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      Page Two

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Joe's gaze cast around the room and he took in everybody's faces one by
one in careful measure. Then his eyes stopped on Lopez, the only man of hispanic
descent, in the room. "Mr. Lopez, I presume. Please confirm for my partner and I
that your first name is Marco."

"Uh,.. yes, uh, it is. And I vouch for Johnny Gage here completely. He wouldn't harm
a fly let alone some woman in a city alley." Marco insisted, licking his lips.

"She was no stranger, I'm afraid. Especially not to you, Mr. Lopez." Joe said bluntly.

Unpleasant nausea that couldn't be explained caught Marco fully as he tried to
work his brain around Friday's last sentence."Wh-?" he gasped.

Johnny Gage immediately became vocal when the implication came to him first
about the dead woman and Marco."Now wait just a dog-goned minute here!
That's no way to drop a--"

Bill Gannon broke in. "I'm sorry, Mr. Lopez. But the woman your friend couldn't
help this morning has just been positively identified as your first cousin, Maria Angel."

Lopez went white as a sheet and choked. He got one step out of his chair before
his eyes rolled up into his head into a dead faint. He went limp and noodled, straight down.

Johnny and Roy's chairs slammed backwards into the couch as they both
scrambled to catch him before his head cracked against the floor.

The kitchen erupted into pandemonium as Captain Stanley, the lawyer and the other
firemen started arguing angrily with Gannon for his tactless way of delivering bad news.

Only Chief Houts remained measured. He got DeSoto's attention, who was crouched
with his partner over Marco as they loosened his collar so he could breathe without
restriction. "Do you need your medical gear and a Mayfair's response?"

Gage, still numb but functional, nodded. "Yeah. ...uh, yeah, chief. I mean, sir.
Stoker! Go grab it all." Then a bizarre thought struck him. "Chief, am I able to
work still?" he asked Houts.

"Of course. Until I see real evidence that proves otherwise. Keep helping him."

Captain Stanley was still glaring at the two city detectives as he got on the pay
phone. "L.A., Station 51 is no longer available. Still alarm at our location.
Respond one ambulance and--"

Houts held up his hand as he stood to help the others move the kitchen table
and Boot out of Roy and Johnny's working space over Marco. "Hank, don't
worry about getting Lopez's fill in. I'll do it. I already know Gil Robertson's signed
up for replacement duty here. He thought he had to do it for Gage."

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Stanley looked up sharply at Hout's "extra man" plan already in place,  
and all he could do was nod stupidly. "....that's all for now, L.A." Hank
said into the receiver. "Yes. Thanks. My timeout for the log book is 14:55.
Got it." and he hung up the line. Then he turned his back purposely
on Gannon and Friday and looked to Roy, who was fitting an oxygen mask
over Marco's pallid face while Mike got his shirt open. "Is he ok?"

"As well as he can be, given the circumstances.." Roy said angrily. He got
back to taking Lopez's blood pressure. He frowned when he found how low
it had become. "Johnny, we might need an I.V." he said, reaching out to his
shaky partner's sleeve. "Johnny,...did you hear me?"

"...uh,...right, I'll make the call to Rampart. Stoker, keep an eye on that EKG.
His system's had quite a shock. Mine, too, for that matter." he said, rubbing his
face fiercely to drag his thoughts together. "That's right, cover him up,
Chet. He's going to need a blanket. Boot! Get outta here! You're getting in
our way!"

Chet, nearby, was seething. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder in irritation
at Gannon and Friday. "Cap, do we need these two hanging around any more?
I think they've done enough damage to the station for one day."

Stanley held up his hands in sarcasm. "Not my place to say, Chet, now is it?

"They stay. Cogley still has to get in an official conference with them
to get all the details for the formal court proceedings.
Do you need anything special for that task Trent?" Houts asked Trenton.

"No. That is, if Mr. Lopez here is nothing more than just a relative of the

Joe Friday replied. "That's all he is."

"Ok, uh, Then I'll need nothing else. Let's get to work, shall we?" Cogley said with
mild sarcasm, trying to ignore the sharp emotions in the room as the cluster of
firemen tried to restore Marco to some semblance of normalcy with shouts
and shoulder shaking. But Lopez did not awaken.

Cap knelt by Roy's shoulder. "Is this because he's still hungry from sleeping
overnight on an empty stomach with all this bad news? We did get back
from that multiple MVA awfully late. I know for a fact that he didn't eat before
crashing then."

"Probably. Rampart'll order a check for glucose in the ER
after we give them some vitals." DeSoto said. "That's pretty standard."

"Ok. Let me know if you need anything. I'm going to go pop open the front
doors for the mobile rig when it comes." and Stanley jogged out of the kitchen.

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Johnny finished getting Marco turned onto his left side so an airway wouldn't be
needed over his tongue. He handled his crewmate gently, going overboard with
being the caretaker to protest the detective's manhandling of Marco's emotions.
Then he got on the biophone Chet had deposited at his feet.
"Rampart, this is Squad 51. How do you read?"

Gannon and Friday were oblivious to the proceedings, deep as they were in
deliberating with Cogley about the strength of the murder rap against Johnny.
Trenton had the good manners to keep concerned for Gage's coworker even
as he got details from the detectives' notes down onto his own ledger.

##Go, ahead, 51. We read you loud and clear.## replied Dr. Early.

Johnny opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

Roy took the phone from Johnny when he choked for being so furiously
upset at how Marco had been treated by the Dragnet pair. He spoke
instead. "Rampart. One of our own. A thirty one year old male. Down from a syncopal
episode due to psychogenic shock. Patient did not strike his head when he
passed out. Vital signs are : B/P is eighty two by palpation with his legs
elevated. Pulse's 110 and respirations are twenty and shallow. He's on 15 L's of
O2. EKG is showing only slight sinus tachycardia with normal T wave elevations
but he's still proving as unresponsive to verbal commands. Request permission
to start an I.V., Rampart."

##Go ahead, 51. An I.V. of Lactated Ringers at a rate of 120 ml/hr. Run in an initial
250 ml bolus, or more, until his blood pressure returns to normal. Administer a course
of 100 mg Thiamine IM as a precaution. I heard your station had some fairly
heavy duty during your last twenty four hour shift. Give him glucagon 1 mg IM if his
LOC doesn't change appreciably within five minutes. Push D50, 51, at 50cc IV if you
still don't see improvement en route after an appropriate interval following those first
two treatments. Get a full medical history and any medications he might be currently
taking. Resend a set of vitals if they continue to downcurve. Keep him warm and
transport as soon as possible. ##

"10-4, Rampart. I.V. LR at 120 with 250 bolused to low normal of 90 systolic.
100 of Thiamine now. 1 mg Gluc IM in five if no change. D50 push at 50 if still
unresponsive en route. Our ETA is...."

Captain Stanley heard the sound of an approaching siren. "....less than five minutes."
he said tersely.

"...five minutes." Roy finished neatly.

##We'll see you then, 51. Rampart out.## replied Joe Early.

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Roy and the others quickly directed the arriving ambulance attendants into
getting Marco situated on the wheeled gurney once he was I.V. line tape
secured and fluid, mineral and sugar treated fully.

Johnny Gage couldn't wait for the sanctuary of a quiet Mayfair cabin in which
to try and pull together his tattered thoughts. If events had seemed surrealistic
before, they were feeling absolutely out of any shred of his control now.  

Marco coughed then under the mask and Johnny used every breath
sighing from Lopez as a steadying support for his nerves.

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From: "Roxy Dee" <>
Date: Wed Dec 14, 2005  7:49 pm
Subject: The Truest Color Of Devotion~~

Dr. Joe Early sighed as he and Roy and Johnny left the treatment room
that held the sleeping Marco Lopez. "And you say that Marco
fainted right after hearing some news? That doesn't sound like
the kind of thing that would usually bother him normally. He's been a
firefighter too long to be that vulnerable. But his tests, past
the basement level serum glucose reading, are all coming back as
negative which forces me to believe his symptoms were as you say,
all psychosomatic. But surely, he must have some pretty thick skin
working for him by now. What did he get upset about if I may ask?"

Roy and Johnny shared a conspiratory gaze and clammed up. "Uh, doc.
We're on sensitive ground here and I guess by the chief's orders, such
as they are. He's effectively gagged us. We can't talk about it.
At least, not yet." said Johnny, raising his eyebrows matter of factly.
He bounced on his toes and fidgetted with the buckle on the front
of the oxygen demand valve case he was still holding.

"But I promise, we will soon, hopefully." Roy reiterated. "Sorry, doc.
But the matter is rapidly stepping into Johnny's personal territory
and into the professional range of another higher agency in authority."

"I understand perfectly. I realize that even a doctor can fall under a need
to know only basis. I hit walls like that with juvenile court, priests and
nursing home administrators all the time and quite frankly, I'm almost
getting used to it." Joe grinned. "You told me all that was necessary in
order for me to effectively treat Marco and that pretty much nails the cap on
what a doctor SHOULD do, boys. So don't worry about it."

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"So is he gonna recover in time to start tomorrow's shift? If he can't, he's sure
gonna rail about missing getting in some good holiday overtime." Gage
grinned wanly. "He's gonna wanna work after tonight. Trust us that Roy and
I know this as a concrete fact, doc."

Joe met both paramedics with an even stare. "Physically, I'd say yes. But our
chaplain, who was in when you two stepped out of the room briefly for the lab
tech's draws, says no for the emotional side of things, for at least a couple
of days." Joe was unhappy with that kind of prognosis from a man who was
a healer of a kind, like himself, and it showed on his face.

Johnny opened his mouth, about to say something to his silver haired
mentor, but immediately shut it again.

Joe didn't press him one second further, at least, not intentionally.
"Let me know if there's anything I can do to help all of you when you can,
ok? It's the least I can do past the non-charges I'm going to file for him
for that precautionary ambulance ride, your treatments, and the use of
that exam room." he said jerking his thumb over his white coated shoulder.

Both paramedics brightened from their listless distant look enough
to thank Dr. Early with a heartfelt sincerity. "Thank you, doc, on Marco's
behalf. I'm sure if he wasn't medicated right now, that he'd think the same
thing I was thinking, uh,..I mean, about thanking ya and all." said Gage.

Joe Early nodded, accepting the vague explanation gracefully and they
could see that he was chalking up the whole conversation as one
from a couple of men truly caught between a rock and a hard place.
"If I don't see you again before midnight, Merry Christmas, fellas."

"Merry Christmas, doc." said Roy, waving as the mild mannered M.D. returned
back to his normal rounds. "Thanks for everything."

"From me, too." said Johnny, trying to smile as he watched Joe's
back retreat cheerfully away from them.


"I suppose we'd better get back. Your lawyer's bound to get
fairly expensive if we keep him waiting too long for us to return here."
Roy jibbed, attempting a joke. He started to head for the squad with
the ekg monitor after taking a sip of water from the fountain in the wall.

Johnny leaned on the door of the treatment room, pressing his nose against
it to fight back tears that had surprised him by resurfacing. He ignored
Roy's comment completely as he busied himself by watching Marco's
breathing rate and its count through the glass window.
A floating floor nurse was still in the emergency room with him. She was waiting
for his pressure to stay level enough to discontinue Lopez's flowing I.V.  
It was almost empty. ::That's kind of like how I'm feeling right now.:: Gage
thought. Suddenly, he started actively crying...quietly to himself, without
making a sound.

Being closely attuned, Roy noticed Gage's absence at his side
immediately, and made his way back over to him through the heavy Christmas
Eve waiting room crunch. It was then, that Roy noticed Johnny was
shaking in a delayed reaction.

Gage's mind was a whirlwind. ::Why didn't I know the dead woman
was part of Marco's family? I'm usually pretty good about noticing odd
coincidences like that. Why didn't I look for a wallet for a form of I.D. like I've
done on calls thousands of times before?::

He felt Roy rest a hand on his shoulder softly and his head shot up
with a jolt, both reddened eyes glistening in the lights.

DeSoto dropped a balled hankerchief down his front subtly while he
pretended to fiddle with his online HT with the other one, waving cheerfully
at passing nurses who were noticing Johnny's droop against the door to
show them that he was fully aware of the situation and had it in hand enough
without needing them. He kept his back to his partner, so he could save some
face and have some privacy while he gave into some healthy venting.
"You had a gun drawn on you for Pete's sake." Roy replied as if he were
clairvoyant. "I honestly can tell ya my shorts wouldn't've been as clean
as yours if I turned around to find a police detective with an oozy aimed
at my head. Quit blaming yourself. You can't know everything. Let's go.
You can roll down the squad window and let the sun dry off your face before
we get back to the station. Take comfort in the fact that nobody'll see
you if you start blubbering again in the squad, except me."

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"I should say something to him." he said, throwing a chin up at Marco,
still looking at Lopez through the window's clear pane.

"Do you think now's the best time to offer Marco platitudes? Come
on, Johnny. Get real. You know how crappy folks feel for the rest of the
day after suffering a faint. Especially one as deep as his. You can tell
him anything you want once he's been discharged. Now, come on."  
And Roy tugged on his arm. "Let's get this detective/lawyer interview
thing over with. Houts hasn't got all day available to babysit us like
he's been doing already."

Johnny used the cloth and chucked it into a red plastic lined
bio-bin nearby. "No, let's go grab a cup of coffee first. I gotta get
something to settle my stomach that's not liquid drug box anti-acid.
I must have chugged a whole bottle of it on the way in."

"Ok, but only for a few minutes. And milk'll be better for you."

Johnny started to gape but Roy interrupted him.

"Before you open that yap of yours in pointless protest, I'm buying.
So get moving." Roy told him.


Dr. Brackett was working on his chart stack at Dixie's center desk when
a pair of police officers approached him. Kel looked up. "Can I help
you, gentlemen?"

"Yes, we're looking for a paramedic who's recently brought in one
of his coworkers from his own fire station. A guy by the name of Johnny..."

"Gage? Yes, I know him. I think I saw him and his partner, Roy DeSoto,
walking that way towards the cafeteria. They're here for what?"
The two officers didn't like that he had missed their prior information.  
They started to head away, when Kel grabbed the officer's arm. "Uh,
if I may, what's all this about officer? Is my man in some kind of trouble?"

"Well, I don't know if I can tell you our business, doctor.."

"Dr. Brackett. Dr. Kel Brackett, head of emergency."

The Los Angeles street cop still looked un-reassured.

Brackett reiterated his position clearly.
"Technically, I really am the boss of every paramedic who delivers
patients to Rampart Hospital. I trained up most of them myself.
So anything that effects any of them legally, effects me, in a way."

"Ok, doctor. Guess we can tell you. Your man Gage's free on bail
over murder charges for killing the cousin of one of his fellow firefighters,
a Marco Lopez from Station 51. Apparently, this Lopez collapsed a half
hour ago and was treated by Gage's Squad 51. We want to ask Lopez a
few questions about the victim and about what might have caused his
own illness. You see, we have reason to be suspicious of Johnny's off duty
whereabouts over the last day."

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Kel reeled and barely covered the shock which bloomed in his chest at
the bland statement.  "Who's overseeing this investigation officially?
I've a right to know if this effects one of my out-of-hospital employees."

"Detectives Bill Gannon and Joe Friday from the downtown precinct,
Los Angeles."

"Johnny? Trumped up on homicide charges? You're sure barking up
the wrong tree! Gage's never harmed anyone his whole life."

The taller officer leaned in on the desk. "Did you know that before
Johnny Roderick Gage became a rescue man with the county, he served
three years probation for offenses he committed as a teenager?"

Brackett's face twitched. "No, I didn't."

The two officers started smiling at the doctor's chagrin.

Kel erupted. "For what? Double parking or drinking and driving underage?"

"For disorderly conduct, doctor. Which is well known to be a precursor
for a later tendency ...towards violence."

Brackett became speechless.

"Excuse us, doctor, we've a couple of paramedics to catch."
and they walked away, leaving a very rattled Dr. Brackett holding
the worst possible of ill tidings.

Dixie happened to notice him as she passed by and immediately,
she went to his side. "Kel? Are you ok?"

"No. Not by a long shot. I've found out something incredible recently
about Johnny. And it involves his fellow crew member, Marco Lopez."
Dr. Brackett proceeded to tell his nurse about the whole situation
as quickly as he could. "Apparently, Johnny just treated him."

"Marco? He's here?"

The thought of working an easy ER night shift on Christmas Eve instantly
became the most remote one for both doctor and nurse soon after that.

"Yes. And the only possible one who could know about that is.." Kel

"....Joe. Come on, I think I know where he is." Dixie finished for him.

They practically ran for Joe Early's office to speak with him.

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Hank Stanley was still steamed. He had already sent Chet Kelly out to
the yard to hang hose to work out some of the hostility that had shown
in his voice when he directed his humorless comment about the detectives.

And he had received word that Marco Lopez was fine, well, and resting
comfortably in one of Rampart's short stay emergency treatment rooms.

His office door had barely closed behind himself, Chief Houts, Bill
Gannon and Joe Friday, when he went off. "Is it common practice to
devastate relatives about a victim's shotgun murder so thoughtlessly?!
My g*d, didn't you two see the kind of effect your just the facts mentality
had on him?! It was as if you had hauled Marco Lopez against a wall
and shot him with a gun yourself!"

"At ease, captain..!" Houts snapped.

Hank immediately went rigid at attention. "Sorry, sir, I thought I could
speak freely in my office because we're well away from the rest of my
crew's ability to hear."

"Not when you're yelling that loudly, you're not. Sound always
carries through the pipes in stations this new." he said jerking his finger
up at the ceiling where a few white painted ones threaded through above
the flourescent light. "Captain, I appreciate you wanting to protect your firefighters
being incriminated and investigated. It's only natural, given your station. And
I don't mean that as a pun, Hank."

Stanley had to smile. Wearily he sat down in his chair without asking,
and Houts didn't harp on him for doing it. "Sorry, Gannon, Mr. Friday,
it's been a stressful day. Every Christmas Eve gets this way. I just wish
you would've found a gentler way to tell my man about the death of
his cousin. Marco's very attuned to his family. It was bound to have
effected him the way that it did."

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"How else are we going to catch Maria Angel Lopez's killer? Every minute
we delay is one minute more for the trail to get cold. We wanted to speak
with Marco as well as the rest of your men about what happened this morning
with Gage on his way to work. Can we get to it please?"

"Ok, but talk with them all in a group or they won't be talking I'll have
you know." Hank warned.

"Firefighters are fiercely protective of each other." Houts added.

"You don't have to tell us that. We see that in you." said Friday deadpan.

"Oh. Yes. Well,.." Cap said sheepishly. "sorry I blew up just now.
I just thought you did a little too much straight sided talking over the
kitchen coffee, that's all."

"And how are we going to solve this crime if we don't talk?" Gannon
asked quite frankly and dotted with a little sarcasm. Like the firemen,
he was very hungry.

"You don't learn ANYthing by talking. You learn by listening." Cap
said with a touch of heat.

Behind him, standing quietly under the clock, Chief Houts, nodded
slowly in agreement. He was deeply pleased for Hank's bit of cool

That got Gannon and Friday's attention. "Just how do you propose
we do that?"

Hank's eyes sparkled with newfound energy. "Let's discuss it over
a pot of chili, shall we?  My station never gets called away on a run
while we're eating five alarm chili."

Houts added more, trusting his favorite captain and trusting Hank's
absolute faith in his men. "I promise you that we'll make such head
way into your investigation, in just an hour, that your ties'll start

Finally, the two detectives looked up from the watches they wore.
"You have one hour to prove your point of view. After that, we do
things ...our way."

"Deal." said Hank, leaning over his desk. He thumped his fist onto
its surface so hard, that Chief Houts' picture retilted on its nail above
the file cabinet. He immediately flushed, muttering apologies.

Grinning at Cap's embarrassment, the Chief put it to rights with
a few fingers and straightened his hat. "Let's hit the chow line.
Hank, go invite that young lawyer to dine with us. No doubt he's
gonna ask to ride along with Gage and DeSoto on squad runs
so he can hurry things along a little faster before tomorrow's
holiday break."

"I'll do that right now." said Stanley, opening the door for his very
official guests.

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The four of them were struck speechless when they found Boot,
the station dog, sitting square in the absent squad's parking
space, waiting patiently in the sea foggy afternoon chill for Johnny
and Roy's eventual return. His gaze never left the cars on
the boulevard as he searched for the two paramedics' truck.

Gannon was impressed. "Does he always do this?"

"Always. And only for those he cares deeply about." winked Hank.
"He dogs anyone in trouble and stays with them until he finds that
they're finally out of it."

Houts grinned, shivering in the seasonable cold seeping in from
the open garage doors. "Boot here has been creditted with saving
fifty five people by leading fire department vehicles right to them
on rescue calls."

"Really.." said Friday. "Was he trained to the skill?"

"No. He does it on his own. You're looking at a genuine, one
hundred percent unadulterated, wandering alley mutt, gentlemen.
But he always comes through for us in the end. And he is never
wrong about those he thinks are in trouble."

"Impossible! You say he's here for Gage?" asked Gannon.

"Most likely. You know how a dog's instincts can sometimes
get." Hank said.

"That I do. Mind if we borrow him when we take Gage on a re-visit
to the crime scene when he gets back?" asked Joe Friday.

"That my friend, is up to Boot. He comes and he goes as he
pleases around here." Houts told the detective.

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Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005 14:14:35 -0800 (PST)
From: "Jeff Seltun" <>    
Subject:  Just the Simple Facts...

::17:15 pm. Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto had reported themselves
as available according to the fire department dispatcher a half an hour
ago. But still, they hadn't returned from the hospital after caring for
Mr. Lopez. My partner had a theory about that. They must have stopped
at a burger joint on the way back to the station. One of the regular fireman,
a Chet Kelly, seemed to agree with this assessment. So Bill and I checked
out the two altar boys from the day's masses while we waited for a
phone call from the fire captain as soon as DeSoto and Gage were
confirmed as return arrived back in their base of operations.

The first one, James Cormeen, said that he knew nothing about
the missing statue. The second one, Joseph Hefferman, was
not at home. His pharmacist father said that he had a part time
job but he'd have him get in touch with us right after dinner.  

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By 18:00 pm, we'd run out of book procedure. We had a killer to
find. Our only clue; that the murdered victim had been to church.

18:07 pm.. We checked the phonebooks for the names of religious
stores in the area. Two of them were closed. We tried the third.
When we got there, the only person in the store was an elderly
man sitting by a table. In front of him was a large beautifully carved
chess set. ::


Joe Friday drew out his wallet when the white whiskered man
finally looked up from the move he had been contemplating.
"We're police officers. My name's Friday, this is my partner,
Bill Gannon."

"Great to see ya." said the man, not looking up from a letter that he
was studying intently past a cursory glance to take in the fact that
the men speaking to him were actually who they said they were.
"I'll be with ya in a minute. You caught me in the middle of my
big chess match."

Bill smiled, looking at the empty chair across from the man.
"Where's your partner?"

"At work in a church boiler room. We've been playing for years."
said the old timer.

"Same match?" asked Joe.

"No. Just two or three months on this one. What I meant was that we've
been playing different matches for years.." he said proudly.

"I see." said Friday.

"You know, we do it through the mail, since he's autistic and can't leave
the church sacristy and Father Xavier Rojas's direct care officially. He
sends me a move and I send him one."

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"Must keep you on your toes." Bill said rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"Except during the holidays when the mail gets all fiddled up. That's
no good."

"Guess not." said Bill.

"Slows things down. That's no good. I like to catch him off guard."

"What's his name?" asked Joe.

"Leonard Baptista."

"Really. Is that his real last name? Kind of ironic since he's a ward of
Rojas's church down the street." Gannon probed.

"Yes. That's his, and that's the honest to G*d's truth." smiled the white
whiskered man, crossing himself.

Bill looked up at the storefront window, squinting for a moment.
"Are you Maximillion J. Lorentz?" he guessed suddenly, returning a
studying gaze at their store proprietor.

"How'd you know? We've never met." declared Maximillion with surprise.

Joe grinned. "Your name's on the window up front."

"Mr. Lorentz, we've checked with the other two religious stores in this
neighborhood. They're closed."

"This is the best one anyway. Fifty percent European items." said Lorentz

Joe smiled. "We're checking the stores around the Mission Church."

"For what?" asked their chess player.

"A statue of the child Jesus." replied Bill. "Do you have one we could look at?"

"Sure.." said Max and he stepped to a cobwebbed but shiny brass display
case with no glass and held out the nearest one he had for sale. It barely
fit into the palm of his hand.

Joe piped up. "No, sir. A larger one."

Max blinked. "You don't want a large one. Unless it's for a church. That's
where you want a larger one." he declared, thinking the two detectives were
actually going to buy.

Bill smoothed some feathers. "Could we see it, please?" he asked gently.

Max went away and came back with one about a meter long. Too big
to be one that would fit in the Mission Church's manager. "It's not my
due to butt in, but unless you live in a big place, this one'll make your
living room all the killer. "

Joe and Bill exchanged ironic looks at the use of that word. "Yes, sir."
said Joe. "Do most of the people who go to Mission Church trade here?"

"A good many of them. Especially kids."

Friday was puzzled. "Why kids?"

"They're more religious." said a surprised Max at the detective's daftness.
"Check on it yourself. See if kids aren't more religious than you."

"That'd be so." agreed Joe.

"That's what's wrong with the world. Oh, I don't mean you're wrong
with it. It's everybody else!" said Max spraying some spittle in his fervor.

Bill nodded. "Yes, sir. But I wonder if we could stick to the point, Mr.

"Sure. A lot of people from the Mission Church come in here." said Max,
cooling down and cleaning his face with an old, but tidy handkerchief.

Joe dug into the lead. "Do people ever come in here to sell BACK a
religious article?"

Maximillion rubbed his scraggily beard in puzzlement. "You mean like
a prayer book or rosaries?"

"Yes, sir." Friday nodded.

"Second hand you mean?" asked Max.

"Yes, sir." Bill confirmed.

Max shook his partially bald and graying head. "Not since I've ever
been around. That'd be silly."

"Why?" asked Gannon.

"People don't have religious articles so they can get rid of them.
They have them so they can HAVE them." reasoned the old man sensibly.

Bill pressed his point. "But if a man had a statue and wanted to sell it..
would he come to a place like this?"

"Sure. But he wouldn't want to sell it." Max said, not changing his beliefs
one bit.

Joe added more. "He would if it were stolen."

Max vehemently shook his longish, hobo looking hair underneath his floppy hat.
"No sir!" he said, the first touches of anger coloring his voice. "If a man were
to steal a statue, he'd be crazy or something like that. The only place he'd
want to go is where crazy people are."

Joe saw that their contact was getting riled up unnecessarily rendering him
too clouded for reliable information. "You may be right, Mr. Lorentz."

But his placation did nothing to settle Max's roused ire. "I don't know
what you fellas are looking for. But if it's somebody who stole a statue, he's
crazy and you won't find him. You won't find him as long as you live. Not in
a million years!"

Joe raised his eyebrows in sarcasm at their impossible assignment.
"That should cover it." he said in resignation and he and his partner excused
themselves with a nod of thanks to Lorentz. "Sorry to have disturbed your game,
sir. I hope you can get back to it soon enough to enjoy it again." he said of Max's

"I will, gentlemen. I just need a snort to compose myself. Sorry. I always get this
way whenever I find somebody's thinking stupid.  Uh, no offense meant.
It's how I feel about banks, too. I don't trust em either when THEY'RE stupid!"

"Well, isn't that the way you feel about your slowish friend, Leonard Baptista?"
Bill asked, puzzling on an apparent contradiction.

"He may be dim witted, but it's not the same thing. He's innocent of the crime
of stupid thinking. He's too pure of a soul for that. It's why I like him and our
chess games."

As Bill Gannon and Joe Friday left the store, Bill leaned into his partner and
remarked. "You know. I'll just bet he's the type to stuff his life savings into
a mattress to sleep on it at night."

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"I wouldn't be surprised." Joe said, rolling his eyes. "Come on, let's get
back to Station 51 and wait on our two paramedics to come home. Maybe
after we eat on that captain's invite, they'll show up in time for dessert."

From: "Patti or Jeff or Cassidy" <>  
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 18:48:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject:  [EmergencyTheaterLive] Looks Can Be Deceiving..

Dixie McCall and Dr. Brackett were no more clarified
on events circulating around Johnny Gage than before
they had spoken with Dr. Early, twenty minutes earlier.

Both nurse and doctor slumped as they wandered back down
the hallway to the elevators above the emergency ward.

"Well, I guess that ends that." Dixie sighed. "So much for
trying to go for the coveted proverbial friend in need cause."

Brackett matched her look of disappointment. "Never knew how
much of a stickler our hospital rules about confidentiality were
until I ran up against them myself. And I can't blame Joe
for clamming up on Marco's case and about what he overheard
earlier in the hallway from Roy and Johnny."

"Look who's talking." Dixie said, pushing the elevator button.
"And I thought I was onto something that would solve everything
for all three of them." She buried her head against Kel's shoulder
once the doors were closed behind them. "Having a sense of
curiosity sucks, Kel. Don't you feel the same way?"

"If I did, I never would have become a doctor." he smiled,
giving her a comforting hug. "I guess we'll just have to let our
firemen get themselves out of this bind on their own. All we
can do is be two sets of ears when they do decide to open up
to us later on and offer all the best advice we can."

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"I still want to do something to help."

"Maybe we can."

Dixie looked up in puzzlement.

"No one says that we can't look in on a patient to get
a vitals set or two for the charts. We can always say that
we were short nursing assistants today." Kel reasoned.

"That'd be the truth at least." Dixie said, pulling away from
Dr. Brackett as they reached the ground floor. "But do we
have the right to involve ourselves here? Talking about
whatever upset Marco with him may just make his holiday
even worse despite our best intentions."

"You know, I would have never even thought of that."

"Being empathetic sucks, too. Now I can't go against my better
judgement either." she complained miserably.

Kel sighed hugely, and both of them eyed up the room where
Fireman Lopez was. They knew he was most likely changing
while the reception desk awaited Joe's paper orders to officially
discharge him from the hospital. "Neither can I.  But we still can
do something on another track."

"Oh? And what's that?" McCall asked..

"We can talk to those detectives on the phone directly, to get
some answers."

"How are we going to know where to call them, Kel?"

"Easy. We ask that police officer who was hunting down Johnny.
By law, he's got to say why he's on private property like this for
somebody legally freed on bail. And I'm just the man he's got to
explain himself to. All of the sudden, I'm feeling hungry. And gee,...
from the looks of your pale-ish skin... You are, too." he lied.
"Come on, let's go to the cafeteria for some pie and coffee to get
ourselves unhungry and in better shape to handle things."

"Best news I've heard all day." said Dixie.

With their faces set firm in determination, Dixie McCall and Dr.
Brackett set off on their self appointed errand briskly.


Johnny Gage couldn't eat.  He couldn't believe it when a police officer
sat down at the table behind him and started to stare at his back,
without looking away, while he drank his coffee in slow measured sips.

"Now that really burns me." said Gage to DeSoto. "He's just sitting
there. Why is he looking at us?"

Roy glanced over his shoulder and shrugged. "Why don't you get up
and go ask him."

Johnny turned back around with irritated energy. "Oh, no. I'm not gonna
play his game. So, being out on bail still means guilty until proven
innocent? Ok, all right. Two can play that game. Roy, let's leave a little bit

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"What? I thought we were going to wait for Marco until he's through filling
out the paperwork so all three of us can go back to the station together."
Roy insisted.

"We are, we are. Not so loud. He'll overhear you." Gage hissed, over
his corn bread and chili.

"He already knows what's going on." Roy said through tight teeth. "Don't
make such a big deal out of this. You've done nothing wrong. If ya had,
you'd still be locked up in jail tonight for Christmas Eve."

"Well, then, if I'm so innocent, why are those two detectives still hanging
around us? They're more than just starting to get on my nerves, Roy. Think
about what they did to Marco."

"That was an accident. They had no idea how close Maria and Marco were."

"Well, they should've checked before they notified next of kin like that of
her death. If they had, they'd have realized that it was just him, her and his
mother living in the same house together."

"Maybe they took that into consideration, Johnny. Who better to tell than a
younger son and not some poor old frail mother about her passing?"

"They did check." said a voice nearby. "It's standard policy to notify a healthy
next of kin with distressful news to prevent any unfortunate adverse reactions."

The two paramedics turned around with a matching set of strongly
disapproving double frowns and both pegged onto the policeman
who had just spoken.

Johnny went ballistic. "Thanks a lot for eavesdropping on a private
conversation Mister Squad Cop. The least you can do is tell us why
you've been ordered to dog us like this."

The smile fell away from the police officer's face. "I thought I was being
polite by letting you eat before clarifying a few facts that I've been asked
to get by the coroner's office. They need your detailed positional and
physical findings so they can completely fill out Miss Lopez's official death

Gage shot to his feet. "That's it. Roy, let's go..." he said dangerously. "If I don't
leave now, I'm gonna start getting real mad here."

"Ok, ok.. Sorry about that, officer.. You see, my partner's upset about how your
superiors handled breaking bad news about your deceased's status to a friend
of ours. So you're gonna have to forgive him for acting uncooperative. He's just
had to treat that same friend for falling into moderate to heavy shock because of
it." DeSoto offered apologetically to the man in blue.

"Ok, now I know. Thanks for telling me what happened to Mr. Lopez. That's
another question I had been wondering about."

Roy blinked five times, getting hold of his own emotions."Uh, know where
we're headed, right?"

"I do." said the man, motioning to his own partner that they were going to follow
the rescue squad men and the truck numbered 51 whereever it went.

"Ok, ...Then I guess Marco, me and Johnny will meet ya there." Roy smiled
artificially meek, as his partner all but yanked his arm out of its socket
as he successfully dragged him out of the cafeteria.

As the two paramedics and the two policemen left the dining area, Dixie
and Dr. Brackett were coming in.

Dixie was crushed. "Oh, no.. Now where are they off to?" she quailed.

"They probably have a response to handle. They.. are.. still on duty. I heard
Roy call their squad available over the base station radio as we were
coming here." said Brackett.

"They can do that with Marco as a passenger?"

"Sure, why not?  His replacement's already at the station taking over.
I heard that from Captain Stanley himself about his personnel change  
over the same channel to their Battalion Chief. Marco'd just be tagging
along, Dixie, and still resting under their direct supervision."

"Not what I'd call a great way to spend Christmas. It's cold out there tonight."

"Whatever their trouble is, at least they're together. And we're just
gonna have to live without knowing anything more until after the holidays,

"Somehow, I'm not feeling so merry anymore." said Dixie with a sad pout.
"And I won't be anytime soon, not until I learn that they're all truly ok." she
promised, wiping a sudden wetness out of her nose and eyes.

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"Shhh," Brackett soothed her. "That's no way to spend Christmas. Tell you
what, let's spend it together come midnight at my house, and I promise you
that I'll make a few well placed phone calls using my supposed considerable
paramedic business clout around city hall."

Dixie nodded blandly, barely appeased, and together, they left the food line
for their mutual work stations in the busy E.R..


Detective Joe Friday leaned on Captain Stanley's office desk and polished
one of his shoes by swiping at it with a clean handkerchief. "We can't wait
for your men to return any longer, Mr. Stanley. Our other assignment has a
very firm deadline that we must meet.  We have to have that second case
fully solved by midnight."

"Just what do you expect me to do about it, fellas? I'm not a mind reader.
I don't know where my men are." Hank protested. Boot, in his lap, started
whining. "Shh, easy Boot. These are the good guys. We can trust them,
I think." he muttered.

"Murder is never pretty, Mr. Stanley. Believe us when we tell you that we'll
do everything in our power to make sure your man walks free from these charges.
It's only a matter of time before the real murderer steps forward."

"Oh, really." Cap scoffed. "Have you found any witnesses to that effect?"

"Not yet." said Gannon softly. He set down his nearly empty chowder mug
and he spun it around morosely on the desk with a calloused thumb.

"That's why we want to borrow Boot here." admitted Friday at last.

Cap's eyes squinted. "You're going to use him to track scents in that alley?"

"Yes. Very astute of you." said Joe monotone. "Using dogs to solve crime
scenes is something I've been trying to get the department heads to buy for
years. Maybe Johnny Gage's case will finally be the one that shows my
superiors the true worth of a canine's incredible sense of smell. I know they
can fathom out clues where none remain obvious to the rest of us human

"And we'll take along Johnny as encouragement for your dog. You said he
works hard for the people with whom he's formed an attachment." Gannon
added. "Please, captain. Call your Squad Unit 51 and tell them to report to
the alley where it happened in five minutes. We'll be meeting them there."

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Stanley fingered the live HT on his desktop with an empty, pained look.
"You know my man Marco's with them."

"We know. In fact, we're counting on his presence as positive
impetus for Boot to perform. Lopez's emotions should drive out the instincts
in him that we need to help us disprove the state's case against Johnny
Gage one hundred percent." Gannon said.

Without saying anything more, Cap opened a drawer next to his knee and he
drew out a hardly worn black leather collar with a fire department trumpet on it
and a light rope leash. He held it out to Gannon firmly for him to take. "These are
Boot's. He knows that he'll be asked to actively work a scene once he's wearing

"Thank you, captain." said Friday. "We appreciate this greatly. Boot may
yet prove to be the big break we've all been waiting for." he said.

"I dearly hope so, for Johnny and Marco's sakes." nodded Hank seriously.

He watched as Bill Gannon clipped on the leash and collar on the wanderer fire
station dog. Boot immediately sat up with interest, looking up at the detective
and then towards the engine bay. "Ok, you do your part captain, and I promise,
we'll do ours." said the gray haired man. The two detectives left the station
with a very eager Boot on their heels for the unmarked tan Fairlane which was
lying hidden and parked in the station's sidedrive.

When they had gone, Hank lifted up his HT and called Squad 51.
"Engine 51 to Squad 51. Report."

##This is Squad 51. Still 10-8. ## came Roy's puzzled voice over his
handheld radio.

"Squad 51. Rendevous to a Code 6A with Unit H/5K. They are on Tach 2.
Respond a Code 2-High, on my order, a.s.a.p., to their twenty."

## 10-4, affirmative. Switching to Tach 2 for H/5K. We will advise L.A.
when we're on location. Also, uh....our Code I is very 10-2, Engine 51.
He is currently 10-12.##

Cap dropped his head in utter relief at the news that Marco was fine
and discharged from Rampart officially. He wasn't too pleased with the
fact that he was with Roy and Johnny on the way to another foray into
Dragnet's current murder investigation. ::But then again, beggers can't
be choosers.:: he decided.

A whooping holler of pure delight echoed resoundedly through the vehicle
bay. It was Chet Kelly. He came running into Cap's office. "I heard! I heard!
Yey! Marco's ok, fellas! Roy just said as much over the radio."

Cap rose from his seat and hung in the doorway, studying the rest of the
gang as they gathered around the wall map excitedly to talk. Kelly was
working on straightening out the spare I.V. box and oxygen equipment
with Gil Robertson, Marco's replacement for the evening. He couldn't help
but smile.

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