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What Matters Most

An Emergency Story by

Jean H
 

 Links to Part 1. 2. 3.

 

          CHAPTER 1

                                                         

The red Chevy Camaro sped recklessly along the darkened streets of Los Angeles. The driver glanced anxiously in his rearview mirror before abruptly making a hard right turn…taking it entirely too fast.  The vehicle, in response to the abusive handling, jerked wildly back and forth as its operator struggled to regain control. The tires squealed loudly in protest as they spun furiously in place… a plume of smoke erupted and the smell of burning rubber filled the air. The vehicle finally righted itself and the engine roared as the car accelerated; picking up speed once again as it hit the straightaway.

 

“Carl…CARL!” the young man in the passenger seat screamed.  “What are we gonna do?” He twisted his body around to look behind them; sheer panic registered on his face.  “He’s right on our tail!" 

 

“Man…we can’t get caught!  I won’t go back to jail!”

 

“SHUT UP EDDIE!” the twenty year old driver growled out. His eyes once again shifted to look in the rear view mirror as he saw the squad car bearing down on them…lights and sirens blaring. He gripped the steering wheel in his sweaty palms as he pushed his right foot down even harder on the accelerator.

 

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Officer Drew Burke had his full attention on the fleeing Camaro in front of him.  His friend, John Gage, occupied the passenger seat next to him. John was not unaccustomed to traveling lights and siren in an emergency vehicle.  As a firefighter/paramedic he and his partner, Roy DeSoto, did it all the time. However, from a rescue squad to a police squad, he was finding out…was quite a different perspective.

 

 John took his eyes off the swiftly passing road in front of him to momentarily glance at his “temporary partner.” The dark haired paramedic took a chance and looked over at the speedometer…it read 50mph.  He reached down and double checked that his seat belt was firmly secure.

 

It was.  But given their current predicament… it provided him with little comfort. 

 

Drew reached over and grabbed the mic off of its mount and brought it to his lips.

 

“Dispatch… this is 2 David 10… we are in pursuit of a red Chevy Camaro… copy a 10-28,” Drew said as he keyed up.

 

“Go ahead 2 David 10,” the dispatcher responded.

 

“534 A – Adam… C - Charlie…R - Robert repeating 534ACR. We are heading Westbound on Market Street from Orchard. The vehicle has two occupants in the front seat…requesting back up.”

 

“We are 10-4 on your traffic…units in the area able to assist 2 David 10 please acknowledge.”

 

“2 David 8 is en-route.”

 

“David 6 and 12 are rolling from the PD.”

 

“10-4…I have David 6, 8, and 12 responding,” the dispatcher confirmed.

 

“2 David 10…I have three units en=route to assist. Be advised the plate on that vehicle is coming back 10-99… What is your current location?”

 

“2 David 10 …I copy. We are still Westbound on Market…passing Walensa.”

 

“Wha...,” John started to ask.

 

“That means it’s stolen,” Drew explained without looking over…anticipating what his friend was about to ask.

 

“Ahhh…that’s just great,” the dark haired paramedic muttered under his breath. He was wishing he hadn’t given Drew grief about their first call of the day.  He hadn’t anticipated an “Adam 12” pursuit being in their future that night.

 

“Good Lord,” John thought “Roy was right…as usual.  What the hell have I gotten myself into?

 

“2 David 10…additional information... the suspects reportedly committed a robbery and then stole a patron’s vehicle,” dispatch advised.

 

“Roger that.”

 

The young officer had the radio mic resting on his thigh with his right hand clenched around it. He brought it back and forth to his mouth as he called out their locations.  His left hand was on the steering wheel expertly guiding the squad as both vehicles raced through town. 

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“LOOK OUT!” Eddie yelled as both hands clamped down on the dashboard in front of him. Carl sized up the situation quickly…their path was blocked by vehicles taking up the lanes of traffic directly in front of them.  The young man had no choice.

 

“HANG ON,” Carl shouted as he swerved to the left…into oncoming traffic. 

 

Fortunately there were only a couple of cars coming from the other direction.  The stunned drivers were able to maneuver their vehicles out of the way to avoid a collision…horns blasting loudly expressing their displeasure.  Drew carefully followed his suspect; his eyes checking his surroundings ensuring he was taking every precaution necessary.  He didn’t want to terminate the chase… and his supervisor had yet to order him too, however, he also did not want any innocent civilians injured in the process.

 

Carl laughed at the angst he had caused to the extremely angry motorists. As soon as he cleared the cars to his right, he pulled the vehicle back across the double yellow lines.  They were rapidly approaching the next intersection and he noted that the traffic light was changing from yellow to red.

 

The damn copper is STILL behind us,” Eddie screamed in irritation. 

 

Carl cursed inwardly at the officer’s persistence.  He had hoped the little maneuver into oncoming traffic would have been enough for the guy to back off; given he had almost caused a head on collision. He realized the officer’s determination was probably stemming from the fact that he was now well aware that the car was stolen…and why.  Carl stared at the red light in front of him and knew there was no turning back…he couldn’t stop or it would be all over.  The young man pushed the accelerator yet again and ran the light in a second desperate attempt to lose the relentless officer.   At the same time, a car full of teenagers in a blue Ford Torino happened to be traveling through the intersection.  The driver, seeing the Camero out of the corner of his eye, hit the gas trying desperately to get out of the way.  He almost succeeded, yet the back bumper was clipped by the Camero, causing the vehicle to spin around until it finally slammed into the curb coming to a stop.

 

“Dispatch….2 David 10,” Drew called out, “the offending vehicle struck another car in the intersection…Market and Palmeda.  Have one of the assisting units respond to check for injuries.”

 

“2 David 8…I am about six blocks away. I will check and advise.”

 

“Roger that…I have 2 David 8 checking on the MVA.”

 

John’s head whipped back to look at the car that had just been hit; fighting with his instincts to want to turn around and go back to see if anyone had been hurt.

 

His eyes betrayed him as they snuck another look at the speedometer…it now read 58mph.

 

“Uh…Drew,” the young man was finally able to get out,” he did not like the direction this was heading, but at the same time did not want to distract his friend from the task at hand.

 

All of a sudden, the red vehicle hit the brakes… slowing the car enough to make a hard left turn down a side street.

 

Drew called out the new direction to the responding units, and then turned to look at John. 

 

“This is a dead end street…so they are trapped.  The offenders are probably going to bail out and take off running in different directions.  Just sit tight…ok?”

 

“Ya…I’m definitely good with that plan,” John replied.

                                                                                         

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“DAMN IT!” Carl screamed again in frustration as he realized he had nowhere to go.   He slammed on the brakes bringing the vehicle to a rapid standstill…and threw the gear shift into park.  He looked over at the young man sitting next to him and nodded his head. 

 

Beads of sweat rolled steadily down Eddie’s face as his eyes widened in despair. 

 

There is no other way,” Carl stated firmly as he read the hesitation on his partner’s face.

 

Eddie shut his eyes briefly and slowly nodded back… his fist closing tightly around the handle of the door.

 

 “Ok…let’s do this,” he replied with acceptance in his voice.

 

 Seeing the vehicle come to a stop, Drew also brought his squad to a screeching halt and shifted it rapidly into park.  They could hear the sound of sirens in the distance as the doors of the Camero suddenly flew open and the two offenders exited...

 

…but they did not flee as the young officer had predicted.

 

Instead, they turn and faced their pursuers. John’s stare was fixated on the men before him…and then his eyes moved to the guns that were being raised and pointed straight at them.  Drew scrambled to exit the squad and drew his own pistol from its holster.

“I’m sorry John,” his friend barely managed to get out before the sound of gunfire filled the air.      

 

Chapter 2 - The New Girl

 

Two days earlier…

 

Twenty-three year old John Gage was standing in line with his new girlfriend waiting patiently to be seated for dinner.  He was in no hurry. His 6’1 frame towered over the stunningly beautiful little blonde.  John positioned himself behind her and had both arms wrapped affectionately around the girl’s shoulders.  He leaned down to place a tender kiss on the side of her face.  Katie turned her head and smiled up at him, her blue eyes sparkling mischievously, as she proceeded to kiss him longingly on the mouth.  She pulled back and gave him a wink before fitting her body snugly against his chest.

 

The couple had spent the afternoon taking a long leisurely walk along the beach; padding barefoot in the wet sand as the water rushed over their feet. It had been a perfect day. The sky was clear and the ocean wind had carelessly blown Katie’s long hair gently about her tanned face. They had talked and laughed…totally at ease in one another’s company.  As John stood there holding her, he closed his eyes and could still smell remnants of sun tan lotion and fresh ocean air that lingered about her... and it was absolutely exhilarating. His hands shifted and began to gently caress the girl’s bare arms, moving slowly up and down her skin which was silky soft… and still warm from the heat of the sun.  Katie found herself shivering at his touch. John Gage’s interest in food was rapidly diminishing…as another desire made itself known. He did not fight the temptation in the slightest and bent down to kiss her again; continuing what she had started. He unexpectedly felt a swift and painful kick to the back of his right calf.

 

Hey!” the young man barked in annoyance as he was forced to break away from his current activity.

 

John turned and saw the smirk upon Drew’s face.  The young man’s attractive redheaded wife stood at his side, their arms wrapped around each other’s waist.

 

He mouthed the words “get a room.”

 

Pam snickered as she read her husband’s lips. The couple both knew John…and if they didn’t put the brakes on the seemingly increasing display of public affection, they would need a table for two instead of four.

 

John raised his right eyebrow and gave his friend a deviate grin.  He shrugged his shoulders in a “what can I say” gesture… and then sighed and turned around.  He didn’t want to be rude, but Katie was…irresistible. They had been dating for almost five weeks now and he was completely enamored with the twenty-one year old girl.

 

Recently, Katie had been hinting about coming to the fire house to visit him…but he had some valid reservations on delaying that event for as long as possible.

 

John really wanted her to meet “most” of his crew mates.  Roy DeSoto, his partner and best friend for the last two years, had already met her.  Roy was four years older and was sometimes more like an overprotective big brother…but John didn’t mind. He had no siblings of his own and his parents had died when he was young, leaving him pretty much alone in the world except for his Aunt Rosemary.

 

 Roy and his wife Joanne…were like family to him.  They had two wonderful kids, Chris age six and Jennifer age two, who both adored their dad’s partner and referred to the dark haired paramedic as “Uncle Johnny”. 

 

Their Captain, Hank Stanley, was a first rate guy and the crew felt very fortunate to have him. Especially knowing what C-Shift went through with their overbearing boss… Captain Hookrader. Stanley was an excellent leader and truly cared about the men under his command; both professionally and personally.

 

Marco Lopez was one of two linemen at their station.  He was a good man, hard worker, and hands down… probably the best cook on their shift. Mike Stoker was an incredible engineer, but kind of on the quiet side.  He generally sat back and watched the activity around him with mock interest. This left the last lineman, Chet Kelly aka “the phantom”.  Chet made up for Stoker’s quiet demeanor tenfold.  The stocky Irishman was full of life, energy, and practical jokes… with John being his favorite “pigeon”. The two were friends, but nothing gave the lineman more pleasure than getting under John’s skin; and girls that the young paramedic dated were on the top of his hit list to torment him about.

 

John knew he would have to concede sooner or later…his crewmates had already picked up on his happy mood as of late, and probably assumed it had to do with a girl.  He felt his relationship with Katie was on pretty solid ground and figured it was time.  If the overzealous lineman went too far,  the “phantom’s” shenanigans would pale miserably in comparison to what station 51's youngest crew member intended to inflict upon one Chester B. Kelly.

                                                                                                 

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“How many in your party?” the hostess inquired as they finally made it up to the podium.

 

John hesitated a moment as thoughts of snatching Katie up in his arms…and making good on Drew’s earlier comment barged into his head. 

 

“Four,” he replied regretfully.

 

The hostess checked her seating chart and reached over grabbing the menus.

 

“Please follow me,” she beckoned as they began moving towards a nearby table.

 

They reached their destination and the two men pulled the chairs out for their respective girls.

 

“Your server Helen will be here momentarily…I hope you enjoy your meal,” she said with enthusiasm as she turned and headed back to her station.

 

The couples reviewed the menu and placed their order when the waitress arrived.

 

John lifted the water glass to his lips with his left hand as his right arm came up and rested comfortably across Katie’s shoulders.  

 

  “So tell us....how did you two meet?” Pam began, watching them with interest.

 

“At the Annual Fire Department picnic last month,” Katie answered “we just started talking and hit it off.  Johnny asked me out to dinner…and we have been seeing each ever since.”  She glanced over and gave him an adoring look.

 

Pam and Drew’s eyes darted back and forth between the young girl and their friend, picking up on the intensity the couple already felt for one another. They were thrilled. The Burkes had known John for quite a few years, and he never seemed to be able to keep a relationship going for very long for one reason or another.  They hoped things would be different this time...and that maybe Katie was finally the right one.

 

John smiled back at her before turning to his friends.

 

“It's been really great...but I almost blew it and had seriously considered not going to the picnic this year.  We were on duty the day before and I ate a lot of smoke in a house fire.  I was still feeling kinda lousy the next day, but figured there was no point just sitting around my apartment...so I went.  Also," the young man added with a knowing grin, "I would never have heard the end of it from Chris and Jennifer DeSoto if I didn't show up...not to mention my partner.” 

 

Pam laughed.  She knew how much Roy’s kids meant to the young man, and that he would rather walk over hot coals then risk disappointing them.  She hoped that someday he would have a wife and family of his own...he deserved it.

 

“It proved to be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time" John continued as Pam pulled her thoughts back to the conversation, "because Katie and I probably wouldn't be together.” He contemplated, not for the first time, of the possibility that Brice or Chet Kelly could have met and started dating her instead of him. He really didn't think Katie would dig either one of them...but still. He cringed at the thought and immediately pushed it once again from his mind.

 

“So...let's hear it," John stated turning the topic to his friends. "How has married life been treating you guys? It’s coming up on almost a year already…kind of hard to believe.”

 

“It’s been wonderful,” Pam replied reaching out to put her hand on Drew’s. “I’m still trying to figure out the whole cooking thing, but Drew is very patient with me…I’m getting better at it. The only thing I am having some difficulty with is adjusting to when he is working the night shift.  It gets…a little lonely.”

 

“Yea, but she is only going to be alone at night for about six more months,” Drew replied.

 

“Why?” Johnny asked, “Did you get a permanent shift or something?”

 

“Not exactly…”

 

The couple glanced at each other with a secretive grin.

 

“Pam…is pregnant! We just found out a few weeks ago.” Drew said proudly.

 

“What? That’s great news…Congratulations!” John got up and came around the table to give Pam a hug and then slapped his friend on the back.

 

“A Dad huh…man, that’s incredible!  I am so happy for you guys.”

 

“Congratulations,” Katie added sincerely “how are you feeling Pam?”

 

“I have been kind of tired and a bit nauseas,” she admitted, “but luckily I was feeling much better tonight…we haven’t seen Johnny for a couple months and didn’t want to cancel.  Also, we were anxious to meet you.”

 

Drew looked affectionately at his wife.

 

“I feel so bad that she has been sick, but she has been a real trooper and hasn’t complained a bit.” He stated giving her hug. She smiled back at him. “Well it’s worth it.  We are both so excited…and so are our families.” 

 

The foursome continued to discuss the Burke’s new addition and John noted with satisfaction that Katie and Pam got along extremely well.  Drew got his friend’s attention and nonchalantly jerked his head towards Katie giving him a thumbs-up.  John grinned back and nodded his head in agreement.

 

“Excuse me…” Helen politely interrupted the group a short time later, “your dinners are here.”  The bus boy hurried to remove their salad plates and the waitress set down their food in front of them.

 

“Is there anything else I can get for you?”

 

“No, I think we are good…thanks,” John replied.

 

“Ok…I hope you enjoy your meal,” she said cheerfully before turning away.

 

  “So Johnny…how has work been?” Drew asked as he started to cut up the steak on his plate.

 

“Ah…you know…busy as usual.  We had a real bad structure fire last shift… It was all over the news. Roy and I were doing a sweep and a couple of the guys from station 110 fell through the floor.  We barely got them extricated and out of the building before the explosion wiped the place out… It was a close one.  That same shift we had a kid’s hand caught in the ball return machine at the bowling alley, a boating accident, an eight car pileup on the freeway with entrapment, a chick freaking out from an overdose who firmly believed she  was invincible and could jump off of a third floor balcony.  And to round the day out…a man decided to go rappelling with his friend and ended up getting stranded and going into a diabetic coma…halfway down the cliff. 

 

Drew shook his head, “Sounds like some pretty routine calls,” he said…knowing full well he was baiting his friend.

 

“Routine?   Routine!”

 

Pam looked at both men and put her right elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her hand. 

 

She let out a knowing sigh.

 

“Drew…come on!” John groaned.  You guys are like rolling secretaries… Taking reports all day long, writing a few tickets, and directing traffic on our runs and at accident scenes while the firemen do all the work. The true danger for you guys is the risk of getting a paper cut… or a cramp in your fingers from all the writing,” John replied joining in the byplay.

 

“Katie,” Pam interjected “are you sure you know what you are getting into dating this guy?” she asked teasingly, hooking her thumb in John’s direction. "I swear they both should come with a warning label. Every time these two get together, the conversation eventually turns to shop-talk about the police and fire Departments.”

 

Katie looked at John with a gleam in her eye and laughed.

 

“Oh, I think I can handle it,” she said with a grin.

 

John pulled her close before turning to his friends…

 

“Katie’s dad is a police officer.  Actually, he is in charge of Investigations for the Los Angeles Police Department…Homicide Division,” John stated.

 

Drew looked at her in surprise, “Your dad is Commander Larson?”

 

Katie nodded her head, “do you know him?”

 

“I know him by reputation.  One of my previous Field Training Officers just got a promotion about six months ago and works in the unit…the guys really respect him.  That’s pretty cool.” Drew stated.

 

“And my older brother is a fireman with LA County…like Johnny. So yea, this is nothing.  You should hear my dad and brother when they get going!”

 

“I can only imagine,” Pam stated with a sympathetic look, “your poor mother.”

 

The couples continued their conversation laughing and enjoying their evening out. As they finished their meal, Helen returned to clear away their plates.

 

“Would you care for coffee or possibly some desert?” She inquired politely.

 

Drew looked around the table. “I am pretty full…but I could go for a cup… Anyone else?”

 

The two girls nodded their heads.

 

“Johnny?”

 

He could tell that his friend’s attention was on something else… And this time it wasn’t the pretty little blonde sitting at his side.  A look of unease was clearly visible upon his face.

 

“John?” he said again as he started to turn his head to see what his friend was staring at.

 

The young paramedic took the napkin from his lap and threw it on the table before quickly pushing back his chair and standing up.

 

“What is it?” Katie asked sensing something was wrong.

 

John Gage looked at the waitress and pointed his index finger at her, “I need you to go and call the Fire Department…right now.  Give them this address and advise them there is a man having a possible heart attack.  Do you understand?” He said in an authoritative voice.

 

Helen nodded her head vigorously up and down and hurried away.

 

“Drew…I need your help,” John stated as he ran from the table.        

 

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“Frank…what’s wrong?” the gray haired woman asked looking worriedly at her husband.

 

“My… chest,” he gasped with a labored breath.  The man’s hands flew up clutching at the fabric of his shirt in agony. “It…it feels like someone is sitting…on..on my chest…c-can’t breathe!”

 

The man started to collapse just as the young paramedic reached out to grab him…gently guiding him to the ground.

 

“Frank!” the woman shouted in dismay.

 

“Sir…sir? Can you hear me? My name is John Gage…I am a paramedic with the LA County Fire Department.  Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

 

“Crushing…pain…pressure…in in my chest…h-help me…” he stuttered in fear before suddenly lapsing into unconsciousness.

 

John's fingers reached for the man’s neck...he palpated two faint beats of a carotid pulse before it was gone.

 

The young paramedic’s hands promptly went to the older man’s shirt and ripped it open… sending the buttons soaring in every direction. His trained eyes moved to his victim’s stomach and he noted there was no movement.

 

“He’s in full cardiac arrest,” John stated as he raised his right arm, making a fist with his fingers, and brought it down on the man’s chest. He then placed his hands on top of one another, intertwining his fingers, as he began giving chest compressions on the man’s sternum.

 

Frank!” the woman screamed again hysterically as the watching crowd started pressing in.

 

“DREW!” the dark haired paramedic called out before he moved to give rescue breathes.

 

The young officer quickly went into action.

 

OK…everybody step back please.  Give him room to work…come on now…that’s it.”

 

Once he had the gawking on-lookers under control… Drew moved in to console the victim.

 

“Ma’am…it’s ok.  I am a police officer… and my friend here is a paramedic.  He does this kind of stuff all the time. Is this man your husband?”

 

“Yes," she choked out. "Please…can you tell me what’s happening?”

 

“I’m not sure ma’am…but trust me…he is in very capable hands.  What’s your name?” he asked gently.

 

“Martha"

 

“Ok Martha, the fire department is going to be here any minute and they are going to find out what is going on with your husband. We just need to stay calm.”

 

John continued providing CPR and was relieved to hear the sound of the rescue squad pulling up to the front of the building. The medic’s from station 10 came through the door laden with their equipment.  Two additional firemen were following close behind. Senior paramedic Tony Freeman spied one of their own working feverishly over the fallen man.

 

“Johnny…what have we got?” he asked.

 

“Witnessed cardiac arrest…he’s been down about three and a half minutes.

 

“Hey Greg,” he nodded to one of the firemen, “grab an ambu bag and keep him ventilated. Tony, can you or Steve take over compressions for me?”

 

“I got it,” Tony’s partner called out as he moved in to take John’s place.

 

Tony grabbed the biophone while the dark haired paramedic opened the case containing the defibrillator. 

 

“Rampart…this is squad 10…how do you read me?”

 

John turned the unit on and reached in grabbing the paddles and placed them on the man’s chest.

 

“Go ahead Squad 10…we read you,” Dixie replied.

 

“Rampart, we have a male….approximately sixty years ol…”

 

“He’s in V-fib!”

 

“Stand by Rampart…victim is in V-fib,” Tony repeated before throwing the handset down and grabbing the gel.  He squeezed the substance onto the paddles and hit the charger as John quickly rubbed them together before placing them back on the man’s chest.

 

“One…two…three…four hundred!” Tony advised.

 

“Clear!”

 

John squeezed the triggers and the man’s body jerked as the shock traveled through him.

 

Both men’s eyes went to the scope.

 

John shook his head, “No conversion... charge it again.”

 

Tony punched the button again and the unit sound continued to crescendo until Tony yelled…

 

“Four hundred…hit him!”

 

The man’s body convulsed one again as his wife let out a terrified scream.

 

Oh my God…what is that thing?  Please...what are you doing to him?”

 

Drew put his arm around the woman’s shoulders and tried to reassure her.

 

John held the paddles in place as he glanced again at the scope. “He’s back….looks like a rate of about… forty.  I will get him patched in and get started on his vitals,” he advised.

 

Tony grabbed the handset and updated Rampart on the status of their victim.

 

Dr. Kelly Brackett’s voice came booming over the radio.

 

“10-4 Squad 10…start an IV with D5W to keep open…we’ll get some meds on board after I get the vitals and you can send me a strip. Is your patient breathing on his own yet?”

 

“That’s a negative Rampart,” Tony responded.

 

“10-4…also insert an esophageal airway”

 

Steve nodded, indicating he heard and would take care of it.  John snapped open the drug box and tossed an IV bag and administration kit towards Tony.  His victim was diaphoretic and the glistening sweat covered his body. John seized the man's shirt and quickly used it to wipe away the moisture before grabbing the EKG leads and applying them to his chest.  He then checked the monitor to make sure the man’s heart was still thumpin at an acceptable rate before moving on to the next task.

 

“Tony, he’s patched in.” John stated, “You can send Rampart a strip…and I will have the vitals here in a minute.”

 

The three men worked quickly and efficiently over the victim until the ambulance appeared and he was ready to be transported. The dark haired paramedic slid his arms underneath the man's armpits and then reached forward securing grasping both wrists in his hands.  When he was set he nodded to the other men.

 

"Let's lift on three..." he instructed "...and watch the IV.  Malcolm, can you guys slide the gurney over here just to our right? Good...ok, nice and easy now..."

 

"One...two...three..."

 

They picked the unconscious man up in one fluid movement and gently lowered him into place. The attendants swiftly covered him with a blanket, and strapped him in place before loading him into the back of the ambulance. Tony Freeman grabbed the biophone and drug box and slid onto the seat across from his patient.

 

“Hey Johnny,” Tony called over his shoulder, ““Thanks for the help Pal.”

 

“Anytime,” he replied with a grin and then walked over to his friend and the still very shaken older woman.

 

“Johnny,” Drew stated, “this is Martha…the victim’s wife.”

 

“Hi Martha,” John greeted her.

 

“What…what happened to my husband?” she asked in a shaky voice.

 

“He went into cardiac arrest,” the young man answered her “which means his heart stopped and he wasn’t breathing.  We don’t know why…but he is stable now.  Has anything like this happened before?”

 

“Nnoo,” she stammered. “He did mention he was having some trouble catching his breath the last few days…and he had some indigestion.”

 

“Ok Martha, it’s gonna be alright. The paramedics are going to take him into Rampart Hospital…and they will find out what’s wrong. The medical team in the Emergency Room there are excellent.  Try not to worry…ok?”

 

“Thank you…so much,” she cried.

 

He smiled at her.

 

“You’re welcome. Do you want to ride in with him?” John asked.

 

She nodded and he escorted her to the side of the ambulance, opened the passenger’s side door, and assisted her in. He gave her another encouraging smile before heading to the rear of the vehicle and pulled open the back door, poking his head inside.

“Hey Tony, just some history for ya…the wife claims her husband has been having some difficulty breathing for the last few days…and also complaints of indigestion.  No previous cardiac episodes. She is going in with you guys...her name is Martha. I am sure the Doc is gonna want to talk with her.”

 

“Cool…thanks Johnny, we will pass that on to Brackett.”

 

John withdrew his head and shut the doors, pulling on the handles to make sure they were secure.  He met back up with Drew and the two men walked back to their table and the women who were waiting for them.

 

Katie reached up and threw her arms around John’s neck giving him a big hug.

 

“That was amazing,” she said quietly to him. “I am so proud of you.”

 

He gazed into her face with an affectionate smile, “Thank you,” he said sincerely. “Now…how about you and I get out of here?”

 

Her eyes sparkled as she nodded her head in agreement.

 

Drew found their waitress and they paid their bill, despite the owners persistent attempts to give them their food for free in light of the incident that had just occurred.

 

The two couples stepped out onto the sidewalk and were saying their good-byes.

 

“Hey Johnny,” Drew stated, “we have been talking back and forth about our jobs…so I was thinking…how about you come and do a ride along with me this Friday?” he challenged. “That way you can see everything up close and personal. I’m sure my supervisor would clear it.”

 

“Far out,” John answered “I get off duty at 8:00am Friday morning. What shift you workin?”

 

“I’m on afternoons…3p-11p. Let me talk to my sergeant tomorrow and I will get it set up.”

 

Katie and Pam looked at each other and shook their heads.

 

“MEN!” they said in unison.  

 

 

Chapter 3  Pushing the Envelope

 

At 7:42am the next morning, John Gage pulled into the fire station parking lot.  He was doing ok time wise and thought he could grab a quick cup of coffee before getting dressed. He hadn’t intended on staying at Katie’s quite so late but, well…it happens. He had overslept this morning and that translated into not getting his caffeine fix before coming into work…but it was a fair price to pay.

 

He trotted through the back door humming to himself as he dumped his stuff off on the bench in the locker room.  Roy was there and already getting dressed.

 

“Hey Johnny…how were your days off?  We didn’t see or hear from you at all. Joanne and the kids are going through “Uncle Johnny” withdrawal…now that Miss Katie is in the picture,” he said grinning evilly.

 

“Roy, it was absolutely fantastic!” John replied as he smiled broadly…that was until Chet Kelly’s face appeared from around the corner of the lockers.

 

“Who is Katie?” Chet asked “Gage’s new squeeze?”

 

“HOW?” the dark haired paramedic bellowed, “HOW DO YOU ALWAYS MANAGE TO DO IT?”

 

“Do what?” Chet asked innocently.

 

“You ALWAYS manage to appear at the precise moment when something is being discussed…that is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.”

 

“Johnny, my slow learning colleague, have you not figured it out by now that your feeble attempts to keep secrets from me, and the Phantom, will never work?  The Phantom is... ubiquitous,” he stated impressively.

 

“First of all Chet, you shouldn’t go around using grown up words that you and I both know you can’t even spell.  Secondly, I think I would know better than anyone in this fire station that “pain in the ass” is everywhere!  And lastly, you might want to warn the Phantom that he better watch his step on this one…because if his nose doesn’t stop sniffing around in my personal affairs, the “phantom” is gonna find himself on the receiving end of my expert rope tying abilities. And I don’t think he is going to like where he will be hanging from…” John said in a threatening voice as he angrily pushed open the door and made his way to the day room.

 

Roy concealed a laugh as he turned towards his locker and shook the blue uniform shirt from its hanger.

 

Chet watched the dark haired paramedic’s back as he stalked from the room without getting dressed. He turned back to his crew mate…

 

“So…who is Katie? Come on Roy...Cough up the juicy details," the lineman replied completely unaffected by his crewmate’s outburst.

 

Roy groaned.

 

“Listen Chet…I know my partner and recognize that look in his eye.  You would be wise to drop this and heed John’s warning   He really likes this girl and they have a good thing going so far.  If you blow it for him you’re gonna be hard pressed to get any of the other guys here to help you when he retaliates...including me.”

 

Chet shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to slam his locker door shut, a deviate grin prominently displayed on his face. He walked across the room and put his left hand up on the door before turning back to the senior paramedic.

 

"Roy, you need to relax pal.  It has been way too quiet around here.  We need a little action to liven things up a bit.  Gage gets so damn sensitive...but he knows deep down I am just messin with him.  And this one... is just too good to pass up!" Chet pushed on the door and disappeared as Roy  heard the lineman rapidly making his way across the floor of apparatus bay.

 

“Shit,” Roy thought.  Sometimes Chet Kelly's head was a hard as concrete...and nothing short of using a sledge hammer could break through when he got fixated on something. Roy gave an exasperated sigh as he quickly finished getting dressed. He knew from past experience the fireworks were about to start...and they were in for a long shift.

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 John marched into the day room and was relieved to see a fresh pot of coffee had just been made.

 

“You’re a lifesaver Dwyer,” he stated as he reached for a cup and proceeded to fill it with the steaming dark liquid.  He leaned back against the counter and took sip.  He figured he had a good five minutes before he needed to get back into the locker room and get changed.  He spied a plate of pastries on the table and thought about moving over to grab one.  His dark brown eyes narrowed into slits as his nemesis came through the door.  He hoped that Chet, for once in his life, would have enough sense to back off.

 

He didn’t.

 

“Hey guys,” Chet began as soon as he entered the room, “did ya hear Gage here has a new girlfriend…her name is Katie. When are you planning on bringing her around? Or have you already struck out and she has given you the “Dear John” letter, and you’re just too embarrassed to let your partner know another one got away.

 

John slammed his cup down hard on the counter causing the piping hot liquid to slosh over the edge, spilling onto his hand.

 

“AHHH...damn it!” he exclaimed as he moved to run his hand under the cold water at the kitchen sink.

 

Kelly...” he said in a low growl , “your toes are RIGHT on the line…and you better put that tiny brain of yours to use and think long and hard  about taking that step and crossing it…or ME.”

 

“Don’t ya think,” Chet continued, completely un-phased by his crewmate’s threat, “it is kind of ironic that even the rest of the civilized world recognizes Gage’s first name as synonymous with getting dumped. John my friend…you more than live up to the reputation of your name.  It’s also too bad,” the lineman added with a gleeful smile, “that you can’t transfer that strike average from your love life…to your bowling. You would consistently be getting a 300 average.”

 

Roy and the Captain had entered the day room at the same time... and had been standing just inside the doorway allowing them to hear most of the exchange between the two crew members. 

 

All eyes were drawn to the junior paramedic...waiting. John Gage shut off the water and grabbed a dish towel, drying off his hand as he turned around.  When he was finished, he threw it on the counter before making his way across the room towards his target.

 

 “Yea… Well in the next few minutes I am going have a new reputation…becoming renowned for making the name “Chet” synonymous with getting a serious ass-kicking that is going to take months of traction and therapy to correct .”

 

Dear God!” Hank thought… “Our shift hasn’t even started yet….”

 

“John,” the captain replied recognizing the perilous look on his young crew member’s face, “Go into the locker room and get changed.”

 

The young man’s eyes were still locked on the lineman as he continued towards him.

 

Chet's grinned faulted momentarily and he shuffled over to stand closer to his Captain.

 

John

 

“Cap…this will only take a minute,” he said in a promising voice.

 

“Locker room...now!”

 

The Captain turned to address his lineman, who was now standing so close to him that Hank was forced to take a couple of steps back before continuing.

 

Kelly…that’s enough,” he said sternly.

 

John threw his arms up in total disgust as he made his way out the door… grumbling uncensored comments under his breath that he was lucky his captain did not hear.

 

The dark haired paramedic reappeared from the locker room a short time later, a scowl still evident on his face, as the crew lined up for roll call.

 

“Ok boys,” Hank began reading from his clipboard. “The engine crew is going to conduct a fire drill at Thompson elementary school today at noon.  Roy, I need you and John to check on some new hydrants in the Bellville neighborhood.  Also, we've got a station inspection next week from the Battalion Chief and I want everything in tip top shape...including the rigs; understood?” He looked up at his men and they nodded their heads. His eyes traveled to his youngest crew member's long mop of dark hair.  John, recognizing the stare, shifted his gaze in the other direction. Hank let it go...for the time being. “Now, on to the chores for the day…"

 

“Lopez, you’ve got the day room…”

 

“Stoker, the dorm…”

 

“DeSoto you’re cooking…” A low groan escaped from the rest of the men's mouths at this pronouncement. The senior paramedic gave his crewmates a defiant stare.  He knew his culinary skills were no match with his beautiful and talented wifes…but he wasn’t THAT bad.

 

 “…and also check the air bottles with your partner.”

 

 “Gage, the latrine…”

 

“WHAT?” he shouted.

 

“and Kelly…the apparatus bay.”

 

A wide smile spread across the Irishman’s face.

 

 The Captain paused for a moment before adding, “However, taking into consideration Kelly here seems to have a compulsive desire to be involved in Gage’s business…I think it is only appropriate he be involved in all of it…so Chet, as a special treat, you can do all of his chores as well.

 

 “Ahhh, COME ON Cap…I was just messing around. I didn’t…”

 

“I hope,” Hank replied sternly, looking directly at the lineman “That this clarifies where I stand on the issue from earlier this morning. Gage…you got the day off.”

 

Cap, you are a fair and just leader,” John said as a huge smile appeared on his face.  He smacked his befuddled crewmate on the back.  If you all will excuse me, I’m gonna go grab a second cup of coffee…and read the paper.

 

 The rest of the men dispersed and got started on their work.

 

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“LA…Engine 51…respond for a wash down at the gas station…6254 Taylor Street 6-2-5-4 Taylor...cross street Farnsworth…time out 0953.”

 

The four men pile out of the day room, leaving John and Roy alone sitting at the kitchen table. John had a glass of milk in front of him…and took a big bite into the ripe red apple he was holding in his hand. 

 

“Don’t you ever stop stuffing your face?” Roy stated shaking his head.

 

“I’m a growing boy. Besides, I burned up a lot of calories last night,” he said with mischievous glint in his eyes, “and I need to replenish my reserves. You wouldn’t want me running low on energy in case I need to save your sorry butt today would ya?”

 

“In your dreams Junior…and worry about keeping your own sorry butt out of trouble,” Roy shot back.

 

“Anyhow, listen to me John…”

 

John?  Whoa…this is gonna be good!” He leaned forward eagerly from his chair resting his forearms on the kitchen table... an over exaggerated look of interest on his face. “What fatherly advise are ya gonna lay on me today? Is it worthy of note taking?”

 

 Some days communicating with his young partner was more exhausting then having to mule a 200 pound unconscious man down fifteen flights of stairs, in full turn out gear, during a structure fire. Roy ground his teeth together before trying again.

 

“Ok Junior... this is about Chet. You really, no… LISTEN to me…you have got to learn to let the crap he gives you roll off your back.  Just ignore him. I have told you this a hundred times; It just acts as a catalyst when you lose it. He knows he’s driving you crazy and for some irrational reason, it causes him to see just how far he can press an issue before a "Gage Flashover" hits...taking us all out in the process.”

 

John looked at his partner and rolled his eyes in annoyance.  He was in no mood to be lectured to about Chet Kelly...or listen to Roy's dumb analogies about his "lack of self control" when it came to his temper.  John brought the apple to his mouth and took another bite before changing the subject.

 

“Hey Roy,” the young man began as he set the fruit on the table... his fingers played nervously with the glass in front of him.

 

“Yea…what is it?”

 

“Ya know…I have been meaning to ask you.  I…I don’t want to pry or anything…but is everything ok…between you and Jo?"  

 

Roy’s head snapped up in surprise.

 

“Yes, things are fine.  I mean, we had some minor…ah, disagreements the last few weeks.  Mostly about her mother’s impending visit next month, but you know…nothing serious. Why?” the blonde haired paramedic asked suspiciously.

 

“Well, she umm…lately she just seems to be kind of a…well kind of has a… a dissatisfied look on her face.  Do you think…that… maybe you are losing your… uh…touch?”

 

Roy’s face turned immediately red with indignation at the insinuation.

 

“WHAT THE HELL KIND OF REMARK IS THAT? WHERE DO YOU GET OFF SAYING…?” Roy’s voice started to bellow...and then trailed off as he saw his partner lean back nonplussed in his chair and interlocked his fingers, resting them on his chest.  He raised his eyebrows in a questioning look before responding in his best “Roy DeSoto aka Big Bother” imitation…

 

“You just need to let that crap roll of your back junior…don’t get all riled…just ignore it.”

 

“Easier said than done isn’t it....my cheery, level headed...and oh so wise partner?” John replied with a smarmy look on his face.

 

“Well..I...it's just that...,” Roy stammered.

 

 "FINE...I get it....Happy?"

 

“Ya know…I am not sure, but I think I just witnessed the first signs of a “DeSoto rant. So that’s what I sound like?" the young paramedic stated with a nod of his head. "Not bad…but you have to put a little more feeling into it.  Ya really need to enunciate on those key “angry words”.  It gives the whole thing much more credibility. Don’t worry…you will get the hang of it.  I am an excellent teacher...or so I have been told.” He retrieved the apple and continued eating...a wide smirk spread across his handsome face as he chewed.

 

Roy knowing he had been duped by his young partner had to laugh.  Just then the phone rang and Roy pushed back his chair to answer it.

 

“Station 51…Fireman Roy DeSoto speaking.”

 

“Hi Katie, yes he is right here…hang on a second.”

 

John jumped out of his seat and pointed to the Cap’s office, indicating he would take the call in there.  He tossed the half eaten apple carelessly on the table, and it rolled precariously close to the edge…almost tumbling onto the floor.  Henry, the Department basset hound, eyed it longingly.  He dropped his head in defeat as the fruit halted its momentum.

 

 Roy shook his head at his partner’s enthusiasm regarding the young girl as he grabbed a pencil and a pad of paper and sat back down with his coffee.  He tapped the pencil rapidly on the table as he tried to figure what to pick up at the market later on to feed his crewmates.  They were not particularly fond of his culinary skills and didn’t hold back on letting him know it…as was evident by the outward grumbling at roll call.  As he pondered his choices he saw his partner emerge with a much less exuberant expression on his face. 

 

“What’s up Johnny? Is everything alright?”  Roy hoped the romance hadn’t come to end… again.  Chet would have a field day.

 

“Huh?” the young man sighed “Uh…yea, I guess.  Katie has been asking if she could come visit me at the station.  I have been putting it off…mostly because of an annoying lineman who shall remain nameless.  Anyhow, she is coming today…later this afternoon,” he added with a note of concern in his voice.

 

“Johnny, don’t worry. I think the Cap got his point across to Chet this morning.  He would be an idiot to keep pushing the issue.”

 

“Yea, but Chet IS an idiot Roy, that’s the problem. He isn’t smart enough to know when to call it quits.”

 

The older man knew his partner was right…but he didn’t want him to dwell on it either.

 

“So anyways… how did things go last night?” Roy asked trying to move the conversation along. “You two went out to dinner with Drew and his wife right?”

 

“Yea…it went really well. Pam and Katie hit it off right away…so that was cool.  Drew and Pam had some good news to share…they are expecting.  The baby is due in about six months…so they are pretty excited. After we finished with dinner an older guy dropped from a heart attack in the restaurant. The crew from station 10 came and we got him back.  Man, his wife was a mess…felt bad for her. Hey, that reminds me, can we swing by the hospital later? I want to check up on him and see how he is doing.”

 

Roy nodded his head. They heard the loud rumble of the diesel engine as it backed into the bay signally the rest of the crew were back in quarters.

 

“Drew and I bantered on about who has the more dangerous job again,” John laughed. “Pam gave us her standard eye roll. She is so used to it by now, but thought Katie would be put off…but she wasn’t. I told them about her dad and brother so she understood this was nothing new for her. Man, she is such an incredible girl…,” the young man said thoughtfully.

 

“Yes…so you have said,” Roy replied with a chuckle. 

 

“Anyways,” the younger man continued, “Drew still doesn’t have me convinced…so he thinks he is going to sway my opinion when I do a ride along with him this Friday.”

 

“What?”

 

“I am doing a ride along with Drew this Friday…the 3:00pm-11:00pm shift.

 

“Johnny, for God's sake, don’t you think we get enough excitement on our own shifts.  Why would you want to spend your day off doing that?

 

Doing what? Marco asked as the men trooped into the room. 

 

“Johnny’s friend Drew is Los Angeles Police officer and the two of them debate back and forth as to who has the more dangerous job. So my young partner here has decided to go work a shift with him this Friday,” Roy answered.

 

John nodded his head in confirmation.

 

“I don’t know amigo,” Marco said picking up the paper. “The LA coppers have really had their hands full lately…lots of burglaries, muggings, assaults, some shootings, and an officer was killed a couple weeks ago on a traffic stop.  I was also reading about a string of armed robberies they have been having...”

 

“Yea, I read about that too,” Mike replied.

 

“John,” Hank stated emphatically “Please…I have my own separate log just to keep track of the "Oh shit" moments you give me when you are working on my shift... where I can keep an eye on you. I don’t need the additional stress of knowing that you are running around town playing cops and robbers. If you value my sanity at all...you will call Burke and cancel.”

 

John gave his crew mates a look of exasperation and replied. “Come on …don’t ya think all of you are blowing this a little out of proportion? It’s just an eight hour shift…everything will be fine. Cap, I promise" the young man said putting his hand across his chest in a gesture of sincerity, "I will steer clear of any trouble.”

 

“Gage,” Chet said mockingly, “that’s a good one…you steering clear of trouble.  That’s about as likely as Marco here swearing off chili and refried beans...for the rest of his life.”

 

"Y eso nunca va a suceder," Marco muttered without looking up.

 

"Come again Marc?"

 

"Sorry,  I said...and that will never happen."

 

"Chet, go make yourself useful...why don’t you take those human fly shoes you keep talking about for a test run and scale the exterior of one of the high-rise buildings

downtown. I recommend starting on at least the twentieth floor," the dark haired paramedic replied flippantly.

 

“LA…squad 51,” Sam Lanier interrupted, “respond for a child choking at Carters Restaurant…938 Brentwood….9-3-8 Brentwood….cross street Howard…time out 1138.”

 

Captain Hank Stanley made his way to the podium “LA…squad 51 10-4”

 

The two paramedics raced to the squad and jumped in. If it was a total obstruction of the airway…they wouldn’t have much time.

 

They were grateful the location wasn’t too far from the station and as the truck turned the corner onto Brentwood, John spotted the restaurant up ahead.  A man in dress slacks and a button down shirt was on the sidewalk waving his arms frantically back and forth. John’s fingers were already wrapped around the handle to the squad door…

 

Before the vehicle even came to a stop the dark haired paramedic called over his shoulder…

 

“Roy, I’m…”

 

“YES…GO! I will bring the equipment.”

 

The door flew open and John leaped from the squad.  The man on the sidewalk was literally jumping up and down in total panic… He rushed up to meet the dark haired paramedic.

 

“THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE! PLEASE…THE BABY, I THINK SHE IS DYING!” he cried out.

 

John kept moving towards the restaurant door. The man, whose hands were now firmly locked onto the paramedics left arm, was forced to move with him.

 

“OK…you NEED to calm down and show me where they are,” John replied in a steady voice.

 

Yea…Yea…Ok...follow me! I’m the manager here and…. Oh my God, I can’t believe this happening!”

 

He released his vice like hold on John’s arm and the two men bolted through the door; the young paramedic closely following the man in front of him.  The restaurant was exceptionally crowded and they had to careen around tables and people with their chairs pushed out who were blocking their path. 

 

Folks…PLEASE! Move out of the way…We have an emergency here!” the man chastised as they tried to navigate their way through.

 

The young paramedic’s brown eyes finally came upon the hysterical young mother; her arms holding the thirteen month old girl.

 

John was already assessing the situation.  The baby was still conscious…but barely.  Her eyes were glazing over and she had a bluish tinge around her mouth.

 

It was going to be close…

 

The young mother stumbled towards the dark haired paramedic…her shaking arms thrusting her precious daughter towards him.

 

Please!  Save her….please don’t let my baby die!” she cried out in a pain filled voice.

 

John snatched the child out of the woman’s hands and quickly rolled the little girl into the prone position onto his left forearm.  She was a tiny little thing and he had no trouble supporting her weight.  He angled his left arm down, letting gravity work in his favor.  With his right hand, he delivered five forceful back blows to the child’s back... right between her shoulder blades.  He rolled her body back onto his right forearm, cradling her head with his hand.  He did five rapid chest thrust with the fingers of his left hand.

 

The obstruction did not budge...John repeated the process.  As he started the third set of back blows, the object suddenly flew from the child’s mouth as Roy came running up behind him with their equipment.

 

John felt the little girl go limp in his arms.  He quickly checked and confirmed she wasn’t breathing.

 

Damn it,” he thought.

 

He began mouth to mouth…gently blowing enough air into his small victim to get her chest to rise. He was careful not to be too forceful…he did not want air getting into the stomach causing the child to vomit and possibly aspirate.

 

Roy set the biophone down and threw open the lid; shoving the antenna into place… he grabbed the handset.

 

“Rampart…this is squad 51…how do you read?”

 

“Come on sweetheart,” John whispered, coaxing the little girl to respond in between breaths. He was still holding her protectively in his arms.

 

Stay with me little one…I am not gonna give up on you,” he thought as he continued his efforts.

 

John continued with the rescue breathing along with his fervent thoughts for his victim’s survival.  Many of the patrons realized what was happening and left their tables to gather around watching the drama unfolding before them.

 

It seemed no one in the room dared to draw breath; until…

 

The young paramedic pulled away as the child abruptly took a deep gasp of air and her eyes flew open.  She hesitated a few seconds…and then let out an ear piercing scream right into John’s face. 

 

It was music to his ears.

 

The crowd let out a united sigh of relief.

 

“Shhhh, sweetheart, it’s alright…it’s ok.  Your gonna be fine,” he assured the terrified child as he tried to comfort her.

 

The mother’s hands flew first to her face as she sobbed uncontrollably…Then she came forward with beseeching arms to hold her child.

 

John relinquished the girl to her mother, and then put his arm around the young women’s shoulder… his other hand supported the child in her arms. 

 

“It’s ok…it’s ok,” he repeated to the mother who was trembling so hard from head to toe he feared she may drop the little girl.

 

“You had a pretty good scare… Let’s sit the two of you down,” he said as he guided the young woman to a chair.

 

“You can hold her,” the young paramedic continued, “but we would like to check her out and then have an ambulance take her into Rampart as a precaution…ok?” The young women nodded. 

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Um…it’s Debbie,” she stammered.

 

“Ok Debbie…Can you tell me what happened?” he asked soothingly.

 

“I had Julie sitting on my lap…” she started to explain in a weak voice as the child’s wails started to subside. “She was starting to get fussy sitting in the high chair.  Our…our food finally came and the plate was put in front of me.  I got distracted as my son…he’s five…almost knocked over his glass of milk.  Julie must have taken a grape off my plate and put it in her mouth…and the next thing I knew…she was having trouble breathing.”

 

John listened empathetically as the woman explained. 

 

He patted her shoulder and assured her everything was going to be fine. He turned to retrieve the stethoscope out of the drug box as the women reached out and firmly grabbed his arm.

 

“I…I can’t even begin…to tell you how grateful I am,” she said with conviction. “If it weren’t for you…and the job you paramedics do…my baby would be dead right now.” The tears began to fall in earnest again as she relived the incident. 

 

John gave her a warm reassuring smile before turning back to the drug box.  He caught Roy’s eye and knew that his partner had heard the young mother’s words. The young paramedic and his senior partner exchanged a meaningful look.

 

For them, it was immediate affirmation for why they did what they did. The extreme dangers they were exposed too, dealing with all the messing situations they sometimes “literally” fell into, being at the lowest paid position in the Department, and long shifts with little sleep or food;  basically willing to risk it all for what really mattered…

 

Saving a life.

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John finished taking Julie’s vitals and was gratified to see that they were normal. Her pulse was a little fast, but that was to be expected. Roy advised Dr. Brackett the victim would be transported shortly.

 

They heard the ambulance pull up and had already packed up their gear and were walking outside to meet them. The attendants stepped out of the vehicle and came around to the back pulling open the doors as they reached in to get the gurney.

 

John shook his head at them.

 

“I think she would be better off sitting on her mother’s lap for the ride in,” Johnny replied with a grin stroking the little girls now flushed cheek with his finger. She rewarded him by flashing all six of her teeth in a big smile… and giggled happily.

 

John helped the two of them into the back of the ambulance and got them seated on the gurney.  The woman’s lunch companion had the hand of the little five year old boy clutched firmly in her own.  She leaned in to speak to her friend.

 

“Debbie, I will bring Matthew in with me and meet you at the hospital,” she said.

 

She turned to look at the dark haired paramedic.

 

“Where are you taking them?” she inquired.

 

“Rampart General,” John replied.

 

She nodded her head and scooped up the little boy resting him on her hip, checking both ways before she hurried across the street to her car.

 

John started to close the door and the young mother gazed upon him with a slightly panicked look.

 

“Aren’t you coming with us?” she stated giving her daughter a quick glance.

 

Roy came up from behind his partner and put his hand on his shoulder.

 

“Of course he is…we want to make sure you get there safe and sound,” Roy stated firmly.

 

John grinned at his friend. They both knew in this situation a paramedic did not need to accompany the patient. However, they both recognized and embraced the other aspect of their job; treating the whole person and meeting their needs, including family members, to the best of their ability.

 

Johnny climbed into the back and sat down on the seat directly across from Debbie and her daughter.  As Roy started to close the doors, he noticed the tension disappear from the young mother at the reassuring presence of his partner.  The two started talking and he could see the classic Gage grin appear on his friend’s face through the glass window of the ambulance.  He chuckled as he gave the doors the customary two quick smacks with the palm of his hand, and walked back to the squad.

 

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The ambulance backed up to the Emergency entrance of the hospital and John pushed open the doors and leaped out.  He turned around, reaching in to take the young mother’s arm, and guided the two of them out of the vehicle and into the building.

 

Dixie McCall, the head ER nurse, was waiting in the hallway.  She smiled as she saw her favorite dark haired paramedic walking towards her, and his senior partner trotting up behind him.  Of all the paramedics that worked out of Rampart…she was especially fond of these two. They were so opposite in looks and personalities…but together they made a phenomenal  team and had quickly become the best of friends. 

 

“Treatment room one,” she said.

 

Johnny nodded in response and held the door while the young woman and child went in. He followed and the door softly shut behind them.

 

“I am kind of surprised to see you two…were there some complications?” she asked as Dr. Kelly Brackett came walking down the hallway at a rapid pace.

 

“Hi Roy,” he stated once he reached them, “Is the baby in here?” he asked directing the question to Dixie.

 

“Yes Kel”

 

He reached his hand out and pushed his way through.

 

“No Dix… no complications,” Roy answered her. “The victim’s mother was still really shook up and just needed the reassurance that someone was there…just in case. I don’t mind giving them that support…and neither does Johnny.”

 

“I know you don’t…that’s part of what makes you guys so incredibly special,” she said affectionately.

 

Just then the door opened and the young paramedic stepped into the hallway. “Man that was a close one…another couple of minutes and I think we may have lost her.

Hey Dix…that reminds me…Squad 10 brought in a guy yesterday who had an MI at a restaurant where I was having dinner. Do you know how he is doin?”

 

“Oh yea,” she replied, “Tony mentioned that you had helped them out on that run.  The victim is still in the CCU…but he is stable.”

 

“Dix, we need to grab a few supplies,” Roy stated still blushing somewhat from her earlier comment.

 

The three walked over to the base station and Roy started collecting the items they needed as Johnny filled out the form.

 

“Rumor has it young man… that you may have a new girlfriend,” the head nurse said with a sly grin.

 

“Where did ya hear that from?” Johnny said as his eyes shot up.

 

“Oh, I hear things. So…is it true?”

 

Johnny gave her a crooked grin. “Yea it’s true.  Her name is Katie… and she is really…”

 

“…Incredible,” Roy finished for him.

 

“Well Johnny, you will have to bring Katie around sometime. I would really love to meet her.”

 

“We are making the rounds.  Roy and Jo have met her… And we had dinner last night with my friend Drew and his wife Pam.”

 

“Isn’t Drew your friend who is a police officer with LA?”

 

“Yea…that’s him.”

 

“Hey Dix,” Roy interjected seizing the opportunity, “what do you think about our young friend here doing a ride along this Friday night with his buddy Drew?  Eight hours of fun-filled action chasing around the streets of LA in a police cruiser."

 

“John Gage, why in the world would you want to go and do that?” Dixie chastised. “I worry enough about you two on the fires and rescues you go on…and now this?”

 

“Ahhh, come on… What is the big deal?”

 

“Well for one thing…there was an officer killed a couple weeks ago…and we have had two others this week alone who have been hurt on calls. Is that a big enough “deal” for you?” she stated. “Why don’t you do a ride along with a mailman or something…then the most dangerous thing you will probably face is a disgruntled poodle.”

 

“Oh…that’s cute Dix. Good Lord, you sound like Roy and the Cap… I will be fine.”

 

“LA…squad 51…what’s your status?”

 

Roy brought the HT to his mouth. “Squad 51 is available from Rampart.”

 

“10-4…stand by for a response.”

 

The conversation between the group stopped as they waited.

 

Sam Lanier’s voice came on the radio seconds later…

 

“LA…Engine 24 along with Squad 51 in place of squad 24…respond for an unknown rescue…Holy Cross Church…2525 Cordoba….2- 5-2- 5 Cordoba….cross street Surrey…time out 1214.”

 

“I really hate it when he says that,” the dark haired paramedic said with a frown.

 

“Squad 51…10-4,” Roy responded with a sideways glance at his partner.

 

“Says what?” Dixie inquired.

 

“Unknown type rescue... It could be anything from a guy having a heart attack dangling from a girder 300 feet off the ground…or some lady who forget her house keys and tried to wiggle her way in through the doggie door; and got stuck.  I don’t mind a challenging rescue…it’s just…I mean,” he emphasized with his arms spread wide, “is it too much to ask to have a little advanced knowledge of what we are walking into?”

 

Roy smiled at his partner recalling the run John had last described with the women caught in the door.

 

“Hey Junior…it’s what keeps us on our toes.  Let’s move it…and see which end of that spectrum this run falls into.”

 

“It’s bound to be something strange …they always are when we fill in for another squad,” John said knowingly as he jogged alongside his partner down the hallway.

 

“See ya later Dix!” he called over his shoulder.

 

Chapter 4 - The Voice of Reason   

 

“Engine 24…Squad 51,” the Captain called about seven minutes after they had been dispatched.

 

John grabbed the mic off the dash.

 

“Squad 51…go ahead Engine 24”

 

“Can you advise us of your ETA?”

 

He glanced at his watch. “Engine 24…Squad 51…our ETA is about two minutes. What have you got?”

 

“10-4…Ahh, you are going to have to see this to believe it.”

 

John looked over at the senior paramedic as he replaced the mic.

 

“Well now... I think we have a pretty good idea which end of spectrum we are looking at,” he said with a sardonic smile.

 

 John leaned forward in the squad to look through the front windshield to determine if he could see their destination. He located the church with ease as it was clearly the tallest structure in the neighborhood. It was a big impressive building…boasting a tall multi-pitched roof with various peaks…and an enormous steeple at the top.

 

He started to sit back and then his eyes caught something and he leaned in again, blinking rapidly as if he was imagining what he was seeing. Then the realization… that he wasn’t.

 

The young paramedic’s mouth dropped open. 

 

Wow…You have GOT to be kidding me!” he exclaimed.

 

“What?” Roy asked. His head moving back and forth between looking at the road in front of him, and the look of astonishment on his partner’s face.

 

They had responded to probably hundreds of rescues…and the senior paramedic felt that they had pretty much seen it all.  So Roy was baffled at what could have elicited such a reaction from his young partner.

 

“Just drive Roy…you will see in a minute.”

 

Roy pulled into the church lot past the two squad cars that were present… and parked near the Engine.  He got out of the truck and noticed every single person had their necks craned towards the sky.  He followed suit and stared at the roof of the church…and then he understood.

 

The two paramedics moved towards the group of fireman and two police officers.

 

The Captain, without averting his eyes said “Well boys…you got any thoughts you'd care to share? Cause we have been knocking ideas around…and so far have come up with nothing.”

 

No one said anything for a moment as they continued to stare at the huge metal cross mounted at the very top of the steeple…and a person with their arms wrapped, hopefully securely, around it. John took the pair of binoculars the captain handed to him and brought them to his eyes directing them upward…

 

He finally broke the silence.

 

“How in the world did he manage…Wait, why is he up there? Has he totally flipped out on drugs or something?” the young paramedic inquired, throwing out what he thought was a plausible explanation.

 

Officer Vince Howard stepped forward with a dark haired woman in her late 30’s at his side.

 

“Roy…John, this is the boy’s mother. From what we understand her son Harold, who is sixteen, suffers from some mental health issues. He indicated to her this morning that he was hearing voices and they told him he had to climb to the highest place he could find to be closer to God.  We talked to him over the bull horn…and told him to stay put.  I just don’t see how he can safely come down on his own…even if he wants to,” Vince replied.

 

“I am so sorry for all the trouble he is causing,” the woman sobbed completely humiliated. “He has problems and can’t help it…he is confused and scared. Please, can you get him down?”

 

“They are going to do everything possible ma’am,” Vince assured her.

 

The firemen looked at each other with a solemn expression…man, this was not going to be easy.

 

They all turned to look as a car slowly entered into the lot and parked. The driver’s side door swung opened and a short, somewhat plump elderly man struggled to exit the vehicle. He grabbed the door frame with his right hand pulling himself forward as the left pushed against the back of his seat.  Once on his feet, he pivoted and shut the door.  Seeing the group of men, he ambled as quickly as his legs would permit, in their direction.

 

“Afternoon gentleman,” he greeted, “I'm Arthur Hill…the Senior Pastor of this Church. I received a call at home indicating there was some trouble?”

 

“Yes Pastor,” Vince replied and pointed up to the top of the building.”

 

The elderly man looked upward his eyes searching… “I’m sorry officer,” he said in an apologetic voice, “the old eyes aren’t what they used to be. Exactly what am I suppose to be looking at?”

 

“Here Sir,” John offered, handing him the binoculars.  These will help…look at the top of the steeple.”

 

“Thank you young man,” the pastor replied gratefully.

 

John had to resist the urge to move towards the squad and get the defibrillator out…he thought for sure the gentleman, who had to be pushing seventy, would have a heart attack when he finally understood what was going on.”

 

“Oh my goodness,” the man exclaimed.

 

“Pastor,” the mortified woman said approaching the clergyman. “I am so terribly sorry for all of this.” She repeated again. “My son, Harold, he suffers from a mental illness…and it has been getting worse.  I will pay for any damage he causes,” she managed to say in a defeated voice as tears slowly fell from her eyes.

 

The gray haired man reached out and gently took hold of her arm with his hands.

 

“What is your name? 

 

“Ann” she managed to choke out.

 

“Ann,” he said in a calm voice, “Please do not concern yourself with thoughts of restitution for anything that may get broken. I am not distressed about damage to the building…the physical “things” of this life are insignificant.  What matters most at this particular moment is to focus our energy and prayers that these brave young men get your son down safely…Yes?” he asked her. 

 

The woman nodded her head…but could not bring herself to look the man in the face despite his kind hearted words.

 

“Yes…of course it is!” he proclaimed with confidence. “And once that is accomplished, I would like to see what I can do to help you…and Harold.  Where, if I may be so bold as to ask, is your husband?”

 

The woman came completely unhinged…and broke down sobbing as the older man put his arm around her shoulder providing comfort and support. He waited patiently while she struggled to regain her composure.  The group of men, seeing the mother was in capable hands, moved quietly away to resume their discussion.

 

“Gone.” she said in a haggard whisper. “He…just…left…us. He said he couldn’t take it any more…Harold’s condition.”

 

“Pastor… why do people run away when things in life get hard; and leave others to cope with the problems? Why...” she sobbed into the handkerchief already soaked with her tears, “do they think when the burden becomes so heavy…that it is no longer their obligation to carry?  I-I truly believed that if you loved and cared for someone enough…and made a commitment to them…you are there for the good times AND the bad. Isn’t that how it is suppose to be?  I guess I am a fool…”

 

The older man gazed upon the troubled woman with tenderness.

 

“There is no simple answer to your question for the reasons why people behave as they do. I must admit, of course, that I do have my own theories,” he said with a knowing shake of his head. “And… I will adamantly pronounce that you most certainly are not a fool.  My dear, from where I stand, you are a strong woman and a caring mother who has not abandoned a child whom desperately needs you.  You are a proper example of what it means to demonstrate unconditional love.” 

 

“The latter question, dear one, I can answer with 100% certainty. You are not mistaken… that is the way it is supposed to be.  How each of us deal with the tribulations we must face depends on the amount of faith, courage and strength inside us…to persevere through the hard times. Many people are under the misconception that life is supposed to be easy.  It is not.  And as difficult, painful, and unfair as our situations may seem, we must try to understand they have value... something important to teach us.  Now, these trials may not always be lessons we willingly want to learn...but are an integral part of our life’s journey.”

 

 The pastor paused and stared intently at the younger woman before continuing...

 

“Tell me - if you never experienced disappointment, how would you recognize joy?  If you never had your heart broken at the loss of a loved one...how else would you truly understand how very precious life is and something to be cherished; never taken it for granted!  Do we forget at times? The answer is yes. We are only human and fall prey to materialism, jealousy, and countless other vices and temptations of this world.  But there are reminders all around us...for what truly matters most.  Sometimes they are conveyed in the words of a heartfelt song...or a beautiful picture... or a meaningful quote."  He closed his eyes momentarily and a look of contentment came over his face.  “Or even appreciating the wonders of nature...watching the magnificent splendor of the orange sun as it sets across the vast ocean signally the end to another day.” He smiled at the memory before opening his eyes. "These reminders...make you stop and think. They can make you cry, take your breath away, or provide you with a deep sense of purpose or peace. Sometimes the reminders are tragic.  For example, when a disaster strikes... like recent incidents of hurricanes or wildfires.  But even here, we can see people re-connecting with what is important.  They are not concerned with money, or status, or what a person's beliefs are. During a time of crisis the compassion for others takes a front and center role...and core values resurface.  Those things may be buried very deep in some people...but I firmly believe they still exist. And when it emerges it is a wondrous thing to behold."

 

The pastor looked over at the group of men deep in conversation. “Ann,” he said softly, “why don’t we walk over to the front of the church and have a seat on one of the benches...and we can chat some more while these firemen work. There is something else I would like to share with you.”

 

She dared to lift her head and tentatively gazed into the elderly man’s face.  His skin was deeply tanned and the wrinkles, too many to count, creased his forehead, mouth, and eyes. But the feature that was most prominent to her was his beautiful pale blue eyes. The genuine concern and compassion he projected by his simple stare was a feeling she had not experienced in a long long time. She had become so accustom to people not understanding Harold’s illness… and worse, not even wanting to.  The last year she had felt so isolated, and her heart had been broken from watching the cruel and judgmental treatment Harold had endured; even from his own family.  How could they even suggest she dump him off in some institution and just forget he existed?

 

If people would just give him a chance they would discover Harold possessed a gentle soul, was kind, and extremely intelligent.  Why couldn’t they look beyond his problem and see what an exceptionally wonderful person he really was.

 

She cast her eyes to the top of the church steeple and saw the outline of Harold’s body against the backdrop of blue sky…his arms embracing the cross for dear life.

 

She felt a flood of emotion overwhelm her.

 

This was her son…her flesh and blood.  She still held onto the pastor’s arm…but stood up straight and tall.  At that precise moment, she made a life changing commitment to herself that she would no longer feel embarrassed or apologetic for Harold’s illness. She would do whatever it took to help her son live the best life he possibly could.

 

He deserved nothing less.

 

 She turned to look again into the sensitive pale blue eyes of the man standing next to her. The pastor simply smiled back with a perceptive nod of his head.

 

“Maybe my dear,” the elderly man stated matter-of-factly, “Harold ended up here for a very good reason.”

 

“I think pastor… that you may be right,” the dark haired woman proclaimed as she allowed herself to be guided to the edge of the parking lot.

 

 

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The group of firemen stood in a half circle assessing the situation and brainstorming ideas at the difficult rescue they now faced.

 

“Well Cap,” Roy started as he looked around survey the scene, “We are not going to be able to use either the snorkel or ladder trucks… neither one will be able to reach him.  And with the Steeple being right in the middle of the building surrounded by the varying pitches of the roof…” his voice trailed off.

 

John joined in… “We can’t use the line gun and run a traverse …there is nothing at either end tall enough to secure the rope too.  We might be able to repel from a copter…but I don’t think the pilot is not gonna go for that; it’s a risky set up.  It would probably take some time for them to get here; which we really don’t have the luxury of waiting.  Also, I am afraid the wind force from the blades would be too strong and knock him off.   When I looked through the binoculars…that cross is mounted on a small base just wide enough for his feet to fit on. One wrong step…”

 

The young paramedic didn’t need to finish the sentence…everyone understood the ramifications.

 

“And,” Roy stated in frustration as he loosened the chin strap on his helmet and ripped it off his head, “we can’t climb up the way he did.  There is nothing to tie off too… we would be in the same situation he is.  I don’t know how he managed to make it up there without falling, but I agree with Vince…free climbing back down is not an option.

 

“Ok,” the Captain said “my crew and I pretty much covered all that ground while we were waiting for you guys …and we currently are all in agreement on everything we can’t do…so now we need to figure out what we can do.”

 

The junior paramedic paused… “Cap,” he said slowly, “I think I may have an idea on how to reach him, but I haven’t worked out the logistics of how to actually get him down.”

 

The Captain turned to the young man. “Well, it’s a start…let’s hear what you got.”

 

 “Okay…on the way here, about a block and a half down the street, there is a tall office building under construction.  They have some heavy equipment there…including a large crane that was being used to place an air conditioning unit on the roof.  The crane would fit in here and between manipulating the boom and the main hoist line…I am pretty confident we could get at him. ”

The captain nodded his head. “Gage, I like it.  I think it just might work.”

 

He turned and waved one of the policemen over. 

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Vince, can you do us a favor?”

 

“Name it…unless you are gonna ask me to climb up after the kid.  I don’t do well with heights…” the young officer admitted readily.

 

“Wouldn’t think of it Vince…but listen, can you go down the street to that office building under construction?  See if you can talk the foreman into letting us borrow their crane, and his operator, to try and reach this kid.  The faster they can get here…the better.”

 

“You got it Captain,” the officer replied as he turned and jogged quickly to his squad.

 

“Johnny,” the blonde haired paramedic began slowly… “the operator could probably get the boom right up next to him.  We could get a safety belt on him, tie him off on a line to us, and just climb down the boom.”

 

“I don’t know Roy…first of all we don’t even know if he is going to cooperate or try and fight us.  Secondly, I think it would be a long and treacherous climb down.”

 

“Yea,” he nodded in agreement shifting his helmet into his other hand, “I am just spit balling ideas.”

 

“I was thinkin,” Johnny said, “about using the ball on the hoist to ride up on…but there is isn’t enough room for two people to go down. And man… we have zero real estate up there to operate; everything is gonna have to be done from the crane,” John replied rubbing the side of his face.  “I also entertained the idea of using a block and tackle…but because of the location of the steeple, the guys on the ground are not going to be in a position to man the line to lower him down.  It’s not like we are dealing with a straight vertical structure…like a side of a building.  I also think we are gonna have to go down with him…he may try to undo his belt or something.  I just…I just don’t feel comfortable sending him down alone.”

 

The men nodded their heads, indicating they agreed with his assessment.

 

“Okay…okay…how about this,” Roy stated some excitement building in his voice. “We loop the line for the block and tackle at the top of the boom…and lower Harold off of that…”

 

“Roy,” John interrupted, “I just said the guys can’t man the line from here in the parking lot...and there is no way one of us up on the crane can do it.”

 

“I know …just let me finish.”

 

“Okay,” the senior paramedic began again, “we ride the ball up all the way up and loop the line off the tip of the crane.  We know the guys can’t man the line from the ground here…but,” he said pointing towards the building, “the roof is flat just below those peaks…see?   The guys would be able to manage it from that area on the roof. We would just have to do this in two stages…and getting him down from that location would be a piece of cake in comparison.”

 

John nodded his head catching on. “Right…right…once the block and tackle is in place, we drop the line to the guys waiting on the roof. We stay on the hoist line and it swings us next to the steeple…and then lowers us to Harold. Once we get the safety belt on him with the line that is attached to the block and tackle… the crane drops us alongside him while the guys lower Harold on the line.”

 

Roy smiled at his partner. “Exactly…we would just have to have the crane operator, once Harold is secure, swing the boom back out about fifteen feet so we can clear those peaks...and then it is a straight shot down to the top of the roof.”

 

“Cap… What do you think?”

 

“It sounds like a solid plan.  The only hitch is…Harold.”

 

The men sighed knowing the Captain was right.  But regardless…whatever plan they came up with…Harold was going to be an unknown factor.

 

The fireman stopped talking as the heard the sound of a loud engine drawing closer.  They turned and saw the large crane making its way into the parking lot…being led by the police cruiser.

 

Johnny gave a quick backward glance to Harold before hurrying over to the squad.  He opened the compartment door and removed his safety belt, swinging it effortlessly around his slim waist.

 

Roy was suddenly at his side and grabbed his arm.

 

“Wait a minute…what do you think you’re doing?”

 

“I got this Roy,” he replied as he continued adjusting the belt and securing it before reaching in for the spare.

 

“Ya know you don’t have to take every high rescue.  It’s my turn anyways…and”

 

The younger man cut him off with a loud groan. “Look, I know it is supposed to be your turn. I checked the tally record this morning… And, before you go there, I KNOW you are more than competent to do this rescue. The blonde haired paramedic gave his partner a surprised look.  “Roy, give me a break…I can tell by look on your face what thoughts are rattling around in your head.  You don’t have exclusive rights to that particular talent…but that’s beside the point. Let’s be realistic here…high rescues do not exactly make your top ten list of enjoyable activities.”  The dark haired paramedic frowned.  “I just feel that I need to do this one…okay? Listen, if it bothers you that much, you can do the next three if it will make you feel better. Plus I will throw in a water rescue,” he finished with a classic grin.

 

The blonde haired paramedic looked at his partner. This wasn’t just a high rescue…this was a somewhat  unique and precarious situation.  They never knew exactly how a victim was going to respond…but clearly there were some extenuating circumstances and Roy knew if they lost this boy…his young partner would look at it as a failure on his part. That was just the way the kid was wired.

 

“Johnny,” he said in a low voice. “You understand this rescue has a strong possibility of not turning out…the way we planned.  He may jump when you get close to him…he may grab on to you before you get the belt on him…or…”

 

“Roy STOP.  I know…I get it.  Please just trust me,” the young man stated. “Now come on we are wasting time…we need to get the rest of the stuff and get movin.  Let’s also get the ambulance rolling so they are here and we can transport right away.”

 

Roy took a deep breath and let go of his partner’s arm.  John immediately finished attaching the spare safety belt he had been holding into the hook of his belt.  He grabbed his gloves and some rope before slamming the door shut.  He reached into the cab of the squad and snatched the radio harness out of the glove box and looped it over his head and under his arm before picking up the HT and clipping it on the end.

 

“Can you get the block and tackle?” he asked and tried to give his partner a reassuring grin when he saw the look of concern on his face.

 

Roy slowly nodded his head. 

 

The dark haired paramedic spotted the boy’s mother sitting with the pastor on a bench in front of the church.  He walked over and knelt down on one knee in front of her. 

 

“Ma’am?” he said gently.

 

She looked up into his soft chocolate brown eyes.  For the second time that day, she did not see scorn or judgment...but genuine concern.

 

“Ma’am,” he said again. “My name is John… I am going to be the one to go up and get your son. We will be using that crane that just pulled into the lot to help us out.  I just wanted to ask you a few questions first…if it’s ok with you.”

 

“Yes ...yes of course.  What do you want to know?”

 

“Do you know exactly what kind of illness your son has…and is he currently on any medications?  Also, are there certain things I should or shouldn’t say to him? I have to try and keep him calm and I don’t want to say or do something that is going to trigger a negative reaction and further upset him.  I’m going to need his cooperation to get him down.”

 

The dark haired woman looked at him appreciatively. “Thank you…for caring and understanding enough to ask.” The young paramedic smiled encouragingly at her.

 

“Yes, there are some things you should know.  He has not been officially diagnosed, but they believe he may be schizophrenic. He is not on any medications…but I hope to find a doctor who can help him. He hears voices and may become confused if you talk to fast or give him multiple directions at once.  Also, you have to gain his trust. My son is a smart boy and he will know if you lie to him.  If that happens you will never get him to go along with any suggestions you may ask him to do.

 

John nodded his head, “Can you tell me how he reacts to needles…and sedatives? Does he have any allergies to medications? And… would it freak him out at the mention of a shot?”

 

“He is not afraid of shots…he has had them before.  I think it just depends on his state of mind.  If he is paranoid and believes others are out to get him, he may think the shot is poison.  But if he trusts the person giving it to him…it would probably be fine.  And no, he does not have any allergies.”

 

“If he agrees, and it would calm him down, would you give your permission for me to give him a sedative if the doctor approves it; and the situation warranted it?”

 

“Yes, you have my permission.”

 

 Before standing up he took her hands in his. 

 

“I am going to do everything in my power to get him down safely…okay?”

 

Tears filled her eyes again as she whispered, “Yes…I know you will.”

 

He gave her hands an encouraging squeeze, and looked over at the man seated next to her.

 

The pastor gave him a smile and a firm pat on the shoulder.

 

John Gage got up and walked back to the group of men gathered around the crane.  The Captain had called for another engine crew with a ladder truck and they were just pulling into the lot.  Several men were collecting other equipment and making preparations to head up to the roof.

 

“Roy, can you get on the horn to Rampart and see if they would approve a sedative for Harold.  I already checked and he doesn’t have any allergies…and his mother gave the go ahead.

 

Roy turned and knelt down next to the biophone that was on the ground behind him.

 

John and the Captain talked with the crane operator explaining what they wanted to do.  The man’s eyes had initially shown his shock at the situation, but he listened intently, nodding his head.

 

“Do you think you can manage it?”

 

“Captain, I have been operating a crane for eighteen years. I can maneuver this piece of equipment in my sleep.  I have got this…no problem.”

 

“Johnny,” Roy replied placing the handle of the biophone back into the case.

 

“I got Rampart up to speed on what’s going on…and Brackett approved 10 mg of Pentobarbital IM.”

 

“Ok…good deal. Can you load up a syringe for me and afterwards put the cap securely back on the end.”

 

“What for?  John…you can’t have the pack up there, you wouldn’t be able to reach it. Besides there is no way you can sedate him…he will fall."

 

“I know…I am going to tape it to my leg. Once I get the belt on him and he is secure, I might have an opportunity to use it if he refuses to let go.  It will make it a heck of a lot easier on ALL of us.  I am not saying I can or will…it's just another option that would be available to me. He leaned over and snagged a small package containing an alcohol wipe and jammed it in his pocket.  In all likelihood, he probably wouldn’t have time to use it…but decided it couldn’t hurt to bring it along.

 

John proceeded to attach the rope to Harold’s safety belt and made sure it was secure.  The less he had to do from the crane, the better.  He put the coil of rope over his head and lifted his arm through.  Roy handed him the capped syringe.  John held it against the left side of his thigh towards the back.  He wanted easy access…but would be mindful to keep that side of his body away from Harold. 

 

Roy knelt down next to his partner and applied two strips of tape…securing the syringe in place. Shaking his head at the ideas his young friend was able to come up with on the fly.

 

John caught the action. “Hey Pally, desperate times call for… creative solutions."

 

“Just make sure you don’t stab yourself junior…or let Harold get his hands on it.”

 

“Thanks for the profound advice…and the show of confidence. I will definitely try to keep both in mind.”

 

John double checked he had everything before walking over to the crane.  He situated himself on the ball before locking his hook onto the hoist. Roy stood by and handed his partner the block and tackle when he was ready.

 

“You all set Gage?”

 

“Yea Cap...I think so.”

 

“Ok…keep in contact on the HT…and good luck,” the Captain replied.

 

Roy gave John a worried glance.  “Be careful up there…you hear me?

 

“Yea …I will.  See ya in a bit.”

 

The Captain brought the HT to his mouth…“Engine 24 …HT 24… you men all set on the roof?”

 

“HT 24 …Engine 24…affirmative.  We’re ready.”

 

The Captain looked at the crane operator.  “Ok, bring him up.” All eyes scanned back and forth between Harold and the quickly ascending paramedic on the end of the hoist. Roy fiddled nervously with the HT in his hands.  The tension on the ground was rising…only time would tell how this one would play out. 

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The young paramedic quickly reached the top of the crane and he swiftly went to work. He had the line looped and was ready within moments.  It was hot …and the sweat was already starting to build on his forehead and run down his face.  He raised a gloved hand to wipe his brow before reaching for the HT.

 

“Engine 24 ….HT 51.  Ok…we’re good.  Go ahead and swing me over so I am just above the crew on the roof.”

 

“10-4 Gage”

 

The large boom slowly shifted until it was in position.

 

“HT24…HT51…heads up…I am dropping the line.”

 

“10-4”

 

John let the line go…and saw the men beneath him scramble to pick it up and get set.

 

“Ok...as they lower me" he said into the HT "...let the slack run on the victim's line until I am even with him...10-4?”

 

"We copy"

 

John could feel the adrenaline starting to build in his body and consciously took a couple of deep breaths…an adrenaline rush was not what he needed right now.  He wasn’t racing to hi- tail it out of a burning building that was about to explode.  He knew needed to stay relaxed and try to connect with this young man…earning his trust.  The dark haired paramedic fervently hoped that Harold had enough and would willingly come with him. He took one more breath before bringing the HT to his mouth.  It was time…

 

“Engine 24 …HT 51”

 

“Go ahead Gage”

 

“Ok, swing me in about another eight feet…and then lower me until I am level with him.  I want to make verbal contact first…before you get me right up next to him.  I think we need to take this real slow.”

 

“10-4”

 

John felt the boom move and then the hoist slowly lower him.  Mentally his mind started running through what he was going to say to Harold…while also trying to figure out different “what if” scenarios.

 

“Right there…right there…hold it,” he said into the HT. The crane came to a stop.

 

The teenager’s back was to him…and he stood as still as a statue.  The young paramedic wondered for a moment if he was in a catatonic state. 

 

“Harold?”

 

“Harold…my name is Johnny.  I am a fireman.  Everything is going to be ok.  I am here to help you.”

 

“Harold…can you talk to me?” John asked gently.

 

“Go…away,” the boy mumbled, “I… I am not allowed to come down yet…the voices say I have to stay.”

 

Oh man…definitely not the response I was looking for,” John thought.

 

“Can you tell me why they want you to stay?”

 

“Because…because everyone hates me.  I am no good…I'm bad...I'm bad.”

 

“Harold…I don’t hate you.  That is why I am up here with you…because I care and want to help.”

 

Don’t listen to him…he is lying to you Harold…just like all the rest.  He doesn’t CARE about you. He is just saying that…he is disgusted by you and all the problems you cause.  Your bad…and nobody loves you. Tell him to go away and leave you alone.”

 

The boy cried out “don’t you hear them? They are calling you a liar and that you are disgusted by me…they want you to leave me alone.”

 

John struggled for a moment with how to reply.  The boy's mother was very adamant about not lying to him.  But how would the kid respond if he was honest…and acknowledge that he did not hear the voices? Would it enrage him?  That is what he was trying to avoid at all cost.  Briefly, the young fireman began to wonder if he had been wrong…maybe Roy would have been better suited at talking with the kid. 

 

He decided on his course of action…and hoped it was the right one.

 

“Harold…I have to be honest with you.  No, I do not hear the voices…but I truly believe that you do.”

 

John spoke very slowly and comfortingly. “I know it must be very confusing to you…the voices telling you one thing and me another.  But please listen.  I want to earn your trust.  The voices want me to leave you alone because they know I am a friend…and I am here to help.  They are frightened by me…but you don’t have to be.”

 

They boy turned his head to look at the paramedic.  “They are frightened of you… because you are…a friend?”

 

John became alert and cautiously watched the boy when he saw the movement. Harold’s head was cocked to the side and his face contorted as if he was trying to work out and extremely complicated problem. The troubled green eyes briefly met with the gentle brown ones and John smiled and nodded.  Harold quickly cast his glance in another direction…fearful that he had disobeyed the voices.

 

“Harold, I would like to be able to move closer to you.  But friends always ask permission first…because that is how we show trust and respect to one another.”

 

He is trying to trick you…you IDIOT.  Listen to us…not him.”

 

The boy shook his head as if trying to physically remove the ramblings going on inside his head.

 

“They called me an idiot…said you are trying to trick me.”

 

“True friends don’t make you feel bad inside…and they don’t call you names. I promise…all I want to do is make sure you are safe. I am not trying to trick you.” 

 

Harold squeezed his eyes tight and the dark haired paramedic knew there was a private war raging inside the teenager’s head.  It was a war that he was now actively involved in…and had to win.

                                                                                                 

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Roy started pacing backing and forth…still rolling the HT around in his hands.  He had brought it up to his mouth on several occasions…and it took all his willpower not to key up and ask his partner how things were going.  He knew he couldn’t.  John had to focus all his attention on getting Harold to understand…and cooperate.  Any attempts at initiating contact could be a game changer. But the longer this went on…the more anxious the group on the ground was getting. Roy glanced over at the rest of the crew.  The Captain had the binoculars glued to his eyes and it was trained up at the steeple.  His lips were drawn into a tight line.

 

“Cap…what’s it looking like?” he asked as he came to a halt.

 

“Well…I can tell Gage has got him talking. The kid turned his head to look at him…but it’s hard to tell if he is making any headway or not.  Roy sighed.  He told himself they knew it may take awhile and he needed to be patient. He resumed his pacing. The group became silent once again.

 

“Rescue 51…this is Rampart...how do you read me?” 

 

Roy jumped slightly at the sound of Dr. Brackett’s gruff voice.   He quickly knelt next to the biophone and reached into the orange case picking up the handle.

 

“This is Rescue 51…we read you loud and clear Rampart.”

 

“10-4…can you give us an update? Do you have your victim on the ground yet?”

 

“Negative Rampart…Gage is still up on the crane talking to him…we don’t know how long this is gonna take.  We will keep you advised.”

 

There was a short pause on the other end of the radio…and Roy knew the staff at the hospital was feeling the strain as well.

 

“10-4”

 

Dr. Brackett leaned back against the counter and folded his arms across his chest. His mouth twitched uneasily. He looked over at his head nurse who was seated on the stool at the base station.  Her eyes were looking over a chart she had on the table before her.  She felt the doctor’s stare and looked up.

 

“Dix, were you able to get hold of Dr. Sheldon from the psychiatric ward?”

 

“Yes Kel…he is upstairs and said to give him a call when the young man gets here.”

 

“Ok…good. I just want to check him over first and make sure there is nothing physically wrong with him.”  He reached over to pour himself a cup of coffee as he spoke.

 

Dr. Brackett please report to pathology,” a voice called out over the loud speaker.

 

“Must be the results on the Stafford case,” he said replacing the unfilled cup back on the counter. “Dix, call me if you hear anything from Gage and DeSoto…I will be back as soon as I can.”

 

The pretty nurse gave him a tight smile.

“Of course…I will let you know.”

 

The doctor turned and walked swiftly down the hallway as she absentmindedly tapped her long nails on the table. She had heard the details of the call the boys were on and her thoughts went out to the mother and son.  She said a silent prayer for the victim’s safety…and also included a certain dark haired paramedic whom she knew at that moment was dangling off the end of a crane, God knew how far off the ground.  She shuddered at the thought and gave another glance over to the radio, which remained frustratingly quiet.

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“Harold…we will take this real slow...ok?”  John stated as he eyed the boy carefully.

 

The teenager said nothing but pressed the right side of his face up against the cross.  Tears slowly slide down the pale cheek as he readjusted his grip on the metal structure.

 

John noticed several lacerations on the boy’s arms that continued to bleed. “Harold…I can see that you are hurt.  Your arms are bleeding pretty bad from some cuts. I am a paramedic…do you know what that is?”

 

“The boy responded by shaking his head.” That was a good sign.  At least he was listening to him and had not shut him out.

 

“It means that I take care of people who are hurt.  I would like to help you…and take care of those cuts for you.  But I can’t do that up here.  We have to go down to where my equipment is.”

 

It’s another lie dummy…just ignore him.  You aren’t going ANYWHERE until we say so."

 

“Harold…are you hurt any place else?”

 

He shook his head again.  “Johnny,” he whispered in a voice so soft the young paramedic almost didn’t hear him. “I want to go with you…but they will get angry if I don’t listen.”

 

It was the break he had been hoping for. He now needed to slowly switch tactics and try to gain some control…without losing the boy’s confidence and trust in him.

 

“Harold… You can stay right where you are ok? I am just gonna come a little closer to you. All I want to do it put this belt around your waist.  You don’t have to do a thing…just keep still...ok?”

 

The boy looked tired but slowly nodded his head. John cautiously reached around for the HT. “Engine 24…HT 51... bring the boom alongside the cross… slow and easy.

 

The Captain brought the HT to his mouth.

 

“10-4”

 

He turned to the crane operator, “Ok…you heard him…slow and easy.” The man nodded and his hands positioned themselves on the levers and the boom began to move.  All eyes were fixed on the activity above. Roy stood still but could feel his heart hammering in his chest. 

 

John tensed somewhat as he felt the rig move.  He kept a watchful eye on Harold…alert for any signs of trouble.  He saw none.  He breathed a small sigh of relief as he now was right next to him. He had to keep pushing the adrenaline rush back down as he consciously fought the urge to just throw the belt around the kid as quickly as possible. 

 

“HT 24…from HT 51…you ready on that line?”

 

“HT 24…that’s affirmative…we are ready.”

 

John let the radio drop to his side and his attention went back to the teen.

 

“You’re doing good Harold…you’re doing really good.” He said soothingly as he reached down and unhooked the spare belt. “Now…all I am going to do is strap this around your waist.  It is just like the one I have on.”  The paramedic adjusted himself on the ball of the hoist…and slowly leaned forward towards the boy.  He could see, now that he was physically going to touch him, that Harold had tensed up.

 

“You’re doing great…”he repeated again.  The paramedic knew if the boy made any sudden movements before the belt was on, and the guys below had him, Harold would lose his balance and fall.  John knew that there would be little he could do to stop it.  If he were on a line it would be a different story…he would be in a better position to hold on to him.  But sitting on the ball, and being securely hooked onto the hoist, it would be difficult at best.  He pushed the thought from his mind and concentrated on keeping the teen calm.

 

“Harold, your mom is waiting for us in the parking lot.  I can tell how much she loves you… and she is really worried.”

 

“There he goes again with the lies…your mom is HOPING that you fall from here so she can be rid of you.  You’re a huge burden to her…why do you think your dad left.  Or are you too stupid to figure that out.”

 

“No…my mom…she loves me.  I know she does.”

 

“That’s right…she loves you,” the young paramedic replied…not understanding at first the boy was not talking to him.

 

Why…what is there about you to love?  And WHY are you letting this para-whatever get close to you? You are too stupid to think for yourself.  You need to stop him… AND STOP HIM NOW!”

 

John had successfully gotten the belt between Harold’s stomach and the cross.  He had the first strap together and just finished securing it…completely unaware of the dangerous conversation taking place in the boy’s mind. The dark haired paramedic had decided to keep the straps to his victim’ s back, giving some added protection from him possibly undoing them on the way down.  John Gage did not want to leave anything to chance.  He was reaching to thread the last strap…when the voices once again gained the upper hand over the boy’s controls.

 

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Harold’s body jolted in terror at the sound and intensity of the order he was given.  He quickly let go of the cross as his fingers curled tight and he began violently swinging his arms; his left elbow connected solidly with the young paramedic’s face. 

 

John had relaxed…thinking he was almost home free.  He had leaned around the boy and just started to slide the second strap into place when Harold’s body literally erupted in an explosion of movement.  Without warning he felt the blow to his face…The pain was intense and his eyes began to water furiously.  He could feel blood flowing rapidly from his nose. His initial instinct was to reach for his face; but he ignored that impulse and instead reached out trying to get his arms around the boy and restrain him.  He groaned in frustration…trying to blink in rapid succession to be able to properly see. Everything was a blur.

 

“NO…PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP….TELL THEM TO LEAVE ME ALONE!”

 

Harold…it’s ok…it’s…” the young paramedic shouted out before the boy lost his footing and slipped from the platform.  John had managed to get his arms around his chest…but Harold’s arms and legs continued to flail in despair.  The men on the roof had the line, but Harold had dropped several feet below the ball John was sitting on.  He felt Harold now trying to claw at the belt that was only partially secured around his waist.  John couldn’t bring himself to let go of the boy…His body screamed in protest as he remained seated on the ball, his body bent in an awkward angle as he struggled to hold on to the terrified teen.  There was no way he could possibly reach the HT and communicate to the crew and Captain to lower the line and hoist together.  The men on the roof, knowing what happened, would surely try to get Harold on the ground as fast as possible.  If the Cap didn’t give the word to the crane operator…he would have no choice.  He would be forced to let go.  He ignored the pain and blows that continued to rain down on him…and kept up a persistent flow of encouraging words for Harold. John Gage closed his eyes, as he held on for dear life, and waited for the fireman on the ground to come to his aid.

 

 It was all he could do.

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 “Damn it,” the Captain shouted out as he witnessed the scene unfolding at the top of the steeple through the binoculars. The others knew there was trouble from the flurry of movement they were seeing as well.

 

“We got to get them down NOW,” the captain shouted. “Gage is still holding on to him…so I can’t tell if he has the kid secure or not."

 

“HT 24 from Engine 24…stand by. You will lower your line on my command. First we are gonna have to swing the boom out away from the Steeple.  You need to let me know when Gage and the victim are directly above you.”

 

“10-4 Cap”

 

The Captain turned to the crane operator.  “Listen to me and do exactly what I say.  Start to swing the boom out slowly…and be prepared to stop when I tell you to…ok?”

 

“Yes Sir” he replied as he manipulated the controls… and the huge piece of machinery started to move.

 

“Hold it Cap!” a voice shouted from the HT several seconds later.

 

The Captain raised his hand making a fist… and the boom came to a halt.

 

“Ok…good. Now on my signal, he continued saying to the operator, “start to lower the hoist.  You need to keep speed with the men on the line….understood?”

 

The man nodded his head rapidly up and down…and kept his eyes fixed on the man in charge.

 

The Captain thrust the binoculars into the blonde paramedic’s hands. “DeSoto…I need you to monitor their decent and let me know if the crane is lowering Gage to fast or slow with the men on the line. Got it?

 

“Yea Cap….I got it,” Roy responded as he readily accepted the binoculars and immediately brought them to his eyes.  He swallowed hard as he saw Johnny struggling with the combative teen.  The blonde haired paramedic sucked in his breath as he noted the bizarre angle his partner was hanging from and the blood on his face. He unintentionally squeezed the binoculars harder in his frustration.

 

“Engine 24 …to HT 24…ok, start to drop him.”  As he spoke, the Captain pointed at the crane operator and nodded his head.  The man turned his eyes and skillfully maneuvered the hoist to keep pace with the men working the line on the roof. This was something he had definitely not planned on when he rolled out of bed this morning. 

 

His knew his wife would never believe it.

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John felt the boom shake…and then begin to move sideways.  Seconds later, both the hoist and Harold’s line began a simultaneous downward decent and he knew the Captain understood the predicament he was in…and what needed to be done.  He was panting now with the exertion…but hung on realizing they soon would be on solid ground.  Within moments he felt hands reaching out to guide them the rest of the way down. 

 

“Gage…you ok?…you alright?” an unknown voice shouted out.

 

“Yea…yea…I’m alright.”

 

He quickly wiped his face, trying to remove some of the blood and sweat, before turning his attention to his patient who was still struggling under the hands of the firemen.

 

“Please Johnny…please make them leave me alone,” the boy whimpered.

 

“Harold…it’s ok.  I’m still here,” he said in a reassuring voice. “I’m your friend…remember? You can trust me.”

 

John knew he needed to get the boy calmed down. “Harold, listen to me.  I am going to give you a shot and it is going to help you relax… ok? ”

 

John quickly felt along his left leg until his fingers came upon the syringe.  He pulled the tape away and the item fell into his hands.  He brought it up to eye level and removed the cap, pushing the plunger until a short stream of liquid shot into the air. Satisfied, he then reached into his pocket and pulled out the small crumpled package containing an alcohol swab.

 

“Here Joe…can you hold this a second? Don’t touch the end,” he warned as he handed the syringe to one of the fireman from Station 24.  They dark haired paramedic knelt next to the boy and swabbed down his arm…he nodded his head extending his hand out to accept the syringe. He quickly injected the sedative and then withdrew the needle.  Within minutes, the boy began to calm down and started to close his eyes.  He was exhausted.

 

“I’m s-sorry…” he mumbled as the crew of fireman picked up him and secured him in the stokes.

 

"It's ok  buddy," Johnny said in a gentle voice as he patted the teenagers shoulder. "I told you everything was going to ok....you just lay there and relax."

 

The young paramedic, out of the corner of his eye, saw his partner jogging rapidly towards him.

 

“How is the boy?”

 

“Just some cuts on his arms…and probably a few bumps that we can take care of when we get him down from here…but otherwise, I think he is ok.”

 

“Good. Now…how are you?”

 

“Ahh…I’m fine Roy, just a little banged up is all.”

 

Roy glanced over and waited until the fireman had moved Harold away...out of earshot. “That’s why you’re covered in blood?  And what about your back? Unless you posses the flexibility of a Gumby doll…I’m thinkin it has got to be hurting a bit right now junior.”

 

John sighed…big brother was at it again.

 

                                                                                                 

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The group finally made it to the parking lot with their victim, who was now relaxed and calm. The pastor and Harold’s mother came rushing over as the woman knelt down next to her son collecting his hand in hers.

 

 “I love you Harold…everything is going to be ok. You hear me?”

 

He gave her a weak smile before closing his eyes.

 

Roy reached in to grab the biophone and contact the hospital as Johnny worked on his young patient collecting the vital signs.  After confirming there were no other injuries, he began to treat the lacerations to Harold’s arms.

 

The woman looked up to thank the dark haired paramedic and bit her lip as she saw his face…and the blood that had dripped down staining his light blue shirt.

 

“I want to tell you how grateful I am for what you did. I know how difficult it can be to get him to understand under the best of conditions, and this, I can’t even imagine.  I am so sorry that you were hurt.  Please understand it really wasn’t him…if that makes any sense.

 

Johnny looked at the woman and gave her a reassuring smile. “Ma’am…I understand.  He did real good. I could tell he wanted to believe me… he was trying so hard.  And please don’t worry about me. It looks a lot worse than it really is…I’m fine.  I am just thankful we were able to get him down from there with only a few minor cuts.”

 

She nodded her head.

 

“We are going to take him into Rampart and the ER doctor wants to check him over,” the dark haired paramedic explained, “They have an excellent physiatrist standing by who is going to evaluate Harold and sit down with you and go over some treatment options.  I am going to go in with him and make sure he is comfortable with the new faces he will be seeing.  You can ride along in the front with the driver if you like.”

 

John nodded to the attendants and they proceeded to load Harold into the back of the ambulance.

 

“Yes,” she replied as she turned her head. “Pastor, would you go to the hospital with me? It would be nice to have someone there who…understands.”

 

“Of course my dear…of course! I will take my car and meet you there.  I just need to make a brief phone call to the Missus so she doesn’t worry.” 

 

The paramedics paused from gathering up their equipment to look up into the older man’s gentle face.  His eyes were bright and hopeful.

 

“My grandson,” he explained “suffers from a mental health illness as well. My loved ones and I have traveled this path before, and I am more than willing to help these good people through this difficult time in whatever way I can be of service.”

 

“And may I say…you fireman did a superb job here today. I am amazed at your creative ingenuity!  To be honest, I would have been completely bamboozled if I have been in charge of bringing this situation to a successful resolution.  I thank you…for your God given talents. It is comforting to know we have people such as you to cope with these matters.  However,” he said with a shrewd wink, “I do hope we will not be requiring your services again anytime soon.”

 

Roy and John, despite themselves, chuckled out loud as they watched him turn and hurry off towards the church.

 

“Amen to that,” John whispered to his partner out of the corner of his mouth as his eyes took one last look at the top of the steeple.

 

Chapter 5 - The Visit

                                                                                    

 

The squad was pulling out of the lot at Rampart when John’s stomach loudly announced its displeasure…he looked at his watch.  It was 2:45pm.  Doctor Brackett had checked the young paramedic out and concluded he had gotten away with just a few minor injuries.  He had some swelling around his nose and right eye... and would probably be sporting a nice bruise, but luckily nothing was broken.  He had also stressed some muscles in his back, but there was nothing that could be done except rest and aspirin. His attention now shifted from his injuries…to his stomach.

 

Food,” he said longingly, “you’re supposed to be cookin… so we know there isn’t going to be anything in the oven or fridge when we get back. Do ya wanna stop and pick something up?   The rest of the guys probably already ate.”

 

“Sounds good to me…how about we grab a quick hotdog at that little stand on the corner of Washington and Concord.  It’s on our way back,” Roy answered him.  He smiled…now he only had to plan for one meal. He didn’t know that secretly John was extending his undying gratitude for the same thing.

 

He had run out of antacids and didn't think his battered body could tolerate a stomachache in addition to his throbbing backache.

 

“Ya know Roy,” John said turning to his partner, a sober look on his face. “I feel terrible for Harold and his mother... and what they must be going through. It’s one thing to have some accident or illness happen to ya that the doctors can see, diagnosis, and most of the time treat. But having some type of mental illness that causes a person to do this kind of stuff…I can’t imagine.  You know when I was talking to him I could tell the voices in his head were absolutely REAL to him. He was so…distraught.  He kept begging me to make them stop…and I felt powerless to help him. It must be hard because people look at them and assume they OD’d on something…like I did. Did you know his mother overheard me when I said that very thing when we first arrive on the scene?  I could see the pain and embarrassment on her face as soon as she heard it.  I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions,” he said shaking his head regretfully.

 

“Junior, it was a natural assumption.  We deal with a lot of cases of drug overdoses…and people doing and saying bizarre and unusual things. Don’t beat yourself up over it.”

 

“I know, but we are supposed to be here to help the victims and reassure their families; not make them feel even worse.”

 

“Listen partner, none of us are infallible… we can’t always say or do the right things ALL the time.  What is important is that you learned something today, and moving forward, you will try and remember not to make that assumption again. Johnny, it’s not so much about what you thought in the beginning. It’s what you did afterwards... treating Harold and his mother with empathy, dignity, and respect that mattered the most…and what they will remember.”

 

The young man grinned back at his friend, “Thanks Pal,” John said sincerely. He knew he could always count on Roy to be there to talk about things that were on his mind. Roy would to listen to him, without judgment, and always seemed to know what to say to help him work through issues he struggled with. 

 

“That pastor was really an amazing guy,” John added as they pulled into the lot of the hotdog stand.

 

Roy nodded his head in agreement.  “He has walked in her shoes and understands her plight better than then the rest of us ever could.”  The senior paramedic looked over at his partner.  He was proud of the kid and the compassionate heart he had for people.

 

 

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“So…do ya want to eat here or take it back to the station?” the younger man inquired.

 

“I think we better eat here,” Roy said thoughtfully, “The radio has been hopping all day with calls and I doubt we would even make it back to the barn before getting toned out again.”

 

“Ok…works for me.”

 

The two paramedics ordered their food and sat down at a table.  They made it almost half way through their meal, and just as anticipated, the tones went off.  John shoved two more, rather large bites, into his already full mouth as he started to stand up. Roy looked down at his food forlornly and set it back on the wrappings and sighed.

 

“LA…Station 36... Squad 51…. respond for the traffic accident on the San Diego freeway ½ mile east of the Hooper on ramp…time out 1502.

 

“Squad 51… 10-4”

 

The two partners ran to their squad pulling the doors open and jumping inside.  They reached for their helmets and settled them securely on their heads.  Roy maneuvered the vehicle to the edge of the parking lot and glanced quickly to the left and right making sure traffic was clear before pulling out onto the street. He accelerated rapidly as Johnny flipped on the lights and siren.  The junior paramedic hastily scribbled the address down on his notepad along with the dispatch time.   He then reached over and rolled down the window resting his right arm on the frame.  He felt the wind blowing the long dark strands of hair the stuck out from beneath his helmet.  He gave a sigh of displeasure as he remembered the Cap’s remarks about the Chief’s inspection next week.  He knew the man would be all over him about getting a haircut. 

 

Well, it’s really not that bad...” he thought. “I can probably get by for a little while longer.”

 

John’s attention came back to the street signs in front of him, "Turn right at the second light…and then the Hooper on ramp is about four or five streets further down.”

 

“Ok…you’re the expert route-finder on this team”

 

“Yep...you got that right.”

 

As he drove, Roy looked over at his partner with mild concern. “Johnny, I know Brackett cleared ya for duty…but are you sure you’re ok?

 

“I’ll survive.  I have to admit though, my muscles are gonna be sore as hell tomorrow. I will be feeling more like an old man of twenty-seven…instead of twenty-three.” His mouth creased in a grin…knowing he had hit his mark.

 

“Some days, my young friend, I believe I took a temporary leave of my senses when I requested you as my partner.  You’re as bad as Kelly,” Roy replied trying not to smile.

 

“Hey now! That is definitely hitting below the belt. Chet Kelly is in a class all by himself. 

 

The men laughed as they rolled up on the scene and Roy put the truck into park. They were exiting the squad as they spied the Captain of 36 waving them over.

 

“Let’s go Junior”

 

“Hey Cap, what have we got?” Roy asked as they reached him.

 

“A vehicle stalled on the freeway and the driver couldn’t get it onto the shoulder.  The cars were trying to swerve around it…but the driver of this Chemical truck wasn’t so lucky.  We have got three people trapped…two in the car and one in the truck. I am going to have my medic’s work on the vehicle if you guys can tackle the truck. I will have a couple of my men on a line covering you, but watch out for yourselves…we are still trying to identify the chemical.  So far no fire, but that engine is smoking, so we need to move fast.

 

The two men nodded as they ran back to their truck to get the rest of their gear.  Johnny looked over and saw the police officers standing calming by their squads, keeping the people a safe distance back, while they looked on with interest.  The young paramedic shook his head as he donned his turnout coat. He opened the compartment and snatched up the pry bar and Ajax tool.

 

Yea…Drew…you guys got it sooo rough!”  

 

John’s attention was quickly diverted back to the task at hand as he observed Roy already at the overturned truck; his gloved hands reaching up to start climbing the undercarriage of the vehicle. 

 

“Hold on mister,” he heard his partner call out, “we’re gonna get you out…just relax.”

 

Have at it Pally…” John thought as a grin spread across his face.  The young paramedic would voice no arguments at all about Roy taking the lead on this rescue. He quickened his stride, ignoring the aches in his back, as he made his way over to the truck to see what he could do to assist his partner.

 

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT5SlekicNV1uIsd9-p4cUutDMYvpYU199-8E_Um2HR4AgBQjwe 

 

The squad finally backed into the station bay at 5:07pm. John glanced nervously at his watch.  He saw the engine sitting in its regular spot and knew his other crew members were in quarters.  Katie was supposed to stop by around 4:30pm. He fidgeted in his seat as the senior paramedic watched the young man.

 

“Johnny…relax.  You are getting yourself all wound up.”

 

They stepped out of the squad, grabbing the sacks of burgers and fries they had picked up for dinner, and Johnny’s ears perked up as he quickly recognized the soft female voice coming from the day room.  He stiffened and quickened his step.  He had wanted to be there when Katie arrived.

 

John burst through the door with Roy on his heels.  He saw Katie sitting at the table and she looked up at him.  He gave her a big smile…which was not returned.  His heart stalled in his chest as he looked about the room.  Mike was at the kitchen sink, seemingly engrossed in the dishes he was drying. Marco grabbed the garbage can that was only half full and made a hasty exited out the side door, and Chet was sitting at the table next to Katie…talking the young girl’s ears off.

 

“Uh…Hi,” John said, “s-sorry, we…uh, I wasn’t here.  We were out on a run…”

 

“Hey Gage, just keeping Katie….entertained until ya got back,” Chet replied with a smirk. “Man, what happened to you?”

 

“Nothing Chet…I’m fine.”

 

“Hi John,” the little blonde replied stiffly.

 

“So…have you met all the guys?” the dark haired paramedic asked warily.

 

“Yes…I met them.”

 

“Oh. Ok...good.  Umm, can I show you around the station?”

 

“Chet already gave me the grand tour and filled me on just about… everything,” she replied.

 

Roy glanced over at his partner as he set the food down on the counter, and noted the crestfallen look that now appeared on his face.  He couldn’t believe that even Chet Kelly would sink to such a level. Roy did a slow burn as Katie continued.

 

“Listen, I need to get going…” she said abruptly as she pushed back from the table.

 

“Katie…Wait!” the young man shouted as he quickly crossed the room and followed her as she pushed open the door.

 

“John…I - I think it’s best if we don’t see each other anymore.  I don’t want to cramp your style of dating and dumping a girl every other week,” she finished sarcastically as she spun on her heels and stalked away.

 

The young paramedic ran out after her but she refused to stop and talk.  He watched her climb into her car and pull rapidly out of the lot.

 

John came back through the door… the feelings of anguish over what had just happened was quickly being replaced by anger. 

 

“WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?” the dark haired paramedic fired the question at the stocky lineman.

 

Chet looked uncomfortable.  He had to admit he was a bit jealous when he first saw Katie…and probably shot his mouth off more than he should.  He didn’t think the girl would break up with the young paramedic over it. 

 

“Johnny…Man, I’m really sorry! I was just…ya know…joking around with her.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

 

“It’s the same story with you Kelly…all the time!  Is your sense of common decency that far off base that you have to keep at it until you screw up other people’s lives?  Wait...What am I talking about? It isn’t “other people's” lives.  It’s always mine."

 

“Chet, seriously…what is wrong with you?” Roy growled out.

 

“I can answer that,” John replied, “do you want the list alphabetically?”

 

Hank Stanley suddenly appeared in the doorway, his hands coming to rest on either side of the frame.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

 He scanned the room waiting for one of his men to answer his question. The dark eyes halted when they finally came to his junior paramedic,

 

“And Gage… what in the hell happened to you?” he barked seeing the condition of his youngest crew member’s face…and shirt.

 

“This?” John said pointing to himself… “Is nothing to worry about, Cap. To answer your other question, Chet here…is just destroying my life is all,” the young man said through clenched teeth.

 

Hank Stanley’s lips sealed together in a tight line as he glared at the lineman. The station house had been relatively peaceful for the last couple of months or so with his two “problem children” behaving themselves.  He knew it was too good to last.

 

“Ya know,” John said looking around at the group of men, “I am really looking forward to my ride along with Drew tomorrow.  In fact, maybe I will grab an application.  The Department is giving a police officer test in a couple months,” he seethed.

 

“Johnny…You don’t mean that,” Roy began as he gave Chet a contemptuous stare.

 

“Yea Roy? Well maybe I DO… If it would get me away from HIM,” The young man stated stabbing his finger in Chet’s direction.

 

“Cap,” he ground out bitterly, “Can I see you in your office? It’s important.”

 

“Yea…sure John,” Hank replied with some trepidation as he turned to head back out the door. He would deal with Chet Kelly and his antics after talking to his junior paramedic.

 

John was following right behind his captain when he stopped and turned to face his crewmate. He stared at the stocky Irishman for a brief moment before opening his mouth.

 

“Chet…I was gonna ask her to marry me.”

 

The silence that followed was deafening.

 

“Johnny…I- I didn’t know.  Man, I will go talk to her…get this all straightened out.”

 

“Save it Kelly. I think…” the dark haired paramedic replied “that you have done…and SAID enough.”

 

“Roy,” the young man said rotating his eyes to his partner. “You might want to come with me; this concerns you as well.”

 

The senior paramedic had a look of confusion on his face…and then the realization of what John might be implying hit him full force.  He opened his mouth to say something but his young partner had already stormed through the door. 

 

Roy didn’t trust himself to say anything to the lineman and walked past him at a rapid pace.

 

Chet Kelly sat down at the table with his head in his hands.  The two remaining crew members glared at him. 

 

“Well Chet…looks like you really out did yourself this time,” Marco said in exasperation.

 

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT5SlekicNV1uIsd9-p4cUutDMYvpYU199-8E_Um2HR4AgBQjwe       

 

The two paramedics were the first ones up the next morning; even before the morning tones went off.  They had several runs during the night, with their last one coming in around 0545.  By the time they had dropped their victim off at Rampart and got back to the station…it didn’t make much sense to go back to bed.  They started the coffee brewing and sat down at the table to wait.                                                                         

At 7:30am the rest of the crew shuffled through the door into the day room.

 

“To who ever made the coffee,” Hank said with a rather large yawn, “you have my undying gratitude.”

 

“No problem Cap,” John replied tiredly.

 

“Johnny,” Roy continued as the rest of the men grabbed their cups and gathered around the table. “Katie knows both me and Joanne.  Let one of us attempt to talk to her…and explain.”

 

“Roy, the damage is done.  AND, I really don’t want to talk about it anymore…ok?  Just drop it.”

 

“Johnny,” Chet began in an apologetic voice, “I really am sorry…if there is…”

 

"Roy, do you need a warm up?” the dark haired paramedic asked pushing back his chair, completely ignoring the lineman.

 

Chet let out a sigh and took a cautious glance around the table. There were no allies to be found in this room.

 

“No, I’m good… And I am NOT going to drop it. If she means that much to you…you can’t just give up. Listen, let’s get together tomorrow.  You can come over to the house and we can sit down and talk to Joanne.  You know…get a woman’s perspective. What do you say?”

 

“I don’t know…maybe.  I kept trying to call her last night and she wouldn’t even pick up the phone. 

 

“Don’t worry Junior…we will get this sorted out."

 

The crew from C-Shift starting coming through the door several moments later and the dark haired paramedic drained the last of his coffee and glanced at his watch. “I gotta change and get going…I have some things I have to do before I am supposed to head over to the police station.”

 

“Johnny, maybe you better postpone this ride along with Drew,” Roy said “You had a pretty grueling day yesterday…and we didn’t get much sleep last night.  I also think you have enough on your mind right now. “

 

“No, I think I need the distraction,” John replied sullenly as he stretched his sore back.

 

Roy let out an aggravated sigh.  “Ok…ok, I can see I am not going to change that stubborn mind of yours.  But I mean it.  Be careful…I know you and Drew joke around, but they get in a lot of dangerous situations too…remember that.”

 

Good grief Roy… enough already.  Say hi to Jo and the kids for me…and tell them I will see them tomorrow.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“Yes…I promise,” the young man stated as he placed his dirty cup in the sink and made his way out the door.

 

 

Continued in Part 2

 

 

 

 

Posted to Site 08/18/13

 Links to Part 1. 2. 3.

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