The next few months were spent preparing for and
celebrating Brandon Stoker’s wedding. It was with great pride
that Mike Stoker stood with his son as his best man and all five of
Brandon’s “uncles” stood as his groomsmen. Once again
the Station 51 family was expanding and they welcomed Brittany Chandler
as the newest member.
Roy sat in his office trying to complete the endless stream of paperwork
he, as Captain, always had. But his mind kept wandering back to the
annual 4th of July picnic at the Gage’s ranch. It had been great
fun as always, but he was worried about Nicole. She seemed overly tired
at the picnic. When he had mentioned it later to Joanne, she had responded
that she had been noticing that Nicole had been more tired than usual
for about two weeks. Nicole’s response to Joanne when she mentioned
it was that Nicole didn’t sleep well when Johnny was working
on a case and he had been working on a big one. But as Roy thought
about the symptoms he had noticed, he wasn’t so sure it was just
that she wasn’t sleeping. His thoughts were pulled back to his
job as the tones sounded calling his station as well as Johnny’s
and Mike’s to a warehouse fire.
Johnny’s station had been the first one on scene,
so he was sending his crew to do cleanup and was telling LA that Roy’s
and Mike’s stations were done, when Roy stopped him. “Johnny,
my crew is going to help yours clean up. I would like to talk to you
for a few minutes.”
Johnny let LA know the change in assignments and followed Roy over
to lean against Engine 51. “What did you need to talk to me about,
“Johnny, I am a little concerned about Nicole. She looked so
tired the other day and I noticed her sitting down a lot. I didn’t
even think about it until this morning that I had seen bruises on her
arms and legs and she had a couple of bloody noses while we were there.
Is there something going on?”
“I thought it was just me. Nicole keeps telling me I am overreacting
when I mention any of the things I have seen. I am worried about her,
too. Besides the symptoms you have mentioned she has been very pale,
light-headed and dizzy. She keeps telling me she just gets up too fast
or that she has been doing something in one position too long or some
other reason and that I was just being overprotective. I didn’t
really believe her, but let it go.”
“Well, Johnny, it’s not just you. Joanne and I both noticed
it the other night and it has us both worried.”
“I noticed it, too.” Neither man had noticed Mike walk
up beside them. “I sent my men in to help with clean up. I wanted
to talk to Johnny about Nicole. I guess you beat me to it Roy.”
“You noticed it too, Mike?” Johnny knew there was more
going on than him overreacting.
“Yeah, so did Beth. She made me promise to talk to you about
it if I got the chance. We have all been busy this morning so this
is the first chance I got.”
“Thanks, Roy, and thanks, Mike. I plan on talking to her tonight.
I just pray that I can convince her to see a doctor if for no other
reason than to ease my mind. If I can’t get her to agree tonight,
I will personally hogtie her and take her to the doctor tomorrow.” Johnny
was really getting concerned.
“Let us know and we’ll do all we can to help.” Roy
knew that Johnny was worried about his wife. They were all worried
about their friend. None of them knew they wouldn’t have to wait
until the next day before finding out what was going on with Nicole.
Nicole had woken with another headache. She had been
getting a lot of them lately on top of the symptoms Roy, Mike and Johnny
had all noticed. She was beginning to worry because nothing was helping.
She had first thought it was the stress of Johnny working on another
arson investigation. Then she thought maybe she was pregnant again.
She had experienced most of the symptoms during one or more of her
With a sigh, Nicole called the doctor to make an appointment. She
was relieved when the receptionist told her they had a cancellation
and asked if she could get there in 30 minutes. Nicole said yes and
was out the door before Johnny had a chance to call her.
Nicole was shaking when she pulled into the parking
lot of Station 51. What was she going to do? This would turn their
world upside down. She knew Johnny wasn’t prepared for it. But
then again, neither was she. She was pleased to find that Beth Stoker
was visiting with Joanne when she called and asked her to watch the
kids. Beth had offered to stay and help as long as she was needed.
Now Nicole needed to talk to Johnny.
Nicole let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding when
she entered the station and found that the crew was in quarters. She
didn’t know what she would have done if they were on a run. She
didn’t think she could drive home.
“Hey, Nicole, what brings you to the station?” Chet was
surprised to see her. Johnny hadn’t said anything about Nicole
coming for a visit.
“I was in town and thought I would stop and see my husband.
Is he in his office?” There was no way Nicole was going to tell
anyone the real reason she was there until she had a chance to talk
“Yeah, he probably would like a break from all the paperwork.” Chet
could tell there was something wrong.
Nicole stood for a second watching her husband in his “never-ending” paperwork.
Knowing she needed to tell Johnny now, she quietly knocked on the open
Johnny looked up at the soft knock. “Nicole, I was just thinking
about you, Angel. Come in and have a seat.” He didn’t think
she looked well at all as he came from behind his desk. After he had
made sure she was seated, he closed the door. “What brings you
Taking a deep breath, Nicole looked at the concerned face of her husband. “I
just came from Dr. Watson’s office.”
Before Nicole could go any further, Johnny stood up and opened the
office door. “Chet?”
Chet came from the dayroom when he heard Johnny’s call. “Yeah,
“Put in a call to headquarters and stand the engine down for
about an hour.” He didn’t wait for Chet’s reply before
he closed the door and once again joined his wife.
Forty-five minutes later, Chet was ready to go find out what was going
on in Johnny’s office when he heard the sound of vehicles pulling
into their station. Looking out the door he was surprised to see the
squads and engines from stations 14 and 24 as well as Chief Stanley’s
car on the front tarmac. He watched as Mike, Roy and Hank met at the
front of the station and went directly into Johnny’s office.
The two crews slowly made their way into the station. By this time
William had joined Chet watching the men coming towards the station.
When Chris and Brandon entered, William and Chet grabbed them.
William was looking at the closed door of Johnny’s office. “Does
anyone know what is going on?”
“No, we were just starting a drill when Chief Stanley walked
in. He and Captain Stoker went into Cap’s office. A few minutes
later they walked out and we headed for Station 14. Chief Stanley and
Captain Stoker went into Captain’s DeSoto’s office. When
the three men came out, we all loaded up and headed over here.” Brandon
had been wondering what was going on since he first saw Chief Stanley
enter their station.
Before any of them could ask anymore questions, Captain Charlie Dwyer,
Captain Joshua Washington, and Captain Bob Bellingham entered the station.
They were just about to ask what the Captains were doing there when
the door to Johnny’s office opened and Chief Stanley and Captain
Stoker walked out.
“Charlie, Bob, Joshua, thanks for coming on such short notice.
Please join us and the rest of the crews so we can tell everyone what
is going on.” Hank led the way into the kitchen.
As Hank waited for everyone to finish getting a cup of coffee and
find a place to either stand or sit, he looked at each one of them.
It was a good group and he knew they would be willing to help in anyway
they could. When everyone was set, Hank took a deep breath.
The worry that had settled in the hearts of all of them was evident
in Chris’s voice when he couldn’t wait any longer. “Uncle
Hank, what’s going on? Is something wrong with Uncle Johnny?”
Hank smiled to himself when Chris called them both “Uncle” instead
of Chief and Captain. He knew that Chris and both Stoker boys would
be the ones that were worried the most. “No, Chris, Captain Gage
is fine. Gentlemen, Nicole has just been diagnosed with aplastic anemia.
Captain Dwyer will be filling in for Captain Gage for the rest of this
shift. Captain Washington will be filling in for Captain Stoker and
Captain Bellingham will be filling in for Captain DeSoto. Captain DeSoto
will be taking the Gages to Dr. Swan’s office to discuss Nicole’s
treatment. Captain Stoker is going to go out to the Gage’s to
help with the kids and fill Joanne and Beth in on what is going on.
Chet, Marco, Brandon, please call Kimberly, Rebecca and Brittany and
let them know, too. If they can, I would like to have them go out to
the DeSotos to help. I can’t get replacements for the rest of
you, so I know you will be out there tomorrow along with your families.
I don’t think we should have anyone else go out there now until
Captain and Mrs. Gage have time to find out what the doctor suggests
and let this news sink in.”
“Chief, how serious is it? I know that if they catch it early
enough they can treat it for a long time.” Chet voiced what was
in the minds of each of the crew members.
“Well, that is one of the things they are going to be determining
when Johnny and Nicole get to the doctor’s office. But, from
what Dr. Swan told Johnny on the phone it sounds like it is further
along than the doctor would have like when they found it. Right now
all we can do is wait, pray, and be there for Johnny and Nicole.” Hank
stopped worrying about protocol. He knew that everyone in the room
was as worried about Johnny and Nicole as he was. They were family.
What none of them knew was that Dr. Swan had wanted to keep Nicole
at the hospital because she needed a blood transfusion. She had told
him she wanted to talk to Johnny personally instead of over the phone
and promised she would return to Dr. Swan’s office as soon as
she could. But fate was going to step in.
Hank was just about to answer some of the questions that were being
thrown at him when they all heard Roy’s voice. “Brandon,
Jim, Bob, grab the gear and get in here NOW!”
Jim and Bob grabbed their gear as Brandon ran towards Johnny’s
office door. There he found Johnny on the floor with Nicole’s
head in his lap and tears running down his face. Roy was taking Nicole’s
Roy was about to ask someone to call in a still alarm when he heard
Hank’s voice on the microphone. “LA we have a still alarm
at station 51. Please send an ambulance.”
“10-4, station 51.” The call for the ambulance could be
heard over the loud speaker throughout the station. The rest of the
men gathered in a group out of the way of the paramedics working on
Nicole but close enough to let Johnny know they were there.
Jim grabbed the biophone as Brandon and Bob worked on Nicole. Roy
had stepped aside as he knew he was too close to the situation. “Rampart,
this is Squad 51, how do you read?”
“Squad 51, this is Rampart. Go ahead.” Dixie had heard
the still alarm called out but didn’t know what was going on.
As Brandon relayed what was happening, both Dr. Brackett and Dr. Swan
walked by. Dixie grabbed them. Dr. Swan had been afraid something like
this was going to happen. They had found that Nicole was fighting an
infection among other things and she really needed to be in the hospital.
He was somewhat relieved when it was only three minutes later that
Nicole was on her way to the hospital to get the treatment she needed.
He had hoped she would be alright until she returned to the hospital,
but that wasn’t the case. He just hoped they had caught this
in time to help her.
Johnny was numb. ~Honey, Dr. Watson had a Dr. Swan look at my blood
tests. Johnny, I have aplastic anemia.~ Aplastic anemia – the
words kept running through his mind. His medical training provided
him with more information than he really wanted to know right now.
He followed Nicole’s gurney into the treatment room and grabbed
her hand when she reached for him. His worry eased a tiny bit as Nicole
smiled at him. She was awake and he prayed that was a good sign. Wanting
to know what to expect, Johnny listened to the doctor’s commands
and watched as a blood transfusion was set up and medications were
administered. It took on a whole new meaning as he watched. After all,
it was his wife lying on the examination table, not a stranger. Roy
had remained in the treatment room as a support for Johnny. Dr. Brackett
and Carol had stayed to assist Dr. Swan.
“Well, Nicole, I think you returned a little sooner than you
thought you were going to.” Dr. Swan was pleased with Nicole’s
quick response to the treatment he had prescribed. “Johnny, Nicole,
the reason Nicole passed out was because she needed immediate treatment
for a severe infection from a sore on her back. I would like her to
stay here tonight and we will start immediate drug therapy. “
“We were headed back here when I passed out. I’m sorry
I didn’t listen to you sooner, Dr. Swan. I should have stayed
here then, but I just wanted to talk to Johnny first. I didn’t
want him to get the news over the phone.”
“I can understand that, but now we need to get you admitted
so we can run some more tests. Then I am going to have a talk with
you and your husband about where we go from here.”
“Thank you, Dr. Swan.” Johnny had been listening carefully
to the conversation and prayed that what lay ahead was not too rough
on any of them. But, of course, his biggest concern was Nicole.
“You’re welcome, Johnny. I’ll be up to see both
of you after Nicole has been settled and we can discuss the tests and
go from there. I should see you in a few minutes.” Dr. Swan shook
Johnny’s hand before walking out of the treatment room. He knew
they needed a few minutes to absorb the news before he told them the
Being careful of the tubing for the transfusion she was receiving,
Johnny pulled Nicole into his arms as he saw the fear on her face.
His mind was going in a thousand directions, but the one prayer that
kept going from his heart was that Nicole would beat this and maybe
the doctor was wrong. He let his tears mix with hers as the medical
personnel quietly left the room to let them have a few minutes of privacy
while Nicole’s room was being made ready. Dr. Brackett and Roy
were the last ones out of the room and they sent up silent prayers
for the couple.
Roy was having a difficult time dealing with what he had learned.
Dr. Brackett was speechless. This had been the farthest thing from
any of their minds.
“Are you sure?” could be heard from Dr. Brackett as he
followed Dr. Swan from the room. He, too, was praying that the doctor
“Yes, Kel, I’m sure. I know that this is not what you
want to hear, but it is the truth. I want to grab the medications I
need for her so we can get started as soon as possible. Kel, her case
is pretty serious. We need to get her on the transplant list immediately.
Transfusions and medications will work for a while, but I don’t
think it is going to be very long until she needs a bone marrow transplant
unless one of her relatives is a match.”
“She has no living relatives. All her family is gone. How long
do you thing she has?”
“Then I will put her name on the list right now. I am not going
to even try to guess how long she might have.” Dr. Swan could
feel Dr. Brackett’s eyes follow him down the hall as he went
to the Nurses’ station to immediately get Nicole on the transplant
Kel’s feet seemed glued to the spot he was in. Dixie and Joe
walked to up see Kelly Brackett staring down the hall.
“What’s wrong, Kel?” Dixie didn’t like the
look on Kel’s face. She and Joe had been kept busy in one of
the treatment rooms dealing with the victim of a car accident and didn’t
know Nicole had been brought in.
“Nicole Gage was brought in a little while ago.” Kel didn’t
want to say it out loud. If he kept quiet maybe they would all wake
up to find out it was just a dream.
“Was she in an accident or something?” Now Joe was beginning
to becoming concerned.
Taking a deep breath, Kel knew he had to answer their questions. “No,
she had stopped at the station to talk to Johnny about her doctor’s
appointment this morning and she passed out from an infection.” Knowing
he needed to tell them everything, he turned to face his friends. “She
saw Dr. Watson today and he turned her case over to Dr. Swan. Nicole
has acute aplastic anemia.” Kel knew that no matter how much
he wanted it not to be true, Dr. Swan had run the blood tests himself—three
“How bad is it?” Mike and Hank had wandered out to see
if they could find out what was going on. Mike’s face turned
white as he thought about what he heard.
“We don’t know for sure. Dr. Swan won’t make any
guesses. We need to see how she responds to treatment, but she will
need a bone marrow transplant eventually.” Dr. Brackett looked
at the faces of their friends.
“But don’t you need a relative for that?” Hank was
worried about his friends.
“Yes, but Dr. Swan is putting her name on the transplant list
right now and we are praying that she will be one of the lucky ones
who will find a match from someone unrelated.”
Dr. Swan returned to the group standing in the middle of the hallway. “Kel,
we need to go talk to the Gages now. I want to get Nicole started on
treatment immediately. I don’t want to wait any longer. We will
start now instead of waiting until she gets sent upstairs.”
Kelly Brackett followed Dr. Swan back to treatment room 1 with a heavy
Johnny lost the battle with his tears. He was wondering when he was
going to wake up from this nightmare.
It was Nicole who was trying to reassure her husband.” “Johnny,
it’s going to be alright. Remember God is always in control.
We don’t know what is going to happen, but it will be alright.” Being
careful of her the tubes for her transfusion and IV antibiotics, Nicole
sat up and pulled her husband into her arms.
That was how Dr. Swan and Dr. Brackett found them when they returned
to the treatment room.
Two hours later, Nicole had been settled into a private room and had
been visited by all their friends. Now it was just Johnny, Roy and
Joanne left in the room. Rebecca, Kimberly and Brittany had sent Joanne
to the hospital to be there for Nicole as well as Johnny and Roy as
soon as they arrived at the DeSoto home. Nicole had finished her treatment
and was beginning to get tired. As she thought about all the doctor
had told her, it suddenly seemed too hard. She looked at the pain etched
on Roy and Joanne’s faces and the pain mixed with fear and worry
on Johnny’s face. That combined with how she was feeling and
fatigue from her treatments broke down her resolve and it was now Johnny’s
turn to pull her into an embrace and let her cry.
Roy and Joanne knew that their friends needed a little time alone. “Johnny,
Joanne and I are going home. We are going to pick up Jenny and your
kids. The kids will stay with us as long as you need them to. I talked
to Hank earlier and your shifts have been covered for at least the
next week.” Roy put his arm around Johnny who was holding Nicole.
“Thanks, Roy. I’ll give you time to get home and then
I’ll call the kids so we can say goodnight. Roy, Joanne, thank
you for just being here. It has meant so much to us.”
“You’re both family. There is no place else we would rather
be.” Joanne kissed Johnny on the cheek and patted Nicole’s
hand as she and Roy left Nicole and Johnny wrapped in each other’s
It had been four months since they had received Nicole’s diagnosis—four
months of blood transfusions, drug therapies, and waiting to see if
a donor would be found to provide her with a transplant. The medications
Dr. Swan was trying were not working. She was at the point that she
had to have transfusions every other week, but Dr. Swan had indicated
that she would probably start needing them more often.
The DeSotos had held the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations
for the “Station 51” family in place of the Gages. Everyone
came, but the celebrations were subdued. Everyone was praying for a
Christmas miracle for Nicole. New Years had been scaled back so that
only the original Station 51 A-Shift families gathered to celebrate
and their New Year’s wish was that a donor would be found for
Nicole. And during the whole time, Nicole was very tired and weak—something
that worried all of her “family”.
Chet had been to visit Nicole during her latest transfusion. Every
time she had a transfusion, she had to spend a couple of nights in
the hospital. Dr. Swan had moved Nicole up on the donor list and was
praying one would be found soon. He had started her on chemo in preparation
for a transplant even though a donor hadn’t been found yet. Dr.
Swan was growing close to the Gages and really wanted Nicole to live.
She would need the transplant as soon as a donor was located and he
wanted to be ready the second one was found.
As Chet walked out of Nicole’s room, he tried to think of a
way he could help. Then it hit him and he headed for LA County Fire
Department headquarters. A couple hours later the call had gone out
to all fire stations and all off-duty firefighters. Chet had gotten
the department to sponsor testing of all willing firefighters and their
families. It was a long shot, but he was praying that they would find
a match for Nicole. At least he knew he had done his part in helping
someone he cared a great deal about. It hadn’t taken any persuasion
on his part to get headquarters to agree—Johnny was well respected
by all and Nicole had become as much a part of the “brotherhood” as
Johnny through her volunteering and caring. It did surprise Chet how
fast it was put together, but he was thankful for the speed. Now if
it would only produce a miracle.
Roy, Hank, Chet, Mike and Marco took turns being at the hospital during
the times that had been set aside for the fire department’s testing
of volunteers for a donor for Nicole. They were there to personally
thank each person who came in to get tested. It had been agreed upon
between the five men to take on this responsibility so that Johnny
wouldn’t have to be there every day as they knew he would have
tried to do. It didn’t surprise them, though, that Johnny made
an appearance at least once during each day to thank those he could.
As Roy knew he would, Johnny encouraged those who were tested but didn’t
match Nicole to think about being donors if they matched someone else
on the registry. Because of Johnny’s encouragement, several firefighters
and their family members did just that.
It was encouraging to see the number of people who had volunteered
to get tested and even more of an encouragement that many added their
name to the list of possible donors for others. But it was personally
discouraging to the members of the Station 51 family that a match had
not been found for Nicole. There had been five full days of testing,
but no one came close to matching. On the surface, Johnny was not letting
it bothering him, but those who knew him best saw beneath the veneer
and knew he was hurting.
On the seventh and probably the last day of testing, Dr. Brackett
and Dr. Swan walked into the testing area. There was still a steady
stream of people getting tested and a steady stream adding their name
to the list to donate to others. Although it didn’t look promising
for Nicole, Johnny and Nicole had both told the two doctors something
good had come out of it. Dr. Brackett thought back to their conversation
where Nicole had said that maybe that was why she had gotten sick—so
that others might get the transplants they needed. He was amazed at
her strength through all of this.
The two doctors were watching the process in the room when one of
the lab technicians who had been assigned to do the testing approached
them. “Dr. Swan, Dr. Brackett, we have a match.”
Glancing at each other, the two men broke into huge smiles. “Are
you sure?” Dr. Brackett didn’t want to get his friends’ hopes
up only to have them dashed because of a mistake.
“Yes, I ran the test twice. Then I ran another test I think
you both should see.” The lab technician had been amazed that
the match was a perfect match—something you don’t find
unless it is a family member.
Wondering if there was a problem with the donor, the two doctors hurried
after the lab technician to see what he had found.
Dr. Brackett had asked Joseph Dean to come to his office to talk to
him and Dr. Swan. As he waited for the two men to arrive, Dr. Brackett
tried to put his thoughts into a coherent form. He didn’t have
long to wait as his thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
When he opened it, both Joseph Dean and Dr. Swan entered.
After everyone was seated, Dr. Swan started. “Mr. Dean, we asked
you here today to tell you that you are a perfect match for Nicole
Gage. We would like to set up a time for the transplant if that is
alright with you.”
“Sure, I’m ready anytime you want to do it.” Joseph
was glad he could help. Maybe somehow this would make up for what had
happened when he was younger. It would never take away the pain, but
maybe it would ease it a little.
“Great, but there are a few questions we need to ask you.” Dr.
Brackett looked at the man sitting in front of him. The questions he
had to ask would probably be hard ones, but they needed to be asked.
So for the next 30 minutes, Joseph Dean answered questions he never
thought he would be asked.
Roy and Johnny were walking down the hallway when Dr. Brackett, Dr.
Swan and Joseph Dean stepped out of Dr. Brackett’s office. Roy
stopped dead in his tracks when he saw who was with the two doctors. “Joseph?”
Four sets of eyes turned to Roy when they heard the Captain’s
voice. Joseph smiled when he saw who it was. “Roy, I didn’t
expect to see you here.”
Roy’s face broke into a big grin and he started towards Joseph
just as Joseph started towards him. The two doctors and Johnny watched
as the two men met and embraced. “What are you doing here?” Roy
hadn’t seen Joseph in a little over a year and hadn’t talked
to him in about four months.
“We moved to LA about three weeks ago and I am now a firefighter
for the city of Los Angeles.” Joseph had been meaning to call
Roy, but hadn’t had a chance yet.
“What brings you to Rampart?” Roy had forgotten about
his friends for the moment.
“I can answer that for you.” Dr. Brackett wondered how
these two men knew each other. “Evidently you two already know
Roy looked up at that moment and realized the doctors and Johnny had
been watching the whole thing. “Yeah, Joseph is my cousin.”
“Your cousin? Well, I think there are a few things that we need
to talk to you and Johnny about. Joseph was tested and he is a perfect
match for Nicole. We were just on our way to set up a time for a bone
marrow transplant.” Dr. Brackett wasn’t sure how much he
should tell the two Captains standing in front of him now. After all,
that was Joseph’s business.
“I think we’d better tell them the whole thing first.” Joseph
knew that Roy was not aware of what had happened when Joseph was younger.
Although the two cousins had been growing closer over the last few
years, Roy’s mother and Joseph’s father had not talked
to each other since Joseph was four years old. It was only when Roy’s
father was very ill, that the two siblings had finally made up and
Joseph and Roy had met for the first time.
“Ok, let’s go into the doctor’s lounge and talk.
It’s bigger than my office.” Dr. Brackett led the way into
the lounge. ~I wonder what Johnny and Roy will think of what Joseph
has to tell them.~
It was 25 minutes later that Roy sat back in his chair and looked
at his best friend. Neither man could believe what they had just heard.
It was quiet in the room as Joseph thought about what Johnny and Roy
had shared with him. Johnny was the first to find his voice. “Let’s
go talk to Nicole. I know she is visiting Dixie and would love to meet
you. She will be as grateful to you as I am for your willingness to
be a donor.”
“And I would love to meet her. I am just glad that I am a perfect
match.” Joseph wanted to talk to Nicole as much as Johnny did.
As if on cue, the lounge door opened and Dixie and Nicole walked in. “Hi
honey. I didn’t know you were here.” Nicole was surprised
to see her husband sitting at the table.
“Roy and I were here for a paramedic meeting and got stopped
by Dr. Brackett before we got to the meeting. Dr. Brackett and Dr.
Swan have some great news.” Johnny pulled out the chair closest
to him and indicated Nicole should sit down. She looked especially
Dixie was about to leave when Joseph called her name. “Dixie,
you are welcome to stay.” She turned and sat down as Dr. Brackett
“Joseph Dean is one of the LA City firefighters who heard about
our testing and was tested to see if he was a possible donor. We are
happy to say that not only can he be a donor, he is a perfect match.”
Nicole turned to Joseph with eyes bright with unshed tears. “Thank
you, Mr. Dean. I know that thank you is so inadequate and I can never
“Well, let me tell you something. It is because I was tested
that I finally have some answers to something that happened almost
35 years ago.”
“I have a younger brother, Alex, and a younger sister we called
Peanut. My parents had taken my brother, sister and me to the park
in 1954 to celebrate my sister’s second birthday and my brother’s
sixth birthday. I was eight at the time. Mom had asked me to keep an
eye on Alex and Peanut while she and Dad got the food and presents
ready. I got tired of pushing peanut in the swing and looked over to
see how much longer Mom and Dad were going to be. I saw them talking
to some friends of the family and was a little upset that they were
talking and taking so long. A couple of the guys from my class at school
came over and wanted Alex and me to play a little basketball on the
court that was right next to the swings. I thought Peanut would be
ok as she had moved to the sandbox at the end of the swing set. I was
going to be able to keep my eyes on her—at least that’s
what I told myself. Alex and I got involved in the game and I wasn’t
paying attention to what was going on around me. I knew there were
other people in the area, but I didn’t think anything about it
until our parents called us to eat and we couldn’t find Peanut
anywhere. After three hours of searching, a park employee had returned
to the area and said he had seen a couple take Peanut in their car.
At that moment, I felt horrible. I was the one who was supposed to
be watching her. Anyway, the trail grew cold after three months and
Peanut was never located. Nothing was ever said about it around my
mother because she would break into tears and a deep depression. After
a while Peanut was forgotten—it was like she had never existed.
Mom died in 1960 and Dad always said he only had two children when
asked. But I never forgot because I was the one who was responsible
for her and it was my fault.”
“I don’t think it was your fault. You were only eight
years old. What could you have done against a couple?” Nicole
could see how this incident bothered Joseph even now.
“But what does that have to do with the results of the test
you took to see if you could be a donor?” Dixie wondered why
Joseph was sharing this story now.
“The lab technician noticed something when he did the testing
and because of it ran some other tests.” Dr. Brackett was waiting
to see the reactions to the rest of what they had to tell Nicole and
“What did he discover?” Dixie was really getting curious
“That Nicole is my sister.” Joseph watched Nicole’s
face to see what her reaction would be. Johnny and Roy had shared with
Joseph what Nicole’s life had been like growing up and all she
had to endure. He just hoped she wouldn’t hate him because it
was his fault she had endured such a difficult childhood. Joseph couldn’t
get over how much Nicole looked like their mother.
“ J.J.?” Nicole had been having a strange feeling from
the moment she had met Joseph that got stronger as he said his sister
was nicknamed Peanut. She had often thought she could remember two
older boys who played with her and called her Peanut. She thought she
remembered calling one of them J.J. and the other ‘lec. But when
her parents—or the people she thought were her parents—had
told her that she had never had any brothers, she thought it must had
just been a dream.
“Yeah, Peanut. It’s me.” Joseph held his breath
as Nicole slowly stood to her feet. He watched as she circled the table
and then pulled him up into her arms.
“You are real. It wasn’t just a dream like my parents
told me.” Nicole was crying as she held the brother she had not
seen in over 34 years.
“Yeah, I’m real. And you don’t know how happy I
am to finally get to hold you again and to know that you are alive.”
“I wish I could have said goodbye to Mom. Did she have reddish
brown hair and blue eyes that were filled with love and laughter? How
did she die?”
“Yes, she did. But that laughter died the day you disappeared.
Mom loved Alex and me and never abandoned us after that day, but the
laughter was gone. I think she would have found it again if she hadn’t
been killed in a car accident. Her eyes were beginning to sparkle again
towards the end of her life.”
“Where are Dad and Alex? Is Dad as gruff sounding but fun loving
as he always was? Is Alex still a trouble maker?”
“Dad is quite as fun loving as you remember. That day was hard
on all of us. Alex was in the car with Mom the day she was killed.
He was in the hospital for almost a year because of his injuries and
therapy. But the day he came home, Dad was almost back to the way he
was before you disappeared. Alex and Dad live in Escondido. Alex is
married and has three kids. He settled down after the accident and
now has a troublemaker of his own.” Joseph was surprised to find
that Nicole remembered something about their family.
Nicole was pleased that her “dreams” were indeed actual
memories of four people she knew she had loved and who had loved her—memories
she had thought were only dreams but memories that had gotten her through
her difficult childhood years.
“I don’t want to break up this wonderful reunion, but
there is a little more to the story.” Roy wondered what Nicole
would think when she found out they were cousins.
“More? What are you talking about?” Nicole sat on the
chair that Johnny had pulled up next to Joseph.
“Joseph is my cousin.” Roy had taken the seat across from
Nicole and took both of her hands in his. Johnny had taken the seat
so that he was seated beside Nicole and put his arm around her shoulders.
“Your cousin? That means that I’m your cousin, too?” Nicole
had always wanted someone to call family and now she had one of the
most special people in the world to claim as her cousin.
“Yep, we are officially related—we are officially family.” Roy
was as thrilled to have his two favorite people really related to him.
Nicole was his cousin which made Johnny his cousin-in-law. He couldn’t
wait to tell the rest of their ‘family’ the good news.
“We need to celebrate. Today Nicole and I not only found out
she will get the transplant she needs, but we are really related to
some of our friends that we have always considered to be family.” Johnny
was still trying to believe everything that had happened in the last
hour or so. He just prayed that he wouldn’t wake up and find
out it was just a dream.
“First we need to set up a date for the transplant. I’d
like to do it as soon as possible.” Dr. Swan had been quietly
watching the interactions between the four people. The fact that they
had bonded so quickly was going to be a plus in the recovery of both
Joseph and Nicole.
“I’m ready anytime you want to do it, Dr. Swan.” Joseph
wanted to help his sister so they could get to know each other like
they should have been able to for the last 34 plus years.
“Well, Nicole has had her last round of Chemo and has been feeling
good lately, so I say we do it the day after tomorrow if no one has
any objections.” The smile on Dr. Swan’s face was duplicated
on every other face in the room.
“Day after tomorrow it is.” Johnny was glad he wouldn’t
have to ask for the day off. He was on duty the next day and had the
following day off. He would ask the B-Shift Captain to come in early
so he could be at the hospital when Nicole needed to be there.
“Do you think we can get everyone together for a celebration
tonight?” Roy wanted to shout it to the world that he had renewed
his relationship with his cousin, he had found a new cousin he never
knew he had. And they had a perfect match for Nicole. Their lives had
been turned upside down when they had learned of Nicole’s aplastic
anemia. But that upside down world now seemed like it was coming out
for the better.
“All we can do is try.” Johnny wanted a celebration as
much as Roy did.
“While you two are trying to get something together, Dr. Swan,
Dixie and I will go over the details of Nicole’s transplant.” Dr.
Brackett laughed at the looks on Roy’s and Johnny’s faces
as they realized they had forgotten the doctors were still in the room.
“I guess we can wait.” Johnny knew that he should be there
for his wife.
“How about you go and help Roy set up the celebration and I’ll
go with Nicole to get the details set up? She and I can tell you all
the details later.” Joseph wanted to be there for his sister.
“Go ahead, Johnny, go help Roy. We’ll let you know the
details later.” Nicole knew that Johnny was torn.
Five minutes later Johnny and Roy were headed to the bank of pay phones
to try to get a celebration set up while Joseph and Nicole headed to
Dr. Brackett’s office to get the details of the transplant. Dr.
Swan followed them while Dixie went to the nurses’ station to
reserve the operating rooms that would be needed.
Johnny and Roy were pleased that everyone had been able to gather
at the Gage ranch for a party. Roy hadn’t even told Joanne what
they were celebrating. All anyone knew was that there were a couple
of announcements going to be made that night. As the table was set
and food prepared, questions flew right and left. Curiosity grew even
greater as a family most of those present didn’t know arrived.
Johnny, Roy and Nicole welcomed them. Joanne smiled as she realized
who the new family was and soon made her way over to Roy’s side.
Roy had been able to convince his mother to come to the celebration,
too. She had met Johnny and Nicole and was happy for them, but wasn’t
sure why Roy had insisted she be there. When she saw Joseph and his
family walk in, she was pleasantly surprised. But she was sure there
was something else going on.
“Ok, Johnny and Roy, you have kept us in the dark long enough.
We aren’t going to do any more until we find out what is going
on.” Chet had reached his limit. The rest of the group silently
sighed with relief that someone had finally voiced the questions that
were on all their minds. “What is going on?”
Johnny grinned at Roy as both men received the answer to the question
they had both been thinking since people had started to arrive—how
long would Chet wait until his curiosity got the better of him.
Seeing the two men still grinning, Nicole turned to the group gathered
at the foot of their back porch. She was glad she was on the top step
so they could all hear her. “Well Chet, we have someone we would
like you all to meet.”
Roy and Johnny knew then they should take over. Roy stepped up beside
Nicole bringing Joseph with him. “Everyone, I would like you
to meet my cousin, Joseph Dean. And this is his wife, Valerie and their
children—Adam, Diane, and Theresa. They moved to LA about three
weeks ago. Joseph is a member of the LA City Fire Department.”
“Hi, it’s nice to meet all of you. Welcome to LA.” And
other greetings came from all directions as Joanne welcomed the family.
“But there’s more, isn’t there?” Mike had
worked with both Johnny and Roy long enough to know that there was
something else going on.
“Well, yeah, there is, Mike.” Johnny shook his head when
he realized how well the original six crew members knew each other.
He waited a few seconds while the group quieted down and then pulled
Nicole into his embrace. “Joseph heard about the drive that Chet
had gotten underway to try to find a donor for Nicole. We have to thank
Chet for that. Because of him Joseph and several other members of the
LA City Fire Department were tested. Dr. Swan told us today that Joseph
is a perfect match for Nicole. The transplant is scheduled for the
day after tomorrow.”
Cheers went up from everyone and Johnny was sure they had broken the
sound barrier. The grins on his and Roy’s faces couldn’t
have gotten any bigger as they watched the group celebrating. It wasn’t
long before Roy, Johnny and Nicole were pulled into embraces from everyone
Hank watched a minute as the celebration went on. He noticed that
Joseph and Nicole had taken a lull in the celebrating to step to one
side. As they embraced, he thought about Johnny’s words--~Joseph
is a perfect match for Nicole.~ He wondered about that. When he knew
he could be heard above everyone else, he asked Roy and Johnny the
question on his mind. “Johnny, you said that Joseph is a perfect
match for Nicole. I thought that only happened in families. I know
non-family members can be donors, but I didn’t think it could
be a perfect match unless it was a family member.”
“You’re right Hank.” Roy watched the faces of his
friends as they tried to comprehend what he was saying. “The
blood tests Dr. Brackett ran to check compatibility showed that Joseph
and Nicole are brother and sister.” Roy’s grin was as big
as Johnny’s and Nicole’s as everyone processed what he
had just said. Mike was the first one to fully absorb the news.
“Brother and sister—but how?” Mike was thrilled
that something good had come out of this whole situation.
For the next 45 minutes Joseph told his story. It took him that long
with all the interruptions from Chet.
As the news slowly sank in, everyone made sure they congratulated
Johnny, Nicole and Joseph and welcomed the Dean family into the Station
Roy’s mother had been shocked when she learned that Joseph and
Nicole were brother and sister. She had not been aware of all the details
since she had not talked with her brother for a period of ten years.
When they had made up at her husband’s funeral, Harriet DeSoto
had heard the rumors of a little girl that had disappeared. But nothing
was ever said and she had thought it was just that—rumors. It
was with a feeling she hadn’t experienced since her husband died
that Harriet hugged not only Joseph and his family, but Nicole and
Johnny as well.
Johnny was surprised to see all of the original Station 51 family
show up at the hospital to wait with him—even Harriet DeSoto
was there. Joanne told him that the wives of his crew members were
at the Gage ranch taking care of the Gage children.
Joseph’s wife, Valerie, was in the waiting room, too. Johnny
sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his family and their support.
Seeing that Valerie was alone at the moment, Johnny walked over and
put his arm around her shoulders. “How are you doing?”
“I think I should be asking you that question. Johnny, Joseph
was so happy to find out that his sister was still alive. Her disappearance
has weighed heavily upon him ever since it happened no matter how hard
he tried not to think about it. Both of us are thrilled that he is
able to do this and from the short time we have spent together, we
both know that you and Nicole are two very special people. As for the
answer to your question, I’m doing fine. How are your nerves?”
“They are letting me know they are there. I just hope that somehow
Nicole and I can let you both know what this means to us. No matter
what happens, we appreciate your willingness to try.”
“It means a lot to us, too. Can you tell me a little more about
Nicole and her life? I know it wasn’t pleasant, but I really
want to know so we can be there to help emotionally as Nicole recuperates.”
Johnny led Valerie over to two chairs sitting in one of the corners
to tell her what he knew. “Thanks, I know it will help a lot.”
Thankful for Joseph’s willingness to help one of their favorite
people, Dixie, Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early had joined the harvest/transplant
teams. Dixie had been the one to start Joseph’s IV. Joseph had
grimaced even though Dixie was being as careful as she could. To take
his mind off the large bore needle she had to use, Joseph realized
the pain was all worth it because he was doing it for his sister. His
sister—he hadn’t been able to say that for years. The smile
that graced his face from the moment he found out that Nicole was his
sister was still firmly planted on his face.
His thoughts turned to his brother and father. He hadn’t had
an opportunity to call them yet. He wanted to find out if the transplant
was going to work or not before he called them. When Nicole was feeling
up to it, Joseph wanted to take her and Johnny to meet the family Nicole
had thought was only made up in her dreams to help her though some
difficult times. He couldn’t wait to see the looks on his father’s
and Alex’s faces when he introduced them to Nicole. But the one
question he didn’t have an answer to yet was who kidnapped Nicole
when she was two.
Joseph’s thoughts were pulled back to what was going on around
him when he heard Dr. Swan’s voice, “We are ready to begin.
Are you ready?”
Joseph’s “let’s get this show on the road” resounded
as his eyes welled up with tears. He had the opportunity to do something
for the sister he had thought he had lost over 35 years ago. As he
drifted off to sleep, he heard the laughter of the medical staff in
the room. The last thing he remembered was hearing Dixie’s voice
as she patted his shoulder—“You are a good man, Joseph,
and everything is going to turn out alright. You and Nicole are going
to have many years together to show each other how much you love each
Nicole was spending her waiting time praying for the procedure she
knew had just begun on the floor below her. She had just found her
family and didn’t want to lose any of them. She knew that there
wasn’t too much risk in the procedure, but she worried just the
same. There was a lot she knew they had to catch up on and she was
looking forward to meeting her father, Alex and his family. It was
something she had dreamed of all her life—having a loving, carrying, “real” family.
Now that family was within her grasp.
Nicole looked up as Johnny entered the room. She chuckled at the way
he looked. He was completely gowned up because she was in isolation
to prevent her from getting sick before the transplant. A central venous
line had been inserted into Nicole’s chest just above her heart
so she could get the drugs and blood products without the nurses having
to keep poking her arms and hands with needles. “How’s
Joseph?” She wanted to get her mind off the central line as well
as what lay ahead.
They just started harvesting Joseph’s bone marrow. Everything
is going very smoothly and Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early and Dixie scrubbed
in to be there with him and they will be there with you. Roy had agreed
to stay with Valerie and will join her at Joseph’s bedside when
he gets out of the recovery room. It is just a few more hours and,
God willing, we will have beaten this thing.”
Nicole had known that this had all been hard on Johnny, but it wasn’t
until he made his last statement that she realized how hard. The look
in his eyes and the tone of his voice let her know that he had been
preparing himself for her death to happen at anytime. He had kept a
positive attitude around her but she knew now how much he had kept
hidden from her. “Everything is going to be fine, honey. We are
going to grow old together and sit on our back porch in rocking chairs
watching our grandchildren and great-grandchildren running through
Johnny walked over and pulled his wife into his arms. The strength
the couple received from each other made them know that everything
would be alright—no matter what happened.
Johnny was not allowed to be in the room while Nicole was going through
the transplant because of the fact they were going to have to check
her frequently for signs of fever, chills, hives and chest pains during
the infusion. Johnny knew when it was all over the real wait would
Johnny joined Roy at Joseph’s bedside when Joseph was returned
to his room after the bone marrow harvest. Joanne had taken Valerie
and Harriet down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee and leave
the three men alone. Roy and Johnny were answering all of Joseph’s
questions about Nicole and her childhood. As they talked, all three
men were sure that what Nicole had told Johnny was probably not even
half of what she had really gone through, but what they did know was
really bad enough. They all marveled that she had lived through that
and had turned out so strong.
Joseph felt the pain inside as he listened to all Johnny had to say.
Nicole had suffered so much. The hatred for the couple who had kidnapped
her and treated her so terribly boiled up inside of him. If all they
wanted to do was hurt her, why did they kidnap her in the first place?
The feeling of relief that he felt when Johnny told him the couple
had been killed in a car accident almost made him ashamed of himself—almost.
He figured the answer as to why they kidnapped her would never be discovered.
As he thought of Nicole, he sent up a silent prayer that the transplant
would work. Developing the relationship he had never got a chance to
form with her was his greatest wish right now.
Valerie, Harriet and Joanne had joined the men and were talking quietly
when Dr. Swan, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early and Dixie entered the room.
Johnny was on his feet as soon as he realized who the newcomers were. “How
“Johnny, everything went ‘by the book’ and Nicole
is in isolation. She is sleeping right now, but we have made arrangements
for you to be by her side as long as you follow all the isolation precautions.” Dr.
Swan had never been happier that things had gone so smoothly with a
transplant before. He could tell that all of these people were special.
“Can I see her? I know you said she was asleep, but I really
want to be with her.” Johnny wanted to see for himself that Nicole
Yes, but I need to tell you all what to expect. This experience has
been physically, emotionally and psychologically taxing for all of
you, but Nicole is going to have a hard time coping with this. She
is the one who has been worrying about what the future holds and now
isn’t sure whether or not this transplant will take. She will
experience nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and extreme weakness
for several weeks. Walking, sitting up in bed for long periods, reading,
talking on the phone, visiting with friends and even watching TV are
going to require a lot of her energy—many times more energy than
she has. She shouldn’t try to ‘tough it out’ on her
own which she may try to do to spare all of you. We will also need
to keep an eye on her to watch for complications.”
What types of complications are we talking about?” Johnny wanted
to be prepared to help Nicole get through this.
Infection, bleeding, graft-versus-host disease, or liver disease—but
we can control her pain with medication. She may develop mouth sores
which will make eating and swallowing uncomfortable. There may be times
when she has periods of temporary mental confusion. If this happens,
it will be quite frightening if she doesn’t realize it's only
temporary. But that what the staff is here for—to help in any
way we can. So, no matter how physically, emotionally or psychologically
taxed you feel, you are going to need to be there for her. Let her
know she doesn’t have to be tough and that it is alright to ask
for help and depend on others.”
Dr. Swan, thank you for everything you have done so far—and thanks
for the support you and your staff have given. I am so grateful that
we have someone to help all of us through this. Can I go see Nicole
Sure, let’s go.” Dr. Swan knew that Johnny would want to
see his wife immediately. He had seen how much the couple loved each
other over the months Nicole had been receiving treatment. That is
why he had already made arrangements for Johnny to be with her as much
as he wanted to be.
“Johnny, tell her we all love her.” Joseph smiled at how
fast Johnny was at the door. Roy had told him that Johnny and Nicole
were soulmates, but actually watching them over the last few days,
he knew what Roy had been trying to tell him.
Johnny stopped just as he pulled the door open. “You bet I will,
Joseph. And, thanks—this wouldn’t be possible without you.”
“Just get out of here, will you already?” Joseph threw
his pillow at Johnny to keep things from getting too emotional.
Johnny ducked and shut the door just before the pillow hit. He was
laughing all the way to Nicole’s room. After carefully going
through all the isolation precautions Dr. Swan gave him, Johnny made
his way to Nicole’s side. Taking her hand in his, he settled
in the chair someone had placed beside her bed and smiled as he watched
Joseph was lost in thought as the group had congregated in his room
to wait for Johnny to come back to tell them how Nicole was. Noticing
Joseph was not paying attention to what was going on around him, Roy
slipped over to Joseph’s beside. “Are you ok, Joseph?”
Joseph was startled at the sound of Roy’s voice. “Oh,
Roy, yeah, I’m ok. I was just thinking about Nicole and wondered
who would want to kidnap her just to beat her and abuse her the way
they did. If they really didn’t want her, why kidnap her in the
“I don’t know, Joseph. I have been asking that same question
ever since you told us she was kidnapped. I know that Johnny hasn’t
had time to really wonder because of everything that has been going
on with Nicole.”
“Yeah, I know. I was just thinking about how my brother and
father are going to feel when they find out what type of life she had.
I was going to wait to call them in a few weeks when I knew how Nicole
was doing, but I changed my mind. I don’t know how Johnny is
going to take this, but I am going to call them right now so they can
be here and help Nicole through this too. If for some reason the transplant
doesn’t work, they have the right of at least knowing she is
alive and getting to spend a little time with her.”
“I’m sure Johnny would agree with you. It is only right
they have the chance to come and meet Nicole for themselves.” Roy
patted Joseph on the shoulder and turned to the rest of the group. “I
think we should move this gathering to the waiting room and let Joseph
get some rest.” Roy knew Joseph wanted to call his father as
soon as possible. As the group moved out the door, Roy was the last
one to leave. “Good luck, Joseph.”
As Roy closed the door, Valerie moved the phone to the bed table so
Joseph could easily reach it. She pulled the chair closer to the bed
and took his left hand in hers as he dialed a familiar number.
Joseph hadn’t told his brother or his father everything when
he called them. He just asked if they could come to LA for a couple
of days. He let them know he was in the hospital overnight and he had
a surprise for them. He said he would explain everything when they
arrived. He wasn’t surprised when they showed up in his hospital
room four hours later. Johnny had stopped in Joseph’s room before
going to the waiting room to let the others know how Nicole was doing
three hours ago. Joseph had slept for a little while but he was getting
really restless. He, like Johnny, was one who did not like hospitals
and couldn’t wait to be released. When his father and his brother
walked in, the smile on his face grew wide.
“Hi, Alex. Hi, Dad. How are you guys?” Joseph was so excited
about the surprise he was about to spring on his family he could hardly
stay in bed.
“Just what are you doing in here? What is going on? Are you
sick?” Richard Dean had been worrying about his son from the
moment he had received Joseph’s phone call.
“Yeah, bro—what’s going on?” Alex was as worried
as his father.
“Nothing’s wrong with me. I donated bone marrow to a fellow
firefighter’s wife. I just have to stay overnight.”
“But why all the secrecy? Why didn’t you just tell us
that on the phone? Why did we have to come all the way up here?” Richard
was wondering why Joseph had a Cheshire cat grin on his face.
Just at that moment Johnny and Roy came walking into the room. Johnny
hadn’t noticed the two newcomers. “Joseph, I just thought
I’d come to see how you were doing and give you an update.”
“Is something wrong?” Joseph had noticed the worried look
on Johnny’s face.
“Nothing that we hadn’t already anticipated--the doctor
kicked me out of her room while he checked her over. She is experiencing
the nausea and vomiting and is running a fever like Dr. Swan warned
“Is she going to be alright?” Alex had figured out that
Johnny was the husband of the lady Joseph donated bone marrow to.
Johnny was startled by Alex’s voice. “Yes, Dr. Swan had
warned us about some of the symptoms she would be experiencing. I was
just hoping and praying she would be spared them.”
“Johnny, this is my brother, Alex, and my father, Richard Dean.” Joseph
was antsy now that the time for springing his surprise was at hand.
“Hi, I’m Johnny Gage.” Johnny wasn’t sure
if Joseph had told them yet that Nicole was related, so he decided
to take his cues from Joseph. He figured out that Joseph hadn’t
said anything yet.
“Hi, Alex. Hi, Uncle Richard. When did you guys get here?” Roy
hadn’t seen the two men either, but wasn’t surprised they
had come so fast. From what Joseph had told him, he wasn’t going
to tell them about Nicole until they arrived.
“Dad, Alex, the reason I didn’t tell you that I was donating
bone marrow because I wanted you to come here. I wanted you to meet
Johnny and his wife—the lady I donated my marrow to. Johnny,
will you show them a picture of her?”
Richard was thoroughly confused as he reached out to take the picture
Johnny was handing him. He sank into the chair that was thankfully
right next to him when he saw the lady smiling back at him from the
photo. He was transported back to another time—he was seeing
the face of his wife. This lady looked so much like her. No wonder
Joseph wanted them to meet her. They say that everyone has a twin and
Richard was seeing his wife’s twin.
“Dad, when the lab technician did the testing, he found something
that made him run some other tests. What he found out was that Nicole
is our ‘peanut’. She is our sister—your daughter.” Joseph
watched his father and brother’s faces as they tried to comprehend
what he had just said.
Richard’s head snapped up when he heard Nicole’s name. “Nicole?
Our little one? She’s alive?” Richard couldn’t believe
what he was hearing. His daughter was alive—the daughter he had
lost over 30 years ago and thought he would never see again. But when
he repeated Nicole’s name a shiver went down the three Dean men’s
spines. It was then they realized that whoever had kidnapped her knew
her. They had kept her name Nicole. If they had been strangers and
asked her what her name was, she would have said peanut. After all—that
was the only thing they called her and being only two, she thought
her name was peanut. But who did they know that would have done such
a thing? It explained why Nicole didn’t scream or fight—she
didn’t like being away from her family. The only way she would
have gone willingly was if she knew the people.
As the three Dean men looked at each other, they could see that they
were all thinking the same thing.
Johnny was heading home to see his kids. He wanted to do as Nicole
had asked him to do. She had made him promise to go home and give all
the kids a hug for her. “Mr. Dean, where are you and Alex staying?”
“Please call me Richard or even Dad since I am your father-in-law.
Wow, I never thought I would be able to say I had a son-in-law. Anyway,
we were so worried about Joseph we came straight here. Could you recommend
a good hotel?” Richard already liked his son-in-law.
“Well, Dad, I would like both of you to come with me to the
ranch. After all, you have eight grandchildren you need to meet.” Johnny
knew he was going to like his in-laws. “You won’t be able
to see Nicole until tomorrow anyway.”
“Eight—you have eight kids?” Alex thought three
were a handful.
“Well, we actually had ten. But in May, 1984, our two oldest
twins were kidnapped and killed by the baby doll killer.” Johnny’s
voice had softened to a whisper by the time he had finished. The pain
of Melanie and Melinda’s deaths was still there—he still
missed them so much. Roy put his arm around his “brother’s” shoulders
to let him know he was there.
“That’s where I heard the name Gage before—I didn’t
put two and two together.” They had all heard about the “baby
doll” killer since it had made national news. But Joseph hadn’t
even thought about the families that had suffered.
“Yeah, I think I want to go home and hug my kids.” Thinking
about the twins had made Johnny want to see and feel his kids.
“Johnny, I’m sorry.” Alex hadn’t meant to
cause his new brother-in-law pain.
“It’s ok, Alex. You didn’t have any idea.” Johnny’s
smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Johnny, will you tell us about Nicole and her life. I know
you probably want to get home, but I would really like to learn about
my daughter’s life.” Richard wanted to learn about the
daughter he had longed to hold for over 30 years.
“Ok, there are some things that have happened since Nicole and
I were married that we haven’t even told Joseph yet so I think
now would be a good time to ‘introduce’ your daughter to
you and it would be better to do it here rather than with the kids
Roy and Johnny made sure everyone had a chair and started telling
them about Nicole’s childhood and all the events that had transpired
from the time he had met her.
There wasn’t a sound in the room when Johnny finished telling
Nicole’s family about her life. He had made sure to tell them
about all the good things that had happened as well as the bad. He
wanted them to know how special Nicole really was.
Roy could see how much talking about Nicole and all they had gone
through was affecting Johnny. “Johnny, she’s going to be
ok.” Roy knew Johnny’s thoughts had returned to Nicole
and how sick she was. “She is a fighter and has everything to
“I know, Roy. But sometimes even fighters lose the fight. But
it will be alright—God is in control.” Johnny pulled himself
out of the deep well of dark thoughts he had been thinking. No matter
what happened, everything would be alright. “Dad, Alex, are you
ready to go meet the rest of the Gage family?” Johnny noticed
that Joseph was getting tired and knew he really needed his rest.
“If my nieces and nephews are anything like their father and
mother, I know I will love them the second I lay eyes on them. I’m
ready.” Alex was overwhelmed when he realized a little sister
he had thought he would never see again was once more a huge part of
“I’d like to meet my grandkids. Now I can spoil them,
too.” Richard was still in shock that his daughter was indeed
alive after over 30 years.
“You both will love Nicole. Although it had been over 30 years,
she is still our Nicole. She is a very special person as is Johnny
here and their kids are going to be just like them. I just wish Mom
could have met Nicole and her grandkids.” Joseph finally lost
the fight to stay awake.
“Valerie, take good care of him. We’ll see you tomorrow.
I’ll give Adam, Diane and Theresa a hug and a kiss from both
of you.” Johnny leaned over and gave his sister-in-law a kiss
on the cheek.
As the four men were leaving Joseph’s hospital room, Johnny
thought of something that he felt sure would be beneficial for all
of them. “How about we stop by Nicole’s room before we
leave? We can’t go in, but we can look through the observation
window they have for her. I’m sure you would like to see her
yourselves.” Johnny wanted to reunite Nicole with her father
and second brother, even if it they had to have a glass window between
“Let’s go. I never thought I would see my daughter again.
Now, being just a few feet away from her, I can’t believe this
is really happening.” Richard was already at the door. He had
to see her with his own eyes before he could let himself really believe
that Nicole was alive.
Johnny and Roy stood back against the wall as Richard and Alex pressed
as closed to the window looking into Nicole’s room as they could.
Johnny wondered what Richard and Alex were thinking and feeling. He
tried to put himself in their place. He couldn’t quite picture
it. After all, his daughters had been killed and there was no way he
would see them again—at least here on earth. But he knew how
he and Nicole had felt those weeks wondering what was happening to
their daughters and praying they would come home. Richard had been
doing that some thing for 30 years. And now his prayers had been answered.
Johnny turned at the sound of footsteps heading their way. He smiled
at the three medical personnel. “Hi, Doc, Dix, Dr. Swan—I
have someone I would like all of you to meet.” Richard and Alex
turned around at the sound of Johnny’s voice. “This is
Richard and Alex Dean—Nicole’s father and brother.”
Roy couldn’t help but smile as he watched Dr. Brackett and Dixie
greet the two men. Then he listened as Dr. Swan brought them all up
to date on Nicole’s condition. Nicole’s temperature had
returned to normal and her nausea and vomiting were being controlled
by medicine. Currently she was resting and had been given something
to help her sleep through the night. It was still early—she had
just had the transplant—but things were looking promising and
the four men left feeling very encouraged that Nicole would pull through.
Little did they know things were going to take a turn for the worse.
Roy had laughed at Johnny as all eight kids ran at him as soon as
he entered the door. They ganged up on him and soon all of them were
on the floor rolling around and tickling each other. Alex and Richard
smiled at the scene before them. It wasn’t hard to see how much
Johnny loved his kids.
Richard watched as Johnny was first rough housing it with his kids
on the floor and then surrounded by all eight kids on the couch. He
was patiently and honestly answering the questions his kids were asking
about their mother and what was happening. He listened as Johnny explained
in terms all the kids could understand the procedures their mother
and new uncle had gone through. He listened as Johnny patiently told
the kids what to expect when their mother came home. And Mayan was
right in the middle with his hands going a mile a minute.
Johnny was leaning against the kitchen doorframe watching his children
as they ate their bedtime snack. He was thinking about how much he
loved his family and was wondering what it would be like if Nicole
didn’t make it.
Richard walked up behind his son-in-law and placed his hand on Johnny’s
right shoulder. “They are great kids, Johnny. You and Nicole
have done a great job raising them.”
“Thanks. We can’t picture our lives without them.” Johnny
was proud of his family.
“Can I ask you a question?” Richard had wondered why Johnny
would begin to talk to his kids about what to expect when Nicole came
home. She wasn’t scheduled to be released for several weeks yet.
“Nicole won’t be coming home for several weeks. Why did
you talk to the kids about it tonight? Won’t it just make them
keep asking about when she will be home?”
Johnny understood Richard’s concerns. “Well, Nicole and
I have always believed in answering any question one of our kids asks
as honestly and completely as we can. Mayan will turn eleven in August,
the quadruplets turn seven in October and the triplets turn five in
November. They understand that it will be awhile before Nicole comes
home. As Mayan said, they will use the time to divide the chores and
work to do everything they can to get the place ready and to learn
how to take precautions to protect Nicole when she does come home.
They are only 4, 6 and 10, but sometimes I think they are wiser than
Thinking about the type of role models Johnny and Nicole had to learn
their parenting skills, both Richard and Alex were amazed at the type
of parents Nicole and Johnny were. Richard found himself wishing Nicole’s
mother had lived to find out Nicole was still alive and to see what
a wonderful person she had turned out to be.
Richard and Alex were thrilled when the kids asked if they would put
them to bed with Johnny. As they went through the process of getting
everyone into bed, it was as if they had known and loved them all their
lives. The 30-year gap had been washed away as if it had never existed.
There were things they would still need to learn about each other,
but they loved each other and nothing would change that.
It had been three days since Nicole’s transplant. Everything
seemed to be going very well. Yes, she had the pain, the nausea and
vomiting that they had been warned about, but it wasn’t anything
she couldn’t handle. She had been using her stay in the hospital
to rest as the transplant had left her very weak.
Johnny was talking with Joseph, Alex and Richard as they headed down
the hallway towards Nicole’s room. It wasn’t until he heard
Dixie’s voice calling him that he realized Dr. Brackett, Dr.
Early and Dixie were with Dr. Swan outside of Nicole’s room.
“Hi, docs, Dixie. How are all of you today?” Johnny was
always happy to see three of his favorite people.
“We are all doing well, Johnny, but we need to talk to you about
Nicole.” Dr. Brackett had been elected to talk to Johnny when
“What about Nicole? Is something wrong?” Johnny was starting
to get very upset. But he calmed down a little when he felt Roy’s
hand on his shoulder. A small smile graced his lips when he saw who
“Let’s all go into the waiting room where we can sit down
and talk.” Dr. Brackett walked on the left side of Johnny as
Roy walked on the right side with his hand still on Johnny’s
shoulder. By the time they reached the waiting room, Joanne, and Hank
and Emily Stanley had joined the group.
Dr. Swan took the responsibility of delivering the news that wasn’t
very good. “Johnny, Nicole has picked up two infections. One
is a staph infection, which in itself is bad enough; one of our student
nurses had a cold and didn’t put gloves on when she was working
with Nicole. She said she was only taking her vitals so she didn’t
take the time to put on gloves. Now Nicole has an upper respiratory
tract infection, too. We caught the staph infection early, so we feel
that the antibiotics we are using will be effective almost immediately.
As for the upper respiratory tract infection, we will be using cooling
measures to bring her fever down. For right now, we cannot allow her
any visitors and we will be keeping her contact with hospital personnel
to a minimum. We have moved her to a room closer to the nurses’ station.
You can see her through the window. I’m sorry I can’t let
you in, Johnny. I know you really want to be with her, but this really
is for the best for now.”
Johnny was in shock. Just last night she was doing better. Now she
had two infections. He knew that the situation was bad. “I want
to see her. Is she awake?”
“She has been sleeping most of the time, but I believe she is
awake now. She is worried about how this is going to affect all of
you and about what the future holds. I think she is worried about you
and the kids, Johnny.” Dr. Swan knew how much these two people
really loved each other and put the other’s needs first.
As Johnny stood outside the hospital room that housed his wife, he
was praying with all his heart. The other half of him was lying in
the hospital bed and he would be lost without her.
Hank and Emily were quietly talking with the Deans as Joanne and Roy
made their way to be by Johnny’s side.
“She’s a fighter, Johnny, just like you. She won’t
go down without giving it all she has.” Roy knew now was not
the time for false pat answers. None of them, including the doctors,
knew what the future would hold and now was the time for the truth,
not what everyone hoped for.
“And she has everything to live for—she has you and your
children. Just before we found out Joseph was a match and would be
a donor, she told me that she would do whatever it took to stay with
all of you as long as possible.” Joanne pulled Johnny into her
arms as he started to tremble.
“Plus she now has a father, two brothers and their families
to get to know better.” Roy prayed that Nicole would beat this.
“I know, but it hurts so much. She has had to go through so
much in her life. Why does she have to go through this now?” Johnny
fought the tears that were threatening to spill down his cheeks.
“Johnny, Nicole is looking this way. I think she’s looking
for you.” Roy saw Nicole turn her head towards the large window
when the nurse told her Johnny was in the hall.
Johnny pulled himself together and leaned against the window. He couldn’t
keep the smile off his face when he saw Nicole’s eyes light up
when she finally focused on him.
Dixie had volunteered to work an additional shift and be Nicole’s
nurse. She was in the room with Nicole. “He loves you very much,
“I know, Dixie. How is he really holding up? Is he handling
“He’s worried about you. His main concern is that you
get better. He’s really ok. But there is somebody else he wants
you to meet.”
Nicole turned to the window and saw two men she didn’t know
standing with Roy, Joanne, Johnny and the Stanleys. “Who are
“It’s your father and your other brother, Alex.”
The smile on Nicole’s face grew even wider. “Well, I guess
I’d better get well fast so I can get to know them.” With
that Nicole slipped into a deep healing sleep.
Nicole’s fever got higher before it finally broke three days
later. Johnny and her father were at the window for the full three
days. And they were the first two visitors allowed to see her.
The four weeks Nicole spent in the hospital her emotional state as
well as her pain level fluctuated as Dr. Swan had warned them. When
she reached her lowest point, Johnny and Richard were there to encourage
her and bring her spirits up. Johnny’s hand was sore from when
he told her to squeeze during the times the pain was too great. She
was there to encourage her family and friends when they reached their
lowest times. Through it all, Richard was amazed at the closeness of
this group and the strength of their friendship.
Richard had stayed at the ranch with Johnny after Alex had returned
to his family and work. He was amazed at the 51 family and the plans
they had made to help Johnny and Nicole when she came home. He knew
the kids were not going to feel left out. Their ideas had been listened
to and included in the plans the group made.
It had been decided that the Gage kids would stay with the DeSotos
and Richard and Harriet would stay with Johnny and Nicole so someone
would be with her while Johnny was working. The kids would get to visit
Nicole every third day during the first two weeks with the schedule
being adjusted as she regained her strength.
So the day Nicole came home, there was a large crowd to meet her.
They lined the sidewalk as she was wheeled up the ramp that Johnny
had built and into the house. Knowing she was going to have to be isolated
for a few more months, the group called their good wishes to her as
she passed them. With a quick hug and kiss through her mask for all
her children, Nicole’s eyes smiled as they entered the house.
She sat in the doorway and waved as her children each blew her a kiss
and grabbed the hand of the adult next to them as they walked through
the field between the Gage and DeSoto homes.
Nicole had been home for two weeks and was gaining her strength back
on a daily basis. It helped to have Richard and Harriet there to make
sure she didn’t overdo anything. Richard’s mind had wandered
back to the day Nicole had disappeared. He was so lost in thought,
he didn’t realize Nicole was sitting next to him until she laid
her hand on his arm and said his name for the fourth time.
“Sorry. I was lost in thought.” Richard smiled. He was
still getting used to the idea that Nicole was really alive.
“I could tell. Can I ask you what you were thinking about?”
“The day you disappeared—I was wondering who would kidnap
you and then treat you like they did.”
“I have been thinking about that, too. I don’t know why
they treated me like they did, but there is something that bothered
me even when I was younger. Just a minute—I want to get something.
I’ll be right back.”
When Nicole came back, Johnny was with her and was carrying a photo
album. Nicole sat next to her father and Johnny sat next to her draping
his arm over her shoulder as she took the album and opened it.
Nicole didn’t have any happy memories of her childhood, so hadn’t
wanted many pictures of her parents. But she did have a couple—after
all, they were her parents. Or so she had been led to believe. As she
opened the album to the page with the only pictures she had, she heard
Richard’s gasp. He was looking at pictures of two people he had
thought had been killed just before Nicole was kidnapped.
No one had realized that Harriet DeSoto had walked up behind the group
and was looking over Richard and Nicole’s shoulders. “That’s
George and Louise.”
Richard looked at his sister. “Yes, it is. I knew that Nicole
had to know the couple that took her. She wouldn’t go with anyone
she didn’t know.”
“But you said they were killed in that car accident in June,
“Well, someone must have mistaken. That is the man and woman
who raised me. I kept thinking of them as someone I may have known
but not as my parents, but they insisted they were my parents. Eventually,
like the memories of JJ and Alex, I believed the two people I thought
of as my parents were just dreams. After about the age of 7, even those
dreams were killed by the actions of my parents. You both know them?”
“Yes, Louise was our sister. She was raped by George when they
were teenagers. Instead of being angry with him, she ran off and married
him. There was an argument between our parents and Louise and she disappeared
for awhile. When Mom and Dad died within six moths of each other from
heart attacks, she showed up and caused the rift between the two of
us over our parents’ estate even though we both knew what Mom
and Dad had really wanted. When Harriet moved to L.A., we lost contact.
However, Louise was right there and kept things stirred up by always
blaming Harriet for the rift between us. Finally, I got so aggravated
with her actions and attitudes that I told her that my relationship
with Harriet was none of her business. When she wouldn’t let
it go, I told her I didn’t want to see her for awhile. The next
thing I knew the police were at my door telling me George and Louise
were killed in a car accident.”
Nicole turned to the back of album and pulled out an envelope that
she had never opened. She had forgotten all about it until she had
heard the story her father had to tell. Pulling it out, she looked
at the two names on the envelope—Richard in the center and Louise
where the return address would normally be—and handed it to her
father. At the time she had found it, she had no idea who Richard was
and had not even opened the envelope to find out.
Richard looked at the envelope and then at Nicole. Opening the envelope,
he pulled out the two sheets of paper that were inside. Silently he
read the words written in his sister, Louise’s, handwriting. “I
didn’t know she hated us that much.”
“What do you mean Richard? What did she say?”
“She said that she wasn’t sorry for the way that she and
George treated Nicole. It turns out that the ‘cousins’ that
were a part of Nicole’s childhood, were really teenagers that
lived in the neighborhood who were later arrested for armed robbery
and murder. She said that it was too bad that Nicole was the one who
had to pay for what she believed was our mistreatment of her. Because
you and I were against her marrying George and her decision not to
press charges, she wanted to get back at us. Then when we both had
children and she was unable to because of the damage done when George
raped her, her anger got stronger at us instead of at George. She thought
that she had begun to be successful when we had that argument at Dad’s
funeral and your family moved to L.A. Then when I said something about
how George was treating her and that I didn’t want her to say
any more against you, she got angrier. It was George’s idea to
fake their death and then kidnap Nicole. They had plans to come after
Roy, but your husband died and we reconciled before that could happen.
Also, they had to keep moving to prevent anyone from finding out about
their treatment of Nicole and who she really was. It seems that a Mrs.
Kanton, one of Nicole’s teachers, was starting to question all
of Nicole’s injuries. Somehow that suspicion followed them everywhere
“I wondered why Mrs. Kanton kept asking to talk to my parents.
They always found a reason not to meet with her.”
“There is even a paragraph that outlines some plans they had
to kill Nicole and Roy together. But thankfully they were killed before
they could carry out those plans. Her last statement was that she felt
you got everything you deserved and that we had no right to be happy.
Her feeling was that Nicole didn’t deserve to be born and wasn’t
worth the air she breathed. But Louise and George felt it was their
duty to teach her where her place in this world was. Nicole, I am so
“Dad, it’s ok. You had no way of knowing and thought they
had been killed before I even disappeared. As a matter of fact, I know
that the report of the accident that killed them said witnesses claimed
they were chasing another car honking their horn the whole time. George
lost control of the car and flipped it. One of the teachers at school
had asked me to stay after school and discuss a paper that I had written,
or I would have been in the car with them. I think George was angry
that I had stayed at school. They were on their way to pick me up and
he took all his anger out on the cars and drivers around him. I was
a senior in college at the time and ended up staying with a friend
until I got a job. Then I met Tim Donaldson. You know the rest.”
“Well, they didn’t destroy the wonderful person you are
and they didn’t get the opportunity to hurt me, so I think we
can put this all to rest.” Roy and Joanne had stopped by to see
how everyone was doing. They had arrived in time to hear the part of
the letter that said they had planned to go after Roy, too.
“I agree.” Richard took the letter he held in his hand,
tore it into tiny pieces and threw them into the fire in the fireplace. “We
are all together now and have a wonderful future to look forward to.
After a few minutes of everyone gaining control of their emotions,
there was an agreement made that the incident would not be discussed
ever again. It was in the past and that was where it would stay. But
none of them would forget that something that had started out as potentially
devastating ended up turning their world upside down for the better.
Johnny sat at the desk in his office at Station 51 thinking about
how the lives of the members of the first Station 51 A-shift had changed.
And now their lives were going to change again. Hank had been promoted
to Dean of students at the fire academy and continued to turn out very
capable firefighters. Johnny, Roy and Mike had all passed the Battalion
Chief’s exam and Marco and Chet had passed their Captain’s
exam. In two weeks, Chet would take over as Captain of Station 51;
Macro would replace Roy at Station 14; Mike would become Battalion
14 Chief; Roy would become Battalion 10 Chief and Johnny was being
assigned to work with the arson squad and headquarters. The work Johnny
had done with the arson squad had spread throughout the County. He
was in demand to work with other arson teams in other counties and
with the City of L.A. It had surprised even him how much he enjoyed
His reverie was broken by the ringing phone. “Station 51, Captain
Gage speaking.” The words almost stuck in his throat when he
realized that he wouldn’t be saying them very much longer.
“Hey, Captain Gage.” Roy was having the same trouble as
Johnny when he realized that it would be in just a couple of weeks
that he would be calling him Chief Gage.
To be continued in Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Please send any feedback