(A "re-write" of the episode by the same name)
As the house owner ran back to his home, the firemen were caught off guard for a moment. The first person to react was Paramedic John Gage, who evaded his captain’s grasping hand and raced towards the house. They knew there was a gas leak and the home could explode any moment, but John couldn’t leave the man in there. He had to go and get him. “John!” Captain Stanley yelled, but the paramedic ignored him.
But as he neared the structure, something indefinable in the air warned Johnny of his imminent danger and he threw himself down, partially sheltered by the porch and bushes at the front of the property. He hit hard, knocking the wind out of his lungs. The whole area shook with the concussive blast that shattered the air. Tongues of flame licked the air above the prone paramedic.
As the flames died back slightly, Cap and Roy raced over to where Johnny lay. “Are you all right?” Cap demanded, as Johnny pushed himself upright on wobbly arms.
“I’m fine,” Johnny replied. “I’m okay.” He regained his feet and followed his partner into the burning building. Because of the amount of mud and water pouring into the house from the hillside above, the flames were not too bad.
“There!” Roy DeSoto, Johnny’s partner, exclaimed and pointed. The home owner lay slumped against a unit in what had once been his nice kitchen.
Moving quickly, Johnny knelt by the man, feeling for a pulse. “He’s alive,” he reported. “Let’s get him out of here.” He moved around to the man’s side and put his hands under his arm. Roy copied the movement on the other side. Normally, they would have checked the man out thoroughly before moving him, but this home was a ticking time bomb. Mud was pouring into the home and although the gas would hopefully be off by now, they could never tell. Getting out was top priority here.
They had taken no more than a single step when the roof came down with a groan and crash. Roy fell back, trying to protect their victim as much as he could, but he landed on his back in the mud, the home owner on top of him. The man groaned. “Are you all right?” Roy gasped, slithering out from under him. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“No, no, I don’t think so,” the man replied. He coughed weakly.
“Johnny?” Roy called, looking at the sheet of roofing tiles and debris that now separated him from freedom. “Johnny, can you hear me?” He shoved aside as much of the debris as he could and saw, brown amongst the brown mud, the arm of his partner’s turnout coat.
Grabbing the limb, Roy felt for a pulse, feeling some relief when he found one. He would feel even better when he discovered that his partner was unhurt. Moving quickly, Roy shoved aside yet more debris and saw his partner’s unconscious face, barely above the mud.
Supporting Johnny’s head, Roy pulled experimentally to see if he could free Johnny, but as he did so, Johnny came back to life with an incoherent shout of pain. He gasped wildly, looking round in obvious confusion. “Easy, easy, Johnny,” Roy soothed, preventing his partner from moving. Johnny was well and truly trapped under the debris and it would take more than just one fireman to get him to safety.
“Roy…ugh…wha...what happened?” Johnny gasped.
Quickly Roy explained. He glanced around at their original victim, relieved to see that more coherence had come into his eyes and he was sitting up, unsupported.
“Cap!” Roy called back, relieved to know that help wasn’t far away.
“You guys all right?” Cap shouted. He was standing outside the small house, roughly where he estimated the kitchen had been. Mud was slopping continuously from the hillside at his back and he was already more than ankle deep in the viscous goop.
“I am and the owner is, too. Johnny’s been trapped by the ceiling collapse,” Roy answered. “We need help, Cap. I can’t get Johnny free by myself.”
“We’re coming, Roy,” Cap assured him. “Mike’s got the K12 and Chet has an axe. How bad is John hurt?”
“I don’t know yet,” Roy called back. “But the mud rising quickly in here; it seems to be coming up through the floor, too. We don’t have much time.”
“All right,” Stanley replied, trying to sound calm and in control. He felt neither of those things. Two of his men and a civilian were trapped in a house that was slowly being swallowed by mud and he didn’t seem to be able to do much about it. He stepped back as Mike appeared around the side of the house with the K12. “Marco, check the other side to see if there’s another exit point,” he ordered.
The roar of the K12’s engine kicked in and Stanley stood back out of the way. Thank goodness the power had been off when the electricity pole had come down on top of the house. He just hoped that they would be able to get to the trapped men on time and that John wasn’t too badly hurt.
“Johnny?” Roy questioned, leaning in close to his partner to be heard over the noise of the K12. It seemed to be magnified somehow in the enclosed space. “What hurts, pal?”
Gasping and coughing, Gage spat a mouthful of mud out before answering. “My head an’…an’… my legs.” He panted heavily, screwing his face up to groan in pain before beginning to pant again. “God, Roy… what happened?”
“The roof came down,” Roy told him. He knew that getting Johnny’s pulse would be a pointless, if not impossible, operation. Of course his pulse would be fast. There was nothing Roy could do to help him except keep holding his head above the sea of mud – and if help didn’t arrive quickly, he might not be able to do even that. A shudder ran through Roy and Johnny echoed it.
“I’m cold,” Johnny reported and Roy could well believe it. The mud was leaching the heat from his own body, soaking into all his clothes, oozing down into his boots, up under his turnout coat, soaking every piece of fabric on his body. Not only was it cold and wet but it stank, too, a primeval, earthy smell that spoke of great age and decay.
Glancing over his shoulder, trying to shake off those morbid thoughts, Roy checked on the home owner again. The man was clearly not feeling too good, but he was doing all right considering his house had blown up around him. Still, Roy was worried. He could be going into shock, he was getting hypothermic and he might be bleeding internally. There was nothing Roy could do for him either. He was completely helpless and the frustration made him want to scream aloud.
“Stop the noise,” Johnny begged, his face screwed up in his distress. “Please, stop it! I can’t bear it!”
“It’ll stop soon,” Roy soothed. “It’s Mike getting us out of here. You don’t really want him to stop do you? Don’t you want to have a hot shower and get out of those muddy clothes?” He forced a smile onto his face, but he wasn’t sure if it was successful or not. His face felt as frozen as the rest of his body.
With a sudden, convulsive movement, Johnny vomited into the muck beside him. He gasped and groaned between heaves, involuntary tears seeping from his closed eyes, until, finally spent, he slumped back in Roy’s arms.
There was nothing Roy could use to even wipe his friend’s face. Everything was covered in mud. But Roy was alarmed at Johnny’s color as he gazed down at his semi-conscious friend. Johnny’s lips were faintly blue and his breathing had a distinct rattle. ‘Oh God, he aspirated when he was hit,’ Roy thought. He clutched Johnny to him, and wanted to scream and yell at the fates, shout out to let Cap know that they needed to get out of there with even more urgency than they had done just a few minutes ago. And yet he did none of those things. He simply sat in the mud and held onto his friend for dear life.
“Cap!” Marco slithered around the side of the house, almost falling as he reached Stanley’s side. “There is a window at the other side of the house, but you’d have to cut up the pole that hit the house to get to it.”
Glancing at the house, Cap shook his head. “We’ll just keep on here then,” he decided. “Cutting that pole would take valuable time we don’t have. Is there another squad and an ambulance here?”
“The ambulance is here and dispatch said the squad shouldn’t be more than a couple of minutes. They’ll be here by the time we get everyone out.” Marco looked at the building. “Are they all right, Cap?”
“I hope so, pal,” Cap replied. “I hope so.”
The sudden silence after the noise of the K12 was almost deafening. Sitting in mud up to his waist, Roy felt pulverized. He slowly turned his head as daylight suddenly penetrated their dim, muddy prison and watched with seeming disinterest as Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez squeezed into the room. They gave Roy half-hearted grins, but didn’t stop to pass the time of day. They set to work widening the opening from the inside.
Next through the hole were the paramedics from 36s, Jim Wilson and Dave Cooper. Dave knelt by the home owner and Jim crossed to Roy and Johnny. “How’re you doin’, Roy?” he asked as he dropped the oxygen tank into the muck with a loud splash.
“Johnny’s trapped,” Roy reported, wondering why his words sounded slurred. “Vomited once, prob’bly aspirated when the ceiling came down.”
“All right,” Wilson replied. He leant over to put the oxygen on Johnny, noting the paramedic’s ashen complexion and slightly blue lips. Gage’s eyes were open, but he wasn’t registering what was happening around him. “Gage, can you hear me? Gage!”
With a groan, Johnny moved his head a little, but he didn’t respond further. Wilson could feel how cold he was. They had to move quickly. He didn’t let his thoughts show on his face as he said, “Let’s see about getting you out of here, huh?” Stretching out, he felt under the ocean of mud to find out how Johnny was entrapped.
The room seemed to be full of people. Roy was vaguely aware of the home owner being assisted out of the hole in the side of his property, but he didn’t know what condition the man was in. He could summon no interest, either. Hands pulled at his arm and a voice tried to cajole him into leaving, too, but he simply pulled away and held tighter to Johnny. He wasn't going anywhere until his partner was safe.
“He won’t come, Cap,” Kelly reported, sounding confused and worried. “Doesn’t say anything, but won’t let go of Gage.”
“All right,” Stanley sighed. “Go help Wilson. See what he needs. The sooner we can get Johnny out of there, the sooner we can get Roy out, too.” He reached into his pocket for the HT. “HT51 to Engine 51. Is that other ambulance here yet, Mike?”
“10-4, Cap,” came Stoker’s response. “It’s just arrived.”
Acknowledging, Stanley put the HT back in his pocket. He stepped closer to the house so he could look inside. He felt the mud squishing between his toes and sighed. This rescue would not be over soon enough for him.
“Lift that bit, Kelly,” Wilson ordered, his face just barely above the mud. He pointed and nearly lost his precarious grip on the section of roofing that currently held Gage prisoner. “Slowly!”
Trying to keep his worried gaze away from 51’s paramedics, Kelly did as he was told. He had no real concept of how long they had been trying to free Gage – he just knew it was too long. Roy was pale beneath his coating of mud. Johnny was drifting in and out of consciousness, his breathing becoming increasingly more labored and shudders wracked his slender body.
The moment the debris gave way almost landed Kelly on his backside in the mud, but somehow he fought to keep upright. Wilson was pulling Johnny clear, shouting orders at the other pair of paramedics who had arrived on the scene a short while ago. A backboard came through the side of the building and Johnny was strapped to it in a matter of moments and it was pushed carefully through to freedom. Kelly bent over to help Wilson pull Roy to his feet.
“Come on, Roy, let’s get out of here,” Kelly encouraged. He was disheartened by Roy’s seeming lack of interest in finally getting out. “Toss you for the shower,” he added, hoping humor would help but Roy’s gaze was blank and he didn’t respond.
Hands reached through the wall to help Roy outside and around the shattered remains of the home before he was urged to recline on a gurney. Mechanically, he obeyed, sitting passively as he was divested of his turnout coat and helmet. A blanket was tucked carefully around his shivering body and Wilson used several sterile wipes on Roy’s arm before starting an IV.
“What’s wrong with him?” Kelly asked.
His question was aimed at Wilson, but it was Cap who answered, his voice weary. “Hypothermia and shock, I’d guess.”
“And Johnny?” Chet glanced after the ambulance that had left moments before, lights and siren on, carrying Gage’s comatose body.
“I don’t know, pal,” Cap replied. He dropped his hand onto Chet’s shoulder. Like everyone who had been involved in the rescue, he was caked in mud. “Let’s hold good thoughts for him. C’mon.”
“We’re not just goin’ back to the barn are we?” Chet baulked.
“There’s nothing else we can do just now, Kelly,” Cap informed him. “And we all need to get out of these wet clothes before we all come down with pneumonia, too. Come on,” he added kindly. “Dixie will keep us up to date.” His tone, his body language and the pressure he applied to Chet’s shoulder got the shorter man moving and they went across to the engine, where Mike rinsed the worst of the mud off before they set off back to the station.
“Treatment two,” Dixie ordered as Johnny’s gurney came in through the doors. “Take Roy to treatment three,” she added, pausing for only a moment to squeeze the paramedic’s arm reassuringly. Roy simply looked at her miserably and didn’t say anything. The door to treatment two swung closed behind her and Roy closed his eyes. He wanted to know how Johnny was doing but he didn’t want them to tell him that his partner wasn’t going to make it or had been badly enough injured that he wouldn’t be returning to work. He almost wished he had remained so cold that he simply didn’t care about anything.
In the adjacent room, Dr Brackett was issuing orders for blood tests while the nurses divested Johnny of his mud-soaked uniform. Dixie moved in to assist wiping the mud off Johnny’s face and silently urging the paramedic to open his eyes. There was no response, no movement, apart from the shivers still shaking Johnny’s body. “Get an auxiliary temp,” Brackett requested, his voice quiet and strained. Dixie risked a glance at his face and wished she hadn’t. His eyes were down, his professional mask in place, but Dixie couldn’t mistake the twitch of his mouth. Brackett thought this was bad and that worried her. “I want a portable x-ray stat and start warming measures – Dix?” He glanced at the head nurse and she retrieved the thermometer.
“93,” she reported.
“All right, could be worse,” Brackett replied. “Change his IV to warm saline; get a warming blanket on him.” He leant over his patient and shook his shoulder gently. “Johnny? Johnny, can you hear me?”
Nothing. Brackett tried again, giving the unconscious man a sternal rub and this time, Johnny moaned. Brackett exchanged glances with Dixie. “That’s an improvement,” he remarked. He listened to Johnny’s chest, a worried frown creasing his forehead. “Bi-lateral rales,” he sighed. “I want…” His voice trailed off as the door opened and the portable x-ray machine came in. “Chest, pelvis and legs,” he told the technician. “Stat.”
“I’ll see how Roy is,” Dixie offered as they stepped out. “What do you want me to say about Johnny?”
“Nothing,” Brackett replied. “But I know Roy. He’ll worry himself into an early grave if we try to keep things from him. Just tell him we’re waiting for the x-rays. As soon as we know, he’ll know.”
Nodding, Dixie took a deep breath before pushing open the door to treatment 3. Immediately, Roy turned his head towards the door, his expression extremely anxious. “Dix?”
Dr Joe Early looked at Dixie across his patient. “I was just threatening to have Roy restrained if he tried to get up and go and see Johnny for himself,” he commented. “When I said you weren’t hurt, Roy, I didn’t mean you could immediately get up and leave.”
Smiling at Joe’s attempt to cheer Roy up, Dix said, “We’re waiting on the x-rays for Johnny, Roy. As soon as we know something, you’ll know.” She walked over and took his hand, squeezing reassuringly. “I’m glad to hear you’re not hurt.”
“Just a bit of muscle strain and some hypothermia to keep his shock company,” Joe joked. He could tell that Dixie was worried about Johnny, but he wouldn’t ask in front of Roy. “We’ll keep you for a couple of hours to make sure you warm up properly and then Joanne can take you home.”
“But Johnny,” Roy objected and Dix squeezed his hand again.
“We’ll let you know as soon as we know,” she promised. “Joanne is on her way. Now you relax, mister!” she ordered. “You did nothing wrong and everything right with Johnny.” She smiled again and turned to leave.
As the door swung closed behind her, she heard Joe ask, “How do you fancy getting out of that mud, Roy?”
The x-ray tech was done and as Dixie approached Johnny again, she saw that the warmed saline and the blanket were finally working and Johnny was approaching consciousness. She went over and took his hand, speaking soothingly to him as his eyelids fluttered. After a few minutes, she was rewarded by his dark eyes opening. “Hi there,” she smiled. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up. How do you feel?”
“Uh… c-cold,” he chattered. Johnny turned his head, looking around then glanced back at her. “H-how’d I… get here, D-dix?”
“What do you remember, Johnny?” Dr Brackett asked, leaning over his patient.
“Uh… mud slide,” Johnny recalled. “A-a gas explosion. R-Roy and I went… Where’s Roy?”
“I think he’s probably having a hot shower by now,” Dixie replied. “Go on, Johnny, Roy’s fine.”
“We were getting the h-home owner out,” Johnny went on haltingly. “Then… I don’t know.” He shivered again. “I’m f-freezing, Dix,” he complained.
At Brackett’s nod, Dixie went to get another blanket. “How do you feel?” Brackett asked.
“Cold,” Johnny replied. He coughed suddenly, and then couldn’t stop, gagging and retching helplessly. An emesis basin appeared under his nose and he vomited uncontrollably. Tears leaked out of his closed eyes. He felt utterly wretched and didn’t even mind that Dixie was stroking his hair comfortingly while Brackett supported his head. As the heaving stopped, he risked opening his eyes and he was horrified that the emesis basin appeared to be full of mud. He immediately felt nauseated again, but mercifully the foul basin was whisked away and Dixie wiped his mouth with a damp cloth. She offered him a drink, cautioning to have a sip and spit it out, rinsing his mouth. Johnny was glad to do so. His mouth tasted of earth and loam, of something ancient and decaying.
As though the vomiting had awakened his body, Johnny’s head began pounding relentlessly and he groaned. Moving to try and get more comfortable on the hard exam table, his legs woke with sudden stabbing pains, making him gasp aloud.
“Easy, easy,” Brackett soothed. “Dixie, give him 5mls morphine. That should make you more comfortable, Johnny. As soon as I read your x-rays, we’ll get you fixed up.”
“G-good deal,” Johnny gasped. All he really wanted was to be left alone to sleep, but he sensed that wouldn’t happen. Suddenly, something occurred to Johnny and he tugged Brackett’s sleeve. “Doc, I had my helmet on,” he assured the astonished physician.
“Yes, I know,” Brackett replied and smiled. “Wilson took it off in the ambulance and you wouldn’t believe how much mud there is inside it!”
“Wilson?” Johnny asked, puzzled. “Where was R-Roy? I-I thought you said…”
“Roy’s fine,” Dixie reiterated. “But you were brought out first and Roy followed a moment or two later. You, Roy and the home owner were all trapped and Roy couldn’t look after both of you. Besides, you aren’t the only one who got cold from sitting in the mud. Your partner kept you from drowning in it, from what I understand, and he’s pretty cold, too.”
Before Johnny could formulate a response to Dixie’s mild scolding, the door opened and an orderly handed in an envelope of x-rays. “Good, thanks,” Brackett said, and hurried to clip them onto the light box.
Despite her curiosity, Dixie stayed beside Johnny while Brackett pored closely over the films. She smiled reassuringly at him and took his hand as Brackett finally turned around. “Johnny, you were pretty lucky,” Brackett told him. “You’ve got a mild concussion and both your ankles are broken. But…” he held his hand as Johnny started to interrupt. “But, the breaks are simple. We’ll give you something more for the pain. Orthopedics will put you in plaster and then you can go to a room.”
“And Roy will probably be there for a little while with you, having a sleep before Joanne collects him,” Dixie murmured. “And I’ll personally see that all the mud is washed off before we fix your ankles.”
Slowly relaxing as the pain meds kicked in, Johnny found a sloppy smile for her. “Good,” he replied, “cos I hate having mud between my toes.”
It was several days before Johnny was allowed to go ‘home’ to the DeSotos’ house. Brackett had played safe and started him on antibiotics to try and stave off pneumonia and much to everyone’s surprise, it had worked. Johnny would be off work for several weeks, but as Brackett had said, he had been lucky. The concussion and mild hypothermia had resolved themselves and the ankles didn’t require any more intervention than plaster casts.
But it was when the rest of the crew turned up for work one day that they got a huge surprise. Johnny had given the station the TV from his apartment and taken the tiny little one that he had accidentally bought to replace the one which had blown up.
As Johnny said, “I’m hardly ever in!”
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