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From: E!lf <>
Subject: The Big Tent
Date: Mon Oct 9, 2006 5:39 pm

At Fire Station 51 in Carson, California, Captain Hank Stanley
was just finishing up morning roll call.  He nodded towards the two
paramedics who stood to one end of the line as he addressed his
engine crew.

"I'm sure you all remember Billy from the time he spent here during his
field training, and of course you all know Chuck.  They're going to be
with us for the next two weeks while Gage and DeSoto are . . . "  he
paused, trying hard to bite back a grin and maintain his professional
demeanor, "occupied elsewhere."

Mike Stoker and Marco Lopez smirked and Chet Kelly snickered.

"I'm sure," Cap said, glaring at Chet, "that you will all do your best to
make them feel welcome, and to leave them with an image of 51 that
reflects our professionalism and maturity.  Right?"

The men nodded and Cap allowed himself a smile.  "Good.  And finally,
I'm pleased to inform you that the fire department has provided us with
tickets to tomorrow night's performance.  We have two tickets apiece,
so feel free to bring a guest.  I thought it might be nice if we meet ahead
of time and go in a group.  I'm sure that Roy and Johnny will appreciate
our support in this," he struggled for a word, "worthwhile endeavor.   Any

Chet stepped forward and raised his hand, his face studiously serious.

Cap grimaced.  "Yes, Kelly?"

"Just one question, Captain.  When we get to the circus . . . how will we
know which clowns are ours?"


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The Samson Brothers' Circus Extravaganza had pitched their tents and
parked their cages on the grass at the center of the Gold Rush Arena.  
Roy DeSoto and John Gage, dressed in their regular working uniforms,
stood just inside the rear entrance of the main tent and watched the crowd
filing in for the first matinee performance.  Roy had been drinking a soda
and was now down to crunching the ice left in the cup.  Johnny stood just
behind him, arms crossed, one eyebrow raised and a thoughtful frown
on his face.

"Roy, I want you to tell me something.  Explain to me again why it's a
good idea for us to do this."

Roy gave his partner a long sideways look through slitted eyes.  "Well,"
he said finally, "it's a good idea because it's going to help inform people
that our services are available, and in a way that they'll remember.  
And it's a good idea because it's going to be good public relations for
the fire department.  And it's a good idea because for every performance
we attend the circus is going to donate a portion of the proceeds to the
paramedic program for training and equipment.  That's why.  Or at least,
that's what I was told."

Johnny shook his head.  "No, no.  You're not understanding me.  Those
are all reasons why it's a good idea to do this.  I want you to explain to me
why it's a good idea for US to do this."

Roy took a minute to chew on his ice some more.  "Actually, Junior, I'm
still a little foggy on that one myself.  I think, though, that it might have
something to do with the fact that it was YOUR idea!"

"You could've talked me out of it."

"I was home with the flu!  By the time I came back you'd written the chief!"

"Right."  Johnny nodded, satisfied.  "So we agree that it was your fault then."

Before Roy could defend himself the lights in the tent dimmed and the
ringmaster ran out into the center ring.  "Ladies and gentlemen!  Children
of all ages!  The Samson Brothers' Circus Extravaganza is pleased and
proud to welcome the people of Los Angeles County!"

As the ringmaster swung into his spiel the two paramedics edged apart to
allow a small dark-haired woman in a spangled red leotard to slip between
them.  Johnny watched her with appreciative eyes.  She caught the look
and gave him a cagey smile.

"You couldn't catch me, Firefly!"

"Oh, yeah?  Why don't you try falling for me and see?"

"Is that offer open to all the females in the company?"  The two men
turned at the new voice and Johnny found himself smiling into the face
of a bearded fat woman.  Roy choked on an ice cube and Johnny took
a couple of careful steps back and made a production of pounding on Roy's

"'Scuse me a second, here.  I just gotta save my partner.  Swallowed
an ice cube.  It was nice to meet you."

The bearded lady laughed at him and left and both men breathed a
sigh of relief.

"You can stop hitting me now," Roy said.  "I can breathe again."

"Yeah, so can I."

The stage manager tapped them each on the shoulder.  "Pay attention
fellows.  You're just about up."

They returned their attention to the ringmaster and found that he was talking
about them. "During our stay in L.A. County this year we are pleased to
have with us two very special guests.  From Fire Station 51 in Carson,
California, I give you Firefighter/Paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage!"  
The crowd burst into applause and Roy and Johnny trotted out and stood
one on either side of the ringmaster, as they had been instructed.  

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The ringmaster passed the microphone over to Roy and DeSoto addressed the
crowd. "Less than two years ago Los Angeles County made history when our
lawmakers passed the Wedsworth-Townsend Act, creating the first paramedic
program in the nation.  Now, for those of you who don't know, a paramedic is
a rescue fireman who has received special training to administer emergency
first aid in the field.  Since the program's inception it has grown by leaps and
bounds, but we are still finding a lot of people who don't know what we're
doing, or who don't understand the services we have to offer the community."  
He handed the mike over to Johnny and his partner picked up where he left off.

"My partner and I are here today to spread the word to you, and to ask you
to spread the word to your family and friends, that if you are in trouble, the
fire department will be there for you.   There doesn't have to be a fire.  If you
are in a car accident, we will be there.  If you think you're having a heart attack,
we'll be there.  If you're choking on a piece of food, or you get struck by
lightning, or you're going into labor and you can't get to a hospital, we'll be
there.  You only have to remember who to call."

Johnny gave the microphone back to the ringmaster, thankful that he'd
made it through his portion of the speech.

The ringmaster turned as he talked, taking in the whole crowd and gesturing
widely.  "Would you like to see these young men in action?" he asked.  The
crowd roared.  "Well, you're in luck!  At some point during this performance we
will set up a simulated emergency and call on our daring young friends here to
perform a rescue.  Now, they don't have any idea what we're planning, so what
you're going to see will be completely unrehearsed!  How does that sound?"

The crowd roared again.  Johnny grinned widely and waved.  Roy ducked his
head and smiled shyly.

"So!"  The ringmaster moved on, "a big round of applause for our valiant firemen!  
And now, if you'll direct your attention to the first ring . . . ."

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From: E!lf <>
Date: Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:02 pm
Subject: Animal Acts

In the early afternoon, the men of 51 were sitting around talking in
the rec room, when the tones sent them scrambling for their vehicles.  
Cap made it to the radio alcove and stood ready to reply.

##Station 51. Cat in tree. Shady Valley Park at the Bleeker Street
entrance.  Shady Valley Park at the Bleeker Street entrance.
Time out 14:32.##

Cap blinked and looked around, seeing his own disbelief mirrored on
the faces of his men.  He glared up at the loudspeaker as if it could
carry his puzzled expression back to L.A. for him.  Since he knew
it couldn't, he also spoke. "L.A., confirm please.  Cat in tree?"

##Affirmative, 51.  The L.A. Sheriff's Department called it in.##

Cap sighed and shrugged.  "Station 51, 10-4.  KMG 365."

Four minutes later, the engine and squad turned into the Beeker Street
park entrance and rolled to a stop near a large crowd that had gathered
and was staring towards a large tree at the edge of a playground.  
Looking around, the firemen found two sheriff's deputies standing back
in a safe open spot, arms crossed, looking up into the branches nearby.

At the foot of the same tree, sat a slathering, snarling, viciously yapping
miniature chihuahua.  

Captain Stanley, followed by his men, walked over to where the cops
were waiting.

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"....Yeah, I know.  You think this is real funny.  I do not want to hear ONE
WORD from any of you!  Especially you, Gage!  Hey? Where are Gage
and DeSoto?..." said a body-less voice.

"Not here today apparently.." answered one of the deputies, still smiling.

Cap looked around in bewilderment.  He recognized the voice of Deputy
Vince Howard, but he didn't see him.  He glanced at the two deputies he
did see, who were standing there smirking as they maintained light crowd
control. Without a word, one of them pointed up, shrugging.

So Cap looked up. Then he gaped. "I see it, but I don't believe it."

Eight feet up, an enormous Bengal tiger clung to the tree trunk.  Her tail
lashed from side to side, her ears were laid back along her head and
her body language clearly radiated terror.  Five feet higher, Vince Howard
was perched uneasily on a branch.

"How in the world?"  Cap asked.  "I mean, just . . . how?"

Vince scowled down at him.  "I answered a call about a big cat at the
playground.  I thought it was just some kids playing a prank on me.  
All of the sudden, I hear this unearthly snarling come from the underbrush,
and then that ..that...that monster charged me.  I climbed the tree to
get away from it fast but then it just followed me."

"You climbed a tree to get away from a- a...?" Chet asked in disbelief.

"Look, Kelly!  You just wait until you have an eight hundred pound feline
bearing down on you and then we'll see how clearly YOU think!" Vince

"So let me get this straight." Cap said.  "You were chased up a tree by
an escaped tiger that was being chased by a miniature chihuahua?  So,
in other words, you both got treed by a... uhhh... a mad mini dog."  He bit the
inside of his cheek.  Sometimes it was HARD to keep a straight face.
::This one'll look real nice in the log books for the chiefs.:: he thought.

Vince just scowled down at him.  He was not amused.

Cap turned to the other deputies.  "Any idea where that tiger came from?
She doesn't seem very aggressive...Lucky us.."

"Uh, yeah. We know."  One of them gestured to the crowd and an elderly
man trotted over to join them. "He's got the proper permits for her."

"Don't hurt her!" the new man pleaded.  "Please don't hurt my Esmeralda!  
She doesn't mean any harm!  It's the dog, you see.  She's terrified of dogs."

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Chet indicated the chihuahua.  "That counts?  I mean, seriously.  
Compared to her,.." he said pointing up at the tiger. "..he's an appetizer."

"Careful, boys. Any time I try to come down she reaches out some claws at
me." Vince called.

The tiger's owner pleaded gently in soothing tones meant for the tigress.
"It's because she's afraid.  She just wants you to protect her, officer!  I
raised her from a kitten after she was orphaned -- I have a private big cat
preserve just down the road.  When she was small she was attacked by a
Pomeranian and she's been terrified of getting in contact with little yapper
dogs ever since."

Marco shrugged.  "Geezzzz. I can see THAT.  They kind of give me the
heebie jeebies, too. Just look at him go!" Lopez shivered at the dog's
continuing frenzied vocal attack.

"Easy Esme.. We'll get you down soon, girl." soothed the man over
the chihuahua's noise.

"We have animal control on the way." one of the deputies told Cap.
"But if they knock her out with a tranquilizer, she's apt to be injured when
she falls out of the tree.  We thought maybe you fireguys could come up
with something not quite so drastic.."

"Also, we HAVE to do something about that d*mn*d dog!" Vince shouted
empathetically. "My ear's are ringing!"

Vince's coworkers winced in sympathy at his outburst. "Any suggestions?"
they asked the fire crew, keeping unconsious watchful hands on their
unsnapped gun holsters.

From his perch in the tree, Vince called down to them.  "I don't want to
rush you guys, but I'd appreciate it if you'd think fast.  I hate to mention
this, but I gotta use the can real soon!"

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From: "Roxy Dee" <>
Subject: The Way To An Animal's Heart Is Through His...
Date:  Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:16 pm

Hank Stanley got serious. "Hang on, Vince. We're gonna
take a minute to think on this one, ok? Won't be long, I promise."

Chuck Sheppard, one of the replacement paramedics for the circus bound
Roy and Johnny said. "Really?.. Cap! Getting the man's hopes up like
that. I'm glad somebody gets to think that we're going to be some
kind of miracle workers today..." he teased.

"Hush...It's called giving encouragement to a victim." Cap grinned.
"Why don't you..get out the gear and biophone in case somebody
actually does get hurt here while we're helping out. Might happen.
You know how unpredictable animals get on rescue calls. Last thing
I want to do is have to explain myself to the chiefs later, on how
somebody got themselves chewed up."

"Are we gonna go through anything like what postmen get while delivering
the mail?" smiled paramedic Billy Hanks.

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"Let's hope not. The engine won't hold all of us if we find ourselves needing
a place to hide." Cap joked. Then he turned to the deputies. "Who owns the

"That one's still a mystery.." said the nearest one.

"Terrific.." Cap muttered sarcastically. "Let's hope we don't have to kill either
one of them to get Vince down from there."

"You wouldn't do that? Would you?" the tiger man gasped, overhearing.

One of the jumpier deputies spoke up. "If any lives come in direct danger from
your tiger while she's trying to get away from that dog? You bet your *ss we will."

Captain immediately inserted himself between cop and owner. "Now.. now.
Nobody's doing anything lethal yet. So just relax and try to calm down
a whole lot, mister. We don't want the tiger picking up your stress levels."
Hank mediated quickly.

The owner glanced up into the tree with worry, but he saw that nothing had
changed there.

The firemen fell to thinking around a picnic table.

Chet Kelly finally thought of something. "I got it! Hang on a sec, Cap. I
think I got the solution to our entire problem right here."  And he began
digging into his turnout pocket. "I'm surprised I didn't think of it sooner." he

All the gang raised curious eyebrows. And so did the cops.

Kelly drew out a fresh, wax paper covered large cattle's knuckle bone
from the butcher's from his turnout coat. "I was going to give this to Bonnie
this morning, but I forgot to." Then he began whistling at the dog. "Here boy..
Come on, you little mop scrap. Look what I got for ya....." he teased the chihuahua.

The overexcited mutt instantly forgot the tiger and turned playfully eager for the
bone, arrowing for Chet's position through the tall grass.

"That's never going to work, Chet. That bone's bigger than he is.." Marco chided.

"So's the tiger.." Kelly shrugged. "And she didn't stop him, did she?"
Then he turned back to the dog. "Hey, you crazy mutt. Go fetch!" and he tossed
the large gristled meat covered chunk far out over the playground. They all saw it
land in a sand box with a soft "plish"ing geyser of quartz crystals. The tiny dog
burst into motion as he went chasing after it, suddenly hungry. The chihuahua
was soon chewing blissfully on the huge bloody morsel to the exclusion of all

In the tree, the tigress took notice, and she lifted her head quickly, seeing her
chance to leave. She bounded down out of the tree and instantly made for her
owner. Seconds later, she thrust her head through the solid steel chain and leather
collar he held open for her that had been dangling from his back jeans pocket.

"There.. there.. Shhh, easy Esmeralda.. Daddy's here." he soothed, caressing and
kissing her huge face after she was securely buckled.  

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All the cops and firemen looked on in disbelief.

"What a pussy cat. Wow.." Cap finally said breaking the silence, throwing
out a gesture of dismissal. They watched as man and tiger left the scene for the
road which led back to the animal's enclosure pen, trailed by a pair of watchful
deputies. He lifted his HT. "Engine 51 to L.A. Please cancel the request for an
armed animal control unit to our location. Looks like we won't be needing them.
The situation's definitely under control now."

##10-4, Engine 51. L.A. to Animal Control Sierra 240, cancel.##

##Sierra 240. Cancelling. Returning to base.## said a reply.

The gang quickly set up a short ladder for Vince to use to climb out of the tree.

The poor police officer was practically dancing up and down to ease the
pressure of his overfull bladder.

Billy nodded at him. "We might have an extra plastic urinal in the squad.
But I doubt it--"

Chet Kelly cut in neatly. " can just use this tree here. It's sure been
handy enough. We can get the folks in the crowd to promise not to look."

Marco piped up, too, jogging for the Ward. "Cap, I'll go grab a tarp to cover

"You do that." said Hank and Vince at the same time in exactly the same
commanding way.

Both of them started laughing at each other over the whole, crazy
unbelievable tiger versus dog misadventure.

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From:  Patti or Cassidy or Jeff <>
Date: Friday Oct 13, 2006 12:05 pm
Subject: Stage Fright...

Johnny Gage, on the sidelines of the live circus show in progress,
was growing increasingly nervous. And his partner began to notice
it. "I know it, Roy. It's gonna be one of those absolutely wonderful days...
I can feel it in every bone of my body." sighed Johnny Gage sarcastically.

"Ok, out with it.." Roy said finally as he watched the ballet riders
tandem balance uncannily on the backs of a pair of beautifully feather
costumed horses.

Johnny's head whipped around a little too fast. "Out with what?
Shh.. Show some politeness, would ya? Can't you see I'm trying to enjoy
the show here?!"

"Yes...  I can." DeSoto said matter of factly, crossing his arms over
his elbows nonchalantly. "But what I'm trying to figure out, too, is why you
think you have to really try in order to do that. What's gotcha all riled up,
junior? We're on a vacation of sorts here. And we're getting paid for it."

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"What's got me all riled up?" Johnny hissed at Roy. "I'll tell you
what's got me all riled up. Do you really wanna look like a fool
when we finally get out there?" he asked, jabbing a finger at the three
circus rings bursting with rainbow colored roving spotlights as performers
from all walks of the carnival strutted, handspring leaped, and tumbled their
hearts out for their large, attending audience.

It was Roy's turn to let his mouth flop open. "I don't get it."

"There's nothing to get, Roy. Do I have to spell it out for ya?!" asked
Johnny. His voice's tone rose higher and higher, the louder the
audience clapped for each successive circus act. They especially
cheered for the California sea lions balancing and pretending
to drive and play with rubber balls on top of a CHiP officer's car.

"Yeah.. I think you do.." DeSoto said, chewing on some popcorn from
white and red striped box that a passing organ grinder monkey had
handed him at the behest of its master a few minutes ago. "Want some?"

"Roy. Haven't you heard a single word I've said? I.. CAN'T.. eat."

DeSoto played the devil's advocate and waved the box of salty buttered
morsels in front of Johnny's face in a siren's song. "Sure you can. You only
avoid food when you're dying. I've learned at least that much about ya
during the last two years we've been working together."

"Get that away from me. I'm really not hungry. And I'll tell ya why.
Jeez, I can't believe I even have to explain how things really are right
now to you." Gage sighed incredulously, still completely pent up.

"How are what things?" Roy frowned, pulling back the popcorn box to stuff
another handful of the steamy corn puffs into his own mouth. "And ok, I
won't worry about the popcorn.  More for me then."

Gage hurrumphed impatiently, holding up an index finger in a just-you-wait
for-it-and-I'll-tell-you-right-now,-idiot gesture. The last word of Roy's
sentence was barely out when Johnny leaped right in. "Just how are we
gonna know what to look for when our shammed emergency entry cue
comes in? They did say they were gonna do that sometime during the
show. I mean it could be anything. I don't want to look like a fool running
out there prematurely, before the real moment they're deciding. Know
what I mean?"

Roy just blinked a few times. "Johnny, how can we mess up? Don't you
think a whole lotta of those circus folk out there are gonna be yelling and
hollering for help and calling for us when the time comes?" Roy asked.

"I don't."

Roy stopped chewing. "I think you'd better explain that." he mumbled.

Johnny leaned into him, whispering fiercely. "Maybe they won't be making
a lot of noise. After all, if I was the ring master, I know I wouldn't want to freak
out the audience with something that shocking. It might get some little old
lady out there sick. Or something even worse."

"Then aren't you glad we brought our extra rescue squad along?" Roy winked

Johnny squinted his eyes. "Roy, you're missing the entire point I'm trying to make."

Roy was equally dead set, but thoroughly amused as well. "So far, you haven't made
a very clear one. And yes, I'm confessing to a little confusion on my part."

Gage closed his eyes after taking a very, very,..very deep breath in.
Then he let it out.  Slowly.  

Soon, his frustrated anger was back under control.
Then Johnny opened his mouth and spoke, surprising lucid. "Roy, will we
know what to expect when their unknown type accident finally happens?"

Roy found that he just couldn't resist the obvious. "We're firemen. Do we ever know?
Usually, we wait to get clued in by a certain golden throated Los Angeles County Fire
Department dispatcher." DeSoto snorted mirthfully, grinning like the cat in the
perverbial gold fish bowl.

Gage gaped. He threw up his hands in exasperation and started rubbing his
forehead in pained irritation. "I don't know why I even talk to you sometimes,
Roy. You know that?"

Roy was decent enough not to dignify that comment with a reply, but that didn't stop
him from grinning or pushing his partner's more than obvious buttons. Finally, he
relented. "Ok. I'm coming clean. Yes, I've been wondering exactly the same thing
you've been wondering. Are you satisfied?"

"Kinda.. Kinda." Johnny said, waggling so-so fingers. Then he grabbed Roy by
the shoulders, upsetting the popcorn box to the point where most of it spilled out
all over the ground. A nearby chained elephant startled them both when its bristly,
freckled pink and gray trunk shot out to claim the fallen kernels for itself,
cluster by brown, dusty corn cluster.

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"Hiya, Caesar..." Roy said, patting the behemoth tusker on the forehead. "You're
welcome." he chuckled.

Johnny was completely unglued as of that exact moment. He gripped his pounding
heart in reaction. "That was....  He reached out and got your food from that far away?"
he peeped.

"Yep. Prehensibility's handy, ain't it?" DeSoto grinned toothily.

"Maybe for him. I don't have a trunk,.. or a tail. At least, not the last time I checked."
Johnny said, finally sitting down shakily on a nearby hay bale.

"I'll be sure to let you know if you suddenly spring out a third eyeball." Roy laughed.
Then he leaned in. "If that'll truly be what makes you feel better."

"Feel better?  Feel better?! I'll tell you what'll make me feel better. What'll make me
feel better is when we're finally able to do something for that fake emergency call
they're gonna spring on us sometime within the next hour. That's what and that's
why I'm so &~%*@#$ nervous!" Johnny finished dramatically, swatting away Caesar
the elephant's trunk irritably when the pachyderm tried to hug him around the head
with a buttery, muscled coil of nose.

Roy finally looked his high strung partner straight in the face in all seriousness.
"Whatever for? You act like we've never faced life and death situations before.
For Pete's sake, Johnny. This isn't even going to be a real one."

"That's the problem right there, Roy. We.. don't...KNOW what it's going to be." he
said stabbing himself in the temple sharply with a finger. He didn't even wince
when a self made red mark of impact popped out on his skin seconds later.
At least, he didn't until Roy pressed a drained pink lemonade cup discard
from out of the garbage can against his head to chill it back down into
invisibility using left over ice cubes insulating through the cup's soggy paper.

DeSoto didn't say another word and he just placed Johnny's hands one by one
onto the cup until Gage was paramedic treating himself. Roy looked up at another
surge of applause from the monster crowd that was still visible despite all the show
lights."Oh, look. They're sending in the clowns. I like clowns. You should, too. For
I know they'll help make you feel better. You see, a clown is like aspirin.."

Gage shook his head in incomprehension, his face squinting up in utter frustration.
"Like aspirin? I don't follow.."

"Yeah, a clown is like aspirin..." Roy insisted, scowling. "Only he works twice as
fast. Although even a whole mob of those might not work in your case at all." he said,
looking away to salvage the rest of the popcorn Caesar hadn't yet raided out of
his mangled box. "I'm afraid you're hopeless, junior." he concluded, nodding his
head ruefully.

Johnny was speechless.

Until a young woman of sixteen or seventeen popped through a fold
in the inner curtain of red and white canvas and peeked in on them.
She was dressed in silver sequins trimmed in navy that matched
a pod of white poodles collared in the same show
gawdy way that swirled in with her chaotically. "There you are." she
told the two firemen. Then she turned to her French coiffed charges.
"Boy and girls. Sit."

Immediately, the group of poodles sat down in front of her in a
perfect row, eagerly watching her face silently with waggling
tails and excited ears for her next soft order.

"Stay..." she said, with a subtle gesture of one finger. Then she
turned to the two formally neck tied paramedics. "Oh, that'll never
do." she said. Instantly, she plucked off first Johnny's tie and then
Roy's in quick order. "There.." she said. "You're going to be
working like everyday living, guys. Not giving a demo." she
said, tucking the ties, one each, into their uniform shirt pockets.

"But I thought that's what a fake emergency exercise is, Miss.... Uh,
I'm Johnny Gage, and this is my partner--"

"..Roy DeSoto.." said the young show girl without missing a beat.
"I know your names, sirs. You said them both during your intro speech,
remember?" she stage whispered."Come on.. we're taking a break. I
know for a fact that you won't be needed for at least half an hour."

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Johnny glommed onto that little bit of concrete fact. "Half an h-- Hey, where are we
going?" he asked as the dog trainer tugged on both of their arms as she dragged them
out of the main Big Top tent.

"To set up your semi-permanent dressing room and digs for as long as you're gonna
stay with the tour." she grinned happily. "The circus owner asked me to settle you in
personally. Hi, my name's Ashley Diamond. Or, at least, that's my performing show

Roy piped up eagerly. "Nice to meet you,.Ms. Diamond. Uh,. are we going to be
staying in the performer's train along with all the rest of you?"

"Nahh. Boss figured that being civilian might set your tastes for some privacy at night.
Usually normal folk are a little bit more modest than us theater types when it comes
to dressing into garb issues." Ashley explained.

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"Uh, we're paramedics. Seeing nudity doesn't phase us in the slightest." Johnny
elaborated coolly.

"Not others' that's for sure." shot back Ashley. "But displaying your own might
be a different story when you're bunking up with a complete group of total strangers."

Both firemen opened their mouths at that surprising truth, but nothing succeeded in
getting out enough to form words. They decided to just obediently follow where the
charming young lady was leading them.

"Ah, here we are.." said the glitzy dog trainer. "Home sweet home.." she said, sweeping
out a hand and arm dramatically. "Mommy Fortuna said that she was thrilled that some
actual hard working firefolk would be staying in her own Romanian vardo."

Johnny squinted through the darkness, trying to identify any number
of things: another tiny blue and yellow striped tent, an outhouse, an
occupied red and gold guilded lion's cage.."A what?" he asked,
straining to see in the rich darkness.

"A gyspy wagon, Mr. Gage. And a very comfortable one, too. It's an
original from the old country. And it's all yours, fellas." she said,
suddenly doing a magician's slight of hand from under her rich royal
blue velvet cloak.  An old, Victorian candelabra with already
lit candles appeared out of thin air and landed slightly heavy into her

They began brightly lighting the way.

Roy and Johnny barely comprehended that impossibility when they
caught sight of the place of residence that would be theirs over the
next two weeks. Their Headquarters borrowed spare rescue squad
that was identical to the one they usually worked with out of Station 51,
was already conveniently parked in the space between the two horse
yoke bars that were attached to the green, intricately painted wagon.
The squad's number 99 sparkled reflectively in safety glow under the
flickering candlelight. "We remembered to leave the keys in the ignition
for you so'll you'll be ready when we call for you, top of the next act.
Come on, let me give you the grand tour of your new living space. You're
gonna love it..." she grinned.

In the shadows, the brown and white pinto splashed side of a genuine
Vanner gypsy horse grazing near the squad loomed out and was patted
by Miss Diamond. "Easy, Fritz. These are friends. They aren't going to
curse you, boy. But remember, they aren't used to being around horses."

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Johnny cleared his throat. "Uh,.*Hmmph* My partner here might not be. But I am."
he grinned at her. "I own a ranch full of horses. Well, full of three of them, at least. All

"Fair enough. But watch out when the moon gets full. Fritz here believes in lunacy."

"So do we.." DeSoto chuckled. "Full moon shifts are the absolute worst. Speaking of
which, looks like tonight's moon is all there."

"I promise we won't all fall apart at once. We're pretty good." she teased. Ashley
beckoned the two paramedics to the ornately carved dainty stairs of the gypsy
wagon. She drew out a brass skeleton key and turned it in the bronze lock until
there was a click. "After you.." she said, pushing open the heavily windowed,
varnished door.

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