For personal use and select distribution only © by Addmom

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

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

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

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

Warning: Death of two main characters

The Next Generation

 

May, 2000

Roy and Johnny were almost as nervous as they had been on their wedding days. The Gage quadruplets and the DeSoto twins were graduating from the fire Academy. The Fire Department had combined the ceremonies for both firefighters and paramedics into one ceremony. Michaela and Matthew Gage and Jason DeSoto were graduating as paramedics. Megan and Michael Gage and Crystal DeSoto were graduating as firefighters. Chief Hank Stanley had teased the two Battalion Chiefs and said the Department had better watch out now. Captain Chet Kelly had said that Rampart had better add another wing if the Gage quads followed in their Father’s footsteps. But when it came down to it, all the station 51 family was proud to have another generation of firefighters and paramedics.

The graduates had filed in and the ceremonies were now ready to start. Roy and Johnny were seated on the platform with the other battalion chiefs as representatives of the departmental brass.

Hank Stanley had a smile as he stood up and walked to the podium to begin the graduations ceremony. His thoughts went to the two men who had been his paramedics when he was Captain of Station 51’s A-Shift. Their compassion, reliability and selflessness had been instilled in their children. It has also been demonstrated with the graduating class sitting before them—not only the firefighters, but the paramedics, too.

“I am Fire Chief Hank Stanley and on behalf of the L.A. County Fire Department extend a warm welcome to the parents, families, and friends of these fine graduates sitting before us today.” He paused a minute. “In the brotherhood of firefighters, we have the proud heritage passed down from parent to child and even to grandchild. Well, today we have a first in the history of L.A. County. We have two paramedic graduates and two firefighter graduates who are brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact they are quadruplets. And one paramedic graduate and one firefighter graduate—a set of twins—are the children of the cousin to the quadruplets’ mother. So we have the privilege of having six graduates from one family. And I have a special sense of pride since the fathers of these six graduates served under me as two of the first paramedics in the County.”

Roy and Johnny both turned red as Hank turned to look at them and the battalion chiefs on either side of them patted their shoulders.

Hank grinned as he turned back to face the audience. “Normally at this time I would turn the podium over to our top graduate, but for the first time we do not have one but fifteen graduates with a 4.0 and the lowest grade was a 3.0. So the class voted and our speaker for this ceremony will be Jason DeSoto.”

Roy was bursting with pride as Jason made his way to the platform. Johnny playfully elbowed him in the ribs and was grinning from ear to ear.

“Fellow graduates, family, friends and all our teachers and L.A. County Fire personnel, welcome. I am proud to be one of the six family members who are graduating today. My sister and I are privileged to join the Gage quadruplets as members of this wonderful group of grads. Fellow graduates, in a few minutes we begin a new phase in our lives. We are no longer academy students, but as we start our assignments we need to remember that we should never stop learning. As my dad and Uncle Johnny keep telling us, we need to observe and learn from each situation. As we learn, look at each experience to see what we might be able to do or use to improve our service to the people of L.A. County. Captains of the stations where we will be serving, please know that we realize that we still have a lot to learn from each of you and the members of your crews, but please have open minds as we bounce off new ideas and suggestions. Most of those ideas and suggestions will probably be impossible, but maybe some of them may benefit all of us. Family members, you have supported us as we have gone through the academy. Now we need your continued support as we will be facing the dangers each time we walk into our fire stations to start a shift. But know that we will do everything we can to come home safely after our shifts. One thing that my father and Uncle Johnny have stressed more than anything else is that our first duty is to our victims, but that we should watch out for our fellow firefighters as well. My father and Uncle Johnny were partners when the paramedics first started and all of their family members and our fellow students have enjoyed the stories we have heard about the original Station 51 A-shift and how each of them watched out for all the others. I don’t think any station will ever have the reputation or camaraderie that the members of that shift had, but they are an example to the rest of us that what we do is dangerous, but we can all go home safely at the end of the shift if we watch each other’s back. We ask our families to just remember, as we join the other firefighters and paramedics, we are doing what defines us and what is in our blood. Fellow graduates, congratulations.”

Hank joined Jason after he had finished talking. “Thank you Jason. I second everything you have said. I’m going to ask Crystal DeSoto, Matthew, Megan, Michael and Michaela Gage to join us. The members of this graduating class were asked to tell us who they felt was the most influential on their studies at the academy. We were not surprised when the responses listed Chiefs Gage and DeSoto 100%.”

Johnny and Roy looked at each other with stunned faces. They had enjoyed helping the students study and had used the field between their homes as well as the land out behind their homes to set up real life situations for the students to practice on. At the Academy, the scenarios were always controlled and “fake”. The fire was contained and could easily be “turned off” if something went wrong. The situations Johnny and Roy would set up were also controlled, but the students had to be careful since the fire could not be turned off—it would have to be put out by a seasoned crew that was on hand to keep the situation from getting away from them. Both men had been pleased with how the group had grown and after the first few times, the seasoned crew on hand just watched and enjoyed standing around drinking coffee. Although the situations for the paramedics were not as easy to set up, there were things that had happened in the area that they were able to use as learning tools for the students. During the times they were helping the class, neither man realized how much they were actually teaching the students and how much better prepared the firefighters and paramedics would be when they were sent to their first stations. The students had gained a confidence that when they were actually faced with their first real fire or medical emergency they would not freeze, but would face it head on.

Hank laughed along with all of the students at the stunned looks on the two men’s faces. The class had asked that they somehow recognize the two men and Hank had been inundated with requests to implement their style of teaching into the Academy’s curriculum. Having secretly watched several of the “training” sessions at the Gage/DeSoto homes, Hank agreed whole heartedly. He prayed that the two men would willingly accept what he was about to propose in response to what the students had requested. “Roy and Johnny, will you please join us up here?”

Roy and Johnny exchanged puzzled looks as they headed towards the Chief and their children that were waiting for them amidst the thunderous applause of the graduates and the families.

When the applause had finally died down, Jason stepped back up to the microphone. “First, I need to say that the Chief just teased me about calling Chief DeSoto and Chief Gage ‘Dad’ and ‘Uncle Johnny’. I should have used their titles. I didn’t get in trouble, but I would like everyone to know that they didn’t show us any special treatment. As a matter of fact, I think they were a little extra harder on us because of who we are. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Jason smiled at the red faces Roy and Johnny sported. “Chief DeSoto, Chief Gage, headquarters has been deluged with requests from the graduates, the families and all the Captains of the stations where we did our field testing that your style of teaching be incorporated in the future training at the Academy.”

Roy and Johnny stood looking at each other—they hadn’t felt they had done anything special. All they had done was work with their children and their classmates to help them learn how to be the best firefighters and paramedics possible.

“And there was more to the request. Chief Stanley, I’m going to turn the microphone over to you.” Jason turned and smiled at the shocked looks on his father’s and “uncle’s” faces.

“Chief DeSoto, you are a great at asset at headquarters and we are privileged to have you there. Chief Gage you are a natural in our arson division. But after having received all the requests and seeing the results of your teaching this class, headquarters would like to put you in charge of the training at the Academy. They have started construction in the fields behind and beside the Academy building to create the areas where situations similar to what you created at your homes can be used for training. Your efforts in helping this class learn has shown what a little extra attention can do.”

Johnny stopped listening. His years with the arson squad had only heightened his “sixth sense” and that “sixth sense” was in high gear. Stepping up to the mike, he slightly shoved Hank over. “Everyone get out of here, NOW!” He yelled into the mike and then turned to push three of his kids off the platform.

Although no one had any idea what the problem was, Johnny’s “sixth sense” was legendary and no one doubted it. Even the graduates had seen it in action at one time or another. So when Johnny said move, everyone moved as fast as they could. The grads automatically went into firefighter mode and worked together to get their families and visitors out of the building in a calm, orderly fashion. The regular members of the fire department assisted in whatever way they could, but were amazed at the efficiency of the graduating class.

On stage, Roy and Johnny took a second to smile at the way the graduates were handling the situation. Oh sure, there would be the ones who would end up not being able to handle the job or who didn’t do their best and caused trouble, but they knew the majority of the class would make very good firefighters. They didn’t let those thoughts linger long, though, as they, too, assisted in getting the dignitaries and honored grads off the platform and out of the building. Johnny was going to make sure he was the last one out of the building.

***************************

He was furious. Somehow the ceremonies were getting over before they were supposed to. Sure his bomb would destroy the buildings, but he had wanted to make a statement. The county had not listened to any of his suggestions—even when he was serving on the county commission. Then to top it all off they had asked him to leave when he got angry at several of the meetings. Then the fire department had not saved his barn and horses. Even though the barn had been totaled long before the fire department even arrived, he felt they should have been able to at least save the horses. He didn’t care that they had worked hard and saved his home—they had let his horses die. He wanted to make them pay. Vowing to get his revenge yet, he watched from the cover of the grove of trees at the side of the Fire Academy property as everyone streamed out of the building.

***************************

As they cleared the door to the building, Roy took the opportunity to ask Johnny why he had ordered everyone out of the building.

“My sixth sense is telling me something is going to happen. I have learned to listen to that sixth sense in my years working with the arson squad. I’m not sure what is wrong, but there is something wrong. I’d rather be thought crazy and have everyone safe than to do nothing and have something terrible happen.”

“Well, I’ve learned to listen to your sixth sense, too. I don’t remember a time when it hasn’t been right so far.” Roy turned back to making sure that everyone was indeed getting out of the building.

Johnny took the time to look around as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and he felt uneasy—like someone was watching them. He was thankful that the last of the stragglers were reaching the parking lot that had been set up as the rendezvous point. He knew that whoever was watching was responsible for whatever was about to happen.

Just as he was about to turn around and head to the parking lot, his eyes caught those of a man standing in the grove of trees at the property line. There was a cold blackness in the eyes that bore into his. And there was a sense of evil radiating from the man. Just as Johnny started towards the man, the bomb that had been hidden under the platform detonated. Then the one under the bleachers where the graduates had been sitting followed. Johnny never heard the shouts from the parking lot or the third bomb that went off. His world had gone black when he had been hit in the head by some flying shrapnel. Before anyone could reach him, he was covered in some of the debris that was flying in all directions from the building.

Two of the assistants to the head battalion chief started running towards the man they, too, had seen in the grove of trees. Knowing he was responsible for the bombs that had just exploded, their determination was to catch him before he could disappear. Had they known what was about to take place, they would have stayed where they were. Because just as they got close but still far enough away they couldn’t stop him nor avoid what was going to happen, the man pushed the button that was in his hand. That button was connected to a detonator that was attached to the bombs he had strapped to his body killing all three men.

Roy was the first one to reach the pile of debris that covered John Gage. He started pulling off pieces of building and throwing them haphazardly to get them off his friend. He was soon joined by several of the graduating class including his children and Johnny’s children.

Jason firmly but compassionately grabbed his father’s shoulders when Roy pulled a plank that would have brought everything down on Johnny had he been successful in getting it out of the pile. “Dad, let us take over. We need to do this carefully if we want to keep Uncle Johnny alive.” He purposely refrained from saying what was going through everyone mind—that in all likelihood Johnny was already dead. No one could live through being so close to the explosion and hit with all the debris that had rained down on John Gage. But no one wanted to voice the idea.

“Ok, you’re right.” Roy stepped back one step and watched as the work slowed when it was determined that they needed to carefully plan how to remove each piece so that they would not cause any disasters that would do any more harm to Johnny than had already been done.

Although the situation was dire and Roy was worried, he watched with pride as the graduates took control of the situation. He was not alone. The Fire Department Brass as well as Dr. Brackett, who had become the head of Rampart General Hospital, and Dr. Mike Morton, who had become the head of the Emergency Department and Paramedic Program at Rampart were just as impressed with the way the graduates were handling themselves. It was just another proof that the training method Roy and Johnny had used was very successful. But just as fast as the thoughts came, they went. All thoughts and prayers centered on John Gage and the personnel trying to save his life.

The work went painstakingly slow as each piece was removed. As the pile of debris grew smaller, glimpses of John Gage came into view. It didn’t look good. There was a piece of wood embedded in his thigh. His side had a piece of glass sticking out of it. His right leg and left arm were at unnatural angles. There was a huge gash on his forehead running from the middle of his forehead just above the left eyebrow all the way down to just above his left ear.

Matthew was the first paramedic to reach his father. Taking a deep breath, he reached out to check for a pulse on his neck. Closing his eyes and saying a quick prayer of thanks, he looked up into the anxious eyes of several firefighters holding their breath. With a tone indicating the need to hurry, he gave the news everyone was waiting for. “He has a slow, rapid pulse. We need to get him out of here as soon as we can.”

No one cheered. They knew they were still fighting for his life. Work continued with a careful urgency. Everyone stood and watched as the ambulance pulled away with a paramedic and Dr. Brackett still working on the injured Fire Chief. The remaining members of the original Station 51 A-shift slowly gathered around Nicole and their children as a means of not only providing support for them, but getting support for themselves in return. There were a lot of prayers being sent up for someone they all loved dearly.

***************************

At Rampart, the activity surrounding John Gage was fast and intense. Dr. Kel Brackett had no hope of winning the fight for John Gage’s life, but he was still going to try. He was joined in the fight by Dixie and Dr. Morton. None of them wanted to admit that because of the blow to his chest and the penetrating wound so close to his heart, John Gage was going to die.

Just as the medical team was ready to call the time of death, the John Gage stubbornness kicked in. Kel couldn’t believe what he was seeing, but as the bleeding from the wound in his chest slowed, Johnny opened his eyes. “Johnny, are you with me?” Kel wasn’t sure they would win the fight yet, but it seemed that things were getting a little better.

“Yeah, chest hurts—was anyone else hurt?” Johnny knew there were lots of people there that day and he hoped no one else was hurt.

“The man who placed the bomb and the two firefighters who tried to catch him—just as they got close enough he blew himself up and took them with him. Other than that no one was injured. You saved a lot of lives today, Johnny.” Kel knew that Johnny would want to know the truth.

“Just doing my job—what’s the verdict?” Johnny’s chest was really beginning to hurt.

“We are going to be taking you to surgery to repair the damage from a penetrating wound to your chest. While we are in there, we will be checking to see how much damage the blow to your chest caused. Johnny, just stay with us, ok?” Kel knew that there was the potential for severe damage and there was no way Johnny was out of the woods yet.

“Yeah, Johnny, don’t leave us—we need that Gage smile to light up the halls around here.” Dixie was as worried about Johnny as Kel was.

“I’m not going anywhere. I have three daughters to walk down the aisle at their wedding and a wonderful wife I want to spend time with when I retire.” Johnny lost his battle with the pain and slipped back into the blackness that called him.

“Let’s get him to surgery. If he is going to fight, so are we.” Kel grabbed the gurney and led the way out of the treatment room at a dead run. They were going to have to hurry if they were going to win the battle.

Nicole saw the determined look on the faces of Kel Brackett, Dixie McCall and Mike Morton as they headed towards the elevators. When Dixie caught her eye and smiled, Nicole knew that Johnny was still with them and was fighting to stay with them. As the elevator headed towards the surgical floor, Nicole headed towards the chapel to spend some quiet time in prayer.

***************************

Dr. Kelly Brackett walked towards the waiting room knowing he had just witnessed a miracle. With the injuries he received, John Gage should have died. But somehow he had hung on and was even going to come out of this with no permanent damage. There was no human explanation for it—it was a miracle.

As Dr. Brackett looked up, he saw a sea of blue mixed with family and friends of Johnny’s. There was no room to walk. He was glad to be able to deliver good news to this group. He smiled as Nicole saw him and started walking towards him.

“He’s going to be ok, isn’t he?” Nicole knew by the look on his face that Dr. Brackett had good news.

“Yes, he is going to be just fine. He’ll be our guest for at least a couple of weeks, but he should come out of this with no permanent damage barring any unforeseen complications.” Kel smiled at the shouts of “All Right” and “Yahoo” that went through the crowd. Then he laughed as Nicole turned to the group.

“All right, we all know he is going to be fine and there are sick and injured people who need this hospital’s attention. Let’s clear out so they can do their job. I think we have clogged this hallway and waiting room up long enough.” Nicole’s smile was contagious and soon the halls were empty. Even Dixie could not have done a better job of clearing it out in such a short time.

“Thanks, Nicole. Now I need to get back upstairs and to running this hospital.” Kel leaned over and gave Nicole a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Kel. Thank you for taking such good care of Johnny.” Nicole kissed Kel back on the cheek.

“As he said in the treatment room, I was just doing my job. But I’m glad things turned out the way they did. This place would not have been the same without your husband.” Kel turned and headed back towards the elevator to head to his office.

***************************

Johnny was released about two weeks after the incident. When he had recovered enough from the surgery, he thought about that day. He had been resting after a visit from the respiratory therapist when his thoughts turned to the day of graduation. As he remembered the look in the eyes of the man who had caused all the destruction, it was like a light bulb went on in his head. He recalled where he had seen the man before.

Johnny had been the liaison between the fire department and the county commission when he became the head of the arson squad. Not really sure how those duties hit in his job description, Johnny had accepted the challenge like he did everything else—with 110%.

Tom Butler had been a very difficult member of the commission. He had made several suggestions that were just not feasible either from a financial standpoint or from a practical standpoint. Some of them didn’t even make sense. And to make matters worse, he was intolerant of anyone who did not agree with him. County taxes were going up to cover costs for schools and services, but he felt he should not have to pay them—especially for the schools since he had never had any children. He had made the promise that he would cut taxes in order to get elected to the commission. However, his ideas were not being received and he actually blamed Johnny.

Johnny’s heritage angered Tom Butler. He hated the fact that a Native American was on the L.A. County Arson squad. He had often tried when Johnny wasn’t at a meeting to get him thrown off the commission. It incensed him even more when he was told that because Johnny’s position was not an elected one, only the fire department could remove him from the commission.

Tom had actually contacted the fire department and grew angrier when they would not listen to his “concerns”. But the commission was soon learning they did not want to cross him. He tried to ban Johnny from the meetings, but was unsuccessful which just fueled his anger and hate. Whenever things didn’t go the way he wanted them to, he would try to adjourn the meeting or disrupt the proceedings until they did adjourn.

When he was actually asked to resign by the other members of the commission when he couldn’t or wouldn’t control his anger at every meeting they had, he started to plan his revenge. But the icing on the cake for him was when the fire department had failed to save his horses. It didn’t matter that they were already dead before the fire department arrived. He had always thought the horses were still alive when the first fire truck pulled into his driveway and that they should have run into the burning barn and save them. The barn had been totally destroyed before they even arrived. All that had been left was the burning embers. But Tom Butler just knew they had not done their job—the horses could have been saved.

The fire department had worked hard to save his home, but that didn’t matter. His wife had died in the fire. Although it was never proven, there was some question on her manner of death. The corner had suspicions that she was dead before the fire, but her body had burned so badly, they couldn’t prove it. She had been in the back room where the fire had started. That was the other thing—the fire looked like it could have been intentionally started. Johnny had been looking into the possibility trying to determine if Mrs. Butler had either accidentally or on purpose started the fire or if someone else might have started it. Again it was something that had never been proven.

During the two weeks Johnny had been in the hospital, he had poured over the records and the testimony from Tom Butler’s neighbors and co-workers. He had come to the conclusion that Tom Butler had murdered his wife as well as the two firefighters he had taken with him that fateful day. Johnny sent up several prayers of thanks that his sixth sense had been working that day. He was full of remorse that two men had needlessly lost their lives, but thankful that the devastation was not worse.

***************************

September, 2000

The new training facility and curriculum was in place at the fire academy. Roy and Johnny had become the heads of the academy.

It had started out just any other day. Roy and Johnny were actually visiting fire stations to check on the latest class members who were doing their hands on training as the final step before graduation. The afternoon had been slow in every station they had visited. They were sitting at the table at Station 51 drinking coffee knowing that all members of the L.A. County fire department were on edge. There had been no calls all afternoon. That was very unusual and the feeling that something big was about to happen was strong throughout every station. The offices in town would be closing for the night in about an hour which meant that rush hour traffic would begin. Hopefully everyone would not let the excitement of the upcoming Labor Day weekend distract them from their driving and what would be happening around them. Then it happened—the earth shook as a 7.0 earthquake hit the L.A. area. As it shook, everyone took cover.

Johnny prayed for his family as the earthquake seemed to continue forever. In earthquake time it did last forever – the shaking lasted over a minute. Just when Johnny thought the whole city would be destroyed before the shaking finally came to an end. The whole time he lay huddled under the table with Roy, Johnny prayed for his family at home as well as his kids who would be responding to the devastation that would be waiting when this was finished.

Roy’s thoughts were running along the same as Johnny’s. Prayers for his family followed Johnny’s. Both men thought about other earthquakes they had lived through and were trying to determine the damage this one would leave behind.

Finally the earth quieted. No one moved for several seconds wanting to make sure it was really over before headed out to help out where they could. They all knew that in all likelihood, there would be several aftershocks and prayed that none of them would be as bad as the original one. When the tones sounded checking on the status of Station 51, Captain Chet Kelly led the crew into the bay to determine the damage, if any, that Station 51 suffered. When he let L.A. know that they had survived with no damage, Roy and Johnny heaved a sigh of relief. When they heard Captain Marco Lopez’s voice with the same report, all three of the original 51 A-shift crew sighed in relief.

It wasn’t long before the tones sounded sending the current A-shift crew at Station 51 for their vehicles. As the engine and squad pulled out both Chiefs couldn’t help but wonder why the final shift Marco and Chet were serving as Captains would be filled with rescues that probably would have mixed endings—some good and unfortunately some bad. Both men had been promoted to Chief.

Roy and Johnny stood watching the two vehicles long after the lights had disappeared from sight. They knew that the feeling that had been growing all afternoon and was sitting as a huge pit in their stomachs was also in the pits of the stomachs of the men of the vehicles they had just witness leave on a run.

Roy and Johnny slowly walked to their fire department vehicle to head towards headquarters to see where they would be of the most help. But they never made it. As they started down the main thoroughfare, Johnny heard the sound of a sputtering motor. Roy was already searching the sky in order to determine where the sound was coming from.

Johnny shared one last look with Roy as the plane headed right for the roadway where they were sitting. The small plane was in trouble and both men knew it. Johnny, who was driving, reacted instantly. Turning the vehicle around, he hit the lights and siren and cleared out the traffic that had been behind them. The small plane followed the emergency vehicle down the cleared out street until it touched down. Although it had what everyone would call a controlled crash landing, everyone realized how much worse it could have been.

Roy and Johnny were both out of the car almost before Johnny had it in park. Roy had requested a squad, an engine crew and an ambulance while Johnny was clearing out the road. Now both men were praying that those vehicles would arrive soon.

Johnny was the first to reach the plane. He immediately went to the pilot’s side and pulled open the door to the small plane. His heart sank as he realized the pilot was dead. Looking to the other two passengers, he realized they were a medical team.

The strength of the nurse in the back seat was evident as she looked at Johnny. “Our plane started having mechanical trouble about twenty minutes ago. Joe thought he could reach the small airport just outside of Carson. We would have, too, if he hadn’t had a heart attack. It was instantaneous and Bill here did a great job bringing it in even though he has no flying experience.”

Roy had opened the passenger door and was looking at the blood running down Bill’s face. “Yes, he did. Bill, are you hurt anywhere besides this bump and cut on your head?”

Bill’s dazed look told Roy that he had at least a concussion if nothing else. “No, just have a whopper of a headache.”

Roy smiled as he carefully checked Bill over. Johnny had carefully moved Joe’s body out of the pilot seat and onto the ground near the back of the plane.

“You are in uniform. Is this a medical flight or an off-duty flight?” Johnny wondered where the three were headed.

“It’s a medical flight.” The nurse was frantically looking around her seat. “We are a transplant team and were headed for Rampart General with a heart.” She pulled the cooler with the heart up from the floor with a relieved sigh that it had withstood the crash and was still in one piece.

Looking up and seeing several police cars arriving at the makeshift landing strip, Johnny knew what they had to do. “Kevin, we need to get this nurse and heart to Rampart General yesterday!”

Kevin Stevens looked up at the shout from John Gage. Realizing what Johnny had said, Kevin headed toward the downed plane on a run. Grabbing the cooler in one hand and the nurses’ right elbow in the other and took off for his cruiser. With a quick thank you, the nurse kept pace with the running officer and knew they would make the deadline for the transplant.

Meanwhile Roy was starting the IV Rampart had ordered for Bill. He had already placed a pressure bandage on his head. They all smiled as they heard Kevin’s communication with Rampart about the heart. All three men had a good feeling as they loaded Bill into the back of their fire vehicle. With the earthquake all ambulances and paramedic teams were tied up. Roy had to smile to himself as he remembered the argument he and Johnny had when Johnny had wanted to keep a set of fully stocked paramedic gear. Roy had been against it. Now he was glad Johnny had won the argument.

Johnny jumped in the back seat with Bill as Roy took his familiar place behind the wheel. “Hang on this is going to be bumpy with the roads all broken up.” He looked in the rearview mirror at his friend and their patient.

“But you will get us there in one piece, pally. You always do.” Johnny smiled at his friend and kept an eye on their patient as Roy carefully drove as fast as he dared to Rampart.

***************************

Roy and Johnny had jumped in when they arrived at Rampart and saw the chaos the earthquake had caused. Both men were pleased they had kept up their paramedic certification so that they could be useful. Drs. Brackett, Early and Morton as well as Dixie were grateful for the four extra hands. It kept the chaos to a minimum. During one of the times Johnny was transferring a patient from the hallway to a treatment room, Dixie let him know that Bill had indeed had a concussion but no other injuries. Roy had overhead her as he was walking by and smiled. Before either man could move another step, the nurse from the plane crash walked up. She had a huge smile on her face as she let the two men know that the heart had arrived in time and the surgery was a huge success.

The two men were kept busy helping out in the emergency room. The staff was thankful for the extra hands. When the day finally wound down, Roy and Johnny were both grateful that the earthquake had not done as much damage as originally thought. Most of the patients that had been brought in had sustained minor to moderate injuries. There were a few trauma cases, but not as many as had been expected. The reports coming in gave everyone a sense of relief as the death toll was relatively small.

It was a day no one would forget. But everyone would always be grateful for the outcome that could have been so much worse.

***************************

February, 2001

Johnny took a deep breath before starting up the steps that would lead him into the LA County Court house. Roy was supposed to meet him inside. They were there to testify at the trial of the men who had set the fire at the Stevens Warehouse killing four workers and three firefighters. It had made Johnny sad to think that these two men had also been members of the fire department before one let his anger take over and the other his prejudice. As she reached for Nicole’s hand, his thoughts went back to that day and the events that led him to be standing in front of the court house today.

Roy and Johnny had been at the academy checking out the files on the new recruits. They were both pleased with what they were seeing. Both men looked up when the tones sounded, ran for their vehicle and started praying as they roared towards the fire that was raging in the Stevens Warehouse. They both knew that it was going to be bad. The warehouse housed barrels of paint, pain thinner and gasoline for construction workers. The caller had said the warehouse was already fully involved. Johnny’s arson sense was going full blast. His thoughts immediately were ones of the possibilities of this fire being a case of arson.

***************************

The fire was fully involved when the fire department arrived. Roy and Johnny pulled up and just stared. They had both been involved in fighting large fires before, but this was huge. It seemed like two square blocks were on fire.

Taking a deep breath, Roy led the way as the two Fire Chiefs headed towards the command post that had been set up. They both knew that this was going to be a hard fire to fight and there would probably be several injuries if not deaths related to it.

As they approached the command center, the hair on the back of Johnny’s neck stood up. His arson instincts were kicking in and he knew that this was going to be a bad one. He just prayed that he would be able to contain it before too much damage was done. As Roy joined the group of fire personnel discussing the plan of attack, Johnny moved off to the side a little to observe what was going on around them without anyone really knowing that was what he was doing. Crews were moving all over. Some were relieving others who were taking well deserved breaks.

Johnny watched the movements of the firefighters as they followed the orders that were given them by their Captains. He kept a careful eye on each one to see if they were following orders or if anyone was doing something that was out of the ordinary. As his eyes scanned the fire scene, they fell on one firefighter who looked out of place. He seemed to be looking around to see if anyone was watching him instead of paying attention to what he was doing and he was hiding something. The hair on the back of Johnny’s neck stood higher.

As Johnny watched the firefighter, a large knot began to form in his stomach. The man was lighting a rag that even from as far away as Johnny was standing, he could tell was soaked in gasoline. But what really made the knot grow was when Johnny noticed the large drums that were standing in the corner of the warehouse. He saw the words gasoline and paint thinner and knew they were in trouble. Before the man could even get the rag lit, Johnny was running towards him yelling at the other firefighters to get out of there.

Seeing who was yelling, the crews dropped their lines and ran for their rigs. Johnny was headed right toward the arsonist without noticing what was going on around him. With a burst of speed, he tackled the arsonist just before he was able to throw the rag anywhere near any of the large drums. The two men fought as the arsonist tried to get away from Johnny so he could finish the job he had started. But Johnny was not about to let him get away.

Just as Johnny slugged him in the jaw, he felt a huge weight on his back and someone pulling him off. He thought it might be someone trying to help him until he was swung around and a fist slammed into his jaw. Then he knew the man had an accomplice. Just as the fist started towards Johnny’s stomach and hands grabbed him from behind, he realized that others were grabbing the two men who he had been after. He smiled as he saw Vince and Roy with the guy who had hit him and Crockett and Chet with the one he had been struggling with. As he looked at the two men, his heart sank. One of them was Jim Alder, one of the guys who had been in the class ahead of him at the academy and who had been a great help to him.

“Jim, what is going on man? What are you doing?” Johnny couldn’t believe that a man who had given his life to the department would be the cause of so much destruction. Before he could get an answer there was a loud explosion that sent debris raining down for several hundred feet around the building. Crews grabbed their hoses and ran back, trying to tame the beast that two of their own had started. But before they could get very far, another explosion occurred, this time throwing firefighters into the air. He didn’t wait to hear what his friend had to say, Johnny ran to help where he could.

By the time the fire was out, three of the firefighters had died from the injuries they had received from the explosion. When the crews were cleaning up, they found the bodies of four workers who had been trapped in a backroom when a large crate had fallen over. It was determined later that Jim Alder and Rod Cranston had tipped the crate over in their hurry to get out of the building when they first started the fire. So not only had the two men been charged with arson, they had been charged with seven counts of murder. Johnny still couldn’t understand what made the two men do what they had done.

Nicole knew her husband was remembering that day and squeezed his hand. He smiled at her support and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

Roy and Joanne were standing just inside the doorway that led down the hall to the courtroom they would be in. “Well, Junior, are you ready to do this?” Roy was having a difficult time understanding what motivated the two men, too.

“As ready as I’ll ever be, Pally.” Johnny smiled at the man who was closer than a brother to him.

The four turned and walked down the hallway to meet the District Attorney who was waiting for their arrival. Nicole and Joanne walked into the courtroom. Since they were testifying, Johnny and Roy had to wait outside until it was their turn to be called. Neither man was looking forward to what lay ahead and their hearts were burdened that two men who had served the LA County Fire Department for so many years would do something so horrific.

Nicole and Joanne had listened as the trial seemed to go on forever. Every witness the prosecution had introduced was grilled endlessly by the defense to try to discredit them. The two women shared a disgusted look as the defense once again tried to ask questions that had already been either answered or objected to and sustained by the Judge.

The Judge was irritated and called an early recess for lunch. As Nicole and Joanne walked out of the courtroom, they saw both Roy and Johnny wearing a hole in the floor just outside the door. Grabbing the arms of the two men, the two women led them to the closest diner to get some lunch.

Johnny and Roy both wondered what was taking so long inside the courtroom, but neither man asked what was going on. Both wanted to prove that their testimony and motives were above reproach. Joanne and Nicole both knew the men were curious, but marveled at their self-control in not asking any questions. Finishing lunch quickly, the four headed back to the courthouse knowing that the two men were the next two witnesses to be called.

Since Johnny was the one that stopped the two men, Roy was called as a witness first. Johnny didn’t sit once while he waited his turn to be called. When the bailiff came out of the courtroom, Johnny took a deep breath, held his head high and entered the room.

Jim Alder and Rod Cranston both watched as Johnny walked down the center aisle towards the witness stand. They both knew that there was no way they were going to discredit Johnny. Their attorney had made a fool of himself trying to discredit Roy. As Johnny got close to the stand, Jim knew his life was over. Johnny had asked him at the scene why he had done it, but he had never answered. No one would ever know that the reason for his actions was his hatred for Johnny.

Johnny had been in the class behind Jim in the academy and had looked to the man for guidance. But the kid was smart and soon surpassed him in both ability and knowledge. Through the years, Johnny seemed to advance faster than Jim did and had become very successful in the arson division. Jim had tried but couldn’t get any higher than the rank of Captain where Johnny had become a Chief what seemed like years ago. Then Rod Cranston came on scene as Jim’s engineer. Rod was a bigot who could get no higher than engineer and used Jim’s dismay about Johnny to his advantage. He used every opportunity he could find to needle Jim about Johnny’s success and Jim’s lack of it. Seeing the anger and resentment grow each time he said anything, Rod kept up his “attack” until he knew that Jim would go along with his plan.

Both men had been getting deeper and deeper into trouble. What no one knew as that their Battalion Chief had issued a final verbal warning right before the arson. He had been trying to work with both men, but had reached the end of his rope. He had told them that unless they both got their act together, they were fired. Rod used this warning to put his final plan into place. Knowing Jim was angry, Rod used that anger before Jim could calm down and back out. They were going to get back at the fire department. Neither man really wanted anyone to die; it was just a way to take out their anger. At least that is what Jim thought. Rod had secret hopes that any “non-white” firefighter that responded to these incidents would be either so severely injured they couldn’t return to the department or lost their lives. He believed that only white firefighters were the good firefighters—all the others were worthless trash. The other thing that Jim would never know was that this was only the beginning of Rod’s plans. Being firefighters, Rod figured they would burn down several buildings and never get caught. He hadn’t counted on John Gage.

Rod elbowed Jim and whispered in his ear. Jim grew angrier and jumped up from his seat to yell at Johnny. When the bailiff ran over to grab him to sit him down, Jim used the distraction and grabbed the bailiff’s gun. He pointed it at Johnny and pulled the trigger. As Roy ran to Johnny’s side and the bailiff fought with Jim, the gun went off a second time and Roy fell on top of Johnny.

Just as the bailiff was getting control of the gun, it was turned between the two fighting men and went off a third time. This time is was Jim who fell to the floor. Jim Alder was dead.

Rod had tried to escape, but the two security guards who had entered at the sound of the first shot had subdued him rather quickly without any trouble. When the shooting stopped Nicole and Joanne ran to their husbands’ sides knowing that it was bad.

***************************

Emergency and police personnel were hurrying back and forth all over the courtroom. Everyone had been moved to the back corner of the room where the police could get eye witness statements. They had interviewed Joanne and Nicole first and let them return to their injured husbands. It didn’t surprise either woman when the stations that were responded were the stations where their children worked. Nor were they surprised when Chief Stanley arrived on scene.

The two men were loved by everyone and prayers were being offered all over the room. The outcome for both men was not looking good.

Seeing who had been injured and the severity of the injuries, Hank Stanley radioed for additional squads. He didn’t want the DeSoto and Gage children to have to worry about the care of their fathers. If what he suspected was correct, the outcome was not going to be positive and he didn’t want them to have to wonder if it was their fault. He was relieved when LA responded that different squads had already been dispatched. He had no sooner put down the handy-talkie when the new sets of paramedics arrived.

Michaela, Jason, and Matthew reluctantly gave up the care of their fathers to the newly arrived paramedics. Needing to do something, they joined Crystal, Megan and Michael in guiding their mothers to an area close to where the two men were being worked on but far enough away to be out of the way. Johnny had received a bullet to the left chest very near his heart. Roy had been shot in the back, but also on the left side hitting one lung and possibly shattering some ribs causing one to puncture the other lung.

Nicole turned to Joanne and pulled her into a supporting hug. “Joanne, they have lived through so many situations when their chances were almost nil. But I think the Lord may be calling them home. Remember when the Pastor said that nothing can take us from this earth until God is finished with us and then nothing can keep us here when He is?”

“Yes, I remember.” Before Joanne could say anymore, Hank, Chet, Marco and Mike joined the two families.

“But they have both come through difficult times before. They’ll make it again.” Chet knew just like the rest of the group that Roy and Johnny probably wouldn’t make it. He just was not ready to let go.

“Chet, they have both been through so much—car accidents, plane crashes, fires, and more—but as Nicole was saying our Pastor told us recently that nothing can take us from this earth until God is finished with us and then nothing can keep us here when He is. No matter how much we want them to stay or they want to stay, if their work for the Lord is finished here, nothing can keep them here.” Joanne took comfort as Chris put his arm around his mother. By this time, Jenny, Mark, Melissa, and Michelle had arrived. Although no one had noticed, the local TV stations had crews covering the trial. After all, it was two firefighters who were being charged with arson and murder. And the mayhem at the trial was sensational news. The kids had seen the coverage and needed to be with their families for support.

The group that had moved to the jury box watched as Johnny and Roy were loaded onto gurneys and rushed out the doors to the waiting ambulances. Vince Howard and Ron Crockett led a group of police officers that protected the families and friends from the media frenzy as they made their way to their cars to head to Rampart.

***************************

The hospital was wall to wall firefighters. Some were on duty and in uniform but it seemed that every available L.A. County firefighter was somewhere in the halls or emergency room waiting area waiting for word on the condition of two very special men.

Nicole and Joanne entered the emergency room doors and smiled as the waiting firefighters split to either side of the hallway snapping to attention and giving the two women a path down the middle towards the nurses’ desk. Although they were both prepared for what they knew lay ahead, it didn’t keep either of them from letting the tears flow down their cheeks. They may know what lay ahead today, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Their family members were close behind with Hank Stanley, Marco Lopez, Chet Kelly, and Mike Stoker bringing up the rear. Dr. Kelly Bracket had left his administrative office to “get his hands dirty” and be there for two very special friends. He was the one who met the two women and quietly led the group into the treatment room where both of their husbands lay.

“The parting of the blue sea” as Chet had called the splitting of the firefighters became a large group again while everyone watched them enter the treatment room. No one said a word because they all knew they were going to lose both men. Everyone wanted to be there when it happened.

Just before he closed the door to the treatment room to give the group what little privacy he could, Hank took one look at the crowd and realized they were clogging up the emergency waiting room and hallway. Since it was a nice day outside, he made a decision. “Gentlemen…” he was amazed that at that one word everyone grew quiet, “we are causing a problem here. Why don’t you go outside on the lawn and clear the emergency room for those who really need it? I’ll be sure to let you know the second something happens.” There was no grumbling or complaining—just a quiet, orderly, peaceful exit out to the lawn. Dixie shook her head in amazement and let the tears flow. Hank entered the room letting the door closely slowly behind him as the realization hit them all that this was the time to say goodbye.

Joanne and Nicole were the first ones to approach the two gurneys. Sharing watery smiles and taking deep breaths both women looked at their husbands.

“Johnny, it is time for you to rest now. You have taken care of so many people and given so much that it is your turn. The kids and I will be fine. Michelle, Melissa and Mark will be graduating from the Academy next year and all our kids will make you proud. You made my life complete. You are my soul mate. I heard someone say once that ‘they say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.’ Johnny, it will take more than two lifetimes to forget you. You are a very special person, Johnny. I want you around for the rest of my life, but whatever is best for you is ok. You’ll always be in my heart. This isn’t really goodbye. It is goodnight. I will see you ‘in the morning’ in Heaven.” Nicole did not try to stop the tears from flowing.

“Roy, you are my other half. You deserve to rest and it is alright if you let go. Our kids will be there to help me whenever I need it. You have given me such joy over our life together. Like Nicole told Johnny ‘they say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.’ Roy, there are enough lifetimes to make me forget you. It is alright for you to let go if that is what you need to do. I, too, am not saying goodbye, but goodnight. I will see you ‘in the morning’ in Heaven.” Joanne didn’t try to hold her tears back either.

Joanne and Nicole remained by their husbands’ sides as each member of the group stepped up to say goodbye to very special men who would leave empty spots in the lives of everyone they had met.

Just as the last of the group said goodbye, they were amazed to see that both men opened their eyes. It seemed they had just enough strength to talk to the ones they loved so the group congregated around the two men. Johnny was the first to try to speak. “Nicole, I love you and know you will be alright. And I know that our kids will act in a way that would make me proud of them. Please let any of my grandkids know that I would have loved them and I will see them again someday. You are my soul mate and I know it is the time to let go.” He smiled as Nicole leaned over and gave him a kiss. He had been glad when he could get out what he wanted to say with the little strength he had left.

“Joanne, I love you and had no plans to leave you today. But like Johnny, I know it is time to let go. You will be taken care of by all our family and I know you are in good hands. Like Johnny said let my grandkids know I would have loved them and will see them again someday. You are special to me, Joanne.” Roy received a kiss, too. Roy was glad his strength didn’t give out on him, either, before he could let his wife know how much he loved her.

Feeling a strong wave of pain, Johnny looked at Roy. “Are you ready, Pally?” He shared one last kiss with Nicole.

“Yes, I am, Junior. It’s time to go.” Roy shared one last kiss with Joanne. Then, as with most of the events in their lives, Roy and Johnny both closed their eyes for the last time.

It was only a few minutes later when both men took their last breath at exactly the same moment. “They shared their lives, it is only fitting their share their last breath.” Nicole kissed her husband on the forehead. It was another twenty minutes before any of the families could pull themselves from the room even though Kel had verified the two men’s death within a minute after it happened.

As they stepped out of the building Joanne and Nicole locked arms and walked towards the waiting firefighters. Knowing it was over, Hank handed Nicole the bullhorn she reached out for. “L.A. County’s finest—thank you for your support. Two very special men in our lives and in each one of yours are now in the hands of God. Please keep them close to your hearts and remember their love and dedication as you face each day. Make them proud of each one of you.” She would have said more, but her heart was breaking and the tears streamed down her face.

Hank, Mike, Chet and Marco stepped up to the two women and led them back to their waiting families. As the Gage and DeSoto children led their mothers towards the waiting cars, the strains of Amazing Grace grew as the firefighters as one started singing.

Joanne and Nicole watched as the group as one turned to face the hospital, saluted, and then turned to head towards their cars all while singing Amazing Grace.

***************************

The sunrise the morning of Johnny and Roy’s funeral was one that Nicole and Joanne knew their husbands would have enjoyed. Sitting on the Gage’s deck each with a cup of coffee, the two women shared the quiet time. They were thankful for all the support they had received and knew there would be more, but they wanted a few minutes alone.

Nothing was said as quietly each one of the Gage and DeSoto children made their way to the back yard with breakfast. When they were all gathered, Nicole smiled at each one. “You all know you were loved by the two men whose lives we will be celebrating today. Keep a part of them in your heart and remember to honor them and God.”

***************************

It was still two hours before the funeral but Hank Stanley and Mike Stoker were trying to make some decisions. The funeral was to take place at the Fire Academy auditorium. But even this early, the place was packed wall to wall and more firefighters from across the country as well as members of the general public who had been in contact with both men were arriving by the groves.

Hank slipped into his office at the Academy and quickly dialed a number. He was pleased when he was able to make arrangements to move the funeral on such short notice to a larger auditorium. Taking a deep breath, he headed back to the front of the auditorium. He stopped to talk to Nicole, Joanne, the funeral director, Mike, Marco and Chet. Then he made his way to the podium and microphone. “May I have your attention, please?” He wasn’t surprised at how quickly everyone stopped their quiet murmuring. “We would like to accommodate everyone who has come to honor our two friends. There is no more room available for anyone to enter this room. So we will be moving this gathering to the Carson Center.” Hank could not bring himself to use the word funeral. “The police will be escorting us to the Center, so if everyone can quietly and quickly make their way to their vehicles, we will move as quickly as possible.”

Chet had volunteered to stand at one end of the entrance to the Academy to let those who were still arriving know the change of plans and give them directions to the new location. Marco had volunteered to stand at the other end. They both stayed at their post until 45 minutes before the funeral when two young police officers relieved the two men so they could honor their friends.

When the two men arrived at the Carson Center, they were thankful that their families and the original Station 51 A-Shift crew had saved them seats. Even though this auditorium was at least three times larger than the Academy auditorium, there were still people who were outside the doors because there was no room inside. They knew they shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of people that turned out, but none of them had expected that many.

Chris, as the eldest of the DeSoto/Gage clan was “elected” (he actually volunteered to spare his siblings and cousins) to give the eulogy and read the poem

‘A Firefighter’s Prayer.’
When I’m called to duty, God, where flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child before it is too late,
or save an older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling to give the best in me,
to guard my every neighbor and to protect his property.
And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life,
please bless with your protecting hand – my children and my wife.

“The poem I just read for my dad and ‘Uncle’ Johnny was demonstrated over and over in their lives. They were never afraid to give it all they had and even more. There were times when my brother, sisters, and cousins would watch as they did more than anyone else to aid a victim. More times than not, there were times when it seemed like nothing could be done because the fire was too great or the situation was too risky. But my dad or Uncle Johnny would rush in anyway not even thinking about the fact they might lose their life. The victims always came first.

“When they started working with the new recruits at the fire station, I watched them instill the values that made my dad and Uncle Johnny who they were. That group of firefighters and those who will train at this facility in the future will be better because of the time and dedication given by two men who would tell you they were ‘just doing our job’. William Stoker and I will be taking over the training at the academy. My dad and Uncle leave mighty big shoes to fill and I doubt we will ever completely fill them, but we will do everything we can to continue in their footsteps. Not only will our families feel a loss, but we know that Rampart General Hospital and the L.A. County Fire Department will feel the loss, too. And, looking out over this crowd, knowing there are who knows how many in the fields and watching at home, I am sure there are others who will feel the loss as well. But just remember this—they will always be in our hearts and would want us to remember the good memories. Good night Dad and Uncle Johnny. We will ‘see you in the morning’ when it is our turn to join you in Heaven.”

Hank stepped up to the podium to replace Chris. “The L.A. Fire Department does feel the loss as well and would like to honor the dedication these two men demonstrated over the years. Headquarters had decided that we will name the Fire Academy auditorium the Roy DeSoto/John Gage Memorial Auditorium and their pictures will be hung on either side the front door. A plaque reading: “As you enter this building, do so with pride and dedication in honor of Roy DeSoto and John Gage, mentors who cared.” He had to wait for ten minutes as the audience rose to their feet and the applause thundered throughout the building and area.

As the funeral ended, the original Station 51 A-shift engine crew took their places on Engine 51 after Roy and Johnny’s bodies were placed in the hose bed. Chris and Matthew took their father’s places in the Station 51 Squad to lead the procession to the cemetery. The route went past Station 51 and the on duty shift stood at attention as the line of fire and emergency vehicles went by even though the procession went on for 30 minutes.

There was a double rainbow in the sky as Chief Roy DeSoto and Chief John Gage were laid to rest beside Mayan, Melinda, and Melanie Gage in a spot where the sunsets would be beautiful.

***************************

Epilogue

Chris DeSoto and William Stoker took over as the heads of the Fire Academy using the curriculum Roy and Johnny had developed. Roy and Johnny would have been proud as Chris and William had the same compassion and desire to train only the best possible firefighters to serve in the L.A. County Fire Department. Both young men would say they would never be as good as Roy and Johnny, but others felt they were continuing the excellent training set into place by two very special men.

Jason and Crystal DeSoto; Matthew, Michael, Michelle, Michaela, Mark, Melissa, and Megan Gage; William and Brandon Stoker; Grace, Noelle, and Joshua Lopez; and Aaron, Larissa, and Kenneth Kelly did take over the reins and made as much of a name for themselves as the original Station 51 A-shift had. The tradition started the first day the original crew had met would follow their families for generations to come. All would be proud to share the firefighting history as well as the love shared by their families

The years following had seen weddings, births, and honors for all of the offspring of the original crew. There were also the hard times like when Nicole’s father died from West Nile Encephalitis in October, 2002, and Chet Kelly was killed by a drunk driver a year later. But the one thing that would remain in the hearts of everyone was the love and faith of Johnny and Nicole Gage and the love of life they left in the hearts of their families and friends.

The end

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