Johnny wandered from the dayroom
after another of Chet’s thoughtless remarks about his heritage.
He thought back to the incident two weeks ago with the tarp he had
suggested using to protect him and Roy from a sniper. Roy had agreed
with him about Indians and blankets when they returned to the station
and Chet asked him how he thought of it. His thoughts then went back
to the peace pipe incident and how Roy had said that he had enjoyed
the jokes and pranks because it put a little life in the station. It
had hurt Johnny when Roy had made that comment. After all, Chet wasn’t
making fun of Roy’s heritage. And then Chet’s remarks in
the dayroom just now hurt. The last two weeks had been very hard for
Johnny thought about the pranks and remarks from Chet’s point
of view. He realized that he was just a little sensitive right now
about his heritage—especially after what had happened two weeks
ago. But the more the thought about it, the more he realized that Chet
was not trying to hurt him—his pranks and remarks were out of
ignorance. Determined to put his feelings about his past aside and
teach his “family” about his life, he headed back towards
the kitchen. He was halfway across the station when the tones sounded
sending the entire station out on a call. His talk with his “family” would
have to wait. He joined Roy in the squad and prepared himself for the
call they had just received.
Roy looked at his partner before starting the engine. He saw a determination
on Johnny’s face. What was going through his partner’s
mind? Johnny had been down for the last two weeks and after Chet’s
latest comment, Roy was beginning to think he knew why. He knew that
he had hurt Johnny’s feelings with his thoughtless remark several
shifts ago about enjoying the teasing Chet seem to always be doing.
He really did enjoy the jokes, but Johnny’s comment about him
not being on the receiving end of the jokes and pranks finally hit
home and Roy realized Johnny was right. How would he feel if his heritage
was the subject of constant jokes? He didn’t have time to think
about it any more as they headed towards the call. He would talk to
Lynnette thought about her conversation with Johnny. She had felt
his pain the night before when they had discussed the situation at
the station. He was proud of his heritage even if he had been teased
and bullied all his life. The continued teasing had hurt him deeply.
A young couple had moved into Johnny’s apartment building several
months ago. Johnny had felt an immediate kinship because David, like
Johnny, was a half-breed. Although he hadn’t wanted to dwell
on it, Johnny and David had shared stories of the teasing and beatings
they had received growing up because they were half-breeds and no one
seemed to care or even want them around—including their parents.
The teasing and pranks that Johnny was enduring at Station 51, however,
were nothing compared to what David was facing at his job. They had
just hired a new manager and that manager was a bigot. His hatred ran
deep for Indians—especially half-breeds and David was the brunt
of all that hatred.
Lynnette knew that Johnny had wanted to talk to Roy and his friends
about David—especially when David had reach such a low point
that four days earlier he had committed suicide. And Johnny had been
unable to save him—he had died just before Johnny had gotten
home from work. But when Johnny had arrived at work the next shift,
he was immediately hit with another prank and knew he couldn’t
say a word because his friends wouldn’t understand. She smiled
as she thought about the conversation she had just had with Johnny
on the phone. It started out with him being very hurt about the last
comments that Chet had made. But the more Johnny talked the more he
realized it was time to share his past and his heritage with the men
he worked with.
The call had been for a 25 car pile up on the 405 and had taken them
several hours to clean up. Roy and Johnny had been run ragged with
all the injuries. The department was only able to send out one other
squad which left the four paramedics very busy.
Roy was sitting in the doctor’s lounge at Rampart getting his
first break in six hours. He was waiting for word on his partner. Johnny
had been injured on the last rescue. He had pulled the little girl
from the car and passed her to Roy. Then the car had blown just as
Johnny had gotten clear. But he was close enough to have been tossed
into the air and thrown several feet onto the road. Although he had
kept his helmet on, he had hit his head pretty hard on the pavement.
Plus he had landed hard on his right shoulder. Roy was afraid that
he had broken his collar bone.
Roy’s thoughts went back to the situation at the station that
morning. It was then that he really remembered the look on Johnny’s
face after Chet had made another cutting remark about Indians and all
of the guys had laughed. As Roy thought about the remark now he really
didn’t see what was so funny about it. Johnny had just turned
and walked away. He thought about the remark that really went back
to the situation where Johnny had suggested using a tarp as protection
against a sniper. When Johnny had made the remark about it being the
same as an Indian blanket, Roy had readily agreed.
But Chet had brought it up again and this time had to make a remark. “Come
on Johnny. That’s just plain stupid. Anyone with half a brain
knows that a blanket won’t stop a bullet. You were just lucky.”
Four pair of eyes had glared at Chet, but none of them said a word.
Johnny had just turned and disappeared right after that without even
bothering to answer or look at any of them. Although Cap and Roy had
lit into Chet with Marco and Mike helping out, Roy realized they should
have said something while Johnny was still in the room. Now Roy knew
that Johnny believed they had agreed with Chet and that he probably
thought they all had believed that he was stupid. After he was through
with Chet, Roy had headed towards the dorm to talk to Johnny while
Cap talked to Chet some more. But just as Roy had gotten halfway across
the bay, the tones sounded. Roy thought back to the look of determination
he had seen on Johnny’s face. But he did not see any of the hurt
or anger that he expected to be there. There had been some sadness,
but Roy had the feeling it wasn’t about the comment Chet had
made. It was then that Roy realized that Johnny had been down the previous
shift but instead of trying to find out what was bothering his friend;
Roy had enjoyed a few more jokes at his partner’s expense. He
had not wanted to deal with Johnny’s “mood” and had
gone along with the jokes instead of being a friend.
Roy was worried about Johnny. He was in surgery because of the pressure
in his brain caused by his head injury. Roy knew that meant that it
was very serious. What had made Johnny so quiet and down the last two
weeks? He didn’t know anything that had happened either at the
station or on their off days that would have upset Johnny. Then he
thought back to when Johnny had tried to talk to him and he wouldn’t
listen. Thinking Johnny had been dumped by another girl, Roy had tuned
him out. But Johnny would never be down this long about a girl dumping
him. Would he ever get the opportunity to find out what was bothering
Lynnette glanced at her uncle as he navigated through the traffic
to Rampart. He had stopped by to pick her up after Johnny’s accident
to take her to the hospital. She prayed for Johnny’s recovery.
She knew Johnny was a fighter and would never just give up. Too many
people in his life had done that and she knew he never would.
The engine crew of station 51 had been released from cleanup after
engine 99 had appeared to help with the fire the explosion had caused.
Knowing they wouldn’t be in any shape to work until they had
received word on their fallen comrade, the chief sent them to Rampart
with the admonition to stay available. It didn’t take any persuading—the
crew hurried to the engine to head to Rampart. When Johnny had left
the room after Chet’s remark, each one thought of the last two
weeks and how the pranks and “jokes” about Johnny’s
heritage had escalated. They all realized they would not have endured
one third of what Johnny had. Each one of them knew that if anything
happened to Johnny, they would never forgive themselves for how they
had treated him the last few shifts. Chet knew that he was not the
only one who wouldn’t forgive himself. He knew the others would
never forgive him either. Oh sure, they had laughed, but he was the
one that kept pushing—he didn’t know when to stop. Or maybe
he did and just didn’t want to.
Roy looked up as the crew entered the lounge with the chief and his
niece close behind.
“Any word yet, Roy?” Hank wondered how they would all
handle it if Johnny didn’t make it. “How is he?”
“They took him to surgery about an hour after we got here. Bracket
and Early called in a specialist from Harbor General who is supposed
to be the best in the country. He was in surgery when they called.
He came as soon as he could and they rushed Johnny straight to surgery
to relieve the pressure in his brain.” Roy was fighting to keep
his emotions in check.
“That’s not a good sign, is it?” Chet’s voice
could barely be heard as he voiced the question on all the guys’ minds. “Will
he make it?”
“No, Chet, it isn’t a good sign at all. They don’t
know if he’ll make it or if he does make it if there will be
any brain damage. Dr. Early did tell me earlier that they are preparing
for some type of damage. He said that Johnny has slipped into a coma.” Roy
finally lost the battle with his emotions and the tears streamed down
“But this is Johnny we are talking about. He’ll make it.” Chet
had to keep his hopes up. The look on Johnny’s face as he left
the dayroom earlier in the day was vivid in his mind. He had to apologize
to Johnny. He was also determined to learn the truth about Johnny’s
culture—not take his ideas from what he had seen on TV and read
“Johnny is a fighter. I know that he will fight with everything
he’s got to recover.” Lynette had been listening to these
men. She knew that Johnny had been right when he came to the conclusion
that the pranks and comments from these men had been made out of ignorance,
not out of trying to hurt him.
“Can I ask how you know Johnny?” Cap wondered who this
young lady was.
“Hank, men, I would like you to meet my niece, Lynnette. She
has been dating Johnny for the last six months.” Chief McConnikee
watched the faces of the crew before him as they changed from one of
confusion to one of disbelief.
As each one acknowledged Lynnette, they realized that Johnny had not
shared this information with them. They all realized why—they
hadn’t been very good friends to Johnny over the last few months.
Lynnette acknowledged each one and took the seat offered to her by
Mike. She knew that Johnny would want her to share his story with them
now. He was going to need them in the coming months and they needed
to know about his life. “Guys, I know that you don’t know
very much about Johnny’s childhood. That’s because he didn’t
want anyone to pity him. But I know he would agree with me now that
it is time for you to learn a little bit about him.”
Each of the men pulled their chairs closer. They were all interested
in finding out about Johnny’s past—not because they wanted
to make fun of him but because they wanted to learn more about one
of the most fun-loving, outgoing, sensitive, caring, generous men they
had ever met.
“I also want you to know that Johnny told me on the phone this
morning that he plans on teaching all of you about his heritage so
you can know the real him and not get your ideas from the television
or books. He cares about all of you and knows that your ideas of his
heritage are incorrect because you are getting them from the TV and
books. He wants you to know the truth about his life.”
None of the men said a word. They all knew that Johnny had a very
forgiving heart and he had just proved it again. Each one wondered
what Johnny’s life had been like growing up to make him such
a forgiving, caring person.
Lynnette proceeded to tell them about how Johnny was truly feeling
after being on the receiving end of their teasing and pranks the last
few months. She also told them about David and why he had committed
suicide and the effect it was having on Johnny.
Lynnette stopped for a few minutes as the crew of Station 51 was absorbing
what she had just told them. Then she went on to tell them how Johnny
had been on the receiving end of the teasing and pranks all his life
and had overcome his feelings about it. But when he started getting
it at the station again, he felt that he deserved it and was tired
of being a bother to everyone around him. He had begun to feel that
the world would be better off without him.
“You mean he contemplated suicide?” Chet was afraid that
he had destroyed his friend.
“No, that was the one thing that seemed to bother Johnny the
most. He couldn’t understand why he was still here when everyone
would be better off without him. The one thing that he would not do
is take his own life. His mother committed suicide when he was 12.
Her family had disowned her when she had married his father and had
eventually blamed her for Johnny’s grandmother’s heart
attack. They said it was because of his mother that her mother died
younger than she should have. After a year of letters and phone calls
from Johnny’s aunts and uncles blaming her, his mother finally
took her own life when she couldn’t take it anymore. Two months
later, Johnny’s father took his own life. He had blamed Johnny
for his troubles from the moment he was born and had made sure that
Johnny knew it. Johnny doesn’t remember a day during his first
12 years of life that he did not receive at least two beatings from
his father just because he was alive. His father’s family had
disowned him when his parents were married, too.
“When his mother died, the beatings became more severe and there
were more of them each day because his father blamed him. His father
had said that if his mother had not gotten pregnant with Johnny, they
would have been able to convince her parents that their marriage was
not a bad thing. Johnny’s birth had, though, brought shame and
ridicule on his grandparents according to them. That’s why they
turned their backs completely on the young family. When she committed
suicide, her family started blaming his father and ultimately Johnny
for her death. When his father committed suicide, his family blamed
“Johnny was on his own until he was fifteen. He had found a
job on one of the ranches. He made sure that he went to school even
though he had to endure teasing and beatings for being a half-breed
every day there, too. When he was fifteen, one of his mother’s
sisters contacted him. She had been looking for him after his mother’s
and father’s deaths. She had always supported her sister, but
had been afraid to go against her family until they had ignored a twelve-year
old boy left with no one. She took Johnny into her home and helped
him gain self-confidence.
“When Johnny joined the fire department, he felt he was accomplishing
something with his life. Then the harassment and teasing started up
again. It wasn’t until he was a member of your shift that it
really began to bother him. He thought you all were becoming a family
but when you started teasing him, it was like his childhood all over
again. Then when he arrived home the morning after your shift a week
ago, he found that the one person who understood what he was feeling
had committed suicide and died twenty minutes before he arrived at
“David was a half-breed and had grown up with the same harassment
and beatings that Johnny had. When David met Sue he finally began to
believe that he was loveable after all. That is until he started this
new job and they hired a racist manager. David was the recipient of
all of the manager’s hatred and he couldn’t take it anymore.
Johnny actually was the one who found him dead. He had wanted to talk
to you about it, but the first thing that happened upon his arrival
last shift was a prank that hurt him deeply. He felt then that none
of you would have really cared.
“But as I said, he would not commit suicide. He knew first hand
what those left behind felt and what it did to them. Even though he
felt you didn’t really care about him, he wouldn’t do anything
that might make one of you feel even slightly bad. As I said earlier,
however, he decided that all of your teasing and harassment was from
ignorance and he was determined to teach you about his heritage. He
finally believed that all of you cared enough that if he taught you
about his life, you would be the family he never had.” Lynnette
looked at the faces in front of her. She could read their sorrow and
guilt in their eyes. Wanting to give them some time to talk, she asked
her uncle to take her to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee.
Chief McConnikee seeing that the five men needed some time alone,
readily agreed and escorted his niece out of the room. Just before
closing the door, the Chief looked at each of the men in the room, “you
do need to know, however, that Johnny called me and said that if it
didn’t work out like he thought it would he would ask me for
a transfer to another battalion and another shift. He said he wouldn’t
want to put any of you in danger because you don’t trust him.
He said if you didn’t listen to what he had to say and the pranks
continued you really couldn’t trust him. Even though I asked,
he wouldn’t file any complaints against any of you. He just doesn’t
want to put your lives in a situation that you wouldn’t trust
him to watch your backs.” The Chief knew that the five men had
a lot to think about and quietly followed his niece out of the room.
Chet was glued to the spot where he stood with his mouth hanging open.
Johnny couldn’t really believe they wouldn’t care about
him and couldn’t trust him on the job. What had he done? Johnny
was one of the best paramedics and rescue men in the country. How could
they make him believe he wouldn’t be trustworthy? In a trance,
he walked over and dropped down on the couch with his elbows on his
knees and his head buried in his hands. He knew that he was going to
be the first one to apologize to Johnny and to learn about his heritage.
Roy sat at the table slowly twirling his cup around. Johnny felt that
Roy might not trust him to watch his back. But what really made Roy
feel guilty was that Johnny would put their well being before anything
else. If they really didn’t trust him, they would worry going
into any situation and wouldn’t be able to do their job effectively
and wonder if they would make it out alive. And he was willing to ask
for a transfer to protect them from that worry. But Johnny was the
one member of their crew that all of the other members trusted the
most. He would be the first one into a situation and put the safety
of his crewmates before his own. What had they done? Johnny was willing
to give up the only family he had ever known. Roy was determined that
not only would he learn about Johnny’s heritage, he would make
sure Johnny taught Joanne and the kids, too. He wanted them to have
the knowledge so that they would never treat anyone the way he and
his crewmates had treated Johnny.
Mike was the quiet one. But this time he silently kicked himself for
being too quiet about this situation. He had laughed with the others
at Chet’s pranks, but he knew he would not have wanted to be
the one on the receiving end of those pranks or jokes. Yet he hadn’t
done a thing about them. He had seen the hurt on Johnny’s face
after several of the pranks, but he had turned the other way. Did he
deserve Johnny’s friendship? Did any of them? Mike decided he
would go to the University and see if someone on staff there was of
Native American descent and could help him begin to learn about the
customs and life of Johnny’s tribe.
Marco was going over the events of the past few months. He had been
sure that Chet was going too far in his pranks and jokes. He should
have been the one to reign Chet in. Oh, sure there were three other
guys who could have put a stop to the barrage, but Chet was his best
friend and he should have stopped him. Instead he laughed at Johnny,
looked the other way and even ignored Johnny’s responses. The
pain on Johnny’s face would be forever etched into his mind.
Was he fit to be a firefighter? Marco had been on the receiving end
of racial comments and knew how much it hurt. He devised a plan to
have Johnny come to dinner at his parents’ home and have all
of them learn about Johnny’s way of life.
Hank was pacing the room. He was in charge of this shift. As the Captain,
he was responsible for everything that went on during their shifts.
But one of his crew believed his own shift mates might not trust him
to watch their backs while on duty. Like Roy, Hank knew that that was
the farthest thing from the truth. Johnny was the one crewmember that
the others wanted to be there on any rescue—even the non-dangerous
ones. How could they have made him believe they might not trust him?
How could he have let something like this happen? Was he fit to be
a captain? If his crew, who were so close and cared deeply about each
other, could have this situation arise, then any other station or shift
could have the same thing happen. He was going to talk to the Chief
and set up a workshop for all the fire department employees to learn
not only about Johnny’s heritage, but about other minority cultures,
Hank had just turned and was making the trip back from the far wall
to the door when Dr. Brackett opened the door. All five men remained
as they were not daring to move a muscle. The look on Dr. Brackett’s
face was one of worry. It wasn’t good. “Gentlemen, let’s
all sit down at the table.” No one had voiced the question on
all their minds for fear the answer wouldn’t be good. But they
were sure they weren’t going to like what he was going to say
Slowly moving towards the table, they each thought they could put
off the inevitable. As Mike pulled the last chair into place, all five
men looked with expectation at Kelly Brackett’s face.
“Gentlemen, the news isn’t good. Johnny has a severely
fractured skull. He is still in a coma, but Dr. Connors took him into
surgery anyway. He has a subdural hematoma that Dr. Connors is trying
to locate and stop.” Dr. Brackett knew what questions would be
coming and really didn’t want to answer them. Maybe they wouldn’t
ask him. But that was only wishful thinking and he knew it.
“Doc, how bad is the bleeding?” Roy was the only one who
would really understand the severity of any type of subdural hematoma.
“It’s bad, Roy, and it doesn’t look good.” Dr.
Brackett knew these guys deserve the truth.
“Is he going to die?” Chet had to ask the question—he
really had to know.
“I can’t answer that for sure, Chet.” He could have
stopped there, but he knew that these guys needed to be prepared for
the worst. “But right now his chances are not real good. Even
if he does live it is highly likely he will suffer brain damage.”
The silence in the room was almost unbearable. Kel was about to try
to offer some support when he heard his name being paged over the loud
speaker to return to the surgical theater. Taking one last look at
the five men seated around the table, Kel hurried out the door to where
he was needed.
Chet was the first one to find his voice. “Johnny may die and
if he doesn’t, he probably has brain damage. And he believes
we might not trust him. He has to be alright…if for no other
reason than for us to apologize. It wasn’t enough.” Chet’s
last remark was made so quietly it was almost missed by the other guys.
“What wasn’t enough, Chet?” Mike heard the pain
in Chet’s voice.
“When I caused the disagreement between Johnny and Roy, I made
a fake peace pipe and Johnny got upset. It wasn’t enough.”
“Chet, that is because although smoking the peace pipe meant
something important to the Indians, they knew that when they smoked
it with the white man, it meant nothing. I think that when Roy said
that he wanted the pranks to continue because it broke up the day it
was the same as those white men who broke the treaties they swore to
honor. But Johnny has to be alright. The station won’t be the
same without him.” Mike was unaware of the stares he was getting
from the other guys. They hadn’t heard him put that many words
together in a long time.
“You’re right, Mike, he has to be alright. He is my best
friend and brother and it is about time I really found out about his
heritage—who he really is—and not from the television either.
Maybe I should go to the place where he was born and raised.” Roy
couldn’t imagine what Johnny’s life was going to be like
if he lived and suffered brain damage. Johnny was full of life and
had a heart as big as the world that was made of gold. How could they
have taken something they didn’t really know or understand and
use it to make fun of him?
The room grew quiet as each man realized they needed to find out about
their crewmate and his heritage. They each sent up a prayer that Johnny
would live. Each one determined that no matter what happened they would
be beside Johnny all the way and help him to get through whatever he
When the HT in Captain Stanley’s pocket beeped, all five men
startled and turned red. “Engine 51, what is your status?” Sam’s
calm voice came over the HT.
“Engine 51 available.” Cap knew it would help his engine
crew to have something to keep them busy.
“Stand by for response, engine 51.”
As the engine crew headed for the door, they each patted Roy on the
shoulder. Chet paused a little longer than the others and Cap was the
last one out of the door. “We’ll be praying for him and
will be back as soon as we can.”
“Thanks, Cap.” Although he didn’t wish the run on
anyone, he was thankful for the time he would be able to spend by himself.
As much as he loved the other guys, he needed to think and pray for
his friend by himself. When the door closed behind Cap, Roy slowly
got to his feet and headed to the hospital chapel to pray.
Roy was getting worried. He hadn’t heard a thing from the doctors
and he knew that the engine crew was on its way back to the hospital.
They had spent two hours putting out a very tough blaze but were now
wondering about their crewmate and friend once again. He had thought
that someone would have at least come out and let them know something.
But no one had even entered the lounge during that entire two hours.
He had just made it to the door to go see if he could find out anything
when Hank Stanley barreled through just missing Roy.
“Have you heard anything yet?” Hank was out of breath.
“No, I was just going to check to see what was going on.” Roy
saw the questioning looks on his crewmates’ faces.
Before anyone could say anything else, the door opened again. This
time it was Dixie that came through the door to find five every anxious
men staring at her.
“Have you heard anything, Dixie?” Roy couldn’t wait.
He needed to know what was happening to his best friend.
“The nurse just called down to let me know they are still working.
He had two severe bleeds and they want to make sure everything is taken
care of so they don’t have something unexpected happen and they
have to go back in.”
“Dixie, what else is going on?” Roy knew there was something
Dixie wasn’t telling them.
Dixie took a deep breath. She knew she couldn’t get anything
past Roy, but had hoped he couldn’t read her distress. But he
knew her too well. “His heart stopped three times. Each time
it was harder to get it started. Kel says that if it stops again, he
is pretty sure they won’t be able to get it started again.”
“How much longer will he be in surgery?” Roy was worried
now. The longer Johnny was in surgery, the higher the increase in the
chance his heart would stop again—the higher the increase in
the chance Johnny would die.
Dixie hated being the bearer of bad news, but she also knew she couldn’t
lie to these men. “They aren’t sure, Roy, but Kel estimates
at least another two hours.”
Roy sank onto the sofa and dropped his head into his hands. In all
likelihood, Johnny would die before the surgery was done. His heart
would be weakened from the three times it had stopped already. Plus
the stress from his initial injuries would have weakened his heart.
He had to pull through. But if he did make it through surgery, how
much brain damage would he have? Roy didn’t think if, he knew
from the extent of the injuries and the underlying message from Dixie
that Johnny would definitely suffer some type of brain damage.
Lynnette slowly opened the door. She wanted to know if they had heard
anything. When they had taken Johnny to surgery, she had gone to run
some errands to keep her mind off the man she had grown to love. She
was worried about him—not only about his physical problems, but
his emotional ones as well. But it had been five hours and she wanted
to know what was going on.
Roy looked up at the slowly opening door. “Hi, Lynnette, come
on it.” He silently kicked himself for the fact that he had treated
Johnny so badly, he wouldn’t even tell him about this woman and
that he had been dating her for six months. “Please have seat.”
“Have you heard anything yet?” Lynnette saw the worry
in Roy’s face. They really did care about Johnny.
“He’s been in surgery for the last five hours. He had
bleeding in his brain. They are trying to locate it and stop it.”
“Is there any permanent damage?”
“He had slipped into a coma before surgery, so they couldn’t
tell. However, they are pretty sure that if he survives, there will
be some brain damage.”
“If he survives?”
“Yeah, they don’t give him very good odds of even making
it through the surgery.” Roy then proceeded to fill Lynnette
in on the information they had been given.
Six faces turned towards the door as Kelly Brackett, Joe Early and
Dixie McCall entered the lounge. Roy tried to read their faces to see
if he could tell how Johnny was. But they kept their expressions neutral.
That really worried him. He knew if it was good news they all would
have been smiling.
“Lynnette, we need to talk to you.” Dr. Brackett knew
that the guys weren’t going to be happy, but Johnny had taken
Roy off as next of kin and temporarily asked Lynnette to act on his
behalf for any decisions that need to be made.
“Doc, how is Johnny?” Roy couldn’t stand the wait
and wondered why Dr. Brackett hadn’t said anything to begin with.
“I can’t tell you, Roy.” Kel watched the faces of
the six men around him.
“What do you mean you can’t tell us?” Roy was beginning
to get irritated. “I’m listed as Johnny’s next of
kin. I have the right to know.”
“Not any more, Roy. Johnny changed that about two months ago.
Lynnette is now listed as the person to contact in making decisions.” Dixie
knew that the news was not going to be well received.
“Oh, but you told us about his condition before.” Roy
wasn’t sure what was going on.
“Lynnette had given us her permission. But now we need to discuss
the outcome of the operation and his future.” Joe Early wondered
what had gone on among these men.
“Please, they have a right to know. Johnny didn’t want
to keep them from knowing, he just felt they really wouldn’t
want the burden of having to make the decisions. Johnny said this morning
that he thought things were going to work out and he was going to put
Roy back on as next of kin. These men really care for Johnny like a
brother. Johnny would want them to know.” Lynnette had spent
hours talking with Johnny and knew her statements were correct—Johnny
loved these men. They were family to him. He had not wanted to put
any of them in the position of being responsible for him if they really
didn’t want to be.
“Ok, well he made it through surgery although I’m not
sure how. His blood pressure dropped as we were closing and we thought
we were losing him. But somehow things turned around and he made it.
Now we start the waiting. He is going to be sent up to ICU for close
monitoring. He is not out of the woods by a long shot. If he makes
it though the night, then we can check to see if or how much brain
damage he may have.”
“Can we see him?” Roy’s heart was breaking. He had
to tell his best friend that he cared for him and that he trusted him
with his life.
“When he is settled in ICU in about an hour, then you can see
him, if it is ok with Lynnette.”
“Of course it is. He’d want to see all of you.”
Dr. Brackett was glad that whatever had been going on at Station 51,
they all wanted to work it out. He left the room when he heard his
name over the intercom.
Chet took the seat Dr. Brackett had vacated. “Johnny has to
be ok. I need to tell him how sorry I am. He is the most trustworthy
fireman I have every met.”
“Let’s hope we can tell him.” Mike sat at the other
empty chair at the table.
Johnny was floating on a sea of darkness. He had seen a tunnel with
a bright light at the other end four times. But each time, something
drew him back. Now he was beginning to feel pain—a lot of it.
But he still wasn’t sure if he wanted to wake up or just give
in to the blackness forever. It was then he heard a voice that seemed
familiar but he couldn’t put a name with it. He couldn’t
remember why, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to wake up and talk
to whoever the voice belonged. There was something not quite right—something
telling him that this person wouldn’t want to talk to him. But
he was here. If he didn’t want to talk to Johnny why was he there?
Roy could see Johnny’s eyes moving behind his eye lids. He prayed
that Johnny would wake up while he was there. It had been three days
and someone had been by Johnny’s side the entire time. Lynnette
would be relieving him in about ten minutes, but he wanted to be the
one that was there when Johnny finally woke up. “Johnny, its
Roy. Please partner, wake up for me. I want to see those big brown
eyes of yours and be able to tell Joanne and the kids that you are
Johnny slowly opened his eyes. He searched for the voice. When his
eyes made contact with the man sitting beside his bed. As the smile
crossed Roy’s tired face, all thoughts Johnny had of Roy not
wanting to talk to him disappeared. “R-o-y” Johnny’s
voice cracked from the dryness. He tried again after Roy had offered
him some water. “Roy.” That was all that Johnny was able
to get out before he lost the battle with sleep.
Roy looked up as the door opened admitting Dr. Brackett. “Hi,
Roy, how’s our star patient?”
“He opened his eyes and said my name.” Roy was glad that
Johnny had recognized him. They were all still worried about how much
brain damage Johnny had suffered. “Then he fell asleep. At least
I hope it is just sleep and not unconsciousness.”
Dr. Brackett had walked over to Johnny’s bed and was examining
him. The smile that had been missing from his face for the last three
days was beginning to form. “Yes, he is just asleep. And it is
a very good sign that he knew who you are. Why don’t you go let
a few people know why I do a quick exam to see how he is doing?”
With a smile on his face as he took one last look at Johnny, Roy headed
out of the door. “Thanks Doc. Take good care of him for us.” There
was spring to his step as he left the room.
Chet was still sitting in the corner of the room in complete silence.
Johnny had to be ok—he just had to be. He didn’t even look
up as the door opened—at least not until he heard the sound of
“Roy, what happened? What is going on?” Mike was the first
one to notice the huge smile on Roy’s face as he walked in.
“Johnny regained consciousness, recognized me and fell asleep.
Brackett is in with him now checking him over.”
“That’s a good sign, isn’t it?” Captain Stanley
had a glimmer of hope for the first time all day.
“Yeah, it is. There may still be some brain damage—maybe
even quite a bit, but the fact that he recognized me is a step in the
right direction.” Roy looked at Chet as he poured himself a cup
of coffee. Chet still seemed—scared was the only word Roy could
think of. “Chet, no matter what Johnny’s prognosis is,
he is going to be ok.”
“Are you sure? What if he has so much brain damage, he can’t
come back to work? That will kill him. And it will be all my fault.” Chet’s
face showed his anxiety.
“Chet, if Johnny has brain damage and can’t return to
work, he is definitely not going to blame you. This was an accident—a
risk of the job and Johnny knew that when he went to help the people
in the car. He will be more upset to think that you are blaming yourself.
You didn’t make the car blow up. Now, I am going to take my turn
and go sit with Johnny. You need to pull yourself together and realize
that this was just an accident. Johnny is going to need you and if
I know him, he will be asking about all of you the first chance he
gets. Chet, Johnny thinks of you, Mike, Marco and Roy as the older
brothers he never had. Hank, although you are not really old enough
to be his father, he respects you enough that he considers you the
father figure in his life—the father he wishes he could have
had. Please don’t blame yourselves and remember Johnny cares
about all of you.” Lynnette quietly left the room to give the
five men some privacy to talk amongst themselves.
“You know, Johnny had better hang on to her. She cares about
him and is perfect for him. He really deserves something good happening
in his life.” Chet was staring at the closed door of the lounge.
“You’re right. And we are going to see that he knows that
we all care about him, too.” Hank saw the determination he felt
on the faces of the four other men in the room. “Maybe when Johnny
is released, we can plan a trip to where he grew up and learn not only
about his heritage, but about his life as a child.”
“That’s a great idea, Cap. What all do we need to do to
get it into place?” Chet had a smile on his face for the first
time since they had all watched in horror as Johnny was thrown through
the air by the explosion.
Lynnette sat next to Johnny’s bed thinking about the five men
she had left in the lounge. Johnny had been right when he said they
really did care, they just didn’t know the real truth about his
heritage and his life. She had to admit she had planned to tell Johnny
that she thought he should either transfer out of Station 51 or maybe
even leave L.A. altogether. But she had waited when he said he wanted
to teach his friends and now she was glad she had.
Lynnette didn’t notice the big brown eyes watching her from
under half-closed lids. Johnny was beginning to wake up and he was
enjoying the quiet. As he watched Lynnette, his mind was recalling
the events that led up to his current visit to Rampart. He remembered
the events that had taken place at the station before they were called
out to the MVA. He wondered if Lynnette’s presence there meant
that the guys didn’t really care. But then he remembered when
he had regained consciousness and Roy was by his beside. He knew that
at least Roy if not the others were probably under Dixie’s feet
and that if it was only Roy, he was calling the others at least twice
Shifting slightly, the pain shot down Johnny’s arm. His gasp
of pain brought Lynnette out of her reverie. She was by his side in
two seconds. “Did I break my shoulder?” Johnny knew that
something was broken because of all the pain he was experiencing. “What
other damage did I do this time?”
Lynnette smiled as she told Johnny about his fractured skull and his
broken collar bone. She also told him about the surgery he had gone
through to relieve the pressure in his brain. When she told him he
had been unconscious for three days, he grimaced.
“Are the guys here?” Johnny wasn’t sure if he really
wanted to know or not.
“Yeah, today is their day off and all five of them are driving
Dixie crazy.” Lynnette wasn’t a doctor, but she was processing
the fact that Johnny seemed to remember everything. She watched as
he moved in the bed to try to find a more comfortable spot. It would
take the doctors’ examination to be sure, but she had a good
feeling—she was fairly certain Johnny had miraculously made it
through without any brain damage.
“I’d like to see them all, but can you send Dr. Brackett
and Dixie in first. I know that I’m going to need something for
the pain soon and I want to talk to them.”
“Sure, I’ll be right back.” Lynnette leaned over
and kissed Johnny on the forehead. She didn’t want to cause him
any more pain than he was already in. As she walked out of the room,
she saw the smile he gave her. Hurrying to the emergency department,
she hoped to get to Dixie and Dr. Brackett before any of the guys saw
her. She was relieved when she found the two people she was looking
for at the Emergency Room’s nurses’ desk. “Dr. Brackett,
Johnny is awake and wants to talk to you and Dixie before he sees the
Dixie turned the desk over to Carol and went with Kel to Johnny’s
room. They were both pleased to see that he was awake and while Lynnette
stood in the background, put Johnny through some rigorous testing to
see how much brain damage had been done.
“Johnny, I don’t know how, but I can’t find any
signs of brain damage at all. Of course, we will need to wait a day
or two to get you out of bed and we might find something then, but
I don’t think we will.” Dr. Brackett was excited that Johnny
had come through this accident with only a fractured skull and a broken
“I am so glad for you Johnny. But it looks like you could really
use something for the pain.” Dixie was as pleased as Dr. Brackett
that it seemed Johnny would make a 100% recovery.
“Yeah, I could. But I’d like to see the guys first. Knowing
them, they are all probably each blaming themselves for something they
had no control over.” Johnny stopped trying to get comfortable.
He would wait until they gave him some pain medication.
Dixie smiled as Lynnette let out a little chuckle. “You know
the guys all too well. Come on Lynnette, let’s let Dr. Brackett
do one more vitals check while we go talk to the guys.” Dixie
hooked her arm in Lynnette’s and headed out of the room.
The five healthy members of Station 51’s A-shift had just finished
making plans for a trip to Johnny’s boyhood home. They had made
a list of things that needed to be done and divided it up so nothing
would be forgotten. The only questions that none of them had the answers
to were Johnny had suffered and if he would allow them to take him
back so they could learn about his life.
Dixie and Lynnette chuckled as they walked into the lounge and found
five men lost so deep in thought that none of them had even heard the
door opening. They laughed when Roy and Chet both jumped out of their
chairs when the two women put their hands on the shoulders of the two
men. “Careful, guys, we don’t either one of you to end
up here as patients.”
“Dixie, Lynnette, what’s going on?” Roy was concerned
when he saw the two women standing there.
“Well, Dr. Brackett is finishing up an examination on Johnny
right now. Then Johnny wants to talk to all of you before the medication
he will be receiving for pain kicks in. He is sure you are all blaming
yourselves for his accident.”
None of the other guys thought anything about Johnny wanting to talk
to them. Roy was afraid to get his hopes up, but the fact that Johnny
wanted to talk to them was a good sign. “Dixie, did Johnny—is
there any—?” Roy couldn’t bring himself to ask whether
Johnny had suffered any brain damage or not.
“Roy, Kel did some very rigorous testing and all indications
are that Johnny has suffered no brain damage. We won’t be 100%
sure until they get him out of bed in a day or two, but everything
looks good right now.”
“I swear that guy leads a charmed life. Who else would suffer
the head injury he did and come out of it smelling like a rose?” Chet
was so relieved to hear that Johnny was going to be alright.
“He deserves to have something go right in his life. I wonder
how he became the person he is with all of the harassment and abuse
he suffered. If it was me, I think I would be filled with hatred and
anger—not forgiveness.” Mike knew they all wanted to learn
about Johnny’s heritage.
“I don’t know, but I, for one, am glad that he is the
caring, compassionate, forgiving person he is. I couldn’t ask
for a better best friend.” Roy was already opening the door to
go see his partner. “Come on, let’s go.” He was followed
by the rest of A-shift as he headed for Johnny’s room.
Hank stopped and looked out over the yard as he watched Chet and Marco
playing with the kids. Roy and Mike stood off to one side talking with
their host. And Johnny was sitting in a lawn chair taking in all that
was going on around him. Johnny had spent two weeks in the hospital
and another month at the DeSoto home before Dr. Brackett would allow
him to travel. But as soon as he got the ok, Johnny planned the trip
back to where he grew up that would teach his shift mates about his
life. Chief McConnikee had not only arranged for all five men to have
the time off, he and Lynette had joined the group.
Chet hoped that the best part of the trip back had been when Johnny’s
Uncle had come to the hotel where they were staying to find him. The
hotel clerk was a friend of Tom White Feather and had told him that
his nephew was in town. Tom had known that Johnny would not look up
any of his family members because of the way they had treated him during
his childhood and when he needed them the most. So he had gone looking
for his nephew. Now they were at the White Feather home and Johnny
was meeting relatives he had not even known he had. Hank knew that
this trip would not erase Johnny’s childhood years, but maybe
Johnny would have someone beside A-shift to care about him.
Roy was watching his best friend. Johnny was looking at all the people
who had gathered at his Uncle’s home. Relatives from both his
Mother’s and Father’s side were gathered to meet the person
they had all abandoned as a 12-year old child. Roy wondered how they
could expect him to just forgive and forget. As he watched Johnny he
knew that Johnny was being polite. He could see the pain in Johnny’s
eyes. All of these relatives had turned their backs on his parents
and cost him not only his family, but also his safety. Roy knew that
Johnny would most likely exchange a few Birthday and Christmas cards
with these relatives, but he doubted Johnny would ever return for a
Johnny’s heart was breaking. He knew that his childhood would
have been totally different if they had only accepted his parents’ marriage
from the beginning. The only reason he had accepted this invitation
was to show his friends what an Indian get together was like. It would
show how hard life on the reservation had been.
The group had been in the area for a week and Johnny had been able
to take his friends around the reservation and even to some of the
ceremonies of his heritage. They would be here for another four days.
Johnny had been pleased with the way his friends had learned everything
they could. He knew they had really changed their opinion when Chet
apologized over and over for the pranks he had played on him.
Lynnette walked over to where Johnny was sitting. “This trip
has taught us all a lot of things, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah, I know that it has been a good trip. I’m glad we
“So am I. I think the other guys are, too. It has been a great
for all of us. How are you feeling?”
“I’m tired, but it is a good tired. I think I’ll
be ready to go soon though. I’ve had enough of my ‘family’.
I don’t know what changed their minds to want to get to know
me now, but it doesn’t change how they treated my parents and
for abandoning me when I needed them the most. I’ll probably
send them cards at Christmas and for birthdays, but I don’t know
if I’ll come back to visit. You know, I think I’m ready
to go home. We don’t need to stay any longer. I want to get home
to my real ‘family’.”
“That’s understandable. Let me go talk to Roy and Captain
Stanley. I agree with you. I think it is time to go home.” Lynnette
kissed Johnny on the cheek and headed to where the station 51 A-shift
had slowly congregated.
Hank knew as soon as he saw Lynnette headed toward them that Johnny
was about ready to go. “Johnny’s getting tired and is
about ready to go isn’t he?” He didn’t wait for
Lynnette to tell them.
“Yeah, but he’s ready to not only leave this gathering,
he is ready to go home. He says that’s where his real family
“I’ll gather the rest of the group and we can take Johnny
back where he belongs.” Hank knew that although Johnny would
do what he felt would honor his parents by exchanging cards with the
people gathered at his Uncle’s house, he would never be close
to any of them. Johnny had found in the A-Shift and his friends back
in L.A. the family he had never had growing up.
Today was Johnny’s first day back to work and the other five
members of the Station 51 A-shift family all arrived half an hour early
to set up the welcome back for him.
Johnny pulled into the parking lot and backed into “his” parking
spot. He was looking forward to this shift. He was going to be with
his family—with people who really cared about him. Taking a deep
breath as he locked his Rover, Johnny started whistling as he headed
towards the station. He was greeted with shouts of “surprise” when
he opened the door and knew he was “home.”
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