Chapter 4

"Good morning Mike!" Johnny's bright smile filled the kitchen as the engineer looked up from his paper. The paramedic bounded in full of energy.

"Welcome back, Johnny," he returned the smile. "Feeling better?"

"Yep! Amazing what a few days off can do for a man," he replied as he snagged the coffee pot and poured out a full cup. He was early enough to enjoy himself.

*too bad I didn't bet Hank who'd be first,* Mike thought to himself.

"Really? I remember having to do all sorts of exercises," Stocker commented as he pushed part of the paper towards the paramedic.

"Well, yeah, exercises," he admitted, "plus soaking in a hot tub. I liked that best."

"I imagine," Mike answered briefly. Catching the hint, Gage picked up the front part of the paper and began reading the headlines.

Soon the rest of A-shift drifted in. First Cap and then Marco. It was the sure bet Chet would be last.

"Hi!" Johnny looked up as 'The Animal' Bellingham came into the kitchen.

"Hey! Thought you were on at the 36s," Johnny said.

"Harris took the day out," Bellingham said as he poured some coffee. "He has so many sick days he could just walk now. County figured I could come over here and cover for Desoto."

"They're short paramedics?" Stoker asked.

"Guess so," Bellingham said as he sat down at the table. "So here I am, Johnny Gage's partner."

"And you're the luckiest paramedic in LA county," Johnny teased. "I am hot!" This caused a few gufaws and snickers. They sat companionably around the table until Hank called roll. Chet even showed up on time!

As they began the morning check Gage recalled Bellingham was not very detailed-oriented. He went out of his way to explain the squad's set-up then offered the driving to him.

"We can trade off drivin'" the Animal grunted. He poked through the iv fluids. "Light on Ringers," he added. Johnny noted this and asked about the normal saline.

"Oh, need that too," his partner said. "Guess I'll check the D5W while I'm at it." He rummaged a little more, his lips moving slightly as he checked out the rest of the bags.

"That's ok," he determined. "Just the ringers and the normal saline." A short burst of tones sounded.

"Station 51, unknown rescue, Vista del Valle Drive, Griffith Park. Enter Vista del Valle Drive behind Roosevelt Golf Course. Cross street, North Commonwealth Avenue. Time out 9:14," dispatch directed them.

Johnny and Mike looked at the huge map and began plotting their route out. A quick series of nods and terse statements determined the best way to go. Climbing into the squad he handed Bellingham the slip and told him to pull out the map just in case.

"Vista del Valle has a really nasty 180 turn at one point above the golf course," Johnny commented. "Plus other sharp, blind, turnings."

"Ok, I see that," his partner agreed as he looked over the map. "Looks pretty steep in parts, too." Johnny grunted his agreement as he turned the squad onto Los Feliz and headed for North Commonwealth. The engine kept up with them although Gage was slightly more cautious at each intersection. They turned onto the access road and began the twisting drive up Vista del Valle. Soon they made it to the 180 curve and started to climb higher up. A little further up they saw a motor bike and a man flagging them down. There was a small plume of smoke curling up from the side of the road.

"Man, am I glad you guys are here!" he exclaimed as Johnny jumped out of the squad. Bellingham went to pull out equipment.

"Josh and I were racing along the road when he suddenly lost control," the young man explained. "He went down there, somewhere. You can see the smoke coming up." Cap came up to join them.

"Need to drop two ropes, stokes and equipment," John said tersely.

"You got it," Hank replied. "Mike! Get an inch and a half for Chet. Marco, let's get Johnny secured for a drop." Soon a line went down with the paramedic rappelling down towards the smoke. Chet was near him pulling along a hose as Marco and Hank lowered him down.

Water was quickly streamed over the small brush fire. Johnny located the motor bike then searched for Josh. He finally found the man curled up on his side, leg definitely broken and a large gash on his arm. He was very lucky his helmet stayed secure and kept his head safe.

"Cap, Chet has the fire contained," Johnny began. "I'm gonna need that equipment, backboard and stokes. Tell Bellingham to bring the biophone as well."

After a few minutes the second paramedic arrived towing the requested equipment. They carefully rolled the body on the backboard and secured him then began assessing and taking vitals. Compresses were put over the gashed arm. While they worked together, Marco joined Chet and they carefully walked the fire area making sure all sparks were extinguished.

"Rampart, this is squad 51," Johnny began.

"51, this is Rampart," Mike Morton's serious voice came over the speaker.

"Rampart, we have a male, 24 years old. He was involved in a motor bike crash and subsequent fall down a hillside. Spinal precautions have been taken. He has a compound fracture of the left tibia and fibula. He has a long gash on his right arm which has been bandaged. BP 130/75, respiration 30 and shallow, with decreased sounds on the left upper side. Pulse is 85. Patient is unconscious and diaphoretic," he finished.

"51, is there evidence of head trauma?" Morton asked.

"Negative," he replied. "Victim was wearing a full helmet.

"Body armor?" terse question.

"Negative. T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes," he reported.

"51, start IV with normal saline, wide open," the doctor directed. "Insert airway and transport as soon as possible. I want vitals every 10 minutes."

"10-4 Rampart, Normal saline, wide open and airway," Gage responded. "Vitals q ten minutes." He turned to start helping and discovered Bellingham had tapped the IV and was getting the airway in. Talk about efficient! He might not want to take the lead, but he was an excellent partner none-the-less!

Then Gage thought of Brice. Control freak. Walking rule book. Harris was retiring...

Jerking his mind back on Josh, Johnny helped pack up the equipment and settle everything onto the stokes with the patient. The climb up was made easier by using the squad to slowly pull up the lines. Bellingham climbed into the ambulance with their patient. Two thumps later it drove off, lights flashing.

Arriving at Rampart John checked to see that Bellingham was working in the exam room with the cycling victim. He told Carol he was going to check on Brice and jumped onto the elevator.

"Hey partner!" he called out as he bounced into the room. Brice smiled and shut off the TV.

"Wow, starting before lunch!" he commented.

"Yeah, motorbike accident over in Griffith Park," Gage said as he lounged against the empty bed. "Bellingham is running with me this shift. His partner called in sick so they combined the two units over at the 51s."

"Guess there are a lot of us out," Brice said. "Roy and I for two."

"Getting tired of the soaps yet?" Johnny teased. "I was sooo into 'All My Children' for awhile. Erika was a total fox." The bed ridden paramedic began to laugh. Then blush.

"Ok, I admit, after a week they kind of become friends, you know?" he said.

"Yeah, I know!" Gage flashed his best smile. The HT squawked in his hand.

"Squad 51, status?" the dispatch asked. At that moment the door was pushed open and Bellingham looked in.

"Squad 51 available at Rampart," he responded.

"Hey, you must be Brice," Bellingham said. "How ya doing?"

"Better. Still stuck here," he responded. The HT began to ring tones.

"Station 51, Station 36, factory fire. 435 Garfield Blvd. Cross street, Alondra. Time out, 11:40."

"Squad 51, KMG 365," Johnny responded. "Guess we have to run."

"Get out of here!" Brice shooed them both.

As the squad was actually somewhat closer, Gage and Bellingham arrived at the scene first. Workers milling in the parking lot hailed them down.

"There are three guys unaccounted for!" one of the men said. "They were working in the darkroom." Johnny quickly had the speaker detail out where the room was in the factory in the dirt.

"So this is a photo lab?" Bellingham asked.

"Yeah, we got chemicals stored by the darkroom as well as in the store rooms," he explained. He was adding to his scratched map when Captain Stanley came up. He was quickly brought up to speed while the two paramedics went to get their scba gear on.

Cap directed his crew then 36's. He wanted to get an upper hand on the blaze fast! Marco and Chet immediately dragged their hose up into the doorway and began flooding the flames they found. The 36s brought up two more hoses to attack at different entry points.

Having committed the map to mind, Johnny led Bellingham into the building. They moved quickly down hallways until they came to a door with a red light shining over it. The words 'IN USE' were flashing.

The flames and smoke had not reached this part of the plant as yet. Bellingham turned the handle and forced the door open.

"HEY! We got exposed film in here!" one man yelled.

"You've ruined a lot of product, man!" another complained.

Then there were three very confused men staring at the scba-clad firemen.

"Sorry, guys, but the plant's on fire," Johnny said. "I'm John Gage and this is Ted Bellingham. We have to get you out fast!"

"Fire? FIRE!" one man started to panic until Bellingham latched onto his arm.

"It's ok, it's down by receiving and the lounge," he said. "Do you know another way out?" He knew Johnny already had the escape planned, but getting the man involved would help him calm down.

"Yeah! Yeah," he answered quickly. "Through the offices and the customer entrance." He led them further down the hallway and into a series of offices. Then they finally came to a small lobby. Soon all five men were back at the squad. No one had been hurt and the two paramedics went to help man the hoses.

As the work continued Hank called in an aerial water tower to cool down the roof. It was a stubborn fire, especially since the plant was full of paper, processing chemicals and various wooden structures.

It was a hot, sweaty crew that finally headed back to the barn several hours later. Since he was the cook, Marco was given first shot at the shower. Johnny and Mike took it upon themselves to get the sandwich fixings cut and ready for him. Neither of them could decide if they were hungrier or sweatier. At least this way they could eat while they waited for their turn.

Bellingham was next, followed by the rest of the crew. They all managed to get cleaned up and fed before the squad toned out.

"Station 51, MVA, 710 north, enter at Atlantic. Time out, 13:50" dispatched relayed.

"Station 51, KMG 365," Hank responded then handed a slip over to Gage. The squad pulled out first followed by the blaring sirens of the engine. They traveled quickly down the road towards the freeway. Bellingham noted how cautious Gage was about entering major intersections through red lights. Wasn't that how his partner got hurt? He really should pay a little more attention!

Soon they were on the 710 heading north. Traffic was horrendous and they drove along the edge of the road up to the accident scene. The highway patrol had cleared enough of the area for the squad and engine to pull in and were directing cars along the center divider and HOV lane. There were four cars in various stages of wreckage and it seemed most drivers and passengers were up and moving around.

"Glad you're here!" a CHP officer approached the squad. "We have a couple bad injuries in the second car. We've called for a second squad to help with the rest."

"Ok, thanks!" Johnny responded as he pulled out the equipment. Bellingham joined him and soon they'd set up a triage area. Both paramedics took a victim.

"What d'ya got, Gage?" Ted asked as he picked up the biophone.

"Possible concussion and internal injuries," he said. "Hand me the phone when you're done." As Bellingham relayed the vitals squad 48 pulled up and the two paramedics came over to touch base.

"I could use another set of hands over here," Gage said as he tried to stabilize his patient. Rogers immediately came over and set up the cardiac monitor and pulled out the difibulator. The patient was certainly in a bad way.

Rogers' partner, Stevens, went over to check the other victims of the accident. He was back fairly quickly and went to assist Bellingham.

"The officers and your crew mates checked everyone out and were getting consents signed," he said. "No need to treat." He noted that Ted's patient was stable and ready to go but Gage and Rogers were having to do some serious work on theirs. He heard Brackett's clipped voice sending out orders and questions while Johnny responded just as rapid-fire and with Roger's help following out each order.

"We have an ambulance on scene, Rampart," Gage reported.

"51, transport asap. Vitals every five minutes," he requested. "What's the eta?"

"Rampart, 15 minutes depending on traffic," Gage responded.

"Get him in here, 51!" was Brackett's terse acknowledgement. Quickly the paramedics and ambulance emts had the man loaded and were weaving their way through traffic towards the hospital.

When Bellingham made it thirty minutes later he was quickly released from duty by Dr. Morton. He went into the adjoining treatment room and found his partner setting up another iv for Brackett. He carefully sidled up to Gage.

"I'll go grab a bite," he said. Johnny looked over at the doctor who didn't seem to notice the conversation.

"Hey, get Brice a chocolate shake and me a ice tea and I'll meet you upstairs when I'm available," he said quickly and quietly. Bellingham agreed and left.

Brackett continued to work on his patient. He was very aware of the hasty conversation but chose to say nothing as he was still a bit gun-shy around Johnny. Also, he was alert to the fact Bellingham would soon need a new partner and Brice was available.

He really shouldn't underestimate Johnny's abilities. McConnike had mentioned Gage might look into finding Brice a partner. He dropped the thoughts from his mind and concentrated on the task in front of him.

Twenty minutes more and the patient was stable enough to go upstairs to CCU. Johnny leaned back against the counter and watched Brackett dot the i's and cross the t's on the chart. He wanted to give Bellingham and Brice some time alone. Kel glanced at him.

"Thought you'd be long gone, hose jockey," he muttered as he added to his notations.

"Been a long day," he said sipping at his coffee. "Thought I'd watch an expert at work."

"Instead of working yourself?" Brackett teased.

"Hey, I'm hard at work here, you just can't see it," Gage shot back.

"Who's hard at work?" Dixie asked as she came to shelve charts.

"Hose jockey here," Brackett jerked a thumb in Gage's direction as he set his chart aside and pocketed his pen.

"Lifting that coffee mug takes a lot of energy," she grumped.

"Darn straight!" Johnny smiled then drained the last of his mug. "And now I'll go off and check on the outcome of my work." Setting the mug down, he picked up the HT and headed for the elevators.

"What was that all about?" Dixie asked.

"He's playing match maker," Kel said cryptically as he walked down to his office, leaving a very confused nurse at the counter.

It seemed Gage's instincts were spot on. On the drive back to the station Bellingham was still chuckling about his conversation with Brice. On the next trip in he even started up to see the ill paramedic before Johnny.

A week passed. A couple shifts with 'the animal'. Whereas Brice didn't bother Johnny's easy-going nature, Bellingham's equally laid-back attitude and mono-syllabic answers were setting him on edge. At least Roy pretended to be interested in his latest crazes!

He did send a message up to McConnike, as he'd promised, to suggest a possible pairing.

So when he reported to the station he was more than happy to see Dwyer in the kitchen pouring out coffee, although not necessarily surprised.

"Hey, Charlie!," he said happily, "pulling some overtime?"

"Yeah, got a car bill to pay," he answered with a grin. "The powers that be decided to pull your first sub and pair him off with your second sub."

"You mean Mr. Walking Rule Book is paired with The Animal?" Chet nearly choked on a mouthful of coffee.

"Yep!" Dwyer snickered. "They should drive each other nuts by mid-shift!"

"What happened to Harris?" Stoker asked glancing up from his newspaper.

"Guess he decided to use up some vacation and sick leave time until his retirement papers came through," Dwyer said.

"I heard his wife was ill," Marco put in. "He wanted to be with her."

Johnny leaned back on the counter letting the banter wash over him. He knew why they'd been paired, although he didn't realize it would happen so quickly. In fact, he was almost disappointed not to have Brice riding with him.

Not that he'd tell the guys...