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JUXTAPOSITION
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      Page Eight

Then he retreated to his recliner and the
morning newspaper folded neatly there by C shift.

He intentionally didn't read the headlines which
covered the bus crash and the journalist sensationalism
about how many had died in the slide, moving on
instead, to the sports pages.

-------------------------------------------

Johnny Gage rubbed feigned sleepy eyes and
darted through the kitchen door, jostling with
Chet in a vie for the coffee pot. Both firemen
grabbed its black handle and Cap said,
"When the fur stops flying over there, eyeball
the papers you're not going to spill that coffee
on.. Take a set and fill them out before lunchtime."

Johnny and Chet's amicable mood evaporated
when they realized it was the bus run's mortality
forms. Gage sighed glumly, "Right Cap, uh, we'll get
right on these.. uh, do the investigators want to know
complete details?"

"As best you can, Gage. And I know recalling back
to yesterday isn't going to be pleasant. Just stick
to positional details and what ya found."

Chet sat on the kitchen table and took a sip
of his coffee, still lost in the sobering feel in the room,
and poured Johnny's cup full after his own.
"What's the point of an investigation, Cap? I
mean, the guy who hit the bus was DOA."

Cap looked up uncomfortably."Its a suit against
the city in an action concerning the mudslide..
Negligience on the part of the highway department
for not shoring up that canyon wall to withstand
flooding."

"That craziness, Cap. Most of those..kids wer-" and
Johnny's voice broke as a memory of the little girl
who was swept away down the storm drain filtered
into his mind. Gage fought the emotion out of his
voice and continued.. "...most of those poor kids
were gone even before the slide happened." Gage
insisted. "Besides, that rainfall was abnormally high.
Most inches an hour since the 1920's the Chief said.
There's no cause for such a class action."

"I know that." Cap said. "But these kids's parents
are grieving and you know how that goes. Any
outlet's a channel for them."

Roy had entered the kitchen quietly, and he
refused the third coffee mug Johnny offered him.
"No thanks. " he said, sitting on the table next
to Johnny. "Are we going to have to testify about
those fatalities, Cap?"

Hank shrugged diffidently in the negative, "The
Chief, this morning,  just asked about our run
sheets so far. No hearings in sight for any of us yet.
I'll,...I'll..let you know as soon as I can about that.."

"Thanks.." Roy said softly.

Marco piped up. "Hey Roy, how's your boy? Is he
ok? I didn't get to hear how he was doing after
I left yesterday. Dixie refused to fill me in when she
wheeled me out the back door."

Roy smiled a half hearted smile. "That's probably
because she figured you already had a full plate
concerning your own recovery. She most
likely, didn't want ya to worry about anything else,
Lopez."

"Since when does asking about something like that
constitute being a burden?" Marco complained.

Johnny grinned. "Dix was only looking out
for your best interests. Besides, I'll bet she
called ya a few hours after you got home
with the good news, didn't she?"

"Yeah." Marco said. "She did.. But mama said
I was sleeping.."

"Dix did her job then." he grinned. "She made
sure she got the news ya wanted." he
concluded.

"Not soon enough.." Marco scoffed.

Roy thought about that remark thoughtfully
and mumbled to himself. "It's never soon
enough.." But no one else heard him.

Stoker pulled out a chair for Roy. "So,.."
he said grandly.. "..don't keep us in suspense.
Tell us how he is.."

The squeal of the chair's legs on the tile floor
broke Roy out of his reverie and he blinked a
few times. But his face stayed flat and almost
emotionless.
"Chris's gonna be fine. He came outta surgery
with flying colors. His leg's gonna heal cleanly,
and he's handling his best friend Carrie's death as
well as can be expected..." he paused when
the gang grew reflective for his benefit. "Joanne
and I are just glad it's all over with.." Roy
said, trying to grin, without confidence.
"Chris goes home Friday once the drainage
shunts are removed."

Cap noticed Roy's lack luster mannerisms.
"You ok there, Roy?" he said, setting his
paper down.

"Yeah, Cap.. I- I'm fine.. Just tired I guess."
DeSoto replied.

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Captain Stanley's gaze bore right into Roy's
until Roy thought he was going to start fidgetting
under their scrutiny. But finally, Hank sighed.
"Ok, you know the support panel's there if you want
to go talk to anyone sooner. I've got us all scheduled
with the counselors for disaster debriefing this
afternoon. The usual routine."

The rest of the gang cleared their throats and
mumured uncomfortably. They all knew they
needed to talk about the run as soon as they
could, before its impact could effect any of
them even more.

"Ok, Cap.." Then Roy noticed the last remaining
Code F report form resting on the table. "Oh. I forgot.
I'll get right on this.." he promised.

"Take your time.. These aren't due at
Headquarters until six.." Hank said.

The kitchen fell into quiet as each of the gang
filled out the grim details of facts and the actions
they each had taken during the bus accident.

The tension was so thick, Henry started to whine
at their concentrated silence.


Marco and Chet got up immediately and took their
forms and donuts to the couch. Lopez took Henry
into his lap and fed him a treat. Stoker faked
stretched, without comment, studying his shoes.

"Can't hide anything from Henry, can we?"
Johnny said to no one in particular.

"Nope. He's a hot dog who's a blood hound.
What can we hide from a nose that big?"

And everyone laughed. Everyone except Roy.


"Say, Gage.."
Kelly smacked Gage on the shoulder to
get his attention from where he was
carefully writing on his incident form.

"Oww, Kelly now cut that out. Now I'm going
to have to start filling this out all over again."
Johnny groused. Then he rubbed his arm.
"That's a sore spot from yesterday."

"Sorry Gage.  But listen.. I almost brought this
up to DeSoto but he was too busy being a fidgetty
father yesterday to pay me any attention."

"Gee. I wonder why? Kelly, just get to the point."
Johnny said impatiently.

"Yeah, Chet. Get to the meat of it already."
Marco said from his kitchen seat.

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Kelly glanced up and suddenly noticed that everyone,
including Cap, was paying close attention to
him.  He immediately got embarrassed.
"Now, listen fellas. I just wanted to bring up
a conversation with Johnny that was kinda private
here, you know what I mean?"

Cap's eyebrows rose. "Fraid we don't. In it
for an inch, in it for a mile, we figure. Right gang?
Anything you need to say about work, we're
entitled to know about, because we're just one big,
close knit, happy outfit here, Kelly."

Gage and the others all agreed with animated
nods and gestures.

"Speak for yourself, Cap! uh, I mean sir.."
Kelly amended.  He whined. "Oh, come on guys.
For me..?" He sighed when no one looked away.
"Ok, ok. I see I have no choice in the matter
while I get an answer for myself. I see.
Ok,.. all right. I'll just come right out and say it then..  
Johnny, do you think I got the right stuff to make
the coursework to become a paramedic?"

Johnny had been mentally smiling as vultures
zoomed in on the summer of Chet's malcontent,
but now, Gage nearly spit out the mouthful of
coffee he had been swallowing. "What?! "

Babble followed instantly.
   "A medic, Chet?" Stoker parroted.
"That's great, Chet.." Lopez said warmly.
   Cap's face animated in surprise. "Wow, that's
news there, Kelly. What made you suddenly
decide this?"
   Roy even perked up a little."Really?"

Chet tried to quell them all with shushes and
self conscious hand waves. "Gimme a sec, gimme
a second here. Let Johnny answer my question
first, eh, guys? All right..? Then I'll let you have
at it.."

Everyone obeyed instantly, all ears and expectant,
as they all looked at Johnny.

Including Henry.

Gage cleared his throat uncomfortably inside the
circle of faces surrounding his. "Uh, well.. Chet.
You see, uh.. Wow, Gee. I don't know where to
begin.." He started over on a different track.
"You seem like a pretty good firefighter and I like
working with ya and all. But quite frankly, I haven't
actually, ever considered this idea before, you know.
I think you'd--"

The alarm tones went off.

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========================
##Station 51. Possible drowning. L.A. Riverbed.
One half mile north of Vadnais Heights Boulevard.
One half mile north of Vadnais Heights Boulevard.
Time out, 8: 02.##
========================

In the garage, Cap thumbed the response mike
and replied. "This is station 51, 10-4. KMG 365."

And he threw on his turnout coat and beat
a hasty pace to the LaFrance.

------------------------------------------------


On scene, a lone hiker, muddied despite the clear
day, met them on the roadside margin. He seemed
highly agitated. "Glad you got here so fast. Hurry.
I couldn't get down there any closer. Uh, man.."
he gasped.

"What do you got?"Cap fired at him as he stepped
out of the truck's cab.

"Well, I couldn't believe what I was looking at.
I couldn't believe my eyes at first." he panted.
"I just couldn't believe it was really a--"
The biker suddenly turned green and Johnny and
Roy had to catch him when he stopped
speaking and when his knees started to buckle.

"Whoa, whoa.. now take it easy. Hey. You feeling
all right?" Johnny said. "Here, set him over against
the squad." He and Roy and Cap managed to get
the man sitting on the wet ground. Stoker went
for the O2.

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Gage said to Cap. "I got him. Looks like it's
a syncopal episode. His pulse's normal."

"Cap, I'll go looking around. Maybe I can find out
something.." Roy said, readjusting his helmet.

"You do that. Marco, Chet, go with him." Cap said.
He pulled out his walkie talkie. "L.A. This is Engine
51. Send an ambulance to our location. We've a
man down."

##10-4, 51. Time out 8:14.##

Marco, Chet and Roy headed into the brush
rimming the man made channel of the L.A. river.

The bed was partially filled with a fast flow,
and it was clogged with many many downed
trees and debris from the flooding of the day
before.

Then they spotted an orange hiker's pack
and mountain bike and an abandoned CB radio
lying on the ground.

"This is where he must have made our
rescue call..." Roy said.  "Let's assume
he spotted something straight down from
here."   And he waved Chet and Marco
along with him down the next decline.

They skidded over the slope of
the final levee to the top of the drop off leading
into the concrete river system and crawled
on their bellies until they were able to see
beyond down into the waterway.

Marco gasped.

A horribly mangled little girl lay twisted in
the boughs of a flooded eucalyptus tree with
skin so dusky, that there was no doubt
that the life signs in her had fled long ago.
One arm was broken hideously over her head
and the crushed torso was wearing a
very familar set of school colors.

"Oh, my g*d. It's her.." Kelly heard from
Roy.

"What?" Chet asked. "This is who, Roy?"
he asked through a scrub bush, separating
them.

But Roy just stood there, dropping his
walkie talkie from limp fingers.

Chet and Marco didn't see him falter,
still being partially hidden in the
overgrown field.

"Come on, Marco. Let's get closer.."
Kelly said, moments later.



 Click the Resuscitator to go to Page Nine :)

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JUXTAPOSITION
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