Survival on Charter #220

(Or What Should have Happened)

 By Rona

The second of the movies to be made for Season 7. Far too much time was spent on the people in the aircraft and again our boys got brushed off and Johnny was maimed. What were they thinking? Well, time to right a wrong.

This picks up where Johnny and Roy are treating Jennifer, who has been hit by a baseball.

Following Christine into the house, Johnny hoped the little girl was not as badly hurt as they had been told. Calls involving kids were always tough and this one sounded bad. He barely glanced at the nice house as they followed Christine to Jennifer’s room. They were almost family. Christine’s late husband had been a fire-fighter and she was dating Scott, one of their fellow paramedics on C shift at 51s.

Entering the child’s bedroom, they saw Jennifer curled up in a miserable ball on the small four-poster bed. There was no blood immediately obvious, but that was not necessarily a good thing. Exchanging glances, the paramedics took up positions on either side of the bed. Johnny set up the biophone and started taking vitals. Roy checked the little girl’s pupils and began asking her questions.

It was good that she was responsive, knew where she had been hit by the baseball and could tell them she felt groggy, but the paramedics weren’t reassured. “Pupils dilated and sluggish,” Roy reported quietly.

“Respirations 20,” Johnny mentioned. He had said her pulse rate, but Roy hadn’t retained the information.

“BP 120/70,” he added.

Nodding, Johnny finished checking Jennifer’s skull, looking in her ears for fluid, gently touching the bump that had risen on her right temple. He picked up the biophone. “Rampart, this is County 51, how do you read?”

On duty at the base station that day was Dr Joe Early. He listened intently to Johnny’s report, ordered an IV and told them to get Jennifer in at once. He gazed down at his own handwriting, mentally running everything over in his head as he waited for them to report that the ambulance was there and they were transporting. He hoped he was wrong, but it sounded as though this little girl would need emergency surgery to deal with a bleed on the brain. He glanced up as Dixie came in.

The radio sputtered to life again. “Rampart, we have new vitals for you,” Johnny said. The radio went dead.

 *********** 

Kneeling by Jennifer’s bed, Johnny relayed the vitals, but he couldn’t hear himself talking because the noise of an airplane flying far too low drowned him out. He glanced sharply upwards. Roy and Christine did the same, although Roy fleetingly wondered why. It wasn’t as though they could see anything. 

There was an explosion and the ceiling was suddenly coming down on their heads.

 **********

The noise woke Charlie from a sound sleep. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep. He had just lain down on his bed for a moment while he thought of what he would do while Scott was getting groceries and suddenly he was being jolted awake.

Yanking open the door, Charlie froze, looking in disbelief at the scene of devastation that met his eyes. While his own home was untouched, Christine’s house next door was partially collapsed and... Was that the squad? Shaking off his shock, Charlie ran to the house. “Christine!” he shouted. “Christine!”

The front door was warped and refused to open under his insistent pushing. He abandoned the attempt and headed for the side of the house. He saw Scott pulling up in the convertible and beckoned to him. “I can’t get an answer. The squad’s here, so Gage and DeSoto must be inside. I can’t get in.”

Knowing that it was futile, Scott also tried the door. “Let’s get some gear from the squad,” he proposed, although he didn’t know if they would be able to retrieve anything. The squad had a plane engine and a tree lying on it. However, they managed to wrench open the back compartment on the driver’s side and grabbed a pry bar and axe. They hurried back to the house. Scott’s heart was in his mouth. He hoped Christine was all right.

 **********

“Squad 51, come in please. 51, answer me.” Sighing, Joe Early resisted the temptation to run his hand through his hair. It was still thick, but he had an irrational fear of finding the white strands clinging to his fingers some day. “There’s no answer,” he said, unnecessarily.

“Well, if the radio’s gone down, they should phone in on the landline,” Dixie said. She was slightly concerned that the equipment had failed, but it did happen. The red phone on the wall behind her rang shrilly. “That’ll be them,” she announced and answered it.

Whoever else it was, it clearly wasn’t squad 51. Joe waited for Dixie to finish the brief call and raised his eyebrows. “There’s been a plane crash,” she reported. “The fire department is sending men out, and we’re to expect large numbers of casualties. I’ll organize triage.”

As she left, Joe picked up the phone and started calling in off-duty doctors. They would need the help.

 ***********

Just as their frustrations were almost at bursting point, Scott and Charlie were finally able to break a window and Scott clambered inside. It was the boys’ bedroom and Scott hoped and prayed that Christine’s sons weren’t inside. He didn’t know where they were, but he hoped they were safe. He scrambled over the wreckage, but the door to the room was firmly jammed shut. Retracing his steps, Scott climbed out. Charlie braced him. “Blocked,” Scott reported unnecessarily.

“We’ve got to keep looking,” Charlie said, as though there was any chance of Scott giving up. They scurried around to the back of the building.

 **********

Jennifer’s bedroom was destroyed. Christine didn’t think she had ever been as frightened in her life as she was right then. She had no idea what had happened outside, but clearly whatever it was was a major disaster. Jennifer was huddled against her mother and fortunately had not been injured any further. That was solely down to Johnny’s quick thinking. As the roof had started to cave in, Johnny had seen the beam heading for Jennifer and had literally scooped up the child and practically thrown her at Roy.

Glancing across the bed, which was the sole extent of the room now, Christine’s guilty gaze rested on Johnny’s face. The paramedic was leaning back against the wall. Blood ran down his left cheek and from a gash on the bridge of his nose. He was unconscious and had been for several minutes now. The beam that would have decapitated Jennifer had struck him on the side of the head.

Tearing her gaze away from Johnny, she glanced down at the child in her arms. The IV had been established and Roy had taken a moment to carefully move Johnny so that he had access to the biophone. They needed help and they needed it now! “Rampart, this is squad 51,” Roy said. “Rampart, squad 51, do you read me?” Silence was his only answer.

Wondering what on earth to do now, Roy glanced over at Christine and spotted the HT lying on the floor beside her. By some miracle, it was intact. “Pass me the Handie-Talkie,” he requested. “There, beside you.” He pointed and Christine freed one hand to pass it to him.

“LA, this is squad 51, do you read?” Again there was silence. “LA, squad 51. Do you read?” It was clear that there was going to be no response from it either.

 **********

At the dispatch center, the dispatcher tried to raise squad 51. When there was no immediate response, Sam Lanier contacted Battalion 14, who was running the scene at the plane crash.

“Battalion 14, be advised. Squad 51 was in your vicinity on a run. We are unable to make contact with them.”

“Roger that, LA,” the battalion chief acknowledged. It wasn’t the kind of news he wanted to hear. Sighing, he broadcast the news to the searchers.

 **********

The arrival of another couple of firefighters in full turnout gear was a real help for Scott and Charlie. Scott was beginning to despair that they would ever find Christine and Jennifer. He banged on another wall and shouted. At once, there was an answering shout from inside.

“Charlie! Charlie, I think we’ve found them,” Scott shouted and Charlie and the other two firefighters converged on his position and they began to work on demolishing the wall where the window was blocked in by rubble on the inside.

 **********

With a gasp, Johnny came to. He blinked at the tangle of beams above him in confusion for a moment before his memory crept back. Yes, Jennifer and that dreadful noise. What had happened?

“You all right?” Roy asked. There was precious little he could do even if Johnny admitted he wasn’t all right. He couldn’t contact anyone and Jennifer needed to be at a hospital right now.

“What happened?” Johnny asked.

“Don’t know,” Roy admitted. “But we better get her to a hospital.” Two patients plus one paramedic wasn’t a happy combination at any time.

The sudden shout from outside lifted the mood in the room at once. Help was at hand and Scott and Charlie were paramedics. Roy could hand either Jennifer or Johnny off to them and they would have a better chance of a good outcome for both.

As the firefighters on the outside started breaking down the wall, Roy started moving as much debris as he could. Johnny started to rise to help his partner, but the room took a sideways shift. Roy noticed at once; when did Roy not notice things like that, Johnny wondered ruefully. “Just stay sitting,” Roy ordered him. “There’s only room for one of us anyway.” Grimacing, Johnny braced himself on a beam and the bed. He looked – and felt – decidedly shaky.

It was the work of only a few minutes to clear a path to the outside. Roy cleared the last of the debris and Johnny carefully took Jennifer in his arms to pass her to Roy. He was stunned to realize how difficult it was to hold the young girl. What’s wrong with me? This is not good. He passed the child over, touched his aching head which he had almost struck on another beam and put out his hand to help Christine, but she was far more limber than he expected and stepped carefully past him and out into Charlie’s waiting arms. Scott cradled Jennifer. “She needs to be in the ER right now,” Roy told his colleagues.

“We got her, Roy,” Charlie assured the older man and hurried after Scott who was walking carefully towards the car at the curb. Christine hurried after them. They got in the car and Charlie drove them away.

Now that Jennifer was no longer his responsibility, Roy could turn his attention to Johnny. His partner was still sitting on the floor. From the way he was squinting, Roy guessed he had a bad headache and it was no wonder. Blood was staining the collar of Johnny’s shirt and an occasional trickle still ran down his cheek. When the beam had struck Johnny, Roy thought his friend was dead. Luckily it had just been a glancing blow. If either Johnny or Jennifer had been hit directly by the beam, they would have died.

“The first aid station should suit your needs,” Roy said and Johnny looked at him as if he had grown another head. What first aid station? He hadn’t heard Charlie tell Roy about the triage centre set up down the block. Gage gave a mental shrug.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” he agreed and struggled to his feet. The world turned a nasty circle underneath his feet. “Hey,” he said, as a thought struck him. “Do you suppose Molly will be there?” He had had an unrequited crush on Molly for a while.

Rolling his eyes, Roy commented dryly, “Well, your vitals are functioning. Come on.” He stood back to let Johnny past him, then reached out to steady his partner who almost took a header out of the opening. When they got out of this tomb, he was going to check Johnny out properly.

 **********

The noise, smell and bright sunshine assaulted the paramedics’ senses as they stumbled out into the open. Inside the house, cocooned as they had been by the plaster and fallen beams, they had heard almost nothing from outside. Johnny almost fell over his own feet as he stumbled to a stop. He was overwhelmed by the stench of fuel oil and the sun seemed to stab his eyes. He staggered, turned and vomited into the debris.

“Easy,” Roy breathed, catching his partner and supporting him. “Breathe, Johnny, just breathe.” He continued to hold Johnny as he retched and gagged uncontrollably.

At last the spasm ceased and Johnny spat to rid himself of the taste in his mouth. He was shaking like a leaf and a fine, cold sweat coated his skin. His head felt like it would explode. He drew in a ragged breath.

“Come on,” Roy said, gently, and led Johnny away from the house and sat him on the grass by the road. He placed himself between Johnny and the sun and busied himself taking his partner’s pulse. Anything more would have to wait. He wasn’t going back into that building to see if any of their equipment had survived.

Looking around, Roy couldn’t recognize the neighborhood they had arrived in less than an hour ago. Almost every house was damaged, Charlie and Scott’s being an exception. Many of the houses were on fire. Parts of a jet plane were scattered all around. Fires burned out of control. Firefighters were searching through the wreckage for survivors – like them, Roy thought. A shudder shook him as he realized for the first time how close they had all come to dying.

“Roy?” Johnny’s head was down and his eyes were closed. His face was pale under his tan. “I don’t feel too good.”

Alarm shot through Roy’s system. Johnny must be feeling dreadful to admit it. He had to get Johnny to the first aid station, but Scott’s ‘down the block’ was vague to the point of being useless and everyone that Roy could see was far too busy to be interrupted to ask. Originally, Roy had thought he and Johnny would walk down the block, but he could see Johnny was in no fit state.

“The squad!” Roy wondered why he hadn’t thought of that before. He could take Johnny straight to Rampart, by-passing the first aid post. “Johnny, I’m just going to get the squad. Why don’t you lie down here for a moment? Don’t go to sleep, now. I’ll be back in a moment.” He eased his partner to the ground and hurried round to the other side where the squad was parked.

He stopped dead in his tracks, gazing in stunned disbelief at the twisted metal that used to be his squad. The plane engine that lay on the back wasn’t smoking anymore and the tree that covered most of the rest of it was charred.

Quite how long he stood there, Roy was never sure. It could have been seconds, it could have been hours. More likely it was only a matter of a few minutes before he turned and retraced his steps, his mind reeling, yet again, at how close to death he and Johnny had been that day.

Kneeling next to his somnolent partner, Roy tried to force his shocked mind to think. Johnny needed help and he needed it now. The triage station wasn’t that far away, but it could be on the moon for all the chance Roy had of getting Johnny there. He had to somehow flag down an engine, or borrow a squad...

A diesel engine, a sound so familiar that Roy barely registered it above the noise, stopped a few feet away. The crew descended from the engine and hurried to the paramedics. “Roy!” Captain Stanley knelt beside his men, dragging his horrified gaze away from the blood on Johnny’s face to look at the stunned features of his senior paramedic.

“Cap?” Roy blinked. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“When we heard you guys were not responding to the radio, I called dispatch and asked to come to help look for you.” Cap looked back down at Johnny. “I’m glad we did. What happened to you two?”

Quickly, Roy filled Cap in on what had happened since they left the station a few hours previously. “I need to get Johnny to the triage station,” he concluded. “Scott said it’s down the block, but Johnny can’t walk that far.”

“We’ll take him on the engine,” Stanley promised. “Let’s wake him up.” He didn’t like the fact that Johnny hadn’t roused at the sound of voices, or even that he could sleep through the cacophony that surrounded them.

It took cajoling and a sternal rub to rouse Johnny, and he blinked and squinted in the sunlight. He was pleased to see his shift-mates, but made no effort at conversation beyond saying hello. Between them, Cap and Roy got Johnny onto his feet and he immediately began gagging again. Cap shot Roy an anxious look, which Roy returned in full measure. “Come on,” Roy said softly, when Johnny was through.

There was no question that Johnny wouldn’t be able to climb onto the top of the engine alone. Mike and Marco were already in place, reaching down to snag the paramedic’s shoulders. Chet, Cap and Roy lifted him from the ground and he was soon settled on the hose bed, his head raised slightly with a reel of coiled hose. It was all horribly reminiscent of when Johnny had been bitten by the snake and had travelled to Rampart on the back of the engine.

With Roy kneeling beside Johnny, Cap passed up the engine’s oxygen canister and the others took their places. Mike drove as carefully as he could, turning the big engine and avoiding the potholes and debris strewn over the roads.

The triage center was little more than a block away on a vacant lot that was probably a playing field for the local kids. There were several blue-suited doctors in attendance and various nurses in grey suits knelt by casualties. Several firefighters were there, clearly having brought victims in. There wasn’t a single ambulance in sight.

“Dr Morton!” Cap called, swinging down from the cab. He waved as the black doctor he knew from Rampart turned to see who was hailing him. “Over here!”

Jogging across, Mike Morton frowned. “What is it?” he asked, following Cap to the back of the engine.

“Up here, Doc,” Roy called, glancing over. “It’s Johnny.”

“Not Gage again,” Morton muttered, not quite under his breath. He placed his feet where Cap indicated and clambered ungracefully onto the engine. He sank to his knees by Johnny’s side. “What happened?” he asked Roy.

Quickly, Roy told their story again while Morton checked Johnny’s pupils. “Get me a BP,” Morton demanded.

“What with?” Roy retorted, his nerves almost at breaking point. “Our equipment is gone.”

“Roy,” Cap warned quietly. He was standing on the engine, watching proceedings.

Seeing that the usually cool-headed Roy had had enough, Morton looked at Stanley. “Could you get a nurse to bring me a kit?” he asked.

“Already on the way over,” Stanley replied and Morton glanced up to see Chet Kelly bringing a nurse across the grass towards them.

“Thanks.” Morton turned his attention back to the paramedic. Johnny had said nothing, which was totally out of character. “Gage, can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” Johnny breathed. He just wanted to sleep. The sun was too bright and the smell of the aviation fuel was threatening to make him gag and he wanted Morton to go away and leave him alone.

“BP is 145/120,” Roy reported. “Respirations are 22, pulse is 120.”

“John, how do you feel?” Morton asked.

“My head aches,” Johnny replied. His words were slightly slurred.” I just wanna sleep.”

“Oh no, no sleeping on my watch,” Morton warned him. “John, can you tell me what happened?”

“Uh, roof came down,” Johnny mumbled.

“How close were you to the crash?” Morton asked, flicking his penlight in Johnny’s eyes again. The paramedic winced. Morton handed Roy a dressing and he placed it on the gash on Johnny’s head, taping it into place.

“Right underneath it,” Roy replied. He suddenly wasn’t feeling so great himself as the adrenalin exited his system. “The roof came down on us. Johnny got hit saving our patient from more injury. He was out a good five minutes or more. The squad was hit by a plane engine and a tree. We were trapped for quite a while.” He glanced at Morton. “Doc?”

“We need to get Johnny to Rampart,” Morton replied. “He’s got a concussion at the least. Has he vomited?”

“Twice,” Roy replied. “He seemed all right to begin with, but as he moved Jennifer, he was really struggling.”

“Jennifer?” Morton questioned.

“Our patient. Young girl hit by a baseball earlier. Scott and Charlie took her to Rampart.” Roy shook his head. “What are you thinking?”

“I think Johnny needs a skull series done as soon as possible,” Morton replied. “And he needs to be in a hospital bed under observation.” He glanced at Chet. “Kelly, could you get me an IV set up? D5W. And find out when the next ambulance is due. Thanks.”

“Is Molly here?” Johnny asked, almost inaudibly.

“Molly? No, I haven’t seen her,” Morton replied distractedly. “Roy, set up the IV when it gets here and keep on with the oxygen. We’ll transport him as soon as possible.” He started to climb down. “Keep awake, John,” he added as he left.

Sitting back on his heels, Roy exchanged a glance with Cap before turning back to his partner. “Johnny? Are you still awake?”

“Yeah,” Johnny slurred. “Head... hurts.”

“Hey, Roy? Here’s the IV,” Chet called, climbing onto the engine. He seemed agitated. “Roy? There isn’t another ambulance due for 20 minutes.”

“We can’t wait 20 minutes!” Roy cried. “What are we going to do?!”

 **********

“Calm down, Roy,” Cap soothed. “Get the IV started. Chet, go and tell Morton that we’re transporting John to Rampart on the engine.”

“Right, Cap,” Chet responded and hurried off.

“On the engine?” Roy’s hand hovered over the IV set up. “But, Cap... Weren’t you dispatched to help with the fire?”

“We came to look for you,” Cap responded. “And if dispatch doesn’t like it, they’ll just have to lump it. Come on, Roy, get the IV going. Don’t we need to hurry?”

“Uh, yeah,” Roy responded and bent to his task once more. Cap smothered a smile. His job was to take charge and that was what he had done. If there were going to be any repercussions for his action, he would shoulder the responsibility and gladly. Roy was clearly at the end of his tether and right now, he just needed to concentrate on Johnny’s care. Once they were at the hospital, he would make sure Roy got checked out, too. After all, he had been involved in a building collapse, as well.

It took only moments for Roy to get the stick. He taped the needle down and tucked the bag behind Johnny’s shoulder. The engine would be travelling at some speed and holding the IV bag up would be not only difficult but potentially dangerous. Chet hopped up beside them, just in case Roy should need anything. “All set, Cap,” Roy called and looked down at Dr Morton. He could see from Morton’s face that the doctor thought that Johnny’s condition was serious and getting more so every minute. Fear clutched at Roy’s guts and he was more than glad when the engine started moving, trundling over the bumpy grass until it reached the road.

“LA, Engine 51 en-route to Rampart hospital with an injured paramedic on board.”

“10-4, Engine 51,” dispatch responded and then broke protocol for the first time anyone could remember. “Safe journey.”

 ***********

It wasn’t the first time the engine had been used as an ambulance. The first time had been when Johnny was bitten by the snake. He had had to set up his own IV then, as Roy had gone in the helicopter with the injured kids from the car crash. Johnny had had to rely on his crew mates to help him then and they had not let him down. He had known that they wouldn’t let him down.

The second time, Roy and Johnny had been involved in an ambulance accident while travelling to Rampart with a critically ill heart patient. With no time to waste, they had utilized the engine and they had got the patient there in time. Mike Stoker was a great driver.

However, this was becoming something of a habit, Mike thought as he steered an erratic course around the debris on the road. It was a habit he really didn’t want. He vowed to have a little word with Johnny about getting injured when there were no ambulances around. They cleared the debris field and Mike glanced at Cap. “I can speed up now. Want to warn them?”

“We’re speeding up, Roy,” Cap called. “How’s our boy?”

“Hanging on,” Roy replied. He had given up trying to get a new BP – the wind made hearing anything impossible. Instead, he settled for checking Johnny’s pulse and giving his friend an occasional poke to keep him awake. Beside him, Chet’s face was set.

As the engine speeded up, Johnny opened his eyes briefly. The light was far too bright, but he had been feeling some motion sickness and hoped opening his eyes would help. It didn’t. He grasped Roy’s arm and started to roll over, but Roy wasn’t keen for him to move and there was an undignified scuffle before Roy realized what was troubling his friend. He snatched off the oxygen mask and rolled Johnny.

There was nothing left to come up, but that just made the whole thing worse. The heaving intensified Johnny’s already monumental headache and he moaned, the sound lost in the wind rushing by them. As the heaving subsided, Roy gently turned Johnny over and replaced the oxygen. Johnny’s face was almost as pale as the bandage.

Glancing up, Roy tried to estimate how long it would take them to get to the hospital. Another few minutes, he thought, as Mike switched on the siren as they reached busier streets. Johnny twitched under his hand and he could see the noise of the siren was just another burden for Johnny to bear, but he wouldn’t ask for it to be switched off. They needed to get to Rampart as fast as possible.

Fear gnawed at Roy’s gut. Morton hadn’t said much at the first aid post, but it was the things he had left unsaid that scared Roy the most. Yes, Johnny was obviously concussed, but Roy guessed that Morton suspected his partner had a skull fracture and perhaps a bleed on the brain. Johnny’s level of consciousness was deteriorating slowly. His pulse and his breathing were getting faster and Roy was sure his blood pressure was climbing, too. None of those were good signs. He knew that their patient, Jennifer, had probably been heading towards surgery and Roy feared that his partner was heading there, too.

He looked up again, fighting his unruly emotions. Johnny had once more sacrificed his own wellbeing for someone else. Roy wouldn’t change him for the world, but the ominous proverb ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ suddenly seemed entirely too apt.

 **********

There was no relief as Rampart came in sight. That would come later, when he knew Johnny was going to be all right. For now, he just wanted the journey to be over, to pass Johnny down to a doctor who would take good care of him and for them to tell him that Johnny would be all right. He shook his friend gently again, but this time there was no response. Roy’s gut contracted. He had reached the end of his tether quite some time ago, but he couldn’t afford to let go; not yet.

The engine pulled into the hospital grounds and Mike reversed it smoothly up to the receiving doors. Roy quickly took another BP as the others climbed out of the cab. Dixie was there with a gurney and together, the crew of 51 lowered their fallen member from the hose bed. He was whisked inside, an orderly holding aloft the IV, before Roy could climb down to join them. He trotted after them and entered the treatment room as Johnny was moved onto the exam bed.

To Roy’s surprise, Dr Brackett was in the room. Roy knew he was on holiday and had assumed that he had gone away for a proper rest. However, Dr Brackett was there and Roy was more than glad. “Hi, Roy,” Brackett said.

Quickly, Roy updated Brackett on Johnny’s vitals and sketched in the details of what had happened to them. Brackett listened as he checked Johnny’s pupils and found them unequal and sluggish. “I want a full skull series, stat,” he ordered. “Usual bloods and book a CT. Have an OR standing by and someone contact a neurosurgeon. I want Joe Early if possible, but I know he was operating. Find out if he’s finished.”

“Do you think it’s a fracture?” Roy asked, as Dixie efficiently cut away Johnny’s uniform. He knew he should be helping, but just couldn’t move.

“I’m not ruling anything out,” Brackett replied.

“X-ray’s here, Doctor,” a nurse announced.

“Let’s go, Roy,” Brackett said, kindly, and took the paramedic’s arm. They skirted past the x-ray machine and the door closed behind it.

All the strength went out of Roy’s legs and he slid down the wall, landing on the floor with a bump. The world seemed oddly sepia colored and he didn’t resist as his head was forced down between his knees. He could feel a hand on his shoulder as a deep voice coached him to breathe evenly and steadily. When he was finally able to lift his head a few minutes later, he saw that not only was Dr Brackett crouched beside him, but so was Cap. If Roy hadn’t been so utterly exhausted, color would have flooded his face. He had almost fainted!

“All right, pal?” Cap asked, concern etched deep on his face. “Marco’s gone to get you some juice.”

“And once you’ve drunk that, we’re going to hook you up to an IV,” Brackett added. “We’ll check you out thoroughly, too.”

“I wasn’t hurt,” Roy protested.

“You’re dehydrated and suffering from delayed shock,” Brackett chided him. “You aren’t Superman, Roy. Sometimes you just have to let go.” He rose to his feet and beckoned to an orderly, asking him to get another gurney and take it into the same room as Johnny was in. Marco hurried up clutching a glass of orange juice and while Roy slowly drank it, the x-ray machine came out. “I want those films, stat,” Brackett said and the technician nodded.

When the gurney arrived, Cap and Marco helped Roy to his feet and he was horrified to discover how unsteady he was. He was grateful to lie back and when the gurney was parked, he turned his head to look at Johnny as the nurse started an IV.

The dark haired paramedic was still on oxygen, although it was now hooked up to the room supply. The blood had been washed off his face and his head was turned slightly towards Roy. The gash across the bridge of his nose was no longer covered in crusty dark blood but looked nasty nonetheless. A Foley had been anchored and another IV had been sited and capped off in his other arm. Roy knew that that was in case Johnny needed to go to theatre. His partner’s body was limp and such stillness was unnatural for John Gage.

A knock on the door heralded the arrival of the x-ray films and Brackett hurried to clip them to the light box. Dixie went over to look too and they had a low-voiced conversation. Dixie turned to the phone and Brackett crossed to Roy’s side. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Better,” Roy replied. “Never mind me; what about Johnny? Is there a fracture?”

“I’m afraid so,” Brackett replied. “We’re going to send him to CT and decide our next move from there.”

“Do you think there’s a bleed?” Roy asked, his mouth suddenly as dry as paper.

“There has been,” Brackett said. “What we need to find out is if there is still an active bleed. We’re going to site a shunt to keep an eye on pressure, but if there’s anything suspicious, we’ll have him in surgery at once.”

“Kel, CT is free,” Dix called.

“Let’s go,” Brackett ordered and he and Dixie quickly prepared the paramedic to be wheeled from the room. “You stay there, Roy and I’ll get you some company.”

**********

Roy wasn’t altogether surprised when the crew of 51 filed in. He also knew that it was unlikely they would be allowed to stay. With so many crews at the crash site, every other station would be stretched thin covering other areas as well as their own. From somewhere, he found a wan smile.

Also knowing that time was limited, Captain Stanley opted to deal with business first. “Roy, obviously, you’re off duty for now. I don’t know if a replacement squad will be found, but we’ll worry about that later. Whether or not you come back to work depends on Dr Brackett. When you know, phone the station and I’ll let you know what’s happening at our end. We’ll stay here as long as we can, but we’re stretched pretty thin on the ground and we’re bound to get toned out. Let us know about Johnny as soon as you can and if we’re out for a long series of runs, we’ll phone here. All right?”

“All right,” Roy agreed. “Cap...” He hesitated. “Thanks for bringing Johnny in on the engine. I... I hope you don’t get into trouble.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Cap responded. If he was worrying about it, he was hiding it pretty well. “There won’t be any trouble, trust me.”

The tones went off and the crew nodded a quick goodbye to Roy and filed out of the door. Roy couldn’t quite catch their destination. The treatment room suddenly seemed much bigger and completely empty, despite the nurse keeping a surreptitious eye on him and he felt quite alone. It wasn’t a feeling he cared for.

**********

Watching the pictures coming from the CT scanner, Brackett marveled at them, as he always did. “How’s it look?” he asked the technician.

“There’s a bleed,” she replied and pointed. “Not huge, but there.”

Leaning in closer, Brackett peered at the area indicated. Damn, he hated when he had to deal with the brain. Where was Joe Early when he was needed? Oh yeah, in surgery on a brain injury. Wasn’t it the same as Johnny had? “Thanks,” Brackett said. He now had to decide – operate or watch? Where was Joe?!

***********

 Downstairs, Joe Early stretched and hoped that he was finished for the day. He was still in scrubs and he was hoping to find the paramedics who had brought Jennifer in, but it was difficult to pick them out when they were off duty. There were a lot of people milling about.

When Scott and Charlie had started working together at 51’s C Shift, people had started joking about their similarities to Roy and Johnny. Scott was fair haired and Charlie was Native American, like Johnny. They were such close friends that they even shared a house, although Scott had high hopes of changing that arrangement and marrying Christine, thereby inheriting a ready-made family of three. Charlie wasn’t ready to settle down yet and gave his partner a hard time – a bit like Johnny and Roy. The other similarity was that Scott and Charlie were excellent paramedics, following in their illustrious colleagues’ footsteps.

As though thinking about them had conjured them from fresh air, Joe spotted them in the crowd. “Jennifer is going to be just fine,” Joe told them. “You got her here in time.”

“Thanks, doc,” Scott smiled. “How’s Christine holding up?”

“She’s fine,” Joe replied. “She is worried about her sons, though. Have you heard anything?”

“Just a few minutes ago,” Charlie told him. “Vince Howard came in and said they’re with friends and she’s not to worry about them.”

“Good. Well, you can tell her when you go to see her. Jennifer is in room 202 and Christine wants to see you.” Joe smiled and watched as the two young men hurried down towards the elevator.

“Joe!” Dixie’s voice brought him back to reality and he turned. “Joe, I’m glad I found you. Kel needs your opinion on a head injury that was brought in. We think there’s a bleed and surgery might be needed.”

“Dixie...” Joe began, but the nurse cut him off.

“Joe – its Johnny Gage.”

In a moment, Joe was running to the elevators.

**********

“Kel!” Joe burst out of the elevator as Johnny’s limp body was wheeled out of CT. “Dixie just told me.”

“There’s an active epidural hematoma,” Kel said. “He was lucid initially after a period of unconsciousness, but his LOC deteriorated as he was brought in and he’s been unresponsive.” Kel checked his watch. “He’s been here almost an hour. We aren’t exactly sure when the injury occurred, but probably about 3 hours ago, using the plane crash as a guide.”

“I know exactly what happened to him,” Joe replied. “And when. I was talking to him at the time. Let’s get him into the OR now.” He nodded to the orderly and they changed direction.

“You were talking to him?” Kel called after him, but got no reply. He wasn’t surprised; he hadn’t expected one. He was still curious, though.

***********

While the anesthetist prepped Johnny, Joe had a quick look at the CT scans and the x-rays and then scrubbed. He was tired, but right now, adrenalin was keeping him going. Walking into the theatre, he could see that all was in readiness for him. He slipped into the sterile gown and gloves the nurse was holding for him and paused for a second by Johnny’s head. The young man he knew so well was barely recognizable, with bruising and swelling round the injury and the partially shaven head.

“I operated on you last year and you are fine,” he said softly. “I promise you’ll be fine this time, too.”

Taking one last look at the pictures, Joe picked up the scalpel and began to cut.

***********

Despite himself, Roy had fallen asleep. His dreams were anything but restful, populated with flames and crashes and the stench of gasoline. He gasped in shock as someone shook his shoulder. “Roy, wake up.”

Blinking, Roy drew in a shaky breath and tried to smile at Dixie. She smiled back, her smile more successful. “That must have been some dream,” she commented gently.

“Yeah,” Roy agreed hollowly. “Some dream.” He looked around. The treatment room was empty apart from them. “Where’s Johnny?” he asked anxiously.

“Calm down, Roy,” Dixie soothed, taking his pulse, which was suddenly bounding. “He’s just finishing up in CT.” She knew that there was a pretty fair chance his BP would be high, too and busied herself taking it before he could ask any other questions. She was right – it was still high.

The treatment room door opened and Dr Brackett came in. He smiled a bit at Roy, but the paramedic had years of experience at reading his face and was almost as skilled as Dixie. “It’s bad,” he breathed.

“It’s not good,” Brackett agreed. “Johnny is on his way to surgery as we speak. He has an epidural hematoma. Joe Early is going to do the surgery.”

“What are his chances?” Roy asked.

“He’s young and strong,” Brackett began and saw that Roy wasn’t interested in the party line tonight. “He was conscious and lucid after the injury, which is a good sign in this case. You insisted he get to medical care as quickly as possible, which is another plus. He’s going into theatre right now and Joe thinks his chances are good.”

“A small percentage of patients die anyway, don’t they, doc?” Roy asked, thinking back to his training.

Wincing, Brackett nodded. “Yes, they do, but Johnny has been checked out quickly and that does make a difference. He’ll be transferred to ICU and kept on a ventilator for a couple of days while we monitor his progress.” He stepped closer and held up his hand. “Roy, I can’t tell you any more at the moment.”

Slumping back, Roy nodded. “I know.”

“You’re his next of kin, Roy. We’ll keep you updated.” Brackett took the chart Dixie was handing him. He looked at the vitals, his face showing nothing. Roy needed to calm down. “Roy, I’m going to admit you for a couple of hours and give you some Valium to take the edge off. You need to get some rest. I’ll call Joanne to come and take you home later. By then, Johnny should be out of surgery and you can see him before you go home.”

Too tired to argue, Roy simply nodded. “I’ve got to phone Cap,” he mumbled.

“I’ll do that,” Dixie promised. She shot the Valium into the IV he still sported and Roy could feel it beginning to work at once. He was vaguely aware of voices talking in the background, but he slipped into dreamless slumber and wasn’t even aware when he was moved to a room.

***********

The operation was over. Joe had no idea how long it had taken. It was long enough to get the job done, but not so long that there were problems. Johnny had remained stable under the anesthetic. The last stitch had been put in the paramedic’s scalp and the nurse carefully wound bandages around Johnny’s head. Joe stayed to supervise, although the nurse was more than capable and he wouldn’t normally do so. But this wasn’t a normal case – Johnny was special.

Quite how there was a space in ICU after all the horrific injuries that had come through their door that day, Joe did not care to speculate. He washed up and headed upstairs, again watching as Johnny was settled in, checking his vitals, making sure that he was as comfortable as he could be with all the machinery hooked up to him. “You’re going to be fine, Johnny,” he assured the comatose young man. “I’ll see you tomorrow and you’ll be up and around in a few days.”

It was as he left ICU that the exhaustion hit Joe. He had done back-to-back evacuations of epidural hematomas and that was after a couple of hours of dealing with severe injuries caused by the plane crash. He staggered slightly as a wave of weakness washed over him and leaned against the wall for a moment to recover. Straightening his spine, he continued to the elevator and headed down to the ER.

As ever, it was a mad house. There were still a lot of people with minor injuries coming in and nurses were doing triage to decide who needed to be seen first. Joe spotted Mike Morton going into a treatment room. That meant the first aid centre at the incident was closed, which was a good sign. The number of casualties would be dropping rapidly from here on in. The responders on scene would be searching for bodies. Joe shuddered.

“Joe!” Dixie came from a treatment room and hailed him. “How’s Johnny?” she asked anxiously.

“The operation went well. I saw him settled in ICU and he’s stable. I expect him to make a full recovery.” Joe smiled and Dixie hugged him.

“That’s the best news,” she replied and blinked a few tears away. The day had been a strain for them all and like Joe, Dixie could feel her energy draining away with the adrenalin that was leaving her body. She just wanted to sleep for the next 24 hours.

“Where’s Roy?” Joe asked. He glanced at the clock, but the time meant nothing to him. He had no idea when he had started operating, but he guessed that it was about two hours or so ago.

“Observation room,” Dixie replied. “We gave him a mild sedative so he could rest before he went home. He was pretty shaken and dehydrated.”

“I’ll go and have a word with him,” Joe said. “Then, if you can manage, I’m going to go home, too. And even if you can’t manage, I’m going home.” He turned away, then turned back with a smile. “Dixie, I think I’m getting old.”

“You?” Dixie’s voice was soft and intimate. “You’ll never be old, Joe.” She smiled at him. “See you at home.” It was a poorly kept secret that they were living together. Joe gave her a loving smile and headed down to the observation ward.

***********

There were quite a few people in the observation ward. Most of them were sleeping, but a few were crying. Joe looked round, avoiding people’s eyes and spotted the man he wanted. Joanne was sitting by Roy’s bedside, reading a magazine. Joe could only imagine the strength of will it took to appear so unconcerned while surrounded by so much misery.

“Hello, Joanne,” he said, and gave her a hug.

“Dr Early.” Joanne started to rise, but Joe stopped her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“How many times have I told you to call me Joe?” he chided with a fond smile.

“Oh I know, but it seems so... rude,” Joanne replied. She was desperate to ask about Johnny, but she knew that Roy wanted to hear the news as much as she did, so she leaned over and shook her husband’s shoulder. “Roy? Roy, sweetheart, you need to wake up now.”

Blinking, Roy looked blearily around before his gaze sharpened on Joe. “Doc, how’s Johnny?”

“The operation went well,” Joe reported, sitting down on the bed. “I expect him to make a full recovery, in time. He’ll be on a ventilator for a couple of days and obviously we’ll keep a careful watch on his cranial pressure, but I don’t foresee any problems. Would you like to go up to see him?”

“Yes, please,” Roy said, sitting up and pushing back the blanket covering his legs.

“Whoa!” Joe chided. “Do it slowly, Roy. You’ve been down for a while.” He supervised the paramedic as he got to his feet, but the sleep had done Roy good and he was quite steady, if still rather tired.

The journey to ICU was one they had done many times before. There was no small talk. Joe was too tired and Roy and Joanne too preoccupied to chat. Joe spoke briefly to the nurse on the desk and then ushered Roy and Joanne into the cubicle.

It always came as a shock. Roy hadn’t seen Johnny since he was whisked away over three hours ago. Joanne hadn’t seen him for a few days, but the Johnny who lay on the bed was radically different from the Johnny that they had last seen.

A sheet was draped over his hips, covering his modesty. The electrodes from the heart monitor were stuck to his chest. An IV dripped into both arms and he was intubated. Both of Johnny’s eyes were black and swollen. The gash across the bridge of his nose was neatly stitched. His head was swathed in bandages.

“I’m afraid he’s not going to be happy with his hair cut when he wakes up,” Joe joked. “I made the executive decision to shave his entire head after the surgery. The chief will be pleased, though.”

Both Roy and Joanne smiled dutifully, but Joe could see that they were shaken by Johnny’s appearance. “What kind of skull fracture was it?” Roy asked.

“It was a straight forward linear fracture,” Joe replied. “The black eyes are from whatever hit him on the nose. He’s lucky it wasn’t broken. All in all, from what I’ve heard, both of you are lucky to be alive.”

“Yeah, lucky,” Roy agreed, although seeing Johnny like that didn’t make it seem lucky. He took a step forward and took Johnny’s limp hand in his own. “Hey, partner,” he said and his voice choked up.

Quickly, Joanne went to Johnny’s other side. “Johnny, we’ll see you when you wake up and meantime enjoy your sleep and get better. I’ll see you soon.” She leaned down and kissed his cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Roy promised.

“Time’s up,” the nurse announced from the doorway. “You can visit for 10 minutes every hour.”

“When Roy is here, he can stay a bit longer,” Joe told the nurse. She nodded and disappeared to make a notation in Johnny’s chart. Roy smiled his thanks, gave Johnny’s hand a pat and laid it carefully back by his side.

As they walked from ICU, they met Dr Brackett. “I was looking for you,” he told Roy. “You can go home. Dixie phoned the station and Captain Stanley said the squad is stood down for the rest of the shift and you have to go home and get some sleep and phone him at home tomorrow. That’s good advice, Roy.”

“Don’t worry,” Joanne smiled. “He’s coming home and no arguments.”

“Take it easy for a day or two, Roy,” Brackett advised. “You should be all right for your next shift, but you’ll probably be rather stiff and sore tomorrow.”

“I’m stiff and sore now,” Roy admitted ruefully. “Thanks, Doc.” He turned to Joe Early. “And thank you, too, Dr Early.”

“No thanks necessary,” Joe smiled. He and Kel stood and watched them until the elevator doors closed. Kel turned to his colleague.

“All right, now I have to know; what did you mean when you said you were talking to Johnny at the time he was injured?”

“Just what I said.” Joe started walking towards the elevators, too. He wanted to go home. “They were on a call and the plane crashed as Johnny was trying to give me up dated vitals on the little girl I operated on just before him.”

“God,” Kel said, clearly horrified. “Did you realize what had happened?”

“Well, we knew something had, because the radio went dead, but we assumed it was an equipment malfunction. Then we got the call saying there was a plane crash, but we didn’t put two and two together because we didn’t know where the crash was, or where Roy and Johnny were for that matter.” Joe sighed. “I rang you and a couple of others to come in and cover and then things got busy. Scott and Charlie brought Jennifer in and I went straight to surgery with her. I had kind of forgotten about Roy and Johnny in all the chaos. But when Dix told me that Johnny had been brought in, I knew what had happened – and when.” He shook his head. “He was so lucky, Kel.”

“Indeed he was,” Kel agreed.

***********

There was always someone with Johnny during the ten allotted minutes each hour. There were always firefighters sitting in the ICU waiting room. Johnny’s shift mates were there the longest, and the others came to support them and their fallen brother. The plane crash had been a complete nightmare. There had been numerous fatalities, both in the planes and on the ground. There had also been some lucky escapes, Johnny’s being only one of them. It had been a grim scene and the department’s psychologist made sure that he was available for anyone who wanted to talk.

The good news was that Johnny was doing well. His cranial pressure had stayed stable and he didn’t develop any infections that required antibiotics. Roy spent several hours at Johnny’s bedside, talking quietly to him, but Brackett refused to let him stay too long. Reluctantly, Roy agreed to go back home. He was very stiff and sitting in the ghastly plastic chairs by Johnny’s bed was just making him stiffer.

In the waiting room, he bumped into Scott. “How’s Jennifer?” Roy asked, seeing that Scott was in uniform and clutching an HT.

“She’s awake and doing fine,” Scott smiled. “And Christine has agreed to marry me!”

“Congratulations!” Roy said. “That’s great news on both counts!” He shook the younger man’s hand.

“I just came to tell Johnny,” Scott said, but the tones went off and a moment later he was high-tailing it out the door.

***********

It was the morning after Roy’s first shift back that Joe Early decided to waken Johnny and extubate him. Roy was summoned and the sedation had been scaled back. Johnny was already showing signs of restlessness. Joe leaned over him. “Come on, Johnny, wake up,” he urged.

It took a couple of minutes and some urging from Roy, but gradually, Johnny’s eyes opened. He started to gag on the tube in his throat, but Roy was able to calm him down, speaking softly and clearly until Johnny relaxed.

“You’re breathing over the vent,” Joe told him. “If you carry on doing this well, we should have the tube out soon. Now, blink once for yes and twice for no. Okay?” A blink. “Do you remember what happened?” Two blinks. “That’s okay, don’t worry. Does your head hurt?”

Did his head hurt? Johnny wished he could speak; saying his head hurt was like saying the sun was a bit warm. He blinked. He couldn’t remember what had happened to make his head hurt so badly, but he recognized ICU and knew whatever it was had been serious. In fact, it still felt serious.

“All right,” Joe soothed. “We’ll give you something for the pain and see about getting rid of that tube. Okay?” Another blink.

Oh yeah, getting rid of the tube would be a huge step forward. The urge to gag was almost overwhelming. Johnny felt something cold entering his arm and after a few moments, his headache receded slightly. It was still there, but more muted. He began to feel woozy.

“Let’s get this tube out before you go back to sleep.” Joe positioned himself and a few moments later, the unpleasant procedure was over with. Johnny coughed and spluttered and gagged, but finally settled down enough to have a couple of sips of water before he fell asleep again. Roy looked at Joe.

“We’ll see how he does and move him to the neuro step-down unit this afternoon,” Joe proposed. “He’s going to be here for a few more days at the least. Later we’ll test him to see how his responses are. Obviously, they are going to be sluggish and he’ll need some rehab because he has had brain surgery, but he’s looking good so far, Roy.”

“Thanks, Doc. I know I keep saying it and I wish there was something else I could say, but I really mean it.”

“It was my pleasure,” Joe replied.

***********

When Johnny was finally allowed out of bed, a week after his accident, he was appalled at how weak he was. Hanging onto the nurse’s arm, he shuffled to the bathroom like a little old man and had to be wheeled back to bed after his shower. He was so exhausted that he slept for three hours straight.

It didn’t exactly come as a surprise to see Roy by his bedside when he woke. “Hey,” he said, drowsily and Roy lifted his head from the magazine he was reading.

“Hey yourself,” Roy replied and smiled. “How’re you doing?”

“I had a shower,” Johnny answered. “But I couldn’t do hardly anything for myself. Geez, Roy, how long is it going to take me to get back to work?”

“As long as it takes,” Roy replied and saw at once that it was the wrong answer. “Johnny, your stitches only came out today. You were in a medically induced coma for three days and you had a skull fracture and epidural hematoma. You’re not going to be running the 440 tomorrow.”

Rolling his eyes – something he was only just able to do now that the swelling had gone – Johnny ran his fingers along his scalp gingerly. His head had been totally shaved, which had come as a nasty shock, but given the alternative, he guessed he could live with that. On the plus side, his hair grew fast and there was already black stubble showing. “Guess not,” he conceded. “It feels weird not having any hair.”

“Looks weird, too,” Roy agreed. “But at least it’ll grow back.” He resisted touching his bald spot and cursed the fact that he was losing his hair already. It was receding all round and the damnable thing was that Johnny’s hair had been much thicker than his and doubtless would be when it was grown back in.

“Looks weird,” Johnny grumbled. “Cap said I was a sight for sore eyes.”

“He got that right,” Roy nodded. “The bruising is quite something.” Apart from the two black eyes, Johnny was also heavily bruised around the operation site, where the beam had hit him. The various shades of blue, green, brown and yellow contrasted with the red line of the operation scar. It would be completely invisible in Johnny’s hair once it had grown back.

“I’m bruised all over,” Johnny complained.

“Me, too,” Roy agreed. “Christine said she and Jennifer are the same.”

“How is Jennifer?” Johnny asked. He had been meaning to ask, but there had been so much else for him to contend with that it kept slipping his mind.

“Pretty good,” Roy told him. “She’s going to make a complete recovery, too. Scott and Christine are going to get married.”

“Well that’s good news,” Johnny smiled. His smile faded. “Hey, Jennifer didn’t lose her hair too, did she?”

Making a face, Roy nodded. “Yes, she did, but Dixie and Christine brought her in some wigs to play with and she’s quite happy wearing them.”

“That’s good.” Johnny didn’t want to admit how much he missed having hair. His hair was something of a trademark. He had gone from being a good boy to letting it grow a bit longer than regulations allowed, but he liked having long hair and the women he went out with seemed to find it irresistible, too.

“The guys are coming in later,” Roy mentioned.

“That’ll be good.” Johnny looked thoughtful. “Well apart from Chet, of course. He’ll no doubt make comments about Frankenstein’s monster. I suppose it’ll make a change from Mummies.” Chet’s joking comments had been singularly uninspired and fortunately, Cap’s presence had kept them to a minimum.

“I think you’re giving Chet too much credit there,” Roy disagreed. “He won’t know its Frankenstein’s monster that has the scar. He’ll just say you’re Frankenstein.”

“Is that any better?” Johnny asked and the two of them laughed.

As if on cue, the door opened and the rest of 51s crew came in. They were delighted to see Johnny looking so well, despite the bruises and scarring. “You’re looking good,” Mike Stoker commented.

“Thanks to you,” Johnny agreed. “You ever think of becoming an ambulance driver?”

“Don’t you start!” Mike objected. He shot a glare at Chet and the short fireman twitched.

“Oh?” Johnny looked at Chet, who contrived to look innocent and failed dismally. “Chet?”

“What?” Chet shot a quick glance at Cap. “Wow, your scar looks like Frankenstein’s,” he commented.

To the crew’s stunned disbelief, Roy and Johnny burst out laughing. Cap’s reprimand died on his lips and he revised the amount of latrine duty Chet would be doing from life to just six months. Somehow, Chet’s silly comment gave Cap the sure and certain knowledge that Johnny would not only be all right, but would be back at work in record time.

But meanwhile, he had a reputation of his own to uphold. “Kelly!” he snapped and saw that nobody believed that he was angry. They were all grinning at him.

***********

That afternoon was a memory that Johnny carried with him during the rehab he had to do and when he returned to work a few months later, he recalled it again as Chet was handed latrine duty. He smirked.

“Don’t know what you’re laughing at, Frankenstein,” Chet grumbled and was totally mystified as Roy and Johnny both burst out laughing.

“It’s good to be back,” Johnny agreed.

“Especially since the Phantom isn’t to make an appearance this shift,” Cap added, with a meaningful glance at Chet. “Go on, off you go.” He watched as the men fell out of line and headed off to do their chores. Chet went to the supply cupboard to get the mop and bucket.

There was a loud sproing as a spring launched a huge water bomb at Chet. He was totally drenched and just stood there, water dripping from his hair, his moustache and his fingers. He turned to look at his friends, who were doubled over in fits of laughter.

“Kelly!” Cap reproved. “Tidy that up at once. Didn’t I say no visits from the Phantom this shift?” He turned and went smartly into the office as Chet spluttered his innocence and closed the door behind him and gave in to the fit of hysteria that had almost choked him. He could vaguely hear Chet still protesting that the water bomb had had nothing to do with him.

It was quite true. He hadn’t had anything to do with it.

But only Cap knew that for certain.

*****End*****

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