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 dealing with treatments, diseases, etc.

Nicole’s Faith

July, 1977

A-shift was on its way back to the station after spending four hours at an apartment complex fire. Luckily no one was injured. Johnny and Roy were discussing the upcoming Fourth of July picnic at Johnny’s ranch.

Joanne and Nicole were on their way back to the DeSoto home after Nicole’s checkup. They, too, were discussing the upcoming picnic.

Roy was slowly stopping at a railroad crossing when the barriers were coming down. He didn’t notice the prisoner van that was between the squad and the engine. Nor did he notice the car sitting along side the road. Johnny was listening to Roy and watching the cars coming in the other direction. He took a second look at the first car in the line facing them.

“Hey, Roy, isn’t that Joanne’s car over there?” Johnny knew Joanne had taken Nicole to the doctors that morning.

Roy looked at the line of cars across the tracks from them and was getting ready to respond when a loud series of pops like a car backfiring sounded just outside the squad. Before either Johnny or Roy could figure out where the pops were coming from, the squad was hit from behind and pushed through the barrier onto the tracks and into the path of the approaching train. It took the four members of Engine 51 several seconds to comprehend what was happening.

Joanne was in shock as she watched the squad pushed onto the tracks at the same moment she heard the train whistle. Nicole was out of the car and hurrying towards the tracks as fast as she could. But Joanne caught her before she got too close. Both women could only stand and watch as the train was bearing down on the squad that was now stalled on the tracks.

Johnny’s door was facing the oncoming train. Survival instincts took over. Without realizing he was doing it, Johnny unfastened his and Roy’s seatbelts, reached across Roy to grab the doorknob and opened Roy’s door all in three seconds. Then he pushed Roy out and dove out after him. As he dove, he grabbed the back of Roy’s shirt and rolled away from the squad and the tracks.

The train engineer had pulled the brakes as soon as he saw the squad being pushed into his path. He pulled the whistle knowing the occupants of the vehicle were not at fault and could do nothing to get out of his way. He prayed that they would be able to get out of the vehicle before the train reached them.

All spectators were glued in their spots as the scene unfolded in front of them. Several wanted to do something, but knew there was nothing they could do. All they could do was watch to see what happened.

Mike looked up as he saw the squad door open and his eyes locked with Nicole’s on the opposite side of the track. He noticed Joanne was there with her. Why did they have to witness this? He knew that no matter what happened, there were two more victims that would need to be taken care of.

Johnny and Roy had rolled far enough away from the tracks to be out of the path of the train, but they were caught under the squad when it flew from the tracks upon impact. Once again, Johnny had pushed Roy as far away as he could and ended up taking the worst part of the impact. His last conscious view was the terror in both Joanne’s and Nicole’s eyes when he looked around to see what had happened to Roy.

It seemed like an eternity, but it was actually only 30 seconds after the impact before Captain Stanley and the rest of the crew were in action. The captain called the Code I times two into dispatch and asked for two ambulances and a squad. Mike, Chet and Marco had hurried over to see what they could do for their fallen friends. Mike said a silent prayer of thanks that a police officer had reached the two women and were moving them back to their car. What had happened? Mike thought about what had led up to this moment. They were on their way back from a fire and were stopped for the train. Then there were several loud pops and the prison van that had been between the two fire vehicles had pushed the squad onto the tracks. What were those pops? But Mike didn’t have any more time to think about it right now. They needed to get Johnny and Roy out of the wreckage as soon as possible.

The squad had ended up lying on the driver’s side. Roy was in a small ditch with the front bumper pressing on his legs. There was a huge rock that was keeping it from crushing him, but they needed to get it off his legs. Johnny was pinned further back under the front left fender, which meant he had most of the front pressing on him from the waist down. He hadn’t been fortunate enough to end up in the ditch, but the ground was quite soft from the recent rains they had been having. Captain Stanley prayed that that along with the rock holding the squad up were enough to keep Johnny’s injuries from being too severe. He didn’t want to think about all the things that could go wrong—like Johnny having crushed legs, internal bleeding—no he was not going to think about it. Johnny was Johnny—he would come out of this and be back to work in no time. He had to keep believing that or he would break down.

The soft ground that was probably a blessing for Johnny was a problem for the crew trying to extradite Roy and Johnny from under the squad. As the second squad arrived, they were trying to put a jack under the vehicle to raise it, but the jack kept sinking into the soft ground.

Chet was getting frustrated. They had been trying for ten minutes and were still getting nowhere. Looking around he spotted an old railroad tie lying off to one side. Maybe that would give them the leverage they needed. Grabbing Marco, he pulled him over towards the tie. When Marco saw what he was going for, he followed behind.

It took another five minutes before they had everything in place, but once the tie was in place for the best leverage, the four members of the engine crew as well as several members of the police force who were now on the scene provided the muscle. Brice and Bellingham were positioned at Roy and Johnny’s heads to pull them out when the squad was raised far enough off the ground.

Joanne and Nicole were standing by the car watching the rescue attempt. Nicole was praying the entire time. Johnny had become her other half and she didn’t want to lose him now.

With all the manpower, they were able to raise the squad enough for the two paramedics to pull their friends out and off to one side to begin assess their injuries. While their two injured friends were being treated, Captain Stanley, Chet, Marco and Mike all looked for someone who could give them answers as to what had happened. Looking up they found Vince and Crockett talking together and immediately headed for them.

Vince looked at the four men headed his way. He knew what was coming and he really hated to be the one to break the news. “Hi, fellas. I bet I know what you want.”

“Yeah, I bet you do. We want to know what happened.” Captain Stanley was straining to keep the anger out of his voice.

“Well, there was a convicted killer on board the prison bus being transported to another prison. Two of his friends shot at the bus hoping to hit the bus driver and help him escape. The driver was coming up behind the squad and had just started to put his foot on the brake when the gunshots rang out. He was hit in the shoulder and his foot slipped off the brake and onto the gas, pushing the squad onto the tracks.”

“Did the killer get away? Did you catch the shooters?” Chet was worried for his two friends.

“Chet, I am worried about Roy and Johnny, too. There were five police cars waiting behind the engine and they were able to catch them. We had enough eye witnesses that there will be no problem with prosecuting and convicting them.”

“Captain Stanley?” Brice wanted to let the firemen know they were ready to transport Roy and Johnny to Rampart. He wasn’t looking forward to giving them a report, but he was thankful that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Mike was the first one to reach the downed men and the paramedics working on them. “How are they Craig?”

Brice looked at the faces of the men who had joined him and Bellingham. “Well, we are ready to transport. Roy’s has a broken left leg and a compound fracture of his right leg. He’s lost some blood and is unconscious from a blow to the head. I don’t think he has a concussion, but the doctors at Rampart will have to confirm that.” Brice stopped to take a deep breath.

Captain Stanley realized that Brice was taking his time reporting on Johnny’s condition. “Craig, how bad is Johnny?”

“We had to use the shock suit. There is some internal damage and the doctors are going to have to look at his legs. Hopefully the damage is only compound fractures. But it looks like one leg might be crushed. He was lying on a rock and had no feeling in his legs. I think it is only bruising, but again only the doctors can tell for sure. He is unconscious from the internal bleeding. He has a bump on his head, too.”

Captain Stanley walked over to the ambulance and looked at Roy. “Just take care of him, Bob and, Craig, please take care of Johnny. Let us know as soon as you hear anything.” As Craig Brice joined Johnny in the second ambulance, Captain Stanley closed the doors and thumped them twice to send it towards Rampart behind the ambulance containing Roy.

“Cap?” Mike realized that Joanne and Nicole had been watching everything that was going on.

“Yeah, Mike.” Captain Stanley hadn’t seen the two women.

“Joanne and Nicole are right over there.” Mike pointed towards the two women who were in shock themselves. They were leaning against the front of Joanne’s car.

“Oh, man. How long have they been there?” Captain Stanley could tell that the color had drained from both women’s faces.

“They have been here the whole time.” Mike knew someone needed to get to Nicole and Joanne. They had seen the accident from the very first moment.

Captain Stanley grabbed Marco and Chet and headed towards the two women who were definitely in shock. “Joanne, do you want someone to take you to the hospital?”

Neither woman answered him. Both were routed in place staring at the wrecked squad.

“Joanne, do you want someone to take you to the hospital?” Captain Stanley gently placed his hand on her arm. “Joanne?”

“Yes, I don’t think I could drive there.” Joanne’s eyes were following the ambulances that had just pulled away from the scene of the accident.

“Marco, you drive the DeSoto’s car while Chet drives the squad in for Brice and Bellingham.” Captain Stanley gently led Joanne to the back seat as Marco climbed into the driver’s seat. Mike was helping Nicole into the front passenger seat.

Captain Stanley turned to watch the car and squad follow the same path that the ambulances carrying his paramedics had taken. He would make sure that Dixie and the doctors knew they had two more victims. Nicole and Joanne were probably in shock. He turned back to the scene of the accident as the Chief’s car pulled up. First he needed to take care of business.


Chief McConikee released the men of Station 51 from the cleanup of the accident. He had called in the engine of station 16 to take over and sent the worried men to the hospital to see how their crewmates were doing.

Mike entered the doctor’s lounge first and saw Joanne and Nicole sitting on the couch holding onto each other for dear life. He quietly walked over and sat down next to Nicole putting his arms around both women. They were both trembling. But then again—so was he.

Hank walked over and sat down beside Joanne. When the two women realized the men were there, they instinctively turned and grabbed the men burying their heads in the men’s shoulders. Hank and Mike gently rocked the two women and let them cry. After about two minutes, both women calmed down but didn’t let go of their “support.”

Dr. Brackett entered the room to give his report on Roy. All of the room’s occupants were on their feet when they saw the doctor enter the room. Dixie followed the doctor into the room so she could watch the reactions of the two women and make sure they would be ok.

Looking directly at Joanne he started to speak. “Roy suffered a compound fracture of his right leg. His left leg has a single fracture. The blood he lost was from the cut in his leg from the bumper when it nicked an artery. We were able to repair it and give him two units of blood to replace what he lost. He has a bump on his head, but does not have a concussion. He is going to need some physical therapy after his legs heal, but he will make a full recovery.”

Joanne smiled at the encouraging report. But the anxiety returned when she felt the trembling in Nicole’s body as she hugged her. She remembered that Johnny had once again pushed her husband out of the way and received the worst of the ordeal.

“What about Johnny, Doc?” Chet was glad that Roy was going to be ok, but Dr. Brackett hadn’t mentioned Johnny.

“I can answer that question, Chet.” Dr. Early had entered the room just in time to hear Dr. Brackett’s report on Roy. Joe Early took a deep breath and looked at Nicole. “Johnny is in very critical condition right now. We are going to be taking him to surgery in about five minutes. I’m not going to sugar coat it. He has a lot of internal bleeding that we need to get repaired immediately. Dr. Ransom, our best orthopedic doctor, will also be there to look at both his legs. We know that he has suffered compound fractures of both legs. However, Dr. Ransom is going to have to check to see that the bones in his left leg aren’t shattered, but I am going to tell you it doesn’t look good. The x-rays of his back show that there is a lot of swelling around his spinal cord, but there are no breaks. He had a bump on his head, but does not have a concussion.” Dr. Early paused a minute to let what he said sink in.

“So, Dr. Early, there is a possibility that Johnny will be paralyzed from the injury to his spinal cord or lose the use of his left leg because it may be crushed.” Nicole’s words were more of a statement than a question.

“Yes, Nicole, those are both definite possibilities, but let’s see what happens in surgery before we give up on him.”

“Dr. Early, I’m not giving up on him. I just want to be prepared to be there from the minute he wakes up to help him through whatever he has to face. Knowing he might not ever be a firefighter again will be very hard for him. I need to be prepared to show him that he can still be useful and that I will be there every step of the way. There is one thing that you didn’t say, however, isn’t there. You didn’t say that there is the possibility that Johnny might not even make it through the surgery, right? Can we each see him for a few seconds before you take him up so that he knows we are here? It will help him fight.”

Everyone looked at Nicole in amazement. She seemed so calm and yet so caring. Dr. Early really liked this lady and knew that she was good for Johnny. “Yes, you’re right. Johnny will have to fight to make it through surgery. His chances are pretty good, but there is still a possibility he won’t make it. Of course you can all go in and see him. But just for a few minutes. We really have to get him upstairs.”

The four members of A-shift went in first. Then Joanne went in with Nicole. Once again Joanne was amazed at Nicole’s strength. But as soon as Johnny had been taken to surgery and the ladies had once again joined the men in the lounge, Nicole buried her head in Mike’s shoulder and let her emotions out. It was several minutes before the sobs ceased and Mike realized Nicole had fallen asleep.


It had been four hours since they had taken Johnny up to surgery. The engine crew had to get back to complete their shift, but promised both women they would be back as soon as the shift ended. Nicole promised to let them know the minute they found out anything about Johnny’s condition. Roy had been moved to a regular room and would soon need another dose of pain medication. Knowing his previous dose would soon be wearing off, Joanne and Nicole knew it would be better to be there when he woke up so they would be the ones to answer any questions he would have about Johnny. As the two women entered the room, he was slowly waking up. The first thing he saw when he woke up was Joanne’s smiling face and he tried to smile back.

“Hi, honey. What happened?” Roy was still a little foggy from the pain medication and at that moment didn’t recall the accident.

“What do you remember, Roy?” Dr. Brackett had entered the room, knowing that it was time for Roy’s pain medication.

“We were on the way back from a run and were stopped at a railroad crossing. Then we heard some loud pops like a car backfiring.” Roy stopped a minute to think as his mind slowly cleared. “Then all of a sudden we were pushed onto the train tracks. I remember hearing a train whistle. Before I could even react, Johnny undid both our seat belts and pushed me out of the cab. I remember him grabbing me and pushing as we rolled away from the squad. After that I don’t remember anything until right now. Where’s Johnny? Is he alright? What happened to him?” Roy was beginning to get agitated as he realized that Johnny had once again pushed him out of the way of danger.

“Please try to calm down, Roy. Johnny is in surgery right now to repair some internal damage and to set his legs.” Dr. Brackett didn’t want to tell Roy how critical Johnny was. He was hoping that Roy would just accept that and not ask any more. But he knew Roy well enough that he wasn’t surprised at Roy’s next questions.

“How long has he been in surgery? What exactly are his injuries? How bad are they?” Roy was not about to rest until he got the truth about his partner.

Dr. Brackett sighed as he started to answer Roy. “Well, I don’t know about the internal damage yet. I was busy with you, so Dr. Morton is assisting Dr. Early and Dr. Ransom. He has been in surgery about four hours. Dr. Ransom is setting his legs.” Not wanting to tell Roy about the possible career ending injuries had he might have sustained, but knowing Roy would read between the lines, he took a deep breath and continued. “Roy, Dr. Ransom is checking to see how badly the bones in his left leg were broken. It looked like one or more might have been shattered. Also, there is some swelling around his spinal cord that we need to wait and see before we can tell the extent of any damage.”

“How much longer will he be in surgery?” Roy was getting worried about his partner. Johnny would be devastated if his career as a firefighter/paramedic was over.

“He was just sent to recovery.” Dr. Early had been looking for Nicole and was glad to find her in Roy’s room.

“Dr. Early, how is he? What about his leg? What about his spinal cord?” Roy had the questions out before anyone else could even think.

“We were able to fix the lacerations to his kidney and liver that was causing the internal bleeding. He will recover fully from those injuries. He was lucky in that none of the bones in either leg were crushed or shattered. He will need physical therapy once the compound fractures in both legs heal.” Dr. Early was glad he had some good news for this group.

“Dr. Early, you didn’t mention the spinal cord injury. How bad is it and will he recover from it?” Nicole was watching the relief in Roy’s eyes as Dr. Early had made his report. She hated to be the one to destroy that relief, but they all needed to be prepared to help Johnny recover.

“Well, Nicole, we have to wait and see once the swelling goes down. I can’t tell you one way or the other. If he does recover, he will have some extensive, painful physical therapy ahead of him.” Dr. Early knew Johnny was going to need the help and support of all his family and friends to make it through this time—no matter what the prognosis turned out to be.


As she had promised, Nicole slipped out of Roy’s room to go call the men of Station 51’s A-shift. She relayed the doctor’s report and then made her way up to ICU where Johnny had been moved. Slipping into his room, she felt the tears slip down her face. He looked like a little boy lying so still on the bed. She picked up his hand in both of hers and sat down in the chair next to his bed. “Johnny, I know you are going to get better. You will recover 100% and I will be right next to you every step of the way. It may be hard, but we will get through it together—you’ll see. We’ll have you on your feet and back to work in no time.”

Joanne had slipped into the room to check on Johnny for Roy. She had seen Nicole sitting there and didn’t want to intrude so stayed back out of the way out of sight. She had heard Nicole’s words and was beginning to worry that Nicole was fooling herself. It was when Nicole was leaving that Joanne knew that Nicole was aware of exactly what lay ahead and what the possibilities were. She listened as Nicole stopped at the door and looked back at Johnny. Nicole quietly said, “Please, Lord, let me be right. Please let him recover fully. He couldn’t make it if he couldn’t be a firefighter/paramedic. You know what his life has been like. Please don’t take away the only thing that has ever made him truly happy and made him feel like he was worth something. He is such a special person, Lord. Please let him get better.” Joanne saw the tears that were flowing down Nicole’s cheeks as she left the room.

Joanne waited a minute before leaving her hiding place. She walked over and picked up Johnny’s hand in hers. “Johnny, you need to fight and get better. You have a wonderful lady waiting for you and she will be with you every step of the way. If for no other reason, I believe you will get better because of Nicole’s faith.”


Nicole made it as far as the ICU waiting room before all the emotions she had been holding in crashed down on her. Glad that the room was empty, she curled up in a fetal position on one end of the couch and let the tears flow. When she finally felt in control of her emotions again, Nicole made her way down to the chapel. She would spend sometime there and then head back to keep vigil at Johnny’s bedside.

Joanne had made her way back to Roy’s room to give him a report on Johnny and had then planned on going to look for Nicole. However, when she arrived at Roy’s room, he was asleep but seemed to be having a nightmare. She quickly crossed the room to his bedside and picked up his hand in hers. Then she started talking to him quietly and soon he calmed down. She sat in the chair next to his bed intending to just stay with him a few minutes until she was sure he would sleep peacefully and then go find Nicole. But sitting in the quiet room and thinking about her husband, she drifted off into a dreamless sleep herself.

Nicole’s heart was heavy as she slowly made her way back to Johnny’s bedside. Dr. Early had given permission for her to stay by his bed as long as she wanted to. She was a little surprised that there was no one in the halls as she walked into Johnny’s room. Summoning up all the courage she had, she vowed to be strong for Johnny. He needed her now and she was going to be there every step of the way. Walking over to his bedside, she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. Picking up his hand in hers, she sat down and started to softly sing to him knowing how it calmed him. After about fifteen minutes, she pulled the extra pillow and blanket she had been given off the foot of Johnny’s bed and laid down on the floor just under Johnny’s bed. She knew she was so tired that even the hard floor would be better than trying to sit in the chair. Since she was on the side away from the door, the nurses did not notice her when they came in to do their periodic checks on Johnny. She was not aware that because no one had seen her since 9:15 p.m., she was the object of a frantic search when the A-shift crew arrived at the hospital after their shift.


Hank, Chet, Mike and Marco quietly entered Roy’s room as they stopped there on their way up to see Johnny. Hank smiled to himself when he saw Joanne sleeping with her arms folded on the side of Roy’s bed and her head resting on her forearms. All four men were happy to see that Roy looked so much better than he had the day before. They all knew that would aide in Joanne’s and Nicole’s recovery as well. Not wanting to wake either Roy or Joanne the four men turned and were just about ready to leave when Joanne’s voice reached them.

“Hi, guys. Are you leaving so soon?” Joanne had been awake and was just resting when she heard the door open.

“We thought you were both asleep and didn’t want to wake you.” Hank led the way back into the room.

“We’re both awake. How was the rest of the shift?” Roy had heard the door open, too, and was happy to see his shift mates.

“Thankfully it was pretty quiet. I don’t think I could have concentrated if we had had a large or difficult run. I think all of us were too worried about you and Johnny. Have you heard how Johnny is this morning?” Mike blushed as everyone looked at the usually quiet engineer.

“Mikey, you can talk.” Chet was the first one to find his voice.

“Shut up, Chet.” Captain Stanley was as worried about Johnny as Roy was. He had been praying ever since the accident that Johnny’s injuries would not be career-ending. He was pretty sure that the rest of the guys had been praying that way, too.

“No, I was going to look for Nicole last night, but I fell asleep here.” Joanne was beginning to worry about her friend. No one had been there for Nicole and she knew that Nicole was trying to be strong for Johnny.

“We’ll go see if we can find her. Maybe one of the nurses can tell us where she is.” Mike turned and pulled Marco behind him. Although it was never spoken out loud, everyone on A-shift looked out for Johnny—the youngest member of the crew. He held a special spot in all their hearts and each of them knew the station would never be the same without his energy, his trusting attitude and his endless rants. He kept the guys on their toes and kept the fun in the job.

“Yeah, we’ll bring her back here when we find her.” Marco was more than willing to go help look for Nicole.

Five minutes later Mike and Marco came bursting back into the room. Mike was in the lead. “The last person who remembers seeing Nicole was Dr. Early when he saw her in here and told her about Johnny’s surgery. No one else remembers seeing her after that.”

“I saw her in Johnny’s room when she went up to check on him after Dr. Early left. She left his room and I was going to go find her after I told Roy how Johnny was doing. But I fell asleep.” Joanne was really getting worried now.

“Did any of the nurses see her in Johnny’s room or the waiting room after that?” Roy was getting an uneasy feeling.

“No, we asked the nurses who were just getting off duty. None of them remembers ever seeing her at all. Dr. Early had left instructions for her to be allowed to stay in Johnny’s room, but they never saw her.” The concern for Nicole was showing on Marco’s face.

“Let’s fan out and check all the places she could be. We know she wouldn’t leave with Johnny injured. She has to be here somewhere. Chet, start on first floor and make a check of each of the waiting rooms. Don’t overlook any of them. She might be somewhere we don’t expect. Marco, you check the chapel and then help Chet with the waiting rooms. Mike, go down to ER and check to see if she’s down there. Check the waiting room, the doctor’s lounge and Dr. Brackett’s office. She might have gone into one of them and fallen asleep on the couch. I’m going to go up to the ICU and start there. If you find her, bring her back here. Check in with Roy and Joanne here every ten minutes so we know where we stand. Ok, guys, let’s get going.” Hank took command as if this was a rescue they had been called out to. The guys didn’t think twice about following his orders.

Marco headed to the chapel. It was empty when he arrived, so he took a few minutes to send up a silent prayer for Roy, Johnny, Joanne and Nicole. He thought that no one had remembered that Joanne and Nicole had seen the accident and were just as much victims as Roy and Johnny. He silently vowed to do something about that when they found Nicole.

Chet started in the first floor waiting room. He took a minute to look at the people who were waiting. For a fleeting second, he wondered about each one and who they might be there to visit. But he didn’t stop long knowing he had a job to do. Marco met up with him and they headed to the other waiting rooms.

Hank had arrived at ICU and was hoping that he would enter Johnny’s “room” and find Nicole. He was disappointed when that wasn’t the case. ~Where could she be?~ Hank took a minute to walk over to check on Johnny. He stopped and saw all the machines and again prayed that one of the best paramedics in the county would be ok. He never noticed Nicole still sound asleep on the floor just out of sight under the other side of Johnny’s bed. With a deep sigh, he turned and headed for the waiting room hoping to find her there. Again he was met with disappointment. Trying to formulate another plan, he headed back to Roy’s room.

Roy was anxiously waiting for his shift mates to return. None of them had to worry about checking in, because they had completed their search in less than ten minutes—all of them coming up empty handed.

Dr. Brackett, Dixie and Dr. Early walked in to find six very glum people. Thinking something had happened to Johnny, Dixie was instantly on the alert. “What happened? Is Johnny alright? No one said there was any problem when I came in this morning.”

“No, Dixie, I just came from Johnny’s room. He seems to be doing better. He still looks pale, but he was resting comfortably.” Hank was trying to think of where else they could look for Nicole.

“Then why the glum faces?” Dr. Brackett was beginning to check Roy’s vital signs.

“Because no one has seen Nicole since 9:15 last night and we have checked every place here in the hospital we can think of and cannot find her. And we are all worried because both she and Joanne witnessed the accident.” Chet was really worried about her now.

“Joanne and Nicole saw the accident? No one has seen Nicole since last night?” Dr. Early thought Nicole was up in ICU with Johnny.

“Yes, both women saw the accident. No, Nicole isn’t anywhere—we checked Johnny’s ‘room’ and every waiting room, the chapel, Dr. Brackett’s office, the doctor’s lounge and she is no where to be found.” Mike wanted to be out looking for Nicole, but he had no idea of where to look either.

“Did anyone try the cafeteria?” Dr. Brackett was trying to think of all the places Nicole could be, too. He also realized they would need to be there for both Joanne and Nicole as well as Roy and Johnny.

Looking at each other, the four men of A-shift headed for the door. “Thanks, Doc. We’ll go now.”

“Joanne, let’s go look in the ladies rooms.” Dixie wanted to find Nicole as much as the guys did.

“Ok. Roy, I’ll be back as soon as we’re done. With all of us out of the room, Dr. Brackett can check you over this morning.” Joanne kissed Roy on the lips and followed Dixie out of the room.

“Don’t worry, Roy, we’ll find her.” Dr. Brackett saw the worried look on Roy’s face and silently prayed he was right.

“Yeah, Doc, you’re right.” Roy silently prayed that Dr. Brackett was right, too.

It had been thirty minutes since the guys had started their search for Nicole. They were getting discouraged as she was no where to be found. They had all congregated back in Roy’s room and were trying to come up with a plan of what to do next.

Meanwhile, back in Johnny’s “room” Nicole was waking up with a stiff neck and back. She had known when she fell asleep that she would be stiff and sore in the morning but she also knew it was better than falling asleep in the chair. Picking herself up and sitting in the chair, she picked up Johnny’s hand. “Good morning, Johnny. How are you feeling today?” Not expecting a response she jumped when she felt her hand being squeezed. Looking up she saw Johnny’s deep brown eyes looking at her and his lopsided grin. “What are you laughing at?” She playfully swatted him on the arm.

“Your hair is all messed up. You know, you look pretty even just waking up.” Johnny’s smile got bigger as Nicole swatted him again. Then the memories came flooding back. “How’s Roy? Is he ok?”

“Roy’s fine. I haven’t seen him yet this morning, but I’ll go check on him for you if you want me to. He has a compound fracture of his right leg. His left leg has a single fracture. He lost some blood from a cut in his leg from the bumper when it nicked an artery. They were able to repair it and give him two units of blood to replace what he lost. He has a bump on his head, but does not have a concussion. He is going to need some physical therapy after his legs heal, but he will make a full recovery.”

“I’m glad. Before you go check on him for me, what is the extent of my injuries?” The pain from his injuries was making itself known to him.

As Nicole was explaining everything to Johnny, Dr. Early along with Hank, Chet, Mike, Marco and Dixie made their way to Johnny’s “room”. Before entering, they stopped at the desk to ask once again if anyone had seen Nicole. A nurse had been at the desk at all times and Nicole had not been seen. The guys were disappointed as they followed Dixie and Dr. Early into the room. Well, almost into the room. Since each of them was lost in his own thoughts, it was like a domino effect when Dixie stopped suddenly and Dr. Early bumped into her because he wasn’t paying attention. Then Hank bumped into Dr. Early. Mike bumped into Hank. Marco bumped into Mike and Chet bumped into Marco. Before any of them could ask why Dixie stopped so suddenly, they heard laughter from the room. But it wasn’t just Johnny’s laughter, they heard Nicole’s too. Quickly the six people made their way into the room.

Dixie was the first one to find her voice. “Nicole, where have you been?”

Surprised, Nicole looked at Johnny and then at each of the six people who had just entered the room. “I’ve been right here.”

“How long have you been here?” Dixie knew they had asked and none of the hospital personnel had seen Nicole.

“Since about 10:00 last night.” Nicole wasn’t sure what was going on.

“You’ve been here all the time? But we checked this room and no one saw you.” Dixie had checked it as well as Hank. “No one saw you here. We asked the nurses.”

“There was no one in the hall when I came in. When I got tired I pulled the pillow and blanket they had given me off the foot of Johnny’s bed and went to sleep right down here. I just woke up a few minutes ago.” Nicole moved out of the way so Hank and Dixie could see where she had made her bed.

Hank laughed. “You must have really been tired if all the nurses could come in and out of here to check Johnny and you didn’t even wake up. You picked a great hiding spot that can’t be seen from the doorway. No one even knew you were here.”

“I’m sorry if I worried you guys. I didn’t mean to.” Nicole felt bad that they had been looking for her.

“Why don’t you go with the guys back down to Roy’s room and relieve his and Joanne’s minds while we check Johnny? Come back in about fifteen minutes and we’ll be through. And, Nicole, we’ll make sure they put a cot in here for you tonight.” Dixie hugged Nicole just before she followed the guys out of the room.

Roy and Joanne were both worried as they heard the door open. Roy was expecting the guys to come back and give him a report on Johnny. He was very pleased when Nicole walked in with the guys. For the next five minutes they were talking about how Johnny was doing and where Nicole had been. Each of the five men and Joanne sent up a silent prayer of thanks that Nicole was alright.

Meanwhile back in Johnny’s room Dr. Early and Dixie were running some tests on Johnny. The swelling around his spinal cord had gone down a little, but he did not have any feeling from his waist down and couldn’t move his legs. As they completed their exam, Johnny was worried about it. Dr. Early smiled at Johnny. “Johnny, I know you are worried, but let’s think positive until the swelling is completely gone.”

“Ok, I’ll try. I just don’t know what I am going to do if I am paralyzed.” Johnny wanted to think positively, but it scared him that he couldn’t move his legs.

“There are a lot of things you could do if you have to, but you are going to make a full recovery. It is going to take a lot of hard work and time, but we’ll make it.” Nicole had come back just as Dr. Early was giving his report.

“We?” Johnny looked at Nicole’s smile.

“Yes, I am going to be with you every step of the way. Nothing you can say to me is going to make me leave until you are back on your feet. You are going to hurt, get angry and frustrated and tell me to get lost because you don’t want me to have to be friends with someone like you. But I am not going anywhere until you are back on your feet and you tell me to leave, not because of your injuries, but because you really don’t want me around.” Nicole had remembered when one of her classmates had an injury similar to Johnny’s. But she had pushed everyone away and no one stayed to help her. Because she gave up, she lost the use of her legs and ended up committing suicide. Nicole was not going to let that happen to Johnny.

Nicole’s faith that he would recovery transferred to Johnny. He knew there was always a chance that he wouldn’t recover, but it wasn’t going to be for lack of trying. Having Nicole beside him to help was going to make it that much easier to work and regain his life.

Two days later Johnny was moved into Roy’s room. Roy was released three days later. Four days later the swelling was gone, but Johnny still didn’t have any feeling or movement in his legs. He was getting discouraged. Dr. Brackett had wanted him to start physical therapy, but he refused saying it wouldn’t do any good. Dr. Brackett had just left when Nicole entered the room. She saw that Johnny was feeling low and she knew he was refusing to do physical therapy. She had a plan.

Johnny looked up when the door opened. As Nicole entered the room, he thought about what her life would be like with him. He had to find a way to get Nicole to go away and find someone else. She needed to be with someone who could take care of her—not someone who would spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair.

“Hi, Johnny. How are you feeling today? Would you like to go outside for a little while?”

“Nicole, why don’t you just go away and leave me alone? Just leave and don’t ever come back.” Johnny saw the pain in Nicole’s eyes. He turned away from her so he wouldn’t lose his resolve.

“Johnny, I’m not going anywhere.” Nicole had met Dr. Brackett and knew the results of his exam.

“I don’t want you here.” Johnny couldn’t look at Nicole. He wanted and needed her to stay so bad, but he didn’t want to put her through that.

“Johnny, I told you that I was going to be here with you every step of the way until you are back on your feet. Nothing you say will change that.” Nicole had crossed the room to Johnny’s bedside. She could see the tears that threatened to spill.

“But I’m not going to get back on my feet.” The tears slid down Johnny’s face as he felt Nicole’s hand on his arm and her lips on his cheek.

“You are going to get better. Maybe you won’t walk again, but you will be a very important part of society again. You are special, Johnny, and whether you walk or spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair, that will never change.”

Johnny turned and pulled Nicole into his arms. “I love you. I don’t want to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life.”

“Johnny, you still need to give it time. But no matter what I will be with you all the way.” Nicole held Johnny until he calmed down. Then she helped him into the wheelchair. After a quick stop at the bathroom to let Johnny wash his face, they started on a tour of the hospital.

Johnny didn’t realize where they were headed until they were just outside the doors to physical therapy. “Nicole, take me back to my room.”

“Johnny, if you really want to go back to your room, I’ll take you there. But hear me out first, ok?” Nicole prayed Johnny would let her take him in to start therapy.

“Ok, I’ll hear you out.”

“I want to help you and if we start now, you will be that much farther ahead if and when you do get the feeling back in your legs. I still believe you will be walking again soon. But even if you don’t, we won’t know until we try. Please let me help you.”

“Ok. Let’s do it.” Johnny marveled as he thought how blessed he was to have someone like Nicole who would stand beside him no matter what.
As Nicole worked with Johnny, she noticed something that neither he nor the therapist noticed. She smiled as she watched how hard Johnny worked. It was going to be a couple of months, but he would be walking again before anyone realized it.

Nicole was having a hard time keeping her hope in as she wheeled Johnny back to his room. Roy was waiting when they arrived. “Hi, Roy.” Nicole let Roy help Johnny back into bed.

“Hi, Nicole. Hi, Johnny, where have you been?”

“I started physical therapy today.” Johnny grinned at the smile that crossed Roy’s face. He knew that Roy had talked with Dr. Brackett and probably thought Johnny would be depressed. After all, until Nicole showed up, he was depressed.

While Roy and Johnny were talking, Nicole took the eagle feather she had brought Johnny out of her purse. She softly ran the feather up and down the bottom of Johnny’s feet. Without realizing what he was doing, he moved his feet away each time she ran the feather across them. The smile on her face grew each time he moved. After a couple of minutes when he still didn’t realize what was happening, she took a pen out of her purse and ran it up and down his feet a little harder. Again he pulled his feet away, but didn’t realize what he was doing. Nicole waited another minute and when Roy excused himself for a few minutes, she alternated running the feather and the pen on the bottom of Johnny’s feet.

Without thinking, Johnny looked at her and growled. “Will you stop that? It tickles.”

Nicole’s grin grew bigger, but she didn’t stop.

Johnny was getting a little put out with her. “Nicole, I said will you stop that? That ti—.“  Then it dawned on him. He could feel the feather and the pen.

“I wondered how long it would take you to realize what I was doing. Do you know that I have been doing this for about four minutes now?” Nicole laughed at the look on Johnny’s face.

“And I pulled my feet away, didn’t I?” Johnny realized he had been moving his feet.

“Yep. Do you want me to have them page Dr. Brackett?” Nicole couldn’t help but laugh now.

“No, I’d like to surprise them all. Don’t say a word just yet, ok?” Johnny’s eyes twinkled as Roy entered the room.

“Ok.” Nicole’s eyes twinkled back.

“Alright, you two. What are you up to?” Roy knew something was going on, but he wasn’t sure what.

“Nothing, Roy, nothing.” Johnny’s grin grew bigger.

“Ok for now, but I’m going to find out what is going on between you two.” Roy was happy to see the smile reach Johnny’s eyes for the first time in days.

Johnny was glad that Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early were going to depend on the therapist for a report on how Johnny was doing. He didn’t want them to check his reflexes. After all he wanted to surprise everyone.

Nicole and Johnny talked with the therapist when he went for his second session the next day. The therapist did some tests and smiled as the results showed that Johnny did indeed have the feeling in his legs back and would walk again. He agreed to help keep Johnny’s secret until Johnny was ready to let everyone know.

For the next week, Johnny worked hard in therapy in the morning and Nicole would help him with his exercises in the afternoon. But it was hard and most of the time the pain was so bad that Johnny would snap at Nicole. He told her that all she did was cause him pain and that he didn’t want her around. He told her to get out, stay out and leave him alone. When it felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere, he was ready to give up.

When he yelled at Nicole for the fourth day in a row, Nicole just looked him in the eye. “Johnny, I made you a promise when you first got hurt that I would be here every step of the way. I told you then and I am telling you now that I am going to be right here until you are back on your feet and you tell me you don’t want me around because you really don’t love me—not because you are depressed and hurting. When you are back to work, then you can tell me to get lost.”

“And I’ll do just that.” Johnny was really hurting today and felt like he would never walk again.

Nicole just smiled. “Ok, but that’s in the future. Right now you have to do these exercises.” Knowing that feeling like he did at the moment, nothing she said would change his mind.

Johnny glared at her. Deep down he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have Nicole stand by him. He thought about how he had treated her over the last few days and he wasn’t happy with himself. However, it seemed that no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t keep from taking his frustration out on Nicole.

Johnny was released from the hospital and he moved in with the DeSoto’s along with Nicole. His disposition improved a little as the pain lessened and he regained the strength in his legs over the next few weeks. Others had taken him to therapy, but he would never let anyone stay. Only Nicole was allowed to help with his exercises but he still took all his frustration out on her.

Roy and Joanne had listened as Johnny would yell at Nicole during the times she was helping him with his exercises. They offered to take over for her on the days Johnny seemed especially frustrated, but she would always refuse and met each day with a smile. Roy couldn’t believe how lucky Johnny was to have Nicole. He wanted to talk with Johnny about it, but Nicole seemed to read his mind.

“Roy, Johnny is just frustrated because he doesn’t think therapy and exercising will help. But just give him time. It will get better and he will be happy again. I know he will.” Nicole knew that Roy wanted to help, but because Johnny had wanted to keep his progress a secret, she couldn’t let him. No one knew that each time before she opened the door to Johnny’s room, she had to compose herself and turn off her feelings. She knew Johnny didn’t mean the things he was saying to her, but it still hurt. The thing that kept her going was thinking of the looks on everyone’s faces when Johnny walked out of the house during the yearly Station 51 barbeque on Labor Day. That was only five days away. As she entered the room, she didn’t see Johnny watching her.

“Hi, Angel.” Johnny had a very productive time at therapy that morning. Actually he realized that every day had been productive and he was just being impatient. He also realized that all the time and work Nicole had put in on helping him with his exercises had helped him regain the use of his legs a lot faster than he would have if he had been doing them alone. He probably would have quit a long time ago if it hadn’t been for Nicole.

Nicole’s heart stopped. Johnny hadn’t called her Angel in weeks. She was pleased to see that he seemed to be in a happier mood today. “Hi. How was therapy this morning?” She was hesitant as she really didn’t know what to expect from him.

“I walked without any help from anything—no crutches, cane or bars. Therapy the rest of this week will be just getting the strength back. Angel, please come here.” Johnny hoped he hadn’t ruined the relationship he had been building with Nicole. How could he have taken everything out on her? Would she want to stay with him? He doubted it. He wouldn’t blame her if she walked out of his life forever after the way he had treated her the last several weeks.

Nicole walked over and kneeled down next to Johnny. She turned to look at him. “I’m so glad. I knew that you would make a full recovery and walk again.” Her heart was racing. She had made him a promise to stay by him until he was back on his feet. Now he was and the time she had dreaded was here. During many of the times he had yelled at her to get out, she said that when he was back on his feet he could tell her that and she would go. He kept telling her he would do just that and now that time was here. Steeling herself for what she knew was coming; she tried to smile at him. But the smile didn’t reach her eyes.

“I wish I had been strong enough to listen to you and believe like you did. Nicole, you have been by me every step of the way and if it hadn’t been for you, I would have given up a long time ago.” Johnny had to stop to get control of his emotions. The tears were threatening. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Nicole to see him crying. It was that he wanted to tell her how much he loved her before he did.

“Johnny, there were times when I wasn’t so sure you were going to make it all the way back. Those were the time I prayed the hardest. I made you a promise that no matter what you said to me or what you did I would be there every step of the way until you were back on your feet. I did that because I knew a girl once who was in the same position you were. But when she pushed everyone away they left. She never walked again and lost all hope. She eventually committed suicide. She gave up too soon. If someone had helped her, she might have regained the use of her legs. I couldn’t let that happen to you. Your whole life is helping other people and it would have been hard for you if you couldn’t do that again. I knew that if it did happen, then you would learn to do what you needed to and go on with your life. But I wanted you to do everything possible and you did.” Nicole didn’t try to stop her tears. She was so happy for Johnny and knew that no matter what the future held for the two of them, she was glad to have known him even for this short period of time. “The time has come. You are back on your feet and I’ll leave like you have asked me to. Just remember that you are a very special person.” Nicole started to get up.

“No, Angel.” Johnny grabbed Nicole’s arm and pulled her into his embrace. This time he didn’t try to stop the tears. “No, I don’t want you to ever leave. I am so sorry for how I treated you. Instead of thanking you for being with me every step of the way, I yelled at you and told you to get out and leave me alone. Nicole, I need you beside me for the rest of my life. One of these days I want to ask you to marry me. But I need to make amends for how I have treated you for the last several weeks first. Angel, I love you. Please don’t leave me.”

“Oh, Johnny, I love you and as long as you want me to, I’ll be by your side to help you every step of the way.” Nicole couldn’t believe how God had blessed her with Johnny’s love. She really didn’t deserve it and prayed that she would do nothing to ruin it. “I think we’d better work on your exercises if you want to be strong enough for your surprise this weekend.”

“I think you’re right.” Johnny cupped Nicole’s face in his hand and drew her face towards his for the first deep passionate kiss they had shared in a long time.


It was two hours later when Nicole exited the spare room Roy had set up for Johnny’s exercise room. As has been the practice, she found Roy to “help” Johnny back into his wheelchair and into his room to rest.

“You know it was awful quiet in there today. Johnny didn’t yell at you. Did he even talk to you?” Roy and Joanne had both been worried when there were no voices coming from the room. They were used to Johnny’s ranting and raving and telling Nicole to get out and leave him alone.

“Yeah, he said a few words. I guess he just figured his yelling hadn’t gotten rid of me yet, so maybe the silent treatment would. But what he doesn’t know is that won’t work either.” Nicole was having a hard time keeping from telling Roy about the surprise. It was only five more days. She would make it.

“Well, thank you for not giving up on him. Even though he doesn’t say thanks, I know someday he will come to appreciate everything you have done for him. Even though he hasn’t gained back any of the feeling or use of his legs, you have been very good for him. At least you wouldn’t let him give up. Maybe someday, something good will come out of all of this—even if he never walks again. Joanne is in the kitchen having a cup of coffee if you’re interested.” Roy kissed Nicole on the cheek as he pushed the wheelchair into the room to help Johnny. He was beginning to believe that Johnny would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

“Thanks, I’d like that.” Nicole headed towards the kitchen before she gave into the urge and spilled the beans to Roy. She just prayed that their family and friends wouldn’t be angry that they had kept it a secret.

September, 1977

A-shift was gathered for its annual Labor Day picnic. It was a glorious day. Johnny and Nicole had snuck out on the back deck to watch the sunrise and then snuck back in before anyone else in the house was out of bed. “Johnny, did you ask the therapist about playing volleyball today like I asked you to?” Nicole knew that Johnny wanted to play in the backyard game the station played at the picnic every year. But she was worried he would overdo it and ruin everything he had worked so hard to gain.

“Yes, Angel, I did. He told me that the exercises you have been making me do have helped to strengthen my legs and I can do anything I want. He did caution me to only play for a half-hour at a time at first though.” Johnny felt safe in knowing that someone was looking out for his best interests.

“Did he say when he would recommend Dr. Brackett letting you go back to work?” Nicole loved how safe she felt wrapped in Johnny’s arms as she was now.

“Probably another two weeks. We still have some therapy, but he only wants to see me twice a week for the next two weeks. I really am back to 100%.” Johnny pulled back as their kiss was broken by the door slowly opening. Johnny quickly got into bed so no would find out about his surprise before the right time. He grinned as Jenny peeked her head around the corner.

“There you are Aunt Nicole. I want to eat breakfast with you. You can come, too, Uncle Johnny.” Jenny had jumped into Nicole’s open arms.

“Oh, I can, huh? Well, why don’t you two ladies give me my wheelchair and I’ll be out to join you in just a minute, munchkin.” Johnny laughed as Jenny leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, still in Nicole’s arms.

“Ok, I’ll have your plate ready, Uncle Johnny.”

Johnny was still laughing as Nicole and Jenny left the room. It wouldn’t be long and he would be able to reveal his surprise to all the guys. They were all getting discouraged and were beginning to talk about the changes that would be made because they thought Johnny wouldn’t be returning to Station 51. None of them wanted it to happen, but they were trying to plan for the future. Johnny couldn’t wait to see their faces when they saw him walking and he told them he would be returning to work in two weeks.


All the guys, Dixie, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early, and Dr. Morton had all arrived for the picnic. The mood was a somber one though, since they knew Johnny, who was usually the life of the party, wouldn’t be able to participate in most of the games and fun. Nicole and Johnny were still in the house while everyone plied Dr. Brackett with questions.

“How is Johnny really, Doc? Will he ever return to work as a paramedic?” Roy was the one that voiced the question on everyone’s mind.

“His therapist says he’s about the same. I wish I could give you better news, but right now things don’t look real promising.”

“What doesn’t look real promising?” Johnny was fighting hard to keep the grin off his face. He knew they were talking about him and what they thought was the end of his paramedic career. Nicole was squeezing the handles of the wheel chair as hard as she could to keep from grinning, too.

“Um—well, your future.” Roy figured they needed to be truthful with Johnny.

“Let’s worry about that later.” Nicole let go of the wheelchair, walked to the front, took Johnny’s outstretched hand and walked down the steps of the deck with him. “Anyone want to play volleyball.” Johnny knew that if he looked at their faces, he would break into laughter as he and Nicole walked by the group and over to the volleyball net. Johnny got on one side and Nicole on the other and they started hitting the ball back and forth.

It took the rest of the group about 30 seconds more to recover from their shock. Roy was the first one over to Johnny. “Junior, what are you doing?” He didn’t know whether to hug or slug his partner.

“I’m getting ready to play volleyball, why?” Johnny tried to act innocent but wasn’t succeeding.

By now everyone was crowded around Johnny. “How long have you been able to walk? When did you get the feeling back in your legs? Why didn’t you tell us sooner? What’s going on?” came at him from several voices at once. Finally he held his hands up to get everyone’s attention and smiled.

“I started getting the feeling back the day that I refused to go to therapy and Nicole tricked me into going,” he smiled at Nicole as she found her way to his side. “She saw something in therapy that even the therapist didn’t notice. When we got back to my room, Roy was there and he and I were so deep in discussion I didn’t even notice that she was running a feather and a pen up and down my feet and I was pulling them away. Roy left the room for a minute and she did it again. I asked her once to stop because it tickled. Then she just smiled bigger and did it again. When I started to ask her to stop the second time it hit me that I was feeling what she was doing.” Johnny stopped when Roy interrupted him.

“That’s what you two were smiling about that day. I was going to ask you again later but it slipped my mind.” Roy couldn’t believe Nicole had done this right under his nose and he hadn’t even noticed.

“Yeah , but since I wasn’t sure how far I would go, I wanted to wait until I was sure what I would be able to do before we told anyone. So we decided to wait until we knew for sure one way or the other. Then the therapist told me this week that he is going to recommend to Dr. Brackett that I be allowed to go back to work in two weeks. So I thought today would be a good time to tell you.”

“Two weeks? You’re going to be back in two weeks? YEAH! Everything’s going to be good again. We’ve missed you, Johnny, and A-shift wouldn’t have been the same without you.” Chet was hugging Johnny for all he was worth. Chet may tease him, but he cared deeply about Johnny.

It took about ten minutes for the excitement to die down. “Hey, no one answered my question—does anyone want to play volleyball?” Johnny was still grinning from ear to ear.

This was the best Labor Day picnic they had ever had and it was one they would always remember.

Two weeks later Johnny was back at Station 51. All three shifts were waiting for him when he walked in the door and they had a party to celebrate the fact that every member of their family was all healthy and back together.

November, 1977

    Chet Kelly peered from around the corner to the locker room as John Gage went to change his uniform. The phantom had struck again, but Johnny was not one bit upset. As a matter of fact, Marco, Mike, and the Captain were right behind him trying to figure out what had just happened, too. Normally, when the phantom struck Johnny would rant and rave and scheme revenge. But this time Johnny had walked past Chet, patted him on the back and said, “Good one, Chet.” That in itself was unnerving, but Johnny actually whistled as he headed to the locker room.

    “I think you are in trouble now, Chet.” Marco couldn’t help but rub it in.

    “Yeah, I think you’re right.” Chet was beginning to worry that Johnny already had something big planned and was just waiting for the right time to use it.

Just then Roy came around the corner behind the others. “Something interesting?” He laughed as all four men jumped in unison.

“Roy, what is Johnny up to? He’s whistling. Normally, he would be ranting and raving right about now. Is he ok?” Even the Captain was worried about Johnny’s unusual reaction to one of Chet’s pranks.

“Johnny is just fine. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t be better.” Roy walked into the locker room leaving four bewildered firemen staring after him. With a quick grin back at the others, Roy turned and followed Johnny into the day room. By the time the others had pulled themselves together and quickly followed the two paramedics into the day room, Roy and Johnny were already starting on lunch.

“Hey, Chet, did you watch the game last night?” Johnny acted like nothing had ever happened. Chet was so shocked he couldn’t even say a word. Johnny turned around when he didn’t get an answer from Chet. Seeing Chet staring with his mouth hanging open, he turned back to work grinning. Chet finally snapped out of it and knew he had to be on his toes at all times now.

As the klaxons sounded over the station’s loudspeakers, Roy turned and saw the worried look on Chet’s face. He grinned as he followed Johnny toward the squad. This was priceless.


Joanne Desoto looked at Nicole and smiled. Johnny had asked her to help plan Chet’s birthday party and she in turn had asked Joanne. The two of them were going to get the whole thing ready when the station was out on a run. She just prayed that they wouldn’t have to wait too long. Joanne smiled to herself as she realized that not only was Nicole very good for Johnny, but she and Roy were becoming very close to her, too.

Turning onto the street Station 51 was on; Joanne pulled to the curb a block from the station—just close enough to see when they were called out on a run, but not close enough to get caught if the run went past them. It wasn’t long before the klaxons sounded and the trucks of station 51 pulled out. As the squad drove by, both Roy and Johnny grinned and waved.

Waiting a full minute after the trucks were out of sight, Joanne pulled behind the firehouse and the two set about getting the day room ready for Chet’s party.


Chet had been worrying ever since the last shift about what Johnny was going to do to get back at him. It was his birthday. Would Johnny try something today? He bugged the guys on the engine all the way back from the call. Finally the captain had to order him to shut up.

Johnny and Roy were the first ones back to the station. Johnny headed to the day room to make sure everything was set for Chet’s surprise. He smiled as he saw Joanne and Nicole. Everything was perfect. Roy followed Johnny in and smiled at the other guests who had arrived. Seeing Roy and Johnny, everyone hid so that Chet wouldn’t see them until it was time. Since the other men were in on it, the Captain led the way with Mike and Marco making sure Chet was the last one in.

Chet was stilled worried something was going to happen when he walked through the door. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts about what Johnny might be planning, he didn’t notice anything until everyone yelled surprise. Looking up, he saw the decorations and all his friends. “Wow, thanks everyone.”

“Don’t thank us, Chet, thank Johnny. He’s the one who was in charge.” Roy grinned at the look on Chet’s face. He thought for sure Chet was going to faint.

“Johnny, you did all this for me? But how? When did you decorate?” Chet was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Johnny still hadn’t gotten him back for his latest prank.

“Well, I asked Nicole who recruited Joanne and they decorated while we were out on the last run.” Johnny was pleased that he had done something nice for Chet’s birthday.

Chet turned as Nicole walked up and wrapped her arms around Johnny’s waist. Chet had to pick on his pigeon once more. “Boy Johnny this is the longest you have ever been in a relationship. Nicole, when are you going to wise up and dump this guy?” Everyone looked at Chet in shock.

They were even more shocked when Johnny just laughed. “Yeah, I know Chet. But I have some news for you. For your information on May 20, Nicole will become Nicole Angeline Gage.” He knew that he had surprised even Roy. He had not told him yet. He was sure Nicole had told Joanne while they were decorating.

“You, the eternal bachelor—you’re getting married?” Chet’s voice came out in a high squeak. He couldn’t believe his ears.

“Yep, Chet, I am—to the most wonderful girl in the world—my Angel. I can’t believe she has agreed to put up with me for the rest of our lives, but she has. And I can’t wait for the day she makes an honest man out of me.” Johnny looked into Nicole’s eyes and forgot there was anyone else in the room.

Instead of a comeback, Chet showed how much he really cared about Johnny. “Johnny, you are a very special guy and you deserve some happiness. And if you love her, she has to be a very special person indeed.” Not a sound was heard as everyone looked in shock at Chet.

Nicole smiled, walked over to Chet and made him blush by kissing him on the cheek. “Thank you, Chet. A-shift really is Johnny’s family and I hope it will be mine, too.”

Roy was the first one to be able to find his voice and congratulate them. For a few minutes, Chet’s birthday was forgotten. Roy noticed Joanne was there but hadn’t said anything yet. “Did you know about this?”

“She told me about it while we were decorating and said that Johnny was going to announce it today.” Joanne smiled at her husband as he pulled her into his embrace. “They really are meant for each other you know.”

“Yeah, just like they said at dinner last week—you and I are soul mates and they are soul mates. Johnny sure has changed a lot since he met her.” Roy grinned at the crowd around Johnny and his fiancée.

“I think we really ought to have Chet blow out the candles on his cake and open his presents. After all we are here to celebrate his birthday.” Nicole tried to direct the attention back to the real reason for being there.

“Yeah, Chet, let’s open your presents and have some cake before we get a call.” Johnny smiled at Chet and guided him over the table.

Chet was still in a daze with Johnny’s announcement. He was a little hesitant to open Johnny’s present. He still thought Johnny would be trying to get revenge for his prank and then he had made that crack about it being time for Nicole to break up with Johnny. He thought Johnny couldn’t pull anything else that would surprise him more right now than his announcement and the party, but he was wrong. As he opened the box, there was the model he had been admiring for about three months and two tickets to the LA Lakers game. Now he knew Johnny had something up his sleeve – but what?

The station had not been toned out for the last half hour. Johnny was beginning to think that they would be lucky and be able to have a good time. Then the call came and all the guys ran to the squad and the engine with echoes of “Congratulations, Nicole. Welcome to the family, Nicole” ringing through the station.

While the men were out Nicole and Joanne cleaned up the party and left the men a note along with lunch and supper for them to warm up. Nicole knew she was going to like her new “family.”


 “When did you ask her to marry you?” Roy looked at Johnny as they headed toward the accident on the freeway.

“Right after we left your place on your birthday. We both want what you and Joanne have and knew that we want it with each other, so--. Will you be my best man?” Johnny couldn’t keep the smile from his face as he talked about his upcoming marriage.

“Of course, Junior.” Roy was almost as happy as Johnny was about his engagement.

Nothing more was said as they pulled up to one of the worst accidents they had seen in a long time. As they started working, both knew they would be there a long time.


 “Gage is getting married. Nicole sure is perfect for him. No wonder he has been so, so--” Chet couldn’t think of the right word.

“So mellow?” The Captain had been thinking the same thing.

“Yeah, so mellow. He hasn’t even tried to get me back for the prank I pulled last shift—unless he has something else up his sleeve.” Chet still couldn’t believe Johnny hadn’t retaliated for the Phantom’s latest prank yet.

“I think he would have done it by now.” The Captain was still getting used to the idea, too.

Chet was still asking questions when the engine pulled back into the station.

“Wow, look at this. I thought we would have to clean up the mess from my party and I really didn’t feel like cooking tonight.” Chet was the first one in the room and found the note and food from Nicole and Joanne. The others agreed as they warmed up the meal. Now they didn’t have to eat one of Chet’s new concoctions.

Conversation at lunch started with Chet’s birthday party and ended up with all kinds of suggestions for Johnny and Nicole’s wedding. Laughter filled the station as Chet presented several way-out ideas. Everyone was enjoying the quiet time they were sharing not realizing that in a few short hours that quiet would be shattered.


Joanne and Nicole were planning a special dinner for Roy and Johnny. They had just come from Chet’s birthday party at Station 51 and were talking as they entered the bank; not paying attention to the three men who followed them in or the fact that one of the men locked the doors behind them.

“Wasn’t the look on Chet’s face priceless?” Joanne couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as she thought of Chet’s reaction to Johnny’s engagement announcement.

“Yeah, I wish I had had a camera. But I think he was even more surprised that Johnny didn’t give him a gag gift or do anything else to get back at him for last week’s stunt.” Nicole was smiling, too.

Just then there was a shout. “This is a holdup, no one move.” As everyone turned slowly they saw the three men waving rifles and handguns around. At first no one moved. But when the guard thought the men’s attention was focused away from him, he slowly started to pull out his gun. What he had not noticed is that the gunman closest to him had been watching him out of the corner of his eye. Just as the guard had his gun aimed, the gunman shot him in the chest. The guard’s gun went off, hitting one of the other two gunmen.

“No one move.” The one that seemed to be in charged was getting angry.

Nicole did not want anyone else to get hurt. She had seen enough pain in her job at the hospital as a caseworker for domestic violence and rape cases. “Can I see if I can help him?” She pointed to the gunman. “And can my friend look at the guard?” She spoke softly and didn’t move.

“Yes, go ahead. But don’t try anything funny.” He seemed to calm a little as Joanne headed for the guard and Nicole went to the robber.
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