For personal use and select distribution only © by Addmom

DISCLAIMER: "Emergency!" and its characters © Mark VII Productions, Inc. and Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

The poems and songs used in this story do not belong to me. I have indicated the singer/writer of each one.

No infringement of any copyrights or trademarks is intended or should be inferred. This is a work of fiction, and any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. This story is only written for entertainment. No financial gain is being realized from it. The story, itself, is the property of the author. Please ask before archiving elsewhere and/or using characters created by the author.

I am in no way connected to the medical profession and take responsibility for all mistakes in dealing with treatments, diseases, etc.

Unexpected Changes

August, 1986

Life had settled into a comfortable routine. Chris DeSoto and William Stoker had both graduated from high school and followed their fathers into the fire service. Chris was planning on becoming a paramedic and William wanted to an engineer like his father.

Hank Stanly had been a Battalion Chief for just under seven years and he had the same respect and loyalty from all the men in his battalion that he had from the original Station 51 A-Shift crew. Everyone knew that the loyalty and respect were earned because he was willing to do anything he asked of his men and he cared about them. If there was any member of his battalion that was injured, he was one of the first firefighters at the hospital checking on them.

Today Hank was reminiscing through the years since he was assigned to Station 51 during the early years of the station. His first crew there had become a big part of his family not just his coworkers or friends. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling so nostalgic, but there was something niggling at the back of his mind. All of a sudden he had a feeling that something big was going to happen. He prayed that all the responding personnel would be kept safe. He had no way of knowing that his world was going to change forever.


The call came in for a huge MVA on the 405. There were over 100 vehicles involved and 15 stations had been called out—among them were stations 14, 24 and 51. Hank joined Chief McConnikee as he headed to the accident. Both men prayed that there wouldn’t be too many deaths or serious injuries. However, they both knew they were just hoping. With over 100 vehicles involved, there had to be some fatalities.

Hank was out of the car before McConnikee had even come to a complete stop. He saw the trucks in front of him and walked over to Captain Mike Stoker who had been the first Captain on the scene and was in charge. “Mike, what do we have?”

“There are three semis that collided starting a chain reaction because no one could stop in time to keep from hitting the vehicle in front of them. The bad part is that there are three school buses right in the middle of all of this. Glancing at his watch, Hank realized the abuses were on their way to school and most likely were fully loaded with kids. This was one time he was grateful he was not the most senior firefighter on scene.


All the responders had been given their assignments and Hank began walking down the line of crushed vehicles to see if there was some place he could be of assistance. Over the years he had missed the teamwork and closeness of a station crew. Today he seemed to miss it the most. Thinking about the original Station 51 A-shift, he wondered where Roy and Johnny’s crews had been assigned. He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard Johnny’s voice calling out instructions to his crew. He had reached the semi that had caused the accident. Making his way through the wreckage, he found Roy’s crew working on the occupants of the semis while Johnny’s crew was working on the kids in the three buses.

Hank saw that Roy’s crew had the three semi-truck drivers out of their vehicles. He also noted with sadness that two of the three men were Code F. Turning from the flurry of activity around the surviving driver he went to Johnny to see where he could help. “Johnny, what do we have?”

Johnny turned and saw his chief walking towards him. “Most of the kids are just shaken up, but we will be sending them to Rampart to get checked out anyway. We have two of the buses emptied. The kids are all over at the triage area waiting to be sent on the buses that are on their way. Burton and Lincoln are taking care of them. Two of the drivers have suffered broken bones. They are already on their way to Rampart. Bob and Jim are getting ready to cut the third driver out. The driver’s seat broke off and pushed forward while the steering wheel shaft bent and twisted to the left. The driver was pushed under the shaft and the pedals. We need to pry her out. Bob is going to use the Jaws of Life to bend the steering wheel shaft back while Jim and Chet pull back on the seat. Bruce and Bill are getting the rest of the kids off the bus. We hope to have her out in about fifteen minutes.”

“I noticed the kids as I came by. They all seemed to be doing ok. What can I do to help?”

Johnny looked at his boss. Hank should have been the one in charge and should have been telling Johnny what to do. “Aren’t you supposed to be telling me what to do?”

“Not this time. You are doing a great job and today I just want to help.”

“Oh, ok. Will you please go and see what you can do to help Bob and Jim with the driver? I’ll help Bruce and Bill with the rest of the kids.”

“Sure, and thanks Johnny.” Hank smiled at Johnny’s obvious discomfort in giving him orders. He took a moment to think about the men who had once served under him at Station 51. He let himself feel a little bit of pride as he thought about how well each of the men performed. Turning his thoughts back to the problem at hand, he made his way to the front of the bus.

Johnny took a second to watch Hank walk towards the bus. Then he turned to help his crew members unload the kids.

“Bob, what can I do to help?” Hank grinned at the startled looks on both Bob and Jim’s faces.

“Um, Chief, um, well.” Bob had a hard time talking as he exchanged looks with Jim as Hank climbed aboard the bus. He brought the blanket he had heard Bob ask Jim for as he arrived. Still waiting for one of the paramedics to find their voice, Hank covered the bus driver with the blanket.

“Thanks Chief.” Jim finally found his voice and began bending the steering wheel shaft back. Bob grabbed one side of the driver’s seat while a giggling Chet grabbed the other side. Nothing more was said as the four men worked on releasing the bus driver.

Johnny smiled as the last of the children climbed down from the bus. Two of the older girls had kept the younger ones calm by singing nursery rhymes and playing with them. Johnny made a mental note to make sure the appropriate authorities and news media knew that these two girls played a very important part in this rescue.

Once he had delivered the last of the kids to the triage area, Johnny stopped by where Brandon and Andrew were working on the surviving semi-driver. He was relieved to find out that the driver was going to be alright.

Roy walked up just as Johnny started to head back to the bus and his crew. “John, is everyone off the bus?”

“Bob, Jim, Chet and Hank are working on getting the bus driver out. She is caught between the steering wheel drive shaft and the driver’s seat. Jim is trying to bend the drive shaft back with the Jaws while Chet and Bob are working on moving the seat and Hank is keeping her company and covered. I’m heading back there now to help.”

“I’ll go with you. My crew is working with Mike in helping to clean up the mess from the outside in. I’ll have Brandon let Mike know where I am.” He looked over at his paramedic and received a nod of acknowledgement and then followed Johnny towards the bus.

The closer the two men got to the bus where the rescue was going on, the tighter the knot in Johnny’s stomach became. Something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what. He picked up the pace and started trotting towards the bus. Roy didn’t know what was spurring his best friend on, but he knew that Johnny’s instincts were telling him something. Johnny’s instincts were rarely wrong, so he trusted his friend’s urgency.

Looking at the location of each of the vehicles in the original crash, Johnny noticed that one of the semis was a tanker. Up to this point, there had been no evidence of leaks or problems with gas. But Johnny smelled gas and was beginning to worry. Turning to Roy he realized that Roy smelled it, too.

Just as Johnny reached the bus to see how the efforts were going and to warn his friends, Roy noticed the leak getting bigger and was headed right towards the bus. He stopped when he saw a man headed towards them smoking a cigarette. A knot formed in Roy’s stomach as well as his heart as he headed towards the guy. “Hey, don’t you know better than to smoke around here? And who are you?”

Johnny sighed as he saw Bob and Jim carrying the bus driver off the bus. Chet was close behind with the Jaws and some of the medical equipment. Johnny rushed over to help Hank gather up the rest of the equipment. Bob, Jim, Chet and the victim were 100 feet away from the bus when Roy’s warning came. Johnny and Hank were still on the bus.

Roy’s presence and questions had startled the man that had been walking through the wreckage. He was from the shipping company that one of the destroyed semis belonged to. The reason for his presence was to find out the extent of the damage of their vehicle and cargo. He had thought all the emergency personnel were gone. When he jumped at Roy’s shout, he dropped his cigarette—right into the stream of gas running from the tanker. Roy yelled for Johnny and Hank to get out of the bus when he saw the flames spread in both directions—towards the tanker and the bus.

Hank looked out the driver’s window when he heard Roy’s shout. With a quick prayer, he turned around, grabbed Johnny and pushed him out of the bus. They were almost free when the tanker blew. That was the last thing either man remembered before everything went black.


Chet, Bob and Jim had been knocked off their feet when the tanker exploded, but had been far enough away that it just knocked the wind out of them. They were back up on their feet and headed towards the triage area with the bus driver. It wasn’t until they got there that they realized that Johnny and Hank were not behind them. Chet set down the medical equipment and started back towards the bus. The knot in his stomach tightened the closer he got to where he knew his friends were. The fire from the tanker explosion was shooting into the air and it looked like the bus was already in flames.


Roy jumped up from where he had been knocked down when the tanker blew. He had been far enough away that when he flew, he landed on the grassy area next to the road. Worry about his friends who had been on the bus made him shake off the dizziness that threatened him. His friends needed his help. As he came around the back he almost ran into Chet. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Bob and Jim got the bus driver over to the triage area. Johnny and Hank were supposed to be right behind us, but I haven’t seen them.” Chet kept running as he answered Roy’s question.

Both men skidded to a stop when they saw Hank and Johnny lying on the ground. From what they could tell, Johnny had been thrown to the street. His helmet had somehow disappeared and Roy could see the blood where his head had hit the pavement. Hank had been slammed against the side of one of the semis and then fallen back to the street. “Chet, go get some paramedics, back boards, c-collars and oxygen. I’m going to see if I can find the man who was smoking and started all this. Also, tell them to get some lines over here to take care of this fire.”

Chet turned to do as Roy asked and ran into Mike Stoker. He smiled as he realized that Patrick, John, Rich and Craig were already coming to their aid. He took off towards the triage area as fast as he could.

Mike had seen the explosion and had radioed Roy’s crew. He was pleased to find out they were already pulling lines and heading towards where they knew their captain had been. His engineer had driven faster than he should have, but Mike’s crew followed close on the heels of Roy’s crew. Mike grabbed Bruce and Bill to help search. They came across Roy checking on Johnny and Hank. “Roy, what happened? Is everybody else away from here?”

“Just as they got the bus driver out, I saw a man walking through the wreckage smoking a cigarette. Johnny and I had smelled gas. I must have startled the guy when I asked him what he was doing here and told him he shouldn’t be smoking around here. He jumped and dropped his cigarette right into the gas. The fire spread both directions. When it hit the tanker, the tanker blew. I couldn’t see him when I got up. He should be around here somewhere.”

“Ok, I’ll take Bruce and Bill to go see if we can find him.” Mike took one last look at his friends lying on the ground and silently prayed that they would be alright. Things really didn’t look very good from his standpoint, but he wasn’t a doctor. “Take care of them Roy.” Mike turned and headed in the direction Roy had indicated wondering if they would find the man who had inadvertently caused the explosion.

Coming around the bus, Mike saw the form of the man Roy was talking about. As he hurried over to where the man had been thrown by the blast, he had the sinking feeling the man was dead. His suspicions were confirmed when they reached him. The firefighters couldn’t tell whether it was the blast or the fire that had caught him in its wake when it jumped from truck to truck that killed him.

Engine 36 was already spreading foam on the fire from the tanker. They had just been informed by the shipping company about the contents of the tanker and that water would make a fire burn hotter instead of extinguishing it if the tanker caught fire when it blew. Engine 36 had been close enough they had been able to get the whole thing under control in just a matter of minutes.

Bill and Bruce moved over to the burned body of the shipping company employee. They carefully laid the backboard down. After moving the man to the backboard, they covered him with one of the yellow blankets from the engine and started back to the triage area where he would be picked up by the county coroner’s office.

As they walked by the activity surrounding Johnny and Hank, Mike looked over with worry. Roy noticed the yellow blanket and turned back to what he was doing with sorrow. The man had been smoking where he shouldn’t have been, but he didn’t deserve to die. But then again, Hank and Johnny didn’t deserve to be fighting for their lives, either. The look on Roy’s face made Mike worry even more. Brandon, Jim, Bob, Andrew, Russ and Greg were all working frantically to treat their friends. Mike knew that Chief McConnikee would want an update on what had happened. Bill, Bruce and Mike all said a silent prayer for their friends as they headed towards the triage area.


Roy had been anxiously watching the activity around Johnny and Hank. Neither one has regained consciousness. His concern was soon replaced by a pain in his head. As he saw the ambulance attendants arrive, his vision narrowed to a pinpoint and then everything went black. Brandon and Andrew caught him before he hit the ground. Russ and Greg were loading Hank into one ambulance as Jim and Bob were loading Johnny into a second one. Jim saw Brandon and Andrew working on their Captain.

Making a decision he hoped wouldn’t cost his Captain his life, Jim looked over at Russ and Greg who were starting towards the activity around Roy. “Russ, Greg, go ahead and get Chief Stanley to the hospital. He can’t wait. Captain Gage is stable right now and can wait a few minutes. We’ll make room to bring Captain DeSoto with us.”

Greg nodded his acknowledgement and both men hurried back to their patient who suddenly took a turn for the worse. Mike, Chet and Marco arrived back at the scene just in time to see the ambulance pulling away with Greg and Russ performing CPR on their friend. All three men said a silent prayer for their three “family members” as Brandon and Andrew loaded Roy into the back of the ambulance with Johnny. Brandon rode with Roy while Jim rode with Johnny while Bob, Andrew, Mike, Chet and Marco watched the ambulance pull away.


Clean up at the accident site had taken three hours. Chet, Mike, Marco and the rest of the three crews hurried into the Emergency area at Rampart. Looking around Chet finally spotted Dixie walking down the hallway. “Dixie!”

Dixie looked up at the faces of the firefighters who had come to check on their friends. She knew there was good news and bad news. Their lives were about to change forever. Taking a deep breath, she debated with herself whether to deliver the news or let one of the doctors do it. The decision was made for her when Kelly Brackett stepped out of treatment room 3 and came face to face with the men.

Seeing the unspoken question on each other faces, Dr. Brackett took a deep breath. “Gentlemen, let’s go into the lounge where the rest of your crews are waiting. I can tell all of you at once what is going on.” Kel knew he was just postponing the inevitable, but he couldn’t help himself.

In the lounge, Mike found Jim, Russ, Greg and Brandon waiting with Joanne DeSoto, Nicole Gage and Emily Stanley. He figured Rebecca Lopez, Kimberly Kelly and Beth, his wife, were probably staying with the Gage and DeSoto children. He walked over and sat down next to Nicole pulling her into his arms. How many times had they been in this same position over the last few years? Marco had positioned himself next to Joanne and was holding her.

“Well, doc, how are they?” Chet was tired of waiting to hear about their friends.

“Roy has a mild concussion and has been situated in his room. I know that both Joanne and Nicole have seen him and he is sleeping right now. He will be released tomorrow. Johnny has a hairline fracture of his skull and a broken right arm. He is in the same room as Roy, but has not regained consciousness. We are concerned that he hasn’t woken up yet, but believe he will be alright.” Kel stopped and took a drink of the coffee Dixie had handed him. He was dreading giving the next piece of information he had to give.

“What about Chief Stanley?” Brandon was the one who asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.

Looking at the expectant faces staring back at him, Kel Brackett delivered the news. “He has just been taken to recovery. We had to operate to find the cause of the internal bleeding. We were able to repair the damage. However, during the operation we discovered that Hank sustained some damage to his heart. We need to do some tests to find out the extent of the damage.”

“Dr. Brackett, I know you have to do the tests and I won’t hold you to it, but what do you think his prognosis is?” Emily Stanley knew what her husband’s career in the fire department meant to him.

Looking at the faces of each of the people in the room, he knew they needed to know the truth. He was 95% certain that Hank Stanley would finish his fire fighting career behind a desk or on disability. His activities were going to be restricted. Hank’s life was going to change and he would need the support of all his friends. Taking a deep breath, he calmed his feelings. “Not having completed the tests, but I believe that Hank will either spend the rest of his career behind a desk or on disability. Which one depends on the extent of the damage. Either way, his world is going to change.”

“Thank you, Dr. Brackett.” Emily’s shoulders started shaking as her silent sobs became stronger. Nicole and Joanne moved to either side of her and put their arms around her. The three women sat together as the others in the room tried to absorb what they had just been told. It wasn’t very long before Emily took a deep breath, wiped away her tears, and sat up straight. “Can I see him now?”

“Yes, he is still coming out of the anesthetic, but it will do him good to see you. I’ll make arrangements for you to stay with him as long as you want and while we run the tests.”

“Thank you, Dr. Brackett.” Emily stood and followed the doctor out of the lounge. It was several minutes before anyone in the room said anything.


Nicole was sitting beside Johnny’s bed. It had been five hours since he had been admitted, but Johnny had not regained consciousness yet. Joanne had gone home to be with her children. Nicole had been torn. She wanted to see her children, but she wanted to be there when Johnny woke up. Mike had let her know that he and Beth would take care of the kids so that she could stay by Johnny’s side.

Roy had been awake until he had received some pain medication. He was as worried as Nicole and she was relieved when he couldn’t stay awake any longer. He was becoming agitated and the longer Johnny was unconscious, the more agitated Roy become. Nicole prayed that Johnny would wake up soon and relieve all their minds.

Dixie found Nicole sound asleep with her head laying on top of her hands wrapped around Johnny’s hand. Roy was beginning to stir. She was going to get Roy to go back to sleep when she realized Johnny was looking at her. But the blank look in his eyes scared her. “Hi there handsome. How are you feeling?”

Nicole heard Dixie’s soft voice and looked up at Johnny. Her heart broke as she noticed that he seemed to be staring right through her. “Hi, honey. How are you feeling?”

Johnny didn’t say a word. He wasn’t sure where he was, who these two women were, or even who he was. He slowly closed his eyes hoping he would remember when he woke up. He had seen the terror in Nicole’s eyes even though he didn’t know what was causing it. No matter who she was, he hoped he would be able to ease that terror.

Nicole looked over at Roy as she heard him stirring. She said a silent word of thanks that Roy hadn’t been alert enough to see what had transpired with Johnny. She was glad Roy had not seen Johnny’s blank stare.

Dixie hugged Nicole and quietly left the room praying that when Johnny woke up the next time the blank look would be gone.

Nicole walked over to Roy’s bed as he opened his eyes. “How’s Johnny?”

“Nothing’s changed, Roy. But things are going to be alright.”

“How’s cap? Have you heard anything?”

“I was just going to take a walk. I’ll go see if there is any news.”

“Thanks, Nicole. Johnny and Cap have to be alright. We all need them.” Roy squeezed Nicole’s hand as she leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.

Nicole quietly slipped out of the room and went to see how if here was any word on Hank Stanley.

Hank woke up saw the tear stained face of his wife seated in the chair next to his bed with her head on their clasped hands. He knew that something was seriously wrong. He looked up when he heard the door opening and saw Nicole. “How are Johnny and Roy?” He was anxious to find out what was going on. There were tear stains on his wife’s face and he overheard the ambulance attendant and the paramedic talking when they are transporting him to the hospital. His first though was that the tears were for one of his paramedics.

Nicole didn’t know how he knew about Roy and Johnny but she saw the fear in his eyes. “They are both just fine Hank. Roy is resting peacefully. Johnny is still unconscious.” Nicole and Dixie had silently agreed that they would not tell anyone about Johnny’s blank stare until they had a chance to see him awake again. “They are worried about you.”

“Me? Why are they worried about me?” He knew that he was had been injured severely. But he didn’t know the extent of his injuries.

Nicole knew that once he found out he would be devastated. “Because the injuries you sustained were the most severe. She didn’t want to tell him the extent of his injuries. She felt that was either Dr. Brackett’s or his wife’s job. She was very pleased when Dr. Brackett walked in just as Emily Stanley woke to the sound of voices.

“How are you feeling, honey?”

“Like I’ve been hit by a ten-ton truck and thrown against a brick wall. What are the extent of my injuries?” The sinking feeling that gnawed at Hank’s stomach when Nicole said that Johnny was still unconscious was pushed aside as he saw the concern on his wife’s face.

Emily was relieved when Dr. Brackett chose that moment to come in and check on Hank. He had heard Hank’s question and steeled himself to break the news to him.

“Well, I’m glad to see you are awake, Hank. How are you feeling?” Dr. Brackett knew he was stalling, but he did it anyway.

“As I just told my wife, I feel like I’ve been hit by a ten-ton truck and thrown against a brick wall. What’s the verdict, doc?”

Knowing it wouldn’t get any easier Kelly Brackett figured he might as well just tell Hank the truth. “Well, Hank, you had some internal bleeding that we had to go in and repair. You received some damage to your heart that will be permanent. We won’t know the extent of that damage until we have run some tests.”

“Permanent damage to my heart? When are you going to run the tests?” Hank’s mind was rapidly running through what permanent damage to his heart would mean and how his career as a firefighter would definitely change. But he determined that no matter what the outcome was, he had been privileged enough to have had a good career. He had a wonderful wife and family and really great friends. He knew that with their help he would get through anything.

“We are going to wait until tomorrow to run the tests. Your body needs a little time to heal and you are going to be here a few days so we didn’t see a need to rush them. Hank, do you have any questions?”

“No. I just need to let it sink in a little.” Hank felt his wife’s hand tighten around his. He knew that she as well as Nicole was worried about how he would take this news. “Emily, Doc, Nicole, I want you all to know that it will take a little getting used to, but I know that I can make whatever adjustments I will need to make. I have had a great career and had all the support I need. I have had to change from being on the front lines every day with a crew to being in an office setting more so I know that I can adjust to a permanent office job. Not being as active or doing all the things I used to do will be different, but even if I have to go on disability, I know that I will make it.”

Nicole had moved to the side of Hank’s bed opposite Emily. “Hank, I know why my husband and all the original crew of Station 51’s A-shift admire and respect you. But you have just proven once again why their loyalty for you is so strong. You’re right. You have Emily and your ‘family’ who will be there every step of the way to help you in any way they can.” Nicole had picked up Hank’s other hand in hers. “After all we have to watch out for ‘dear old Dad’, now don’t we?”

“Thanks, Nicole.” Hank joined the laughter at Nicole’s last statement. He had been dubbed the “father” of the “Station 51 family” a long time ago. He had often thought back to his days as Captain of Station 51 and realized that he felt like the father of the group—not because of his age, but because of his position. As he thought about that fact now, he realized it was also because he knew that the five men that worked for him looked up to him even then. There were many times when his office was a place were confessions were made, advice was sought and feelings were let out in the open. “Dear old Dad is thankful for the ‘kids’ who keep him in line. Now how about you go check on the two ‘kids’ who are upstairs and give me a full report after you have had your dinner. Hank knew that Nicole, Joanne and his own wife would need to be gently prodded to eat. “As a matter of fact, take Emily with you. And if Joanne is around take her, too.”

Nicole smiled at Hank’s concern for them. “We will do that.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek which made him turn red as his wife kissed his other cheek. Emily laughed slightly at his discomfort and followed Nicole out of the room. She would wait until they were away from Hank’s room before she asked Nicole what Nicole wasn’t telling them about Johnny’s condition.


Nicole had explained to Emily what was going on with Johnny. She also told her that Dixie was the only other person who knew what had happened. Emily agreed to her request that she keep it a secret until they found out more about what was going on and the extent of Johnny’s condition. There was more than one prayer being said for the conditions of three very special men that evening.


When Nicole returned to Johnny and Roy’s room, it was after l0:00 p.m. She was relieved to see that Roy was still asleep. She didn’t want to have to explain about Johnny to him. Pulling up the chair the nurses had moved during their 9:00 vitals check, Nicole sat down and took Johnny’s hand in both of hers. “You have to be alright, honey. We have been through so much. I need you and so do the kids.”

After talking until she could talk no more, Nicole laid her head on their joined hands and cried herself to sleep. She wasn’t sure what woke her almost two hours later, but she knew she was going to have a very stiff neck. As she stretched, she looked down and saw two brown eyes watching her. “Hi, teddy bear. How do you feel?” She was afraid she wouldn’t get an answer. Her fears were that Johnny would once again just look through her. A smile lit her face when she heard Johnny’s voice.

“My head feels like someone is taking a jackhammer to it and my arm hurts.” Johnny squeezed Nicole’s hand.

“Do you want me to see if I can find a nurse and get you something for the pain?” Nicole was pleased to have him talk to her. She wasn’t sure what she would have done if he had just stared at her again.

“Just push the call button. I need something for the pain, but I want to be awake for a few minutes with you.” His smile turned into a grimace of pain.

Nicole reached up and pushed the call button. She wanted to talk with Johnny, but she didn’t want him to be in pain. “Johnny, do you remember what happened?”

After a few moments, Johnny’s expression turned to one of worry. “Yes, we were just coming off the bus when something blew. How is Chief Stanley?”

“I’d like to know, too.” Roy had woken up at the sound of Johnny and Nicole’s voices. “And how are you, Junior?”

Johnny slowly turned his head towards Roy’s voice. “You were hurt, too?” He stopped short of turning his head completely to the side. It hurt too much and it made him dizzy. “What are the extent of your injuries — and mine?”

“I just have a mild concussion. I think I’ll be going home tomorrow.” Roy noticed the pain on Johnny’s face.

“And you have a fractured skull and broken right arm.” Nicole had also seen the pain etched on Johnny’s face. She turned as she heard the door open.

“Oh, you’re awake. I’ll contact Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early. They wanted to know as soon as you woke up.” The nurse was pleased to see their patient had finally regained consciousness. She hurried to contact the doctors.

“What about Chief Stanley?” Johnny needed to know about his friend.

“He had surgery to repair some internal bleeding.” Not wanting to worry the two men, Nicole was reluctant to tell them the rest of the news. But she also knew that they would know she was not telling them everything no matter what she said. “They are going to be running some tests because they discovered some damage to his heart during the surgery.”

“How badly was his heart damaged?” Roy sat up in bed.

“Enough damage that we are 95% certain he will finish his firefighting career behind a desk or he will have to go on disability.” Dr. Brackett had walked into the room followed by Dr. Early just as Nicole had told them about Hank’s condition.

“How is he taking it?” Roy was worried about how his boss would take either a desk job or disability.

“He said that he would be able to make the adjustments with the help of his family and friends.” Dr. Early wanted to ease their patient’s minds.

“That’s great.” Johnny’s voice was laced with pain and could barely be heard.

“Let’s get you something for that pain.” Kel quickly took Johnny’s vitals as the nurse entered with the prescribed pain medicine.

Roy watched as Dr. Brackett completed his examination and the nurse injected the pain medicine into Johnny’s IV. He hadn’t said anything to Johnny or Nicole, but he was a little worked about the possible damage from Johnny’s fractured skull.

“Tell Chief I’ll visit him as soon as I can.” Johnny lost the fight to stay awake as Nicole leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“I will, Johnny, I will.” Dr. Brackett patted Johnny’s leg as he and Dr. Early left the room.

Roy relaxed as Johnny drifted off to sleep and the doctors left the room. “Nicole, we are all going to be ok. You’ll see.”

Nicole walked over to Roy’s bed and helped him back into bed and pulled the covers up. She kissed him on the forehead. “I know. I think Johnny will sleep for the rest of the night, so I think I’ll go home and hold my children. I know I don’t have to ask, but please have them call me if Johnny wakes up or if something changes.”

“I know Johnny would want you to get some rest in a real bed and take care of your kids. I’ll tell him that you are giving them a hug and kiss for him. And, yes, I’ll make sure they call you if anything changes.” Roy soon lost his fight to stay awake, too.

Nicole kissed both men one more time before leaving their room. After a quick stop in Hank’s room to let Emily know about Roy and Johnny and to check on Hank and a stop in ER to say goodbye to Dixie, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Morton and Dr. Early, Nicole was on her way home for the evening.


Hank was getting tired. They had been running tests all day and he was getting discouraged. His resolve to accept the fact that his life was changing was starting to slip. He had made the change to Battalion Chief easy enough, but that had some active parts to it. He still had to go to fire scenes and be in command. But having to sit behind a desk and doing only dreaded paperwork was beginning to terrify him.

Hank was still deep in thought when Nicole entered the room. Emily had taken a break and gone home for some needed rest and a shower. Nicole saw the look on Hank’s face and remembered when Johnny had thought he would never walk again. She saw the same pain in Hank’s face and knew he was having a hard time dealing with it.

“Hi, Hank.” Nicole smiled when he jumped slightly at the sound of her voice.

“Hi, Nicole. How’s Johnny today?”

“Giving everyone a hard time as usual. If it wasn’t that they want to keep an eye on him for a few more days because of his skull fracture, they would have booted him out here when Roy was released. How are you doing, Hank?”

“I’m getting tired of all these tests. And I guess I’m a little afraid of what they are going to find. Sitting behind a desk is not my idea of firefighting.”

“Hank, I remember when Johnny thought he would never walk again. I know how hard it will be and it probably isn’t much of a comfort, but all your family and friends will be here to help you through it. None of us knows exactly what you are feeling. It is not wrong for you to feel the way you do. But maybe you can think of the good things that you can do at headquarters. Is there anything that you would like to see changed about the department? If there is, maybe this will be your chance to influence those changes. And maybe you can become an instructor instead of just sitting behind a desk. As an instructor, think of the impact you would have on the future firefighters of LA County.”

Hank looked at Nicole with a huge smile on his face. “You know, I was thinking only of what I would miss. But you have given me an idea of how my life can change for the better because of this. I can still have an influence in the department, but not have all the heartaches that come with having to send men into a fire and worry about their safety. You have given me a lot to think about, Nicole. No wonder Johnny loves you so much.”

“Hank, just remember that there are going to be times in the near future as you recuperate and your life changes that you will still be discouraged. But like I said before, you have your family and friends who will help you through this. You have a right to feel the way you do, but please don’t let this win.”

“Thanks, Nicole. I know that I have a lot of people who care for me and I will not let this change me even though my life may change. Thank you for being the special person you are.”

“I’m not special, Hank. It is easy to help all of you after all that Johnny and his friends and ‘family’ have done for me. You all have accept me and made me a part of this group. I am just trying to take care of those who mean more to me that anything else in this world.” The tears had collected in Nicole’s eyes. She couldn’t stop them from slipping down her face.

“Hey, come here. I’d like to give my ‘daughter’ a hug.” Hank thought about all he had learned about the life Nicole had before she met Johnny. He couldn’t believe how anyone could have suffered through all she had and still turn out to be such a caring, kind, wonderful person and had opened up to all of them. He pulled her into his embrace when she walked into his open arms.


Johnny was released from the hospital two days later. He stopped to see Hank. “How are you doing today, Chief?”

Hank smiled at Johnny as he entered the room. “Hi, Johnny. I’m doing better. But now, thanks to Nicole, I have some thinking to do and a decision to make.”

“Oh, what did Nicole do?”

“She made the suggestion that instead of just sitting behind a desk there might be something at headquarters I could do or maybe I could be an instructor at the Academy. Well, I told Chief McConnikee about them. The next day he told me I have the choice of working in the public relations department to help build the image of the Fire service, working in personnel to help screen new applicants, or teaching at the Academy. The thing is I’m not sure which one I want to take. I wasn’t sure I could make it having to sit behind a desk but now I have something to look forward to. As a matter of fact, I am really looking forward to making the change. Nicole has shown me other areas in the Fire service that I would never have even considered if it hadn’t been for this accident. I can be a positive influence in the training or development of the department without having to worry about the safety of every man I send into a burning building or dangerous situation.”

“I’m glad to hear it, Chief. We couldn’t imagine the LA County Fire Department without Hank Stanley being a part of it. I can’t think of a better person to fill whichever job you choose.”

“Thanks, Johnny. I appreciate the support. I know it will be a hard step, but I’m not dreading it like I was when I first got the news. Have you got any suggestions as to which position I should take?”

“Well, Chief—“

“Johnny, call me Hank. I’m not going to be your boss anymore and we are ‘family’. When we are at ‘home’ I am not the Chief.”

“ Ok, Hank. And thanks. I think you would be a great instructor at the Academy. I know I learned an awful lot from you when I served under you at Station 51. You combine knowledge with common sense and a care for those under you. It is that caring that helps when something is hard to grasp or things are going wrong. You never made any of us feel like we were stupid or couldn’t get it. You gave us the encouragement we needed to try a little harder and accomplish anything you gave us. That is what is lacking in some of our new recruits coming out of the Academy now. I had a new boot who was with us for three shifts and couldn’t do anything right. It seems we spent more time teaching him what he should already know than we did getting to know him. If you asked him, he had the knowledge, but not the confidence that comes with the encouragement from the right people. Knowing how to do something, doing it in the Academy and actually doing it in a real-life situation are very different things. In the Academy, you know that no one’s life depends on you and that nothing serious is going to happen if you make a mistake. But even in those training situations, encouragement is needed to learn what is needed when you face that first big fire or dangerous situation.”

“Wow, you need to be on the Academy instructors’ review committee. I think that a lot of them forget what it is like to be in the real-life situations. I think they need to hear about the experiences Captains have with new boots. Can I ask you a question?”


“Will you make sure that I never lose sight of the real-life situations and that I keep that edge that trains recruits right?”

“Sure, Hank. So I take it you are going to accept the Academy Instructor position?”

“Yeah, thanks to two very special people I know exactly where I belong.”

Hank and Johnny spent the next hour talking about the future and the past and letting their relationship grow.


Hank didn’t start his new duties until October, but he was amazed how he knew he was where he belonged right from the start. He was pleased to be a part of Chris DeSoto and William Stoker’s training. He knew they were learning things that many of the other instructors had forgotten. As part of his planning, Hank determined that he would spend one day every six months visiting one of the stations in the department so that he never lost sight of the “little, every-day things” that happen in a station which weren’t taught in the Academy. Things that if the recruits learned before they were sent out as probies would help not only them, but the Captains they served under and the crews they served with. It was another idea he had to thank Nicole for. She had recommended it when he had mentioned the promise he had asked Johnny to make.

When graduation day came for Chris and William just before Christmas, no one was prouder of the two recruits than Hank. He had seen how hard they worked and had been thrilled when they asked for his insight and quizzed him about what life was really like at a station. They were determined to learn everything they could and were graduating as the top two members of the class. Hank knew he couldn’t be any prouder as he watched Roy and Mike pin the badges on their sons. He was proud of the men who had served under him and where they were going in the Department.

LA had gained two more members of the “Station 51 Family” and Hank knew the people of the county were better off for it. It was even better when William was assigned to replace Bill Canady at Station 51 and Chris was assigned to replace Rich Watkins at Station 24.


New Year’s Eve 1986

Johnny stood in the doorway of the kitchen. From there he could turn one way and see Nicole, Joanne and the other women busy preparing the snacks for their celebration. When he turned the other way he could see the men of the original Station 51 A-Shift and their offspring who had joined the “family” over the years. He smiled as he saw Brandon, Chris and William who had been young children when he first met their fathers and who were now proud members of the “Station 51” fire-fighting family. He knew that Brandon was one of the best paramedics in the department, Chris was going to train to be a paramedic sometime during the coming year and William was working towards becoming an engineer like his father. Now they were old enough to have brought dates with them. Johnny was beginning to realize he was growing older.

As he thought about his “brothers” his mind turned to his meeting earlier in the day. None of the others in the room knew that Johnny had been helping the arson investigation team on the latest string of arsons. No one had been able to find a connection between the businesses and homes that had been torched. It seemed that the arsonist was just randomly targeting buildings. They didn’t have a connection until Johnny started looking closely at the fires from a different angle—one that even he didn’t honestly believe until the pieces kept falling into place. He didn’t like and couldn’t believe what he was finding.

It was the sight of Brandon with his fiancée that made Johnny’s thoughts change from work to when he had met Nicole. Remembering all they had gone through made him send up a prayer of thanks that all his family was here and enjoying a wonderful time together. He was so lost in thought, he didn’t realize that Nicole had walked up beside him and wrapped her arms around his waist. The sound of laughter brought him out of his reverie. He looked at all the faces smiling at him. He looked down at Nicole smiling up at him.

With a chuckle, Roy voiced what had been going on. “Johnny, you’re under the mistletoe. Are you going to kiss your wife?”

“Of course I am.” Johnny grinned as he pulled Nicole into his arms. As they kissed they forgot where they were and everyone around them. It took Roy, Chet, Marco, Mike and Hank all calling Johnny’s name to finally get their attention.

“Get yourselves a room, Cap.” Chet couldn’t resist teasing his friend.

“Two weeks latrine duty for that Chet.” Johnny enjoyed the bantering with his friends.

“Aahh, Cap, two weeks?”

“No, Chet, I’m not giving you latrine duty for that. I just had to give you a hard time.” Johnny joined the laughter at the look of relief on Chet’s face.

Brandon and Johnny were busy gently guiding everyone into the living room for the New Year’s countdown. Both men were in the kitchen when Brandon thought he heard something strange outside. Both men went out back to see if they could find out what it was. As they opened the door the smell of gasoline assaulted their noses. Without stopping a second, Johnny turned and headed back towards the living room issuing commands at the top of his voice. Brandon was not sure what was going on, but he knew that something was wrong.

“William, Chris, Marco, Chet—take some of the others with you and form a line to get the kids from upstairs. Chief, Brandon, Mike—take the others and do the same thing down to the basement. Roy call 911 to report a fire and get the ladies started heading downstairs right now.”

Everyone saw the looks on Brandon and Johnny’s faces. Hearing the word “fire” they all started to do as Johnny told them without any further questions. They had most of the children and women in the basement when the first flash exploded. Roy, Hank, Mike, Marco and Chet were the last ones in the living room. All five men stopped for a brief second when they saw the flames climbing the outside walls all the way around the house. There was no way out. They could see the flames licking all the way to the top of the house. How did the fire spread that fast? And how did Johnny know there was going to be a fire? The answers would have to wait.

Johnny’s friends wondered why he was sending them to the basement. They would be burned alive down there. Hank was the last one down and he turned to ask Johnny just that when he saw Johnny and Nicole moving a large set of shelves. He hurried to help with Mike following close behind. It was when they got the shelves out of the way that Hank and Mike realized what they were doing.

“Ok, everyone, this passage leads to the barn. Just follow the left branch and you will end up at the bottom of a staircase. Follow it up and you will find yourselves in the tack room. I need everyone to stay in the tack room out of sight, please. And try to keep the children quiet. I will explain everything when I get there. Nicole will lead the way and I will bring up the rear.” Feeling the heat that was getting more intense each minute, no one said a word as the men took the flashlights Johnny handed them and the women made sure the children were all accounted for and taken care of. Roy, Mike and Hank all helped Johnny as the group hurried through the passage that led underground to the barn.

Johnny was helped up the last few stairs from the underground passageway as Mike looked out at what once had been Johnny and Nicole’s home. Johnny grabbed Mike’s arm and pulled him back into the tack room. He picked up the phone in the tack room and listened as it rang. As he waited for it to be answered, he indicated to everyone else they needed to stay in the tack room quiet and out of sight. Not sure what was going on, everyone trusted Johnny and did as he asked. When his call was answered, Johnny turned his back to everyone and talked so no one could hear what was being said. Only Nicole knew that he was talking to his arson “captain”.

When he was done, Johnny put a finger to his lips to keep everyone quiet. Talking just loud enough for everyone to hear, Johnny tried to answer the questions he knew were on everyone’s minds.

“Someone washed the house down with gasoline. Brandon and I heard it when we were in the kitchen. It sounded like it was raining outside, but when we both knew it wasn’t we went outside to check around. The gasoline smell was unmistakable when we opened the door. I think whoever did it is still out there and I don’t want them to know we got out. They think we are all still in there.”

“What happens when there are no screams and the fire department shows up?” Marco couldn’t believe that someone would deliberately set a house full of people on fire.

“They will hear screams—at least for a little while. I hope they leave before the tape runs out or the machine burns up. Several of them jumped as the screams started.

As the sirens gradually grew louder, the sounds of four car doors slamming and an engine starting could be heard from the end of the driveway. The car was long gone by the time the fire engines pulled in.


The group, hidden in the tack room was starting to get restless. They had been in there for over half-an-hour and wanted to know what was going on outside. The sounds of the fire had not changed during that time and everyone knew it was a “surround and drown” situation.

“Johnny, are you here?” Hank jumped when he heard the voice that was just outside the tack room door.

Johnny was at the door before anyone else could respond. Opening the door he slipped out. Hank could hear the sound of a quiet conversation on the other side of the door but he couldn’t make out what was being said. Shortly the door opened and Captain Shawn Carlisle of the arson investigation team followed Johnny into the room.

“I’m sorry you have had to wait in here so long, but we had to be sure before we came to find you.” Captain Carlisle looked at the people in the room. What he was about to ask them would not only be hard for all of them, but it had to be done if they were to find out who was setting these fires.

“Shawn, what’s going on?” Hank had a feeling that somehow one of his favorite paramedics and captains was involved in the arson investigation, but he wasn’t sure how.

With a nod from Captain Carlisle, Johnny turned to the group. “Let’s go out behind the barn in the pasture where we can sit on the benches and be comfortable without being seen.”

Without waiting for a response, Johnny turned and led the way through the barn. It only took a minute for the entire group to be seated and ready to find out what was happening.

“Well, to begin with, I’m sure you are all aware the Gage home has been totally destroyed. The cause was arson. Because the arsonists believe that there was no way any of you could get out or us to get to you, they believe you are all dead. That means that we are going to have to put all of you somewhere out of sight and keep up that idea—at least until we can catch these arsonists.”

“But there have been over 20 fires and none of them are connected. How can you catch these arsonists if you don’t have any idea of where they might strike next? You don’t even have any idea of who would be setting these fires or why.” Chet thought they would be “undercover” for months.

“Well, Chet, we were expecting this fire. We were hoping it wouldn’t be tonight, but we were ready in case. And we do have some suspects.”

“You do? But all the information given says differently. And you expected this fire tonight? What about all of us being inside?” Even Hank was surprised by what he was hearing.

“I can’t give you details, but thanks to Johnny, here, we not only have a reason for the fires, but are fairly certain we know who is setting them. Yes, Chief, we were planning for this fire. We had hoped that we would be able to save the house, but Johnny and Nicole knew there was a possibility they would lose it. They said it could be replaced. Johnny knew they could get you out through the underground passage.”

“But what about all their pictures and important things—they can’t be replaced.” Roy was getting upset that the department would expect a fire and do nothing about it.

“Roy, we didn’t lose anything.” Johnny wanted to let everyone know they were alright.

“What do you mean you didn’t lose anything?” Roy couldn’t believe his friends were taking this so calmly.

“Remember Nicole bringing over all our pictures and mementoes over to your house to organize them into scrapbooks and boxes for the kids? Don’t forget, she took all the kids clothes over to your house to clean and fix them while spending time with Joanne. And Mike, remember those boxes we asked you to hold for us while we ‘redecorated’? They really were all our clothes. All our books and important papers are in boxes up in the loft here in the barn. The pictures in the house were copies that we had made so we wouldn’t lose anything. We would never have put any of your lives on the line. I had found the passageway one day when I was cleaning up when I first bought the house. I had forgotten all about it until recently.” Johnny hoped his friends weren’t too mad at him. He had been under strict orders not to tell anyone other than Nicole what was going on.

“So you didn’t lose anything?” Roy was still trying to understand what was going on. Then it hit him. “You said you hoped the tape didn’t run out or the machine burn up. You had a tape recorder? You were planning for this? How could you have put our lives in danger that way without telling us?” Roy wasn’t the only one who was getting upset at that idea as he voiced it.

“No, we didn’t lose anything. All the kids’ toys, our books and mementoes as well as jewelry and everything else was been moved to safety. Yes, we were expecting this fire. I was not aware that it would be tonight, but we had to be prepared. None of your lives were in danger. I knew that no matter where the fire was started, we could get out through the underground passageway. As it was, since Brandon and I heard the hoses dousing the house with gasoline, we were actually able to get out quicker.”

“And he was under orders from me to not tell you unless absolutely necessary. Actually the fire engines were just down the road. We had stations all along the way run their sirens so it sounded like we were coming from a distance. It was Johnny’s call that was the signal you had all made it out safely. If it had been even two minutes more, we would have brought the engines in sooner.” Shawn could see the anger rising. “Johnny wasn’t aware that we had put the plan into motion this soon. When we first discussed it, we had planned to do it in a couple of weeks. But because of what Johnny discovered, we had to step up the plan and were not able to let him know. I know that he would not have gone through with it without telling you what was going on. He was adamant about that.”

“You mean you put all of us, including Johnny and his family, in danger without letting us know? It was a good thing that it didn’t happen while they were asleep. What would have happened then?” Chet didn’t know whether to be angry at Johnny or not, but he did know he was mad at Captain Carlisle.

“If we had more time, we would have let Johnny know and he could have said something to all of you. But things happened so fast, we couldn’t wait. If they had been asleep, we would have come in the moment the first flames were seen.”

Roy had been listening to the conversation and bits of it registered in his brain. “Shawn, what did you mean when you said thanks to Johnny you now know why these fires are being set and have a good idea of who is setting them?”

Shawn knew that he was going to have to tell this group everything if he was going to get them to go along with the plan. He needed their cooperation and right now he wasn’t sure he was going to get it. Even though Johnny had been working with them for awhile, after this stunt he wasn’t sure even Johnny would go through with the plan. “Johnny has been working with the arson team for about three months now. Last week he took another look at all the evidence, but did it with a different angle. The theory was so far fetched none of us even thought it was viable. But when the information came back today that verified his theory, we had to move and move quickly.”

“And just what was Johnny’s theory and what happened that you had to do this tonight?” Mike was beginning to realize what Johnny had really put on the line tonight. He had been willing to do something that might have cost his family their lives if things had gone wrong.

For the next twenty minutes, Shawn and Johnny went through the evidence and explained Johnny’s theory. Shawn went on to explain why they had to put the plan into motion immediately and the next phase. He prayed that they would agree to remain hidden until the suspects could be caught. It was a very subdued group that finally agreed to do as they were asked.

“You mean you have been working with these guys for three months and you never told me? And from what Shawn has said, you put your life on the line if the arsonists had found out you were doing it.” Roy couldn’t stay mad at his “brother”.

“It started out as just a meeting on one of the arsons that we responded to. Then little things kept adding up until things started falling into place and I didn’t like what I was finding. I didn’t think about telling you, since it wasn’t until last week that I realized how much time I was spending on it. I couldn’t at the station, because I never knew who as listening on either end and I haven’t really had time to see you this week.”


Roy and Joanne had been helping Johnny and Nicole to build a cabin out in their woods for overnight “getaways” when they needed some quiet time. Roy didn’t know, however, that because they knew they might have to “hide” because of the arson investigation, the cabin had been finished during the last week. He was surprised when the group arrived for their extended stay to find it finished and completely furnished and stocked. The only thing they would need was more beds and Shawn had promised to get them the next day—well, really later that morning. Still being very cautious, Johnny talked with Hank and set up a schedule for all the men to keep a 24-hour guard just in case the arsonists found out they were still alive.

Over the next few days, the group enjoyed a time of relaxation and walks through the woods. Johnny periodically met with Captain Carlisle. Although every one was enjoying their time together, they all really wanted to get back to their own lives. They all prayed that this would end soon.

It had been a week since the fire and Johnny was once again meeting with Captain Carlisle. But as the time wore on and he did not return, Roy started to get an uneasy feeling. Nicole and Joanne joined him at the front window and by the looks on their faces; he knew they had the same feeling he did. Something had gone wrong.

Hank and Mike had noticed the trio standing at the window and were sure something was happening. The familiar look that told the others one or more of them had a feeling was on all three faces. Just as they started towards the group shots rang out in the woods in front of the cabin. Hank, Mike, Chet and Marco joined Roy as they gathered everyone together in the living room and accounted for all the children. The adults pushed the kids to the floor and covered them with their bodies to protect them. It was fifteen minutes after the shooting had stopped before anyone would get up. It would be another half-an-hour before they would find out what had taken place outside.


Shawn knocked on the door with trepidation. The last time he had seen Johnny, he was running in the opposite direction. Their suspicions had been right, but the guys had caught on when they accidentally came upon Shawn and Johnny talking in the woods. They were supposed to stay at the house, but had come looking for Shawn. Neither Johnny nor Shawn had wanted the arsonists to be Shawn’s partner, Bruce, and one of the other arson investigators—Shawn’s best friend, Calvin. He had been reluctant to even consider Johnny’s idea until he had kept coming up with more and more proof.

Johnny had wanted to make sure Bruce and Calvin didn’t find the cabin and the rest of the group, so he took off in the opposite direction with Calvin following him. Bruce had pulled a gun on Shawn but Shawn was able to get the gun away and arrest him. The gun fire had been from Calvin and from other investigators who had discovered three other guys hiding near the barn. These men had been working with Bruce and Calvin and wanted to be sure the arson investigators didn’t find any evidence. There had been gun fire from both sides as the three men were finally captured and arrested.

Shawn hoped that Johnny had slipped away from Calvin and gotten back to the cabin. His heart sank when Roy opened the door and immediately began to interrogate him.

“What was all that gun fire? Where’s Johnny? Is he alright? What’s going on?” Roy didn’t give Shawn a chance to answer one question before he asked another. When he finally stopped for a breath, Shawn began to explain.

“I don’t know where Johnny is. Calvin and Bruce came into the woods to find me and saw Johnny as he was leaving our meeting spot. Calvin took off after him and Bruce fought with me. I was able to arrest Bruce and after that gun fire you heard, the rest of the arson team was able to capture the other three men involved. I was hoping Johnny had made it back here. I know he was leading Calvin in the opposite direction so he wouldn’t find all of you.”

“Shawn, what’s next?” Nicole wanted to keep the rest of the group calm. She knew that Chet, Mike and Roy would get upset.

“I’m going back out and follow the path Johnny went. Bill, Steve and Ron will be helping me. We’ll find him.”

“But in time?” Roy realized that once again Johnny put his life on the line to save the rest of them. He just prayed that Johnny would be alright.

“If the last three months have shown me anything, Johnny will be alright. He’s a fighter and won’t give up. I’ll find him.” Shawn squeezed Nicole’s hand and headed back into the woods. He caught up with Bill, Steve and Ron and they started off in the direction Shawn had last seen Johnny.

They had been searching the woods for about 45 minutes when Shawn heard something coming off to their right. The four men pulled their guns and trained them in the direction of the noise. Shawn dropped his arm in relief when Johnny came out of the woods pushing Calvin in front of him. Johnny had the gun and Calvin had his arms tied behind his back.

When Johnny saw Shawn he threw the gun at him. “I never want to have to hold one of those again.” Then Johnny passed out.

Shawn was at Johnny’s side in an instant. Bill and Steve grabbed Calvin and Ron went to help Shawn. Although they had been searching for 45 minutes, they had circled back and were near the cabin. Shawn took off at a dead run to get Roy. When he knocked on the door, he was not surprised to see Roy open it almost before he had finished knocking. “Roy, Johnny passed out. You need to come and check him out.”

Roy turned and smiled as Brandon came up beside him with the first aide kit Johnny had stocked in the cabin. They both took off so fast; Shawn had a hard time keeping up with them.

All the possible injuries Johnny could have were running through Roy’s mind as he ran towards where his best friend lay on the ground. He prayed that whatever the extent of Johnny’s injuries where, they weren’t too serious. Ron was kneeling next to Johnny not knowing what to do. He moved out of the way when Brandon and Roy kneeled to get Johnny’s vitals and to check him out.

After careful examination, neither Roy nor Brandon could find any injuries. Roy wondered if there were some internal injuries that they couldn’t see or a head injury they hadn’t found yet. “Shawn, what happened just before Johnny passed out?”

“Well, we heard a noise. When we turned around Johnny was bringing Calvin out of the woods. Calvin’s hands were tied behind his back. Johnny tossed Calvin’s gun at me and said he never wanted to touch another one of those again. Then he passed out.”

Roy laughed as he leaned over and pulled something out of the drug box. Brandon, Ron and Shawn wondered what he was laughing about. They soon joined him laughing when Johnny sat upright after Roy waved the smelling salts under his nose. “Welcome back, Johnny.”

“What happened?” Johnny looked around at the men standing beside him.

“You passed out.” Roy’s smile was huge. “You threw the gun at Shawn and passed out.”

“I was so afraid it was going to go off that I just wanted to get rid of it. I guess it was just too much. Help me up. I want to hold Nicole.” Johnny held out his hand for Roy to grab and help him to his feet.

“You mean he’s alright?” Shawn was sure that something had happened to him. “Why did he pass out?”

“Yeah, he’s fine. It was just the high stress of the chase and holding the gun that finally became just too much for him. There’s nothing to worry about.” Roy patted his friend on the back and started back towards the cabin.

“Johnny, if you dislike guns so much what are you going to do when you join my team? You will be issued a gun for just such times as this.” Shawn was walking beside Roy and had turned his head to talk to Johnny.

Roy stopped dead in his tracks causing a chain reaction. “Joining your team? Johnny’s going to become an arson investigator? Johnny, you hate guns.”

“Yes, I hate guns, but it wasn’t the fear of guns that made me pass out. It was when I stopped to realize just how close I came to having a bullet in my heart. And Shawn, remember our agreement—I won’t be carrying a gun if I am on duty.”

“What do you mean?” Roy hadn’t been told this part of what had happened.

“Well, Calvin chased me through the woods. I tripped and he caught me. When he pulled me up, he put the barrel of his gun right on my heart and cocked the gun. I was so angry, I wasn’t thinking straight. I got mad and grabbed the gun pushing it up. It went off over my head and I pulled it away from him. It wasn’t until I tossed it at Shawn that I realized just how it could have ended and what a stupid thing that was. I guess it just all caught up with me.”

“That was a stupid thing, Johnny, but I’m glad you did what you did. You would have ended up dead if you hadn’t. But what is this about you joining the arson team?” Roy couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I’ve asked him to join my team because he has a natural instinct for it. Not only did he solve this case, but his insights solved three others we had run into road blocks on. And yes, Johnny, I remembered. I guess I was trying to see if you had changed your mind about the ‘terms of the agreement’.” Shawn really hoped Johnny would consent.

Johnny didn’t know whether to be insulted or complimented by Roy’s comment, but his thoughts turned to the conversation about the arson team. It was something he really wanted to talk to Nicole about as he needed her insight to help him make the decision. They had become as one and often she knew him better than he knew himself. “No, Shawn, I haven’t changed the conditions under which I would accept the position. Roy, I am seriously considering it, but I need to think about it a little bit more.” By this time they were nearing the cabin.

Before anything more could be said, the door opened and Nicole flew into Johnny’s arms. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, honey, I am.” Johnny held her tight. His thoughts again returned to what could have happened out in the woods. Did he really want to have the possibility of facing a gun again? But then he faced the hazards of fire every day. He really wanted to be alone with Nicole and think things through.

The rest of the group had surrounded the men and questions were flying right and left. Hank finally got everyone quieted down and back into the cabin where Shawn started and finally told everyone what had been transpiring since the arson investigation began. Johnny told them all what had happened in the woods with Calvin. He felt Nicole’s hand tighten around his as he told them about taking the gun away from him. He squeezed her hand to let her know he loved her and understood her feelings.

Everyone had remained quiet until Roy again asked the question he wanted an answer to. “Johnny, are you going to join Shawn’s arson team?” Chet, Mike, Marco and Hank all started asking questions at once.

“What do you mean join Shawn’s team?”

“You’re giving up being a Captain?”

“Won’t you be giving up the paramedics?”

Johnny didn’t even try to answer any of the questions that were flying. He just waited until everyone had vented their feelings about the news. “I haven’t made up my mind, yet, but I am considering it. One of the things I told Shawn is that I’m not sure I want to give up being a station captain, but I really have enjoyed working the investigation angle. We are working on details so that I will be doing arson investigation as part of my regular job. In discussing the issue, the idea that having someone at a fire that could look the scene over immediately might be beneficial to the department so I won’t be giving up either the station or the paramedics. It will be much like it has been for the last three months, only on an official basis instead of voluntary. But like I said, I haven’t made my decision yet.” Johnny was grateful for the support he knew Nicole was giving him when she squeezed his hand.


The Gages and DeSotos had finally gotten their children quieted down and in bed. The Gages were going to be staying with the DeSotos while their house was being rebuilt after the fire. The two couples were sitting in the living room discussing the day’s events.

“I am so glad that this is all over but the trial. It feels good to get back into our own home.” Roy looked up guiltily as soon as he had said the words “own home”. “Sorry.”

Johnny just smiled at his best friend. “It’s ok, Roy. We may have lost our house, but we haven’t lost our ‘home’. We were able to save all our important things and we still have our loved ones and friends. And I think you should know it is all over. There won’t be a trial.”

“There won’t? Are they going to let these guys go?” Roy sat up straight when he heard what Johnny said.

“No, they aren’t going to let them go. They all confessed so all that has to happen now is for them to be sentenced.”

“They confessed?”

“Yep, they figured it was uselessly to try to deny everything. Calvin knew the amount of evidence we had and with what happened in the woods, they thought it might go better for them if they just admitted what they did.”

“Then it really is over. Are you going to join the arson team?” Roy was relieved that none of his friends or family would have to testify.

“Well, I don’t know yet. Nicole and I need to discuss the implications first. You’ll be the first to know, Pally.”

“Thanks, Junior.” Roy pulled his “brother” into the huge bear hug he had been waiting all afternoon to give him. When the two men let go, the two couples retired for the evening with a sense of security they hadn’t felt in a long time.


Nicole and Johnny had talked into the wee hours of the morning about the decision Johnny knew he wanted to put behind him. As he brought up all the cons that would come if he chose to join the arson team, Nicole had shown him the positives of that decision. So after a lot of talking and soul searching, Johnny decided he would join the team. If it didn’t work out, then he could always give up that part of his job. After all, one of the stipulations to him agreeing to even think about the arson team was that it would be in addition to his current position and only on a part-time basis. That also meant he would not have to carry a gun. Johnny’s love for Nicole had grown stronger as they talked. He knew she would support him in whatever decision he made. As he drifted off to sleep, he thanked the Lord for his soul mate.


Roy looked up as Johnny and Nicole entered the kitchen for breakfast. One look at Johnny’s face and Roy knew what Johnny had decided. “You’re going to take the position aren’t you?” Roy didn’t even say good morning.

“Good morning, Roy, and yes, I am.” Johnny laughed at the blush that was climbing up Roy’s face as he realized how blunt he had been.

“I’m sorry, Johnny; good morning, and good morning to you Nicole.” Roy was chagrined that he had blurted it out without thinking.

“Good morning, Roy.” Nicole smiled as she went to help Joanne get breakfast.

“It’s ok, Roy. I would have done the same thing.” Johnny patted his friend on the back.

“Are you sure it is what you want to do?” Roy was thinking about the gun and how much Johnny hated them.

“Yes, and don’t worry. I won’t have to carry a gun. I told Shawn I would only consider it if I could stay in my current position. All my new duties will include will be to keep my eyes open at every fire—especially the big and suspicious ones—to see if I can get a head start on any possible arson investigations. Then I will look at some of the evidence they gather and see if I can be of any assistance to them. If it doesn’t work, all I have to do is give up that part of my job.” Johnny hoped his friend would support his decision.

“Sounds like something all captains should do.” Roy was glad his friend wouldn’t have to carry a gun.

“It is, but we need to see if it is going to work before we can teach station captains what they need to look for. And some things look normal even to the arson team, but may not be normal. There were a couple of things I pointed out to them that they had missed or hadn’t even considered. It was only a fresh set of eyes and a new point of view that helped them. I may not have those same insights the next time.”

Roy thought about what Johnny had just said. He then thought about the instincts and insights Johnny had had over the years when they were working together. Johnny would always have that instinct and insight—he knew Johnny was making the right decision not only for himself, but also for the Fire Department. “Congratulations, Johnny. They couldn’t have picked a better man.”

“A better man for what?” Chet had just entered the kitchen along with Mike, Marco and Hank.

“What are you guys doing here? I thought you would all be enjoying the couple of days off and spending it with your families.” Roy had a good feeling about why the four men had returned so soon.

“We couldn’t wait to find out if Johnny had made his decision yet or not. I don’t want a new Captain. I want Johnny.” Chet blushed when he realized how much of his true feelings for Johnny he had just given away—his feelings not only as a friend, but also as a Captain.

“A better man for the arson team.” Roy was proud of his friend and wanted everyone to know it.

“But, Johnny, you can’t leave Station 51. We need you.” Chet was beginning to dread the decision to not wait to find out whether or not Johnny would take the position.

“Chet, I won’t be leaving 51.”

“You won’t?”

Johnny shook his head and went on to explain to his friends his stipulations for taking the position just like he had explained it to Roy. It was a very happy quartet that accepted the offered cups of coffee and seats at the table as discussion centered around Johnny’s experiences for the last few months working with the arson team.


February, 1987

The next few months were spent preparing for and celebrating Brandon Stoker’s wedding. It was with great pride that Mike Stoker stood with his son as his best man and all five of Brandon’s “uncles” stood as his groomsmen. Once again the Station 51 family was expanding and they welcomed Brittany Chandler as the newest member.


July, 1987

Roy sat in his office trying to complete the endless stream of paperwork he, as Captain, always had. But his mind kept wandering back to the annual 4th of July picnic at the Gage’s ranch. It had been great fun as always, but he was worried about Nicole. She seemed overly tired at the picnic. When he had mentioned it later to Joanne, she had responded that she had been noticing that Nicole had been more tired than usual for about two weeks. Nicole’s response to Joanne when she mentioned it was that Nicole didn’t sleep well when Johnny was working on a case and he had been working on a big one. But as Roy thought about the symptoms he had noticed, he wasn’t so sure it was just that she wasn’t sleeping. His thought were pulled back to his job as the tones sounded calling his station as well as Johnny’s and Mike’s to a warehouse fire.

To be continued in A World Turned Upside Down – for the Better?

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