Chet woke with a start as
Roy gave him a shove. He started to sputter until he remembered where
he was. Looking around he realized that Johnny and Nicole were awake.
He saw the pain in their eyes, too, and wondered what was going to
“Welcome back, partner.” Roy was apprehensive
as he called Johnny his partner. After all, Johnny had asked for a
transfer. Roy leaned over and pushed the call button on Johnny’s
bed. Later he would kick himself for not waiting to push the call
“I’m not your partner any longer. How
long have we been here?” There was a blank look on Johnny’s
face as he heard Roy call him partner and no emotion in his voice when
he answered Roy. He knew he couldn’t go back to work at Station
51 now that he knew how his shift mates really felt about him.
“Five days. You have a lot of people waiting
for you to wake up.” Chet was just as uncomfortable as he knew
Roy was. Both men had gulped at Johnny’s words about not being
Roy’s partner any more.
“Oh. We’re awake now.” Johnny wouldn’t
tell them, unless it was absolutely necessary, about the threats Tim
and Cameron had made against the men of station 51 and their families.
He also wouldn’t tell them that it had been Tim Donaldson who
had tried to stop him from getting out of the building at the fire
“Johnny, we need to–.” Whatever
Chet was going to say was interrupted by the arrival of the ICU nurse.
Seeing the two patients awake she rang the desk and told them to page
Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early to ICU 5 STAT. Then she proceeded to take
Johnny and Nicole’s vital signs. Just as she finished the two
doctors rushed into the room.
“Welcome, back, Johnny and Nicole. We sure are
glad to see you awake. Roy, Chet, sorry fellas but we are going to
have to ask you to leave so we can run some tests on our two favorite
patients.” Dr. Brackett didn’t miss the glum looks on Roy
and Chet’s faces.
“We have some phone calls to make anyway.” Roy
stood and started out the door.
“But isn’t it kind of early in the morning
to be calling anyone?” Nicole noticed that it was 3:30 a.m.
“No, everyone wanted to be called the second
you woke up no matter what time it was.” Chet was following
Roy out the door.
When Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early stepped into the ICU
waiting room, Hank, Marco, Mike, Chet, Beth, Brandon and William
Stoker, Emily Stanley, Roy, Joanne, Chris, Jenny and the Gage twins
for them. Captain Stanley was the first one on his feet. “Dr.
Brackett, how are they?”
“Well, Johnny is going to be sore and will need
some physical therapy for the bruising on his back and hip, but there
is no permanent damage. There is no damage from the pressure in his
brain or the skull fracture. He should be able to return to work in
eight to twelve weeks. Just so you all know, however, they are both
asleep right now.” Dr. Brackett was still unaware of the events
that had taken place that fateful day at Station 51.
“And Nicole is just fine. She will have no permanent
damage from her tumor or concussion. She will be very sore for a while,
too. She should be back on her feet about the same time as Johnny.” Dr.
Early was glad to be able to deliver good news to this group.
“Thanks, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early. We’ll
wait until later this morning to see them. There are a few things we
need to talk about anyway.” Hank looked at the people sitting
there as the two doctors walked away. Hank rubbed his hands together. “Well,
we need to make plans for visiting, where they will stay when they
are released, how they are going to get around, who’s going to
help take care of the babies—well, basically how we are going
to support them until they are both back on their feet.”
The group talked quietly among themselves as they
headed towards the cafeteria to eat breakfast as well as develop a
plan for helping their friends.
Johnny and Nicole woke to find themselves alone—well
as alone as you can be in ICU. Johnny smiled as Nicole turned to
look at her husband.
“I am so thankful that you came home early that
day. I’m not sure what would have happened if you hadn’t.
Johnny, is it really over?”
“Yes, Nicole, it is really over. How are you,
though? I was so scared when I saw you fighting with Cameron. How
are you feeling about what happened?”
“I have gone over that moment so many times,
and I come up with the same conclusion. There is nothing different
I could have done. And my guardian angel was watching over me when
Cameron is the one who got hit with the bullet when the gun went off.
I have never seen such hate in anyone’s eyes as I did in Tim’s
the moment he found out Cameron was dead.”
“I know what you mean. I thought he was going
to kill you with his bare hands. Then when he remembered I was
there, he looked like a mad man. I just wish things had turned out
Their deaths were so needless. I keep wondering what we could have
done differently over the course of the last year that would have
changed what happened that day.”
After they had finished their breakfast and finalized
their plans, the group headed back to ICU. Roy and Joanne were elected
to visit with Johnny and Nicole first and present the group’s
plan to them. As they stepped off the elevator and started towards
the Gages’ “room” the nurse stopped them.
“I’m sorry but Mr. and Mrs. Gage have
asked that their visitors be limited to the people on the list they
“But we work with Johnny. I’m sure our
names are on the list.” Roy didn’t know this nurse. She
was new and didn’t know Johnny’s coworkers.
“No, your names are not on this list. As a matter
of fact, other than Dr. Raymond who will be taking over for Dr.
Early and Dr. Wagoner who will be taking over for Dr. Brackett, the
other person besides the nurses on this floor who is allowed in
there is a Mr. Robertson. Now, if you will please excuse me, I need
up on my patients.”
As the nurse turned to go in and check on Johnny and
Nicole, it was a somber group that tried to figure out what had just
happened. They all went to sit down in the ICU waiting room.
Roy was the first one to speak. “Well, we really
should have expected it. After all, just before all of this happened,
Johnny asked to transfer out of the battalion. He still thinks we don’t
trust him to work with him. And I think he still plans on making
Before anyone could say anything else, a gentleman
and two ladies the group had never seen before walked up. “Excuse
me, but are you John Gage’s former co-workers?” When he
received nods from the surprised group, the gentleman continued talking. “I
am Kevin Robertson. Linda and Carol here will be taking the twins
and taking care of them until the Gages are released. Johnny and
were going to call you later this morning and tell you. But you saved
us the trouble of having to come and pick up the girls.”
Reluctantly, Joanne and Beth handed the babies over
to the two women who took them and started to Johnny and Nicole’s “room” to
let them see the babies before taking them home.
“Roy, Joanne, I know that Johnny and Nicole
want to thank you for taking care of the kids for them for the last
few days. They asked me to arrange for care for them now so they would
not be imposing on any of you any longer.” Mr. Robertson was
unaware of what had transpired and thought Johnny and Nicole just didn’t
want to make more work for the others. “Well, I have to go tell
them the rest of the arrangements they have requested are complete.” And
with that he walked away.
It was a dejected group that slowly rose and with
one last sad look down the hall, left ICU and the hospital.
Johnny and Nicole were moved out of ICU the day after
they regained consciousness. But Dr. Wagoner had moved them into
one room because of their request to limit visitors. He still wasn’t
sure what was going on, but he felt it was the best thing for his patients’ recovery.
Dixie and Dr. Brackett took turns visiting the nurses’ station
on the floor where Johnny and Nicole were to read their charts
to keep everyone informed of their progress.
It was late evening and the nurses all seemed to be
busy when Dixie made one final stop to check on the Gages after her
shift ended. The door to their room was slightly ajar and Dixie could
hear the distinct sound of crying coming from the room. Taking a look
around and seeing no one, she pushed the door opened and entered the
Johnny was sleeping. Nicole was crying in her pillow.
Dixie walked over to her bed and pulled Nicole into her arms. “Are
you in pain?”
Nicole looked up at Dixie. “No, I’m fine.” Nicole
turned away from Dixie as she said, “Now please leave.”
Johnny had been aroused by the sound of Nicole’s
crying. “Please leave, Dixie. We have asked for no visitors.”
With one last look at two people she cared deeply
about, Dixie left with a sad heart.
“Nicole, what’s wrong?” Johnny eased
himself out of his bed and made his way over to Nicole. Carefully,
he helped her slide over and he climbed in bed with her.
“I was just thinking about how much better off
you would have been if you had never met me.”
Dixie was standing outside the door and heard the
conversation taking place. Her heart broke at the pain in Nicole’s
“Why do you say that, Nicole?” Johnny
wrapped his arms around her.
“Your relationship with all the guys at the
station and your friends here at Rampart has been destroyed. The guys
don’t trust you to work with them any more and it’s my
fault. You were just worried about me and the Donaldsons and now they
feel they can’t trust you anymore. If you had never met me you
would have never met the Donaldsons. Everything that happened both
this time and the last time with them would never have happened. If
you hadn’t met me, you wouldn’t have been worried about
me instead of doing your job. You are transferring out of the battalion
and away from your ‘home.’ I know you don’t want
the other guys to ever be put into a situation where they would have
to work with you and be afraid because they don’t trust you.
Oh, Johnny, I have ruined your life.”
“Nicole, you haven’t ruined anything.”
“But Roy and Joanne wouldn’t even talk
to us on your days off. I know you really wanted to talk to Roy about
the Donaldsons and about what was going on with me, but they never
returned our calls even when we said to call no matter what time
they got the message.”
“It’s ok, Nicole. You haven’t ruined
anything. Roy wouldn’t talk to me not because of you, but because
he wasn’t ready to talk about the two teenaged girls we lost.
He didn’t even try to find out if that was what I wanted to talk
to him about or not. Nicole, none of this was because I met you. And
they don’t trust working with me because Tim Donaldson tried
to prevent me from getting out of that fire alive and I was late leaving
when the Cap called us out. Instead of asking me what happened, they
all just assumed that I didn’t obey orders. These circumstances
just brought out the truth about how my so called family and friends
really feel. I’m glad I finally found out the truth. I love
The guys had wanted to try one more time to tell Johnny
how sorry they were for what had happened that day at the station.
They had arrived just in time to hear the entire conversation between
Johnny and Nicole. They all had heavy hearts as they listened to
what had really happened in that fire. Figuring it was probably their
chance Roy pushed the door open and the five men made their way
into the room. Dixie didn’t try to stop them. She waited just
outside the door.
“We asked that we have no visitors and first
Dixie shows up and then you guys. Would you please leave? Where are
the nurses?” Johnny was getting upset. He just wanted to be
left alone with his wife.
“ There was no one out there, so we came in. Johnny, will you please listen
to us and then if you still want us to leave we will.” Captain Stanley
hoped they hadn’t destroyed their friendship with these two very special
“We will hear you out, and then will you please
leave and never come back?” Johnny figured the best way to
solve the problem was to let them have their say and then it would
“If after you hear what we have to say, you
want us to leave and never come back, we will.” Captain Stanley
prayed that Johnny would not ask them to leave.
“Ok, go ahead.” Johnny wrapped Nicole
in his arms as he waited for the men to have their say and then he
was indeed going to ask them to leave.
“Johnny, I really need to apologize to you for
not finding out what you needed to talk to me about. I did that once
before and should have known better. I’m also sorry for what
I said at the station. I think I just didn’t want to admit that
there might be something really bothering you.” Roy really wanted
his ‘brother’ back.
“We’re all sorry, too. We should have
realized that for the last two and a half years you have been taking
everything the Phantom has been dishing out without any complaints
and in fun. We should have realized that when you reacted the way you
did, something was wrong.” Chet spoke as the others nodded
“Yeah, and we are all just glad that you are
both ok and everything turned out alright with Nicole.” Mike
was hoping that Johnny and Nicole wouldn’t kick them out now
that they were talking.
Just then Mr. Robertson and another man entered the
room. “Johnny, we found a bomb at that fire where Tim tried to
keep you from getting out. We have proof that Tim set the fire and
tried to kill you. It is the same type of bomb as the ones the Donaldsons
were planning on using to start fires at your friends’ homes.” Mr.
Robertson thought Johnny had filled in the five men.
There was a loud gasp from the five men standing in
the room and Dixie standing just outside the door.
“Did Tim Donaldson really try to keep you from
getting out of that fire?” Captain Stanley was the first to find
his voice and didn’t give Johnny a chance to respond to Robertson’s
“Yes.” Johnny was hoping that Roy hadn’t
gotten into trouble for that incident.
“And they were going to set our homes on fire?” Chet
couldn’t believe that once again Johnny and Nicole had put
their lives on the line right after the guys had made fun of Johnny.
“Yes, they were. The police found boxes with
each of your names and addresses on them in their car. When they
opened them up, there were bombs in each one. Tim and Cameron were
make us go with them and watch as they set fire to each of your
homes. Then they were going to kill us.”
“Johnny, we are really sorry for how we treated
you.” Roy hoped that Johnny and Nicole would still be their friends. “We
really want to make this up to you.”
“Thank you for your apology. Now, if there is
nothing else, would you all please leave now? We have some business
to discuss with Agent Adams and Mr. Robertson. We have listened to
you, now we are asking you to leave.” Johnny was still deeply
hurt by how the guys had treated him. He wasn’t sure he would
ever be able to forgive them this time. It seemed that every time
they would say they were sorry, but the next time something happened,
responded the same way.
“Well, there is one thing. The five of us, Joanne,
Beth, Emily, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Morton, Dr. Early, Dixie and some of
the other guys from the department got together and came up with a
possible plan for when you are released to help you both while you
are recovering. Nothing is final until you both agree with it.” Marco
hoped he could extend their stay long enough for Johnny and Nicole
to realize they really were sorry.
“Well, we have that taken care of. Thank you
for thinking of us. But no, thanks. We wish all of you the best of
luck in the future.” Johnny looked at Nicole who had turned
her face so that the two of them could look at each other and not
to see anyone else in the room.
With heavy hearts, the five men turned and started
out of the room. Roy was the last to leave and just before he exited
he looked at Johnny one more time. “Johnny, Nicole, we really
do love both of you and want you in our lives. We have never been sorrier
in our lives. We are going to miss you—there will be a big hole
in our hearts.” Getting no response, he turned and closed the
door behind him.
Dixie headed towards the elevator to go back to work.
She could not keep the tears from streaming down her face.
None of the men wanted to leave the hospital. They
sat in the waiting area just outside of Nicole and Johnny’s room.
At first no one said a word. Then they started talking about the fire.
As they each recalled the conversation that had taken place in the
“They put their lives on the line for us again.” Chet
was talking to anyone who would listen.
“Yeah, and all we could do was raze him when
he was so upset after the Phantom had struck.” Marco realized
that Johnny had been such a good sport since he met Nicole that when
he got so upset it should have been a warning sign that there was something
wrong in Johnny’s life.
“And I said he was acting like a little kid.
He hasn’t acted like a kid in months. I guess I just wasn’t
ready to admit there was something wrong.” Roy looked back at
Johnny’s actions and attitudes. It had all started after Nicole’s
visit to the station that one shift. That should have been a warning
sign. Roy was sure that this time, they had ruined their friendship
with two very special people.
“Well, we can’t blame Johnny or Nicole
for not wanting anything to do with us. After all it was us who told
them we would always be there for them right after they were taken
hostage by the bank robbers. Then we told them again after the first
incident with the Donaldsons. But then when they asked for our help
we refused. This time we ignored the signs that something was really
bothering Johnny and he needed our support. Instead we razed him and
said he was too sensitive and childish. Johnny and Nicole do not hold
grudges, but I’m not so sure that they aren’t hurt deeply
enough that they no longer want to be friends with us. I’m not
sure I could still be friends with us if I was in their shoes.” Mike
was wishing they could turn the clock back to a week ago and redo
everything that had gone wrong.
“I think you’re right, Mike. They won’t
even let us in the room now. I just hope we can find a way to get through
to them and show them we really do care.” Captain Stanley’s
pain was as deep as the others. “A-shift won’t be the
same without Johnny.”
“We have to do something.” Chet was upset
that he had been so insensitive to Johnny. Nothing would be the same
unless they were all together. Station 51 needed Johnny.
“Yeah, but what? This is just the latest in
a list of ways that we have let Johnny and Nicole down.” Marco
had been sure there was something really bothering Johnny, but since
Roy didn’t know or do anything about it, then why should he?
Because he was Johnny’s friend, that’s why.
“I wish I knew what we could do.” Roy
sat with his head in his hands. Johnny had never let him down. Where
was he when Johnny needed him?
Agent Adams picked up his material and turned to Johnny, “I’m
sorry about the problem with your friends. I hope that someday you
will be able to work things out.” He smiled at the couple as
Mr. Robertson sat down and looked at the couple. “The
kids are fine. I’ll get ready to put these plans into motion
if they are what you really want.”
The tears were streaming down Nicole’s cheeks. “Johnny,
I miss them already. What they did hurt both of us deeply, but they
have also showed us how much they really care. There will always
be times when things will happen that will hurt, but they really care.
It will take a while for the hurt to go away, but maybe we can give
them another chance.”
“You’re right. And they did say they came
up with a plan to help us when we are released from here. Maybe we
could listen to it.” Johnny’s love for Nicole grew at that
moment. She knew how much he really cared for his ‘family’ and
friends and was trying to do something about it.
Their nurse, Carol, walked in to take their vitals.
She saw the tears on Nicole’s face and the pain in Johnny’s
eyes. She wondered what was going on. Their friends had left with
the longest faces she had ever seen.
“Carol, would you call Roy and ask him if he
would come back and see us?” Johnny hoped that they hadn’t
lost their friends because they had pushed them away.
“Actually, Roy, Chet, Hank, Marco and Mike are
sitting outside in the waiting area.” Carol took their vitals
and made the notations in their charts. “Do you want me to
send Roy in?”
“Please send them all in if they still want
to see us.” Johnny gave Nicole a hug as she wiped away her
“Sure.” Carol prayed that whatever had
happened between these friends would be repaired. As she approached
the group, Roy looked up with tears in his eyes. “Roy, Johnny
and Nicole asked me to tell you that they would like to see all of
you if you still want to see them.”
All five men were on their feet before she had finished
talking. She chuckled to herself as she watched them practically
run to the Gages’ room.
Roy took a deep breath and held it as he cautiously
pushed the door open.
“Come on in, Roy, fellas.” Johnny saw
the way the guys were afraid to enter the room.
They all let out the breath they didn’t realize
they were holding.
There was an awkward tension as no one knew what to
say or where to begin. “Nicole and I have been talking and we
want to thank you for being concerned about what is going to happen
when Nicole and I are released from here. However, there are some issues
that still bother me and I’m not sure can be explained away.”
“What are they, Johnny?” A knot developed
in Roy’s stomach. He had hoped that being let back into the room
meant that they were going to be able to work things out. Now he wasn’t
“Well, none of you even tried to find out what
was bothering me. Roy thought I was down about the teenaged girls we
lost and he wasn’t ready to talk about it. He asked me once before
that run what was wrong, but I didn’t have all the facts then.
After that run, the only time he talked to me was when we were on a
run and then it was only related to work. Then at that fire, no one
tried to find out what really happened; you were all just ready to
blame me. Then I overheard you discussing the fact that you are afraid
to work with me. I also heard what you said about me acting like a
kid and being too sensitive. I tried to stay out of your way but instead
of leaving me alone, the phantom pulled an unreasonable number of pranks.
I learned how you all really feel about working with me and what you
really think of me. So, I want to go through with the transfer I have
requested. That way I won’t ever wonder if you really trust me
or are just trying to placate me when you tell me you trust me.” Johnny
saw the pain and guilt on the other men’s faces. But he didn’t
know if he could ever feel like they trusted him again.
“But, Johnny, we do trust you. You’re
right, we should have listened to the whole situation with the fire
and not jumped to conclusions. Johnny, when I am fighting a fire and
you are there, I know that I am safe. I don’t even think twice
about entering a burning building because you and Roy and the others
are there to back me up. Johnny, the station won’t be the same
without you and you really don’t want to leave our shift, do
you?” Chet was grasping at straws. He really didn’t want
Johnny to leave.
“Yeah, Johnny, we need you to put the fun into
our lives. Without you we won’t be the family that we have been.” Marco
tried to let his friend know how sorry they all were.
“Listen, Johnny, none of us took the time to
find out what was bothering you. We are truly sorry. We know that someday
that each of us will eventually leave A-shift, but we would rather
do it by promotions, not this way. There is not one member of our shift
who is afraid to work with you. We all talked it over and realized
how focused you were when doing your job even with everything you had
on your mind. None of us would have been able to do it and we don’t
know of anyone else who would either.” The four other members
of A-shift were nodding their heads in agreement with Mike as he
took his turn at trying to let Johnny know how sorry they were.
“Johnny, you haven’t been acting like
a kid. You haven’t been too sensitive either. If anything you
have been more mature about this whole situation than any of us have.
It is that we were too insensitive to what you were going through.
Please, Johnny, we all want and need you as a part of our family.” Roy’s
eyes were pleading with Johnny.
“Yeah, Johnny, please don’t go through
with that transfer.” Hank needed Johnny as a part of the family
as much as everyone else. Johnny kept the life in the family.
Each of the men held his breath as Johnny looked at
Nicole and then at each one of them before he answered. “Well,
Cap, will you call headquarters and put it on hold for me? I can’t
say that I won’t still want to transfer out of 51, but I will
give it a chance and see where we go from here.” Johnny silently
laughed at the relieved looks on each man’s face as they all
let out their breath. He wasn’t sure it would all work out,
but he would give it every chance.
“You bet I will, pal.” Hank’s smile
was almost as big as Roy’s.
Nicole smiled at Johnny and then at each of the other
men. “What’s the plan you came up with for when we are
released?” Nicole and Johnny both smiled, but it wasn’t
their normal big smiles.
“Well, we know you aren’t going to be
able to go to your home, so we have a schedule worked out to help Roy
and Joanne with the kids, your doctors appointments, your physical
therapy and anything else you need until you can come back to work.” Chet
outlined the basics of the plan.
Looking over to Johnny and seeing his nod of approval,
Nicole took a deep breath. “On one condition—. ”
“What’s that?” Roy held his breath.
They were ready to agree to anything in order to keep Johnny and Nicole’s
“The Phantom is retired for the time being.” Nicole
knew how they answered would tell how much they really wanted to
work this out. Since they really had no other place to go, they would
the offer. But she knew that both she and Johnny had been hurt and
that would take awhile to go away.
“You’ve got it—no more Phantom until
Johnny says so.” Chet readily agreed—anything to have
his friends back.
As the others were laughing, Mr. Robertson quietly
slipped out to call Linda and Carol and have them bring the Gage
babies “home.” He
tore up and threw away the papers with the plans they had just laid
out in the wastebasket. The Gages were right where they belonged.
Johnny and Nicole had moved to the DeSoto home a week
after they were moved out of ICU. Everyone took turns helping with
the kids, Johnny and Nicole. It was a relief to find out that Chief
McConikee had ignored Johnny’s request for a transfer. When he
was able to, he would be returning to Station 51’s A-shift
with the assurance that all of his coworkers trusted him with their
Although they were grateful for the assistance, everyone
knew that Johnny and Nicole were still recovering from the pain
the group had caused them. They were reserved whenever they were around
the others. Roy’s heart ached at the distance that Johnny
and Nicole had placed between themselves and the others, but he
it was nothing like the ache that Johnny and Nicole had felt from
the treatment they had received. He just prayed that someday, their
would be healed and things would be back to the way they were.
The results of all of the exams were due out today.
This was the only time headquarters had offered the chief, captain
and engineer exams at the same time. They probably wouldn’t do
it again, but the men of Station 51’s A-shift were glad. They
all dreaded having to work with only part of their crew and that would
have been what had happened if they had taken the exams one at a time.
They didn’t know that Chief McConikee had arranged it that way
just for them. He had wanted to recognize these men for their hard
work and promoting them as was only fitting. But he also knew it would
have been very hard to do it one at a time. Hank Stanley knew that
all his men were as antsy as he was as they lined up for roll call.
He couldn’t blame them. They all wanted the results of their
exams. But he didn’t have them, for some reason they hadn’t
been sent to him yet.
Chief McConikee walked in followed by Johnny, who
was still on medical leave, just as Hank was finishing with roll
call. Captain Stanley began to get nervous. What was the Chief doing
morning, Chief. “To what do we owe the honor of this visit?”
“Let’s all go get a cup of coffee and
I’ll tell you.” The Chief led the way into the kitchen
area. As each man got their cup of coffee they made their way to the
table and sat down. Dwyer, who was subbing for Johnny, joined the group.
When all seven men were seated the Chief looked at each one with a
smile. “I have personally come to give you the results of your
exams. I asked Johnny to join us so I could give him his results,
too. We checked the tests twice to be sure of the results.”
The men exchanged glances. Why would the Chief come
all the way over there just to give them the results? Had they all
done that badly? Why would they check the results twice?
“It isn’t every day that we had such good
news to give an entire shift.” The Chief had seen the looks on
the men’s faces. He had been sure how these men would perform
on the exams and they had not let him down. “Marco, you and Chet
have tied for number 1 on the Engineer’s exam which places you
1 and 2 on the list respectively. Roy, John and Mike tied for number
1 on the Captain’s exam which places them 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
And Hank, you placed number 1 on the Chief’s exam. I want to
congratulate all of you.” Pausing to let the news sink in; he
smiled as the saw the various emotions cross each man’s face
until they each had realized what he had said. “Your new assignments
have already been made. Headquarters has both wished for and dreaded
this day. You are the best crew in the county and we really hate to
break you up. But we also wanted to reward each of you for your hard
work. The decision was made to place you all in stations that will
be responding to calls together when more than one station is required.
You will all be placed on the same shift. Hank, you will become the
Chief of this battalion as I will be moving up to operations. Roy and
Marco will be assigned to the A-shift at Station 14 just down the road.
John and Chet will be assigned here at Station 51 on the A-shift. Mike
will be assigned to the A-shift at Station 24 just a couple of miles
over. We are hoping to take the relationship and teamwork that is evident
here in this group and develop it in other Stations. You will start
your new duties in two weeks. I want to congratulate you once again,
men, and wish you all good luck.” The Chief didn’t wait
for any response. He just turned and left the Station.
No one said a word for five minutes after the Chief
had left. It was Johnny who found his voice first. “Wow, we
all wanted it, but it is really happening. Congratulations everyone.”
“Yeah, congratulations. I agree with Johnny,
Wow!” Chet was like the rest of the group. No one really knew
what to say.
“Well men, let’s get our chores done around
here.” Captain Stanley was full of pride as he looked at the
men who had been his crew for so long. But there was sadness in his
The others started their assigned duties as Johnny
quietly congratulated each of them and slowly made his way out of the
station. He would return to duty only a week before the promotions
became effective. His thoughts went back to all that had happened over
the years he had been a member of the A-shift family. He realized that
both he and Nicole were where they belonged and that family feeling
had returned. Now the family was just moving on, but he knew they would
still be a family.
It was the last shift for this particular A-shift
crew of Station 51. Roll call was somber—even the phantom had
disappeared the last two weeks. Johnny had returned to work the week
before and everyone knew that they were once again the family they
had been before the Donaldsons had almost torn their lives apart. Hank
looked at his crew. “Guys, I want to thank all of you for your
support over the years. I want all of you to know that I think of
you not as my men, but as a part of my family and I will miss working
each one of you on a regular basis. Today is a bitter sweet day and
I want to take this opportunity to wish each of you good luck.”
The men broke rank and each one of them made sure
they wished the others good luck. They wanted to make sure they
did it just in case the day was so busy they didn’t get a chance
to before the end of shift. It was a good thing, too, because the
klaxons sounded before they had a chance to start their duties.
It was lunchtime and they had been at the scene of
a fire since 8:00 that morning. The engine backed in first and
then the squad. All six men headed for the locker room to take turns
a shower. Those waiting lay on their beds to rest for a few minutes.
It wasn’t until they one by one wandered into the day room
after their showers that they discovered a room full of people
with a party
for them. Even the doctors and Dixie were there. The guys were
just a little sad as they realized it was the last lunch they would
together as a crew. The men were herded to the table to see if
they could get lunch over before they got called out.
But as they sat down to eat, the klaxons sounded and
the men of A-shift ran to their vehicles yelling thank you to the people
who had come to honor them.
The shift had ended and it was finally time to say
goodbye to their crewmates. Saying goodbye for the final time was harder
than anyone thought it would be. But they all knew they would still
be a family. That was one thing that would not change. All six men
determined nothing would break apart their family. This was just the
next phase in all their lives.
Chief Hank Stanley and his wife, Captain Roy DeSoto
and his family, Captain Mike Stoker and his family, Engineer Chet
Kelly, Engineer Marco Lopez and Captain John Gage and his family were
the holidays out at the Gage ranch. Talk centered around their new
assignments. As they were talking about the adjustments each one
was learning to make, everyone had to laugh when Chet admitted he could
no longer pull pranks on his favorite “pigeon” because
he was now Chet’s boss. But they had another guy on their shift
that was just as trusting as Johnny had been when he first started
with the A-shift and he was a paramedic to boot. The crews had even
had a few opportunities to work together on a couple large fires under
Chief Stanley’s command and they still worked together as a
well-oiled machine just like headquarters had hoped they would.
To be continued in