Nicole came in the door
and just sat in the chair. How was she going to tell Johnny? She didn’t
believe it herself, but the doctor had said it was true. What would
Johnny’s reaction be?
Well, she needed to talk to him as soon as possible. As she picked
her purse and keys to head to the DeSotos and pick up her kids,
to stop at the station. This was something she needed to tell
Johnny now instead of waiting for him to come home.
As she pulled into the station parking lot, she was relieved to see
that the squad and engine were both there.
“Hi Nicole, what brings you here?” Roy was the first one
to see her as she walked into the bay.
“I really need to talk to Johnny. Is he around?” Nicole
needed to feel her husband’s arms around her right now.
“Yeah, I’ll get him.” Roy hurried to the locker
room to get his partner wondering what was going on. He was sure Johnny
would tell him later.
“Hi, honey, what’s up?” Johnny was surprised to
see his wife. He took one look at her face and saw something that no
one else would be able to see—she was scared.
“Can we go somewhere private to talk?” Nicole was determined
to keep her cool until they were alone.
Just then Captain Stanley walked by. “Uh, Cap, can Nicole and
I use your office to talk?” Johnny was beginning to worry just
“Sure, pal. Take all the time you need unless you get toned
out.” Captain Stanley wondered what was going on.
Johnny made sure Nicole was comfortable and then set down on the couch
beside her. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“Well, you remember I had that doctor’s appointment today.” Nicole
then proceeded to tell him what the doctor had told her.
Johnny held his wife in his arms. Then he walked her out of the office,
out of the station and to her car. “I will make arrangements
to take time off and go with you to your appointment on Thursday. I
want to be there this time.”
Nicole just nodded as the tones went off and Johnny ran to the squad
as he yelled “I love you.”
When the men had returned to the station and Johnny had taken his
shower, he disappeared into the dorm while everyone else headed towards
the day room. Since he was the last to take his shower, no one thought
about his absence until they realized it had been two hours since they
“Where’s Johnny?” Chet was the first one to realize
that they were one member short.
“I don’t know, he didn’t come in after taking his
shower.” Marco realized that Johnny hadn’t joined them
“I’ll go look for him.” Roy wondered if this had
something to do with what Nicole had told him earlier.
Roy found Johnny lying on his back on his bunk staring at the ceiling. “Johnny,
are you ok?” Roy hoped he didn’t scare him.
“Yeah, I just have a few things on my mind.” Johnny wasn’t
ready to talk to anyone yet. He would wait until after Nicole’s
next doctor’s appointment. They wanted to be sure before they
broke the news to their friends.
“Anything you want to talk about?” Roy knew that something
was bothering Johnny, but he didn’t know what.
“Not right now. Maybe later.”
“Ok, by the way Mike has dinner ready.” Roy stood and
started walking towards the door. Looking back he saw that Johnny was
following him but he still looked like his mind was a million miles
Johnny’s mood did not improve. As a matter of fact he was biting
everyone’s head off for no apparent reason. That’s why
they were surprised when he invited them all for dinner at the ranch
the day after their next shift. Even though everyone agreed to come,
Johnny’s mood didn’t improve.
The tones sounded sending the station to an apartment building fire.
All thoughts about Johnny and what might be bothering him were pushed
to the back of Roy’s mind. He figured he would make his partner
talk to him when they returned after the fire.
But that didn’t happen. When the two paramedics returned to
the station, neither one was speaking to the other except when necessary.
Captain Stanley determined that it was because the two teenaged girls
had died from that fateful run just after dinner and Johnny wanted
to talk about it when Roy didn’t. Hank remembered one other time
when something like this happened and decided he would make sure the
two men talked to each other and didn’t hold their feelings in.
However, the station was kept busy for the rest of the shift. Hank
was hoping that the few days between shifts would resolve the issues
between Roy and Johnny. If not, he would make sure they talked about
it on the next shift.
Johnny walked into the locker room with his mind somewhere else. He
stopped for a second when he realized Roy was in the room, but he was
determined not to let that bother him. He walked over to his locker. “Good
morning, Mike, Chet, Roy.”
Mike and Chet both said good morning and then exchanged glances when
Roy got up and left without saying a word. Mike looked back at Johnny
and noticed the tear that he was trying to keep hidden. With a final
look back, Mike went straight to Hank Stanley’s office.
Roll call was tense. Johnny stood next to Roy, but Roy wouldn’t
even look at him. Once again a tear slipped down Johnny’s face.
Hank wanted to settle the matter as soon as possible. Quickly changing
assignments, he put Johnny and Roy into the dorm to work together to
see if they would start talking.
But before roll call was even complete, the tones sounded sending
station 51 to a warehouse fire.
Roy and Johnny had been searching to see if there was anyone in the
warehouse for about 15 minutes. Johnny was ahead of Roy when the HT
came to life in Roy’s hand telling him and Johnny to get out
of the building now. Roy acknowledged and called to Johnny. Johnny
was just coming out of one of the offices and glanced at Roy just as
Roy told him they were to get out of there. Roy didn’t look to
see if Johnny had heard him or not, he just turned around and headed
out of the building.
The smoke had been so bad as he came through the door, that Roy pulled
off his mask to get a breath of fresh air. Captain Stanley was right
beside him to make sure he was ok. Looking around he didn’t see
Johnny anywhere. “Roy, where’s Johnny? Didn’t you
tell him to get out of there?”
Roy looked around him There was a knot in the pit of his stomach.
Johnny had been too far away to hear him and Roy knew it. Why didn’t
he make sure Johnny heard him? “Yeah, Cap, I told him.”
“Then where is he?” Captain Stanley was angry. It wasn’t
like Gage to disobey an order, but he wasn’t around.
Pulling on his own mask, he looked at Roy. “Come on. Let’s
go find him.”
Roy pulled his mask on knowing that the captain was angry with Johnny.
Roy knew that Captain Stanley should have been angry with him instead.
Finding Johnny on his way out, Hank grabbed him and pulled him out
of the building. The three of them just cleared the door when the ceiling
Captain Stanley looked at the building and then at Johnny. He pulled
his mask off. “What were you doing, Gage? Roy told you to get
out of there and you didn’t come. Let’s get this cleaned
up and then we will take this up back at the station.” Hank had
not given Johnny a chance to say a word.
Roy was filled with guilt. He had not talked to his partner when his
partner needed him to and then he had not made sure that Johnny had
heard him. Now Johnny was in trouble. Roy would try to straighten things
out. The ride back to the station was silent.
As soon as the crew got back to the station, Dwyer was waiting for
them. Johnny had arranged for him to come in for a few hours while
he went with Nicole to her doctor’s appointment. Johnny prayed
that he would have something to tell his friends at dinner the next
Nothing was said about what had happened at the fire because the squad
and engine were kept busy for the next three hours. When they returned
after a restaurant fire, Johnny was sitting at the table with lunch
prepared. Dwyer joined them and then left. As soon as lunch was over,
Johnny headed towards the dorm and started cleaning. Captain Stanley
was helping Roy check the hoses and hadn’t gotten an opportunity
to talk to Johnny about the incident at the fire yet.
Heading back towards the day room, Johnny stopped as he heard Marco,
Mike and Chet talking. It was Chet’s voice that he heard first.
“What’s wrong with Johnny? Man, he could have gotten himself,
Roy and Cap killed today. Roy said he told him Cap had pulled them
out, but he didn’t come.”
“Yeah, he has been distracted for the last couple of shifts.
I’m glad I’m not Roy. Johnny’s distraction is going
to get someone hurt or killed if he isn’t careful.” Marco
wondered what was going on with Roy and Johnny.
“Yeah, I’m going to be extra careful around him. What’s
wrong with him, Roy?” Chet just shook his head.
Roy and Cap had come in from the back where they had been checking
hoses just in time to hear their conversation. Roy was beginning to
feel guilty that he hadn’t really checked to see if Johnny had
heard him. “I don’t know, but he has been brooding for
the last two shifts and has been taking everything personal. He sure
is acting like a kid.”
Johnny decided then what he had to do. With a heavy heart, he turned
back to the locker room to start his plan in motion. It was when
he opened his locker ten minutes later to put the finishing touches
his plan that added to Johnny’s pain.
Chet had decided to ease the tension and had placed mementos of the
phantom all over. Because he had other things on his mind, Johnny found
every one of them and he was getting frustrated. He had really wanted
to talk to Roy about some things that were going on in his life, but
Roy wasn’t ready to talk about the girls they had lost and therefore,
wasn’t ready to talk to Johnny. At this point, he would even
have talked with Chet if Chet had seemed willing. But it seemed that
all of the other guys just wanted to avoid him.
Johnny walked back into the day room. He was wet, had shaving cream
and whipped cream all over.
“Hey, Gage, is that a new style?” Chet was praying that
Johnny had not heard what they had said earlier. He was hoping to diffuse
the situation. Everyone was laughing at the sight Johnny made—even
Roy. No one was paying attention to the pain in Johnny’s eyes.
Johnny just walked over and handed an envelope to Captain Stanley.
As he turned to head back to the locker room, Roy finally noticed
the look of sadness and hurt in his partner’s eyes. Without saying
a word, Johnny left the room.
Captain Stanley looked at the envelope in his hand. He had a sinking
feeling in the pit of his stomach. As he turned it over, he noticed
the note written on the outside of the envelope. “Cap, I have
stood the squad down until a replacement can arrive.” Hank quickly
ripped open the letter dreading what he was positive it was going to
say. He read it to himself and then looked at the guys. “Roy,
have a seat. We need to have a talk and then I’ll go talk to
that partner of yours.” He had forgotten that Johnny had stood
the squad down.
Before Roy had a chance to sit down, they heard an engine in the parking
lot. Roy ran out the door just in time to see Johnny pulling out in
his Rover. Roy tried to stop him, but he was too late.
On a hunch, Chet ran to the locker room to check Johnny’s locker.
He arrived back into the dayroom just before Roy did. “Cap, Johnny’s
locker is empty. Even his poster is gone.”
Walking back into the station Roy saw four sets of eyes watching him. “He’s
gone. Cap, what’s in the letter?”
“Have a seat and I’ll tell you.” Hank sighed. What
had really happened over the last two shifts? Something wasn’t
adding up. “Ok. I’ll just read the letter and then we need
to discuss it.”
“Captain Stanley, this was going to be my resignation, but Chief
McConikee has asked me to take a transfer instead of resigning from
the department. Therefore, this is to inform you that I have requested
a transfer not only out of station 51, but also out of the battalion.
I don’t want to put any of you in a position where you would
feel uncomfortable having to work with me ever again. I overheard your
conversation and realize that none of you feel you can trust me any
more. I don’t want to put any of your lives on the line because
you are worried about working with me. You all mean too much to me
to do that. I asked that the squad be put out of service until a replacement
could be sent over because I don’t want you to have to work with
a ‘kid’ anymore—even for an hour. Cap, today in that
fire, I ran out of air and got disoriented. If there ever is a next
time, don’t come back for me. And tell Chet that if by some chance
I do end up working either with one of you or near one of you in the
future, I’ll make sure I am no where near any of you in a fire
so I don’t get any of you hurt or killed. And dinner tomorrow
night is cancelled. I’m sorry I’ve been too sensitive and
acting like a kid. I won’t be a bother to any of you anymore.
Please tell all the guys that I am praying that all of you stay safe
and thanks for at least making me feel like I was your friend for a
little while. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. Firefighter/Paramedic
John R. Gage”
“Roy, there’s a note for you here, too.” There was
not a sound as Hank finished reading Johnny’s letter.
“What’s it say, Roy?” Chet hoped that this was just
a practical joke or that they would all wake up from this nightmare.
“Dear Roy, Thanks for treating me like a friend during the time
we worked together. I am sorry that I have acted like a kid. I just
wish you would have told me sooner and then you wouldn’t have
had to put up with me for so long. Today was the last straw. I needed
a break these last two shifts and I really needed to talk to you. But
I realize now that you were just tired of what you thought was my childishness.
Well most days I can take the phantom and being on the end of the jokes.
But, maybe, I’d like a break once in a while. Did it ever occur
to any of you that I might have a day when I need to not be the brunt
of everyone’s jokes and pranks? Did it ever occur to you that
there may be something going on in my life that I need your support
and friendship instead of your jokes and taunts? I needed my best friend
and he wasn’t there. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh and
know that it will probably not mean a thing, but I hurt so much right
now, I just needed to say it. Roy—you, your family and the rest
of the guys have been my family and mean the world to both Nicole and
me. Thanks for at least treating us kindly. We pray that all of you
will remain safe and will find happiness in your lives. I’m sorry
you had to put up with a kid. Johnny”
Roy was really feeling guilty now. “Cap, I told Johnny to leave
the building this morning, but I didn’t check to see if he had
heard me or if he was behind me. Johnny is only covering for me. He
didn’t do anything to put our lives in danger.” Roy had
to come clean about what happened in the fire. “I didn’t
look to see if he was following me.”
“He said he was just disoriented because his air tank ran out.” Captain
Stanley couldn’t believe that Roy wouldn’t look out for
“He didn’t run out of air, Cap. His tank was ¼ full
when I changed the tanks when we got back.” Chet was beginning
to feel like a heel for the comments he had made.
“I wish we could get his side of the story. Roy was there something
bothering him? Did you two have a fight or something? I know you weren’t
talking to him this morning.” Captain Stanley had seen the sadness
in Johnny’s eyes during roll call and just like the others had
ignored it. He just figured that Roy and Johnny would work out whatever
was wrong between them.
“No, we didn’t have a fight. I don’t know, Cap.
He tried calling me a few times on our days off, but I let the answering
machine pick it up and didn’t return any of his calls. I thought
he wanted to talk about the two girls we lost last shift and I wasn’t
ready. But now that I think about it, his voice had a touch of fear
in it. There’s something else besides the death of those two
teenage girls, and I ignored him. I wasn’t ready to face talking
about that call yet and didn’t stop to think that there might
have been something else wrong.” Roy was beginning to worry.
What had he done now? Then he remembered that all this had started
after Nicole’s visit and he had said then that there was something
going on that he would talk to Roy about later. “Cap, this started
before the death of those two girls. Remember when Nicole stopped by
to see him right before that run? Well, when I asked him if something
was wrong he said he had a lot on his mind that he wanted to talk about
later. I never gave him that chance.”
Just as Captain Stanley was about to call headquarters, Chief McConikee
walked in followed by Vince. “Chief, Vince, what brings you here?”
Vince wondered what was going on that made the rest of crew looked
as if they had lost their best friend. “I’m here to talk
to Johnny and let him know what we found out.”
“Found out about what, Vince?” Roy had a bad feeling about
“Didn’t Johnny tell you, Roy? He said he was going to
call you as soon as he hung up from talking with me on Tuesday. Tim
and Cameron Donaldson were being transported back to Philadelphia to
stand trial there two weeks ago. Somehow they escaped. A week ago Nicole
and Johnny started getting threatening calls and letters from them.
He was going to talk to you and headquarters about it. I want to let
him know that we know they have been seen in the area. They were spotted
following the squad your last shift, but disappeared when the police
car showed up. We have sent a squad car out to the ranch. Nicole and
Johnny will be under 24-hour protection. Now I really need to talk
to Johnny.” Vince looked at Captain Stanley.
“He’s not here.” Roy’s head dropped. Johnny
had really needed him and Roy wasn’t there for him. None of them
were there for him. They had teased him instead of giving him the support
they had always said they would give.
“He did call me on Tuesday and filled me in. I thought he would
tell you all about it.” Chief McConikee was getting worried.
“Where is he? When did he leave?” Vince needed to make
sure Johnny was protected.
“He must be on his way home. We never gave him a chance to tell
us what was going on.” Captain Stanley was feeling as guilty
as Roy was. They were all teasing Johnny instead of really seeing that
something was bothering him. “He left about 20 minutes ago.”
Vince wondered what had happened. He called headquarters to get a
police car to follow Johnny home. What he found out though, made matters
worse instead of better. After talking with his boss, he turned to
look at the rest of the group.
“We have a problem. The squad car that was sent out to the ranch
was in an accident about five minutes ago. If Johnny left here 20 minutes
ago, he will be home in the next 15 or 20 minutes. It will take us
40 minutes to get another squad car out there. The officers in the
accident spotted the Donaldsons heading towards the ranch.” Vince
was afraid for his friends. “I’m going to head out to the
ranch and hope that we can get there before the Donaldsons have a chance
to do anything.” Vince looked at the men of station 51’s
A-shift before turning and leaving the station.
“Hank, Johnny called me about a half an hour ago. He told me
he wanted to resign. When I tried to talk him out of it, he asked for
an immediate transfer not only out of this station, but out of the
battalion as well. When I asked him why, he said he didn’t want
to put any of you in a position where you would feel uncomfortable
having to work with him ever again. In response to the my question
about what that meant, he said that none of you felt you could trust
him any more and he didn’t want to put any of your lives on the
line because you were worried about working with him. He asked that
the squad be put out of service until a replacement could be sent over.
He didn’t want you to have to work with a ‘kid’ and
asked for personal leave immediately. What happened here that got Johnny
so upset?” Chief McConikee wondered what was going on.
Knowing it would take a while, Hank asked the Chief to sit down with
them at the table. The men proceeded to fill Chief McConikee in on
the events of the last hour. They had just finished telling him when
the telephone rang. Captain Stanley was the closest, so he got up and
“Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking.—Hello, Dr. Early.—No,
Johnny isn’t here.—Yes, he’s here, just a minute.
Roy, its Dr. Early for you.”
Roy took the phone from his Captain and stood so the others could
hear at least his end of the conversation. “Hi, Dr. Early.—No,
I’m not sure if he went home or not, but I think he did. Why?—No,
I don’t know why she would do that.—Yes, if I see him I’ll
tell him.—Dr. Early, ummm? I haven’t had a chance to really
talk to Johnny since he got back from Nicole’s appointment. Exactly
what was Nicole’s surgery for?—Oh, thank you.—Bye.” Roy’s
face was as white as a sheet when he hung up the phone.
“Roy, what is going on?” Chet was really beginning to
“Nicole was supposed to have surgery on Saturday, but she cancelled
it. He said that the tumor had grown from the size of a golf ball to
the size of a baseball between Monday and this morning when she was
there for her consult with Dr. Raymond. He said that it is imperative
that she has the surgery as soon as possible. Dr. Early said that they
had postponed the surgery until after Johnny and Nicole had a chance
to talk to us tomorrow night.” Roy didn’t think he could
feel any worse. Not only had Johnny wanted to talk to him about the
Donaldsons; he also needed to talk to him about Nicole. And Roy had
Chet, Mike, Marco and Cap all exchanged looks of dread. What had Johnny
been going through that none of them knew about? Instead of trying
to find out, they had teased him and said he took things too personally.
What had they done this time? Nicole was the best thing that ever happened
to Johnny and he had really changed for the better.
“Did he say where the tumor was, Roy?” Chet was feeling
guilty for the pranks he had been pulling on Johnny lately—he
had seen the pain in Johnny’s eyes, but he had ignored it.
“The tumor is at the base of her brain sitting on her spinal
chord.” Roy dialed the ranch hoping Johnny would talk to him.
He prayed that he would or even could answer the phone as he heard
it ringing. He hung up in despair when no one answered the phone at
the Gage ranch. “There was no answer.”
Dwyer walked into the day room. “I thought Johnny was here for
the rest of his shift. Did something happen that he couldn’t
stay? I know he was worried about his wife, but he was sure he would
be able to stay.”
Before anyone could say anything, the tones sounded sending station
51 out to an apartment building fire. All thoughts of the Gages were
pushed to the back of everyone’s mind as the men’s professionalism
Two hours later, the engine and squad were backing into the bay. There
had been no injuries and the damage was minimal. Roy had explained
to Charlie Dwyer what had happened that afternoon. It was a subdued
group that filed into the day room. No one felt like eating or cooking,
so they decided to order pizza because they knew they had to eat.
As the men sat around the table picking at their pizza, no one wanted
to mention the events that had taken place that day, but each one wanted
to ease their guilty feeling. None of them wanted to admit that Charlie
Dwyer knew more about what was going on with Johnny than they did.
Chet was the first one to break the silence. “Do you think Johnny
and Nicole are ok?”
Before anyone could answer, the tones sounded. It wasn’t for
them, but the knot in each man’s stomach tightened as station
99, squads 64 and 36 were called out to the Gage ranch. Three squads
and an engine—what was happening out there? Roy’s dread
grew as the dispatcher also stated that ambulances had been called
and the police were on the scene.
Roy and Chet took turns pacing while Captain Stanley held his head
in his hands. Mike and Marco stared at the walls. What was going on?
Chet was just about to ask Captain Stanley if they could call somebody
and see what was happening when the phone rang. The five men exchanged
looks. None of them wanted to be the one to answer in case it was bad
news. Charlie Dwyer answered it for them.
“Station 51, Charlie Dwyer speaking.—Yes, he right here,
just a minute.” Charlie turned and looked at the sad faces of
his crewmates. “Roy, it’s your wife.”
Roy walked over to the phone and took a deep breath before he answered
it. “Hi, honey.—No, we haven’t.—Just a minute.” Roy
turned and looked at Chet who was closest to the TV set. “Joanne
says we should turn on the news.” He turned back to the phone
as Chet turned on the TV. “You still have the kids?—When
did Johnny call you?—I’ll tell you all about it when I
get home. — I love you, bye.”
By the time Roy had finished and hung up everyone else was glued to
the TV set. Roy’s heart leapt into his throat when he saw the
pictures of all the police cars and arriving rescue personnel at
the Gage ranch displayed across the TV set. The reporter was stating
there had been a stand off involving two gunmen and two hostages
that had ended with two dead, two critically injured and several
injured. Then he stated that they would report more information when
available. As the anchorman went on to the next news item, Captain
Stanley reached up and turned off the TV.
“They said there were only two hostages. Where are the kids?
Nothing was said about them.” Mike couldn’t believe what
he had just seen or heard.
“They’re at my house. Joanne said that Johnny called her
from here and said that he and Nicole needed some time alone and would
she mind keeping them until late this afternoon. He told her it would
be the last time he imposed on us for babysitting.” Roy was beginning
to realize how deeply they had hurt Johnny and Nicole over the last
“At least they’re alright for now, but what is going to
happen to them if—” Marco couldn’t complete his thought.
No one wanted to say out loud the thoughts that were running through
each of their minds. They all knew Johnny and Nicole were the hostages
and the gunmen were Tim and Cameron Donaldson. Were Johnny and Nicole
the two dead people or the two critically injured? Either way, it was
Then the call came over the system for two life flight helicopters
to be sent out to the ranch. With a look of fear in their eyes, each
man dropped his head into his hands. All of them wanted to be at the
hospital, but they were on duty.
Captain Stanley looked up at the sound of footsteps coming across
the bay. He wondered who was coming now. He was surprised to see Craig
Brice, Captain Samuels and an entire engine crew all in uniform. Standing
off to the side was Bob Bellingham. He was the only man not in uniform.
He stood to shake hands with Captain Samuels.
“Hank, you and your men are relieved of duty for the rest of
this shift. Chief McConikee said you need to get the hospital as soon
as possible. However, since he didn’t think any of you would
be able to drive; Bob is here with a van to drive you to the hospital.” Captain
Samuels knew the closeness of the Station 51 A-shift crew.
“Thanks, Steve. What is the word on Johnny and Nicole?” Hank
realized that they were sending them to the hospital. That meant that
Johnny and Nicole were the two critically injured –or at least
one of them had to be. He just prayed that they were both still alive
by the time they got to the hospital.
“They are alive, Hank, but it doesn’t look good. I don’t
know all the details. I just know McConikee said to get you to the
hospital as soon as possible. Hank, give us a call when you know something.”
“Yeah, we will and thanks again, Steve.”
It was a very quiet ride to Rampart hospital. What would they find
once they arrived? Would Johnny and Nicole make it to the hospital?
As the five men walked into the emergency entrance, they saw that
they had arrived at the same time as the helicopters. Dixie was running
beside a gurney and looked up to see the five men standing there. “Roy,
can you help us in two? We really need you right now.”
Roy just nodded and headed towards treatment room two. When he entered,
he stopped in his tracks. On the two gurneys in the room lay Johnny
and Nicole. Both looked like they were dead. He stepped into the
room to help Dr. Early who was giving instructions right and left.
as Dr. Early asked and prayed that his friends would be all right.
He assisted in preparing Nicole for surgery while Dr. Brackett worked
on Johnny. Then both were rushed to surgery to try to save their
lives. As Roy walked back to the doctor’s lounge to tell the
rest of the guys what he knew, he knew it was going to be bad news.
extent and severity of their injuries, he was pretty sure neither
one would make it through surgery.
Roy’s face told the story when he entered the doctor’s
lounge to find not only his shift mates, but several other off duty
firefighters who had worked with Johnny over the years. Their support
just made Roy feel guiltier. They didn’t know Johnny as well
as Roy did and yet they were there without question.
It had been four hours and both Nicole and Johnny were still in surgery.
The five remaining members of the A-shift crew were seated together
in one corner of the waiting room. Mike was the one who broke the silence
between the men. “Roy, we really need to start making some plans
about Melanie and Melinda. As much as I don’t want to say it
and I know none of us want to hear it, we need to make plans for if
Johnny and Nicole survive and need extended hospitalization and also
if they both die.”
“Joanne and I are their Godparents, so we’ll take them
for as long as Johnny and Nicole need us to. They are going to be all
right. Things will be back to normal soon, you’ll see.” Roy
started pacing again.
Vince walked into the room to find five very upset men. “Roy,
is there any word on Johnny and Nicole?”
“Not yet. Vince, what happened at the ranch today?” Roy
had seen the injuries that Johnny and Nicole had sustained.
“Tim and Cameron Donaldson had gotten to the ranch shortly after
Johnny did. After a standoff with a hostage situation, there was a
shootout between the Donaldsons and the police. We don’t know
for sure everything that went on in the Gage’s living room, but
when the police finally entered, they found Tim over Johnny and Nicole
with a gun pointed at Nicole’s head. The police had to shoot
him to keep him from shooting Nicole and Johnny. Cameron was already
dead. All we know is that there was a baseball bat involved. We’re
pretty sure that’s where Johnny’s injuries came from. We
think Nicole was just beaten and kicked. But we aren’t going
to know what really happened until we can talk to them.”
Just then Dr. Brackett, and Dr. Early walked into the room. All five
men were on their feet and surrounded the two doctors. “How are
they?” Roy was the one to find his voice first.
“Let’s all sit down and we’ll give you the prognosis.” Kelly
Brackett knew how much these men cared for Johnny and Nicole. However,
he didn’t know what had happened earlier that day at the station.
Dr. Early started. “Nicole suffered a concussion and three broken
ribs. She was fortunate in that none of the ribs punctured a lung.
Her left leg and right arm both sustained compound fractures. She lost
a lot of blood from the fractures and a gun shot wound to her chest.
We had to give her four units of blood. We removed the bullet that
was lodged two inches from her heart. She was very fortunate that the
bullet did not cause any permanent or serious damage. We also operated
to remove her brain tumor. We got the whole tumor. The next 72 hours
are going to be touch and go for her. We won’t know if there
are any long-term effects from the tumor until she wakes up.”
“What is the chance that the tumor was cancerous?” Chet
wanted to know the whole truth. The gasps from the other men revealed
the fact that none of them had even thought about that possibility.
“Well, even though it grew unusually fast, we got all of it
and are 99.9% sure it is not cancer. The test will be back in two
days and we will know for sure.”
The collective sigh of relief was heard in the hall as Dixie opened
Dr. Brackett then related Johnny’s injuries. “Johnny suffered
a skull fracture, some bruising near his spinal cord, a gun shot wound
to his upper right arm, some internal bleeding, a broken left arm and
a bruised right hip. We had to go in and relieve some pressure on his
brain and repair the cause of his internal bleeding. The bullet went
clear through his arm and did not cause any permanent or serious damage.
We won’t know if the bruising around his spinal cord caused any
damage or if there is any brain damage until he regains consciousness.
The next 72 hours are critical for him as well. They are both in ICU.
We put them in one room to keep an eye on them. They have been through
a traumatic experience and we felt it would be better if they could
see each other when they regain consciousness.”
Roy looked at other people in the room. What had happened out at the
ranch? Would they ever really find out?
“Can I see them?” Roy needed to see Johnny and Nicole.
“Sure, Roy, come on. Have you called Joanne yet?” Dr.
Brackett stood up to lead Roy out of the room.
“Yes, Emily Stanley and Beth Stoker are going over there to
help her with the kids and they’ll all come here when Chris and
Jennifer get home from school.” Roy followed Kelly Brackett to
Dr. Brackett left Roy alone with Johnny. Roy picked up Johnny’s
hand in his. “Johnny, I really need to apologize to you for not
being there when you needed to talk to me. I was having a rough time
dealing with the death of those teenaged girls. I know you needed to
talk about it. I’m so sorry. I realize now that there were other
things you really needed to talk to me about, too, and I wasn’t
there for you. Johnny, can you ever forgive me? I need you in my life.
Please don’t leave me. Johnny, I will be here for you and Nicole
for whatever you need. We all will be here. We are praying for you
and Nicole. I’m going to go see Nicole for a few minutes. I really
need to apologize to her, too.” With one last squeeze of Johnny’s
hand, Roy turned to the bed right next to Johnny.
Roy looked at Nicole’s face. It was so pale. And her head was
completed wrapped in bandages. “Oh, Nicole.” Roy picked
up Nicole’s hand. “I’m so sorry Joanne and I weren’t
there for you and Johnny when you needed us most. I know Johnny wanted
to tell me about what was going on and I wasn’t ready to talk
to him. I hope both of you can forgive us. We love you and need you
in our lives. Please don’t leave us.” Roy leaned over and
gave Nicole a kiss on her forehead before he left ICU and joined the
other men in the doctor’s lounge.
Seventy-two hours had come and gone and Johnny and Nicole still remained
unconscious. The mood around Station 51 during A-shift was very somber.
During their days off, the men took turns sitting beside Johnny and
Nicole’s beside. While they were working, Joanne, Emily Stanley,
Beth Stoker, Dixie, Dr. Early, Dr. Morton and Dr. Brackett as well
as several of the nurses took turns standing vigil. When Joanne was
there, they would bring Melanie and Melinda into the room. Even though
they were too young to even know what was going on, everyone hoped
that having them near would help their parents recover. They prayed
that Nicole and Johnny would hear their girls.
It was the middle of the night five days after Johnny and Nicole’s “run-in” with
the Donaldsons. They had begun to show signs of regaining consciousness
and everyone hoped it would be soon. Roy was sleeping in a chair next
to Johnny’s bed and Chet was sleeping in a chair next to Nicole’s
bed. Both Nicole and Johnny opened their eyes within a few minutes
of each other. Since the hospital staff had put them close to each
other, they could see into each other’s eyes.
“It looks like we have some visitors.” Johnny frowned
at the sight of Roy and Chet sitting in the chairs. He really didn’t
want them there at that moment. Nicole saw his frown and thought back
about what he had told her in the few minutes between when he arrived
home and the Donaldsons showed up. She was hurt that the men who claimed
to be Johnny’s family could treat him that way.
“Yeah, I bet we’ve had someone here every single moment
since we were brought in. Johnny, do you remember everything that happened
that day?” Nicole looked at Johnny with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, every second. I wonder how long we’ve been here.
Nicole, I know we will have to talk to the police, but if they will
keep the information sealed, I don’t think I want to tell the
others what happened.”
“I agree, Johnny. Since Tim and Cameron are dead, I think this
is finally behind us. You know, that fight you had with the crew was
the best thing that could have happened. I’m glad that Chet gave
you the excuse you needed to get out of there.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
Roy heard Johnny’s voice and thought he was dreaming.
“We’ll need to discuss where we go from here but I think
I’d rather wait on that discussion.” Johnny turned and
looked at Roy as he realized that he was waking up.
It was then that Roy realized that Johnny was awake and talking. Opening
his eyes, he saw the pain in Johnny’s eyes. He knew that part
of that pain was his fault. Looking over at Nicole he saw the same
pain reflected in her eyes. Roy gulped and pushed Chet off his chair
in his effort to wake him up.
Continued in Friendship
Tested Part II