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There is a last time for everything
Links to Parts 1. 2.
Lee Gage went into Kelly Brackett’s office and threw down an envelope. Kel looked up surprised since no one except maybe Dixie, ever came into his office without knocking first.
“Keep that pompous ass out of my office or so help me I will file harassment charges against him.” Lee said. “He not only called my bosses he called their bosses and the Chief of the L.A. County Fire Department saying that I was incompetent and should be removed from my job. He has a whole list of itemized points that prove his point. He left this in the office to try to educate me in the proper way to chair a meeting and run a committee. His number one example is the unorganized and wasteful manner I conducted the last meeting and the excessive amount of money spent on the unnecessary food that adds to the chaos.” She gave Kel a look that dared him to laugh or tell her to calm down. “The addition of food to the meeting is an unwise use of county resources as personnel are socializing when they should be performing their duties.”
“The last meeting was one of the most productive ones we’ve had. We did some great brainstorming and solved several issues.” She smiled for the first time. “He had gotten permission to come to the meeting but was on standby. Because we got off subject he didn’t get to do his presentation. The added injury to insult it was a nothing run…A woman panicked because she thought her husband was having a heart attack. It was indigestion from eating a spicy sausage sandwich at his friend’s house. His girlfriend.”
“I will talk to Brice, again. You and Johnny coming to the Monte Carlo and dinner next Saturday night?” Hoping that changing the subject she would calm down. She rolled her eyes at him.
“Yep…we reserved a table for 12. We gave them a week’s use of our condo as one of the auction prizes. WBS and the consortium also gave some prizes and money to help cover expenses. If your blackjack skills have gotten better, you might win the condo for a week.”
“And if they don’t you might take pity on a poor over worked doctor and lend him your keys.”
“Any time except Spring Break…even then you could probably get one of the rental units…Just call Al or have me do it.” She laughed. “Ok, my temper tantrum is over, I’ll get back to work so you can. Oh, and by the way, did you know My Little Ponies and children’s books have no place in my office? He just now noticed them.” Chloe had her own little ‘office’ in one corner of the office. Lee’s bosses had seen no problem with that if it made things easier for her and kept her happy.
“Hey, Gage, about those tickets you got for the Monte Carlo, hum, do you think Lee would get upset if I brought someone besides Suzi?” Chet looked defensive as if he expected Johnny to make some smart comment. They were the only two out in the bay. Chet had just finished cleaning the windows and mirrors on the engine after it returned to base following the last call they received. The squad had been to Rampart twice since the initial call at 6:30 that morning. Roy had gone on in to report to Cap and to get their chore assignment for the day. He had a feeling it was gonna be one of those days. They were on the second day of a 48-hour shift and it had been drizzling on and off all night and morning.
“It’s your choice, there aren’t any strings attached.” Gage continued to wipe down the squad. “Lee did say she was looking forward to playing poker with you.”
“I learned my lesson, don’t underestimate what she can and will do.” He was looking down at the floor, scuffing the toe of his boot back and forth. “Suzi…she’s been real busy with school and getting her masters…and now she is even thinking about getting one in something else…So… we…kinda decided to stop spending so much time together. At least until her classes are over in August. She has this big project going on and …”
“Yeah I know. Lee talks about finishing her second masters one of these days to just prove she can do it. So, you got someone in mind to bring?”
“I thought maybe I’d ask Judy. She just moved in the apartment across from me and doesn’t know a lot of people around here. She’s from Nebraska. She is a graphic designer and just got a job designing album covers and stuff like that.”
“Look, I know we have given each other a tough time in the past about who we dated and who got dumped by who, but I really am sorry you and Suzi are having a rough time. She’s a great girl but if it isn’t supposed to be…Well, anyway, just hope whatever happens you both are happy in the future.” Johnny felt bad for Chet because he knew how fond he was of Suzi. He wanted his friend to know there wouldn’t be any tacky remarks or teasing from him.
Chet put away his cleaning supplies and went back into the day room. Marco was fixing lunch. Mike was in talking with Cap and Roy was making a new pot of coffee. Chet sat down on the sofa and began scratching Henry’s ears. Roy went out to the squad after he got the coffee started.
“Chet’s looking kind of down. Any idea what’s bothering him?” Johnny was under the squad checking out one of those creaks only he seemed to hear. “I heard him tell Marco earlier he needed to talk to you.”
“He wanted to know if Lee was gonna be upset if he brought someone besides Suzi on Saturday. Ya know, I really feel sorry for him and her. They are crazy about each other, but they let all this other crap get in their way. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if Lee hadn’t given me a second chance.”
“Yeah, the same with Jo. Her mom tried hard to break us up before we got married and kept it up for years. Her mom still gets some nasty jabs in occasionally, but it’s been a lot better than it was. He ran his hand through his hair. “Her new thing is fussing about the kids going to college and me not being able to afford a top school.” Roy and Jo had decided not to tell her parents about the college funds Lee and Johnny had set up for the kids. After their wedding Lee had matched the ones that she had set up for Stacy and Jimmy Kildare. “And my lack of ambition…am I going to play doctor all of my so-called career. Why don’t I take the test to become a captain?”
“Why don’t you?” Johnny asked thinking he knew the answer.
“I like what I’m doing. Maybe someday.” More and more of the guys they had trained with had begun taking the engineers or captain test. There seemed little chance the department was going to change the policy which did not allow for advancement in the ranks for the paramedics. The argument that it was not cost efficient to train then lose the best paramedics had gained some favor but not enough yet.
“Lunch is ready.” Mike called from the doorway as the SCU called the squad out on an illness run. The engine crew finished lunch and two of the drills Cap had planned when they were called out to an MVA. Roy listened to the directions Johnny was giving him from the last run’s location to the MVA then remembered the conversation with Jo before work.
“The girls were going to go to the museum early, right? They shouldn’t be in this mess.” The museum had an exhibit that Jenny and Stacy had wanted to see and since the boys were at a scout event decided this would be an appropriate time to go.
“I think they wanted to be there by 11 and Kathy was driving. They should have missed this all.”
All this was a gigantic mess. Two semis had wrecked and the trailer of one had hit the support of a bridge. The bridge was in the process of being repaired following an accident week earlier and was closed to traffic. Unfortunately, there had been several pieces of equipment and a crew on the bridge at the time of impact.
A large piece of equipment had fell from the bridge adding to the blockage and congestion on both sides of the road. Traffic was at a dead stand still. The battalion chief was getting his men and equipment in place as they finally reached the command site. Most of the rescue vehicles has driven down the median.
“Hank, have your men start pulling battery cables and spraying down some of the hot ones and get some of this gas off the road. We’re starting to get more reports of rear endings in all directions.”
Marco and Chet quickly began their task as Hank and the battalion chief went over some logistics. Roy and John had been sent to the bridge to deal with injuries to the construction crew.
Johnny let out a sigh of relief when he saw it wasn’t a crew from WBS but a county road crew. as they made their way over to the group of men holding wet towels to cuts on their face and arms. One man had a towel wrapped around his arm as another man poured ice water over it. Johnny moved over to him while Roy stayed with the others.
“My name is John and I’m a paramedic. What’s your name? How did this happen?” Johnny asked. He gently peeled the wet towel from the injured arm causing the man tie gasp in pain. There was a cylinder-shaped burn and several smaller ones on the man’s forearm.
“Nick …I crossed my arms and put them up to my face when I saw this glob of metal coming at me. think it was something off one of the trucks that got hit.”
“Good reflexes. We’ll rise it with some sterile water and bandage it. There should be an ambulance here soon. Its caught up in traffic.” He sat up the bio phone to contact Rampart. “Rampart this squad 51, how do you read me?”
“Loud and clear 51.”
“Rampart we have a male approximate age 45 with a possible second/third degree burn on his left forearm. We have applied sterile water and a wet bandage. The vitals are…”
“51, what is the pain level?” Dr. Early asked after receiving the vitals.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 where is the pain?” Johnny asked the injured worker.
“15 at least.” Nick said through clenched teeth.
“Rampart the patient advises the pain is 15 on a 1 to 10 scale. He has no other injuries except for a few minor burns and scrapes.”
“Administer 5 mg MS and keep the bandage wet, transport as soon as possible, 51.”
“10-4 Rampart. Ambulance is on the way but caught in traffic.”
“Gage, over here.” Johnny hurried over to a small front-end loader. It was sitting on its side, cattycornered, the front end hanging off the shoulder of the road the guard rail jammed up under it. A group of workers were standing off to the side.
“He was starting forward when the bridge started to shake…Think he over corrected or maybe hit the gas.” A large chunk of the road under one tire had broken off and there was a large crack running under the tractor. The paramedics made their way over to the injured man. They could see the blood on his face and on his pants’ leg. He was sitting sideways inside the small cab.
“I want to try to check him out for back or neck injuries before we try to move him.” Johnny informed Roy and the others. It looks pretty stable from here.” Johnny climbed up on the guard rail and hoisted himself up to the cab opening still partially balancing on the railing. Bending over as far as possible he could run his hands over the man’s neck and part way down his back. There were no obvious spinal injuries, so he eased back so he was standing on the guard rail holding onto the side of the cab
“If we can get some chains or heavy cable on each side we should be able to set this upright on 3 tires. Ease it down …controlling how fast it falls as we slide it away from the rail.” They fastened chains onto the small tractor with one of the county trucks backing up slowly to bring it down.
It seemed as if all was going well until a larger section of the road’s edge broke away and the crack running underneath the tractor became a 4-inch gap between sections. Roy almost lost his balance and put out a hand to catch himself “Get everyone off the bridge who isn’t directly helping with this.” Roy shouted. Marco and Chet had joined them on the bridge.
“You guys want me to drive the truck?” Chet asked seeing the worried look on the paramedic’s face.
“Check with the driver and see what he is comfortable with.” The idea of putting a civilian at risk wasn’t one they were comfortable with but then neither was putting a friend at risk. The driver agreed to stay and help his friend. Marco and Chet followed Roy’s directions and soon had two more ropes on the car, lowering it slowly. With more of a thud than they wanted the tractor was down on 3 tires. The fourth, the front left, hung out over the broken off pavement. The back left was very close to the broken edge and would have skidded off if not for the efforts of Chet and Marco. Roy and Johnny pulled the unconscious driver out and told the truck driver to get out of the truck and off the bridge.
“Guys, we need the back board then you two get off this bridge.” Roy called to his friends. “Chet have them send up another ambulance and have them wait off the bridge.” They soon had the injured driver on the backboard and were making their way to a safer spot to do a full assessment. Suddenly, Roy felt himself stumbling forward as his foot found the edge of large crack in the pavement. He could regain his balance but not before jerking the back board roughly. Johnny felt the pull and heard the pop in his shoulder but could keep a hold on the board they were carrying. Soon as they could safely put the back board down they completed the assessment. Roy looked at Johnny and saw the pain in his eyes and the guarded way he was moving his arm. He did a quick vitals check.
“Rampart this is Squad 51. How do you read?” Roy watched as Johnny carefully opened and closed his hand.
“We read you loud and clear 51.” Johnny winched as he heard Mike Morton’s voice.
“Rampart we have 2 victims. Victim number one is a 43-year-old male with a 2-inch gash on his forehead above his right eye. He has been unconscious since we were able to get him out of a front loader. He also has a cut on his upper thigh that is approximately 3 inches long and is deep. Dressings have been applied to both cuts. His vitals are….”
“Start an IV D5 W and transport as soon as possible.”
“Second victim is male age 28. Be advised he is a Code I. He has suffered an injury to his right shoulder. Vitals are… Request permission to administer something for the pain.”
“Is there any possibility of head injury to your Code I?” Morton asked. “Is it Gage we’re talking about?”
“Affirmative on it being Gage, no possibility of head injury.” Roy responded.
“Tell him to make that code I times 2…I saw you limping.” Johnny said loudly so Morton could hear. Roy gave him a dirty look.
“Squad 51, give him 5 milligrams morphine…. Hold on Rampart.” Mike turned to see who had just came into the call center. It was Dr. Rao.
“I need to have you clarify why you gave Mr. Stafford, this drug earlier.” Rao said. “I am not certain why this particular drug was used when others are more common for this type of illness.” Rao saw nothing wrong with demanding Morton’s attention over the needs of the paramedics on the radio.
“Stafford has a history of allergic reactions to several of the more commonly used drugs. He has had satisfactory results in the past with the one I used.” A few more words were exchanged, and Rao left.
“51, transport as soon as possible.”
“Affirmative on the 5 milligrams’ morphine.…will be transporting now.”
“And tell Gage I heard him, will be expecting you to get checked out upon arrival also.”
“Data and Statistical Analysis. How may I help you?” Lee answered as she was finishing typing her daily report.
“It’s Carol down in ER…Johnny is on his way in from an accident site. Dr. Early wanted you to know in case you were getting ready to leave. He also wanted you to know it appears to be a minor injury.”
“Tell Joe I said I appreciate the heads up. If I’m not down there when he comes in, give me a call, please.” Lee told the nurse. She hung up fighting off the panic attack. Except for that first night home (when Johnny found her sobbing and she begged him to promise she would die first) she had been able to hide the attacks. They usually happened late at night when he was on duty. The few times they had happened during the day when no one was around she had been able to recover quickly.
Stopping at the restroom she washed her face and brushed her hair. Looking at herself in the mirror as she applied her lipstick she gave herself a lecture. “DO NOT let him or Roy see how scared you are. If you can fool them, you can fool the others. If you freak out that will just make it harder on the Boyo. He is what is important not you…Now, go smile and be supportive.” With a sigh and one final glance at the mirror she went down to the ER.
She looked around but didn’t see Joe or Dixie. Carol was busy with patients at the desk. She turned her chair, so she could watch the automatic doors. Sitting there she said a quick prayer not only for Johnny but for all the first responders and victims. She went over towards the door watching as it opened, and the paramedics were followed by 36 and 88. It was with a start that she realized Jo was coming through the door. She had a sudden guilt attack, she had never even asked about Roy.
“They aren’t here yet? Have they told you anything yet?” Jo asked as she came up to Lee.
“Not since Carol called me. She told me it was a minor injury to Johnny. “I am so sorry, Jo, I never asked her about Roy. When she called me. I just assumed he was fine.”
“I have done that more times than I can count...From what they said on the radio, there was a bridge collapse as the result of a truck hitting the abutment…they had been weaken in another accident besides the one the road crew was working on today.”
“Did they say who the road crew worked for?” A little concern for WBS workers. Even though she did not know all of them personally she cared about all their safety.
“No but I think it was a county or state crew. How long have you been down here?”
“Ten minutes or so. Where are the kids?”?” Lee asked.
“Over at your house.” After they had finished at the museum Lee had been dropped off at the hospital, so she could get some work done. Hector was supposed to pick her up when she called. They heard Marco talking to someone and they looked up as their gurney was coming around the corner. Johnny was on another gurney Roy was walking next to it, limping slightly. They could hear Johnny protesting he was fine and Roy’s answer of “Tell it to the doctor.”
Lee and Jo both smiled knowing if the two were bantering it wasn’t anything too serious for either one. When they gurney turned the corner, Johnny’s ‘radar’ kicked in and he immediately began looking around the room for Lee. The guys at the station teased them both about their ability to find each other in a crowded room or even in unexpected places.
“Hey, Sweet Pea, Jo… You gonna save me from Morton?” He called as the orderlies refused to slow down. Roy flashed then a grin and pantomimed a shot in the arm.
“Well we know he doesn’t have a head injury if Morton gave him morphine." Lee giggled in relief as much as amusement at the face Johnny had made.
“Roy seemed in fairly decent shape also.” While neither said anything aloud both offered a silent prayer of thanks and relief. They found a quiet place to wait and Jo offered to go up and get sodas from the office.
“Hey, Roy, think Morton will let us go back to work?” Johnny asked as he laid there wishing Lee would come in to see him. “Maybe if he doesn’t we can stop somewhere and get something to eat. Man, I could go for a big juicy steak right now or a pizza with everything.” He yawned loudly.
“Junior, there is no way you’re going back to work.” Roy answered looking at his watch.
“Why not I feel great.” Johnny started to swing his feet over the edge of the table. “Gonna go see what Lee has to eat up there.” He fell back as Roy put hand up to stop him. “Why did you push me Pally? Why won’t you let me go see Lee and get something to eat? I’m hungry…” He again tried to get up but this time his eyes rolled up and he feel back unconscious. Roy caught him before he could slide from the table.
Dr. Morton and a nurse walked in as Roy saved Johnny from falling. Frowning and sounding a more than a little sarcastic, he said, “I thought you told me he didn’t have a head injury.” It was said as a statement not a question. Roy found the tone as well as the look on Morton’s face insulting.
“He didn’t show any signs of a head injury. He was his usual goofy self after I gave him the morphine you ordered. He tried to get up to go see Lee then passed out.”
“Where is the IV I ordered?” Morton said frowning even more. “Nurse start an IV with normal saline…He began taking Johnny’s vitals. “Gage, you ever gonna stop being a show boat?” Morton muttered under his breath, but it was loud enough for Roy and the nurse to hear. Roy was glad Lee wasn’t in the room.
Busy giving orders and taking vitals Morton didn’t notice Roy leaving the treatment room. He wanted to talk to Brackett if possible before Lee went in to see Johnny. He didn’t see either Jo or Lee, so he guessed they had went upstairs for some reason. He was glad to see Brackett and Early walking towards him.
“Roy, I want you to go with Joe and get that ankle looked at. Lee in with Johnny?”
“Not sure where she is Doc, could you go check on Johnny? He passed out while we were waiting. Morton thinks it was a head injury, but he never hit his head or had any sign of problem till he tried to get off the treatment table. He wanted to know why I didn’t start an IV, but he never ordered one.”
“Sure, now go take care of yourself.” Brackett pointed him towards Joe who was waiting at the door of treatment room 3.
Mike was issuing orders to the nurse regarding blood work he wanted done. Kel listened then took a set of vitals. He was concerned about the racing pulse and the pounding heart rate. There was a response to pain and Johnny tried to pull away from Kel’s grip. Morton didn’t say a word as Kel continued his exam.
“Any ideas why he passed out?”
“A head injury that DeSoto didn’t notice and not being given the IV I ordered. Look, Kel, DeSoto made a mistake in the info he gave me. I ordered an IV and morphine because I trusted his judgement on the head injury.”
“It’s not like Roy to make a mistake let alone one on his partner… Is X-ray on its way down?”
“They’re backed up and so is the lab. We’ve had two major MVAs and a bar fight come in in the last 45 minutes. Gage wasn’t a priority according to the information we were given.”
“From his condition now, I think he’s moved up on the list. I want him hooked up to a heart monitor and O₂started. Nurse, take that blood to the lab and tell them I want it stat. I’m gonna go talk to Lee see if Johnny had any problems while he was off.” Roy was sitting with Lee and Jo when he went out to the waiting room.
“How’s the ankle”
“Just twisted it a little…If it’s still bothering me in the morning I’m supposed to be back here for X-rays.”
“Kel, what’s going on with John Roderick? Roy said he passed out and Morton thinks it’s a head injury.”
“I honestly don’t know at this point. We’re going to get some X-rays then we’ll know more.”
“Good luck on that. They told Early that it would be 45 minutes to an hour before they have a machine free. There’s a waiting list 2 miles long.”
“He’s a priority now. Did he say anything about not feeling well before this happen?”
“No when I talked to him last night he was tired but fine. Haven’t talked to him today.” Lee answered.
“Today has been crazy…seems like one call is finished and another one came along before we could get to the station. We missed breakfast and lunch.”
“He hasn’t had anything to eat since last night? No wonder he passed out.” She was upset and they all could see it in her face. “Go take care of him…please.” She was fighting tears. “Kel, if he is awake, remind him of his promise.”
“The most important one…He’ll know.”
When Kel went back into the room Mike was talking to another doctor. They stopped when he came in. Kel noticed Johnny’s eye were opened but then closed quickly as if he didn’t want anyone to know he was awake.
“Have the lab results come in yet?” He was watching Johnny closely. “Lee said for you to remember the most important promise, John Roderick. She’s waiting for you to wake up, so she can come in here.” There was some slight response. “Mike, get a test strip and check his blood sugar. Roy said they missed breakfast and lunch.”
“She didn’t cook a massive breakfast for him? She usually does and sends extra with him.”
Morton had been trying again to get the firemen to eat healthier. He felt all the rolls, cookies etc. she sent to the station under minded his efforts. “He’s gained 10 pounds since they got married.” (Which was good since he had been underweight before that and was now at a very good weight for his height.)
“They have a 48-hour shift…Roy said they were called out before breakfast and have been on runs almost continuously since.”
“We often miss meals and we don’t react like this.” Dr. Rao said. The contempt in his voice apparent. “Being a half caste makes him weaker?” A smug self-righteous look on his face.
“We don’t do the physical labor like these guys do. Besides, Gage has a really high metabolism…he has trouble keeping weight on even when he gets regular meals.” While they were talking Morton had gotten the test strip and inserted the strip into the meter.
“Kel, this can’t be right…its reading 40.” Morton re did the test and got the same results.
“Piggy back a bag of D5W…His sugar level was probably already low then you gave him the morphine which dropped it even farther and faster. Once we get the blood sugars stabilized he should be more responsive. So, has anything been done about his shoulder?”
“Not yet. He was low on the priority list.” Morton hung the second IV.
“Doc…Roy?” The soft whispered request startled the three doctors as they had not noticed his eyes were open and he was looking around. “Where is Roy? Is he ok?” The voice became louder and higher pitched as he looked around the room. “He was hurt… limping”
“Calm down, he is fine. He’s out talking to Lee and JoAnne. Just relax before you pull the IV out. I’ll go get Roy and if you’re gonna stay calm, I’ll let Lee come back for a few minutes.”
Kel did not notice the look on Dr. Rao’s face at the mention of Lee. Rao left saying he would continue his conversation with Dr. Morton later. Kel began moving and examine the shoulder
“Mike, go out and get Lee and Roy…I want his shoulder X-rayed as a precaution. We’ll probably send him home after we get the x-ray results and re check his blood level.” Morton went outside and Kel checked the heart monitor and took another set of vitals. Johnny laid there quietly, and this had Kel worried a little.
“Want to tell me what’s going thru that mind of yours?” Kel stood there at the foot of the table, his arms folded looking very intense.
“Did she tell you what the promise was? She knows I didn’t--- can’t make that promise to her…”
“She just said the most important one. I want you to eat something before you go home, just to make sure you’ll keep it down. You want something from her office or the cafeteria?”
“Does a shake count as eating?” The hint of a smile on his lips did not reach his eyes.
“Double thick strawberry or chocolate malt?” Lee asked as she and Roy came into the treatment room.
“Strawberry. You ok?” He looked at Roy who nodded yes and they had a private silent conversation. “Look, Doc, Morton is gonna try to blame whatever happened on Roy. I know he didn’t screw up.”
“I seriously doubt that anyone screwed up except the system that doesn’t give you guys time to eat. I’ll be back I after I get your films.”
“Boyo, calm down…We’ll deal with Dr. Morton…the important thing right now is you. When X-ray gets here we’ll go get your shake. You want a hamburger to go with it?”
“No, I’ll get one of your special double bacon burgers when I get home.” The smile on his face was more natural now and she smiled back.
“Roy do you want me to call Hector to run us home? I know Jo and you would wait for us…”
“Which is exactly what is going to happen.” He answered in a no-nonsense tone. “She is up in your office calling Ibbie to let her know what is going on and fixing me a sandwich. We’ll wait for you up there.”
“Your ankle?” Johnny questioned. “It ok?”
“Twisted it when I stepped in that hole” Lee sat back and let them talk. When X-ray came in she sent Roy up to her office and went to get Johnny’s shake. As she was coming back into the ER waiting area she was stopped by Dr. Morton.
“You didn’t have to ask Kel to replace me as Gage’s doctor, I can do my job just fine without your meddling.”
“Really then why so defensive? FYI, I didn’t replace you, but I can’t say I wasn’t’ t glad to see Kel in there instead of you. Now, if you will excuse me, Kel wants John Roderick to drink this as soon as the X-ray tech leaves.”
She went back into the treatment room and was surprised to find Johnny alone. He was sitting up, his legs dangling off the side of the bed. He sat up straighter when he saw her.
“Before you get all bent out of shape, the tech helped me to sit up. It was hurting my shoulder to lay flat…Guess the IV made the morphine wear off quicker.”
“Here drink this. I told Roy we could find another way home, but he said they would wait on us.” She was glancing around the room, but her eyes kept coming back to the heart monitor. It was showing a steady strong beat. The huge hand squeezing her heart and lungs melted some as she watched him drinking the shake. “Roy talked to Cap and he said for you to take it easy. It sounds like you both will be back on duty the next shift or two.”
“That’s good. I feel kind of silly causing all this trouble over a bruise.”
“Stop it, it’s not just a bruise. Don’t you understand how serious it was? Between the low blood sugar and the reaction to the morphine you could have went into a coma or …”
“Honey, it’s ok… we got it under control…it was just a freak accident.”
“Is that what Cap is gonna tell me someday? It was just a freak accident? Don’t you dare belittle my feelings like that. And don’t give me the little smug grin you always do when you think it’s funny or that I am over reacting…” Her voice was low, but the tone showed how hurt and angry and afraid she was. The tears rolled down her face. He sat there limited by the IV on how he could move. Her reaction seemed so out of place for a minor injury. But then it wasn’t the injury that had caused the problems…it was the aftermath.
He finished his drink in silence as she turned and wheeled over to the sink and washed her face and composed herself. The chilly water erased the tracts of her tears abut did nothing to hide the red swollen eyes. She went back to him.
“I’m sorry for what just happen. I know you never belittle my feelings or laugh at me. Forgive me for over reacting? Please don’t be angry with me.”
“How can I be angry at someone who loves me so much?” He knew where her anger was coming from---fear.
He gently stroked the hand she had laid on his leg. They sat there for another 10 minutes before Kel came back into the room.
“OK, you can go home, get some rest. John, no picking up anything heavier than 10 pounds for the next week or two. There aren’t any tears and the shoulder aren’t out of place. You’ve strained some ligaments and tendons. You know the routine…Be careful when you have Chloe on your lap that you don’t accidently lift her. Use the sling for the next few days and come back in next week or if there are any problems. I’ve written a prescription for you for Tylenol with codeine if you need it. Make sure to eat before you take it.”
“I’ll make sure he is well fed. Thanks, Kel.”
“Doc, Roy isn’t in any trouble, is he? Morton didn’t order an IV. That kind of surprised us in a l way…” Even after all these years Morton still had the tendency to over order IVs.
“No but I am going to listen to the tape just to see if I can figure out what the problem was.”
“I’m going up to my office, we’ll be down in a few minutes.”.” Lee said with a nod then left.
Johnny watched her still worried about how upset she had gotten.
“She’s having a rough day. First Brice now you are getting banged up. She looks tired.” Kel remarked after the door shut. “Is everything ok with her?
“I’m not sure what is going on. Think I’ll see if Ibbie can stay for a few more hours so she can get some sleep or at least rest out of that chair.”
Once they got home Lee relaxed and Johnny decided it had just been nerves. He settled in his chair and watched as she fixed dinner and Chloe was happily playing on her blanket.
The baby gates were up so she was pretty much confined to the front room, but she seldom left the room Johnny or Lee was in. Besides, if she did get off the blanket Ashke was right beside her. Lee took some juice into to Johnny and started back out to the kitchen but then stopped.
“Why did you ask Ibbie if she could stay longer?” Her tone was soft, and he could hear the hurt in it. Ibbie had plans with her family but offered to stay longer if needed. Lee had said no to her staying.
“Because you looked so tired and stressed out. Thought you might like a nap with me. Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“Guess I’m still over reacting…and being defensive…. But it’ll be alright….and I’m alright so stop worrying and just relax.”
After Chloe was in bed for the night Johnny went into their room to lay down and watch television. The intercom was on between her room and their bedroom and Ashke was asleep next to her bed. They had put her in a youth bed with a low guard rail the first time she had tried to climb out of the crib.
“I’m gonna take a shower. Anything you need before I do?” She had made sure there was a pitcher of ice water on his night stand and some cookies. You’ll be ready for a pain pill about the time I’m finished in here.”
“I’ll be fine. Keep the door open in case you need anything.”
Lee slid over onto the bath chair and let out a long sigh. The hot water felt so good on her tight shoulders and she just sat there letting it run down her back. The longer she sat there the faster the tears came, and she fought to control her breathing. The lavender scented soap and shampoo had helped to relax her as much as the hot water did.
Wrapping a towel around her head she hoped Johnny wouldn’t notice how red her eyes were. She never lied to him but if he asked she would just tell him she had gotten soap in her eyes. Which was true just not the whole reason for the red swollen eyes. She couldn’t let him know she had chest pains from the anxiety/panic attack she had earlier.
“Feeling better?” He asked soon as she came into the bedroom. A little surprised she hadn’t come over to him but over to her dressing table., keeping her back to him.
“Yep except I got soap in my eyes…The lavender smells good, but it stings. I was thinking maybe it was time to get a haircut, think you’d like me with short hair?”
“Guess the question is would you like you with short hair. I’d love you even if you were bald.” He was watching her closely not sure why, but the sense of worry had intensified.
“Enough to keep your promise?” She said it so softly he couldn’t hear what she said. Louder, she answered, “I don’t remember ever having short hair…I’s always been shoulder length or longer. Even when the OT wanted to cut it short I threw a fit. Jeff and Maria told them under no circumstances was it to be cut any shorter than that. I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around sometimes then.”
“Hey, it was that fight and drive that made you into the awesome lady you are now. Guess the best I can tell you is go just a little shorter and see if you like it. You can always let it grow or cut it shorter.”
“Yeah that is a satisfactory solution. You’re very good at problem solving. I’m gonna go get you a snack and then you can take a pain pill if you need to.”
“I’m fine…Just need a warm body to cuddle up to. Think Chloe will sleep till morning?”
“At least till 6 or 6:30. Just remember no lifting her.”
The week passed to quickly for Lee. She loved having Johnny home all the time and Chloe kept him from being too bored. They were getting ready to go to Rampart for his check up and return to work slip.
“I’m not sure what time we ’ll be back. Kel wants to talk to us after the exam so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long…”
“My husband is on second shift for a few weeks, so he is sleeping now and will sleep till time for him to leave for work…Miss Chloe and I will be fine.”
“One of the few things I am sure of is that Ladybug is as safe with you as she is with me and Johnny. That is such a blessing to us…” Lee gave Ibbie’s hand a tight squeeze. “You are such an important part of our family.”
“After we see Kel want to go have lunch and run any errands you want.” Johnny said as she drove to Rampart.
You wouldn’t mind?” His hand had been resting on her leg, he squeezed it lightly.
“No and you have to drop off the slip anyway…we could call over and see if they want us to bring lunch or we could just surprise them with a dessert.” She was scared to have him go back to work but she knew he would never be happy not being a firefighter/paramedic. Neither one ever had to work another day and they would still have money to spare…but neither one had the disposition to do that.
The exam took only a few minutes as the arm wasn’t bothering him. Kel suggested they go to his office and talk.
“I have a better idea. I’ll put the do not enter sign up on my door and we can talk, and you can have lunch.” Lee suggested. “Nell isn’t in today, so no one will be in there.”
Settled around the conference table they waited for Kel to start. “Mike did not order an IV for you because he was interrupted by another doctor. He has talked to Roy and Roy accepted his apology. Hopefully so will you. Both of you.” He had seen the look on Lee’s face and the raised eyebrow.
“Yeah I heard him and that other doctor when I was on the exam table…think we should just accept the explanation since Roy accepted the apology.” Johnny said hoping Brackett didn’t say who the doctor was.
“That situation will never happen again.” Kel took a bite of his sandwich to give the other two a chance to think over what was said.
“And you know this because?” A slightly sarcastic Lee inquired.
“A memo is being sent out and posted in various places reminding other staff that a doctor in the communication center is not to be interrupted except in a dire emergency.”
“And you think this will prevent it from happening again?”
“Yes, and I trust the paramedics…if they think an IV is needed or have any other concern they have no hesitation in asking for clarification. Roy was comfortable without having an IV started. So, any more questions?”
“No. I think we’ll stop by Johnny Pat’s and get something to take over to
51 and turn in this slip. Then me and my wife are having a date night in the afternoon.”
“Good. And thanks for the meal.”
Lee was busy trying to figure out what the person who had typed the report from Sacramento wanted to say or understanding what they did say. She was surprised when Johnny and Cap came into the office. They were smiling so she knew it wasn’t anything bad.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” Johnny leaned down and kissed her.
“You free for lunch and a meeting tomorrow?” Johnny was sitting on the edge of her desk. “HQ wants 51 to head the fund raiser for Special Olympics and the Adult Recreation and Training Program with you and Johnny as liaison for the two groups.” Hank said hopefully.
“Val and Kelly’s idea,” Johnny clarified. “We’re on our way back to the station after a training exercise at the Academy. Chief Houser stopped us before we left to ask us. He needs an answer today. The station is going to be doing the fund raiser either way.”
“You could have said yes and saved a trip over here.” Lee said very straight faced.
“And missed a chance to see you and do this.” He gave her another kiss. “And not let Cap here check out the cupcake situation. Roy is downstairs getting supplies and the guys are waiting on the engine.” He gave her a smile and made puppy dog eyes at her. She giggled.
“Take a dozen cupcakes but leave at least one pecan spice with caramel icing and tell Bob I said yes. What time and where?”
“Any chance we can have it at your office over at WBS? That’s a pretty central location for everyone coming.”
“Ok, I’ll call Ibbie to see if she can come tomorrow then call Ben and let him know I’m having a meeting in my office. What time and how many?”
“Ten for a 12:30 meeting?”
“Ok see you in the morning. Hank, you really didn’t think I would say no, did you?”
“Not really. Just thought it was politer to ask you in person.” She laughed as they left. She hadn’t had a panic attack since the day Johnny had gotten hurt 2 weeks ago and all was good in their world. When Nell came in she decided to work on some WBSF papers and think about the fund raiser they were going to be planning. It would be a fun project.
Two hours later all hell broke out when they received a call to as converted warehouse. The warehouse had been built in a H Shape. Engine 51 and Squad 51 were direct to the first door in the back. This section of the ware house had been converted into shared space for a small business made up of a print shop and a photographer who specialized in ads and catalogs and a fashion design studio. As they went around the building Johnny noticed two cars parked by the second door. The sign on the door by the cars said use other entrance.
“Gage, DeSoto they think there is 2 people on the fourth floor. Go check it out.” Cap said as they were putting on their equipment. “If you don’t find them there check the other floors. From what the manager said they all go back and forth as they work.”
Once in the building they quickly moved up to the fourth floor. The stairwell and the floor were thick with a black oily smoke coming from the printshop. It was an open floor plan so the smoke was thick everywhere. They didn’t see any flames but could feel the heat.
It was an open lay out so once they reached the floor you could see the shop. Tables and chairs were turned over and appeared to have been thrown about. Papers were scattered, and textiles spewed about.
The paramedics moved farther into the room watching for any sign of movement, listening for any cries for help. Behind two over turned tables they found the woman.
Johnny motioned for Roy to continue searching for other victims. Johnny took his glove off to feel for her pulsed. It was weak and thready, so he removed his helmet and placed his air mask over her face. Then he checked for any broken bones or spinal injuries. He found nothing except a except bloody lump on the back of her head. He heard Roy yell that he needed help and left her after rechecking her pulse. It was stronger, and her color was better now she was getting air.
Roy had found the man trapped under an over turned file cabinet. A table was also wedged against the cabinet. There was a pool of blood under the man.
DeSoto frowned seeing his partner without an air mask. But with a sigh he knew his own would soon be off after he could free the trapped man.
Without a word Johnny and Roy began moving the table so they could lift the file cabinet. Roy moved the man out as Johnny held the cabinet. The freed man was breathing but they knew he had lost a significant amount of blood. Before giving the man his mask he handed it to Johnny. His friend gave him a quick smile and nod of thanks before taking three deep breaths. The man had a cut on his arm and side. It was with a surprised gasp that Roy realized the cuts had been made by a knife.
“We need to get them out of here…now. Roy with some help from Johnny could get the man over his shoulders and began to move towards the door. Johnny followed till he reached the woman. She was light enough that he could get her onto his shoulders easily. He took another few breaths before following Roy.
They sat up a treatment area and soon had Rampart on the bio phone. Ten minutes later Roy was on his way to Rampart with the two victims. Johnny cleaned the area and reported back to Cap. Before he reached Cap two more explosions were heard from the front building.
“John, Roy just called…there is a man with children in the building. The mother said he was unbalanced and kidnapped the children saying they were his. He maybe in the photography studio.” This was the on the third floor.
Johnny headed towards the building stopping when he realized Bob was following. him. “What are you doing?” He kept on moving.
“Stanley sent me…said since Roy wasn’t here someone had to keep you out of trouble.” The younger paramedic frowned. There was an uneasiness gnawing at him. Was it because Roy wasn’t there as his back up? No, he trusted Belliveau completely.
Maybe it was that there were children involved. It had always bothered him, all of them, more when children were involved but since Chloe had been born even more so. Every emotion was more intense, more real since Lee and Chloe were in his life, they completed the world that Roy and Jo had begun with their love and friendship. He hurried onward wanting to get the kids out of there, away from danger.
“You go to the left …I’ll check the right…We’ll meet back here before going to the next floor.” Johnny directed the older paramedic. There were three rooms plus a bathroom on the left side of the shop.
The rest room was small and just required a quick glance to make sure it was empty. The largest room was a store room with boxes of photos neatly sorted by date. The aisle was clean, and he could quickly travel up and down. The next room was the dark room. He checked for anything that could be a bomb. To him this was the most logical place to cause another explosion.
The last room was the largest. This was where they staged many of the shoots. There was a large closet with backdrops and props that Johnny opened. Johnny listened. Was it his imagination or did he hear a baby crying? He took off his helmet and mask to listen again. He was sure he heard a baby crying and someone shushing it.
“Hello…I’m a fireman, I came to help you.” He called out loudly. “Don’t be afraid…We are here to help you…Just like we did your mom and dad.”
He was pretty sure there was one older child with the baby. He put his mask back on and begun searching the closet more closely. Moving the panels and boxes as the room was getting hotter and the smoke thicker. He would stop to listen then go on.
He moved a stack of boxes marked material and saw the two children. A little girl about 5 and a little boy only about a year old. The baby was limp, and Johnny quickly began checking his vital then put his mask over his face. He keyed the handi talki and called Bob to join him. Once he was sure the little boy was responding he turned his attention to the little girl.
“It’s ok, sweetie, I’m going to get you both out of here, my friend is gonna help me.”
“Mr. Jonah took my sister…She …” She froze as they heard footsteps. “He’ll hurt us…like he did Mommy and Daddy.”
“It’s ok, it’s my friend.” Johnny had been doing a quick vitals check as he talked with her and had seen Bob coming towards them. “Let’s get you and this little guy out of here.” He handed the little girl to Bob. You hold on tight and soon as we get you taken care of I’ll find your sister.”
They made their way to the staging area and soon as Johnny handed the baby to Brice he turned to get a new air tank.
“Where are you going?” Brice demanded. “I need to check your lungs. I could hear you wheezing.”
“I gotta go find their sister.” Johnny got a fresh tank and made his way back to the building. The fire had been contained and the cleanup began in the front half of the building.
Engine 51 and Engine 88 were almost finished as the back had never been as involved as the front. Two police cars had joined the fire personnel. Pete Malloy and his partner Jim Reed were talking with Hank. Brice watched as Johnny and Bob made their way back to the building.
He was debating rather to go inform Capt. Stanley of Gage’s refusing to listen to him or just let the stubborn paramedic suffer the consequences of his refusal. Deciding that Gage was old enough and supposedly smart enough to make his own decisions just let the matter drop and returned to his other duties. He never thought of his partner now being paired with Johnny.
The second floor was smoky and hot. The back part of the H shaped building had not flamed up like the front half but had more black smoke. Cap and the Battalion chief had decided this was due to the amount of chemicals stored in the back building while the fire in the front part had been set with gasoline. The fires in back had been small one’s more of a disruption than actual threat. Now the fire department personnel realized why. The arsonist was in the back when the fire started. The bar of the H had slowed the fire down since it had a sprinkler system to encourage the growth of the many hanging baskets and plants.
Johnny was surprised to find a loft in one of the rooms. It was an end room and taller than the others. There were shelves of cloth bolts and boxes stacked of on the loft as far as he could see from the floor. Johnny decided to go up the stairs first. There was something in this room that made him very uncomfortable.
He moved slowly towards a large box marked Megan. Was it his imagination or did the box move? Slowly he touched the box. It was moving, rocking softly as the small girl inside sobbed quietly. Removing his other glove and his mask. Her hands and feet were bound, and a dirty rag had been tied loosely tied around her mouth and was half down on her chin.
“It’s ok, I’m Johnny, a paramedic…I’m gonna get you out of here and back to your family.”
“He hurt my parents, took my little brother and sister.” As he spoke he began untying the dirty gag. “He said if I made noise he’d hurt them bad …He’d hurt Katie like she was a whore like Mommy…What’s a whore? He said it hurt bad and made you bleed…” she was talking fast her speech fouled by her fear. “He said he would drop Jordie from the balcony…That he wouldn’t hurt me because I was his Susan…they just made me forget that…OUCH…he hurt my arm, on accident because I was sassing.” The 7-year-old had tears running down her face and looked very young.
“Ok, I need to undo these ropes…Can you tell me your name?”
“Scarlet…from a book Mommy loves.” Johnny had pulled his knife and had ran it down the crease of the box and then pulled it down, so the box flattened out. Then very gently cut the ropes. Just as he did that he saw Bob coming back into the room.
“Up here, Bob…” As he said that he sensed the movement behind him. A man came out from between the high stacked boxes. A large knife in his hand. He rushed Johnny. His reflexes were quick, and he managed to jump out of the way of the slashing blade. Moving backwards drawing the mad man from where the girl was still laying on the ground.
“You take my Susan, you die…He grabbed what looked like a TV remote waving it wildly. “I’ll blow you all to hell.” The fact it would kill him, and the child never entered Jonah’s crazed mind. “They are everywhere…you can’t stop me.”
Bob watched moving slowly but with purpose. He knew what Gage was doing, trying to give him time to get the girl to safety. As the man with the knife followed the retreating paramedic he began screaming curses and threats. Both paramedics heard the word bombs said over and over in the rant. Bob took the slight advantage in distance and grabbed the child. The girl’s cry of pain caught the madman’s attention as they started down the stairs.
Johnny turned and threw a box at the man screaming at him as he did. It didn’t hurt Jonah as much as surprised him. He turned to again attack the man who was trying to take his child from him again.
They had told him his Susan was dead just as his wife was. What did he care about that whore? She was running away from him to be with her lover. And ran a red light. The truck driver had tried to avoid the small car but there wasn’t time or space. Both in the small car died instantly. The driver had lived but only after months of physical and emotional therapy had he resumed a relatively normal life. Jonah had spiraled into a fantasy world over the months.
Bob and the girl were just crossing the doorway when the first bomb went off. in the downstairs office. The knocked the paramedic down. He managed to fall in such a way the child was protected. Stanley and the crew of 51 ran to him and helped him up.
“Where is Gage?” Stanley demanded.
“Inside fighting with the bomber…He attacked him, so I could get Susan out.” He was trying to ignore the pain in his lower arm and wrist. “He…he attacked the guy, so I could get her out…Get the men out…there are bombs all over the place.” As they were talking they had moved the two injured to the treatment area. Brice began examine the little girl with his usual robotic method. Bob waited for him to finish thinking Brice would check his wrist next.
“Go with her in the ambulance…I’ll most likely be needed here.” With that Brice walked away.
The influx from the bombing hadn’t reached the ER yet but they were already full of the everyday patients as well as the victims of two MVAs and two other fires within the last few hours. Kel had asked Roy to help while waiting for Johnny to come in. He was just finishing up with the last passenger from a rear-ended bus that belonged to a senior citizens complex. Fortunately, most of the residents had only minor injuries. He was standing at the nurses’ desk when a gurney with a small girl came around the corner followed by Bob Belliveau with his right arm in a sling. The nurse took the little girl into treatment room 2.
“BOB” Roy called louder than he intended. “What happen?”
Bob Belliveau wanted to hide from that direct blue-eyed gaze that was asking questions he did not want to answer. But he knew he had to answer honestly.
“We have a mad bomber back there…Johnny… was…fighting … with him to give me time to get her out. I’m not sure how many but he said there was more bombs. One went off just as I got out of the door way.”
“John?” The word cracked as he said it. “You left him in there…”
“He was risking his life for that little girl. I had to get her out of there or what he was doing was just suicide.”
“But you don’t know if he was able to get out?” Bob shook his head no “Who was bringing the squad in?”
“I don’t know.” He wasn’t going to tell Roy that as they were leaving, more bombs were going off.
Roy looked up at the sound of familiar voices. Jim Reed and Pete Malloy were coming into the ER waiting room from the main lobby.
“Pete, can you take me back to the warehouse on Dayton Ave? They can’t spare anyone to come after me.”
“The radio says at least 4 small bombs have went off and that the bomber has said there is one more a big one. That he has a hostage and is demanding they return his daughter.” Pete saw the color drain from DeSoto’s face. “Gage is the hostage?”
“Yeah. So, the girl could get away…we got her parents, brother and sister earlier.” The three grim faced friends left Rampart.
Lee had finished her work and was ready to go home and spend some time with Chloe. The weather was holding so maybe they would take a short walk maybe go see Jo and they could talk over some of the new grants. The kids would be home by now…maybe they could have dinner together, call out for pizza or Chinese. As she got off the elevator she was surprised at the number of firefighters and law enforcement personnel crowding the room. She saw a firefighter from 88 she knew slightly and stopped him.
“Guy, what’s going on?” She asked trying not to panic.
Guy Foster looked down at her and took a deep breath. “There was a fire that turned out to be bomb site. It would have been worse without John’s warning.” He looked down at his boots. “Have you had any word?”
“No…Look, is any of the chiefs here?”
“Not yet they are still out at the warehouse. I had to get my hand stitched up…”
“Go up to my office…get something to drink and eat…use the whole office…if we need more chairs I’ll have them sent up. She went over to the registration desk and asked for the PA system mic.
“Attention all fire and law enforcement personnel. If you are waiting on transportation or on coworkers, please go up to Lee Gage’s office. There is food and beverages for you. You will be notified when your ride or coworker is available.” The frazzled nurse gave her a grateful look. Lee then asked to use the phone and called L.A. County Fire Department HQ. She asked for either McConnikee or Houser.
“Chief Houser’s office. How may I help you?”
“Missie, is Bob there? It’s Lee Gage.”
“He’s on the phone…Is there any word on Johnny?”
“No…I just more or less ordered all your guys who were waiting here up to my office to wait for rides or news…Let Bob or McConnikee know what I did and that I will be here until …well, as long as needed. The waiting area was getting pretty over ran with you all.”
“Thanks for looking out for our guys…We’re praying they find Johnny soon.” Missi said not knowing Lee had no idea what exactly was going on with her husband. Lee went back up to her office after arranging for the nurses to call up to the office as rides arrived or information was made available on the injured.
She began making sandwiches and seeing that all who was there had a place to sit, food and drink or a place quietly to talk with friends or spend times with their thoughts. Many had asked to use the phone to call family to reassure loved ones they were safe for the minute. The only thing she refused when asked was having the television turned on to the late breaking news reports. None realized how close she was to losing the slim hold she had on her emotions or how her physical wellbeing was being compromised.
The warning from Bob Belliveau and the time John Gage bought them with his wrestling match with Jonah Marshall saved lives but not all escaped injury. The bombs were scattered all through the building. The one in the window lined hallway that connected the two buildings sent down a rain of shards, the glass flying everywhere. Another bomb had ruptured a gas line. The huge amount of paper and material and chemicals fueled the renewed blaze in both sections of the building.
Johnny was fighting not only for his life but the lives of his friends. A deep sigh escaped from him as he thought of Lee and Chloe. He had promised Chloe they would go see the horses if the weather was nice after his nap tomorrow, would she be sadder about not going to see the horses than not seeing him at first? She was so little; would it take her awhile to understand why he didn’t come home?
Lee would never let her forget how much her daddy loved her. That he wanted to come back. He smiled seeing her playing with her fire trucks and blocks…building a …the sharp punch from the madman brought his mind back to the present.
With a renewed sense of energy, he fought to grab the radio his captor held. He had been surprised to see it wasn’t one detonator but several that were in the man’s possession. He was too stubborn to give up. He would fight for Lee and Chloe and all he cared about. He would fight for himself. He knew now he was as worthy as any other to live and be happy. His only regret was that Lee would think he broke his promise…But he had never given her that promise.
He had never told her he had promised. He couldn’t give her a promise he had no way to keep. Death was not something you could bargain with. They both had learned that as children and was a lesson they could never ignore. His nose was bloody and there was at least one cut on his forehead. He was bruised, and he thought his radius was cracked if not broken.
With a burst of energy, he didn’t know he had left, Johnny pushed Jonah back and for a moment thought the fight was over as the man slid down against an over turned table. But with a sudden burst of energy Jonah started down the steps as if to flee from the paramedic.
Johnny followed him down the stars and lunged from the fourth step to try to stop the bomber. Jonah turned as Johnny landed on him and shoved the paramedic. Johnny fell backwards and twisted so he landed partially under the loft still trying to hold onto Jonah. Jonah kicked at his attacker then made his way towards the door. The fall had made him dizzy and he knew he wasn’t going to make it out of that building alive.
“You took my Susan…you killed the only thing I ever loved or loved me…I’m dead inside might as well finish the job.” Jonah Marshall pushed the button on the last detonator. The one for the largest bomb.
Adam-12 pulled up just as the last bomb exploded and the three men watched as the building seemed to implode on itself. The three men sat not saying anything at first. Then a low cry of pure pain and despair worked its way out of Roy’s throat. Roy was out of the car running towards the building before either of the police officers could react.
Hank and Mike were standing by the engine talking when Roy raced over to them.
“Where is he? Have they started rescue procedures?” Roy demanded.
“No, they are waiting to give the debris time to settle. As far as we know they were on the fourth floor. John …” He stopped not sure what to say.
“Well, people say he has 9 lives like a cat, let’s hope he lands on his feet like one.”
“Where is Marco and Chet?” Roy asked suddenly realizing they weren’t in sight.
“On the way to Rampart with some bad cuts…maybe a broken hand for Chet…” Hank said. “Does Lee know?”
“No, I don’t think so... God, how much longer till we can go in?” He looked around the area and realized the TV stations and radio stations had vans there. “I should have called Jo… She could go over and wait with Lee”
“If she or Em or Kathy saw any of this on TV they’re already with her or on the way.”. Hank said. They waited a few more minutes than the all clear signal was given and the task of rescuing their friend began. All knew it may not end well but all would make the task one of rescue not recovery.
Lee finished making another pot of coffee and had just asked someone to refill the fridge with soda. Someone else she sent to the cafeteria for more ice. She frowned seeing the food dwindled. She went over to her desk and waited until the phone was free.
“This is Lee Gage…I need to speak to Mick, Sean or Shelia…it’s an emergency.” Lee had no time for pleasant requests. After what seemed an eternity Sean answered.
“What do you need?” They had been watching the news on the TV in their office.
“Whatever you can send me…My office is the command post for those waiting…More injured are on the way in and now families are coming…Ask Johnny Pat for any extra soda he might have …Just send the bill to the accountants like usual…Gotta run, others need the phone.” She hung up without a goodbye.
Sean went to the kitchen and gave orders and then called his son. When he went back into the office Shelia was waiting for him.
“How is she?”
“The lass is terrified…She has that unemotional metallic sound to her voice” Within the half hour a van loaded with food and soda, coffee and other supplies was on its way to Rampart. Mick had insisted on taking charge of the gathering and delivery of the supplies.
Lee watched as a new batch of firemen came into the office. She made room for them at the table and began bringing them plates and drinks. Murphy from 110 stood up as the new men entered and went over to them quietly asking questions and letting them know what they knew of the injured already treated.
“Any word of her Johnny?” Murphy asked once he thought she was out of hearing distance. “She won’t let us turn on the television or a radio. She is running on pure fear about now.”
“All we know is he was still in the building when the last bomb went off. There was an explosion bigger than the others. There were at least 4 smaller bombs we know of…It doesn’t look good for anyone who was near that last bomb. Part of the building seemed to fall into itself but part of it the force seemed to throw out the debris in a wider arc”
Johnny could feel vibration as more of the building crumbled around him. He could also feel the pain as his body protested the awkward way he was caught under a lean to made of twisted steel and over turned furniture.
He wasn’t sure why the structure protecting him reminded him of the lean to he and the boys had built out in the grove last October as part of the fall camp out/sleep over they had hosted. That had been a good week end. Lee and the girls had gone to some fancy tea party with the dolls somewhere up north…He had surprised Lee when she got there at the hotel. He had sent a picture of Chloe in her flower princess dress and smuggled the dress out of the house so that a doll was waiting for her.
The doll was now in a glass cabinet he had made for it just like her bride doll on a special shelf in their bedroom. He tried to move to ease the cramping in his foot, but the pain was so intense he blacked out again. The next time he was awake the first thing he felt was cold. Not a good sign. The weather had been mild all week, in the low 50’s. 51---he prayed his friends were safe and thanked God Roy was. Not realizing it he began to talk out loud.
“Ok, let’s be practical…Make a list of everywhere it hurts. It drives the guys nuts when I answer everywhere…. headache…bad one breathing …shallow, it hurts to take a deep breath. Not that I want to keep from breathing in all this dust and ash…not enough room to really move my legs or arms…toes are wiggling…hurts to move my right wrist…but can move my fingers if I have to…gotta try to keep the war….”
He had faded out again the narrow beam of light going totally black. What he hadn’t added to his list was the cuts and bruises and broken nose and cracked cheek bone he had received before the blast. Nor the fact both his eyes were swollen almost shut.
He was dreaming (hallucinating?) he was home. Lee was busy in the kitchen, he was in his chair reading and watching Chloe play on her blanket. Jo had suggested they put a blanket down when she first started crawling to help keep her from getting rug burns on her knees.“Lee come watch her…she is gonna walk.” Chloe crawled over to the couch and pulled herself up to standing.
“Come on baby, come to Daddy…” He said softly, urging her. “Ladybug come on…” He watched as she made her way to his chair. He screamed in pain as he tried to move his badly broken arm as he dreamed of reaching to gather his child into his waiting arms. The pain had sent him spiraling back into the darkness unknowing how his friends were frantically working to rescuer him.
Outside the crumbled building a growing rescue effort was taking place. Off duty firemen had been called in so there was a backup ready to replace the exhausted or newly injured rescuers. The remaining crew members of 51 had so far refused to stop. A food truck from Johnny Pat’s had showed up and the grateful firemen were using their down time to eat and drink. The grateful men didn’t stop to think why there was a food truck there just to enjoy the brief respite.
Chief McConnikee had finally made the exhausted captain and engineer from Station 51 stop to eat and rest. DeSoto had went inside the building and had not yet came out. The chief sat down on the ground waiting for Hank Stanley to finish his coffee.
“Any word?” Hank asked.
“No, they’re making slow progress. They are going slow to keep from causing any more cave ins. The young man in the truck said his family was offering prayers to all of the Brotherhood…and some extra ones to the Boyo and Lass.”
“The O’Sheas are part of their family of the heart. Think Mick considers her his daughter. I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side for any reason but if he thought she was being insulted or harmed...” Taking about anything except that damn building was a relief.
“She has organized our people at the hospital, so they are fed and have a place to wait. She is looking after the families of the injured…From what I heard from some of the men I talked to her she is calm and almost cold unless dealing with family members. They all think it strange she won’t let anyone turn on the TV or a radio.”
“That’s her rule…Time for us to get back in there. Have you heard anything about Lopez and Kelly?”
“Lopez has 7 stitches in his leg…Kelly has a mild concussion and a broken hand.”
Johnny coughed, and the echo of the sound was like a sledge hammer in his ears. That coupled well with the boa constrictor around his chest. He was cold and hurt everywhere. He didn’t know how long he had been in there, but he knew his time was running short. Not sure if he spoke aloud or not but then it didn’t matter since there was no one to hear anyway.
“Lee, I hope you know how much I love you…how much your smile warmed my heart and soul…I know Chloe will grow up with an awesome mama…and that you will let her know how much I loved her and wanted to be there to watch her grow up. Aunt Rose, thanks for never giving up on me…stay part of Lee and Chloe’s life…Cap and guys…take care and remember the good times, Chet treat your new pigeon good. Roy…ya know what I’m thinking before me and sometimes better than me…give my love to the kids and don’t let them ever forget how much I love you all…I think loves lasts beyond dying…Can’t have heaven without love…Gonna give your folks and sister a hug from you…Lee remember I didn’t break my promise…Never broke a promise to ya.” His eyes closed.
Dixie McCall was beyond tired but couldn’t leave the hospital not knowing about Johnny. She had agreed to go lie down in Kel’s office. It had been almost three hours since the last bombing. Only a few firemen and police were still here waiting on those who were most seriously injured or just waiting for word on the final rescue. No one said the word recovery, but some felt that was what it would be. No one dared to say anything negative around Lee. Cisco Alvarez had been there, and he and Dixie had talked. He had planned on calling Jeff as soon as possible as well as his parents. Kel came in quietly not that he thought she was asleep.
“Any word?” She asked but not hopeful.
“No. They are still trying to tunnel into him. Lee refuses to discuss anything other than he will have the best care money can buy and for me to call in any specialist from anywhere in the world. But she thinks me, and Joe are the best.”
“She always has. Kel, if he doesn’t survive…What’s going to happen to Roy and the other guys at 51? I know over the years there have been close calls and they live knowing the worst can happen.”
“I don’t know Dix. They are closer than some families…Lee gave a name to what they all had felt for a while, family of the heart. There was always something about Johnny that made you want to…to protect him …That brought the best out in you...”
“Brings, Kel, brings. Don’t count him out yet…He’ll fight with every ounce of breath and will power to come home to her and that baby. And to his brother. I don’t think Roy could or would want to go on being a paramedic without Johnny as his partner. This might push him into taking the captain’s exam.”
“Or out of the fire department completely.” Kel said sadly. “We might just lose the both. I know Hank has been thinking about taking the test for chief and if that happens I think Stoker will go for captain.” Remembering a conversation, he had with Hank at a party at the Gage’s home after Christmas.
Upstairs in her office Lee was cleaning up after the last of the firefighters. Jo had called and so had Kathy, but she had told them both to stay with their kids, that was who mattered right now. Em had called but Lee had asked her not to come, that maybe later she would need someone but not now. Mama Lopez had been up there to thank her for making sure she had a ride over to the hospital and a way to get Marco home.
At first, he had refused to go home but Lee had talked with him, asking him as a favor to her not to stress his mom out. Chet’s brother Dennis had been there, their mom was on a trip with her sisters and couldn’t be reached. Slowly after washing off the table she went over to his picture on her desk. It was the one of his holding Chloe for the first time.
“Ya know Boyo, ya never have broken a promise to me… even when they have been unreasonable. So, don’t be starting with this one…I’d have to stay here to take care of the Ladybug…but a big part of my heart and soul would be gone. Please don’t do that to us…we need you…not just me and Chloe but Roy and Jo and the kids. You’d be breaking a promise to Jen and Stacy…you promised to be there for their first dance recital in the spring…God, please, please don’t take him…”
She was crying as she traced the silver picture frame lightly. The pain in her chest was making it hard for her to breath and the room was spinning. The lack of air in the room was making her want to gulp it trying to get enough into her body to clear her mind. She had to be strong …she had to stay strong for him and Chloe and…
“Lee.” Dr. Joe Early knelt beside her, taking her wrist in his hand. “Slow down your breathing…You’re hyperventilating…You need to relax …I know it’s rough…”
“Is on his way in…I can’t give you any information except he is alive but unconscious. Roy is with him.” Joe went over to the sink and got her a glass of water. Handing it to her, “When did you eat last? Or have something to drink?”
“This morning…or maybe…I don’t know. It doesn’t matter…Only he does…”
“Now you know that isn’t true. If you don’t take care of you how are you gonna take care of him? And Chloe? When did you eat? And what?”
“Breakfast…a fruit bowl and a bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam.”
“Once we are down stairs I’m going to get you a sandwich and something drink.”
“I won’t be able to keep it down…maybe a strawberry milk shake?” she wheeled over to the sink and got a clean towel and washed her face with chilly water then let Joe push her down.
Roy and two others rescue men were inside the tunnel they had made to the area they were estimating (guessing) Johnny should be from the way the building fell. If the engineers from the county and the chiefs had calculated wrong, it was almost certainly signing Johnny’s death certificate.
If he was in this area and if he had been in a protected area…if…if…if…Roy thought, he would scream if he heard that word one more time. Moving carefully but as fast as possible they made it into what was left of the room. They could see where part of the loft had come down and they also saw a hand sticking up from a pile of timber and dry wall.
Roy knew from the size it wasn’t Johnny’s but felt no sorrow for the lost life, only relief that this might be a sign they were close to his best friend, alive by some miracle. Not sure what drew him to that section of the room…maybe the wishful prayer that Johnny was buried in a pocket safe from the bone crushing materials. He began moving the chunks of wall board and shelving…fast as he could safely work. It would be as cruel ironic joke if he caused a slide that kept them from rescuing his brother.
Within minutes they had a hole large enough to slither through. It was a tight squeeze but no one except him was going to reach Johnny…no matter what he found it had to be him first. Seeing the unconscious form Roy’s heart dropped into his stomach. Bending carefully, he took his gloves off and put a shaking hand on his friend’s neck. The pulse was there, barely. Moving faster now he checked for any obvious breaks or spinal injury. He winched at the labored breathing and pale grayish coloring of the skin around his mouth. As the other two made it in he turned at them. “We need to make the opening a little wider to get him out…Quickly or we still could lose him.”
“Rampart we have a 29-year-old victim... be advised it is John Gage…” Trying to keep a professional tone and volume he gave Kel the vital signs. “BP is 85/40, pulse is 120, respirations are 10. His breathing is labored, there isa grayish blue tint to his lips.”
“Start 6 liters oxygen and an IV’s D5WTKO use spinal precautions… Get him in here now.”
The transfer into the ambulance was quick and with two slaps on the door the ambulance pulled out behind the police escort. Few noticed the two sad and exhausted firefighters watching the departing ambulance. As they started towards their engine a young cadet stopped them.
“Excuse me, Captain Stanley, Engineer Stoker? “They nodded. “Chief Houser sent me to take you to Rampart. Your to be checked out and then arrangements will be made for your return to the station to claim your belongings. Your shift has been stood down. C shift will see to the engine and squad.”
“Thank you” Hank Stanley said with a heavy heart, “Has anyone let Lee know?” He was very glad the car was nearby.
Ushered into treatment rooms the two men were soon given clean bills of health except for the need for food and rest and a shower. Kelly Bracket sent them to the showers providing them with scrubs. They came back to the ER’s nurses’ desk.
“There is food up in Lee’s office…She could use her family right now.” Dixie told them.
“We kicked him out of Johnny’s treatment room. He’s probably still in the shower room…or up in her office.”
“Any news about John?” Hank asked almost afraid of the answer.
“Not yet. They have sent blood to the lab and the X-ray tech just left…He’s still alive so that’s in his ...our favor.”
As soon as he had reached Rampart Hank had called Emily giving her a quick update. She had in turn called Jo, Melissa and Ibbie. Jo had called Kathy and Cisco. The word had spread to the other stations and soon to off duty firefighters. Mama Lopez had one of her other sons take her to church, so she could light a candle for her young friend and all the firefighters and their families before going to Rampart. Cap called Dennis Kelly and let him know the news.
All of 51 except Chet was waiting with her. (Chet was asleep thanks to the pain meds he had received earlier.) Marco had come up to the waiting area after he got stitches in arm. It had been four hours since Kel had come into her office telling her they were taking him into surgery.
“He is critical, He has a skull fracture…and we are waiting to see if the swelling will start to go down and to see if the bleeding stops on its own before we decide if we operate. There is also damage to his right arm and left leg. He has lobe and a broken cheek bone as well as a broken nose.”
“And his lungs?”
“We have him on a vent to help ease the pressure from the lung contusions and the dust and dirt he was breathing in. His hip is badly bruised as is most of his body. We are going to do more Xrays later the hip. There may be a hairline fracture.”
“When can I see him.” Lee said not asking but stating a fact. “I am not leaving here so don’t even suggest it.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest it…I was going to recommend you call someone to stay here with you…tonight.” The meaning of his words wasn’t lost on anyone in the room. Lee sat up straighter.
Lee was now waiting for Kel or Joe to come let her know if …no…to let her know how he had come through the surgery. There were others in the waiting room, but she sat off by herself. They had all understood when she told them she couldn’t find any energy to talk, she just needed some time alone with her thoughts.
As the time passed others had come into the waiting room. Not just fire personnel but others who had family or friends in surgery. All heads turned when Brice came into the room. Most were surprised to see a bandage on his wrist.
“What happened?” Bob Belliveau asked.
“A victim was uncooperative…He was strung out on some drug…Probably LSD…He bit me, and I had to have it checked out. He hit a nerve, so I couldn’t return to duty. I wanted to check on how Belliveau was doing and offer to take him home. Driving while on pain medication is a serious breach of the basic safety rules.”
“Didn’t you get anything for the pain?” Someone questioned.
“I didn’t require any pain medication. It was an over cautious resident who refused to clear me for duty.” Lee wasn’t really listening to his words, but his tone was irritating her to no end.
“I want to stay.” Bob said quietly. “I need to stay.”
“You don’t owe Gage anything…You're all are acting as if what he did today was heroic act instead of the willful disregard of protocol. If you were familiar with the protocol you would realize what happen today was purely un…”
“Shut up Brice.” The sharp cold voice surprised everyone. No one present ever remembered Mike Stoker raising his voice let alone raise it in anger. “If you can’t say something sensible just shut up.”
“As I was saying, it is plainly stated that it is not the duty of a firefighter to confront a person committing a crime. Criminal acts are not the responsibility of the firefighters.”
“Where in your rule book does it tell you how you choose between saving a child from a kidnapper who is also a mad bomber and your co-workers or saving your own sorry a…” A linesman from 110 asked. His partner had been caught in one of the explosions just before reaching safety. If not for the warning from Beliveau and Gage, he would have been deeper into the building as would others.
“Gentlemen, please this is not the time nor place for this discussion.” No one had noticed Chief McConnikee had enter the room.
“Anyone who wants to be welcome to join me in my office.” Lee said firmly. She wheeled out of the room, stopping to talk with the nurse at the desk. Fighting to hold herself together she went to the elevator. Glad that Roy and Jo and Cap and Em had went down to the cafeteria. Roy was having a tough time with the fact he had not been at the building when it exploded without listening to the spouting off the perfect rule book.
“Please make yourselves at home…I’m not a very good hostess right now. There is coffee if you want to make it and Johnny Pat and Mick sent food and soda…Michael, my friend will you help me get out of this chair and into my desk chair? I don’t remember the last time I couldn’t transfer on my own because I was just too tired…to even try it by myself.” Lee stayed over at her desk while the others in the room moved over to the conference area and got some food. Mike took an icy cold soda over to her and some cookies.
“Thank you…Mike, you know how much Johnny respects you…he considers you one of the best firefighters he has ever worked with and is proud to call you friend.”
“We’re pretty proud to call him friend. Remember if you need anything we all are here for you…Station 51 is a family and he has been a big force behind that happening.”
“It’s coming to an end, isn’t it? The legendary A shift of Station 51 is on the brink of dissolving…That scares me…because that means he won’t have you all looking out for him.”
“Have you heard anything yet?” Roy asked as he came into the room. Hank and the girls following him. He knew whatever had been said just before they entered was intense.
“No, I would think we would soon, it been almost 5 hours…”
Craig Brice came in followed by McConnikee and Houser. Brice stood apart from the others.
“HQ is asking that all those involved in today’s events refrain from making public statements concerning the bombings and the events that led up to them. Of course, Lee, we can’t make you follow this directive but would appreciate your cooperation. The police are investigating the incident. We are also requesting that no interviews or comments be made on the condition of John Gage. This is out of respect for his and Lee’s privacy. Kelly Brackett will make any medical statements. Chief Houser or myself will make any statements concerning John’s role in today’s events. While it is in the right of any firefighter to disagree with HQ we will be making the official determinations of responsibility.”
“So, the department is going to ignore the fact that Gage ignored protocol and has again sustained a severe injury because of his impulsive actions. This is another example of his impulsive behavior being a waste of money and time and training.”
“You arrogant idiot…get out of this office before I call security, and have you thrown out.” There was no mistaking the hate and anger behind the words. “Maybe that is why you haven’t got an iota of compassion in you. Rules and procedures instead of a heart and soul.” Said softly the words were even more chilling. “You live by that rule book…Could you explain to me where in that book it says rules are more important than human lives? That rules are an acceptable substitute for compassion and caring? Yes, John Roderick is a fire fighter/paramedic not a police officer but more than that he is a human being who puts the well fare of others before his own every minute of his life. Don’t you even care he saved lives today? He put the safety of that child and his friends before his safety. Your partner was in that room and John made sure he and that little girl got out…and gave a warning to others…Now, you have two minutes to get out of this room.”
“You can’t do that…Chief McConnikee, Chief Houser you have to agree that what I said …”
“What you said was offensive to Lee and to me and others in this room may agree with me. Now, I believe Lee has asked you to leave.” Bob Houser spoke as her longtime friend as well as a department official.
“And since you are so big on rules and laws…here is one on the books---- a state employee may lawfully eject or have ejected anyone if the person is acting in an offensive or aggressive manner. This office is state operated and is not part of Rampart Hospital. And you have a minute to leave,” She picked up the phone. “Chief McConnikee, Chief Houser I will be filing a formal complaint against Mr. Brice for refusing to leave this office as well as the criminal charge of trespassing.” She dialed the police department number calmly.
“Yes, this is Lee Gage. Would you please send an officer to my office at Rampart General Hospital to pick up a person who is trespassing and has refused to leave? This request has been made I front of several others…” No one in that room had ever seen or heard her talk so coldly and hateful. “Mr. Brice, even if you walk out of this room this second charges will be filed…” She pushed herself to standing. “I really don’t care what you or anyone else thinks about me…But what you were saying and implying about John Roderick is a totally different matter He’s…” She collapsed before she could finish the sentence. Her knees buckled and she couldn’t maintain her hold on the desk edge. Her head hit the desk as she fell forward.
“Jo, get a wet towel.” Roy ordered as he and Hank moved her carefully, so she was laying on the floor. “Call for a gurney…” Roy took the damp towel and wiped the blood from her forehead.
She was opening her eyes as Dixie and gurney came into the room.
“She was behaving totally irresponsible and out of control.” Brice said before anyone else could speak. McConnikee put a restraining hand out in front of Stanley and DeSoto as both had turned towards Brice. Lee moaned as their men got her on the gurney and she was taken out of the room. Em and Jo followed.
“Gentlemen…. nothing that has been said in here is to be repeated outside of this room. Nor are events leading up to her falling...”
“I don’t think you’ll need stitches, but I am going to give you a shot that is going to make you very relaxed Your blood pressure is up, and your heart is racing.”
“If you had to listen to Brice and his self-righteous trash your heart would be racing and your blood pressure up.” She tried to smile. “I’m fine honestly. I was angry and stood up too fast. I need to get back up to the waiting room. I will come down here if there are any problems”.
The resident looked at her and he decided they were too busy and he was too tired to argue. He agreed and had the nurse bring her a wheelchair to get back upstairs.
30 minutes after she got back upstairs, Kel and Joe came into the waiting room. Coming back upstairs Lee had decided to go back to the waiting room.
“He’s in recovery. There is nothing to do now except wait.” He looked at Lee, seeing the unasked questions in her eyes. “I honestly don’t know how he made it through the operation but that he did is a good sign. There are no guarantees he’ll be alive tomorrow…but each minute is good.”
“Thank you both. Now both of you go home and get some rest. Or if you can’t drive I’ll have someone come to drive you.” The hot anger had burned away and now all that she had left was fear. But that was enough to keep her going now.
“We’re ok…A shower and some coffee… He should be in ICU soon. And after we check on him once he is in there we are going home. There is an order written you and one other person can be with him always. I also had them bring down one of the recliners from one of the VIP rooms.”
She developed the ability not to hear the P.A. system after the first week she worked at Rampart but tonight seemed as if it was extra loud and shrill. That seemed a life time ago. In a way, it was…so much had happened so quickly. Kathy had gone to get some coffee and to give her some private time with Johnny after coming into stay so Marco could go home and get some rest. In the five days since the explosion someone had been with her 90% of the time. It was only when Roy was with him did Lee finally go home and after a long hot shower and some of Ibbie’s good soup had she slept for 10 hours. Well, maybe the pain pill had something to do with her sleeping that long.
Rosemary was out of the country, so Lee wasn’t sure if she had gotten her message. Once Roy was back tomorrow she would go home again for the night. She needed to spend time with Chloe.
“Ya know Boyo, it’s to be interesting to see if the department trys to change my mind about charging Brice with trespassing and filing a formal complaint.
Hank talked to Cisco who was on his way over here before I called the police station. I think that was a Pete and Jim they sent over to remove Brice. Pete and Jim are the ones who took Roy back to the bomb site…Thanks to you and Roy and Bob all the victims are safe, and the kids are with their grandparents. Maybe someday I’ll find it in my heart to feel sorry for Jonah Marshall but not now. Ibbie’s staying at the house and said to tell you not to worry about your Ladybug. It’s hard to believe she is going to be 2 in a few months. Think we should take her to Hawaii for her birthday…just the three of us, ok? Not that I don’t love being with Roy and Jo and the kids, but I want just the three of us to be together. Roy’ll be here tomorrow afternoon. Joe and Kel told him not before 2. He needs some time to sleep and be at home. Jeff called. He feels bad he can’t be here this week. I told him not to worry but come when you’ll be home, and we can just relax. Maria and Hector sent their love and said we needed them would be here in a heartbeat. Speaking of heart beats, darlin’ you need to work on keeping yours a little calmer and a lot steadier. Three times last night you set off the alarm. You’ve coded twice …when you do that I die a little inside…You know the other night I had this wonderful dream…Chloe was 22 and she was getting ready to walk down the aisle on your arm at her wedding…She was so beautiful…and you looked so proud to be the father of the bride. So, you have 20 years to get use to the idea of her getting married. Dr. Wright and Joe were pleased with how the swelling is going down…You are giving me a whole new perception on the phrase swelled head. Maybe tomorrow the chest tube can come out. Hank says I must learn to trust him and the others to stay overnight with you without me being here. It’s not that I don’t trust them, it’s just I want to be with you all the time. I think when I go home tomorrow I’ll make some fudge for the guys…That reminds me…Mick once you can have real food or even if you are on liquids and want anything he’ll make it and send it over. And he has been sending me treats every day. Usually cheese straws but today it was a gooey butter pecan caramel brownie. And some butter pecan ice cream that the nurses put in the freezer for me….”
She talked to him for a while longer then turned on a tape he really liked. It was Western music. Some of the songs were by cowboy singers from the movies, others were theme or background music. Chet thought it was strange he loved old B Western movies but had learned quickly not to mention that fact in her hearing after she had told him to leave their house in no uncertain terms. …Waiting for Kathy to come back she closed her eyes just for a minute. Twenty minutes later she opened her eyes to see Kathy checking the machines.
“I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” She quickly looked over at the bed. “He has been restless most of the day…They were going to start decreasing his sedatives but then his heart was racing and the alarms went off …He spiked a temp overnight…It went back up to 103.6…So they don’t know if it’s an infection starting or just his body reacting to all the medicine…The urine output was better, not as cloudy and not as dark…He is just so bruised and battered”
“Feel like you’re earning a medical degree?” Kathy asked.
“No, all I feel is scared and numb…I like having some degree of control over my life…but I have forgotten what that feels like. Ibbie said that Chloe goes over to the bookshelf and points to Johnny’s picture and says neoee.”
“Her version of ného’éehe…father. She probably has a better understanding of Cheyenne than I do…He uses it more with her than me…Especially when he is walking her to sleep.”
“That makes no sense. Walking her to sleep?”
“It does to us. When she was very little, and they were having trouble finding a formula that didn’t upset her stomach Johnny would walk with her. She would curl up over his shoulder and she would settle down. It didn’t work when anyone except her daddy did it. Sher would calm down for me if I rocked her or laid her on my lap and did the circles on her tummy… one doctor said she would have problems all her life because of the meds Anna took but he was just a resident and all her regular doctors said he is wrong. Thanh said she just needed time to mature a little…She has been fine since she was about 9 months old. Her last checkup she was 18 pounds and was 29 inches tall…They were pleased with that… Anna was 5 ft. 4 and Mark was just a shade under 6 foot according to Micha. I sent pictures in the outfit her great grandmother sent to her.”
The door opened and Dr. Vanace and 2 residents came in.
“Mrs. Gage, Dr. Kildare…Would you mind giving us a few minutes alone with John.? I need to run some tests and do an exam.”
“Why so formal? It’s always been Johnny and Lee before. Don’t tell me you are afraid of my bad temper?” She said it only half joking. “You’ve been Johnny’s doctor for a good while…and his lungs were in decent shape thanks to you.”
“I was told you were upset with what you considered too caviler treatment. Didn’t want to add to your stress.” The doctor gave her a genuine smile. “I saw the latest results…the films look good. If this keeps up, he should be able to get off the vent by the end of the week.”
“If his brain sends the message to the muscles in his chest to work…I know what happens when the nerve damage keeps the messages from connecting.” She looked at the residents. “The muscles in my back and legs are in pretty good condition…they just don’t send or receive the correct messages. Remember to look at the whole person, not just your speciality. These are individuals not illnesses or broken body parts. Treat them with respect…the same kind you would want doctors, nurses or techs to have for someone you love if it was you or them in that bed.” She smiled at therm. “I really am a nice person. Ok, I’ll leave you to do your exam. I’ll be back in about 10 minutes or do I need to give you more time?”
“That should be enough. You have any questions before you go?”
“Lots but none you can answer. Seriously, I just need to be kept updated on any changes.” Lee and Kathy left, deciding to go down to the gift shop.
Johnny had been in the hospital for 8 days. They had slowly decreased the medicine that had put him in the medically induced coma. Lee, Kel, Joe and Roy were in the room with him. Lee was telling him about Chloe’s temper tantrum the previous afternoon.
“…and then Chloe walked over to Ashie and laid down and took a nap.”
“Kel, watch the monitor when she talks to him, especially about Chloe.” Joe Early said sounding surprised. “Lee tell him more about what Chloe did last night or anything about her…I think he is responding to your voice…even more so when it’s about Chloe.”
“Cisco came over and took her and Ashie for a ride in her wagon. They went out to the Grove and he let her swing she threw the tennis ball for Ashie to chase. Then they came back and had a snack…Your daughter decided to squish her pears then feed them to Ashie. That poor dog is her best playmate next to you. You need to come home, so he can get some rest. Seriously, she misses you…The other day Ibbie said she got your picture off the shelf and took it over to your chair and put it on the seat then climbed up and went to sleep holding your picture. I think soon as Kel will let you we should go to Hawaii for a while…Chloe and you can build sand castles and defend them from the sea monsters…Ya know pineapple is her favorite fruit…pears I guess are her least favorite, but, Ashie liked them.” All the time she was talking Kel and Joe were watching the monitor and Johnny closely. She had a hold of his hand and was making small circlers on it.
“Boyo, we need you to wake up. I bet if you open your eyes and wake up Kel will bend the rules and let me bring her to visit you.” She giggled softly. “I’ve already bent them so bad they are falling apart. I’ve tried to be good and not make things worse, but some people just drive me totally up the wall. Remember when I told Chet he could never come over to the house again? I think that was the maddest I have ever been at anyone except for now…I got a lovely card and flowers from Johnny and Marie and Chris and Nancy. Nancy is going to have another baby…if it’s a boy they are going to name it Mathew Mark…They sent their love to you and prayers…Please, Boyo, wake up soon, we love you and need you here with us. I’m being selfish, I want you home with me and Chloe. I want to grow old with you watching Chloe grow up to be the amazing person I know she will be.”
“You’re right, Kel. His heart rate is steadier and a better rate. Lee, talk about everyday stuff…”
She smiled and continued, “Hector called last night. Said if we needed any yard work or wanted anything done at the Grove to call Eddie. I told him Eddie had already called to let me know that. They are coming home in a few weeks when Tony has a long week end off. The babies are doing fine and once Tony finishes his degree they want to have another baby. Maria is busy with the babies and has been active in their church there in Colorado. They sent their love.” She took a sip of her soda. “Stevie and Mark brought the groceries Ibbie ordered and Stevie said all the guys are waiting for volley ball and hope you’ll be their coach again this year. Mr. Peterson said to tell you he is looking forward to you being there also. So many people have sent you prayers and letters. Val and Kelly have been here a few times. Of course, the guys from 51 and other stations have been here or called…Emily and Mama Lopez are taking diligent care of me…And of course Kathy and Jo have been wonderful.”
“I would be surprised if he doesn’t wake up sometime in the next 24 hours.” Joe said with a smile. “His vitals are improving daily.”
“Joe, don’t get me wrong but I can’t think past the next minute let alone sometime in the next 24 hours…there are just too many of the what if demons lurking around in my head.”
“Did those pill I gave you help you sleep?”
“I only took one the first night…10 hours of sleep then feeling like I was one step behind myself for hours after I woke up. I can’t afford that …I need to be awake and somewhat in control of myself.” She laughed. “Of course, some people are positive I never have been in control of myself.”
Lee and Roy talked for a few minutes then she went up to work in her office for a while before going home. Roy settled in the recliner and opened the book he was reading to Johnny. It was a Louie L’Amour titled The Sackett Brand. The Sackett stories were one of Johnny’s favorite series to read. He only read a few pages then stopped. It was an enjoyable book but not for right now.
“I had a call from Will Fargo asking about you. Said he didn’t want to bother Lee but wanted her and you to know you both are in their prayers. He still says the shift he spent with us was the most scared he has ever been but an experience he wouldn’t have wanted to miss. Said he was glad he was with us and not Brice that day. Tom still complains about the time he spent with Brice. Said the time he spent with Brice was interesting but boring. Made his time with us more fun. I guess that’s one of the things about working with you…its always interesting never boring and there is a lot of fun. Junior, we’ve talked about this before, how we sorta bring out the best in each other. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to be partners. But…someday that is gonna be the reality of it. But no matter if we live 5 minutes from each other or 5000 miles from each other you will always be with me. Your part of me in a way that I can’t describe It’s like there is a part of my heart, my mind and my soul that is you. That unseen bond that makes us one…I know Jo and Lee have talked about it. They see it probably more clearly than we do. If something would happen to one the other sees and feels it…even when others can’t. I think we have given up trying to explain it to others and just accept that it is.” He stopped when something caught his attention. Not sure what he checked all the monitors then he watched his friend’s face very closely. Was he imagining it or did his eye lids move? There it was again, a soft almost invisable movement. He took Johnny’s hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Squeeze my hand Junior. Let me know you hear me.” Was it his imagination or whishful thinking? Did he really feel that slight pressure? See the flutter of the dark lashes against the too pale skin? He rang for the nurse. Almost immediately someone was there.
“Call Dr. Early I think Johnny is waking up…or at least trying to.’’ Letting go of his friend’s hand he dialed Lee’s office.
“Yes?” It showed as an in-house call.
“I think he is trying to wake up…Maybe it you came talked to him...”
“Be there soon as the elevator can get there.”
She heard the call for Dr. Early as she waited for the world’s slowest elevator. She and Joe reached the room about the same time. She wheeled over to the bed and reached up and took his hand. Squeezing it tightly she began talking to him.
“You know, Boyo, I really do think you’ve been asleep long enough and it’s time you came back to us. There are plans to be made for our trip with our family over Spring break and that is just a week before Chloe Elizabeth turns 2 so we may need to make some extra special plans for that…Celebrating with all her aunt and uncles with a real luau…Remember helping Al and all the cousins dig the pit to roast the pig? Maybe we could even arrange for Adam to be in port and go out on the Tiki…Or maybe you have other ideas how to celebrate her birthday. Besides, you made me a promise…and you never break your promise…Please, Boyo, we need you… our friends and family but especially me and Chloe…Please, try to wake up.”
They all watched holding their breath as his eye lashes began to flutter and he tried to squeeze her hand. She motioned for Roy to come closer, so he moved to the other side of the bed. She sat holding his hand, tears running down her face. They were so close, she could feel it. It was as if he was trying to decide…that something was holding him back that it was at a critical point…now or never.
“Hey Junior, while you’ve been taking this long nap, my honey do list has been growing. Think you said something about helping build that new flower bed Jo wants around that fountain you gave her for Christmas. We need to get that set up. Chris and Jenny haven’t forgotten you promised to show them how to use those boogie boards you gave them for Christmas… Besides, I miss having my best friend beside me in the squad. The new guys who have been subbing for you are good but it’s not the same. I miss our conversations. Cap and the guys have been here a lot and even Chet has been great about sitting with Lee. She needs you Junior, we all do…Jenny and Stacy have a whole collection of picture’s they’re drawn for you and they have been ‘big sisters” to Chloe to help her not be sad because her daddy wasn’t there to play with her.”
Johnny could hear them talking but it was so much easier to just lay still with his eyes closed. He wanted to tell Lee he hadn’t promised her… For her not to be angry when he didn’t wake up. This time he was just too tired, and the pain was too much. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t tell them what it was…it was just wrong… and painful. The meds had dulled it but now it was coming back…making him so tired…He didn’t want Lee crying… He needed to wake up even if it was just telling her one more time he loved her and Chloe and not to be mad. Slowly he forced his eyes to open. To squeeze her hand.
“Needed to tell her and Roy goodbye…maybe see Chloe…tell her…” The conversation in his head was making him sad. The fog was slowly clearing, and he knew what he needed to do. With heroic effort, he opened his eyes.
“Welcome back, darlin’…I’ve missed seeing those wonderful brown eyes.”
He blinked and tried to tell her not to cry but the alarm to the vent went off and the effort became too much for him to continue trying.
“Ok, John, you need to let the vent breath for you. Don’t fight it…let it keep your breathing steady and calm…” Joe Early had moved to his side and was checking vitals. “OK, you need to relax…” He frowned, and Roy picked up on the worried look. Lee didn’t notice as she never took her eyes from Johnny’s face.
“Shussh…why don’t you close your eyes and sleep for a little bit…We’ll be right here when you wake up again.” She began massaging his hand and talking softly to him. “Roy, why don’t you move over here, and I’ll run up to my office for a few minutes.” She didn’t want Johny to see or hear her crying again as she knew it upset him. And she also knew she was about to lose it completely.
Roy took her place and she wheeled towards the door stopping to watch the loving care Roy showed in the familiar gesture of brushing his hair back from his forehead. As usual Johnny responded quickly becoming more relaxed and slipped into a light sleep. She left before the tears began
“Well, this is sooner than I thought it would be.” Joe Early said looking very pleased but at the same time feeling uneasy.
“When will the tube come out?” Roy asked remembering the question in Johnny’s eyes.
“I think in the morning if there are no problems tonight.” Joe answered. “Once he is in a regular room we’ll have restriction on visitors for a few days. You and the guys from the station for short periods. I don’t want him being over tired and stressed.”
“Cisco said to let him know if you needed help keeping the reporters away from them. They have hired off duty officers to keep watch out by the house. I guess one of the reporters got caught trying to enter the pool house. They have huge signs up beware of guard dog…trained guard dog on premises signs and have them well documented. There has already been one complaint of a vicious dog running lose. Hal went out with Kathy and filmed the signs and then showed Ashke playing with the kids…only their backs….and even with Chloe feeding him cookies… just her arm and hand... Even showed Kathy putting a steak down and telling Ash to stay and picking it up and carrying it away. Then showed Ash going after it when Kathy gave him the ok. Hal talked about visiting with Lee and Johnny and watching Chloe holding onto his ear when she was first learning to walk…and how super protective he was of her.” Roy stopped brushing the hair back from Johnny’s forehead. “Something wrong Doc?”
“I’m not sure. There’s something odd or not just quite right about the way he responded…Nothing I can put my finger on.”
“Maybe he was still feeling some of the sedation? He has a history of having trouble for the anesthesia…”
“Maybe…But I think I’m going to run some blood tests just to be sure we aren’t missing anything starting up.”
Lee sat in office with the lights off and the do not enter sign on the door. She went over to the desk and looked at the picture of Johnny and Chloe and the one of her and Johnny with Chloe.
“Thank you, God, for not taking him from us. We need each other so much. You gave us a family to care for and love. This family is healing so many old hurts. You took Chloe’s parents for some reason before she was could know the pain of such lost. Please Father, don’t take her Ne oee from her. Let her grow up in a full loving family. I’m being selfish, I know in not wanting to lose the Boyo…for wanting so many more years of having him love me and me loving him. I can’t imagine me without him…and I don’t want to imagine Chloe without him…He has finally put so much of the pain behind him…I know You have a plan for us…and even when we don’t understand why it is a perfect plan…But please I will never be able to accept a life without him…Please don’t test my faith that much…” The tears were coming down her face as she quietly sobbed. This was just more than she could handle…it felt like he wasn’t there…there was a blankness to his eyes…Maybe it was just he wasn’t all that awake yet…. she cried until there were no tears left then went to the restroom and washed her face and put on some make up. She brushed her hair and then went back down to his room.
Cap was in there with Roy. She stopped at the door then wheeled down to the nurses’ station. Sheryl was one of the nurses Lee was friends with and she was behind the desk.
“Johnny was awake when I was in there a few minutes ago. He was looking for you.”
“I needed to do a few things up in my office. Were his vitals good when you were in there?”
“Better. His blood pressure was a little low but better than it was. Captain Stanley said to tell you he’ll leave whenever you want in.”
“I’ll give him a few more minutes…Johnny needs to know his friends have been there for him.
Ten minutes later Cap came out to the waiting room. He smiled at her.
“Someone in there is missing you…He keeps trying to look around to see you.”
“I wanted to give you some time with him, its important he knows you all were there for him too. And you deserved some time with him …How was he?”
“Roy said he was more alert than earlier and more able to follow the conversations…Call if you need anything later.”
Feeling better and able to givbe Roy and Johnny a real smile she went into the room. Johnny immediately tried to turn his head towards her. He looked at her as she took his hand in hers.
“Careful, Boyo, you’ve still got wires hooked up. They’ll be gone soon.” He squeezed her hand lightly then went back to sleep. “Roy, if you need to go make a phone call or get something to eat, we’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, I need to call home and let Jo know the good news. Then I’ll grab some dinner. He sleeps awhile then wakes up seems as if he stays awake a little longer each time.”
Lee went home later that evening. Johnny had been awake several times during the afternoon and early evening. Cisco had spent the night and gave her a smile when she came into the room.
“He was awake a few times during the night and looked around for you. He settled down and went back to sleep quick after I ‘d tell him you were home sleeping and that you and the baby were doing fine except for missing him.”
“Thanks for staying. It felt good to sleep in my own bed. Chloe was glad to see me I think.” They talked a while longer then he left.
Kel and Joe came in about a half hour later. She was reading to him; his eyes were focused on her.
“Sounds like an interesting book. Might have to read that one.” Kel said as he checked the readings on the monitors and then checked the pupil reaction. He listened to his lungs. The doctors were pleased with what they heard, and the vital signs were encouraging.
” I think we can take the vent out in the morning.” The rest of the day was spent quietly, Johny would doze for a while then wake up. Lee stayed until after 11 then Cisco took her home.
Once the vent was out Johnny sipped some of the cool water and watched the two doctors closely. He sipped the water and nodded thanks. His voice was rough and raspy, and they encouraged him to rest his throat as much as possible. Lee spent most of the day with him reading and talking and feeding him ice chips and milk shakes from O’Sheas’ when he was awake. She did question how much time he spent sleeping but all reassured her it was normal and a good sign. Lee agreed to go home for the night after Johny had some more ice cream around 6:30 and not come back until after 10 the next morning since Roy was with him. The next day Johnny slept most of the day, but the doctors assured Lee this was normal. When he was awake he didn’t say much but watched everyone intently. Kel and Joe both told her this was normal after being on the vent for over a week and to give him time to heal. He was responsive to their questions and was tolerating the ice chips and lukewarm broths without any problem or complaints. Lee had gone home about 6 to spend some tie with Chloe after Roy had returned to spend the night.
Two days it was a little after 8 when Dixie and Kel came up to check on him one last time before going out to dinner then home to get some well-deserved sleep. Roy was doing a crossword puzzle as Johnny slept.
“How has he been?” Kel asked frowning at the blood pressure reading he had just got.
“Restless…mumbling in his sleep about Chloe and Lee…When he was awake he was really quiet… Said his head and throat hurt…He got some pain meds 20 minutes ago and that seemed to help.”
“I hate to wake him up to exam him…Sleep is probably what he needs most right now. I told Lee a week in a regular room then she can probably take him home. She is going to arrange for him to have a PT come to the house…An OT if we think he needs it as well as an aid to take care of him.”
“Not home…die here…” Johnny’s words sent a cold shutter down Dixie’s spine as the men just looked bewildered. “My…dad said come…now.”
“Tiger, it was just a bad dream.” Dixie said as she gently pushed the hair back from his forehead. “Kel’ll give you something to help you sleep.”
“Listen to me, John, you aren’t going to die. We can give you something for the pain. Don’t give up.” Kelly Brackett had never seen Johnny like this it was as if he was waiting to die, willing it to happen soon. “You can fight this…we’ll all fight this.”
After talking to Kel, Lee called Kathy to take her to the hospital. She had Chloe ready when Kathy got there. Kathy kept Chloe with her while Lee went into see him. Kel left the room so they could talk in private,
“Boyo…You have to believe you’re gonna get better. The doctors can help you. They can fix the problem.”
“Can’t fix… too broken …gonna die… hurts bad…” He closed his eyes as the light made his head hurt even more. “Wantta see nȧstona … last time…before I die…Let me… please. Wanta stop hurting…wanta say goodbye to my…” He stopped out of breath and in pain.
“Stop it…you aren’t going to die not unless you give up. Fight to get better…you always did before…Why now? Why can’t you fight now?” Lee’s voice was harsh the tears and fear choked her as did the unexpected anger she felt. Anger not only at him but the world…at everyone and everything that made her feel small and useless, that made her feel no matter what she did she was never good enough. “I can’t fight this alone...you have to help…you have TO WANT TO LIVE. Don’t you love me enough to try?”
She wheeled around and left the room. She sat outside the door not having any strength or desire to move. She couldn’t believe she had just said all those horrible things to him. She was so ashamed of herself for yelling at him like that.
She didn’t look up or react to the footsteps she heard coming towards her.
“Lee?” Kel knelt in front of her and took her hand. She was cool and clammy with a racing pulse. Her skin was pale and her breathing rapid. Her eyes were unfocused, and the pupils enlarged. He could feel her trembling. “Lee, what happened?”
“He told me he was dying, and I yelled at him…told him to fight…Then I walked out on him. He told me once his biggest fear was to die alone and I walked out on him.” She turned towards Roy as he walked down the hallway.“He must hate me…So will Roy and the others when they hear what I did. Why Kel? Why does he want to die? Why is he just giving up?”
“Lee, I don’t think he wants to die… he is confused and hurting...” Roy argued. “Let me talk to him…”
“Tell him I love him…Please, tell him that …Ask him …if I can come back in the room.” …”
“I will…He knows you love him…” Roy wiped away the tears running down her cheek. “He knows.”
“Tell him …Tell him Chloe will be in soon, so he can see her…But it won’t be for the last time…because we need him to come home to us…”
Johnny opened his eyes when he heard the door open. Seeing Roy was almost a relief…as much as he wanted to see Lee and Chloe he didn’t think her could handle another one of Lee’s outburst. Not right now not until the pain passed for a little while.
“Lee said to tell you she loves you and Chloe will be in here soon and they need you to come home.”
He raised his hand up and pushed the oxygen mask to the side. It made breathing difficult, but he needed to tell Roy…to make him understand.
“Not going home…better for them I don’t.” He turned so he was looking at the wall not his best friend. “Tell her slow death will only hurt her more, hard to breathe…after pain each time lasts longer…hurts more…can’t move …can’t see, hard to think…”
“Why didn’t you tell the doctors?”
“No tell, no machines…not fair to Lee…Chloe…Want to see Chloe before I can’t tell her how much I love her.” The tears trickled down his face. “Didn’t promise, never answered her …Make understand.” As he said that the pain became unbearable. His eyes rolled up and he went limp.
Roy put the oxygen mask back on him then then went out to Kel. “He passed out.”. Kel quickly went in to exam him. After he finished his exam he went out to the two waiting in the hall. Roy told him what Johnny had told him about the pain spikes and the loss of feeling.
“There is a chance we’ve missed something…It almost sounds as if a nerve is being pinched or irritated.”
“Or my yelling at him upset him so bad…It was like watching him slip farther and farther away from me…If I don’t have him in my life I won’t have a life.”
“Yes, you will…its time you stop feeling sorry for yourself and think about that baby you’ve got out in the waiting room. She is a part of your life because you chose to be her mother. You can’t walk away from that because things get scary. You go out there and bring her into see her father…What does she call him?”
“Neoee…na- Neoee is what she says when he picks her up…Sometimes when she is almost asleep and I’m holding her she calls me Naoee…but most of the time I’m mommy…”
“Then be her mommy and don’t give up on your family.” Dixie knew that the last thing Lee needed was others to let her feel sorry for herself. “You go talk to your Boyo while I go get Chloe. And you two stay out here and give them some privacy.”
“Yes ma’am.” Kel said with a slight grin as Dixie left the hallway. She came back with Chloe and she and Lee wet into the room. Dixie carried the almost asleep toddler over to the bed. Lee wheeled over to Johnny who had opened his eyes briefly but then closed them.
“Boyo, does the light hurt your eyes.?”
“Yes.” Very softly.
“Dixie, will you dim the lights, so John Roderick can open his eyes and visit with his Ladybug.”
“Nastoma” Johnny said as he opened his eyes watching Dixie hand the squirming toddler to Lee.
Neoee…na-neoee” She cried as Lee held her until Johnny reached out his uninjured arm for her. Very carefully Dixie took Chloe and put her on the bed.
“Be easy…Daddy has an owie.” Lee cautioned. Be easy was what they always told her when she pulled too hard on Ashke’s ears and was a concept that Chloe understood. Chloe wiggled until she was comfortable, her head on Johnny’s shoulder. It was a tossup who looked happier …Johnny or Chloe.
She snuggled against her Neoee babbling happily as he held her as tightly as he could. There was a look of peace and contentment that settled over Johnny as he took a deep breath. Lee watched her heart breaking as the feeling of loss and darkness filled her soul as Chloe put her right thumb in her mouth and soon was sleep. Johnny mouthed “No.” when Roy went to take her.
“Boyo, can you forgive me for the way I acted earlier? I love you so and the idea of not having you here with me is beyond anything I can imagine. I am being selfish, I don’t want to let you go…But if you have to go …go knowing I will always love you and Chloe will know how much you loved us.” She took a deep breath and reached over to him. “It was mean and selfish to ask you to make that promise…And I am sorry I did that to you. I know you never would break a promise to me…Let the doctors try to find out what is making you hurt so bad…Then maybe if they could help the pain you’ll want to stay here for Chloe…She needs her Neoee…I need you… Boy of my heart.”
“Love you…don’t want to leave you. But don’t want to be a burden…”
“You could never be a burden…Kel and Joe, they’re going to find a way to help you…Please, fight just a little longer…Tell them what the problem is…Tell us please. If Kel comes in will you tell him what’s hurting, you?
Johnny agreed with a nod. He was too tired and hurt too bad to argue. Kel came in. He took Johnny’s vitals then asked him to describe how he felt.
“The pain comes…it--- bad…makes it hard to breathe…my eyes won’t focus…my legs and arms hurt then won’t move… each time it seems like longer before I can move…or think …” As he spoke they saw him stiffen and grow paler. His eyes closed, and his breathing became faster and more labored.
Dixie quickly took Chloe who began to cry as Kel moved closer to the bed and took his vitals. He added a drug to sedate him and Lee talked to him until he was asleep. Roy stayed with Johnny while the others went out in the hall to talk. Dixie held Chloe who laid her head on the nurse’s shoulder with a soft sigh.
“His blood pressure is higher than I’ve ever seen it…I’m going to go over the X-rays again then order a full body CT scan. If there is a nerve being pinched or some type of spasm causing this, we need to find it. I think there is a physical problem we’ve missed somehow…I also think that emotionally now that he has put his fears into words it may help him. Seeing Chloe should and you telling him you know he isn’t going to break his promise will also be positive influences.”
“Just what did you ask him to promise you that has you both so upset?” Dixie demanded Lee answer not from her tone but from the look she gave her.
“I asked him to promise he wouldn’t die before I did. I realize now how unfair that was to him. When we were in New York I would go into a panic whenever he was out of my sight. Even after we got home the panic attacks were so bad I would barely sleep when he was on shift even now there are nights…Anyway, I think I have done a pretty good job of hiding the attacks from him. And everybody else.” She took a deep breath. “I need to get her home to bed…I’m not giving up on him and I know none of you will either.” Her words were soft and they all could hear the fear in them, but they also heard a more positive undertone.
“I’ll be back in the morning…probably not till 9…I am going to spend some time with our daughter…I think it would make him unhappy if he thought I was neglecting her. Ibbie is staying all the time but I am her mother…And I have a responsibility to her, right Dix?”
“You have a responsibility to both…and that includes taking care of yourself.”
“I know…If I can’t take care of me how am I going to take care of them… I ‘m going to take care of me and them with help from my family and friends.”
They walked out to the waiting room, Dixie still carrying the now sleeping Chloe.
“Call if you need me here before 9…Thanks for all you’re doing. Now you two go get some dinner and rest.”
Lee was waiting at the nurse’s station when Dix and Kel came out of a treatment room. She had been upstairs to check on Johnny who was asleep. The nurse who had been in his room earlier said he had a more peaceful night but that he also had been given a stronger medication on Dr. Brackett’s order at 10)) pm.”
“What are the plans for today?”
“I’ve ordered another CT Scan…The stronger pain meds he received last night seemed to help. His BPS was lower this morning and he said the pain level was a 6 this morning…not the 12 he claimed last night. I would say if we find the source of the pain and get that under control he may be ready to move to a rehab unit in about a week to 10 days.”
“He is not going to a rehab center, he would be miserable there. I’ve already talked to Jake and he is going to help set up the sunroom as a mini therapy room. We’ll get a hospital bed and whatever else you and the other doctors think he’ll need. Jake going to give me a list of guys he thinks would be good attendants for him. who’ll rotate on 12-hour shifts. When he doesn’t need them, they can either just hang out either in the pool house or in the house…they can have one of the extra bedrooms as lounge.”
“Yeah you’re right he would be miserable and make everyone around him crazy. We’ll get the test scheduled…You been working on this plan long?”
“The last few days. What else am I going to do when I’m wide awake at 3 a.m. I do some of my best thinking between 3 and 5 some nights.”
“They should be taking him down to do the CT scan in about 10 minutes I think the meds we gave him this morning should keep him asleep until after the tests.”
“Great, and Kel will you please try to make billing understand it doesn’t matter what the insurance company says, he will get anything you think he needs right away…You don’t have to wait for the insurance to ok anything. Mrs. Fielding seems to have a problem with me…Don’t think she liked it when I told her I would send her a blank check and she could make it out and put in any number her narrow little mind wanted to then stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.….” She giggled at the look of surprise on their faces. “If the insurance doesn’t cover something you think he needs send the bill to Atticus Finch, CPA and Company. They pay all our bills. Don’t look so shocked. She was rude, and I wasn’t in the mood to be lectured about being irresponsible. I probably gave the old cow the vapors.”
After she left Dixie began to laugh. “It’s nice to see her getting some of her fight back.”
“Maybe for us but I’d hate to be the one she was mad at right now.” Kel said. “She is still serious about pressing charges against Brice for harassment.”
Two days later Kel called Lee and Roy into his office. He looked grim when they came in and Lee felt her heart drop.
“What did you find? How bad is it?” She asked before he could say a word.
“The CT scan showed two small masses. I’m sure they are bone chips and they are causing pressure on the nerves they are close to. Before you panic, I don’t think there is any permanent damage done.”
“So, what are the options?” Lee asked not looking at Kel but at Roy for reassurance,
“We’ll go in and clean out the masses. They appear to be like Baker cysts.” He knew Lee had had two Baker cysts removed from her left knee so used that to illustrate the problem. “We’ll remove them and put a drain tube in if necessary to help clear up any infection and change antibiotics depending on what the blood work shows. We know Johnny has a tendency towards nightmares…some of the problem with his blood pressure may be related to him hyperventilating while dreaming. Any questions?”
“When are you going to do this?”
“Later today. He had a bad night but didn’t want anyone to tell you. I think his anxiety for you is causing the nightmares and hyperventilating. You need to talk to him soon about your feelings. And you have be honest with him. He’ll know if you are holding something back.”
“Ok, I’ll do that now.” She went into his room feeling a mixture of shame and relief. For the first time she was feeling like they were making real progress towards his healing. He was awake in the darken room. She wheeled over to the bed and took his hand as he turned his head towards her.
“Boyo, I need you to listen to me very carefully. I want you to listen with your heart as well as your mind. I am so sorry for the way I acted …and for asking you to make a promise you have no control over… I know you will always do your best to come home to me and Chloe…If you couldn’t it wouldn’t change the fact I love you with every breath I take. It wouldn’t change the fact you were an awesome and loving father for the brief time you were allowed with her. She would grow up knowing every day how much she was wanted and loved by you…But I also know you will fight to stay with us. That you are a fighter…I was being selfish and thoughtless…I let my fear override my common sense.,. Not that that would have been a long ride…Sometimes there isn’t words to say what I want…But please know what I want most in this world is for you to know you are loved and what is best for you is what is most important not what I want but what is going to bring you peace of mind and heart.” Lee couldn’t believe she got through that without crying. She just wanted to be sure he understood her words and her heart. She waited for him to respond.
“I love you, that never changed…Never will…Guess I knew it was the pain and grief making you so distant sometimes…Wished I could make you feel better…to take away that sadness I would see in your eyes sometimes… worried my loving you wasn’t enough to keep you from drifting farther and farther away some times. Doc said he thinks he can fix what is causing the pain and numbness…Hate that feeling of not feeling. You gonna be ok with whatever happens? You and Chloe…promise me you’ll be ok?” She could see how the speech had tired him out and squeezed his hand tightly.
“Yeah we’ll be ok…the three of us are gonna be fine…because we’ll be together.”.
Lee chose to wait in her office while Johnny was in the O.R. Jo and Emily had come to wait with her. By the clock had been waiting 2 hours but to the three women it felt like an eternity. They all jumped when the phone rang. Emily answered it.
“Johnny just went to recovery. Kel and Joe are on their way to see her.” Dixie said. “They thought it would be easier than her coming up there.”
“I’ll tell her…Thanks Dixie.”
Please note, Tammy has allowed me to use her background for Johnny and references to her stories are used at time with her permission. I greatly appreciate her allowing me to do this and still follow my own vision for Johnny and Roy as well as Lee.
Links to Parts 1. 2.
Posted to Site 12/10/17
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