Everyone was once again gathered at the Gage ranch
for Thanksgiving and to celebrate Brandon Stoker’s graduation
from the Fire Academy. He had graduated at the top of his class. It
was unusually warm for November and they had decided to have the festivities
Johnny and Roy were walking back from the barn when Johnny noticed
that Nicole had a strange look on her face and went to sit down. He
knew what that look meant—he had seen it before. Without a word
he took off on a run towards Nicole. His actions got the attention
of everyone present. He made it across the yard in record time. “Nicole,
do I call a squad or go in the car?”
“Well, my water broke and the contractions are hard—I
think you’d better call a squad and be prepared to help deliver
your kids.” Nicole was glad that Johnny knew without a lot of
fuss what was going on.
“Dr. Brackett, can you get your bag? Roy, will you call for
an ambulance? Joanne, will you grab some clean towels and a couple
of blankets out of the backroom?” Johnny didn’t stop to
explain to anyone, he just asked.
Dixie was the first one to reach the Gages. “How close are the
“About eight minutes apart.” Nicole knew they probably
would have at least one of the babies in the back of the ambulance
if not before with the others close behind.
You are just like Johnny. You don’t do anything in a small
way do you?” Dr. Brackett had realized as soon as Johnny asked
him to get his bag what was going on.
“Nope, I have to keep all of you on your toes and make sure
you don’t forget anything.” Nicole tried to smile but was
caught in the grip of another contraction.
Thankfully, everyone else realized that Nicole was in labor, too.
Roy had called for an ambulance and Joanne brought the towels and blankets.
With Roy’s and Dr. Brackett’s help, Johnny was able to
lay Nicole down on the blanket Dixie and Joanne had spread out on the
ground. Covering Nicole up with the other one, Johnny stepped out of
the way so that Dr. Brackett could complete his examination.
“Well, I hope that ambulance gets here soon. These babies are
going to be here soon and I really would prefer it was at the hospital—not
here or in the ambulance.” Dr. Brackett smiled at Nicole.
“Well, these kids have their father’s disposition—I
think they are going to be full of energy and rebellious. They are
going to do things in their own time.” Nicole laughed at the
look on Johnny’s face and then grimaced. The contractions were
getting harder and closer together.
With a sigh of relief, Chet met the squad and ambulance and directed
them to the back. Bob Bellingham and Craig Brice brought over their
equipment for Dr. Brackett to use and then just stepped back as Brackett,
Dixie, Joe Early and Mike Morton got Nicole ready for transport.
As the ambulance pulled out with Dr. Brackett in the back and Johnny
in the front, Chet, Kimberly, Marco and Rebecca offered to round up
all the kids, get them cleaned up and bring them to Rampart a little
later. Mike, Beth, Roy, Joanne, Hank and Emily headed towards Rampart.
Three hours later Johnny was sitting next to Nicole’s bed watching
her sleep. The ordeal in the emergency room had worn Nicole out. The
first baby was born just after they had gotten Nicole into a treatment
room. After that things had gotten a little hectic. Johnny was sure
that she didn’t remember that instead of the twins they had been
expecting, they had triplets and that all three babies were healthy
and weighed at least five and a-half pounds each. They were all going
to make it—including Nicole. Johnny prayed a silent prayer of
thanks that Nicole’s bleeding had only been from one of the kids
pushing a little too hard to get out and causing a slight tear that
Nicole stirred and saw her husband deep in thought. “Hey, daddy,
how are you doing?”
Johnny’s face lit up. “I’m doing great. I’m
really like the sound of the word daddy and now I have three more little
ones to call me that. How are you doing mommy?”
“I’m sore but I couldn’t be happier. When do I get
to see our precious angels?” Nicole didn’t catch on when
Johnny said three.
“They will be here soon, but I wondered if you would remember
everything that happened in emergency.”
“What happened? Johnny, is there a problem with one of the babies?
Did one not make it?” Nicole was starting to get upset.
Johnny stood up and sat on the edge of her bed. “No honey, all
the babies are fine—all three of them.”
“Well, if both of them are---did you say THREE?”
“Yeah, you were pretty tired and the pain medicine was kicking
in by the time the third one came, but you did great. Then you fell
asleep. They repaired the tear that one of them caused during birth,
but you and our children are fine. We have two more daughters and another
As if that was their cue, Joanne, Roy, and Dixie entered the room
each pushing a hospital baby crib. Chet carrying Melinda and Marco
carrying Melanie were next. Hank, and Chief McConnikee followed. Mike
and Beth were each pushing “twin” strollers. Chris and
Jenny brought up the rear.
“Well, Cap, are you trying to populate the world all by yourself?” Chet
was happy for his friends. “You’ve got a good start if
“Hi, everyone. No, Chet, we aren’t, but it seems that
we don’t ever do things in a small way.” Nicole smiled
as Roy and Joanne placed the babies they were pushing into her arms
and Dixie placed the baby she was pushing into Johnny’s arms
as everyone joined the laughter.
“What are you going to name this group?” Mike was almost
as proud as Johnny.
“Yeah, what are you going to name this group?” Dr. Brackett
had joined the group.
Nicole looked at the girl asleep in her right arm. “This is
Melissa Ruth. This little guy is Mark Raymond.”
Johnny looked at the little girl he was holding. “And this little
girl is Michelle Rose.”
“Now we have three more reasons to be thankful for today. It
was one of the best Thanksgivings we have ever had.” Jenny was
happy she had three more “cousins.”
Christmas was full of love, joy and noise as the whole “Station
51” family celebrated together at the Gage ranch. Brandon had
been assigned to Johnny’s station as a fire fighter and would
start his paramedic training April. Life had finally settled into a “quiet” routine.
As they looked forward to the New Year, no one had any inkling of the
tragedies and joys that would await them in the coming year.
Johnny had really hoped that the second time Kimberly was due to deliver
Chet would be calmer, but it seemed to be jus the opposite. Chet was
even more of a basket case than he was the first time. As it grew closer
to Kimberly’s due date, Chet couldn’t light between runs.
Johnny had never thought he would rather have back to back runs even
with all the paperwork, but he was praying they would have an extra
busy shift to keep Chet from thinking about Kimberly and worrying.
So he was thankful when the tones sounded even before they had a chance
to complete roll call. Kimberly was due any day now and Chet was almost
unbearable to have around. He was always pacing and if it weren’t
for the rest of the members of the crew, he would be on the phone constantly
calling her. It would almost be funny if it was any other crew, but
Johnny was working hard to keep Chet in line.
It was dinner time before the crew had even enough time to get a drink
and sit down. They were halfway through dinner when Chet started worrying
about Kimberly. Chet had just started wondering out loud about Kimberly
when the tones went off for Station 14. Everyone listened as the call
was outlined. It was when Chet heard his address given for a woman
in labor that he jumped from his seat. The rest of the crew was close
“Chet, we’ll take the engine and squad and meet them at
Rampart. I’ll call LA for a replacement for you to meet us at
Rampart.” Johnny knew that Chet wasn’t going to be any
good the rest of the shift.
“Thanks, Johnny.” Chet momentarily forgot that Johnny
was his boss instead of just his friend. Johnny just shook his head
as Chet almost left the rest of the engine crew in his hurry to get
It was only two hours later that Chet entered the lounge to find the
rest of his shift mates as well as the crews of stations 14 and 24
waiting for word. The smile on his face could have lit up all of L.A.
as he presented Kenneth and Larissa Kelly, his twins to his “family”.
“See it was a piece of cake, Cap.” Chet was beaming from
ear to ear as he presented his family to Johnny and the rest of the
crew. “I wasn’t worried about anything. I knew that everything
was going to be ok.”
“Sure, Chet, a piece of cake.” Johnny was the first one
to break out laughing at his friend. “They’re beautiful,
He kept an eye out from his van down the street and watched the building.
He had been moving closer each day and now he was within striking distance.
The wait this time had been longer, but it was because he wanted both
of them instead of just one. It would be worth the wait. He was almost
giddy with anticipation. But it wouldn’t be long before he would
have what he wanted – he just needed to wait until the time was
right – and it looked like the time was now.
The distraction was perfect—even better than anything he could
have planned. He was able to get in and grab his prizes undetected.
Now all he had to do was to take them home and arrange them in the
perfect place. He was on cloud nine.
Johnny had traded shifts so he could go with Nicole to the triplet’s
sixth month checkup. He loved watching his kids grow and each set had
brought their own challenges. Having nine kids under the age of five
had its challenges, too. But Mayan had surprised both Nicole and Johnny
and was a big help with all the kids. Johnny wouldn’t trade his
life for the world.
Roy and Joanne had been pleasantly surprised when Johnny and Nicole
offered to take care of Jason and Crystal and let them have an afternoon
to themselves. The DeSotos had only been gone fifteen minutes when
the phone call came that would change all of their lives forever.
Johnny picked up the phone while Nicole was feeding the kids their
lunch. She watched as Johnny listened to whoever was on the other end
of the line. Her concern grew as she listened to his side of the conversation
and saw the color drain from Johnny’s face. “Hello. —This
is John Gage. —What? —When?—Are you sure? —Ok,
we’ll be there as soon as we can. —Thank you, Goodbye.”
As he hung up the phone and dropped into the closest chair, Nicole
was on her knees at his side. “Honey, who was that? What’s
wrong?” Nicole was worried about her husband.
It was twenty minutes later when Mrs. Anthanar, the neighbor lady,
was watching the Gage kids. Her teenaged daughter, Tina, who had been
home from school because of a doctor’s appointment, had taken
Jason and Crystal to the DeSoto home to watch.
The ride back to the Gage home was quiet. Johnny and Nicole were both
lost in their own thoughts. As they neared the DeSoto home, they watched
in horror as they saw Jason DeSoto fall from the tree in the DeSoto’s
front yard. They each only had an instant to wonder where Tina was
and why Jason was climbing the tree he had been specifically told not
to climb. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. By the
time Jason had hit the ground Johnny had slammed on the brakes and
thrown the Land Rover into park. Nicole gasped as both of them were
out of the vehicle before it had even come to a complete stop.
Johnny’s stomach was in a huge knot as he saw the stick that
had punctured Jason’s left thigh and the unnatural angle his
right arm was positioned in. His paramedic training kicked in and the
mask he needed to handle the situation was firmly in place. As he started
his examination of Jason, he found the bump on the back of his head
that was probably the cause of his unconsciousness. While he worked,
Johnny prayed that Jason would be alright. “Nicole, grab the
towels and blanket from the back of the rover and then run inside and
call for a squad and ambulance.” He knew that Nicole was as afraid
for Jason as he was. All thoughts about what had transpired just a
little over an hour ago were pushed out of their minds as both worked
to help Jason.
Johnny took the towels that Nicole had handed him and wrapped them
around the stick. He wanted to remove it, but knew that if he did,
Jason would bleed out before they could get him to the hospital. When
he had the towels packed tightly around the leg wound and stick he
used the gauze out of the medical kit that Nicole had also grabbed
from the back of the Land Rover. He silently thanked Nicole for thinking
ahead. After he had the bleeding from the puncture wound under control,
he grabbed a splint out of kit and set Jason’s arm. Concern filled
his heart as during this whole time, Jason responded to the pain, but
did not show any signs of regaining consciousness. In the back of his
mind, Johnny wondered where Tina and Crystal were.
Nicole had run inside only to find Tina on the phone while Crystal
was sobbing and trying to get the girl to pay attention to her. Nicole
picked Crystal up in one arm while grabbing the phone from Tina with
her free hand. She quickly disconnected the call and dialed 911 while
ignoring Tina’s angry protests at having her call interrupted.
As Tina listened to what Nicole was telling the 911 operator, the
color drained from her face. She looked at the clock and realized that
she had been at the DeSoto home for over two and a half hours and had
been on the phone the whole time. A small voice at the back of her
mind reminded her that at one point in her conversation with her friend,
she had heard Jason ask if he could go outside and climb the tree.
She knew that she had said yes to get him and his sister out of her
hair so they wouldn’t keep interrupting her conversation. When
she had called Carmen, it was supposed to be for only two minutes to
update her on their homework. But they had started talking and she
had lost track of time. Now Jason was seriously hurt and it was all
Tina also knew that this would be the last time she would ever baby-sit
for either the DeSotos or Gages again. She had been thrilled when her
mother had been able to convince the Gages that she would be dependable
enough to take care of the DeSoto kids. She had really blown it twice
before when something similar happened. Thankfully both those times,
however, the kids were only left unchanged and unfed. When it had happened
once at the Gages and once at the DeSotos, they had not asked her to
baby-sit for them again. She had determined to gain back their confidence
this time and now she had blown it again and this time had ended with
It seemed like an eternity, but it was really only a couple of minutes
before Nicole was back with more towels for Johnny. He gratefully took
them and wrapped them around the already blood soaked towels he had
put on previously. Nicole sat down next to Jason and handed Crystal
to Johnny. As Jason started thrashing about, Nicole grabbed his good
hand and sat down next to him. She carefully pulled his head into her
lap and started quietly singing in his ear. Johnny smiled as Jason
settled down much like he knew he always did when he was injured and
Nicole would sing to him.
“Where is the squad?” Johnny knew that every second counted.
The stick that had punctured Jason’s leg must have hit an artery
because they were having a hard time controlling the bleeding. He just
prayed that it wouldn’t bleed too much before they could get
him to the hospital.
“They’ll be here. I had to pull the phone out of Tina’s
hand and hang up on the friend she was talking to. Don’t worry,
honey, they’ll be here.” Nicole knew how worried Johnny
As if on cue, the sirens could be heard getting closer. Johnny was
relieved when Steve Shively and Paul Samms arrived with all their equipment.
Steve knelt next to Johnny. “What do you have, Captain Gage?” Johnny
was glad that the DeSotos and Gages had put each other on as having
authorization for giving approval for medical treatment. They wouldn’t
have to waste time trying to find Roy and Joanne.
Johnny filled Steve and Paul in on what he and Nicole had witnessed
and Jason’s vital signs. Just as Paul finished starting the IV,
Jason began to stir. The first person he saw was Johnny.
“Unca Johnny, hurts bad.”
“I know, Sport, but Paul and Steve are taking excellent care
“I sorry, Unca Johnny. I know you and Daddy said not to climb
this tree and not to climb unless you are here.”
“It’s ok, Sport, we’ll worry about that later.”
“Will you ride in the am’lance with me, please, Unca Johnny?” Jason
was getting agitated again. “I’m scared. Please, Unca Johnny.”
After getting a confirming nod from Paul, Johnny squeezed the little
boy’s hand. “Of course I will.” He was glad to see
that Jason settled down just before he once again lost his fight with
Nicole had followed the ambulance in the Land Rover. Mrs. Anthanar
had seen the emergency vehicles and had come over to see what was happening.
She took Crystal and Tina back to the Gage home when she found out
that her daughter had not been paying attention to the kids she was
in charge of. To say she was angry with Tina was an understatement.
She assured Nicole that when Jenny, Chris and Mayan arrived home from
school, they would all head for the hospital. Meanwhile she was going
to deal with Tina.
It was only when they had delivered Jason to the capable hands of
Dr. Brackett that Johnny and Nicole realized they were covered in Jason’s
blood. Johnny had gotten it all over his clothes when he was treating
Jason. Nicole had gotten on her clothes when she was calming the little
boy down. They didn’t want Joanne and Roy to see them with Jason’s
blood on their clothes. They were relieved when Dixie led them to the
doctor’s locker room so they could take a shower and change into
scrubs. They were still getting cleaned up when Roy and Joanne arrived
at the hospital
Roy and Joanne rushed over to the nurses’ desk hoping to find
a familiar face. Roy sighed with relief when he saw Dixie sitting at
the desk. “Where’s Jason? How is he?”
“He’s in two. Kel and Joe are getting him ready for surgery.
When he fell a stick punctured the artery in his left thigh. He broke
his right arm and has a concussion. But he is going to be alright.
He had regained consciousness.”
“Can we see him before they take him to surgery?” Joanne
wanted to see for herself that Jason was really ok.’
“Yeah, come with me.” Dixie led them into Treatment Room
2. Both parents were relived when the first thing they heard when they
entered the room was their son’s voice.
“Mommy, Daddy, I sorry I ‘roke the rules.”
“We’ll talk about that later. You just be a good boy for
Dr. Brackett and we will see you when you wake up. We’ll be waiting
for you.” Roy kissed his son and stepped aside for his wife to
do the same. He was not surprised to see Jason had already lost the
fight to stay awake. He knew that Dr. Brackett would have put some
medicine in Jason’s IV to prepare him for surgery. After they
followed the gurney to the elevator and watched as the doors closed,
Roy and Joanne turned back to head to the doctor’s lounge to
begin their wait.
Just before they entered the doctor’s lounge, Roy heard his
name being called. He looked up to see the Kellys, Lopezs, Stokers
and Stanleys headed their way. He smiled to himself. Johnny must have
called at least one of them and that one called the others. The support
of his “family” was heartwarming.
But then he stopped to think about the reason they were there. Where
were Johnny and Nicole while Jason was out climbing the tree that both
he and Johnny had adamantly told Jason he should never climb even if
they were around? They were supposed to be watching the kids. He opened
the lounge door to see if they were waiting inside. His anger began
to grow as he saw the empty room. Not only were they not watching Jason
like they should, now they were no where to be found.
Dixie entered the room to make sure there was fresh coffee for the
crew she had seen headed down the hall. She was surprised at the look
of anger on Roy’s face. Before she had a chance to ask him what
was wrong, he turned to her.
“Where are Johnny and Nicole?” Roy’s voice was tinged
with the anger he was feeling. Everyone stepped back at the vehemence
in his voice.
Before Dixie could answer, Johnny and Nicole opened the door. Johnny
was taken aback at what he heard next, but he felt they deserved it.
“Where were you when Jason was climbing that tree? You were
supposed to be watching him. You have told him as many times as I have
that he is not to climb that tree.” Roy’s voice held the
anger that Johnny felt he deserved. Roy was right. They were supposed
to be watching Jason and Crystal. But they did have a good reason why
they weren’t there when it happened.
Before Johnny could say anything, the door to the lounge opened once
again admitting Dr. Early, Paul and Steve. Not knowing what was transpiring
in the lounge, Paul looked over at Johnny. “We are sure glad
you were there to start treatment as soon as you did. If you hadn’t
been, Jason would have never made it to the hospital.”
Dr. Early was also oblivious to the tension in the room. “Paul’s
right, Johnny. If it wasn’t for you, Jason would be dead right
now. But thanks to you he will not only survive to give Roy and Joanne
more gray hairs, but he will make a 100% recovery.”
There was a silence in the room for a few seconds, but it was not
noticed by the paramedic team that was called out on another run. Nor
was it noticed by the doctor who grabbed a cup of coffee and went to
answer the page that was echoing over the hospital intercom.
Roy was the one to break the silence. “Jason wouldn’t
have even needed your help if you had been watching him like you were
supposed to be. I think you’d both better leave right now. You
are not welcomed here.” The anger was still evident in his voice.
Roy had fully expected Johnny to go on the defensive and yell back
at him, but when the couple turned and started to leave without saying
a word, Roy knew something else was going on. He also remembered another
time he had unjustly accused his friends of not caring about his kids.
Johnny and Nicole deserved a chance to explain what had happened.
Johnny was just opening the door when Roy put his hand on Johnny’s
shoulder to stop him. “Johnny, I’m sorry. We don’t
want you to leave. We know you love our kids as much as you do your
own. Please tell us what happened.”
Johnny turned to Roy with tear filled eyes. Roy had not really noticed
the sadness that was evident on both Nicole and Johnny’s faces.
He knew that there was something terribly wrong.
Before Johnny had a chance to answer the lounge door opened again.
This time Mrs. Anthanar, Tina, Jenny and Chris entered with the Gage
children and Crystal. Mrs. Anthanar guided Tina over to the Gages and
DeSotos. “Mr. Gage, Mr. DeSoto, Tina has something she wants
to say to all of you.”
Tina turned to look at her mother with trepidation in her eyes. But
seeing the determined look on her mother’s face, Tina knew she
needed to do what her mother said. The tears were streaming down her
face by the time she found her voice. “Mr. and Mrs. Gage, I am
so sorry. I know you were reluctant to let me baby-sit and you only
agreed to it because I promised I wouldn’t let you down and you
had that emergency and couldn’t find anyone else. I only meant
to be on the phone for two minutes while I gave Carmen the homework
assignments she missed last week. But then we started talking and I
lost all track of time. When Jason asked if he and Crystal could go
outside and climb the tree, I wasn’t really paying attention
to what they were saying. I just knew it was a way to get them out
of my hair so I could finish my conversation. I thought I would be
done before they even had a chance to get out the door. I know I won’t
ever be asked to baby-sit for either of your families again. Once word
gets out about this I know I won’t ever baby-sit again. I know
it doesn’t make what happened alright, but I really am sorry
and have learned my lesson from this. How is Jason? Is he going to
Roy had listened carefully to what Tina had said. It was the word
emergency that stuck out in his mind. “Jason is in surgery right
now, but the doctors assure us he will make a 100% recovery.”
“I would like to help take care of Jason when he comes home.
I would only help when either Mrs. DeSoto or Mrs. Gage were around.
This is all my fault and I really would like to help.” Tina just
prayed that she would be able to show how sorry she really was.
Roy was still thinking about what the girl had said about Johnny and
Nicole having an emergency. “That’s up to Mrs. DeSoto.” He
only vaguely heard Joanne agree to let Tina help out but only when
she or Nicole was there. There had to be something really wrong for
Johnny and Nicole to let Tina baby-sit. He turned to Johnny.
But before Roy could ask Johnny about the emergency, the lounge door
opened again. He sighed. At this rate, he was never going to find out
what was going on with his friends. He was surprised when it was Vince
that entered the room.
“Johnny, Nicole, can I talk to you for a minute.” Vince
had heard about Jason’s accident, but he really needed to talk
to the Gages right away. “In private.”
Johnny looked at Nicole and received a slight nod. He knew that what
Vince had to tell them would soon be public knowledge, so he saw no
reason to leave the room. “Vince, everyone here is family. Anything
you say to us can be said in front of them.”
“I needed to let you know the story will be on the 6:00 news.
We tried to keep it out of the news for a day or so but were unsuccessful.” Anything
else Vince would have said was forgotten as his radio came to life
sending him on a call.
Roy opened his mouth to ask what was going on as the teasers for the
evening news came on. Everyone stopped when it was stated that the “baby
doll” killer had struck again. The “baby doll” killer
was a serial killer that had been kidnapping and killing little girls
for about a month. He got his name because he would always leave a
baby doll where he kidnapped the little girls. None of his victims
had ever been found alive. Roy sent up a silent prayer for the parents
of the latest victim. His crew had been unfortunate enough to find
two of the killer’s seven victims and Johnny’s crew had
found two others. He wouldn’t want anyone he knew to go through
what he imagined the parents of those little girls had gone through
and now there was another mother and father out there that had to face
this unthinkable nightmare. Roy turned to ask his friend once again
what was going on.
But he never got the chance. Someone had turned the volume on the
TV up a little more so they could hear the story about the “baby
doll” killer. Just as Roy opened his mouth to ask his question,
the story came on.
“This is Mary Abbott. The ‘baby doll’ killer has
struck again. However, this time instead of one victim, he has taken
two. This morning at 11:15 a.m., Melinda and Melanie Gage, five-year
old twin daughters of Fire Captain John Gage and his wife, Nicole,
were kidnapped during recess at the nursery school they attend. The
two little girls were playing in a corner of the playground that was
closest to the road. Two of their playmates had just gone to get balls
for the four children to play with. A fight broke out between two little
boys which drew the attention of all the school adult personnel. It
is believed that it was during this time that the ‘baby doll’ killer
somehow got the two little girls. When their friends returned, instead
of the twins they found the two baby dolls. A press conference is expected
to be held in a couple of days. If you saw anything unusual in that
area or have any information regarding this kidnapping, please contact
police immediately. But the story doesn’t end there. We have
more from our roving reporter, Tom Wilcox. Tom?”
Everyone wondered what Mary meant. Vince had just been there and he
would have told them if there was any news. He hadn’t mentioned
a thing. Maybe something had happened that he hadn’t known about.
But how could the news people know if Vince didn’t? All eyes
were glued to the TV set as a picture came on of Johnny working on
Jason and Nicole running for the house to call 911. There wasn’t
a sound as the reporter started his story.
“Mary, after Captain and Mrs. Gage left the police station,
they were returning home when they saw their neighbor’s young
son fall out of a tree in his front yard. The Gages stopped and immediately
began treating the little boy’s injuries. As you can see, Captain
Gage stayed with the little boy and even rode to the hospital with
him in the ambulance.”
“Tom, have you been able to find out anything about the little
“Not yet, Mary, we are still trying to find out that information.”
“Tom, how did you find out about the little boy’s accident?”
“We were at the police station when the report about the Gage
twins’ kidnapping was received. Not getting an opportunity to
talk to the Gages at the station, we drove out to their home to see
if we could get a statement from them. That’s how we came upon
the scene in their neighbors’ yard.”
“Tom, we did some checking and found out that the little boy
was the son of another Fire Captain. He is the son of Captain Roy DeSoto
and his wife, Joanne. Captain DeSoto and Captain Gage were one of the
first paramedic teams in the country and are both still certified paramedics.
By several accounts, they were the best team we have ever had. I think
that the fact that Captain Gage pushed his own pain aside and stayed
with the boy shows how much he cares about others. He could have let
the paramedics who arrived on the scene handle the situation after
they arrived, but he didn’t. And his wife was right beside them.
The prayers of all of us here at the station as well as all of the
residents of LA are with the Gages at this time. Again, if you have
any information about this kidnapping, please contact the local authorities
Johnny turned sad eyes to Roy. “I’m sorry, Roy.”
“What are you sorry for, Johnny?”
“That report is likely to bring all kinds of media attention
that none of us need or want right now. I’m just sorry that your
name was mentioned. Now you are going to have reporters chasing you,
“Johnny, it’s alright. We are going to be there for you
every step of the way and we were bound to have reporters find us.
I’m just thankful you were there and Jason is going to be fine
because of you.”
Nicole had prayed that all of this was just a nightmare that she would
soon wake up from. But hearing it on the evening news confirmed it
was a reality. The events of the day caught up with her and Johnny
was able to catch her just before she hit the floor as she passed out.
Roy followed Johnny out as Dixie led them to a treatment room. Roy
knew that Johnny and Nicole were going to need all the support their
friends and “family” could give them now. He thought back
to the two victims of this killer that his crew had been unfortunate
enough to find. The little girls were tortured before they were killed.
Now Melanie and Melinda were in the hands of this maniac. What was
Johnny thinking about right now? He, too, had seen the final condition
this of maniac’s victims. How would Johnny and Nicole face the
next few days? It was going to be difficult on all of them.
Jason had been moved from the recovery room to his own room. Roy and
Joanne were sitting beside Jason’s bed waiting for him to wake
up. Jenny was sitting in the corner rocking Crystal who had cried herself
to sleep when she saw her brother with an IV, his left leg all bandaged
up and a cast on his right arm. Chris was standing looking out the
window praying for two little girls he had come to love as he loved
his brother and sisters. The surgery had gone well and Dr. Brackett
said Jason would be back to climbing trees again before they wanted
him to. Roy’s mind turned to his “brother and sister”.
Nicole had been admitted overnight for observation. To help keep her
calm, she was put in a private room where Johnny and the kids would
be with her until she was released. As Roy watched his son sleep, he
wondered where Melinda and Melanie were and what they were going through
Joanne was worried about her “sister”. She couldn’t
imagine what it must be like knowing that your children were in the
hands of a killer and worrying about them. The pain and worry she felt
for the girls was unbearable. Johnny and Nicole’s grief and pain
would definitely be worse. “Roy, why don’t you go and check
on Johnny and Nicole? I’d really like to know how they are doing.”
“Thanks honey. I’ll be right back.” Roy kissed his
wife and then headed for Nicole’s room. Opening the door, Roy
smiled to himself. Dixie had arranged for cots and cribs to be brought
into the room for the eight kids. He saw four rocking chairs set around
the room filled with nurses feeding and holding some of the kids. Mayan
and three of the others were sleeping on the cots or in the cribs.
But the best sight was Nicole wrapped in Johnny’s arms on the
bed—both of them sound asleep.
Dixie was sitting in the rocking chair nearest the bed holding Matthew.
She saw Roy enter the room and look around. “Kel had to sedate
both of them. They were fine until Nicole remembered that Johnny and
his crew had found two of the other victims. She started asking Johnny
what happened to the others and what condition they were in. Johnny
tried to calm her down and avoid her questions. She wouldn’t
let it go. The more Johnny tried to change the subject, the more agitated
she became. Then the more Johnny thought about what he had seen with
the two victims his crew found, the more agitated he became. Finally,
Kel gave them both something to help calm them down.”
“Oh, Dix. I thought I could imagine what those parents went
through when we found those two little girls. Johnny and I had talked
about it and said that we wouldn’t want to have to face something
like that. But now that it has happened to them and I know how much
pain we all are in, I can’t imagine what they are going through.
How must they be feeling?” Roy knew their friends were going
to need all their help and support to get through the next few months.
It was going to take all of them together because they were all hurting
“I can’t imagine it either, Roy. I think we are going
to have to get through all of this together.” Dixie had heard
about the condition the bodies of the other victims had been found
in. She had been relieved that she hadn’t seen it firsthand.
What must Johnny be feeling since he did know firsthand what could
“How long will they sleep?” Roy wanted to talk to the
“For at least three hours. Kel just sedated them ten minutes
ago.” Dixie knew Roy needed the time to gather the strength he
would need to face Johnny and Nicole.
“Thanks, Dix. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. I want
to be here when they wake up.” Roy had wandered over to stand
beside the bed. He leaned down and kissed Nicole on the forehead and
squeezed Johnny’s hand before he left the room.
Chet Kelly was in shock as he listened to the news report. Two little
girls that meant the world to him and his friends were now in the hands
of a maniac. The thing that really bothered him was that none of the
little girls this man had kidnapped before had been found alive. All
he could picture in his mind was the two little girls they had been
unfortunate enough to find that had been victims of this psycho. He
knew he was only one of a room full of people who were praying that
Melanie and Melinda would be spared the torture that the other girls
had suffered and that they would be found alive. He worried about Nicole
and Johnny. They would all be there for them as long as they needed
Mike Stoker had been relieved that his crew had not been one of the
emergency crews that had found victims of this sicko. Now he was even
more relieved. But he worried about Roy, Marco, and Chet. Their crews
had found not one but two victims each. If he was hurting this bad
and he hadn’t seen the results first hand, how were all of them
feeling? And how were Johnny and Nicole feeling? He couldn’t
imagine how he would have felt if it had been his daughter. One was
bad enough, but the fact that both twins had been kidnapped was horrible.
How could anyone do something so unthinkable to those two very special
Marco was sitting in the corner softly praying in Spanish. He, too,
remembered the bodies of the two little girls their crew had found.
The first one had been bad enough—it took the crew two solid
shifts of discussing what they had found to come to terms with it.
He would always be glad for Roy having made them talk even when they
didn’t want to. But when they found the second one, it almost
destroyed all of them. Johnny’s crew had found their second one
just before Roy’s crew had found theirs. It was only through
the efforts of Johnny and Roy bringing the two crews together and making
them discuss their feelings that they were able to get through it.
Now it was completely different. There were two victims at once and
this time they were two little girls very special to the heart of everyone
in this room—not the bodies of some unknown little girls none
of them really knew.
Hank looked around the room. He had been called to each of the scenes
where his crews had found the victims of this “baby doll” killer.
Although he had never actually seen the condition of the little girls,
he had seen enough to know it was horrible. What were Johnny and Nicole
feeling right now? He knew it was going to take all of them to help
Johnny and Nicole to get through the next few months. It was going
to take all of them because they were all affected by this. Making
a decision, Hank approached Mike Stoker.
Roy knew that Mike, Hank, Marco and Chet would still be in the doctor’s
lounge waiting for word on Jason and Johnny and Nicole. But he was
surprised to find all the members of all three crews and their families
deep in discussion in the room. Mike was the first one to see him enter.
“Roy, how is Jason?” Mike was on his feet immediately.
He knew everyone was waiting to hear about their “nephew” and
their “brother and sister”.
“He’s going to be just fine. He made it through the surgery
and will make a 100% recovery. Joanne, Chris, Jenny and Crystal are
all there so that someone will be there when he wakes up.”
“What about Johnny and Nicole?” Chet had long ago quit
trying to hide how he really felt about Johnny. “Where are their
“Dr. Brackett had to sedate them. Nicole kept asking Johnny
about the little girls they had found. The more he avoided answering
her, the more agitated she got. Then as Johnny really thought about
them, he got really upset. So Brackett gave them both something and
they are both asleep right now. Dixie said it would be about three
hours before they woke up. The kids are either sleeping or being taken
care of by some of the nurses.”
“Roy, we know that they are going to need all of our support.
We are all going to need each other’s support. We were just discussing
ways to help them and really would like your input. Can you take a
few minutes and go over our ideas?” Hank had taken charge of
organizing the group because he really needed something constructive
“Sure, let me call Jason’s room and let Joanne know what
is going on. Maybe she can come down and help, too. Chris and Jenny
can be there in case Jason wakes up. They can call us here if they
So for the next hour and a half, ideas were discussed, revised, thrown
out, agreed upon and a plan was developed. For a short time everyone’s
mind was taken off the horror that two little girls were facing and
that no one wanted to think about.
Nicole started waking up first. She had hoped that the events of this
day were just a bad nightmare and she would wake up in her own bed.
But as she looked around the room, she knew it was all true. ~Lord,
please take care of the twins. They are in Your hands and You are in
control. Please help them not to suffer. If they are going to die,
please let them die quickly.~ Nicole couldn’t keep the tears
from streaming down her face.
Johnny felt Nicole move in his arms. He also felt her tears as they
fell onto his chest. He had wanted to protect his family from pain,
but this was not something he could protect them from. Their lives
had been turned upside down and inside out with one phone call. Would
they get through this? It was one thing to suffer torment and abuse
yourself, but to know that your child was going through it was another.
Soon his tears joined Nicole’s as both parents prayed their daughters
would be spared at least some of the torture and pain they knew the
other little girls had gone through. They both knew that wasn’t
really fair to other parents who had to face this situation, but they
couldn’t help feeling the way they did.
Roy had been sitting beside the bed for the last hour praying for
his “nieces” as well as Johnny and Nicole. He watched as
they started to stir. It was 10:00 at night and he was glad that the
Gage kids were all asleep. He was thankful for the fact that most of
them were too young to understand what was going on. Mayan would need
some extra attention as he dealt with losing two people he cared deeply
about. The little boy had suffered a lot in his short life and had
come along way, but he also cared deeply about his family. They would
have to see that he was not lost in all that would transpire in the
next few days.
“Hi, Roy.” Johnny had turned enough to realize that Roy
was sitting beside the bed.
“Hey, Junior. How are you feeling?” Roy saw the tears
running down Johnny’s face.
“I think I’m numb right now. I really don’t know
how I feel. I just want to hold my girls.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.” Roy was at a loss for words.
What could he say to make this situation be alright? Nothing—it
was going to take a lot of time for things to be ok again. “Nicole,
how are you doing?”
“I’m like Johnny. Right now I don’t feel anything
at all. It all seems like a bad nightmare that I just want to wake
“We all wish we could tell you it was just a bad dream and that
everything is going to be ok.” Dixie had walked in to hear the
last bit of the conversation. She had wanted to see how upset Nicole
was when she woke up.
“I know, Dixie, and we thank you all for that.” Nicole
knew that there was going to be some very hard times in the next few
days, but she also knew that they had “family” and friends
to help them get through them. “How are the kids? What time is
“They are all asleep. It is 10:00 and they were all tired. We
had no trouble getting them to sleep.”
“Good. Roy, how’s Jason?” Nicole’s thoughts
turned to the scene that had met them when they returned to the DeSoto
home that afternoon.
“He came through surgery with flying colors. Dr. Early said
he would be climbing trees again before we wanted him to. He woke up
a little while ago and said to tell Johnny that he was sorry for disobeying,
but he went right back to sleep and will probably sleep until morning.
I want to thank both of you for being there and for what you did to
help him. If it weren’t for both of you, he wouldn’t be
here right now.” Roy thought of how these two special people
had put their pain on hold when they had arrived home to see Jason
in trouble. He prayed that all their friends would be able to help
them through the trying times ahead.
“We love him like he was our own. There’s no way we wouldn’t
have helped. We are just sorry it had to have happened at all.” Johnny
was still feeling a little guilty that they had left Crystal and Jason
in Tina’s care. Both the Gages and DeSotos had had bad experiences
with her babysitting for them before. But this had been an emergency
and she had pleaded to be given the chance to show them she could do
it and promised nothing would happen.
“Johnny, it wasn’t your fault. I would have done the same
thing if I had been in your situation. You were there when it mattered
most and that is what counts.” Roy was glad he had not jumped
to conclusions like he had the time Chris had gotten in trouble and
he had blamed Johnny and Nicole. “Thank you for being our ‘brother
Nicole didn’t think she could go back to sleep as thoughts of
what was happening to her daughters kept running through her mind.
What she imagined was horrible, so she prayed that her imagination
was worse than what was really happening. However, as Johnny and Roy
talked about the ideas the group had come up with to help the Gages,
she drifted back to sleep. Roy noticed first and nodded towards her
to let Johnny know. Johnny smiled and wrapped his arms around her.
“Johnny, I’m going to go check on Jason. I know at least
one of us will be staying here with him tonight but I am going to take
the rest of them home. Is there anything you need before I go?” Roy
noticed that Johnny was getting tired, too. Although they had both
been sedated, he knew that both of them would be emotionally and physically
tired from what they had to deal with.
“No, there’s nothing we need right now. Thanks, Roy, and
thank everyone else for being here and for their support.” Johnny
was surprised that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open.
“You’re more than welcome, Johnny. I’ll be here
in the morning along with those who volunteered to help with the kids
tomorrow. We’ll get through this.” Roy smiled as his last
words fell on deaf ears. Johnny had lost his fight and was sleeping
with Nicole snuggled in his arms.
“How are they, Roy?” Chet didn’t even wait for Roy
to get into Jason’s room before the question was out of his mouth.
“They are both numb. Nicole said she had hoped it was just a
nightmare that she would wake up from. They were both concerned about
Jason. They were sleeping when I left. Dixie said she felt they would
sleep until morning.” Roy smiled to himself as he thought about
how much Chet had changed over the years. There was a time he wouldn’t
be caught dead showing any concern at all for Johnny, but now he was
one of the first ones to worry about him and he didn’t care who
“They were concerned about Jason?” Joanne didn’t
think that she would be thinking about someone else’s child if
she had two kids that had been kidnapped and were probably being hurt.
“Yeah, they were. I think they were feeling guilty, too, but
I made sure they knew it wasn’t their fault. I let them know
we are going to be here in the morning and I know they are grateful
for our support.” Roy wasn’t the only one in the room who
sent up a silent prayer for the entire Gage family.
It had been a week since the twins were kidnapped. There was always
someone at the Gage ranch to help with the kids as well as getting
out flyers, answering phone calls, and anything else they could do.
As they lent their support, there were times when Johnny and Nicole
needed them around and other times when they needed to be alone. It
was with a heart of thanks that Johnny and Nicole realized that everyone
could sense when each of these times were.
Johnny was especially thankful for his crew. Nicole had persuaded
him to return to work knowing that having something to do would keep
his mind off his girls. She also knew that seeing his other children
all the time would continually remind him of the two missing girls.
Joanne had arranged with the wives of all three crews to take Nicole
away for a few hours on the days Johnny worked so that she, too, wouldn’t
have to see her children every minute and be reminded that two of them
were not there. They were thankful there was some there to help with
the kids. Johnny and Nicole had told them about the twins’ disappearance,
but they kept asking where their sisters were and when they were going
to come home.
Vince smiled to himself as he drove into the Gage’s driveway
and saw the number of cars there—many he recognized who they
belonged to. But he lost his smile as he thought about the reason all
these people were here. This was a day that A-shift was off duty and
everyone had met at the Gage home. At least he could tell everyone
his news at once.
Jim Standish and Bob Carden, Johnny’s paramedics, were just
on their way back from the barn where they had taken care of the animals.
Bob was the first one to see Vince. As he drew Jim’s attention
to the officer’s presence, both men were dreading the reason
for the visit. They reached the house at the same time Vince did.
“Hi Vince.” Jim knew that neither of them wanted to ask
the question as to what brought Vince there because neither of them
really wanted to know the answer.
“Hi, fellas.” Vince knew that they were avoiding asking
the reason for his visit. He followed them into the house.
“Hi Vince.” Johnny saw the officer enter his home. Instinct
made him wrap his arm around Nicole when she arrived at his side as
soon as she saw Vince. Both of them had a large knot in the pit of
“Hi, Johnny and Nicole. I need to talk to both of you. Will
you have a seat please?” He looked around the room as word had
spread quickly that he was there and everyone crowded into the living
room to find out what was going on.
When Johnny, Nicole and Vince had found places to sit, Vince took
a deep breath. “I want you both to know that your daughters are
very brave. Somehow one of them was able to dial 911 and place the
telephone receiver where the 911 dispatcher could hear every thing
that was going on. She was able to determine that it was your daughters
and that she was listening to things going on wherever they were being
held. The police were able to trace the call and pinpoint the address.
However, before they could get over there, the kidnapper must have
found the phone. No one was there when the police got there. The neighbors
did give them a description of the van that they left in and the man
driving. There is an APB out on the van and we have called in off-duty
members of the force to aid in the search. We were less than five minutes
behind them, so we feel confident that we will find them soon.” Vince
prayed that this time the ending to this situation would be a happy
one instead of the way it had ended every other time.
“Will it be in time?” Beth Stoker felt for her “brother
“That’s why we’ve brought in every off-duty police
officer we could get. LA County is covered with police officers.” Vince
knew how each of the people in the room was feeling. He was feeling
the same way. The Gages were very good friends of his and he loved
the girls just as much as anyone else.
“Thanks Vince. Please just let us know when you hear anything.” Johnny
was afraid to hope that they would find the girls alive. He knew what
had happened to the other seven victims of this maniac. He didn’t
dare hope that they would be the lucky ones to have their daughters
“You bet I will. And everyone at the station wanted me to let
you know they are all praying for you and the girls.” Vince stood
and headed towards the door.
“Thanks again Vince and thank everyone else for us.” Nicole
followed Vince to the door and gave him a hug before turning and going
up the stairs. She headed into the twins’ room and closed the
door. She grabbed the stuffed dog and stuffed bear that were the twins’ favorite
toys and lay down on the bed closest to the door. Pulling both toys
to her face, she let the tears flow unchecked. As much as she wanted
to believe they would find the girls alive, she couldn’t bring
herself to even consider it. Johnny found her there a few minutes later.
He sat down on the bed leaning against the headboard. Pulling Nicole
into his arms, the tears streamed down his face.
Half an hour later, Hank found them wrapped in each others’ arms
sound asleep. He quietly closed the door and left them knowing that
they needed the time alone. He also knew they had not been sleeping
very well since the twins had been abducted. He prayed that with the
news they had just received, they would be able to get some rest.
An hour later when Mike went to tell Johnny and Nicole lunch was ready,
he found them still asleep. He hated to wake them up, but he also knew
they needed to keep their strength up by eating something. “Johnny,
Nicole, Joanne has lunch ready.” He gently shook Johnny’s
It had been two days since Vince had told them that they had a description
on the kidnapper and the van. But the van had been found abandoned
two hours after the search had begun. Somehow, somewhere the kidnapper
had picked up another vehicle. There were several that had been reported
stolen that day and all from a twelve block square radius of where
the van had been abandoned. Johnny and Nicole knew the girls would
not be found alive. They prayed for strength and began to prepare for
the day they would have their fears confirmed.
A-shift was on duty. Johnny wasn’t sure whether he wanted the
day to be busy so he didn’t have to think or slow so he didn’t
have to be in command. He was glad when the morning started off busy.
He had asked the Lord for the strength and wisdom to get through the
day. That was the only way he could face each situation that came up.
He found that being busy was better than sitting around all day and
wondering what was happening to his daughters.
Station 51 was in house when the tones sounded for Station 24. Johnny
listened as the call came sending them to a MVA. His attention was
brought back to what was going on in his own station when Brandon refilled
his coffee cup. “Sounds like a bad one.”
“Yeah, it does. I hope Mike and his crew don’t have too
bad a time.”
“Cap, how are you doing?” Jim brought lunch over to the
table. “How’s Nicole?”
“We’re making it through each day with the strength God
gives us. It’s hard, but we’ll be ok. How are all of you
handling this? We know that all of you care about all the children
of this crew as well as the crews of station 14 and 24. We aren’t
just crewmates and friends. We are family. This has to be hard on all
of you, too.”
“You’re right. We do care about all the kids like they
were our own. I know that I have been having nightmares. I just want
to take all the kids and go somewhere to hide them so they can’t
get hurt and we can protect them. No kid should have to go through
what the twins might be facing.” Jim’s face turned red
as he realized what he was saying. He hadn’t wanted to remind
his Captain of the condition they had found those other two little
“It’s ok, Jim.” Johnny looked down at his coffee
cup. A knot had formed in his stomach and was tightening. Just as he
was about to call Nicole to find out if she had the same feeling, the
phone rang. He knew that something had happened but he also knew it
hadn’t involved Nicole, Roy or Joanne. He didn’t have time
to contemplate it any more because Chet told him the phone was for
him. “Hello.—Hi, honey.—Yeah, I felt it, too.—Do
you really think so? Maybe you’re right.—Yeah, I’ll
call you tonight so I can say goodnight to the kids. I love you.—Bye,
An hour and a half later, the crew had just set down for lunch when
Vince, Roy, Mike, Marco and Hank walked into the dayroom followed by
the B-shift engineer and captain. Hank had known that it was going
to take the whole original A-shift to help Johnny get through the next
few days. He had called Emily and she had called Beth, Rebecca, and
Kimberly. They were going to meet at the DeSoto’s and go to the
Gage’s together to be there for Nicole.
The knot in Johnny’s stomach had developed a pounding rhythm
that was joined by a pounding in his head as soon as he saw the group
enter the room.
Roy walked over and put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder stopping
him from getting up out of his seat. “Johnny, just stay there.”
“Vince, you’ve found the girls, haven’t you?” Johnny
knew that Nicole had been right. The feeling of something happening
they both had did have something to do with the girls.
Vince took a deep breath before he answered Johnny. He looked at the
faces of all the men around him. “Yes, Johnny, we did.”
“Where? Did they suffer?” Johnny wasn’t sure he
wanted to know if they had been found in the same condition as the
“They were in one of the vehicles at the MVA we were sent out
on. They were both killed instantly. Johnny, I’m so sorry.” Mike
couldn’t get the vision of the two girls out of his mind.
“At least they didn’t suffer. I need to go home and be
with Nicole.” Johnny was numb. They had been expecting this,
but it was just harder than he thought it would be now that it had
“That’s why Anderson and Cathman are here. Mike, Roy,
Chet, Marco and I are going with you. Our wives are already at your
home. But they don’t know about the twins yet. We thought you
would want to be with Nicole when she finds out.” Hank realized
that Johnny was numb as he just sat staring at nothing. “Come
on, Roy will drive you home. We’ll get your car later.” Hank
put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder to let get his attention.
Johnny just nodded as he stood. Jim ran into the locker room and got
Johnny’s things from his locker. All his crew stood at the door
as Roy led him out.
“Cap, we’ll all be by tomorrow. If you need anything,
just call us.” Bill and Bob patted Johnny on the back as he left
Nicole knew as soon as she opened the door and saw the five women
standing there that the girls had been found. She also knew that they
didn’t have any information to tell her. “Hi. Come on in.” She
stood aside to allow the women access to her home. “To what do
I owe this visit?”
“Nicole, I’m not going to lie to you. Hank called me and
asked that all of us come here. He said we would all find out what
was going on in a little while.” Emily felt it was best to be
honest with Nicole.
“Thanks, Emily. I think they found the girls. It sure is good
to have all of you here, though. It really helps.”
Rebecca and Kimberly went upstairs to play with the kids while Emily,
Joanne and Beth waited with Nicole. Joanne sat with Nicole wrapped
in her arms.
Johnny opened the door and walked towards Nicole. She stood and walked
into his open arms. “They found the girls.”
“Mike’s crew was called out to an MVA. They were in a
van that was sandwiched between two other cars. The kidnapper was drunk
and so was one of the other drivers. They were hit broadside on both
“Did they suffer?” Nicole knew that both girls were gone.
“No, Russ and Greg said they were killed instantly.” Johnny
finally gave in to the tears that had been threatening all the way
Nicole let her tears flow. Like Johnny, she had expected this but
had secretly hoped they would find the girls alive.
“Johnny, do they know what they endured the last week and a
“Not yet. Vince said they would let us know as soon as they
could do an autopsy and find out which injuries were from the kidnapper
and which ones were from the accident.”
All that could be heard for the next ten minutes were the sobs coming
from everyone in the room. Nicole was the first to gain her composure.
A small sad smile crossed her face as Johnny’s stomach growled. “Did
you get to eat any lunch?” Her voice could barely be heard.
“No, we were just sitting down to eat when Vince and the guys
arrived. But I don’t think I could eat anything.”
“It won’t do anyone any good if we let ourselves get run
down or sick. Besides, I heard the kids upstairs. They are going to
have to be told and we can do it while we eat and they have cookies
“They are going to wonder why I’m home and why they are
getting cookies and milk in the middle of the day.” Johnny’s
tears and stopped and he had a small sad smile, too.
“Yeah, well, the only one who is really going to understand
is Mayan, but we need to answer their questions. Megan and Michaela
keep asking when Melanie and Melinda are coming home and Michael and
Matthew keep asking where they are.”
“Let’s go face them together. Someday when they are old
enough to understand, we will tell them how special their sisters were.”
“We need to be prepared for them to keep asking where they are
and when they are coming home.”
“Yeah, I know.” Anything else Johnny would have said was
drowned out by Rebecca, Kimberly and Mayan slowly following the quadruplets
down the stairs. Rebecca was carrying Mark and Melissa while Kimberly
was carrying Michelle.
Johnny and Nicole moved towards the stairs. They both needed to hold
their kids in their arms right now. Nicole picked up Matthew and Michaela
as they reached out for her. Johnny picked up Michael and Megan.
“Dada, dada, dada. We go play with tundder?” Michael patted
Johnny’s right cheek while Megan planted wet kisses on his left
cheek. He couldn’t help but have a genuine smile at the love
of his children.
“We’ll ride Thunder a little bit later if we get the chance.
Right now we are going to get something to eat.” Right on cue
his stomach growled again.
“Mama, dada hungy. He need food. But we ated already.” Michaela
giggled when she heard Johnny’s stomach.
“I know Daddy’s hungry. We are going to get him a sandwich.
And because you all have been so good the last few weeks, you get to
have some cookies and milk while he eats.” Nicole’s smile
was genuine, too.
Rebecca and Kimberly sat the triplets in their high chairs while Nicole
and Johnny sat each of the quadruplets in their booster seats. Mayan
sat in the chair next to where Johnny was going to sit. He knew something
had happened, but he wasn’t quite sure what.
After they had helped Nicole get the cookies and milk for the kids
and something for both Johnny and Nicole, who hadn’t eaten lunch
either, Rebecca and Kimberly quietly slipped out of the room to give
the family the privacy they needed right now. Chet and Marco filled
their wives in on what little they knew.
Roy and Joanne were standing just close enough to the kitchen door
to be available if Johnny and Nicole needed them. They both were thankful
they didn’t have to do what Nicole and Johnny had to do right
now, but they also prayed that the Lord would give Johnny and Nicole
the strength to get through it. They quietly listened as Johnny broke
the news to his kids.
As Johnny took a deep breath to begin telling his children about their
sisters, he sent up a silent prayer for strength and of thanks that
the triplets were too young to understand anything that was going on.
He smiled at Nicole as she was already “telling” Mayan
that Johnny had something to tell the whole family. “Kids, I
have to talk to all of you.”
“’bout what?” Matthew was the most inquisitive of
“Melinda and Melanie.”
“When they comed home, dada?” Michaela missed her big
sisters. She wanted them to play with her as they always did.
“That’s what we have to talk to you about. Melinda and
Melanie won’t be coming home any more.” Johnny’s
voice caught as he said the words that made it final.
“Why not? Don’’ they luv us anymore? I sorry.” Megan
thought maybe she had done something to make her sisters mad. It seemed
they were always mad at her for doing something wrong.
“They love all us very much. Do you all remember when we said
that a very bad man had picked them up from their school and wasn’t
letting them come home?” Johnny needed wisdom in explaining this
to his children. He took the few seconds that it took for the four
to nod their heads yes to swallow the lump in his throat. “Well,
he was taking them somewhere in a van and two other cars hit them.”
“What do you mean, dada? But they be home soon, right?”
Something Mayan had said gave Nicole a couple of ideas. Putting her
hand on Johnny’s arm to let him know she was going to try, she
took a deep breath. “Kids, when those two cars hit the van Melanie
and Melinda were in, the van broke just like Matthew and Michael’s
toy cars did when they tried to race them down the stairs.”
“’Lanie and ‘Linda broke, too?” Michaela didn’t
like what her Mommy was telling her.
“Yes, they ‘broke’, too. They had a lot of owies
that the doctors couldn’t fix so God took them home to be angels.
They don’t have any pain there. God wanted their laughter and
their love in heaven. So they went to sleep down here and woke up in
heaven with Jesus.” Nicole prayed the kids would understand.
After a few seconds of silence, Roy heard chairs moving on the kitchen
floor. He peeked in to see what was going on. Johnny and Nicole were
kneeling between the chairs of the quadruplets with their arms wrapped
around the kids. Mayan sat on Nicole’s lap. All five of the kids
were crying. He watched as the family grieved together praying that
the Lord would give them the strength to get through it.
It was about five minutes later when Michael sat up in his chair. “Mama,
dada, they in heaven, right?”
Not sure what her son was thinking, Nicole nodded.
“Well, they run and happy. We miss them, but if Jesus wants
them, it ok. He help us not miss them as much.”
“Un huh. ‘icheal right. Maybe we get to go to heaven soon
and see them.” Matthew sat up in his chair, too. “Jesus
will take care of them.”
“Yeah, it ‘eautiful there. They have fun.” Michaela
was just glad her sisters were not in any pain from all the owies.
“Can we plant ‘lowers for them?” Megan, too, was
glad her sisters weren’t hurting.
~We plant flowers on grave?~ Mayan understood what was going on. He
had seen a lot of his friends from his special school go home one day
and not return. A year ago his best friend had died and Nicole had
taken him to the funeral. She had taken him to the grave a week later
and helped him plant a flower there.
~Yes, we will. We will plant something special for them.~ Nicole was
amazed at the strength her children had.
Roy looked at Joanne who had the same look of amazement on her face
that he did. They were all here to help the Gage family get through
this, but he had a feeling that the Gage family was going to help all
of them get through it instead. He was still standing in the same spot
when the quadruplets toddled through the door followed by Mayan. Johnny
and Nicole soon followed with the triplets in their arms. He took Mark
from Johnny and led the way to the couch where the quadruplets were
already the center of attention. He stopped as he heard Michaela’s
“’Lanie and ‘Lindy ain’t comin’ home.”
“Oh, they aren’t?” Chet had knelt in front of her
and was having a hard time keeping his voice from breaking.
“No, Jesus wan’d them in heaven. They angels now.” Megan
took up where her sister left off.
“They sure are angels.” Mike had picked Megan up and was
holding her close.
“We goin’ miss ‘em but they happy all time now.” Matthew
sat down between Kimberly and Rebecca.
“Yeah.” Marco had trouble getting past the lump in his
“They aren’t hurtin’ no mo’e and they went
sleep down here and woked up in heaven with Jesus. It ‘eautiful
dere.” Michael had found a seat on Hank’s lap.
“You’re right, Michael.” Hank was finding it difficult
to keep the tears from flowing.
Nicole collapsed into Johnny’s arms as they listened to their
children talk about their sisters. She still felt like it was all a
bad nightmare and that she would wake up soon. Johnny held her tight
as the tears streamed down both their faces. Why was this happening
Every one of the adults had tears in their eyes as they thought about
what the Gage children had said and watched as their friends grieved.
Things had finally calmed down and the quadruplets and triplets had
just gone down for their naps. Chris had taken Mayan out to take care
of the horses. Roy kept an eye on his friends as he answered the door.
He was surprised to see Vince standing on the front porch.
“Roy, I’m sorry, but I need to talk to Johnny and Nicole.”
“Sure, Vince, come on in. They are in the living room.” Roy
stepped out of the way as Vince entered the home.
Johnny looked up as he heard the two men enter the room. “Hey,
Vince. I was just thinking about you. I wanted to ask you about the
other people involved in the accident. What happened to the drivers
of the cars that hit the van? And, and,--what happened to the driver
of the van?”
Knowing how deeply Johnny and Nicole cared about other people—even
people they didn’t know—he wasn’t sure he really
wanted to answer Johnny’s question. “There were no survivors.”
Johnny just nodded as he realized there were others that died in the
accident that claimed the lives of his twins.
“Um, Johnny, I hate to ask this of you, but I really need to
you come down to the station and identify the girls’ bodies.”
“Why, my crew found them and we all recognized them.” Mike
couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was bad enough that
Johnny and Nicole had to live through all of this, they didn’t
really need to see the condition of the two girls’ bodies.
“Because there were identification cards in the van that state
the girls were the daughters of the driver. Since there were also identification
cards for the other seven victims, no one believes it, but we need
you to positively identify the girls to make it final. I am really
sorry about this.”
Johnny and Nicole looked at each other and then at Vince. Nicole was
the first one to find her voice. “That’s ok, Vince, we
understand. We’ll come with you.” Everyone watched the
myriad of emotions that played across both Nicole’s and Johnny’s
faces. It was only a moment later that the Gage’s were following
Vince out of the door.
Johnny was a little concerned about Nicole. She had been very quiet
since they had returned from the police station. The only people she
had talked to were the children. She had hugged each one of them a
little longer and a little harder than normal. Johnny knew that Nicole
had gone with him because she had to see for herself—just like
he did—that it was indeed their daughters. Now both of them knew
it wasn’t a nightmare they would be able to wake up from, but
reality. Their girls were gone.
Both parents had huge lumps in their throats when each of the quadruplets
had said their prayers asking God to watch over their sisters. Matthew
had asked God to tell the twins hi for all of them. But it was Megan’s
prayer that was the hardest on their parents. She had told God that
they would all miss Melinda and Melanie, but it was ok because they
knew God wanted the twins more than the family did.
Nicole had gone out to sit on the back porch swing without saying
a word to anyone. Johnny was afraid she was withdrawing into herself
and he didn’t know how to help her. A short talk with Dr. Brackett
had resulted in Roy, Joanne, Dixie and Dr. Brackett staying when everyone
else had left for the night. Dr. Brackett was prepared to give Nicole
a sedative if he needed to.
Johnny quietly sat down next to Nicole on the swing. She was looking
at the tree house Johnny and the twins had completed just three weeks
ago. He wondered what was going through her mind.
Nicole leaned into Johnny as soon as he sat down. His fears were relieved
when he was startled out of his reverie by her voice. “Do you
remember the day that you finished the tree house?”
“Yeah, the girls both jumped up and down so much I was afraid
one of them was going to fall and break a leg. They had so much fun
helping me paint it and the table and chairs I made them. Melanie helped
me put up the curtains you made. She was so particular—the curtains
had to be just so.”
“They were so proud of their work and that tree house. It will
always be their tree house. They sure were excited about it.”
“I will always think of it as their tree house. I had to laugh
when Melinda said that they were going to live in it forever. Melanie
was shaking her head so I hard I was afraid it was going to come off.
I told them that when they….” Johnny’s voice broke
as he remembered that day and the words he said to his daughters. Taking
a deep breath, he continued with a soft voice. “…that when
they grew up they might find that it was too small for them to live
in. Both of them said it would be perfect. They said that way they
would always be close to us.”
Nicole squeezed Johnny’s hand. “They will always be close
to us since they will always be in our hearts. It hurts so much, but
God had a reason for taking them from us so soon. He knows what is
best and we never have to worry about them getting hurt.” Nicole
was having a hard time talking through the tears that were streaming
down her face.
“Yes, it does hurt so badly. But like you said, God is in control.
He will give us the strength and comfort to get through this.” Johnny’s
tears were flowing as hard as Nicole’s.
“Johnny, do you remember what they said the first time they
climbed the ladder to the tree house? I could hear their voices through
the open kitchen window.”
“Melanie said that she felt like she was climbing the ladder
to Heaven. Then Melinda said that it would be wonderful to keep right
on climbing to go live with God. Well, they didn’t have to climb
today. I’m sure God reached down and took them home in His hands.”
As Johnny looked into the sky, he saw two stars twinkling. “Nicole,
look. I think God is trying to tell us that the girls are happy.”
“I believe you’re right. He gave us those two stars to
remember the two twinkling lights we had in our home for the last five
Roy, Joanne, Dixie and Dr. Brackett were all trying to swallow the
lumps in their throats as Johnny and Nicole entered the kitchen. All
of them had heard the entire conversation and knew that it would take
time, but eventually the hurt would lessen and the memories of the
girls wouldn’t bring pain, but happiness.
Roy and Joanne kept close to Johnny and Nicole the
day of the funeral. Both of them were holding up fairly well, but over
the last three days
there had been times they had broken down. The hardest time had been
when the news came that both girls had been sexually abused and beaten
before their deaths. Johnny and Nicole had both cried for several hours.
The DeSotos wanted to be there in case they broke down again. As they
sat at the front of the
Church waiting as people quietly entered, Roy thought back to the evening
visitation that the Gage children had been brought to in order to give
them a chance to say goodbye to their sisters. Mayan had pulled Johnny
off to one side of the room when he saw his sisters. Roy had kept an
eye on the two of them as Johnny pulled his son into his embrace and
they both cried for a long time. Nicole and Joanne had been talking
quietly to the quadruplets. It was when the group joined their father
and brother that the family was able to smile even a little.
Michaela had walked over to her father. Putting a hand on Johnny’s
leg, she looked into his sad eyes. “Dada, ‘lease don’t
be sad. Lanie and Lindy go sleep on pretty pink pillows and wake up
“Yeah, Dada, they run and happy all time now.” Matthew
had put his small arm around his brother’s shoulders. ~’Yan,
they ok. Don’t cry.~
With a sad smile for his father, Mayan hugged his brother. ~You’re
right. Thank you, Matt.~
Roy’s thoughts were brought back to the present as Jim, Bob,
Brandon, Bill, Kent, Andrew, Patrick, John, Greg, Rich, Craig, and
Charles took their places to be the pall bearers. Russ had volunteered
to share the crews’ feelings about their “Nieces”.
He sat with the others. The fact that they had gotten special permission
to wear their dress uniforms showed how much they really cared about
Mike, Beth, Hank, Emily, Chet, Kimberly, Marco and Rebecca sat in
the row behind Roy, Joanne, Johnny, Nicole and Mayan. Dr. Brackett
and Dixie sat beside Nicole while Dr. Early and Dr. Morton sat at the
other end of the row. The medical personnel were really there for two
reasons. Yes, they wanted to say their goodbyes, but they also wanted
to keep an eye on Johnny and Nicole.
The minister had talked about the girls’ short lives and how
their smiles and love would fill the church every Sunday. He told of
some of the girls’ escapades that had kept the Sunday School
workers on their toes. He ended by saying that everyone would miss
the two bright spots, but they all knew the girls were running and
walking with their Lord. Johnny and Nicole were laughing through their
Then Russ walked to the podium. The tears were streaming down his
face. He took a deep breath and got his emotions under control. “Melanie
and Melinda were ‘nieces’ to all of us at Stations 51,
14 and 24. They would brighten the mood of a room just by entering
and showing their love. We are going to miss their contagious unconditional
love. As much as we wanted them to stay with us, the Lord wanted them
home. I would like to read a poem that I believe demonstrates the belief
Johnny and Nicole hold that the Lord is in control of all things. It
For All Parents
I'll lend you for a little time, a child of mine, He said.
For you to love while he lives, and mourn when he is dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three.
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?
He`ll bring his charms to gladden you, and shall his stay be brief,
You'll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call, to take him back again?
I fancied that I heard them say, Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness, we'll love him while we may;
And for the happiness we've known, will ever grateful stay.
But shall the angels call for him much sooner than we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.
“Melinda and Melanie were also two very brave little girls and
it is because of them that other little girls are safe.”
Johnny and Nicole shared puzzled looks. They had no
idea what Russ was talking about. Johnny put his arm around Nicole
as Russ continued.
“During the time they were gone, one of the girls was able
to dial 911 and hide the phone so the dispatcher could listen in. The
police arrived about five minutes after they had left the home. But
because of that one act, the police were given a description of the
car and the kidnapper. They got a solid lead on the man who was terrorizing
little girls and their families. But it didn’t end there. What
has not been told anywhere yet, is that a witness to the car accident
said they noticed the two girls fighting with the driver trying to
get him to pull the van over to the side of the road. The van was driving
sporadically and the police were trying to pull it over. The van they
were riding in collided with two other cars and we are here today.
They wouldn’t want us to be sad, though. They would want us to
remember their smiles and know they are happy.”
Russ stopped to take a deep breath. “And to help us remember
their courage, the LA County Fire Department and the LA County Sheriff’s
Department would like to honor them. Captain and Mrs. Gage, would you
please come up here.”
Johnny and Nicole made their way to the platform not knowing that
everyone else on the three crews knew what was coming. They noticed
that Hank Stanley, Chief McConnikee and the LA County Sheriff’s
Commander had followed them.
Hank traded places with Russ. He looked at Johnny and Nicole and smiled. “Melanie
and Melinda may have only been five, but they were braver than a lot
of adults I know. And to thank them for their sacrifice, the LA County
Fire Department is bestowing the Medal of Valor on both girls.”
Before they had a chance to react, the LA County Sheriff’s Commander
had stepped up to the podium. “And the LA County Sheriff Department
is bestowing their Medal of Valor, also. I didn’t have the opportunity
to meet your daughters, but from everything I have learned about them
in the last few weeks, I would have been proud to know them. Their
courage and sacrifice are a testament to your love and training. We
are truly sorry for your loss, but thank the girls because what they
did saved some other little girl’s life.”
Johnny pulled Nicole into his embrace as the tears she had been able
to keep at a minimum until now flowed down her cheeks. His tears joined
hers as they thought about what the girls had done. After a couple
of minutes in which the entire church was quiet, Nicole pulled out
of Johnny’s embrace and accepted the medals that Hank was presenting
to them. When Hank pulled her into his embrace, Nicole knew that with
the help of their “family” and friends, they would make
it through the difficult months ahead.
Instead of a meal after the service, Nicole and Johnny had invited
everyone out to the farm. Everyone had said that someone else should
take care of that part of the day, but the Gages insisted. As they
started arriving, everyone understood. Instead of remembering their
death, Johnny and Nicole had planned a picnic to celebrate the girls’ lives.
The banner on the front porch read “For our special Angels, Melinda
and Melanie. May your love always help us to remember”. As the
afternoon wore on, there were more laughter and smiles than looks of
sadness. The girls were remembered for all the things they had done
in their short life time that would touch someone else’s heart
After everyone but Roy and Joanne had gone, Johnny and Nicole sat
on the couch in the living room. They were reading some of the sympathy
cards they had received. In one was a poem that they had heard several
times, but as they read it again, they knew that this was one of the
times, the Lord was carrying them. They knew there were be some very
hard days ahead, but they also knew that the Lord would carry them
through those times.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was
walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes
from his life. For
each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life
flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He
noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one
set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned
the LORD about it. "LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during
the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me." The
LORD replied, "My son, My precious child, I love you and I would
never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you
see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
There were many times over the next couple of months when everyone
had a very hard time with the loss of the twins, but with the help
of each other, the Station 51 “family’s” pain lessened
a little more each day. As Brandon Stoker prepared to graduate from
paramedic training, everyone focused on the positive things happening
in the lives of the younger family members. It would still take time
but each day became a little easier.
When Brandon Stoker was ready to graduate from the paramedic program,
he was elated, sad and frightened. Not only had he grown up with the
men his father had served with at Station 51, he had been part of Station
51’s A-shift crew under his “Uncle Johnny” since
his graduation from the Fire Academy. He was elated that he was going
to be paramedic, a job he had learned to love watching John Gage and
Roy DeSoto. He was sad that he was going to have to leave the station
he loved working at because there wasn’t an opening there. He
was frightened because he wasn’t sure that he would ever find
the close family feeling that had been a part of the Station 51 A-Shift
since the beginning. The original A-Shift crew had that same feeling
at all three stations, but Brandon knew that it was not the norm in
Brandon had been pleased when Peter Swanson had been promoted to Engineer
and the firefighter opening had been offered to him. He had secretly
wished that either Jim Standish or Bob Carden would have wanted to
try for a different position so that a paramedic position would open
at 51s, but they were both content for the time being and Brandon would
have to be assigned to another station.
When Johnny called him into the office to give him his new assignment,
Brandon started debating with himself as to whether he really wanted
to make the change.
To be continued in Heroes
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