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The Community Center was holding a dinner and auction to support its literacy programs. Lee had gotten 4 tickets at the bookstore where she and Johnny often shopped. . Mr. Lester and Carla supported the programs by donating books to the center. Lee had invited Roy and Jo to go with them.
Johnny was lying on the bed watching her get ready. When he first started doing that it has embarrassed her and made her very self conscious. Now she had to admit she enjoyed that time alone with him before going out or having company. There was a dress hanging on the hook by the railing.
“I like that, is it new?”
“I think you look perfect. Its different. But it suits you, very elegant and classy but not fussy. That reminds me can I ask you a question.”
“Well go ahead.” She turned so she was looking at him not his reflection in the mirrors.
“Why do buy all those pretty little lacy bras…but seldom wear one?” He grinned at the look on her face, a cross between embarrassment and the urge to laugh at the look on his face.
“John Roderick what a question. Are you saying I need to wear one more often? You just told me I looked ok.”
“Did not, said you looked perfect. I was just wondering today when we were folding laundry.”
“Well if they were in the wash proves that I wear them sometimes. Just not always.” She got a bad case of the giggles looking at the expression on his face. “How can you look so innocent like a choir boy and so lecherous at the same time?”
“Just my natural good looks and charm I guess.” She finished her makeup. “Like the way you did your eyes…What did you do different?”
“Used some different colored liner and shadows than I usually do…thank you for noticing“
Johnny got up and went over to her and kissed her lightly. “I know you like pretty shoes and they are cute, I guess, but they aren't safe for you.” He went back over to the bed and sat down watching her fix her hair and put in the earrings that matched her locket.
“You need to get dressed. We need to leave here in 35 minutes.”
“What am I wearing?”
“I think you're very cute just as you are.” He was sitting there in his briefs and black socks. “However, I suggest the shirt and pants and vest hanging on the hook on your closet door.”
“Thanks. And sweetheart, I don't mean to nag you about the shoes, I just worry about you getting hurt…”
“I know…And I really do appreciate that you care.” He winked at her as he got up to get dressed. The black dress pants had been tailored by the gentleman who did all of Amos’ suites. The classic white dress shirt and the soft dove gray and black vest were tailored to him as well. Tonight he wasn’t wearing the western cut jacket. The suit had been his birthday present from her. He had needed a suit to wear to a very upscale WBSF dinner. The invitation had said semi formal and the Western cut suit had been perfect for him. Lee smiled as he put on his dress cowboy boots instead of the black leather boots she called his Beatle boots. Lee didn't think he could ever look more handsome than he did in his dress uniform but the image of him standing there waiting on her was mighty close. She giggled and he looked over at her.
“What’s so funny?”
“For some reason the theme song from Maverick just popped into my head… “Who is that tall dark stranger standing there…Maverick is his name. …Luck is his companion gambling is his game…” She sung the words as he just shook his head before coming over to kiss her. “Now I know what you can be for the Halloween party….Think any one would believe me as a dance hall girl? Or should I be the shy and prim and proper school marm?”
Roy De Soto watched as his daughter pouted and played at eating her dinner. She thought it totally unfair everyone was going someplace except her. Chris was at a scout sleep over. He and Jo were meeting Johnny and Lee at the Community Center
“I think your Aunt Lee would get her feelings hurt if she heard you say that.” Jo said as she came into the kitchen. “She gave up a visit with a friend to take you and Stacy to the tea party with your dolls. Stacy and her family had plans for tonight…Now young lady I think you need to eat and stop pouting.” She went back upstairs to finish dressing.
“Ok the doll tea was really fun and Stacy Lee loves the new outfit she got…and Aunt Lee said we could go to see Miss Liz and get her and Jenny Lee Halloween costumes to match us.” Jenny told her father.
“Grandma said she needs to have a baby and stop borrowing me to play house with. She told Aunt Eileen that and then…”
“Jennifer Lynne, what did I tell you about repeating things your grandmother said?”
“But she said that Aunt Eileen needed to tell you that and …”
“Enough Jenny. Eat your dinner. Linda will be here soon.”
Roy said as he came into the bedroom. He had on a red sweater over a white dress shirt and dark dress slacks.
“No you‘re fine…I like that shade of red on you.” She turned and he put his arms around her pulling her into a deep long kiss. The feel of his hand on her bare back made her feel 16. When he looked at her like that she didn't feel like a wife and mother she felt like a teenager in love. No…because romantic love at 16 is nice but love that has grown and survived everyday life is wonderful. “Is Linda here yet?”
“Yeah…she brought over some magazines so her and Jenny could look at Halloween costumes and get some ideas.” While it was mid September Halloween and the carnival the school was holding as a fund raiser was a big topic among the kids. He had decided not to say anything about his conversation with Jenny. He didn't want anything to ruin the night. It wasn't often they had an evening just for adults. Most of their social life centered on family which suited him fine but tonight was a grownups only event. One Jo had been looking forward to since Lee had invited them.
There were tables set up in one of the Center’s rooms displaying some of the items to be sold. Items ranged from books to games to jewelry to tools and trips. There was something for every age group. Lee saw a few things she might like to get as Christmas gifts. Johnny saw something he definitely wanted.
They were making their way to their table when Jo and Roy came in.
“You know, Pally, I think we're here with the two most beautiful women in the place.” He said as he sat down next to Lee.
“Have to agree with you Junior.” Roy said
“Just checking I was looking good enough to be with you and Jo.” He leaned over and kissed her.
“What was that song we were listening to on the radio on the way over? Sweet Talking’ Man? Think they wrote it about you.” Lee said. “Just keep thinking that my boyo.” The server came over for their drink order.
“White wine for the lady and beer for me and whatever our friends would like, one check.” Johnny said before Roy could say anything. “You two are our guest tonight.”
The P A system came on with instructions about the serving lines and table dismissal. The young Asian girl who was assigned as a runner/busser for their table came over to them. “When your table called you tell me what to get, I help you.”
After they finished eating Lee and Jo excused themselves to the ladies room. Johnny ordered Lee and Jo more wine and coffee for him and Roy. “Lee is going to check into volunteering here with the adult reading program. Maybe with some of the Spanish speaking clients.”
“When is she going to find time to do that?”
“Maybe on days she comes here to swim. She isn't real happy at work not sure why. She doesn't complain it’s just something in her voice.”
Just as Lee and Jo returned to the table the auction began. There was a wide variety of items and the bidding was fast paced. For the most part good natured teasing and banter was flowing between bidders.
An assortment of posters and movie display cutouts were the next item up. It was Disney and Loony Tunes characters. “Those would be nice for the play room at Rampart. I Think we should get them, don't you?”
“And what am I bid? Can I get an opening bid of $25.”
“$25.00” Johnny said. The bidding continued until it reached $75.00 and the other bidder gave up.
Ralph Franklin was sitting several tables back from Lee and Johnny. He was there with Richard and Dinah Hutton and Tiffany Hutton, their sister in law. Ralph had met Rich at the country club and they had become friends. Rich was a lawyer and was hoping to be the next lawyer for WBS as the ones who had handled their affairs for years were retiring and the 2 person firm dissolving. Rich chose his friends by a simple criteria ---what could they do for him.
Tiffany was bored she had just come as a favor to her sister in law. She was an interior designer who worked in conjunction with her husband (Rich’s younger brother) who was an architect and her brother who was an electrical contractor. .Dinah’s only interest was shopping and gossip. Looking around Tiffany suddenly became more interested in the bidding. She hadn’t seen him in years but there was no mistaking him.
Several more items had been auctioned off in the entertainment category. When they began the books, Jo bid on an autographed cook book from Julia Child and was thrilled to get it. When an autographed set of books by Louie Lamour came up the bidding picked up. Everyone was happy when the three books raised $500.
Finally they came to the jewelry. Most pieces went in the $25 to $100 dollar range. Roy had bought Jo a slender copper bracelet for $35. Finally the set Johnny had been waiting for came up. It was a necklace and earring set of silver and quahog shell. The workmanship was excellent.
“I am going to start the bidding at $125.” The auctioneer said. “This is a beautiful example of Native American craftsmanship…’
“125” Johnny said quickly.”
“135” A woman’s voice said from the back of the room. Soon the price had reached $300. There had been several different bidders but now it was between Johnny and the woman in the back of the room.
“350.” Johnny said. The Gage stubbornness had set in. He wanted that set for Lee, she had commented on it when they had been looking during the preview period.
He looked around to see if he could find the woman and estimate how high she would go. His stomach did a flip and the bile rose in his throat when he saw who it was. More than ever he was determined Lee was going to have that set.
400.” she countered.
“425,” he said fighting the bile that was rising in his throat. The bidding continued until it reached a thousand dollars. Lee had not said a word after the first few bids, neither had Jo or Roy. They weren’t sure what exactly was going on but knew it was important for Johnny to know they supported him.
The stunned auctioneer found his voice, “I have a bid of $1000 dollars, going once, going twice, sold to the gentleman at table 4...”
The runner brought the slip over to him and he took it smiling politely to her. Lee and Jo both had tears in their eyes. The anger and disgust was written clearly on Roy’s face. There were still items to be sold including some Lee had been interested in but she just wanted out of there.
“I…mmm…sorry…she did that to you.” Johnny said. “She always was good at embarrassing me…Wanted you to have the necklace ’cause it reminded me of you…delicate, fragile, beautiful.”
“The only one she embarrassed was herself. But she is probably too stupid to realize that.” Lee said taking a hold of his hand. “The money you paid for that will do a lot of good for the kids and adults. It is a beautiful gift…I showed it to Jo when we went out to the ladies room and told her I was going to bid on it. Thank you for loving me so much. Come on, let’s go get my necklace…Why don’t we leave here and go listen to some music and play some euchre…Bet there is even some butter pecan ice cream to go with some of Mick’s brownies.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me. Roy? Jo?” Johnny asked. He and Roy locked eyes and had one of their silent conversations. Johnny shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Tiffany had lost the ability to hurt him now. He had his family around him and the strength of their love and caring was stronger than any of the garbage that came out of the mouth of the haters and bigots regardless of who they were. He bent down and kissed Lee tenderly. “You sure?”
Ralph Franklin and the others at their table had been laughing and enjoying the nasty sarcastic comments from Tiffany as the bidding was going on. Several other tables could hear them as well and some had thought they were funny others thought they were mean and hateful. While many considered her to be a witty, charming and beautiful woman others found her to be shallow and rude and unpleasant with the attitude of entitlement. She had the haughty I am better than you attitude of a spoiled royal looking down on her subjects as nothing except servants. The same attitude Ralph Franklin held to a lesser degree.
Lee Spencer and he had clashed many times over policy. He didn’t like her any more than she liked him. But he was smart enough not to underestimate her. He knew if she associated him with that display of disrespect for John Gage he was in deep trouble at WBS. He excused himself from the table and went to the cash bar. There he saw some of his golfing buddies and began a conversation,
There was a table set up in the lobby where you could turn in your vouchers and pay for the items you had bought. The item was then given to you. Johnny took out the credit card he used for Lee’s gifts and paid for the necklace and the items Lee had gotten. Johnny handed Lee the small handmade basket that the necklace and earrings were displayed in. While they were waiting for the transactions to be completed Jo and Lee examined the jewelry.
“Boyo, do you know what kind of shell this is? I thought it was mother of pearl but now up close it’s different.”
“It’s quahog and it’s what a lot of the East Coast tribes used in their jewelry and as money. When they talk about wampum for the North Atlantic tribes it was probably quahog shell. The basket is from one of the tribes over there too.”
“All I know is its lovely and I love it even more because you bought it for me.” She looked up at him and he bent down and kissed her lightly but with a reminder of the earlier promise.
The remainder of the evening was pleasant. Roy and Johnny actually won a game of euchre. When they changed partners Roy and Lee won with Lee and Johnny winning the last game.
The next morning he drove to a favorite place, a lodge up in the mountains. They ate out on the patio.
“I have been except when I was eating.”
“You know what I mean. What’s bothering you? AND do not say nothing.”
“One of the few times I saw my dad angry was when some drunks called him squaw man. Not because he cared but because he saw how it hurt my mom. I remembered that last night. Now I understand some of what he felt.”
“John I am so proud to be your wife and to have you love me, nothing a evil tongued witch is gonna say is ever going to hurt me--- It makes me mad she used me to hurt you. Its over no more wasting time thinking about it.”
~*~ Several days later~*~~~~
“Yep. She looks out for you guys.” He said with a grin. “She’s even teaching me a few different things to make with hamburger and hot dogs. Wouldn’t want to disappoint Chet by never fixing them any more.”
“So you still planning going to New York right after Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah she has started shopping so we can get the things sent to New York before Thanksgiving.” Cap went back to his office and Johnny finished his lunch prep. Lunch went well and they were soon back at the drills planned for the afternoon. It had been a surprisingly quiet day. As they finished the drills the SCU toned in.
“Engine 51, squad 51, Engine 36.…”
The construction of the a new Cliffside restaurant was in chaos. A twisted metal structure was leaning out over the cliff about 40 feet above the rocky beach. Several small fires were burning. To make the situation even more difficult the wind was picking up.
“What happen?” Cap asked as he began giving orders to his crew on line placement. Roy and Johnny were getting their protective gear on.
“There was a gas spill…something sparked it…There was some explosives stored in a shed near the base of the scaffolding when they went off that scaffolding came lose. There’s more explosives in that trailer over at the edge of the parking lot…two men were up there reinforcing it because of wind damage from yesterday. The weather report said little to mild wind today…Then all of a sudden it picks up...the gas flares…all hell breaks out. That trailer there at the base has more explosives in it” John and Roy had gotten their climbing gear on. Cap went over to them. “So what do you have?”
“The first guy is pretty close to the rock face I should be able to get him fairly easy... The second guy is farther out. That’s gonna be the tricky one.” They had been looking closely to the men’s positions using a pair of field glasses. “Looks like there are some manmade as we’ll as natural hand holds. That scaffolding isn’t gonna take too much more weight.” John said. “Roy, what if you and Chet take the squad up top, lower a safety line down. Once you get up there you might have a better idea of the wind and a better perspective on how to get them down.”
Cap listened to the plan the paramedics had came up with and knowing they had a well thought out plan of action was reassuring. “Yeah, that might work…give us a little more control.” He knew that John was going to be the one on the scaffolding as a matter of logistics and safety.
From their vantage point Roy and Chet could see the two men on the scaffolding. At the angle the body was twisted on the farthest man there was little hope he was still alive. They got the safety line established but waited to lower it. They wanted Johnny to be in position to catch it on the first pass, not letting the wind catch it and make it a swinging pendulum.
Johnny had reached the top of the scaffolding and waited as the safety belts were lowered. After securing his he put the other over his shoulder and carefully made his way out onto the twisted metal. The first man was only about 3 feet from the rock face. Straddling the metal he slid over to the conscious man.
Reaching him he did a quick check for broken bones or obvious back or neck injuries. “My name is John and I’m a LA county paramedic…Me and my friends are gonna get you down…but you need to stay as quiet as you can…Let me do the work.”
The man had startled at Johnny’s voice and touch but calmed down as his pain filled brain processed the words. It felt as if it took hours to get the safety belt secured on the victim but in reality it was only minutes. Johnny swore as he felt the scaffolding sway as the wind picked up. He swore even more when he realized it was a TV news helicopter disturbing the air. He carefully raised and arm trying to signal the copter to back off. The copter didn’t notice but others had.
“Vince is on the radio...they’ve been told to move …How’s it looking up there?”
“So far so good…Johnny just about has the belt on the victim.”
As they were speaking the copter did back off but the damage had been done. The swaying had caused the weaken metal to twist and tear causing a section to break lose. As Johnny began lowering the victim down a piece of the scaffolding broken off and slammed into Johnny. The last thing he remembered as the light and pain collided inside his head was letting go of the rope .All watching stood frozen monetarily Johnny slid off the plank and swung wildly.
Johnny!!” Roy screamed as he helplessly watched his best friend pushed into the side of the cliff by the wind.
“Get closer, that’s going to be great film.” Colt Weston said to the pilot. He kept watching as the two bodies moved in the air looking like out of control puppets.
“Worth losing your career for? They’ve already waved us off once…we go in they’ll be waiting with handcuffs when we land. And don’t think that freedom of the press will save you. Endangering lives is not something the authority take lightly,” the pilot said remembering other instances where the media had been involved in crashes. Moving backwards they kept sending live reports to the TV station.
Luck was with the victim as his lines did not tangle. The firemen were able to control his rate of falling to get him on ground safely. Cap had already called for another squad and ambulance. The two engine crews were use to working together and all did their job with skill and efficiency.
Johnny opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. The swirling sunlight and the motion of the rope holding him sent his stomach reeling. He could hear voices but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Fighting to stay awake he tried to pull his arms up to protect his face from hitting or being cut by the jagged pieces of metal sticking out in front of him. He was twisted so that he was facing the wall of stone and metal. He could feel the blood running down his face and there was an odd tingling feeling below his left knee. He tried to do an assessment but between the pain in his head and nausea he couldn’t concentrate. He finally just decided he hurt all over and let the pain take him. His last thoughts before he blacked out again were of Lee and his family and that pain was good. Pain meant he was alive. And if he was alive Roy would help him.
~* ~ ~*~
Ralph Franklin was in his office when Ben Oliver came in frowning. He laid the folder with his recommendation for a hiring a new lawyer on the desk. Edwards thought Rich Hutton was a perfect candidate for the position and was surprised by the anger he saw on Ben’s face.
“Ralph, are you clueless or careless? Neither one is acceptable” Ben Oliver was a fair man but Edwards had pushed him to the limits this time. “Why would you even suggest that anyone associated with Blackaby, Mead and Knoll be hired? “ Ben questioned his associate. “What do you know about Richard Hutton and Milton Blackaby?”
“Rich Hutton is an experience real estate lawyer and has the type of credentials we want. He is going to be made a full partner within the year. Milton Blackaby is his father in law and is retiring. He’ll be more of a consultant with some of the younger men taking over his area of expertise.”
“Milton Blackaby is a criminal trial lawyer…” Ben stated. “His choice of clients has been questionable at best. There is no way on heaven or earth the Spencers will approve of anyone associated with that man working for this firm.”
“Suppose the Spencers’ have the final word on this.“ He sounded bitter. Ralph still blamed Lee for his friend for losing his job ,WBS stock and the man’s son going to jail. “She needs to keep her nose out of our business.”
As he walked out the door Ben stopped and turned around. “That’s where you are seriously wrong. We work for her, it is her business. Face it you’re just a little fish in a big pond. To make matters worse you are a little fish with delusions of grandeur.” Without another word Ben left the office.
Ralph sat there thinking about what the older man had said. The more he sat there the angrier he got. The more a plan he had been thinking about for awhile seemed to be the perfect answer. Maybe old William Spencer hadn’t been as smart as he thought with that contract that he had to sign to own even a small amount of stock.
The cassette player in the stereo played the tape Johnny had made her of their favorite songs as she read feeling at peace with the world. All the work she needed before the next full board meeting of WBSF would be done and she could relax on Johnny’s days off.
Slowly they raised the lax body and could do nothing to stop it swaying and twisting. Roy held his breath as they neared the final jutting piece of metal. The image of a boney skeleton hand reaching out to grab his partner away filled Roy’s mind for just a second. Holding his breath as he carefully held on to the ropes trying to guide the lax paramedic past the last obstacle . Roy had not realized he had been holding his breath until he let it out as Johnny was within inches of the top.
Grabbing the rope he managed to guide his partner to the ground. .. Roy gently touched the pulse point on Johnny’s neck feeling the faint irregular beat, Chet came running with the trauma box and oxygen. Roy had been doing a check for broken bones or obvious back and neck injuries after getting the oxygen started. He didn’t like the bluish gray tint to his lips Roy never looking up from Johnny’s face as Chet set the equipment down but continued with checking the vital signs.
“What else besides the biophone?” Chet asked.
“Go ahead Roy,” Cap said. They all had watched the rescue as they helped the injured until Squad 36 arrived . The fires were out and clean up almost finished. The tractor trailer with the explosives had been their main focus. “How bad?”
“He’s breathing on his own but its labored...he opened his eyes but not long.. …Don’t think anything is broken.”
Chet came back with the biophone and other supplies.
“Ambulance is on its way up to you…keep us informed. Have Chet follow the ambulance to Rampart
“Rampart this is Squad 51.” Roy said as he gently cleaned some of the blood from Johnny’s face.
“Go ahead 51. What's his condition?” Kel said. “We’ve been watching you on the TV.”
“His blood pressure is 100/85, tenderness in the rib area but no obvious breaks, respiration is shallow and rapid, have him on 6 liters of oxygen.
“Ambulance just got here…” Roy started the IV then with Chet’s help got Johnny on the back board. They had just completed that when the ambulance attendants with the gurney arrived. Gently but quickly they got him loaded and were off.
“Yeah, I think she is. Want me to go up and talk to her?”
Coward.” Dix said shaking her head. But she knew he was probably right.
When the door opened she expected to see Johnny and maybe Roy. Seeing the look on Dixie’s face her heart froze. “How bad is it? Is he here yet?”
“That’s what friends do…”
“That’s what families do…they support each other.
Lee wheeled herself over out of the way to wait. She said a prayer for her Boyo and the victims they were rescuing. She had only been sitting there for a few minutes when Chet came over and sat down next to her.
“Want some company?” He asked.
“I ‘d love some company. They are in 3.” She smiled at him. “Dixie said you all were on the TV that they showed most of the rescue.”
“Maybe we can see it on the news later.”
He told her trying to make it sound less scary than it was. “The other guys will probably be here soon as they can.” He was feeling kind of out of place. “You need a soda or anything? Anyone I can call for you?”
“No but thanks for asking. Did you have lunch? Johnny made dinner for me last night practicing for today.”
“Yeah we did. It was really good…We don’t get Asian food very often. Mike does a chicken stir fry once in awhile.” He looked over at her as he could hear the tears in her voice. What could he do? He wanted to do something to help her. “It’s ok to cry…” He went over and gave her a hug. She buried her face in his shoulder. He was bent at an awkward angle but he let her cry until she pulled back.
“It…(sniff) has to (Sniff sniff) to hurt your back bending like that.” she said wiping the tears away. “Thanks.”
Before he had to answer the rest of the crew came in. Lee looked at their tired worried faces and felt bad for them.
“”Any word?” Cap asked.
“What kind breathing problems?”
“He took a hard blow to the chest. From the look of the bruises more than one. They have partially paralyzed his diaphragm. There is some expansion and contraction but not strong as it needs to be. The meds should help to release it completely. Several of his ribs are bruised also but I don’t think they are broken. We won’t know for sure until we see the X rays. We will be keeping a close watch for blood clots and we are giving him a low dose of an anti clotting drug to help prevent any clots.”
“He doesn’t make it easy on you does he?” she smiled but they all saw the tears. “How soon can I see him?”
“Give us a few minutes to get him settled. If all goes as planned he should be home in a week. You may need to hire someone for a week or two to help with his care.”
“No problem…Skilled care or just hands on?”
“At this point I’d say just more of the hands on . I want him to move as little as possible. You know he can be a handful when he is on enforced inactivity.”
“You’d be amazed how good he can be…A good supply of books, music to listen to while he reads and rests.”
“And most importantly knowing it upsets you when he doesn’t follow orders or complains too much,” Roy added with a laugh. Kel nodded before leaving.
“Look we need to get back to the station. Roy, I’ll have John’s replacement pick you up once he gets there…Lee you call if you need anything. I’ll be calling you.” Cap said.
“Thanks all especially you Chet, you were a big help sitting with me…made it easier...” she bit her lip. “Love ya all.” They all gave her a hug before they left.
“I ‘m going to close up the office…then make a stop at the ladies room after I talk to Cisco. By then he should be in his room.”
“345” Kel had said coming back a few minutes later. She nodded. It was the step down floor from ICU and ICC. “I’ll let them know you have unlimited visitation…You and one other person at a time. And someone will be with him 24/7 for now.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
“Something wrong?” Dinah said. “You look perturbed.”
“That was Ralph . It seems due to my father-in-law’s past as a criminal lawyer WBS refuses to even consider me for an interview.”
“Sounds rather narrow minded of them.” Tiffany said with a smirk. “Even criminals need lawyers. I mean without criminals no one would need lawyers.”
“Like your friend McFarland? I hear our brothers are doing business with him?” Rich said.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~~~
“How ya doing’ , Little One?” He bent down and kissed her on the forehead.
“Better now. They just gave him another pain shot…They have an ice pack on his knee, to help with the swelling and the pain.”
He put his hand on her shoulder. “Kathy is coming at 8 to take you home. I'll be here before you leave and I'm spending the night. No argument. Ma would have my head if I didn't take care of you two. She said call if you want her to fly back early.” One of her friends from church had called her in Denver to tell her about seeing Johnny on the news.”
“No…she needs to stay in Denver…they need her.” She squeezed Johnny’s hand. “He paid a thousand dollars for a necklace and ear rings for me…Then was worried because of Christmas and my birthday coming up…all I need is him smiling at me…teasing me…I can't cry he doesn't like it when I cry unless its happy tears.”
“I can stay a few minutes if you need to go to the ladies or any where…” Cisco said as he pulled a chair over closer to the bed.
“I’m fine…Tell Linda thanks for lending you to us tonight.”
“I will but you know she loves you two anything we can do just call.”
A half hour later Johnny opened his eyes and slowly turned his head toward her. The movement sent a wave of nausea and pain through him. He closed his eyes hoping the metallic taste in his mouth would go away . Lee had seen the movement and pressed the call button. “Someone will be here soon…” He made a moaning sigh.
“Wa wat er peze..” Lee’s heart was breaking she couldn’t help him but at the look in his eyes she had to try. She put the foot rests back and using the railing on his bed pulled herself up. Leaning in against the bed she had enough balance she could pour a small amount of water into the cup. Carefully she lifted the cup so she could guide it to his mouth.
“Drink slow, small sips.” She told him as he reached to steady the cup. A nurse came to the door. “Dr. Brackett wanted to know as soon as he woke up.” Lee took the cup from Johnny and filled it about half way full. “Is the pain bad?” He had closed his eyes.
“A little. Lights are too bright.” She gently brushed the hair back off his forehead. “Go home? Both go?”
“Soon as Kel says you’re strong enough. I love you, darlin’ Boyo.” She smiled. ‘Do you remember the first time I called you that? Tisn’t it Paddy’s fault you get called by that name? Every time I would see him he’d say and how is that Boyo of yours? And then tell me what a fine young man you were. And never truer words spoken my love.”
“ You have a concussion it’s making you very light sensitive,” Kel said as he came into the room. “Other than that how do you feel?”
“Head hu ur t funny fe el ch est s I k’ .” By the time he finished the sentence he was very short of breath. “You K?” Looking at Lee. ”
“Lee sit down so I can examine him without him worrying you’re going to fall.” He stood behind her as she eased herself back down.
“Actually while you exam him I’ll go get a soda. Behave yourselves.” she left hoping Johnny hadn’t noticed how badly she was shaking now the adrenaline rush was over. She was sitting outside his door when Roy came off the elevator. She put her finger up to her lips so he wouldn’t say anything. She signed for him to push her. They went down to the windows where there was a bench, He parked her chair and sat down waiting on her to tell him what was going on.
“Thank you. I didn’t want Johnny to hear us.” She said in an unsteady voice.
Roy had her hand in his taking her pulse. “Slow down and get some control of your breathing before you hyper ventilate. Now what happen?”
“He woke up and needed a drink. I rang for the nurse but it was taking so long and he was looking at me pleading for a drink…So I got up and got him one and then was brushing the hair back off his forehead talking to him… my back and hip got all knotted and shaky and Kel came in and I sat down then left…but I was so tired I couldn’t wheel myself very far from his door. And I didn’t want him to hear you asking me a lot of questions…”
“You want to stay out here while I go see him?”
Roy went back down to his room and knocked before going in. Kel was just finishing with the exam.
“Good see ya.” Johnny said pleased to see his friend. “
“So how ya doing?” Roy asked looking him over closely. There was still a pale blueness to his lips.
“Hurts ….…breath…t .. lk…” Getting a little aggravated at the shortness of breath when he tried to talk. It felt like it was getting harder to get enough air in his lungs.
“Our friend here has a diaphragm that is still not relaxing as it should.” Kel said. “I think with some bed rest then some mild exercises he’ll be fine in a few weeks. The swelling in the knee and the concussion is just gonna take time.” Kel was glad to see the dark brown eyes closing and that Johnny wasn’t fighting the medication. He needed to relax and let the trauma heal.
“So there isn’t anything to do but wait? How much bed rest?” Roy asked.
“At least a week total bed rest and probably limited mobility for another 2 to 3 weeks.”
Lee had came into the room during the conversation. “The sooner he is home the better he will rest.”
“You have a point. But…..”
“”Kel, I have a bank account that lets me pretty much do what I want…What I want is for him to be happy and healthy. And he needs to be at home to do that.”
“We’ll talk tomorrow.” Kel said then left.
Charlie Dwyer stuck his head in the room. “Roy I’ve got the supplies stowed in the squad. Lee.” He nodded at her at a loss at what to say.
“Come on in…The meds keep him pretty still…They want to give his body a chance to rest.”
“If there is anything you need, you call ok?”
“Thanks …We both appreciate all you guys…”
At 7:45 Cisco came in. He looked like he was ready to go for a jog. The old faded joggers looked well loved. The sweat shirt had been decorated by his kids. He had a backpack with a pillow, some snacks and a book . He rearranged the two chairs to his satisfaction.
“Jenny and Stacy were making him cards too…The kids are all so good to him., I’ll turn the intercom on just to make your mother feel better…I am going home shower and lay down…But you call if you need me…Promise?”
“They are keeping him pretty sedated...they are hoping if he stays relaxed his diaphragm will start working right. Earlier I was all take charge it’s gonna be fine I can fix it with my check book…but it doesn’t work that way…Help me stand up please.” He lifted her up and stood behind her so she could bend down and kiss Johnny softly. “Peaceful dreams and remember you’re not alone. Never alone.” She brushed the hair off his forehead. “You behave for Cisco, you hear me?” As she brushed his hair back from his forehead he opened his eyes and smiled at her before closing his eyes again. “He was coughing earlier and they gave him something stronger to make him sleep.”
Kathy had came in while Lee was standing there. She was glad to see Cisco standing behind her as she could see how unsteady she was.
“Make sure you lock everything up good…” Cisco said as he helped her sit down. “Call Eddie when you want to come back in the morning if you need a ride.” He kissed her on her forehead. “You girt some rest and some food, little sister.”
“I will…Thank you .” She let Kathy pushed her she didn’t have the energy to do it.
“Breakfast…and Dixie brought me a milk shake when she got off.” Lee said with a sigh, “Did you talk with Kel? I just have this feeling they aren’t telling me the whole truth. His breathing wasn’t getting any better…”
“I’m sure Kel told you everything. We all know that when there is trauma to nerves the only thing we can do is wait and pray. As the bruising and swelling go down they’ll have a better idea of what they are facing.”
“I guess you’re right when they start talking compressed nerves or traumatized nerves I panic. Remember what that one intern said? If the eclectic isn’t hooked up the motor ain’t gonna run even if it’s perfect in every other way.” Kathy didn’t answer just pushed her on out to her car.
“Want me to stop and pick up something or fix you something when we get to your house?” Kathy asked as they pulled out of the parking lot.
“I’m not hungry.”
“I didn’t ask that I asked what if you wanted fast food or something at home.”
“Home…there is chicken salad I got yesterday at the deli…” Lee closed her eyes. “. Kath, I’m scared…more than I have ever been since Jeff was hurt…This time it feels different.”
“That’s the panic talking. You have to keep believing that it’ll be ok.”
“My heart knows that…but my head isn’t listening very well,” she answered.
Roy grabbed a cup of coffee before calling the hospital.. The night had been up by several calls, none serious or requiring the squad to go to Rampart. Sleep hadn’t come easy or without restless dreams when they returned to the station.
“Cisco.” The sleepy voice answered on the first ring.
“How’s it looking this morning?” Roy looked up as he heard others coming into the kitchen.
“He woke up coughing so they upped the oxygen to 10 liters and put a mask on him…The nurse said it was just a precaution. A nervous intern treating one of Dr. Brackett’s friends. His color is better since they did that. They have him pretty well drugged up but are planning on letting him wake up.”
“I’m going home and picking Jo up then we’ll be over. What time is Lee coming back?”
“Already here. She got here about 7:00. Said she needed something from her office and would be right back. I took a couple of vacation days so I’ll hang around till you and Jo get here.”
“Thanks.” Roy said.
Even before he had the receiver back in the cradle Chet was bombarding him with questions.
“Kelly we all want to know about John but give the man time to answer.” Cap said as Roy threw him a grateful look.
“Sounds like they have him pretty heavily sedated. Its another waiting game.”
~* ~ ~*~~~
“I brewed that while I was on the phone…called Sacramento to let them know I’d be out of the office for awhile.”
“You make a damn fine cup of coffee you know that?” Cisco said after two large swigs of the hot black coffee. “Who taught you how to make coffee any way?”
“Your grand da Michael. When I was 9 or 10...If you want to make 8 cups of coffee you put in 9 spoons of coffee grounds…always add one for the pot and use the coldest water you can. Plus his secret ingredient.”
“Which one ? His daytime coffee or his late at night don’t have to go anywhere one?”
“Daytime he didn’t tell me about the other until I was older.’’ She giggled and Cisco smiled, She had wheeled herself as close as she could get to the bedside. By taking her chair on an angle she could get a little closer. “Ya would have liked Grand da Michael…He has 93 when he died and still as feisty as when he was a Texas Ranger. And he would’ve been as proud of you as he was of al his kids and grandkids.
“Have no idea. He has been pretty still since they gave him that last shot. It seemed to relax him more than the others had.”
“His color is better…Maybe with some luck we’ll get to take him home by Friday.”
“Don’t set yourself you getting disappointed, Little One.” Cisco knew it would be harder on her if she had it all set in her mind then it didn’t happen. “Remember it’s not how fast he gets out of here but how well he is when he gets out.”
“Seems that‘s what your parents kept telling me….And look how great that turned out.”
“That’s enough of that. Did you sleep at all last night? When you get that sarcastic that quick ..”
“I’d sleep awhile then be up awhile,” she said not looking at him. “You know how it goes.”
“I should turn you over my knee and give you a good whooping.”
“Dare you to try it,”
Nnnoo’’ The soft muffled sound startled both of them. “huurt” The voice was pleading and fearful even being as soft as it was. The terror evident as he twisted his head and body.
“Shushhh, it’s ok. Cisco would never hurt me. He was just teasing.” She had a tight hold of his hand. “It’s ok, honestly.” She heard the door opening behind her but didn’t turn to see who it was, her attention only on Johnny.
The metallic taste and the bile rising in his throat was almost instantaneous with the movement. The gag reflex was strong but not strong enough. The acid was burning his throat but it wasn’t moving. The brown eyes were wide and dark with fear. He tried to call for help…but there wasn’t enough air to get the words out…only a strange gurgling sound. Someone was choking him.
“He’s choking!” Lee felt her chair being yanked away from the bed and saw Roy and Cisco grab and turn him throwing the mask to the floor. Jo had taken hold of the wheel chair when Cisco shoved it and pushed her out into the hallway. She heard the sounds of people hurrying down the hall but kept her eyes closed silently praying.
Roy grabbed the suction tube from the panel at the top of the bed and quickly but carefully inserted it disown Johnny’s throat.
“Come on, Junior…Relax…don’t fight it.” Cisco stood there ready to do whatever Roy told him. It seemed to him like hours has passed since they had hit the call button and the alarms from the monitors had started. Nurses and a doctor that Roy didn’t know came into the room. Roy continued to suction him and talk softly to calm the fear he saw in his friend’s eyes and face.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The young doctor yelled. “You have no right..” He was going to push the intruder out of the way.
“Backup doctor. He has every right to save his best friend’s life and he is more than qualified to use that equipment.” Cisco intervened as Roy was working to get Johnny to calm down. Now if you want to go out in the hall and talk like a sensible human being…And not scare my little sister with your bellowing…”
“Would be done by you…so let the nurses and my friend take care of my mijo.” The doctor looked at Cisco and decided that it was wiser to follow his suggestion than argue.”
Roy had ignored what was going on behind him as he finished suctioning out Johnny’s throat. He had raised the bed and was talking gently to Johnny, stroking his temple brushing the hair back from his forehead. He had replaced the oxygen mask and the nurse had reset the other alarms. “It’s ok…you need to relax…”
“Not…good…breath…cough…” Johnny gasped out.
“And getting all upset isn’t gonna help it. You have to relax.”
Johnny eased back on his pillow with his eyes closed. “Lee”
“Yes she is here…Jo took her out to the hall so we could get to you better.”
“You entered the room bellowing like a mad bull.” Lee said clearly and calmly. “Johnny was already in a panic situation and your actions would have made it worse.”
“In your opinion? And I suppose that’s the only one that counts?” He didn’t know who this was or why all those people had been in that room before visiting hours.
“In this case, yes.” Cisco was aggregated and his Texas drawl was becoming more pronounced. “She calls the shots.”
“And you back her up, I suppose.” Convinced this man was some kind of drug dealer or worse.
“Sure do…Little sister I gotta get to work. You call over to the police station if you need me.” The made the doctor do a double take. Cisco leaned down and kissed her. “Call they’ll get a hold of me pronto.”
“And in this case so do I.” No one had noticed Jo slip away and call Kel. “Would one of you like to explain what the problem is?” Cisco nodded at Kel then left. He knew Kel would handle the situation (and Lee.)
“Johnny was choking…Roy and Cisco turned him and Roy began suctioning him. Johnny was in a panic... this doctor came in yelling…Jo pulled me out of there…and I think Cisco took charge of removing the doctor.” Lee said with a detached tone. Her friends knew this was not a good sign. She was shutting down emotionally.
“If everyone can stay quiet we’ll all go in.” Kel said.
“I was nice I didn’t threaten any one’s job…this time.” Lee said with a hint of a not so nice smile. “Yet.”
When they went in Roy was standing by the bed talking to Johnny. Johnny’s eyes were closed but he was squeezing Roy’s hand in response to Roy’s comments.
“Junior, open your eyes slowly…Lee’s here.” He looked at Kel. “He’s having some trouble with being dizzy and nauseous.”
“I think we can take care of that with no problem.” Kel answered and saw the worried look on Roy’s face. “What else?”
“When he was sick earlier he couldn’t throw up…it was choking him. There just wasn’t enough muscle strength to push it all the way.”
“Ba…by gi …rl…you k?” Johnny said opening his eyes. “
“You’re ok now -- so am I…Don’t talk just rest now.”
“Ya ----come -----back?” His eyes pleading. He kept telling himself it was only a dream. Only a nightmare, an old one with some new twists.
“I am going to be at the end of the hall waiting as soon as they will let me I’ll be back. Luv ya Boyo…you play nice hear me? No more scaring the billy blue blazes out of me..us…OK?”
“K” he answered with a weak smile. She let Jo wheel her out to the small waiting area at the end of the hall.
“Would someone explain to me what is going on in this room?” Dr.Greceson demanded which earned him a scowl from Kelly Brackett.
After getting the vitals and other information Kel gently ran his hands over Johnny’s stomach and chest.
He asked questions and received vague answers. Not sure if it was from the head injury or the medication Kel depended on Roy to get as much information as possible. Soon as the poking and prodding stopped Johnny closed his eyes.. Moving over towards the door so they did not bother the sleeping man.
“Roy are you planning on staying tonight?” Kel asked.
“Yeah. The plan was I’d visit then go home until later, get some sleep. Then spend the night.”
“That’s against the rules of this unit…” Greceson started to protest.
“I am fully aware of the rules doctor. But you are not aware of the circumstances or history of this patient. Johnny is one half of the top paramedic team in the county. Roy De Soto,” He nodded in Roy’s direction. “ is the other half and John’s best friend and partner. John has CPTS and in cases of injury or illness we do everything we can to prevent flashbacks from occurring. Roy can help Johnny thru these and often can prevent them. When he is having a flashback an unfamiliar face or voice can make it worse. Lee can stay with him during the day but its not possible at night. She may have someone with her all or part of the time.”
“I see…and that is what happened this morning? A flashback?”
“Johnny is heavily sedated so at this point it’s a guess. He has a history of problems with nausea with any head injury to begin with then you add the meds and panic over his injury. “
“Yeah don’t under estimate him…even hurt and in pain he remembers his training and does self assessments.” Roy added with a shake of his head.
“Which is both a plus and minus for us. “Kel said. “I gave the nurse orders for an anti nausea medicine to be added to the IV and for an increase in the pain meds if he becomes agitated. We need to keep him relaxed so that diaphragm starts working more efficiently.” He shook his head. “There’ll be at least 4 other firemen in here today and a few paramedics who’ll run up here if they get a chance. They are quiet and don’t cause any problems. For Johnny those visits are important.”
After Dr. Greceson left Roy stood there wanting to ask a question but at the same time scared of the answer. Kel could see the emotions on his friend’s face. “Go ahead say it, Roy.”
“Are you concerned about Johnny’s mental state because you think the damage is permanent or life threatening?”
“I think that the more relaxed and calm he is the sooner he will be able to go home and finish healing and get back in that squad with you. You go home and get some rest. “
“Yeah I will Jo is going to stay until I get back. Guess we better go get Lee back here.”
“And I need to get down to the ER. Have Lee or Jo call me if they have any questions.”
Lee and Jo went back into the room. Roy and Jo talked over by the door Lee moved her chair as close as she could to the bed. “Sleep well …And don’t worry I promised you --- we promised, you’re never alone.”
“Sorry scare you…bad dreammm.” Johnny said with effort. He had the cannula on instead of the mask. His resisting the mask was defeating its purpose.
“I know Boyo, I know Martha said to talk about them to make them less real but not now…When you feel better.”
“Now…no latter…” He said with a pout. “Don’t wanna wait.”
Lee thought about what he was saying and then understood. Until he talked about it, it would be at the back of his mind worrying him and not letting him rest. And Kel had said the most important thing was for him, to rest so the muscles and nerves would relax.
“OK, we’ll talk but only for a little then you rest,” she said taking a hold of the hand he reached out to her.
“Fam..ly…call ...worth …less…us. Less…Beat…hurt. Aunt Ro…” He stopped and closed his eyes.
“Your aunt came and got you…it was better for you…?” Lee decided maybe she could help fill in the blanks with some questions.
Lee bit her lip to keep from saying something totally inappropriate. “That was your cousin Tiffany at the charity auction. The one who called me a squaw.” Johnny squeezed her hand tighter.
“You mad…go…not come back…ever…no love … more. All go…alone ..again.” The tears were slowly moving down his face "No family…again…”
“You listen to me and you listen good Boyo…it was a dream a bad dream…Maybe the pain caused it, maybe the meds…but it was just a dream. No one, nothing can ever make me stop loving you with all my heart. And that goes for Roy and Jo and the kids, There are so many people in our family of the heart…I am so proud of you ,of being loved by you. If people want to call me a squaw that’s ok as long as I am YOUR squaw. There is nothing in this world that will make me love and respect you less.”
“No cry…no be sad.”
“I’m crying because I am mad and sad that people have hurt you. That that witch hurt you again and used me to do it. Now my darling Boyo you are going to close your eyes, go to sleep and the only dreams you’ll have are good ones about us, our family.” She looked over to where Roy and Jo were. “Roy is gonna come tell you good bye, go home and sleep so he can come back later. And he is going to help me stand up.”
Roy and Jo came over grinning at her. Each took her under an arm and lifted her.. She leaned forward and kissed Johnny on the lips having moved the cannula off him for a minute. “You remember that kiss and all it promises you.” She put the cannula back and her friends eased her back down into her chair.
“Junior, I think that is the nicest way I ever heard someone read you the riot act. You listen to her and I’ll be back later. Lee or Jo will call me if you need anything.” He gave Johnny’s hand a squeeze and patted him on his shoulder.
“Jo, walk him to his car.” Lee ordered.
“Be right back, baby,” Jo said giving him a kiss on the forehead. “Don’t you ever doubt how much we love you…”
She and Roy left. As they were waiting for the elevator. “I thought I was gonna have to stay as upset as he was.”
“I was worried about that. You need to get some sleep.”
“She told him exactly what he needed to hear. I think he has been brooding about his cousin’s behavior since that night.”
Ralph Franklin worked on putting his plan in action. There was nothing that said a stockholder in WBS could not be involved with individual projects outside the company. The Huttons and CS McFarland had some interesting plans for some high end homes. The land was far enough ought out of town to give it a country feel but close enough for easy commuting. The land they wanted was for sale by the real estate branch of the company and they were asking a reasonable price. And the way it was set up Lee Spencer had no say so in the sale but then hopefully she was still in the dark about Tiffany Hughes Hutton. As he was sititng there planning the phone rang.
“Ralph, we got the land. McFarland just called. For $155,000 you can buy in.” Rich Hutton told him. “Tom and Tiffany, us and McFarland will be equal partners. They bought all 15 acres. Call me by tomorrow afternoon with your answer. We figure quarter acre per house …$125,000 a or more per house if they want more land. Most of those week end farmers find a quarter acre just about right, some want a little more. McFarland needs to know by tomorrow or he’ll offer it to someone else.”
“Tell him I’m interested.” Ralph was going over the figures in his head. With some luck and good timing he could raise the $155,000. “ Have them send the information over to the office.”
Johnny was asleep when Cap and Mike came in. Lee was reading and Jo was working on some embroidery. They had passed the day in talking and played some gin while Johnny slept with an occasional brief time awake asking for water. Both women looked up smiling as the two came in carrying a picnic basket.
“Is this a good time?” Hank asked looking at the sleeping man. “We know he needs to rest.”
“No this is a good time. They will be in here soon with his lunch…broth and some melted sherbet if he is lucky. They came up earlier but he had just gotten to sleep so I told them to come back around 2:30
“Em talked to Kel, she sent him some soup…its mostly just broth but it]s her good homemade beef stock. And we got some lunch for you two. Em said no arguing.”
Lee moved her chair so she could better reach his hand. She had been happy to see he was sleeping with his arm at his side not thrown over his face. “ Boyo, you have company…You need to be waking up now for a bit.” She was making small circles on has hand increasing the pressure just a bit. She smiled as the dark eye lashes fluttered and he slowly opened his eyes. “Hi darlin’ ready for some company.”
“Ye..ah.” He took a deeper breathe it didn’t hurt as much. “Hi Cccap.”
“Do you need to sit up more?” Lee asked a s he watched Johnny turn and try to sit up . “Cap, Mike can you help him? He’s slipped down a little. Just use the pull sheet.” Soon they had him repositioned and the head of the bed raised.
“Thanks.” Lee smiled and Jo nodded at how much stronger his voice was with only a slight stutter. . His voice was still soft but not the gasping to finish a word. “Nice…to …see you …both.” He needed to take a several deep breathes before he could say more.
“You just rest easy there, son.” Hank said putting a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Chet and Marco are coming later. We didn’t want too much company tiring you out. We just wanted you to know if you needed anything have Lee call.” Mike said. “Melissa said anything she can do call her. Anything either one of you need.”
“And she promised you a big pan of homemade beef and noodles and mashed potatoes and Cole slaw and apple pie when you’re out of here.” Hank added. “And maybe some homemade ice cream for Miss Lee.”
“Butter…(gasp) pecan…(gasp) fav…” He began coughing, the two men looked at Lee.
“John Roderick…relax….Soon as you get you breathing slowed and controlled you can sip some of that broth.” Soon as he had gotten some better control Cap poured out the rich broth in a cup. He reached for a straw but Jo shook her head no. Cap handed the half filled cup to Johnny. His hand shook but he was able to hold the cup and took several sips. Swallowing was still difficult but Lee thought there was some improvement.
“Jo, do you need a ride home?” Mike asked as Johnny was eating.
“Roy is coming over about 5. He is going to pick the kids up from our neighbors then he’ll stay the rest of the night. I think Cisco or his brother is going to pick Lee up about 8. She hasn’t been out of that chair since 11:30.” she looked over to her friends. “Lee come eat your lunch…These sandwiches are wonderful.”
“I’m not very hungry. Maybe I’ll save it for tonight,” she answered.
“Young lady, sit down and eat. I’m under strict orders you are to eat that and I am not going to tell Emily you didn’t.”
“Eat…pl…lease.” Came the soft plea. “Now.” He still felt better but was so tired. It took so much energy to talk or swallow.
“All right, sweetheart. Don’t fret about me.” She wheeled over to the small table where the picnic basket was. She got a sandwich and ate it while Johnny watched and listened to Mike and Cap talk. He made occasional one or two word comments but soon it was apparent he was more asleep than awake.
After Cap and Mike left and Johnny was sleeping soundly. Lee left for a bathroom break. She hated to be gone from him but there was no way she could avoid it. When she got back he was awake. Jo was beside the bed talking to him. Lee was glad to see he was smiling that little half smile that melted her heart always..
“Make it ….in time?” He said his eyes laughing.
“Just barley.” She looked at Jo. “She been telling tales on me?” Playfully pouting, laughing at herself, “We could have had a flood if I had waited much longer. But,.” seeing the look on his face. “It would have been my fault not yours.” He still looked worried about her.
“Love you…so much…so many….” Looking frustrated at not being able to finish a sentence without stopping for breath. “reasons”
“You don’t need words for that, Boyo. I see that in your eyes and smiles…feel it in your touch. Taste it in your kisses. You just rest and get better. Want me to read to you for awhile? I can read about dragons if you like or a mystery or …”
“Dragons…” Jo sat by the window doing her handiwork while Lee read to him until he fell asleep. Lee wheeled over to Jo.
“That sounds like an interesting story. Funny, I never thought of him liking those kind of stories.”
”Didn’t either until I started reading bits and pieces to him. I’d be reading and laughing or complaining about something and he would ask me about it…Is it my imagination or wishful thinking that he is so much better today?” Lee said as she turned her chair to see him better.
“I didn’t see him yesterday but from what Kathy said and Roy I’d say it’s a combination of the two. Yes, he is looking better and yes there is a lot of wishful thinking going on. There isn’t that blue tinge Roy was so worried about and he is more aware of what is going on around him. And he hasn’t complained about his head hurting.”
“I think the bad dreams have stopped for now. I wish I could stop them forever.”
“That probably will never happen but at least they are rarer now. And you have helped him a lot today to get rid of the haunted look he had this morning.”
“Yeah I even made him laugh a few times…or at least smile.”
“You make him smile just being near where he can see you. “
Lee, you don’t have to try to be nice, that’s your nature. And for the other, I think you’d have lots of help. Me, Dixie, Kel and Joe. Not to mention Cisco, Hector and Maria, your New York family and the guys at the station, the list is long and grows every day. But you know, he wouldn’t want you to be anything but nice.”
“True. But if she or anyone else tries a stunt like the other night again…Next time I won’t just sit quiet.”
“Yes you will because you won’t do anything to embarrass him…or make it worst for him when they do.”
“Don’t count on it. The only reason I didn’t the other night was because you and Roy were there… I wanted to scratch her eyes out even before I knew who it was. Now I want to ship her off to Siberia.”
“Johnny might not agree but I do.” Jo said.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~~
After a week in the hospital Johnny was glad to be home. He had been home for a week. It was a beautiful day. He was in the recliner watching Lee as she was working in the kitchen. The ham she had in the oven smelled great. He smiled knowing she was fixing it just in case Marco and Chet stopped by to visit. He had heard her on the phone to someone saying they were welcome to drop over any time.
“Johnny do you need something to drink ?” She called from the kitchen.
“No, I’m fine . You about ready to come in here and relax?”
She came in and transferred over to the couch. “Jake was really pleased with your therapy session…He thinks that all the times you do the exercises with me in the pool has really helped keep your ligaments and tendons in good shape so they are healing faster.” Because of the severe bruising they weren’t having him wear a knee brace and he was not totally happy using a walker. But the alternative was at least another week in the hospital.
“Did I mention how much I love you? How thankful I’m for all you do?” He asked as he watched her transfer onto the couch. It was so hard not to be able to help her but having her waiting on him. Yet he knew she didn’t see it as a burden or a chore but as acts of love.
“I love doing things for you and with you. Never get tired of hearing how much you love me.” She knew he had something on his mind.
“I can’t remember ever being so afraid…being smashed against that wall. Afraid there was things left unsaid between us.. that I would die before I got to say them.”
“Then say it now.” Having no idea what it was she was a little worried.
“I know every time you have said anything about checking into getting a house I ignore the subject or say we’ll talk later. I like it here and it feels like home…and I like the idea of knowing you aren’t totally alone when I’m at work. Maybe that isn’t fair to you. Its not that I don’t trust you or think you can’t take care of yourself. “ He looked at her. “Do you understand?” His look pleaded with her to say yes. “I guess it was . ..is my wanting to keep you safe.”
“I know. When you are comfortable with it we’ll build…And when you and I are comfortable with adopting a child if you want to adopt a Native American child I will be fine with that. More than fine . You told me once your mom taught you the good things about your heritage and culture. That she wanted you to know its beauty not just the abuse. I think you need to remember that and we need to find as way to honor her. Maybe a scholarship for young women on the reservation or something you think would be a fitting memorial to her.”
“You‘d do that for me? For them?” The idea surprised him and was a little over whelming. But then why would it seem strange to her to want to do something in their honor Didn’t the painting over the mantle prove that she did honor their memory?
“I’ve thought about it before but never really knew how to bring it up. Think about it. Darling I would do anything for you…I thought you knew that.”
“I do. Ya know it amazes me we very seldom talk so seriously…Wonder why?” He asked.
“Serious always seems sad…Sad is something we don’t do well…
“What’s that song Mick sings to you when he’s teasing ya? When Irish eyes are laughing sure they steal your heart away? That’s what I noticed first your beautiful green eyes. I fell in love with them.” He watched as she blushed. That he could still make her blush with a compliment after all this time still surprised him.
“Think it was a tie for me…those wonderful soulful brown eyes and that quirky half smile. But then when I got to know you it was everything about you. And everyday there is something new to love and learn about you.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “If you are going to the bathroom please use your walker.” He had put the footrest down and was pushing up to stand.
“I only forgot once.” He really had forgot. His knee wasn’t painful and he hadn’t had any problem so to him it seemed ok to just walk carefully.
“I think I understand a little better now how you feel when you see me standing. I get so scared of you falling and hurting your knee or diaphragm . You haven’t had 6 years of practice falling.” Before he could answer her the doorbell rang. She hit the intercom button. “Yes?”
“Its Emily and Hank.”
“Come on up the door is unlocked.”
“If we had a house out somewhere do you think you’d keep the doors locked?”
“Probably if it made you happy. And I keep this one locked when you’re at work.” He shook his head at her rolling her eyes.
“You---what am I going to do with you?” He said with a laugh.
“Kiss me on the forehead, tell me you love me mad send me to bed without my supper?” he laughed and went to the bathroom.
The apartment door opened and in came Hank and Em followed by Chet and Suzi, Marco and a girl that Lee hadn’t met. They all had a bag or package.
“Roy said they would be along shortly,” Hank said as he put the picnic basket he was carrying in the kitchen. “Mike and Melissa are coming over too. Is he asleep?’
“No…he’ll be back out in a minute or two.”
Emily went over to Lee. “You stay put.” Lee had reached for the chair. “We decided since it’s been awhile since we’ve played cards or games today would be a good day. And we didn’t want you fussing and cooking for us.”
“From the smell of it she has been cooking..”
“Just a ham. You all are always welcome and I love cooking for you.” Johnny was making his way back to his chair. Once he was settled Cap pulled a dinning room chair over close to the recliner.
“Well it’s our turn to do the work. I brought you some more of the Del Shannon mysteries.” Cap said as he down.
Em was in the kitchen organizing the food they had brought. Chet and Suzi had went back down to his car to get some sodas and beer he had in a cooler.
“Lee, I would like you to meet my friend, Anita. She works for my uncle.”
“I’m glad you could come over …I’m just a little over whelmed with all this…”
“Lee’s more use to being the hostess and doing for everyone. She and Johnny have made their home open to us always.” Marco explained. She never minds when we just come by.”
“That is what we both have always wanted. A home where friends and family pop in and out and want to come visit.”
“Marco talks about all his friends at the fire station a lot. And how you have such fun playing cards and board games.”
Roy and Jo, Chet and Suzi came up. The kids were there also but were going down to the playroom with some of Maria and Hector’s grandkids. They had gotten home the same day Johnny did. Just as Marco finished making introductions Mike and Melissa and Mikey came in. Mike had brought fried chicken. Jo and Melissa took the kids down stairs.
“The ham should be done in about 10 minutes…By the time we get everything set up---” Lee said.
“We meaning us 5 . You sit and supervise.” Em said. “For the last 2 weeks you’ve been on the go and its time for you to rest. It’s not going to do him any good if you’re so tired you get sick.”
Jo and Melissa came back up. “Em, Maria said not to worry about taking food down to the kids, they’re making tacos…She has everything under control like usual.”
“She usually does.” Lee said smiling. “You all know where everything is.” she sat back and let her family take charge.
After dinner they played trivia. They chose the teams by drawing numbers. Johnny, Lee, Jo , Chet, Em and Anita easily beat the others. Chet was gloating.
“How many questions did you answer, Kelly?” Cap asked. “Seems to me the ladies on your team carried you and Johnny.”
“Gee, Cap I was hoping you hadn’t noticed that.” Chet said with a grin. Everyone laughed,. Johnny the loudest.
Lee went out to the kitchen to get a soda. Roy looked over at his partner. “You doing ok?”
“Yeah just tired. Didn’t realize how lazy I was getting. Been going to bed about 8 this week.”
“Good, you need the rest. Exercises going ok?”
“Yep going to see the pt and Brackett and should be back to work in another week.”
“Two weeks at least Boyo,” Lee corrected as she came back into the living room. “That is if everything looks good.”
“Uncle Johnny…” Jenny came running over to the recliner but stopped knowing he was still getting over being hurt. “I made you this…Hector taught me Chris made something with leather …the little kids were just playing with glue and glitter…Maria and Hector and Mrs. Lopez are in charge of the Christmas bazaar at their church and they are ….”
“Slow down…I can’t listen that fast,” Johnny said. He looked at the Eye of God she had handed to him.
“Princess, that is beautiful. Are you sure you don’t want to give this to your mom and dad?”
“Nope..I am making one for them in different colors…This is red for your squad and green ‘cause you like to camp and purple cause that is Aunt Lee’s favorite color and pink cause It’s my favorite color.” He opened his arms and she came closer so they could hug.
“Where is Chris?” Lee asked.
“He and Trey are helping clean the play room. I think the name of that room is being changed to the craft room or something…the older kids are objecting to being told to go to the play room.” Jo said as she gathered up her dishes.
“You need any help getting ready for bed?” Roy asked his exhausted partner. He had not been sure this was a good idea but he had realized that the guys needed to see for themselves that he was doing ok. It hadn’t been until he was home that Brackett had been completely honest with Lee. The breathing problem he had told her about at the hospital had been much more serious than he said. The only reason he had went to the step down unit was because ICC and ICU had been full. They had almost lost him twice. She had just smiled at Kel and said she thanked him for finally being honest with her and he was probably right in not telling her then.
“No I’ll be ok.”
“Why don’t you head for the bedroom and I’ll just follow you? That might make it easier on her. I know she is worried about how tired you are.” Knowing Johnny would agree to anything if he thought it made things easier for Lee, Roy smiled his ploy worked.
“Sounds like a good plan…thanks Pally.”
The next few days passed peacefully. Johnny did his exercises and his knee was healing without a problem. The breathing problem was cleared up as was the bruises. The headaches were less frequent and less severe.
Lee drove to Rampart feeling good about the day. Johnny was feeling good and sure that Kel was going to tell him he could start walking without the walker. It had been a little over 3 weeks since the accident. While he was in with Kel she went up to her office. Between the work that Nel had dropped off at the house and the stuff Nel had done on her own the office was in good shape. Nell had taken some computer classes at UCLA so there wasn’t much she couldn’t do now with just a little help. Lee had just finished up the report she had to do when the phone rang.
“Data and Statistical Analysis.” She answered,”How may I help you?”
“It’s Ben. I’m sending over some information about a new project that has been purposed and the final papers on a land sale. I think you need to read them very carefully. Look at the maps and call me if you have any questions. They should be there soon.”
“Ok, Johnny is getting a check up so I’ll be here awhile and will wait for it.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Ralph Franklin was having lunch with Richard and Tom Hutton. Tiffany and Dinah was suppose to be joining them but were late. Neither of the Huttons found this to be irritating or unusual behavior.
“Here is my check for $155,000. It took almost everything I had in the bank and in my reserve account. And here is the signed partnership agreement.” He handed over the envelope. Everything seems to be going right on schedule.
“CS has already talked to several people and they are ready to buy their lots. Surprisingly they are wanting acres or half acres instead of quarters.” Rich said with a smile.
“ The zoning commission meets tomorrow and Ben Oliver should have gotten the sales paper yesterday. His signature is just a formality as the company CEO…that division is pretty independent and his interests lies more with the construction end.” He didn’t add that since her husband had gotten hurt Lee Spencer (he still thought of her as that) hadn’t been nosing around. He was glad that the injury hadn’t been more serious but was glad it kept her away from the office. If she knew that the land sale was in any way connected to Rich Hutton or the Hughes (especially Tiffany) she would have tried to stop it. If anything went wrong with this deal he was ruined .
Johnny waited patiently as Kel made notes on the chart. Kel had smiled as he looked up and saw the dark brown eyes watching him.
He had put his shirt back on. “Doc, I’ve got hit in the chest and stomach before…How come this time it was so bad?”
“Could have been the angle of the blow, the force or that fact it was more than once…could have been a number of things. I would guess it was a freak accident. If you have any problems get in here but I think that is highly unlikely.”
“Maybe you can explain that to Lee? The worst part of getting hurt use to be missing work…now its making her worry.”
“That’s the price you pay for being in a relationship. Is it worth it?” Kel asked. He stood there his arms folded across his chest looking at Johnny waiting for an answer.
“Doc, I can’t imagine her not being in my life now. The waiting when she has the checkups with Dr. Westmore is hell on earth. The feeling when she looks at me and smiles and says I love you. That makes all the other stuff seem so unimportant. She wants to do something in honor of my mom…we were thinking maybe a scholarship fund for the young women on the reservation. That kind of love and compassion…yeah its worth the worry. And I know she feels the same…We’ve had some pretty serious talks lately about feelings and commitment. Probably having some of the conversations most people have before they get married. Guess we neither one knew enough about being in a relationship to know what to worry about .”
“Johnny you two knew all that was necessary for you to know…You know how to make it work and what is important in your lives.”
“Yeah I guess you’re right…And what is important right now is for me to go walking into that office on my own two feet”
“That you’re your strutting around like a peacock in full splendor of yourself?” He came back over to the desk and kissed her then handed her a soda. “I would say Kel gave you a clean bill of health.”
“I can return to work in 7 days..“ He bent down again and kissed her behind her ear and nibbled on it.
“I’m glad for you. I know it’s been frustrating for you. Soon as the messenger from Ben comes we can go to lunch and take the return to work release over to Cap. Lunch at O’ Sheas’? Or do you feel like something else?”
“Let’s see how long it takes at the station…so what is Ben sending over?”
“Some land sale papers. Land was cheap in some areas when my grandfather bought it…We have some that is ours not the company’s. It was going to be where my parents built their house…It’s not far from Jim and Kathy’s. My grandfather built that house for himself…then rented it to a friend for years then Jeff sold it to Jim and Kathy when his dad’s friend moved east to live with his son.”
“And drive each other crazy…Maybe someday but right now I think we know that wouldn’t work. We both like our jobs. I think you still like yours don’t you?” She really knew he wouldn’t be happy not being Roy’s partner or a paramedic.
“Most of the time. The girl up in the San Francisco office is a pain in the butt…but if she wants my job let her go for it. I probably would just spend more hours at WBSF.”
The messenger came and Lee signed for the envelope then they left.
“Yeah.” He smiled just glad to be driving. “Remember when I was learning to drive this ?” She slid into the passenger seat easily, he folded and stored the chair. Soon they were on their way to the station.
“Yeah I was glad we were in that big empty parking lot….It meant a lot to me that you did that, you know. Not many people would have taken the time or made the effort. Maria and Cisco and Jeff were the only ones…Hector can but doesn’t like to. And there is no way I could ever drive the rover.”
“There is no way I want you ever to try to get into it again by yourself. That was scary as hell,” He said with a shiver. “I still am so sorry about that.” He didn’t see any need to tell her he still had nightmares about causing her to fall.
“”Honey, I am the one who made the misstep, not you. I misjudged the distance. No harm was done expect to my pride. That is the past, we’ve both learned from it and now is a day to celebrate.”
The engine was in the bay when they drove up. Lee could hear the soft sigh, He parked the car and sat her wheelchair up for her. As they went in they were laughing as they went into the kitchen.
“Hey, Pal, its good to see you.” Cap said sitting down his coffee cup. “And always good to see you.” He went over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “No more walker?”
“Kel just made it official he hasn’t been using it around the house for a couple of days.” Cap smiled as Johnny handed him the release papers. “He is more than ready to come back.” Lee giggled at the look Johnny gave her. “He’s getting a hair cut tomorrow. Without a fuss.” She let out a dramatic sigh, “I should be jealous, or at least sad, he rather be here with you than home with me.”
“You know that isn’t true,” he said giving her hand a squeeze. He looked around. “I thought I’d get to see the guys…”
“They are hanging hose. Told them I didn’t want to see any of them until the job was done and done right. The twits wasted a half an hour arguing over who had to go up top.” Hank looked frustrated. “Even Stoker got into it. Pal, you have them spoiled always going up to the top.”
“Is it an honest mistake or criminal activity? Neither one is acceptable.” Lee said after they exchanged greetings.
“I think it was a well thought out plan. CS McFarland knows we wouldn’t have any dealings with him or any of his companies so he creates a new one using all new investors.” Ben answered. “If the investors knew he was persona non grata with us, that I don’t know. Besides who ever did the research for McFarland did not know you personally own 5 of that 15 acres and have to sign the final sales agreement for those acres. And that those acres are actually the most logical ones for development due to the fact your grandfather had planned for your parents to live there. Whoever builds on that other land is going to have problems with access and utilities. Its bordered on one side by a family own farming interest and on the other by a school who uses some of the land as a land lab and some as a soccer field and baseball fields for the school that serves the small community. Jeff gave them 2 acres for educational purposes because he believed it would be something your grandfather would approve of and be proud to help with.”
“Check and see if McFarland has any connection to the new restaurant they were building out on Cliffside. The environmentalist were fighting it and so were some others but the local powers that be suddenly changed from neutral to supportive, that location is now red flagged by the state zoning board and insurance investigators. the information from on accidents resulting in injury serious enough to have paramedics called is on a file at my office. Will look at it very closely tomorrow. Nel may have undated these last two accidents in there while I have been off.”
“There is two things…Ralph Franklin is a partner in this new company. That is legal as far as the contract he signed with us…Not so sure about the ethics since he knows we have an unofficial ban on any dealings with McFarland.”
“And the other?” Somehow she knew this was going to be bad.
“The other investors include Tiffany and Joshua Hughes.”
“Ok set up a meeting with all the parties involved and I will be there, probably Johnny too. I have Jeff’s proxy but will you call and let him know what is going on?
“No problem. What about Ralph?”
. “I want you to draw up an agreement to buy him out . If he wants to keep his stock that’s his choice but I don’t think he will want to after we vote him off the board and kick him out of his office. It’s an ethics issue.”
When she went back out to the front room Johnny was awake. Soon as he saw her face he knew something was wrong. “Want to tell me about it?”
“There is a problem with some land we own…somehow the parcel numbers were included in a sale with land owned by the company. We don’t know if it was a real error or done on purpose. There is no problem getting the land back since the sale wasn’t legal. The problem is going to be CS McFarland is involved. It is one of his front companies that is doing the building where you were hurt. He and all his companies are on an unofficial do not do business with list they have at WBS…thinking we need to make it official.”
“Your cousins are part of McFarland’s new company. Not the one that is doing the Cliffside restaurant but was going to build upscale homes…So is Ralph Franklin…”
Johnny looked at her and was quiet for several minutes. Then with a half grin and a shrug of his shoulders, ”Do what you have to do. You have to protect the repetition of your grandfather’s business. Those two are responsible for their actions not you or me.” He got up and went over to her squatting down in front of her. “You’ll be fair and do what has to be done. I trust you.” He leaned in and kissed her.
“Thank you for understanding. But you know there is a part of me that wants to make them pay for all the pain and hurt they caused you over the years.”
“Remind me never to get on your bad side.” He kissed her lightly on the forehead then stood up.
“Why don’t you let me show you my good side?” She said with a giggle.
Lee dressed with extra care for the meeting two days later.. The dark navy blue dress with matching jacket was very professional looking her makeup was perfect her hair up in a French twist with a small silver butterfly in the back . She knew she was going to get a lecture from Johnny about the shoes but they were perfect with the dress. As she put earrings in she smiled.
“Cisco would be telling me I was on the war path…and he would be right.,” Lee had spent a couple of hours on the phone to her good friend John Paul Broussard getting some legal advice, If they could prove that her land was put in with the other on purpose they could file criminal charges.
Johnny came in and looked at her. Gone was the laughing girl he usually saw sitting there. A smart sophisticated business woman looked back at him. “Do I look ok?” She asked wanting his approval not needing it.
“Perfect except the shoes. But I’ll be right there to help you in and out of the chair so I guess I won’t fuss.”
“Thank you. Not just for the compliment but for understanding why I have to do this. McFarland has to be stopped before he kills someone else with his shoddy workmanship. That your family is getting caught in the fallout isn’t something I can help.”
“They aren’t my family…they made that plain along time ago.” He was wearing dark brown dress pants and a white turtleneck shirt under a softer brown sweater. “You still sure you want me sitting in there? It might get nastier with me there. They’ll attack you through me.”
“Boyo, a mother bear defending her cub has nothing on me today. They attacked my family…all of it, you and the Spencers. These nails might be shorter but they can be as deadly as those that she bear racked down your back.”
“Girl I am glad you are on my side,’’
“By your side is the only place I want to be,” she said looking up at him. “Always.” she slipped her locket inside her dress and put on the silver and quahog necklace and changed her earrings. “Now I’m ready to go.”
Ben was the only one in the board room when Lee and Johnny came in. Ben looked at the two nodding in welcome. He had wondered if Johnny would come today to support her. It had the potential of getting nasty. He had seen Ralph escort a group of people into his office.
“Where are we sitting?” Lee asked.
“You on my right, Johnny next to you.” He smiled as he watched Johnny help her get settled in her seat then fold the wheelchair out of the way. No one asked about the other empty chair on that side of the table.
Lee didn’t react as Ralph Franklin and Richard Hutton came into the room followed by Joshua Hughes, Tiffany Hughes Hutton and her husband Tom. She did react when Milton Blackaby and CS McFarland walked in. She felt Johnny’s hand on her knee and the slight squeeze he gave her. They had all just got seated when the door opened again and Jeff walked in. Lee turned to Johnny looking shocked. He shook his head.
“I heard there was an important meeting here today. Hi Johnny.” He went over and gave Lee a kiss on the cheek. “Looking more beautiful each time I see you sweet pea.”
“Jeff, I’m glad you could make it on such short notice.” Ben said standing up and shaking hands with him. “Unless there are others coming to join you, I’ll call my secretary in to take notes. A copy of the notes will be sent to you by the end of the business day.”
“Do you have any objection to our taping the meeting?” Rich Hutton asked pulling a small cassette recorder from his brief case.
“Not at all, in fact I think it’s an excellent idea.” Jeff said as he laid a smaller recording device on the table.
“Shall we begin?” Ruth Ann had come in .and sat down at a small table behind them. “This meeting is called to order with the following people present. Lee Spencer Gage and her husband John Gage, Jefferson Spencer, Benjamin Oliver representing the WBS company. Ralph would you please introduce your group, H& H Development, a partnership. Am I correct that is the name you used when buying the 15 acres?” Ben’s voice matching the coldness of his eyes.
“Yes. Richard Hutton, his brother Thomas and Tom’s wife Tiffany, Joshua Hughes, Martin Blackaby and CS McFarland and myself are partners in H&H Development.”
“Here is a check refunding you the price of 5 acres of land that you purchased from the real estate division of WBS Real Estate Development and Property Management. Due to a mix up which we are looking into these 5 acres were listed as company owned land. In fact they are the personal property of Lee given to her by her grandfather. How and when this land was mis-recorded will be investigated as quickly as possible.”
“And if we refuse to accept this check and take you to court charging you with illegal termination of a contract?” Martin Blackaby asked.
“That is totally within your rights but let me assure you won’t win.” Lee answered. “The paper work has been filed since my grandfather’s death and our family not the company has paid the taxes on this land since the original purchase by my grandfather in the early 50’s. Also there is a legal paper that was filed with the courts in 1965 giving the John Adams school district the rights to 2 acres for educational programs as they see fit. My uncle Jeff signed those papers as my lawful guardian. In all these papers the title and survey details are correct. If you want to return the deed to the other land and cancel the sale we will do that, charging 25% of the purchase price as a fee for services rendered.” She looked over to Jeff and smiled. “Or you can refuse and keep the other 10 acres. However, be aware there is no way you can FORCE Johnny or me to give you permission to build a road on our land. Edgewood Farms has no intention of selling you any land and neither does the state. Now Edgewood might buy the land from you someday but not at the same price you paid nor would the state.”
“This is an outrage…You can’t legally refuse us access to our own land.” Joshua Hughes said.
“Yes I can…I even checked with John -Paul last night,” Lee said. Smiling sweetly she turned to the two lawyers. “He is a dear friend calls me his daughter of the heart. Since he is on the state supreme court he could not be my lawyer. Maggie could be as long as it did not go before the state supreme court. I believe you have tried cases against her when she was the D.A. Mr. Blackaby.”
“Is that what this is all about? You blaming me for defending Richard Palmer? In that case I will withdraw from H&H. “ Blackaby said smiling like an old time snake oil salesman. “If that is all it takes…”
“Or me calling you a squaw for marrying a half breed? I must say you did clean him up nicely.” Tiffany said with a malicious grin. “I was wondering where a fireman would get enough money to pay that much for a necklace…You must give him a generous allowance. How much were you willing to pay for a husband? Such a noble one willing to push you around in your wheelchair as he flirts with everyone in a skirt? The poor crippled wife would be the last to know…”
“Look, you say what you want about me but leave her alone.” Johnny said. “Anyone that matters knows that it’s just garbage coming out of your mouth…and anyone that believes you isn’t worth worrying about.”
“Did you tell your loving wife all the secrets? About how your own family rejected you…How my mom had to spend her time civilizing you…taking you to speech therapy because you couldn’t say your own name without stuttering like an idiot?”
“Johnny, Jeff…this is boring me…I want to go to lunch. Ben knows what I think and how to vote our shares when they hold the meeting after this one. Ralph, they will be offering you fair market price for your shares…regardless if you accept or not you are no longer on the board of directors and I expect you to have your office cleared out by the end of the business day. The board of director’s serve at the discretion of the majority of the stock holders. Five of the seven are voting you out.”
“Me. Johnny, Jeff and Ben. And Ben holds Martha Gordon’s proxy. But even without that you are history.”
“Only stockholders can vote…He doesn’t have any more right to vote than my wife does.” Ralph yelled at Jeff, slamming his fist down on the table. “John Gage has no rights as a share holder.”
“Oh, no one told you? I gave him 5 of my ten shares as a wedding present. All in his name nice and legal.” Jeff said as he stood up. By the way, McFarland, you and all your shell companies will be receiving notices from the proper agencies concerning fraud, kick backs to inspectors, zoning violations and bribes and using sub standard building materials.” Jeff said as he moved the wheelchair over to Lee. With help from Johnny she transferred over easily. “I would guess the police will be serving the arrest warrants in a day or two.”
“You really are walking out on a deal that could make you lots of money?” Joshua Hughes said not believing what he was hearing. They were supposed to be doubling their money on this deal. They had always made money when they teamed up with McFarland and his companies. “We could possibly buy more land if you were wanting to sell.”
Lee said, with a shrug, “I learned a long time ago money isn’t that important to me. Maybe because I always had everything I needed. What is important to me is family. That’s something money can’t buy. I have a real problem understanding why people let money and other unimportant crap become the center of their lives instead of the people in their lives. You and your sister missed out on knowing a really great person. I want a butter pecan brownie from O’Sheas’…Are you two ready to go?”
“John didn’t know Lee had any money when he asked her to marry him. I was there when she remembered to tell him.” Jeff said with a laugh. “In fact I had to remind her to tell him.” They started out of the office but Lee stopped.
“Oh by the way I hope you weren’t partners with him in any of his other ventures. Especially the Cliffside project.” Lee said with a smile. “Because I am definitely interested in seeing the people responsible for that death trap prosecuted.”
Lee was in her office when an older lady came in. She was a very elegant looking lady despite the worried look on her face.
“May I help you?” Lee asked wondering why the lady looked familiar.
“Yes, I’m Rosemary Hughes.”
“I see. Please have a seat. There is tea or coffee over on the counter if you’d like to help yourself.”
Hoping she would so she could get her thoughts together.
“No, thank you.” She sat down. “I was surprised to find out John had gotten married. She looked at the wedding picture Lee had on the desk. “You were a lovely bride. John looked very handsome in his uniform.”
“It would have meant a lot to Johnny if you had been there. The silver dish you sent is very lovely.”
Rosemary looked confused. “I never sent a silver dish…I never knew John was married until I spoke to my children the other night. Luckily they weren’t part of the Cliffside project but have been involved in other projects with Mr. McFarland.”
“Mrs. Hughes, your name was the first one Johnny put down when we were doing the guest list. I remember the look on his face when we received your response card… the note wrote saying you had plans to be in London that week. He blamed himself for your not coming…That he hadn’t shown you how much you meant to him. He told me about the letter he wrote you after he had began therapy and how bad he felt when you never responded. But he also told me he understood and was grateful for the life you had provided him after…after his uncle had beaten him so badly that last time.”
“I never received an invitation or that letter. I am afraid it was my children. They were not happy when John came into our home. Their father was ill and died not long after John moved in with us. My husband was distant to John not because he was a bad person but because he was so ill.”
“You don’t owe me any explanation, Mrs. Hughes. Johnny loves you and if you want to see him I am sure he would like that.”
“And you? Are you agreeable to that? Because I have the feeling that John is very much like my brother, Rod. Once he fell in love nothing was going to keep him from marrying her. And he would tolerate no disrespect to her or his son.”
“She has a name. Its Katie or Red Moon.” Lee’s tone was neutral but a cold indifferent neutral.
“That you love him very much is obvious . I’d like to be friends…family if you would let me. My children were spoiled terribly by my parents and by my husband’s also. I think the grandparents both tried to buy the children’s affection. My father was a hard man but my mother loved him so she never stood up to him even when he disowned Rod and his family. Then when John came into the house…They resented him and were embarrassed by him.”
“Your daughter made it a point of using me to embarrass him at a charity function. He knows how proud I am to be his wife and nothing or no one is going to change that. Or change the fact Johnny is proud of his parents.”
“Joshua said you made it clear to everyone in that room you had no use for him or his sister. And that you did it with class. From my son the snob that is a compliment.” She got no reaction from Lee. “And the only time Johnny said anything was when Tiffany was attacking you. “
“Her attack as you call it was more of the same garbage she spewed out at the community center…and had even less effect there as no one cared what she had to say. The least of all me.”
“Do you think John would be agreeable to see me? I’d like it if the three of us could talk.”
“He’s at work. I’ll ask him when he comes home in the morning. I’m not going to bother him with this at work. “ It was his second shift back. “ Unless you hear different why don’t you plan on coming over to our home for dinner? 6:30 would be good for us…”
“I had wanted to take you out.” Rosemary said not sure how to read the young woman across from her. The look she gave her was a mix of anger and hurt. “Here is the address and phone number where I am staying.”
“I think it might be better if we were somewhere private for this meeting.”
“Of course, that is a very good idea. Thank you for your time.”
Lee wrote out their address and phone number on the back of her business card. “It’s going to make him a little happier that you didn’t think a shopping trip to London was more important than he was.”
“That is the first time you have smiled since you found out who I was. You have a beautiful smile.”
“Thank you.” A few minutes after she left Lee decided to go home. She wasn’t concentrating well any way. Once she was home she called Jo. After explaining what had taken place in her office.
“Do you think I did the right thing? I just don’t feel comfortable telling him while he is working.”
“I agree . You tell him at breakfast or just as you finish. I knew his cousins were bad but to keep his aunt from going to your wedding. I am sure that witch thought it was a great idea.” Jo had met Tiffany before and then at the auction. “ The brother is all about money and standing but I think she enjoys being mean.”
“She reminds me of the rich snobby mean girls in high school and at college in some of the sororities.”
“Well don’t you let it stress you out. When he calls tonight he’ll hear it in your voice. So have you planned out your menu?”
“You know me too well. Yes if Johnny agrees pork chops with Marco’s dressing, glazed carrots and a mixed green salad. And whatever he wants for dessert. I have some rolls I baked in the freezer .”
“How many dozen did you make while Johnny was in the hospital and when he first came home? Roy said the guys at the station were getting spoiled. All the shifts had rolls for two weeks.”
“I couldn’t sleep so I had to do something to keep busy.”
“Get some sleep tonight, it’s all going to be ok.” Jo said. “Johnny’ll be fine with her coming over. I met her once and she really seemed to care about him.”
“Yeah I thought so too but was afraid it was just an act. You know so I won’t be mean to her darling off springs. I almost wish they were involved with the company that was doing the Cliffside project. That construction worker that died had a wife and two kids. If the investigators can prove that the company knowingly used sub standard materials they can sue in civil court regardless of the outcome of any criminal charges. Money won’t replace his life but it can make the lives of his family easier.”
Lee was up by 5:30 even though it had been after one before she slept.
As soon as Johnny saw her he knew something was wrong. He pushed her over to the couch and lifted her out. After sitting down next to her, he pulled her onto his lap. She laid her head on his shoulder and started crying softly.
“Ok, tell me about it. It can’t be that bad.” He held her rocking just a little. “Shush…it can’t be that bad.”
“Your aunt came to my office (sniff) and she wanted (sniff sniff) to see you” She opened her eyes. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you worrying about it when you were at work.” She shifted a slightly so she could look into his eyes. “Please don’t be mad at me.”
“You think I’m gonna be mad because you didn’t want me worrying about something when I was working. Because you didn’t want me worrying about something so I would be safe and keep my mind on my work. I would be a real jerk to be mad at you for loving me so much.” He kissed her on the forehead. “Was she nice to you?”
“Very. She wanted to take us out to dinner but I thought it would be better here. So you could talk as much as you wanted to about anything you wanted.’
‘You did good. So why were you so upset?”
“Because I was scared. What if she blames me for her kids being into trouble and then she would be mean to you.”
“Only you would worry about something like that. I don’t always understand you but I always love you.”
“I . need to get up and fix your breakfast.” She said then yawned. “Excuse me.”
“Ya know I had some coffee and some of your sweet rolls at the station. Think I rather have a nap than eat right now. Come keep me company?”
“Sure…any chance of getting a back rub before you fall asleep?” Knowing Johnny wasn’t really that tired but now she was. She was tired and hurting. Before she would have never let him know that not wanting him to think she was weak.
“Think that can be arranged. Then when you feel better we’ll go to the store if you need to or do what you need me to do help get ready for tonight.”
She laid on her stomach as he kneaded the muscles starting at the base of her neck working down slowly to her knees. He smiled as the sounds she made changed from suppressing the pain filled gasps to the soft sounds of relaxed enjoyment. He turned her over and she opened her eyes sleepily, “Love ya boyo… soo much,” He slipped the small bolster behind her and watched as she settled back to sleep. He laid there next to her and soon was asleep also.
By 10:30 she was awake and ready to get busy. She could feel his hand on her back. Trying to move quietly she reached for the grab bar.
“What do you need?” His eyes opened at the first move she made. “You ok?” He sat up and swung his legs easily over the side of the bed. “Make sure you’re good and awake before you get up.”
“Not going anywhere since my chair is in the front room. You carried me in here remember? After I was such a cry baby.”
“You weren’t a cry baby.” He went out and got the chair and helped her in it. She went on into the bathroom and he went out to the kitchen and turned the coffee pot on. He opened the fridge and saw the fruit all ready and the batter for waffles. He sat the pan of water onto boil and put the sausage patties on to cook. He plugged the waffle iron in to heat up. He turned as she came into the kitchen. “Hey. Juice or soda?”
“I’m suppose to be fixing you breakfast.” She smiled at the expression on his face. She went over to the table and looked at her list . She giggled when she saw the heart he had drawn around the menu she had wrote out. Next to the question mark she had by dessert he had written coconut cream pie and a smiley face.
“That was Ben. They have the paper work for you to sign buying out Franklin. He said we could come down there tomorrow or he would send it to you. And they have the deed to your land all cleared up.”
“It’s our land…and contrary to your cousin’s parting dig it would be our land even if California didn’t have the community property laws. They couldn’t believe I didn’t have a prenup agreement. Didn’t bother to tell them I wouldn’t let the lawyer draw one up. They would have never understood why.”
“That’s an understatement . I think your exact words were if he drew one up you’d fire him.” He leaned down and kissed her. “You have a lot of faith in me.”
“It’s not faith if you can see it and touch it and feel it…Faith is believing in something you have no proof tangible proof of. I have all the proof I could ever want when I see you smile at me or when you skip breakfast to hold me when I have a panic attack. “
Rosemary pulled into the apartment’s parking lot. She looked around surprised at the modest but well kept building and lawn. As she went in rather straggly looking man in biker leathers was coming out of the ground floor apartment. He looked at her amused by the expression on the woman’s face.
“You must be Johnny’s aunt. Lee told my mom you were coming \over tonight so your car wouldn’t get tagged. Enjoy, that hell cat is one fine cook. And tell my mijo I said to save me a slice of pie.” He smiled and left, chuckling to himself. Another week and he could shave and get a haircut…then maybe he wouldn’t frighten nice ladies.
Johnny answered the doorbell feeling just a little nervous. “Aunt Rose, it’s good to see you. Come in…”
He surprised her by bending down and kissing her on the cheek. He had never been comfortable with close contact. He had never kissed her before without her initiating it by kissing him. He lead her over to the couch as Lee came out of the kitchen.
“Mrs. Hughes, welcome.” Lee said. “Boyo, why don’t you lay your aunt’s jacket and purse in on the extra bed.” He left the room. Softly, “I told him everything about the letter and invitation. I thought he should know. And that you needed to know what I told him.”
“Thank you. You have a lovely apartment.” Rosemary said looking around but her eyes kept going back to the paintings over the mantle.
“Her name is Katie or Red Moon. John loves and respects her greatly. As do I.” The challenge was back in Lee’s voice just as when they had had this conversation before.
“Of course, I didn’t mean it as criticism.” To herself she thought now I know why that man called her a hellcat. She’d fight to the death for Johnny. He had heard Lee as he came down the hallway and smiled at her loyalty to his parents. The look on his aunt’s face told him she approved of Lee’s defense of him and his parents.
He sat down next to Rose.. “I never could say it before… and then when I did write to tell you…you never got the letter. I love you , Aunt Rose and I want to thank you for all you did for me. I …we would be happy if you wanted to be part of our lives and our family. What…Josh and Tiffany did…that was them not you.” He leaned over and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek.
“John , thank you. And you too of course Lee. Thank you for making him so happy.” She reached out for Lee’s hand. “I will be having a serious talk with my children concerning their behavior. I am so sorry for what they did to you, both of you.”
“They’re your adult children and their actions are their own. The consequences of their actions are their own. I’m not sure if they’ll face criminal charges but I am sure they are facing several civil law suits.”
“Well now that is settled, lets eat. Baby girl here has cooked up some of my favorite things.” He got up. “It’ll just take a minute or two to get everything on the table. She made some celery seed dressing for the salad but we have others if you don’t like that.”
“That sounds delicious.” Rosemary said as the two went out into the kitchen. She could hear the laughter even if she did not hear the conversation. She got up and went over to the paintings and was looking at them when Johnny and Lee came in with as cart. Johnny placed the items on the table.
“Everything is ready. What would you like to drink? We have soda, coffee, ice tea…and I think there maybe some wine, probably some kind of white. I have no idea what goes with what. I just drink what I like.” Lee said in a much friendlier tone of voice.
“Ice tea is fine. “ She went over to the table. It was set beautifully. The starched and ironed white linen table cloth had an over cloth of handmade lace. The china was a delicate pattern of small grayish blue flowers with silver trim. The silver had a small flower that matched the dishes. The crystal was Waterford. In the center of the table was an antique bowl with some sort of wild rose , pale pink with some having a lavender tinge. Johnny helped Lee transfer to a regular chair after getting the drinks. Instead of sitting at the head of the table Johnny sat across from her, next to Lee. “The table is lovely.”
“Thank you. This is my great grandmother’s china and crystal. My great grandmother’s father gave it to her on her wedding day. The table cloths were my mother’s. My dad had the lace made when he was in Ireland just before they were married.”
“I wish I could have seen you on your wedding day. I think that is what I am most angry about.”
“We have it on film…The party Maria and Hector gave for us and the wedding rehearsal and the wedding. Maybe we can watch some of it. I never get tired of seeing her looking like an angel. The doll in the case, next to the fireplace has an exact copy of her wedding gown on. Roy and his family gave it to her for her birthday last year.”
“And Johnny made that beautiful case.” Lee added with pride. The meal proceeded with everyone talking about favorite memories. Rose was delighted by the change in Lee’s attitude towards her and understood when her attitude towards Joshua and Tiffany did not. All to soon the evening was over.
“We need to make plans for you to come visit me. Johnny when I saw that lovely table, I couldn’t help but remember all the meals you looked so uncomfortable. I always thought it was because you were afraid of breaking something or knocking something over. Now I realize it was the attitude of my children that made you feel so uncomfortable. You could never consider that house your home because of them. And because I chose not to confront them about their behavior. For that I am truly sorry. And for you welcoming me into your home I am truly grateful. Anyone who sees you here sees you are completely at home.
“I’m just sorry it happen this way. I am glad they aren’t involved with the Cliffside project a man died because of shoddy work…and Johnny was hurt because of it…Just one of the twists and turns fate puts in our way testing us. But I think we pasted this test with flying colors.”
“Just wish those colors hadn’t been me… black and blue and that ugly greenish purple you turn after a few days.” Johnny joked. “Come on. I’ll walk you down to your car. You stay put and I’ll be back up to help you clean up. “
They went out to her car and Johnny gave her a hug.
“I want you to come for a visit soon.” Rose said as she got into the car.
“I’m not sure Lee’ll do that but know you are always welcome here.”
“I understand. But let her know you both are welcome there. I don’t think I will be spending as much time in Europe for awhile.”
Two weeks later as Lee and Johnny were having breakfast they were watching the news.
“In a follow up of the accidents that took place at the Cliffside restaurant construction site the district attorney has filed charges against CS McFarland for a number of violations of the housing code as well as causing the death of a construction worker. Other properties that were built by Mr. McFarland and his partners are also being investigated. In a related case a clerk with the county treasure’s office has admitted to changing the plot numbers and falsifying documents so that McFarland and his partners doing business as H&H Development could purchase land for a new housing development.
Richard Hutton a lawyer here in LA will be investigated by the Bar Association for his activity related to these charges. Joshua Hughes, Thomas and Tiffany Hughes Hutton and Ralph Franklin are also facing charges as is well known criminal lawyer Martin Blackaby.” Lee paled as they showed footage from that day. Johnny blanched as he watched himself hit the cliff . Quickly he got up and turned the television.
“I feel sorry for your aunt but I can’t for your cousins.” Lee told him. “Ben and the lawyers for WBS will handle everything and we can just concentrate on our vacation.”
“And on the adventure the twists and turns of fate has in store for us.”
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