It was a week before Christmas and Nicole and Johnny
were babysitting for the DeSotos so they could have a night out. They
had left their kids with Mrs. Martin, a lady from Nicole’s old
apartment building who was far away from her grandchildren and missed
them terribly. Johnny and Nicole took Chris and Jenny shopping for
their parents’ Christmas presents and to spend a little time
with just the two kids. They had one more store to go into before they
were done for the evening.
Just before they could go into the store, Chris ran into some of the
older kids from his middle school. He was trying to be one of the “cool” crowd,
so he was hoping to become friends with these guys. They were the wrong
crowd to be running with and his parents had forbid him to even talk
to these kids.
When the three boys, Bill, Mark and Philip asked if he could “hang” with
them, he asked Johnny if he could go. His irritation showed when Jennifer
said that their parents wouldn’t like it because these guys were
always getting into trouble at school. Nicole looked at Chris. “Is
that true, Chris?”
“They don’t even know these guys. They are the cool kids
and I am going to be their friend. I am going with them.” Chris
started walking away.
“No, you aren’t, Chris.” Johnny grabbed Chris’ arm.
“You are not my parents. You are not my Aunt and Uncle—you
aren’t even family so you can’t tell me what to do. I am
going with them and you can’t stop me.” He pulled away
from Johnny and the four boys started running through the mall. It
was at the entrance that they ran into Bill’s older cousin, Wayne.
Wayne led the group out of the mall. What Chris didn’t know was
that Wayne and Bill were both carrying guns.
Johnny had taken off after the group with Nicole and Jennifer close
on his heels. The group of boys had made it out of the mall and over
to the 7-11 that was at the north end of the mall by the time Johnny,
Nicole and Jennifer came out of the mall. Johnny yelled Chris’ name.
He knew Chris heard him because he looked their way, but he ignored
them and kept going. Johnny was getting a bad feeling about what was
going on. He took off running across the parking lot.
Something made him stop as he got to the door. He peeked in and saw
Wayne holding a gun on the clerk, demanding all the money. Bill and
another kid had Chris by the arms and wouldn’t let him go. Seeing
a pay phone near the door, Johnny called the police and told them what
was going on. Then he went back to his vigil at the door. He was trying
to figure out a way to get Chris away from the group and find out what
the kid was doing.
There had been a drug bust a block away from the store. When the call
came, there were three cars that were free since the bust was complete.
They immediately headed towards the store. When Wayne and Bill heard
the sirens, they panicked. Wayne turned the gun on Chris and Johnny
charged through the front door. Nicole and Jennifer followed.
Johnny stopped about five feet from the door. “What’s
going on?” He tried to make it seem like they just walked in
and didn’t see the gun.
“Get over here—all of you.” Wayne turned the gun
on Johnny. Johnny didn’t know that Nicole and Jennifer had followed
him in and his heart leapt to his throat when he realized they were
included in the group.
“Hey, what’s going on? We just came in to get some soft
drinks. Chris, I know you still have 10 or 15 minutes left before you
were suppose to meet us, but why don’t you come with us now.
Nicole isn’t feeling very well and I’d like to get her
home.” Johnny knew that Wayne wasn’t going to let them
go, but he thought he would give it a try. As he had looked at Bill
and back at Wayne, he realized they were both high on drugs. Now he
was praying that they would all just get out of there alive. He thought
they were going to be ok when Bill and Wayne started backing towards
“No one is going anywhere. Bill, come on, let’s get out
of here.” Wayne was getting frustrated and just wanted to get
out of there. It was at that moment that the police cars showed up
with sirens blaring. Bill pulled out another gun and both men motioned
the other people in the store behind some shelves so the police would
not see any of them. Johnny held Nicole and Jennifer tight and Chris
made his way over to them.
Wayne thought he saw something moving outside so he started shooting
at the police, which, of course, brought gunfire from the police. Bill
joined the melee and soon there were bullets flying all around. Wayne
and Bill had each pulled out another gun making a total of four between
them. Looking at the other boys they had brought in with them, they
threw two of them to Mark and Philip who soon joined the fracas. Johnny
was trying to come up with a plan to get them all out of there.
“Hey, Chris, want to come and have some fun.” The drugs
Bill had taken gave him extra courage. He was motioning for Chris to
come and take his gun and join the group.
“NO, I don’t. This is not fun. Someone is going to get
hurt or killed.” Chris now understood why his parents didn’t
want him associating with this group and he was sorry he had disobeyed
Johnny. He was really feeling bad about what he had said to Johnny
“Oh come on, Chris.” With that Bill pulled Chris to his
Johnny jumped up to pull Chris back as Wayne turned his gun on Jennifer.
Without thinking, Nicole laid over Jennifer to protect her with her
back to Wayne. Johnny stepped in front of Chris and at that moment
everything broke loose. Nicole felt the pain in her lower back and
Johnny felt the pain in his upper left shoulder. But they were both
concerned with keeping Chris and Jennifer safe.
It was only 30 seconds later that Vince stood over the dead bodies
of Wayne and Bill Stevens. Mark and Philip were in custody. Paramedics
from Squads 16 and 41 had been called in as soon as the police arrived
and were now checking out the group in the store.
Chris had been hit in the back of his right shoulder by a falling
shelf. Jennifer had been hit by some flying glass and had cuts on her
arms and face. Mark and Philip had been cut by flying glass, too.
Captains Dwyer and Brice came in behind their paramedics. Both men
were surprised to see one of their own involved in the situation.
As the paramedics came in the door, they were surprised to see Johnny
already checking to see how everyone was. “What do you have for
Johnny went down the list of injuries for the four kids. He didn’t
think about his shoulder and hadn’t seen the blood on Nicole’s
“How about you, two? You have some blood on your shoulder and
Nicole has some on her back.” Dwyer looked over at the two adults.
“It’s probably from one of the kids. Let’s just
get these guys into Rampart. We’ll get checked out there.” Johnny
was worried about how Roy and Joanne were going to take this. “Vince,
Roy and Joanne should be home by now. Will you call them and tell them
to meet us at Rampart?”
Vince nodded as Nicole and Johnny went with Chris and Jennifer in
the ambulances to Rampart.
Roy and Joanne were both worried as they headed into Rampart’s
ER. Dixie met them at the counter and led them into treatment room
3 where they had placed both kids since ER was very busy.
Roy rushed in and saw both his kids with Johnny and Nicole standing
near them. “What happened?”
Vince stepped up and told them what had happened. He didn’t
leave out the part that Mark and Philip were trying to put blame on
Chris, too, since he was with them when they went into the store to
“What do you mean Chris was with them?” Roy looked at
Johnny with eyes full of anger.
“According to the clerk, Chris was with the group when they
entered the store.” Vince didn’t realize what was going
“You let him go with them. He was supposed to be with both of
you—not those kids. And we called you family. This is your fault.
Well, you sure didn’t care enough about our kids to protect them
did you?” Roy didn’t see that Nicole’s face was whiter
than a sheet or that Johnny’s shirt was red with his own blood. “If
that is the way you are going to take care of our kids, I never want
you near them again. Now get out of here.”
Johnny looked at Roy and then at Joanne with pain in his eyes. Joanne
didn’t seem as angry as Roy, but he saw something he couldn’t
quite figure out. Nodding, he put his arm around Nicole and walked
out of the room with Dixie right behind them.
“He’s just scared, Johnny. He didn’t mean any of
it.” Dixie then noticed the blood on Nicole’s back. She
saw the blood on Johnny’s shirt when Johnny turned around to
“Yes, he did, Dixie. And every word of it is true.” Johnny
turned back around and the Gages continued their trip down the hall.
“Johnny, you and Nicole are both hurt. Let me get someone to
look at you.” Dixie was growing concerned at the amount of blood
“No, it’s probably just some cuts from the glass. We’ll
take care of them at home. We’ll be fine. Don’t waste anyone’s
time here to look at us. We aren’t worth it. We are refusing
treatment.” Johnny never turned around, but kept right on walking.
Back in the treatment room Jennifer couldn’t help the tears
that ran down her cheeks. It wasn’t because of the cuts and stitches
she had received. She was mad at her mother and father. “Why
did you send Aunt Nicole and Uncle Johnny away?” She wouldn’t
let either her mother or her father even touch her let alone hug her.
“Because they don’t really care about you.” Roy
knew he was saying something he might regret later, but he couldn’t
“Yes, they do Dad.” Chris knew this was his fault and
he had just caused two very special people a lot of pain. He pushed
his parents away, too.
“No, they don’t. If they did, they never would have let
you go with those guys in the first place.” Roy was getting angrier.
How could his kids stick up for Johnny and Nicole after what they had
put them through?
“They didn’t let me go with them. Uncle Johnny told me
I couldn’t and even tried to stop me. I told them that they weren’t
my parents. I told them they really weren’t my Aunt and Uncle
and that they weren’t even family so they couldn’t tell
me what to do. Then I said I was going to go with the guys and they
couldn’t stop me. Then I ran away with Mark, Philip and Bill.
We met Bill’s cousin Wayne at the door to the mall and things
just happened so fast after that. I tried to go back to Uncle Johnny
when I heard him call me just as we got to the door of the 7-11, but
Mark and Philip grabbed me and pushed me into the store in front of
them. I knew I had made a mistake and wanted to get out of there. I
didn’t know what they were going to do or that they had guns
until they pulled them on the clerk.” Chris was crying but it
wasn’t because of the pain his dislocated shoulder had caused.
Roy was about to say something when Dwyer stuck his head in to check
on the kids. “How are Jennifer and Chris?”
Roy took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice calm. “Chris
had to have a dislocated shoulder reset. Jennifer has some cuts. There
were a couple that needed stitches, but they will both be alright.”
“What about Johnny and Nicole? How are they?” Dwyer didn’t
know that no one in the room knew that Johnny and Nicole had been injured.
He had brought the squad in for his paramedics.
“What do you mean, Charlie?” Dr. Brackett looked at the
Captain and then at Roy.
“He means that when Johnny and Nicole left here, they were both
had blood on them. I asked if they were alright.” Dixie had walked
back into the room in time to hear Dwyer’s question. She didn’t
hear Chris’ confession. “Johnny said that it probably just
some cuts from the glass and that they were both fine. He said they
would take care of their injuries at home and not to waste anyone’s
time here to look at them because they weren’t worth it. Then
they refused treatment and left.”
“Why didn’t they say something? Why didn’t you try
to stop them?” Roy was beginning to get concerned.
“Because you didn’t give them a chance to say anything
and because they are blaming themselves for what happened tonight.
I told them I would get someone to look at them and they just kept
walking. I don’t think they wanted anyone here to check them
out. They refused treatment and you know we can’t force someone
to get treated.” Dixie looked Roy straight in the eyes.
“How did they get hurt?” Roy felt guilty as he realized
that neither Johnny nor Nicole had said a word or tried to defend themselves
and were probably feeling guilty about what had happened.
“When Bill pulled me up and pointed a gun at me, Uncle Johnny
pulled me away and stepped between us. Then when Wayne pointed a gun
at Jennifer, Aunt Nicole laid over Jennifer to keep her protected.
It was then that the police came storming in and I heard two shots
really close. I think they were shot—not cut by glass.” Chris
was really feeling bad now. Johnny and Nicole were hurt, hadn’t
gotten any help and were feeling guilty.
“Where are they now? How did they get here?” Roy knew
he had to find their friends. He had a lot to apologize for. He realized
that Johnny and Nicole had put their own lives in danger to protect
his kids. And all he did was blamed them and tell them they didn’t
“They rode in with the kids in the ambulance.” Dwyer wasn’t
sure what had happened in this room, but he did know that neither Johnny
nor Nicole had looked very good at the scene and were probably not
doing very good right now either. He knew that even though Johnny had
said it was probably blood from one of the kids that it was really
theirs and they were hurt. “They wouldn’t let us check
them out at the scene. They just wanted to get Chris and Jennifer in
here to make sure they were alright.”
“Then they should still be here. How are they going to get back
to their car?” Roy ran out of the treatment room looking for
the couple feeling even guiltier after listening to Dwyer’s account
of what had transpired. Johnny and Nicole’s only concern had
been focused on Jennifer and Chris and all Roy had done was tell them
they really didn’t care about the kids.
As he ran past the ER desk Susan, the nurse on duty, called to him. “Where
are you going so fast?”
“I’m looking for Johnny and Nicole. Have you seen them?” He
knew they had to be around somewhere.
“Oh, they were picked up by a taxi a few minutes ago. They really
didn’t look too good. Both of them were in a lot of pain and
there was an awful lot of blood. Are they alright? Why didn’t
they let one of the doctors look at them?”
“I hope they are alright.” Roy turned to head back to
the treatment room and the group that waited for word. His face said
it all as he entered the room. “They left a few minutes ago in
“Roy, let me take Joanne and the kids home. You take your car
and head over to the mall where they left their car. Vince can you
call headquarters and let them know to keep an eye out for them and
that they need help?” Dixie took control of the situation.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea, Dix.” Roy was glad to
be doing something.
Just before they all left the room, Jennifer’s quiet voice could
be heard asking, “Daddy, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nicole will be
alright won’t they?”
Chris gasped. It was at that moment the full meaning of what his actions
did that night hit him. “I not only put my self in danger, I
put Uncle Johnny, Aunt Nicole, and Jenny in danger. Any one of us could
have gotten killed.” Chris was crying harder than he had ever
cried before. “And right now Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nicole may
be seriously hurt.”
“Yes, Chris.” Dixie felt sorry for the 13-year boy who
had just learned a very hard lesson of life.
“What is going to happen to me? Am I going to jail for being
part of this?” Chris felt it was what he deserved.
“No, Chris, Mark and Philip finally told us they made you go—that
you had nothing to do with it.” Vince felt sorry for him, too.
No one said a word as the group solemnly filed out of the room.
Five Days Before Christmas, 1981
It had been thirty-six hours and there was no sign of Johnny and Nicole.
Even the kids had disappeared. No one knew how, but they had disappeared.
Roy had gone to the mall to see if they had picked up their car, but
it was still there. He then over to their house. Not getting a response
to his knock and really beginning to worry about the extent of their
injuries, he used his key and let himself into their house. They had
not been home. Joanne and Roy kept an eye on the Gage ranch, but the
Gages did not show up. There was no place left to look for them. The
calls Joanne and Dixie had made to all the hospitals within a 50-mile
radius came up empty.
Roy had taken the next shift off to help take care of his kids. But
stations 14, 24 and 51 were supposed to meet today to plan the Christmas
party they were jointly putting on for Rampart. They were to meet at
station 51—it had been Johnny’s idea. On one hand Roy dreaded
going to the meeting the next morning. What if Johnny wasn’t
there? On the other hand Roy hoped that Johnny’s and Nicole’s
injuries were just from glass like they said and that Johnny would
be there. Then he could apologize for how he had treated the only brother
he had ever had. If Johnny wasn’t there, Roy didn’t know
what he was going to do and he really didn’t want to explain
it to the others.
When Roy pulled into the parking lot, the sight of Johnny’s
empty parking space tightened the knot in his stomach. Johnny always
arrived earlier than his crew to make sure he was prepared for the
day from the moment roll call began. But maybe he was just running
late today. At least that was what Roy was hoping. He walked into the
station wondering where Johnny and Nicole could have gone. Then he
remembered something that Johnny had told them—that Nicole knew
how to hide unless she wanted to be found. But where could they hide
if they were hurt? He was thankful that he arrived early and was in
the day room getting coffee before the others showed up. He knew he
was going to have to face them sooner or later, but he was opting for
later at this point.
Marco, Chet and Mike soon joined him for coffee. “Hey, Roy,
where’s Johnny this morning?” Chet was surprised that Johnny
wasn’t there yet. “Is he back to his old ways of being
Before Roy could answer, Chief Hank Stanley and Captain Charlie Dwyer
entered the room. “Johnny called in sick today. Charlie will
be filling in for him. Roy, I need to talk to you in Johnny’s
office.” Chief Stanley needed to ask Roy about what was going
on. Johnny had said something else and Hank needed to find out what
he had meant.
“Are he and Nicole going to be alright, Roy?” Dwyer didn’t
know about everything that transpired in that treatment room less than
two days ago. He also didn’t know that the rest of the three
crews that were now gathered in the dayroom had no idea what was going
Less than two days—it seemed like a lifetime. Roy jumped as
he heard Hank’s voice and realized it was the third time he had
called his name.
“Roy, what is Dwyer talking about?” Something was going
on and Hank really needed to find out what.
“Did you talk to Johnny, Chief?” Roy was trying to avoid
the inevitable for a little bit longer.
“Yeah, but he didn’t want to talk much. He said something
else, but I would like an answer to Dwyer’s question as well
“I don’t know if they are alright. I really pray that
they are.” Roy then proceeded to tell the events of that night
right down to what he had said to Johnny and Nicole and what Johnny
had said to Dixie as they left.
“That explains it.” Hank was deep in thought.
“Explains what, Chief?” Chet was a little upset with Roy
for how he treated Johnny and Nicole, but he also understood that Roy
was scared for his kids that night.
“Johnny said he probably wouldn’t be back to work, because
his resignation would take effect before he was well enough to come
back to work. Then he said goodbye and hung up before I could ask him
anything else. Then Chief McConikee came into my office with a letter
from Johnny saying he was resigning from the department. Chief McConikee
had just received it by messenger. He said would sit on it until we
could find out what was going on.” Hank felt sorry for Roy. He
knew how being a parent and the feelings you get when you are scared
for one of your kids could make you act. But he was surprised that
Roy had not even given them a chance to explain.
“Well, maybe we can find out what is going on with Johnny and
Nicole when we talk with them.” Vince had entered the dayroom
during the last part of Roy’s narrative. He had heard all of
“Vince, what do you mean? Did you find them? How? Are they alright?
Where are their kids?” Roy was on his feet when he saw Vince
standing in the doorway.
“Yes, Roy, we found them. Since they are key witnesses in a
case, hospitals have to give us information where they are even when
they can’t give it to anyone who calls. I just said I was looking
for them and found out they are at the Donaldson Memorial Clinic. The
kids are staying with a Mrs. Martin, a lady that lives in Nicole’s
old apartment building and who misses her grandchildren very much.” Vince
was glad he could give this group some good news.
“Are they ok, Vince?” Roy knew that Vince had been in
the treatment room when Roy had lost his temper. He knew what Roy was
“I haven’t talked to them yet, Roy. I wanted to come over
and give you some good news before I went to see them. I’ll keep
you informed, though, ok?” Vince knew that Roy was hurting and
needed to know about his friends.
“Thanks, Vince.” Roy was torn as the klaxons sounded. “Station
51, Station 14, Station 24, Station 98, Station 18, Station 110, Battalion
14, Battalion 10, fire at Donaldson Memorial Clinic, 1251 Lakeside,
1-2-5-1 Lakeside, Cross Street Stevens. Time out 8:20 a.m.” All
three crews took a deep breath as they heard the name of the clinic.
Knowing Johnny and Nicole were there gave them a little extra burst
Hank acknowledged for all three crews as they ran for their respective
vehicles. He and Roy handed the addresses to the drivers and watched
as the six vehicles took off. Grabbing extra turnout gear Roy tossed
it in the back seat next to Hank’s as the two men jumped into
Hank’s vehicle and followed the fire trucks down the road. They
all knew it was going to be a big one. Each man wondered what they
would find when they arrived.
None of the men had seen the Donaldson Memorial Clinic and were surprised
at the size of it. It was no wonder so many engines had been called
out—the clinic ran for four blocks in all four directions and
it looked like there were flames or smoke coming out of just about
every window. Station 18 had been the first to arrive so Chief Stanley
ran to their captain to get the details and take control of the situation.
He had to call in a second and third alarm and just prayed they would
be able to get it under control soon.
The whole time they were fighting the fire, everyone wondered where
and how the Gages were. But duty called and they had to push all the
Johnny and Nicole had “eaten” smoke when they were assisting
in getting some of the elderly patients out of the hospital. Squad
18 had taken them to UCLA Medical Center. But Vince had been at the
scene of the fire and had made it a point to find out where they were
going to be taken so it wasn’t long after they were arrived that
Vince showed up at the hospital.
Vince walked into the treatment room Johnny and Nicole were in. Johnny
was surprised to see him since they had arranged for no one to find
out where they were.
“Hi Vince. How did you find us?” Johnny sat up in his
“Well, you are witnesses in an investigation, so the Donaldson
Memorial Clinic had to give the police the information we asked for.
When I heard about the fire, I was at the scene and followed your ambulance
in. Johnny, I really need to talk to both of you. Is that ok?” Vince
was hoping that Johnny and Nicole wouldn’t be mad at him for
“Yeah, Vince, we kind of expected someone from the police—just
didn’t know it you be you. How are Chris and Jenny?” Nicole
sat up when she heard Vince’s voice.
“They are both fine. They told us everything that happened including
the fact that you wouldn’t let Chris go and he defied you. Please
listen to me when I tell you Roy is hurting because of what he said
to you. He is sorry that he didn’t give you a chance to explain.
All of them are really upset that they didn’t realize that both
of you were hurt. Johnny, Roy has spent the last two days looking for
you. You know that fear for your children can make you do things you
normally wouldn’t do. He really wants to apologize and everyone
wants to know how you are.” Vince watched Nicole and Johnny’s
faces. He really couldn’t read their expressions.
“Vince, what is going to happen to Chris?” Johnny needed
time to think about what Vince had said and to talk to Nicole.
“Mark and Philip told us that they forced him into the store
and he was not involved. Legally he is off the hook. But emotionally
he is torn up about what this has done to you.”
“Vince, can you give us an hour? We need to talk. Come back
in an hour and we will have something for you to tell Roy and the others.” Nicole
was thinking about what Vince had said, too. They knew that Roy was
just scared and that he didn’t mean what he had said.
“Sure, I’ll do that.” Vince was praying that they
would want to see their family and friends who were waiting to hear
from them. It was only four days until Christmas.
Johnny, I want to go home.” Nicole waited a few minutes after
Vince left before she spoke.
The doctor was getting ready to release them, they just needed a ride.
When the doctor returned, he gave his approval if they stayed with
friends for a few days.
Vince returned an hour later to find Johnny and Nicole dressed and
ready to go. He was more than happy to take them home. He was secretly
pleased when he got an emergency call a block away from Station 51.
Needing a place to drop them off, he pulled into the Station’s
parking lot and helped Johnny and Nicole into the station before he
The men were tired as they were returning to Station 51. All three
crews were coming back to finish planning the party. They were all
tired and hungry. It had been a long day trying to get the fire under
control. It was already dinnertime. And they were wondering what had
happened to Johnny and Nicole. No one could give them any information
at the scene.
Roy’s mind was a million miles away as Hank pulled up out front.
Would Vince find them again and get a chance to talk with Johnny and
Nicole? Would they come home? Would he ever get the chance to apologize
to them? He was slow getting out of the car. What had he done? He should
have known that Nicole and Johnny would have given their lives for
Chris and Jenny. But he accused them of not even caring about them.
“Roy, Chief, Mike, Marco, Charlie, get in here.” Chet
came running around the car. “Guys, come into the dayroom. You’ve
got to see this.”
Roy wondered what had Chet so excited and quickly followed him back
into the dayroom. He stopped in the doorway as his eyes landed on the
table. Who would have brought them dinner? There was no one in the
station and no extra cars out back. There was enough for all three
Hank had called the hospital and his wife to let them know the planning
session was going to take place at Station 51 in about half an hour.
So Roy didn’t get the chance to question the meal any farther
before Joanne, Emily, Chief McConikee, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early, Dixie,
Dr. Morton, Chris, and Jenny entered the station to help plan the Christmas
festivities. They were just as surprised as the firefighters—none
of them had brought the meal.
What none of them knew was that Johnny and Nicole were Johnny’s
office trying to find someone to stay with for the next few days. They
had prepared dinner for the guys. Johnny had remembered the three crews
were meeting to plan the Christmas party.
As they entered the office, Nicole sat on the couch and leaned her
head on Johnny’s shoulder. “Honey, I understand why Roy
reacted the way he did. We have seven children of our own. Think about
how we would react in the same situation.” Nicole knew how much
she missed her “family” and knew that Johnny did too. She
just needed to give him a nudge.
“Angel, I agree. It’s just that it hurt so much. Roy didn’t
even ask what happened or listen to us.” Johnny had realized
how much he missed his “family” too.
“He was scared and I can’t blame him. Vince said he has
been looking for us for two days.”
“Yeah, I heard the all the vehicles come back. Let’s go
talk to them. I can’t say that I wouldn’t react the same
way.” Johnny’s love for Nicole grew even deeper.
While Johnny and Nicole were talking in his office, the others had
gathered to discuss the party to be held at Rampart on Christmas Eve—the
guys’ next shift. But before anything could be said about the
party talk turned to Johnny and Nicole.
“Daddy?” Jennifer needed to know if her favorite “Aunt
and Uncle” were going to be ok. She felt that it would have been
all her fault if something bad happened to her Aunt Nicole—after
all Nicole was just protecting her.
“Yes, Jennifer?” Roy turned his attention to his very
distraught daughter. He knew that she was thinking about Johnny and
“Do you think that Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nicole are alright?” The
tears were slipping out of the corners of Jennifer’s eyes.
“I don’t know, honey. I sure hope so.” Roy’s
pain was reflected in Jenny’s eyes. “But what I really
am worried about is their emotional state. I should never have said
those things to them. They put their lives on the line for you kids
and I accused them of not caring. Those two people are the closest
thing we will ever have for a brother and sister. I will do anything
to let them know how much they mean to me.” Roy’s hurt
was evident in every word he spoke and the pain he was feeling showed
on his face.
Mike’s quiet voice was heard as he thought about the whole situation. “You
know I think this goes clear back to the situation with Tim and Cameron.
During that time there were several occasions where we all told them
that they were family and that we would do anything for them. They
even put their lives in danger for all of us and we wouldn’t
even do what they asked back then. Johnny and Nicole both shared how
they felt like they really weren’t worth anything and we would
all be better off if they weren’t alive. Nicole said she was
beginning to feel like someone really cared for her and that maybe
she was worth something. Knowing both of them, they are feeling like
what happened that night really was their fault and that all of us
hate them for it. This just reinforces their feelings of low-self esteem.” Mike
didn’t even try to stop the tears.
“That’s right—back during that time, we all kept
telling them how special they really were and said we would always
be there for them. Then when Roy yelled at them, they felt they deserved
it. Joanne didn’t contradict Roy, so they were sure she felt
the same way he did. I probably strengthened their feelings of guilt
when I stuck up for Roy. The final reinforcement was when no one really
tried to stop them from leaving. Yes, I followed them, but when they
said they were fine and refused treatment, I turned around and went
back into the treatment room.” Dixie looked at the faces of the
other people seated in the room.
Each person was lost deep in thought. Roy felt so guilty. This was
really all his fault and he wouldn’t be surprised if everyone
else in the room blamed him, too. He was shocked, though, when he heard
Hank’s voice. “Roy, none of this is your fault. You were
scared for Chris and Jenny that night and reacted to your fear. I’m
sure Johnny and Nicole knows that deep down, too. What we need to do
is make them see that none of this is their fault and that we really
do feel they are both very special people and are part of our family.”
“Yeah, Roy. The Chief’s right. Now let’s see what
we can do to help them.” Chet knew that it was all a big misunderstanding.
As Roy glanced around the room, he saw nothing but love from the others
there. He knew that they didn’t blame him for anything. Now,
he just had to convince himself and find a way to apologize to Johnny
It was decided that everyone would see if they could come up with
some way to reach Johnny and Nicole and Roy promised he would continue
to search for them. He didn’t know if Vince had found them after
the fire yet or not. Since time was getting short the talk turned to
the Christmas party. None of their hearts were really in it, but they
couldn’t let the patients of Rampart down.
The discussion of the Christmas party was winding down. There was
only one thing left and no one really wanted to voice it, but knowing
it had to be done, Dixie spoke up. “Who are we going to get to
take Johnny and Nicole’s place as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and
hand out the presents this year?”
“The best Christmas present for me would be for Uncle Johnny
and Aunt Nicole to be here so I can tell them how sorry I am and how
much I really love them.” Chris didn’t feel like he deserved
any presents this year.
“Yeah, that and to have them come over for Christmas like they
planned and bring their kids.” Jenny didn’t feel like Christmas
at that point either.
Roy just sat staring at his hands. He knew that no one was blaming
him, but he really still felt guilty about the whole situation.
It was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. After a minute of
complete silence, Dixie couldn’t stand it any longer. “I
would like to know who is going to take their place as Mr. and Mrs.
Santa Claus. Does anyone have any ideas?”
Johnny knew it was time to let them all know that they where ‘home.’ “You
mean you really want to replace us that bad?” Johnny and Nicole
had entered the room as Chris started talking. “I thought you
wanted us to be Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.” Johnny smiled his
trademark grin at the looks on Dr. Brackett and Dixie’s faces.
Chris and Jenny were out of the chairs and had their arms wrapped
around Johnny and Nicole’s legs before anyone could say anything
with Joanne close behind. It was only 30 seconds later that the rest
of the group had surrounded them and everyone was talking at once.
Finally, Hank gave a shrill whistle and got everyone’s attention. “I
think we all need to sit down and only talk one at a time.”
The laughter sounded good to everyone. Johnny led Nicole over to the
couch as the rest of the group pulled up chairs and sat as close as
they could. He had noticed that Chris stayed on the outside of the
circle. With a lift of his hand and a smile, he beckoned Chris to come
and sit next to him while they talked. Hesitantly, Chris went to sit
between Nicole and Johnny. As soon as he sat down, Johnny put his arm
around the boy and Nicole took his hand in hers. Chris couldn’t
believe they would love him like they did. Jenny climbed into Nicole’s
There was one thing that was really troubling Chris, though, and he
knew the only way he would find out is to ask them. “Aunt Nicole,
Uncle Johnny?” He didn’t know if he could find the words
to say what he needed to say. “Uncle Johnny, I am so sorry I
said that you and Aunt Nicole aren’t part of our family. I really
didn’t mean it. You both are as important to me as my mom and
dad. You are both very special to me and if you had died that night,
I would never be able to forgive myself. It is my fault that you were
hurt. I’m so sorry.” The tears were flowing down Chris’s
cheeks. Jenny just sat and looked back and forth between her brother
and her “uncle.”
Johnny thought about the fact that Chris and Roy had both yelled at
them and told them they weren’t family, but when it came down
to it all of their friends were here for them now. “Chris, I
know that you are trying to fit in with the ‘cool’ crowd
and that you are trying to make friends with some of them. We both
know how you feel since we felt that way, too. But what you said that
night, Chris, hurt very deeply. You say you didn’t mean what
you said and right now we want to trust that you didn’t. But
what happens the next time a situation like that comes up and we do
something that you don’t like. Are you going to say it again?
You and your dad are right, you know.”
Roy’s and Chris’s heads both snapped as they stared at
“We aren’t really a part of your family. Nicole and I
thought we were. Both of us had opened up a part of our hearts that
we had locked away because we thought we could trust you, your parents
and our friends not to crush that part again as it had been crushed
in the past. But even if it was unintentional it was crushed.” Johnny’s
heart was breaking but he had to be honest with Chris.
“Uncle Johnny, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I really didn’t
mean what I said. Please forgive me. I won’t ever say that again.
I love you both so much.” Chris knew there was a good chance
he had lost his favorite “aunt and uncle” forever.
“You can’t say that you won’t ever say those words
again, Chris. No one knows how they are going to react in any given
situation. You may say something just as hurtful to your parents if
a situation arises that they are forced to be strict with you and you
don’t like what they have to do. However, we aren’t your
parents, so the chance of you saying it to us again is higher. But,
Chris, we want you and everyone else to know something—and that
is that no matter what happens we love all of you and will gladly give
our lives for any one of you if we ever had to.” Nicole wished
she could go back to that night and erase everything that had happened,
but she couldn’t.
“But Aunt Nicole, you and Uncle Johnny really are a part of
our family. And I know Chris has really been hurting since that night.
Won’t you forgive all of us? You said, Aunt Nicole that you would
always be in our hearts and that was true. If you are always in our
hearts, there is no way you aren’t really a part of our family.
Please forgive Chris and Daddy and Dixie and everyone else, please.” Jenny
wanted her family to be whole again.
Everyone in the room watched as the tears streamed down the faces
of the four people who at that moment seemed to be in a world all their
“Chris, Jenny, love means forgiving the hurts and pain. Nicole
and I love you all. There will be other times that we hurt each other
and maybe some that will hurt as bad as this time. I hope not, but
if we really love each other, we will make it through those times.
Besides, actions speak louder than words. You, your family and all
our friends are here and are concerned about us. That shows us how
much you all really do care. We need to apologize to your parents.”
“Apologize to us? What for, Junior?” Roy wondered what
Nicole and Johnny would have to apologize to them for.
“For not stopping Chris that night. For putting Chris and Jenny
in danger.” Johnny would have gone on, but Roy stopped him.
“Johnny, none of that was your fault. Chris wanted to get away
from you and no matter how hard you tried, you would not have been
able to stop him. I am the one that really needs to apologize for accusing
you of not caring about my kids when you both put your lives in the
way of bullets to protect them. You could have been killed. There is
nothing for you to apologize for. I said some pretty hateful things
and I can never take them back. What I wouldn’t give to turn
the clock back to that night and do it all over again. You are my ‘brother’ Johnny.
I need you in my life. Joanne and I both need both of you in our lives.” Roy
eyes pleaded with Johnny for forgiveness.
“Like I told Chris, Roy. Love is forgiving the hurts and pain.
It will take some time for the hurt to go away, but we love all of
you. All of you are our family and nothing will ever change that.” Johnny
looked at the faces of the group in the room while he and Roy were
talking. “Nothing will ever change that.”
There was one more thing Roy needed to know and that was how much
ground they were going to have to cover to regain that feeling of family
again. “Johnny, you told Chris that both you and Nicole had opened
a part of your heart that you had locked away so it didn’t get
crushed again. How badly did it get crushed this time?”
Johnny knew what Roy was asking. “It only got stepped on a little,
Roy. It is definitely repairable. As a matter of fact, the repairing
has already begun.”
“Johnny, I don’t understand you and Nicole.” Roy couldn’t
believe that his best friend had just said that he was forgiven. He didn’t
think that had the roles been reversed, he would be able to forgive so easily.
“What don’t you understand Roy?” Johnny thought
he knew what Roy was getting at, but he needed to know for sure.
“If I had been in your shoes and you yelled at me like I yelled
at you, I don’t think I would be sitting here right now saying
that nothing would ever change the fact that we are family.” Roy
loved both of these people.
“Well, you see, when other people have said things like you
and Chris said to us in the past, they said them and disappeared out
of our lives. But you and Chris—all of you—are here and
let us know that you really didn’t mean it. We both know that
sometimes we say things that we later regret. I’m sure that it
will happen again in the future, but because we are family, we can
say we are sorry and get through it together.” Johnny was standing
in front of Roy by this time. He smiled at Roy as he pulled him up
and into his embrace.
“There’s one more thing,” Jenny wondered how badly
Johnny and Nicole had been hurt.
“What’s that, Jenny?” Nicole thought she had a pretty
good idea of what Jenny was going to ask.
“How bad were you both hurt and are you going to be alright?
What did the doctor say?”
The room became so quiet that all that could be heard was the sound
of the traffic going by on the 405 outside.
Nicole was the one who spoke first. “Jenny, the bullets missed
all our vital organs and did not cause any damage at all. The bullet
that hit Uncle Johnny went right through his shoulder and missed everything.
And as for me, the bullet went in near my spinal chord, but for some
reason it stopped just after entering my body. They took it out and
sewed me up. Neither of us suffered any permanent damage. The doctor
at UCLA would like us to stay with friends for a few days, so we still
need to find a place to stay. But, you know what?” She waited
a minute while Jenny shook her head no. Then she continued. “The
Lord was taking care of us that day.”
Johnny realized that Chief McConikee was in the room. “Uh, Chief
McConikee, can I talk to you?” Johnny hoped he could stop his
resignation from taking effect.
“Johnny, there is nothing to talk about. Your resignation was
put into the circular file the minute it touched my desk.” Chief
McConikee was glad to have one of his best Captains back.
“Thanks Chief.” Johnny thanked the Lord for the family
and friends in the room.
Just then a group came through the door. It was Mrs. Martin and her
son and daughter-in-law with the Gage children. “I’m glad
you called and let us know to bring them here. Candace and Frank showed
up this morning and they are going to take me to my daughter’s
in Phoenix. I’m going to get to see my grandchildren for Christmas
after all. Take care of yourselves.” Mrs. Martin kissed both
Johnny and Nicole and then hurried behind her son out of the station.
Everyone laughed at the whirlwind that had just hit Station 51.
It was getting late. Dr. Brackett noticed that both Johnny and Nicole
were looking very tired and he motioned to Roy so that Roy noticed
“I think it’s about time that we took these two home and
put them to bed. We will be staying with them for awhile at their place.
If you guys want to visit them, you are welcome to stop by.” Roy
was glad his family was complete once again. During the last two days,
he realized how big a part of his family Johnny, Nicole and their kids
Everyone was affected by the love Johnny and Nicole were demonstrating
Within five minutes the Gages and DeSotos were on their way home.
It was quiet, as the adults sat in the living room after Chris and
Jenny had gone to bed. Jenny had fallen asleep in her “Uncle’s” arms
and Chris had fallen asleep snuggled in Nicole’s embrace. Johnny
had helped carry the two children to bed. The DeSoto twins and all
seven of the Gage kids had gone to be as soon as they arrived home.
“Roy?” Johnny looked over at his friend.
“Yeah?” Roy was still feeling guilty about how he had
treated Johnny and Nicole that night. Why didn’t he see they
were hurt? Why didn’t he listen to what really happened before
he started yelling?
“Vince said that Chris is off the hook in regards to the attempted
robbery. Is that true?” Johnny was hoping that the prayers he
and Nicole had been sending heavenward the last two days had done some
“Yes, thankfully. Mark and Philip admitted they forced him to
go into the store with them and that he was not involved. The only
punishment he has to face is his mother’s and mine.” Roy
was still trying to deal with the fact that not only had his son disobeyed
his parents; he had actually put several people’s lives in danger.
“Good, we’re so thankful for that. We knew he wasn’t
involved and have been praying that he wouldn’t be in trouble
with the law.”
Roy noticed that both Johnny and Nicole both fighting a losing battle
to stay awake. “Johnny, you and Nicole need to get some sleep.
We can talk more tomorrow.”
Johnny didn’t argue. He knew that Nicole was tired. Plus he
would probably sleep 24 hours. “Yeah, we’ll see you tomorrow.” Johnny
and Nicole were both asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows
Things were definitely getting better.
The Christmas holidays were filled with extra blessings this year.
Although none of them talked about it, each member of the “Station
51 Family” thought about the things that had happened over
the last two years and the original A-shift crew each made a vow
to themselves to not let anything happen to their “family”.
They had been through a lot and there were things said and done that
could have destroyed their family, but somehow they had gotten through
it all together.
Johnny had made arrangements for his neighbor to play Santa Claus
for the gathering this year. He had special presents for each member
of his family, but was afraid he would get too emotional if he handed
them out. It had been Nicole’s idea to ask Don to play the part
and he had readily agreed. He smiled to himself as he pictured the
looks on the faces of the kids when they saw Santa Claus. Johnny’s
crew had five kids plus his seven. Roy’s crew had two plus his
four. And Mike’s crew had two plus his three. It was going to
be a wonderful evening.
The party had been in full swing for an hour when Johnny slipped out
the back door to make sure Donald was ready. His trademark grin lit
his face when he saw his neighbor. He looked great. Just as he was
about to go back into the house so that Donald could make his entrance,
Rebecca and Kimberly found him. After they had explained to him that
Nicole had told them about “Santa Claus” and why, he gave
Donald the presents they held in their hands and grinned even bigger.
There were going to be two more surprises tonight.
Donald waited another fifteen minutes before making his entrance.
He didn’t want to give it away and thought that following Johnny
in would have raised suspicions. When the time was right, he pushed
open the back door. “HO, HO, HO!”
The children all squealed with glee and raced over to hug Santa. Lisa,
Jenny, Brandon, William and Chris all wanted to act uninterested, but
were soon caught up in the laughter and the excitement. It didn’t
take long for the five teens to shepherd the smaller kids back into
the living room and get them seated on the floor around the overstuffed
chair Roy led Santa to.
When he was finally seated and was able to get to his bag, Santa started
handing out presents. He started with the children and all the adults
smiled as the five teens helped tear off paper and made over the presents
each one received. The teens were next and after opening their presents,
they knew who Santa had gotten them from but they didn’t let
on that they knew.
The adults had enjoyed watching the kids and were surprised when Santa
started handing out presents to them. As each one opened their present,
a special warmth filled their hearts. The love they all had for Johnny
and Nicole grew stronger. Each one had mentioned at one time or another
over the last few months about something they would like to get for
Christmas but knew they wouldn’t get because it was either too
expensive or too impractical. Johnny and Nicole had filed those words
away and today each one got the present they thought they would never
Chet and Marco were both surprised when Santa pulled the last two
presents out and handed them to them. They had already received their
presents so didn’t know what they would possibly be getting now.
Both men opened the brightly wrapped gifts under the careful eye of
everyone else in the room. The looks on their faces was priceless when
they both pulled out baby t-shirts and booties. They didn’t catch
the meaning behind the presents, but everyone else did.
“Hey, Chet, I think someone got your size wrong.” Johnny
took the opportunity to raze his engineer.
“This can’t be for me. These must be for your kids, Gage.” The
look of confusion on both Chet’s and Marco’s faces had
the rest of the group fighting to keep from laughing.
“No, Chet, I think that they are for your and Marco’s
kids.” Johnny couldn’t believe Chet and Marco hadn’t
caught on yet.
“We don’t have any kids.” The two men responded
at the same time.
“Not yet, but if I figure it right, sometime in August you will.” Nicole
watched the two men’s faces to see if it had sunk in yet.
“How would I get kids in August if I don’t have any now?” Chet
didn’t realize he had spoken out loud. As everyone laughed at
his words, it finally dawned on him what it all meant. “Kimberly?
Really? In August?”
“Yes, honey.” Kimberly was laughing the hardest as the
expressions on Chet’s face changed from one of confusion to understanding
“Wow, Marco, we’re going to be fathers.” Chet was
pulling Kimberly into his arms.
Marco had sat quietly as the scene had played out around him. Then
he, too, realized what was happening and had Rebecca in his arms before
anyone knew what was happening. “A father? I’m going to
be a father.” Seeing they were under the mistletoe, he kissed
her with all the love in his heart.
Don quietly slipped out the back door as the group congratulated the
two couples and talk turned to the growing Station 51 family. He was
glad he had been given the opportunity to share in the excitement.
He sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his friends and a request
that nothing would happen to them.
Nicole had been asked by headquarters to help with a Fire Department
fund raiser for the Firefighter’s fund. She had suggested a talent
show and the idea was met with enthusiasm. Every firefighter was encouraged
to audition and every station had at least one representative. Chief
McConikee, Nicole and Craig Brice had been the committee that selected
the acts. No one knew who was performing as each one was asked to keep
it a secret.
Everyone kept asking Johnny and Brice who was going to be performing
and what they would be doing. But Johnny didn’t know because
Nicole had not told him anything. They were hoping that people would
come to see who was performing and their strategy seemed to be working.
A week before the event, there had been more tickets sold than any
other fund raising event the fire department had put on. It seemed
that every off duty firefighter as well as all of their families was
going to be in attendance.
Memorial Day dawned beautiful. Johnny and Nicole woke early and rode
Thunder and Lightning out into the hills to watch the sunrise. Jenny
and Lisa had spent the night, so they let the girls know where they
were going and started out. As they rode through the fields, Nicole
marveled at God’s handiwork as she looked around and listened
to the birds singing and the sounds of the animals in the woods.
Sitting on the hillside wrapped in Johnny’s arms Nicole was
awed at the vast array of colors that were painted across the palate
of the sky as the sun slowly rose in the sky. It was a picture that
she filed away for the days where everything seemed to be going all
wrong. She was glad that Johnny had brought his camera. She knew he
could capture the beautiful colors, but she also knew that it wouldn’t
be the same as actually seeing it.
When the color show had finished, Nicole and Johnny rode back to their
home. Nothing was said—it didn’t need to be, they just
enjoyed being together and God’s beauty around them.
It was the memory of the beautiful sunrise and quiet moments they
spent together that gave Nicole an extra bounce to her step through
the rest of the day.
Nicole peeked out from behind the curtain to see a full house. She
looked around and found the men from stations 51, 14, and 24 all sitting
together minus Johnny. He was with her backstage. Craig Brice had volunteered
to be the emcee for the program. Nicole had hesitated at first, but
after the first rehearsal, it was clear he would do a good job.
As the night went on, Craig let go a little bit more. He actually
had the whole auditorium laughing several times and had them on the
edge of their seats as he introduced each act. Nicole prayed that he
would be able to take some of tonight on the job and “loosen
up” a little when dealing with his co-workers and the public.
Nicole, Craig and Chief McConikee had done a great job in selecting
the acts for the program. There were several solos, a couple of stations
had ensembles, three stations had gotten together and formed a chorus.
Charlie Dwyer did his clown routine and even had the adults thoroughly
enjoying it. Bob Bellingham did a comedy routine and had the audience
laughing so hard there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he
got done. Station 16 did a dance routine and station 45 did an acrobatic
routine. There was even a chorus from the police department.
The night was winding down. It was time for the last act. Nicole watched
as Craig took center stage to make the introduction. She was relieved
that the show was almost over, but afraid because there was one more
act. She didn’t want anything to ruin the program. She stopped
and listened as Craig began.
“It took me and three of our fire chiefs to persuade our last
duet to perform. They are both very shy and said they couldn’t
sing. Well, they were singing after auditions one day when they thought
no one was around. We heard them and had to end with their act. They
finally consented and are going to sing ‘God Bless
the USA’ in
honor of all the young men and women who have fought for our country
to protect our freedoms. Please join me in welcoming John and Nicole
Gage.” Craig led the applause that followed.
The men of stations 51, 14, and 24 all looked at each other. Johnny
always whistled off key, what did his singing sound like? They were
about to find out.
Nicole and Johnny took center stage. Johnny squeezed Nicole’s
hand and smiled at her as the music started. As Johnny sang the first
verse Chet’s, Marco’s Roy’s, Mike’s and Hank’s
jaws all dropped. In all the years they had known Johnny none of them
knew he could sing.
God Bless the U.S.A. (Lee Greenwood)
If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life,
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife,
I'd thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away.
Then when Nicole joined him on the chorus the group couldn’t
believe how well their voices blended.
I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free,
And, I won't forget the men who died and gave that right to me.
And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land... God Bless the U.S.A.!
Then Nicole sang the second verse and there wasn’t another
sound in the house.
From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee,
Across the plains of Texas from sea to shining sea,
From Detroit down to Houston, and New York to L.A.,
There's pride in every American heart and it's time we stand and say:
Johnny joined her on the chorus and again everyone marveled at how
well their voices blended.
I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free,
And, I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me.
And, I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land... God Bless the U.S.A!!
When they finished the audience rose to its feet and applauded. Nicole
and Johnny both turned so red they could see it in the back row. As
they left the stage someone asked them to sing “God
Bless America” and
others soon joined in. So Johnny and Nicole returned to the stage and
the music began again.
God Bless America (by Irving Berlin)
" While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer."
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.
As they sang the chorus again they asked everyone to join them and
it was the perfect ending to a great evening. As the song and applause
died away, Craig joined Johnny and Nicole on stage and thanked everyone
for coming. It had been an evening that all of them would remember
for a long time.
Johnny and Nicole exited the stage and found the whole group of firefighters
from Stations 51, 14 and 24 and their families waiting for them. Roy
was in the front. “Why didn’t you tell us before that you
could sing, Junior?”
Johnny smiled as Roy called him the nickname he had used when they
were partnered together. “No one ever asked.”
“Well, next year we are going to make sure you and Nicole are
singing again. That was great.” Chet was proud of Johnny and
Wanting to take the attention off of them, Johnny looked around the
group. “Thanks for coming, but we are creating a fire hazard
here. Everyone, don’t forget the barbeque at our ranch this Saturday.
The group broke up and every one went to their respective homes with
Roy, Chet, Mike, Marco and Hank each marveling at the fact that they
were still learning new things about their friend even after all these
Chet had become a basket case. Johnny often retreated to his office
to hide the laughter as he watched Chet as the day got closer for his
child to be born. He often called Roy to see how Marco was doing and
regaled Roy with Chet’s antics. He felt sorry for Kimberly as
Chet called her every five minutes whenever they were in the station.
At least Chet’s job wasn’t suffering and Johnny was surprised
that he wished for busy shifts. Roy was no comfort—he would often
laugh at Johnny’s troubles and tell him he was glad it wasn’t
him. Marco was calm.
The day had been unusually slow and Chet was getting on everyone’s
nerves. Kimberly had gone somewhere without telling Chet where to get
away from his constant calling and Chet was fit to be tied. Johnny
wanted to strangle Chet, but he knew that Chet was just concerned—this
was his first child. Although he would have rather stayed in his office,
he couldn’t leave his crew to deal with Chet alone.
“Hey, Chet, let’s go out back and shoot some hoops.” Johnny
knew he had to harness Chet’s nervous energy soon or he would
have a major problem on his hands.
“Ok. But I want to try to get in touch with Kimberly again.” Chet
knew he was worrying too much, but he couldn’t stop. So he got
ready to pick up the phone when the klaxons sounded.
Chet stopped dead in his tracks as the dispatcher sent squads 51 and
14 to Marco’s home for two women in labor. He knew it had to
be Kimberly and Rebecca. Before he could move, Johnny picked up the
phone and called Roy. Then they both told dispatch that Engines 51
and 14 would be joining the squads and everyone ran to the engine.
Johnny just prayed that Chet would get them there safely. On the way,
he had dispatch get in touch with Chief Stanley and talked to him on
a private frequency. Hank was just waiting for Johnny’s call.
He had recognized the address and assured Johnny that he would have
replacement engineers meet 51 and 14 at Marco’s house. Johnny
smiled as he hung the mike back in its spot.
Engine 51 made it just after the two squads and Johnny had to hold
on as Chet threw it into park and was out the door almost before he
had shut it down. When engine 14 arrived ten seconds later, he watched
Marco do the same thing. Looking at Roy he just shook his head and
Replacement engineers were at Marco’s house by the time the
paramedics had the women ready to transport. Between the paramedics
and captains, arrangements were made to get Chet and Marco’s
cars from their respective stations to the hospital. It was a good
thing they did as Chet passed out on seeing his wife’s water
break and Marco went numb.
When their shift ended the next morning, Johnny and Roy met at the
hospital and went to check on their friends. They had delivered the
cars and were going to get rides back to their stations with the next
shifts’ paramedics after they picked up supplies. The two men
went to the expectant fathers’ waiting room and arrived just
as Chet and Marco came out of the delivery room with smiles on their
Chet was the proud father of a son, Aaron Kelly, and Marco was the
proud father of triplets, Grace, Noelle and Joshua Lopez. By the time
Roy and Johnny were ready to leave, Mike, Hank and all the crews of
Station 51 and 14 had arrived to see the newest additions to the station
It was the middle of flu season and the LA County Fire Department
had been hit hard. Knowing how short-handed headquarters was, Hank,
Roy, Johnny, Mike, Chet and Marco all volunteered to once again fill
the jobs they had held while on duty as the original Station 51’s
A-shift. It felt good to all of them to be working together again as
a team. They were called out to a house fire that was threatening to
spread in the oppressive heat and draught LA had been experiencing.
The house was fully involved when they arrived on the scene. Hank immediately
called for a second and third alarm to their location and then gave
instructions to his crew. Johnny and Roy quickly pulled on their gear
and ran for the building. Both men were thinking how great it was to
be working side by side again. They had no way of knowing if anyone
was inside or not, so they had to do a sweep. They did a quick, but
thorough, check and then ran back to grab a 2 ½ inch hose to
back up Chet and Marco on the west side of the building. Station 14
had arrived and was working on the east side and the third alarm they
had called in brought Station 24 who was working on the north side.
Chet and Marco had beaten the fire back enough that they were inside
the building. They were in the middle of what was the main lobby of
the large, expensive house.
To be continued in A
Dark Cloud or A Silver Lining
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