCU tones began to sound over the Handy Talkie. Both Roy and John froze as they waited to see if they were one of the companies to be called out.
“Sounds like they’re calling up the Calvary,” Dixie commented after several tones had sounded.
John nodded and cast a look at his Partner. “Engine 10, Truck 10, Engine 210, Engine 53, Engine 101, Squad 10, Squad 125, Battalion 14…respond to a tunnel explosion with cave in at the flood control tunnel. Alameda Diversion Complex...” Sam’s familiar voice gave the instructions…, “Grid 34…Charlie 1. Time out 18:10...”
This must be big. Johnny and Roy looked at each other in disappointment… They hadn’t been called out.
“Yes sir…everybody but us,” John said in disgust.
“Grid 34…that’s down near the center of the July earthquake...”
“Yeah I read something about it the other day,” John replied. “They’re enlarging it. They’ve got men working a twenty four hour shift to beat the rainy season…,” He said ironically.
“You people seemed to have cooled your eager...,” Dixie commented.
“What good would we do out there?” John said irritably, “Our usual half a job.”
“The tones began to sound over the Handy Talkie once more. This time they were familiar... “They’re playin our music Pal,” Roy said as both men turned their attention to the Radio.
“Engine 51, Squad 51, With Engine 10 on the Tunnel explosion, cave in…,” They grabbed the Handy Talkie and ran.
Kel was pacing the lobby for the fifteenth time. The lights began a synchronized flicker. He glanced at his watch. Fifteen minutes had passed. He’d just turned away when he heard a door open up down the hall. Mike Wolski stepped out the door. His hands were shoved deep in his pockets. His head was down as he as he moved up the corridor toward Kel.
Brackett’s heart sank just a little, afraid of what Wolski was going to tell him. Mike stopped in front of him. He looked up at Kel with a serious expression... “Almost unanimous,” He finally said. Kel began to look depressed as Wolski continued. “Six to one for our side… phase one…,” Mike finished. Kel looked up in relief... “Phase two…the floor of the legislature.”
“When do we find that out?”
“I like your ‘we’ Doctor... The Bill goes to both Houses at 8:00 tonight.”
“Anything more I can do?” Kel asked, “I’ve got the 9:00 flight.”
“I’ll phone you as soon as the Governor signs it…, if we get that far…? You’ll need a raincoat... I hear it’s pouring down your way.”
Kel picked up his briefcase... “This is it,” He said. “Makes me feel official... If you were a betting man, what would you give our chances?” Kel asked.
“Sometimes I think I’ve only learned one thing in twenty five years of plodding these hallowed halls.”
“Don’t bet,” Kel stated.
Mike nodded. Kel grinned and left.
Roy and John arrived at the tunnel collapse and began to gather their equipment. Chief Conrad came over and began to give them their instructions. They got to work treating dozens of minor injuries knowing there would be more serious ones as the searchers dug through the rubble.
Forty minutes later Kel finally arrived back at the Hospital. He spoke to Dixie for a moment to get an update on the tunnel collapse then went to change. He found Joe Early in his office making arrangements for the blood he thought they would need when the Victims began to arrive.
The two Paramedics had set up in a small reasonably safe section of the tunnel. The Victim’s were being brought to them. Roy glanced up as the first seriously injured man was brought in… “Put him down here,” He told the rescuers. They set him down and moved off.
John moved to grab a blanket to keep the water from dripping on the man. Roy asked for the resuscitator, taking the blanket from Johnny. One of the rescuers warned them to check to see if he was alive first. He was obviously distraught at the devastation he was seeing. “Resuscitator fast…,” He called to John.
The first of the victim’s began to arrive at Rampart. They Kept Kel, Dixie and Joe busy for hours as they moved room to room… Victim to Victim...
Roy returned to the squad for more equipment as the victims kept arriving. He and John were busy but all they could really do was render first aid. Roy came back with the trauma box. The moaning of the victims was more than he could stand.
He grabbed a bottle of ringers and an IV kit. John looked at him in shock... “You plannin on using that…?”He asked. Roy glanced at him but kept working... “Look I was wrong Roy. I know that now. I was wrong,” He stressed again.
“Where…? At the ravine, with Dixie… Look around you. Don’t tell me they couldn’t use four more hands... Trained hands…” He argued.
“Take over,” Johnny told him as Roy continued to open the I.V. kit. Taking charge of the situation, the younger Paramedic reached over and took it away from Roy. The older man took over the resuscitator in annoyance.
‘It’s no good Roy…,” Johnny said trying to convince the older man. “It might be another tunnel tomorrow or a bombed building or anything. If we can’t show discipline now…,” He argued, “They’ll wash the whole program out forever. “
Roy looked at him in indecision but he was at least listening... Johnny continued. “I was wrong Roy,” He said again… Roy gave in.
The Hospital was overloaded. Kel and the others were handling everything from skull fractures to burns.
John and Roy continued to render what aid they could as the ambulances returned again and again to carry the victims away by two’s and three’s. The Chief came into the area they were working in. He gave them new instructions to report to an area where they’d found a small handful of survivors.
They grabbed what equipment they could carry and headed out. They had little time. They’d been told the walls wouldn’t hold for very long. They moved down the long dark tunnel. When they arrived they found eight injured men.
One was pinned under a heavy piece of equipment. They went to assess the trapped victim as other rescuers handled the victims that were safe to move. “We’ll need a Portapower and Jacks,” Roy said to John.
“Better move it...,” Johnny said taking in the situation. “This digger gives way and this thing shifts it’ll cut him in half.”
Roy went to tell the others... “Portapower and Jacks…quick as you can,” He directed them.
One of the other victims looked at them... “Maybe it don’t make no difference no more,” He said. “Riley’s got a bad heart.”
“Knock on it,” Roy directed.
“My leg hurts somethin awful… You couldn’t give me somethin to ease the pain?” He asked hopefully.”
Roy stood rooted in indecision… He wanted desperately to help this man. Johnny’s words played through his head once again. He turned away to help his Partner.
In Sacramento the Bill had passed the House and was headed for Governor Reagan’s Office.
The crew arrived with the equipment…they began the extrication. John and Roy knelt next to the victim. Bracing it as it lifted, prepared to protect him as best they could. The creaking and groaning was ominous...suddenly the walls began to crumble.
“Watch out!” Roy called as rocks and clods of dirt fell onto the two Paramedics and their victim. They threw themselves over the injured man, as several other Firemen took the brunt of the rock slide. Water began to pour in. As soon as the as the rocks settled the men quickly returned to their task.
“Hit it a coupla more times...Maybe we can free him,” Roy called.
The Fireman from 83’s pumped the jack a couple of more times, “Alright...” Roy said as he realized the victim was free. They moved to pull him from underneath the equipment.
The Doctors and Nurses were performing double duty. Not only were they assessing the Patients, they were following through with emergency surgery as well. The pace continued for hour after hour. There was no let up in the rain or the Victims.
John and Roy got their Victim to a safe location and began to assess his condition. Thankfully, someone had thought to bring the rest of their equipment. Roy hooked up the Biophone as John took the man’s vital signs.
“Pressures low... Let’s get him in right away,” He told Roy.
“He’d never survive the trip,” Roy replied.
Kel Brackett had just left the operating room… He was exhausted. He rubbed tired eyes as he approached the base station.
“Kel…?” Dixie said as he approached.
“51’s on the link.”
“What do they want?”
He pushed the talk button at the base station. “51…go.”
“We have a male tunnel worker… Approximate age sixty... Was trapped under a digging machine... Patient has a cardiac history... He is now diaphoretic.” Roy told him.
John glanced at the Cardiac Monitor as Roy continued.
“Vital signs... 80 over 50, rate 100 and irregular... Respirations 12 and shallow...”
Kel and Dixie listened intently from the Base Station… “Do you have your EKG hooked up?” Kel asked.
“Affirmative Doctor,” Roy responded.
“Send me something so I can get a reading,” Kel directed. He turned on the monitor.
“This will be lead 2,” Roy replied. The two Paramedics watched the scope, waiting for Brackett.
Kel read the strip for several seconds back at Rampart… “Multiple PVC’s,” He told Dixie. “V-Tach… He’s starting to fibrillate,” He reached for the call button… “Defibrillate…400 watts seconds,” He told Roy
“Kel…,” Dixie protested, “They’re not authorized.”
Kel ignored her as he continued to talk to Roy…“Are you receiving? C’mon 51 you’ve got a dying man on your hands.”
“Doctor…if we administer shock and lose him…,” Roy began.
“You’re losing him right now.”
“You said it yourself… It wasn’t worth risking the program for one case.”
“I just heard from Wolski in Sacramento… The bill passed late last night.”
“Kel, you never heard from Wolski…,” Dixie admonished.
“Yeah, well I should have...,” He snapped back. “
The lights flickered in the tunnel. John and Roy looked up in concern still rooted in indecision. The lights went out. Roy grabbed the flashlights. John was administering CPR… He glanced at Roy… They were both worried.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Dixie asked Kel. “If that bill doesn’t pass …Kel they’ll crucify you.”
“I don’t care about that... We’re not at a party or talking to a committee, that man’s dead right now.”He argued coming as close to admitting that Johnny and Roy had done the right thing in that ravine as he was willing too. He got back onto the station with Roy... “Zap him damn it…Zap him,” He ordered.
Roy and John exchanged looks… Johnny made his decision… He grabbed the paddles. He applied the conductive gel and flipped the machine on. The high pitched whine of a building charge filled the small area… He put the paddles in place.
“400 watt seconds,” Roy informed him.
John squeezed the triggers. The man jerked beneath his hands. Kel was reading the scope back at base…”No conversion.” He moved back to the radio… “Hit him again.”
John glanced at his Partner… He pushed the button on the reset. The whine started again as the charge began to build… “400 Watt seconds,” Roy announced
John squeezed the triggers again… Kel looked at the strip and approval entered his eyes. Dixie closed hers in relief. “He’s going again,” Kel breathed.
John and Roy grinned at each other, both knowing they’d saved a life. For the first time it seemed real.
“Breathing on his own,” Roy told Kel. The lights came on.
“Get vital signs… Start IV 2 amps Sodium Bicarb, 100 mgs lidocaine.”
“Yes sir we read,” Roy answered.
“And my highest congratulations Doctor’s,” Kel said.
John grinned and once again plucked the phone from his Partners hand as he had that day in the ravine. “Thank You…Doctor…” He handed the phone back to Roy.
“Let’s get crackin and move to higher ground,” Roy suggested. They began to gather their equipment.
Kel turned to Dixie... “You are a fool,” She told him.
“A most wonderful fool,” She said softly.
“Probably,” He said again.
“What are you gonna do if that man dies and the bill doesn’t pass?”
“Oh I don’t know…become a dentist maybe.” She shook her head at him. He looked into her eyes… “Why, you’re tearing up nurse,” He teased as he leaned closer to her.
“You have something for it?”
“Probably,” He said with a smirk.
The sun was rising, the clean up was underway and the victim’s were finally all out. The two filthy, exhausted paramedics were bringing their equipment out to the squad. Roy had just stowed the bio-phone and trauma box. He turned to see a woman and her daughter weeping in each other’s arms, as they lifted the covered body of her husband and carried him away.
His heart went out to them. Another man approached the two women. He leaned down to help them to their feet, dropping a newspaper as he did so. Roy headed back inside to help his partner but the paper caught his eye. He leaned down and picked it up.
John came out of the tunnel carrying the splint kit and drug box. He saw Roy studying the paper as he approached. His ire rose... “Isn’t that a little heavy for you to carry?” He asked snidely as he struggled by his friend with the two boxes and continued on to the squad.
Roy followed him still reading. John began to stow the two pieces when he spotted Brackett’s car pull up at the scene. He quickly shoved the drug box in place and hoisted the splint box to follow... “Try to look busy,” He quipped… “Dr. Brackett and Nurse Dixie are bearing down on us.”
“Rumor has it you can read…Try this,” Roy teased handing him the paper.
John took it as Roy moved over to take the splint box and stow it. The face of Kelly Brackett stared up at him. John’s face reflected shock as he began to read out loud. “Emergency Paramedic Bill passes. Governor signs bill after late night session. Brilliant plea by LA Doctor credited for speedy passage,” He said in disbelief.
Roy looked up to see Brackett and Dixie climb from the car. He smacked his Partners arm to get his attention. John looked up and seeing the couple approach… quickly threw the paper out of sight in the cab of the squad as they approached.
“I talked to Chief Sorenson...,” Brackett began, “From all reports you people did just fine.”
“Well we were about to say that to you,” Roy replied.
“How would you know? You weren’t there,” Dixie said.
“No but he was,” Roy replied. Dix looked at Kel in surprise.
“C’mon Dix... He said modestly as he began to turn away. He cast a final glance at the two Paramedics… “These boys are suffering from battle fatigue,” He joked, blowing off their stunned, but grateful looks.
“I really don’t know what to say Doc,” Johnny said softly.
“Who asked you?” Kel shot back as he turned to walk away.
Roy tapped his still shocked Partner on the shoulder, relieved to see he didn’t pull away. John looked at him. Roy pointed to the squad and headed around to the driver’s side. Johnny climbed in still looking dumbfounded. Roy got behind the wheel. He glanced at his young Partner… “Don’t take it so hard Junior… People have been known to change.” John looked at him… He finally grinned and nodded his head as Roy pulled out.
Continued in Part 3
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