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       Burning Water
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             Page One

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The Story Unfolds...

Season Ten, Episode Fifty Eight..

 Burning Water  

Debut Launch: September 7th, 2015.


***************************************************************
From:  patti keiper pattik1@hotmail.com  
Sent: Sat 9/19/15 8:51 PM
Subject:  Shake Up.

 
Roy Desoto and Johnny Gage burst into the kitchen at Station 51 from the locker room
full of nervous energy.

"Are we late for roll call?" Gage asked his partner, who was walking just as quickly through
the doorway to make it to the stove. "I heard there was an inspection to be run at noon
today."

"I don't think we are, Chet's still cooking." Roy replied, snatching up a plate from
a cabinet. He hurried over to the pot and held it out. "What have we got for us today,
Chet? We're half dead and starving."

Kelly recited proudly, stirring up his creation's rich aroma for his two coworkers with his
spoon. "Huh? Oh.. A little something for everybody. Chet's everything curry.  It's got chicken
for Stoker, potatoes for me, it's spicy hot for Marco, it's got beef in it for you, milk for Gage
... and clams for..."  he broke off suddenly in horror when he saw who was walking into the
kitchen from the side door wearing a white captain's dress hat. It was Craig Brice.
"...Cap?"
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Marco Lopez looked up from his newspaper where he was patiently waiting for his portion
of lunch to be dished out. "Oh, Hi, Craig. Heard you were coming. Good to see you again."
he said, not moving his feet off the table top as he turned a page.


Craig Brice angled the black rim of his white captain's cap in a greeting as he plucked it
off to toss onto the couch across the room with great accuracy. Henry watched it sail neatly
onto the cushion next to him. "Likewise, Mr. Lopez. I hope I can cut down on most of the
usual paperwork you regular firefighters always get stuck with, while I'm here." Craig said,
digging into the sink for a clean coffee mug.  He immediately began buffing the one he picked out
carefully from the drying rack with a towel.  His tone had been warm and cordial, but Gage heard it
all colored as one hundred percent condescension in his head.

Mike Stoker offered up a quiet friendly wave and a pour of java into Brice's borrowed mug.

Johnny didn't move from his frozen in shock pose, a hand half in and out of the plate cabinet.
"Roy.." he mumbed under his breath, "What's he doing here... like...like...like that?" he
sputtered.

Chet smiled. "Looks like he's in charge."

"But why?" Johnny gaped. "Where's Cap? He was here this morning."

DeSoto shrugged absently. "Don't know. Don't care. All I care about is getting some food
into my stomach before we get our next--"

**EEEohhhhooOOOOooooo**  ##Station 51. Squad 51. Respond with Engine 9, Foam 127.
Tanker crash. On the PCF highway exit west of Ojai Community College off Baines. PCF
exit west off Baines. Fire is evident. Time out :  11:55.##

Roy ended up having to pull the lunch plate out of Gage's hand and giving him a little
push back towards the squad as he headed out. "Me and my big mouth."

"Nobody's is bigger than mine." said Chet, actively competing with Roy in a fight to be
first out to the apparatus bay.

"Orderly single file dash. That's the most efficient way out, gentlemen.." Brice said, following
them in a jog.

Gage's body snapped out of his fugue but not his face, which was still frowning.
"I wonder what the hell happened at Headquarters this morning at the monthly captain's
meeting?" he asked himself, half out loud for Roy and the others to hear.

But everybody else was in turnout  jacket dressing and belting up mode for the trip out Code 3 with
full reds.

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

::I wonder what the hell I was thinking last night to believe I was ready for this.:: thought
Hank Stanley to himself as he bent dutifully over the Battalion's test answer sheet laid out
on the desk in front of him.  He could almost feel the eyes of his adjudicators
watching him diligently work with his pencil on the first of the five hundred problems
he knew would follow in the days ahead.   ::Sure McConnikee's dead and buried of
that stroke he suffered Thursday, but that doesn't mean a hill of beans for my level
of confidence this afternoon. Holy Hanna!::

Cap stopped bouncing his left knee up and down when he heard one of his preceptors,
Battalion Nine, clear his throat meaningfully.  "Uh... yes sir?" he asked the chief.

"We're working on the dynamics of scenario number six, is that correct Mr. Stanley?
We don't have all day. The training tower awaits your expertise.."  said the taciturn
fireman officer.

Hank's eyes opened in stunned correction when he realized that he had written in
the last four minutes of hose pressure and chemical mix formula equations under
Number Five's narrative space.  He quickly began applying his worn down eraser
once again. "Sorry. I'll... just redo these. It'll only take a minute."
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"You have three." said another chief, yawning as he looked at his watch.

Cap tried not to look at the fingers twitching on the third examiner as they fiddled
around with the timer buzzer's button on the front table.

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

Resident Intern Karen Overstreet looked up from her place in Rampart's
doctor's coffee lounge at the scanner Dr. Morton always left on, on top
of their refrigerator. She had heard the call out for Station 51. "Well, that
was quick. I hope you're can be a faster than normal thinker, Craig Brice,
in your new role as an acting fire captain." She studied her watch. "You just
barely walked into their door." she grinned.

"You said something, Karen?" asked Morton as he sucked on a cigarette
over against the wall so he wouldn't bother any other non-smokers in the
room.

"Oh, nothing much, Dr. Morton. Just the usual girlfriend musing about a current
beau."

"You and Craig Brice are dating each other?"  her darker skinned counterpart asked
in surprise.

"For five months. Where have you been, Mike?"

"With my nose buried face deep in your patient charts where it belongs, Karen.
Congratulations. I think."

"What do you mean you think?" she said dangerously soft.

Next to Dr. Morton, a very silent Joe Early suddenly got up, abandoning his own
coffee cup, and left the room.  "I'll....be in Treatment Two. I think I left my
tongue depressor unattended."

The two interns didn't even notice his departure from behind their equally piled
high stacks of medical and trauma cases. Overstreet and Morton were still locked
eye to eye.

The puffy haired spectacled physician was unmoved by her challenge.
"I don't know if you're living together or just casually seeing each other as
romantic dates with overnights. Not going to pry." Morton huffed with a grin.
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Karen blinked, slowly, and backed down with genuine apology. "Oh. Since you put
it that way. Okay. We're very definitely lovers, Dr. Morton. Feel free to gossip."

"I don't gossip." he frowned. "If anything, I quell the behavior whenever I see
it in my staffers. Immediately. There's a time and a place for catching up
on the rumor mill and I'm afraid that's not going to be at work."

"But we're socializing." Karen pointed out.

"We're clarifying. Big difference." Morton snorted.

Karen smiled hugely at her preceptor and fellow resident doctor. "Thanks, Mike.
Your concern about the status of my heart strings makes you suddenly,
a very good friend."

"HHmmm." Morton grunted, not looking up from double checking his notes.

The two of them amicably traded case file piles to mutually proof read each
other's notes.  "So..." she said. "How did I do on the Anders case?"

"Adequate. There's only so much you can do with a Stokes/Adams attack. What's
best for him in the long run, we won't know until he's got an entire half year's
worth of lab results and blood pressure readings under his belt." Mike told her.

Karen sighed. "D*mn it! And I worked so hard on him. I want to be good. Like Craig
does as a paramedic. But I don't feel confident yet. Not at all."

"Spoken like a true resident intern. Welcome to the club." Morton said, reaching out
and offering his hand for a shake. "Remember Karen, we have to learn and implement
about five hundred times the amount of knowledge your average street paramedic has
to cover. If you feel outclassed, that's normal. I'm sure Dr. Brackett will grind you down
even further into the dirt like he does every resident before too long. That means you're
on the right track for the most part."

"Yey, team." Dr. Overstreet said, slurping down her cold coffee without enthusiasm.

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

Craig Brice had Mike Stoker stop the engine about five hundred feet upwind of
the incident scene.  A huge oil tanker was on its side on top of the viaduct, burning
ferociously in lurid red flames with very heavy pitch black smoke showing.  There were
no bystanders to speak to, everybody had sense enough to flee the intense heat of
the accident.

"What caused him to tip?" Brice asked his engineer.

Stoker eyed up what they were looking at as he watched the others begin to haul off
hose packs to connect up to fire hydrants and Foam 127's already laid out foam machine.
"Tire issue. See those shreds on the ground? This was a single truck accident."

Brice turned to Roy and Johnny. "Gage, DeSoto. Get onto Ladder 9's bucket. Use full
protection gear. See if you can spot the driver whereever he is. We'll plan our attack
once we know his exact location."

"Right, Captain." Johnny said efficiently. It sounded funny in his ears.

Chet eyed up Marco. "Why is it always on a bridge, can't the truck driver go a little
further??" he complained, quickly setting up hose clamps to their belayed hoselines.

Lopez scoffed at him. "When it happens UNder a bridge its not much better." he
said honestly, helping Mike Stoker man and prime Engine 51's pump.
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Roy and Johnny hurried into their scba and got onto the bucket awaiting a paramedic
team. The ladder crew quickly lifted them into the air as Roy and Johnny fully tested
the open channel strength of their handy talkies. "HTs 51 to Engine 51." DeSoto
toggled.

##Go head, HT 51.## said Brice.

"We're already seeing signs of pavement failure and sagging beneath the main
tank. Looks like crude oil. One hundred percent."

##Copy that. Tie off from the bucket in case the road collapses if you decide
to go in on a victim retrieval. ## Craig radioed to them.

"That's what we'll be doing." Roy shared. "The driver's moving and unburned."

Closer and closer, they jerked in slow feet. On their guard, gripping the hand rail of the basket,
they felt themselves being pushed in and over the burning truck by the Addison operator.

Roy put a megaphone that had been in a crate at his feet to his mouth.
"This is the L.A. County Fire Department to the man in the truck. We're coming to get
you. Do not leave the cab." he added, as he saw more liquid oil, not yet on fire, begin
to trickle and spread across the bridge's asphalt surface. "We're going to lay
down some fire retardant foam first. Stay where you are."

Johnny thought he saw a feeble reaction through the top side facing passenger
door window beneath them.  Two feet were being moved restlessly. "He's still got
good air down there, Roy."

"We've got six minutes on ours. Mark." DeSoto said out loud.  "Man,
I hate basket snatches. Too much can go wrong."

"Quiet, pally. My ears don't need to hear that. They're burning enough already."
Johnny shouted over the roar of the flames. He lifted his HT. "HT51 to Ladder 9,
seven feet south! We're under some heat!"

##Tracking a new directional, HT 51.## came back their tillerman.  With a groan,
the bright white lattice of metal jerked and began to retreat back the way it
had come.

Roy and Johnny disappeared into a sudden inky cloud of dark smoke when
the wind shifted instantly in a random breeze.  

Craig Brice shouted to them over the frequency. "Engine 51 to HTs 51. Your status?"

There was no reply.
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**************************************************
From:  patti keiper (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Sent: Mon 11/16/15 10:38 PM
Subject: High Expectations..


Brice ran to the back of the engine to get a closer view of the tanker
and the aerial ladder's current position. He waved to the control man on 9's
to spot up eyes to begin a water curtain from the hose nozzle
attached to the deck rail of the ladder bucket to protect Roy and Johnny.
"Wide fan! Heavy dispersal. We need to see what's going on!"

"Yes, sir!" the fireman hollered back.

Truck 127's Captain rushed up to Craig with news. "We're charged. Laying
a foam blanket from the east and working in to the tanker and your men.
Any word from them?"

Brice spared the man a glance. "Not yet. But 9's ladder op doesn't look worried
in the slightest. It's probably because Gage and Desoto are caught in mid air,
rappelling down to the cab. Need both hands doing that."

"Sit and wait? I always hate that on a scene." 127's Captain grinned. "You'll
grow a thin skin about it, too, soon enough, captain."

"One fire at a time." Brice nodded ruefully, casting his eyes back to the smoke
column blocking his view. Then the wind shifted and Craig saw that everything
about their rescue remained on track.  Roy and Johnny were in still motion, on ropes.
That meant they felt that they were not in immediate danger continuing their attempt.
"Ah.. that's better." Craig said, putting his hands on his hips as he watched the sky
where they were above the fire.

The captain of 127's foam crew sighed in relief. "Much." Then he held out a glove
to Craig in an offered handshake. "Congrats on your new command post, Brice.
You're a credit to this department. I've been watching you move up the ranks."

Brice nodded and accepted the grip, after shifting his HT radio to his other hand.
"Thank you, captain. Means a lot. It wasn't easy leaving the paramedic program.
But I have been feeling like I needed to stretch a few career boundaries the last
year or so."

"Maybe you don't have to give up those squad duties forever. You're a captain now.
Lobby for a change in promotion policies. I can't think of a better man for
that angle knowing your track record. I know Captain Stone would jump
aboard that kind of camp at the drop of a hat. He'd be a staunch ally.
He really misses manning those defibrillator calls."

"I'll give it some thought." Craig smiled.

"I'd better get over there and oversee our application. Keep in touch, Brice."

Craig waved a hand as 127 returned to his crew's position. "I will, Stevenson.
Thanks for the tip. I will take full advantage of it."
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Johnny Gage's shoes thunked loudly on the wet metal of the tanker cab
as he and Roy DeSoto reached their target.

Roy got on the radio. "That's enough slack. Hold position!" he hollered once he
saw enough rope was played out to allow them entry inside the truck as far as
the driver.

##Copy, 51.## replied the bucket crew lieutenant who was invisible above
them in the smoke.

Johnny was already in full contact mode. "Hey, can you hear me in there? Are
you hurt?!" he shouted loud enough through his air mask to be heard over
the sound of the protective hose water curtain raining down on top of them.

The driver was dressed in overalls over a red long sleeved shirt. He was a
sixties something, and a little rotund. He stirred and opened his eyes
in a mild panic. "Am I going to burn? This window's hot!"

"No. We're taking care of that. Are you bleeding anywhere?" Roy added.

The dizzy trucker driver's head wove in uncertainty and shock. "Uhh..
my hands are sticky, and I'm smelling iron. Probably so. I can't see
anything enough to tell. There's soot in my eyes."

"Okay, cover up with something! We're going to break this glass to
get in by you!" Gage told him. "What's your name?"

"R-Rocky.."

"Do you have any pain?" Roy said pulling out a jacket halligan to use
to shatter the passenger's window over which they stood.

Rocky didn't answer from under the tarp he had weakly pulled over his
head and shoulders.

Gage shook his head. "He can't hear us like that, Roy. There's too much
noise going on."

DeSoto gave a warning. "Breaking in!"  

Gage covered his neck area with crossed forearms as the glass flew
apart with Roy's hammer strikes. Soon the way was open.

Inside the cab, Rocky started coughing immediately as smoke from the
oil tank fire began to fill the truck cab.

DeSoto was the first one in. He knelt down by his patient but left
the tarp covering him in place for the moment. He shouted into his radio.
"Okay. Lower the spare air bottle for our victim. We're in!"

##Copy, 51.##

Gage stayed above and guided the third rope tethered to the scba that the bucket
team was sending down until it reached the bottom. Then he leaped in after it.
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Together, he and Roy tossed away the tarp Rocky had used and got air flow running
through the new mask. They strapped it to Rocky's face. The fresh air seemed to
revive the older man and he groaned in a slight recovery.

Gage ran his gloves over Rocky's body, looking at them after every few inches of
searching or so for blood traces. Finally,.. "The blood's coming from his head, Roy."

"I got it." DeSoto replied, placing a rag he had found over the spot and applying
pressure.

"I'll check his neck and back." Gage said after washing the blood off his gloves
in the water pouring in from the broken window above them. He returned to
his assessment. "Rocky! Where else are you hurting? Here?" he asked,
gripping around the back of his head and sliding his hands down his spine.

"No." the driver gasped, clinging to the mask feeding him breathing room.
"Just my... my head."

"We won't need a backboard." Gage decided.

"Let's get him out now. This head wound can wait." Roy agreed, turning so Johnny
could remove the extra life belt they had brought that was attached to his own.

Johnny got it free and worked again over Rocky. "I'm going to put this life belt around
your waist. If I hit a sore spot, give a holler."

Rocky's eyes closed behind his air bottle mask.

"Rocky?" Gage said, grabbing the man's face with both hands, peering at his bloody face.

"He's going out." DeSoto said. "Still breathing okay though." he reported, feeling the driver's
ribcage with his free glove.

Johnny pulled out his HT from his pocket. "Engine 51. We've got a sixties male.
Head injury with foreign body eye involvement. Semi conscious. No burns. No fractures.
Ready to extricate in one."

##10-4, Gage.## came Brice's reply. ##Ambulance crew has a cot waiting with
O2 standing by. The fire's been contained in your immediate vicinity. You've got
time.##

The heavy rain of hose water suddenly lightened to a strong mist around them
as coverage was moved to a different involved area on the oil tanker at last.

Roy and Johnny both stood up and looked out the hole in the cab they had made.

"Not enough room for a tandem belay. He's going to have to go up alone." DeSoto
said.

"I'm fine with that." Gage said, double checking the rope he had looped onto
Rocky's life belt hook.

A minute later, Rocky's limp upper body was guided out of the truck by Gage
maneuvering him by his legs and feet up to the bucket crew. Gage had strapped the
bottle to Rocky's back so his clean air ventilation could continue uninterrupted.

##51, moving off with your victim. Return trip for both of you in two.## promised
the bucket man.

##Understood!## DeSoto replied over radio. Then he gave Johnny a leg up so
he could climb out of the truck. Gage returned the favor and offered a hand down
to haul Roy up. Soon they were crouched down on top of the cab to keep away from
the intense heat billowing from the rear of the tanker and the hot, foam covered
oil on the ground. They kept themselves wet with mist while they waited for their
own rescue trip off the truck.

Mike Stoker and Chet Kelly were there to take care of Rocky after he reached the ground.
They took temporary charge of the next steps of aggressive treatment.

Craig Brice had taken matters into his own hands enough to set the resuscitator
to passive mode and to get out all of the gear boxes from the squad. He could tell at
a glance that Rocky was stable, if a little groggy, so he knew his immediate help wasn't
needed. He returned to his place next to Ladder 9 to watch his paramedics get pulled out.

Mike Stoker got on Rocky's head immediately after the two of them got him
centered him onto his side on Mayfair's cot on top of a shock sheet. Together, he
and Chet peeled off Rocky's air bottle and harness and switched out his air mask for
an E and J's on demand oxygen supply.  Stoker kept a close thumb on the
trigger to offer a mechanical boost if Rocky needed help breathing.

Kelly noted the mass of bloody rag sticking to Rocky's hair. He took over
applying pressure to the wound.

On the bridge, on the truck, Johnny ansed as he watched them work over
their patient far below. "His name's Rocky." he reported over the channel.

Stoker waved a confirm at Gage.  A few seconds later, the engineer smiled when
Rocky finally opened dirt filled eyes.

"Ahh.." Rocky grimaced. "My eyes!" he fidgetted, whipping his head away
from Mike's hands and the oxygen mask.

"We'll wash them out. Keep this over your nose and mouth. It'll help." Mike
told him.

Shaking, the older man obeyed as the ambulance attendants raised the head of
his cot up to ease his breathing and help control the bleeding. "My son is going to
kill me. I'm not...*gasp*... going to be there to take care of them." Rocky coughed.

"Take care of who?" Mike asked, leaning in as he counted a carotid pulse on
Rocky closely.

"Neb and Sally. They're... they're horses I'm in charge of. They pull a 1912 pumper."
he grinned fondly, half out.  "Here." said the driver, passing over a soggy business card
he pulled from a shirt pocket.

"A horse drawn fire engine?" Mike asked in surprise after he saw the card's logo
illustration. There was a business address on it.

"Yeah... this summer's been fun. They've both been my pride and joy. Had to help
Mac with them while he had his surger---" his voice trailed off into a gurgle and he
grew still.

"Rocky? Hey!" Mike prompted. "I know you're tired. Take a deep breath for me."  
He shot a light puff of oxygen into the driver's lungs with the trigger valve. "Like this.
A few minutes more doing it, and we'll let you sleep."

Startled, but stimulated, the man revived fully and began to cooperate.
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Not long after Roy and Johnny resumed care, Rocky grabbed Stoker's sleeve
in desperation. "Promise me, fireman. Promise me you'll take care of them for me.
They need to be fed, watered!"

"Easy, sir. Don't move your head."

"Promise me!"

Mike's eyes widened and he found himself answering. "I'll....see what I can do." Mike
replied in surprise, getting sucked in.

Rocky relaxed, still hanging onto the engineer's jacket sleeve firmly.

Gage knelt back by the cot after setting up the flowing I.V. Rampart had ordered.
"What was that all about?"

"You're not going to believe it. I hardly believe it myself, Johnny. I'll tell you later."
Stoker replied, disengaging their patient's grip from his arm. He tucked the business
card Rocky had given him into a pocket.

Roy was deep into transmitting the rest of their victim's followup. "Rampart, B.P. is up.
88 over 46. Respirations are stronger, 22 and regular. Pulse is 100 on 15 liters of O2.
Bleeding from his head wound has stopped. Cannot assess pupils at this time due to
the presence of some non-penetrating carbon debris. We will be patching both eyes
following saline irrigation."

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

In the base station room, Dr. Karen Overstreet acknowledged Roy's report. "10-4, 51."
Assess breath sounds en route and guard against hypothermia. It's quite possible as he's
been soaked to the skin. Send an EKG routine Lead II when you can, and we'll take a look
at that, too."

"Good." replied Dr. Brackett. "Now what else should we do?" he asked Karen
in the background, leaning in on the counter over her notes.

Karen thought for just a moment and hit on it. "51, see if you can contact the patient's
son by using law enforcement to obtain a further medical history."

Dr. Morton also smiled at his protege' intern. "That's the proper thinking outside the box.
You are correct. Always use witnesses for more patient information. The firefighters might
be too busy and forget to ask them without prompting from you."

##10-4, Rampart. Stand by for follow up and a strip. Our E.T.A is twelve minutes.##

"Standing by." she replied.

Kel Brackett gave Morton and Overstreet a final nod before he left the room to go con Dixie
out of a cup of coffee from her set up next to the communications alcove.

Dr. Morton raise a few eyebrows. "That went well. He actually cracked a smile at you, Karen.
Feel proud. I didn't get one until a few months of answering paramedic calls." he whistled
in appreciation.

Karen's elation immediately dampened. "Oh, no."

"Oh, no, what?" Morton asked with a surprised look.

"Brackett's pegged me for a Brice type, Mike! I'm not perfect. Nor am I a by-the-book genius
like Craig is!"

"Was."

"Huh?"

"Craig's just as green a captain as you are a doctor. Equal footing as newbies?" Morton theorized,
balancing both her chart and Squad 51's in-streaming EKG paper strip in his hands like a scale in
comparison.

"That doesn't help how our chief medical director feels about the two of us." she sighed
miserably.  "Kel's got high aspirations, doctor. And it's a terminal case."

Mike commiserated, frowning. "Maybe you can talk to someone about it."

"Who?" Overstreet fretted.

Mike's answer was mild. "Sharon Walters. She's been in your exact shoes, remember?"  
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**************************************************
From:  patti keiper pattik1@hotmail.com
Sent: Sun 12/13/15 1:12 PM
Subject:  Hats

Roy DeSoto gave a nod to Johnny Gage as he opened Mayfair ambulance's rear doors.
"I'll go in with Rocky. See if you can find his son for me?"  he asked.

"Sure." Gage stopped in his tracks with an armful of un-needed medical gear boxes to load
up into the squad. "Wait a minute. How did you find out that he even has children? He hasn't
been very talkative."

Roy smiled mildly. "Nothing like a little oil fire to bring on some tunnel vision. Snap out of it.
Our guy's stable. Stoker solved his breathing issues and Dr. Overstreet's got the ball. I found out
by a photo in his wallet, Johnny. They look alike." he said, passing off a shot of their patient with
a younger man in front of an old, beat up beach front live-in trailer. "Maybe Vince'll know where
this is to track him down."
 
Johnny grabbed it, a little embarrassed. "I need coffee."

"And a shower. Phew!" DeSoto teased as hustling attendants slammed the ambulance doors shut
between them.

Gage sighed, smelling the shoulder of his liberally smoke stained and slimy jacket. "I'm not that
bad." he mumbled to himself. "Hey, Kelly!"

"Yeah?!" Chet hollered back as they crossed paths.

"Do I stink right now?" he said, exasperated.

"Thankfully not at your job." said the curly hair fireman tactfully, seeing that he was in earshot
of a Battalion Chief overseeing the knock down of the truck fire.

"Oh, ha, ha." Gage grumbled. "Hey Marco, drive in with him? I gotta follow up on something." he
said hefting up the wallet snapshot Roy had given to him.

"Right." said Lopez, passing off his charged water hose to another firefighter from Station 127.

Just as a precaution, Gage dragged out a spare tarp to sit on in the engine. He barely managed
to slam the Squad's gear compartment doors shut an instant before Marco took off in full reds'
flight to follow Roy's ride into Rampart. "Geez. Guess you're glad to end this one." he muttered
about the messy, black oil smoke still billowing up into the sky. "I hate oil fires, too."

"Make that, three." said Captain Craig Brice suddenly.

Johnny nearly leaped out of his skin. "Oh, man, Brice. Did you have to sneak up on me like that?"

"I was sneaking?" Craig asked, genuinely puzzled. "Nice work, by the way." he said, slapping
a glove down on Johnny's filthy, shiny black shoulder. He immediately regretted it and lifted it off
in disgust.

Gage just sighed and sat down on the rear runner board of Engine 51. "Thanks. Is there any hope
of an R and R tent with a decontamination shower anytime in the very near future?"

"Not a chance. All of the wild fires going on this summer up in the mountains has them booked
solid away from our service area."

"How about me washing off using the Engine's supply?" Johnny asked brightly.

"We're out of water." Brice conmiserated. "Sorry, Gage. You're going to have to wait until
we get back to the station." He eyed up the bundle in Johnny's arms. "Yes. Use that." he said,
wiping off the oil he got from touching Johnny onto the tarp enthusiastically.  Then Brice hefted up
his handy talkie and reported in. "L.A., Station 51, we've being released by Battalion Seven.
Heading back to base for an equipment and personnel refresh as soon as we pack up our lines."

##Station 51. Time out: 1402. Engine Eight's on scene as your relief.## confirmed L.A.

"10-4."

A few minutes later, Stoker, Kelly, Gage and Brice left the neighborhood.

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A half an hour later, Dixie McCall was on the phone with Johnny Gage. "Paradise Cove Beach?
Yeah, I know the place. It's got a nice restaurant. Very cozy. Kel and I eat there
all of the time. Usually we end up delivering a baby or two in the back dining room every year.
But it's a small price to pay for good food. Getting hungry?"

Gage was still soapy in places from his recent scrub down and uniform change. ##Listen, it's
not lunch I'm trying to order. Could you call the hostess and have one of them run out and tell
the owner of the trailer in the back of their parking lot that his father's at Rampart? Roy
just brought him in a bit ago. His first name is Rocky.##

"No problem. Sounds like you're still a bit soggy about the ears." she smirked. "Go dry off."
and she hung up the phone on him, chuckling.  She set about the task of notifying kin.

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Nearby Roy DeSoto was chatting at the desk with Joe Early and Dr. Morton a safe distance
downwind, leaning on the drinking fountain's steel shell to keep the wall clean. "We still don't
know what caused it. There were no other cars involved."

"Sounds ugly." said Mike Morton about the tanker fire.

"Oil fires always burn that way. It was still pretty hot when I left."

"You mean it was." said Marco Lopez, joining DeSoto in the odor quarantine zone,
away from the E.R. Desk.

"It's out?" Roy asked in amazement.

"Yep. Snorkle 10 just declared being on cleanup detail a minute ago on our channel." Marco grinned,
in a friendly hint, gesturing at Roy's radio hanging from his belt.

"Oh. Sorry. Thanks." said DeSoto, switching back to their Station's frequency and off medical.
"I thought it was a little quiet." he mumbled, taking another long drink at the fountain. "Who's
missing me?"

"Brice wanted to know if you were on or needed a medical check up after being in all that heat."

"From a single semi?" he chuckled. "That's a green captain for ya."

"He still thinks he's a paramedic first." Joe Early grinned. "Not a bad thing."

"It can be if you don't know which job applies the most in the heat of a moment."
Dr. Morton surmised.

"I don't doubt Brice. I never have. Maybe Johnny still does a little bit." Roy admitted.

"Johnny will always think of Brice as competition. He started young." Marco laughed.

"But he's learning fast. Both of them." Roy agreed, poking Lopez in the arm with the antennae
of his radio. "Okay, we better head back before Craig sends out a rescue party after us."

"See you later."  said the Rampart staffers as the two oil stained firefighters departed.

Joe asked Morton. "So how's their lucky driver doing?"

"He's going to be fine with just a precautionary week's stay on account of his age. Karen's
with him now, following up."  Mike shared.
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Rocky moaned from his bundle of blankets in the treatment room and tried to get comfortable.
"I hope they're okay."

Sharon Walters, the nurse, helping Karen Overstreet with Rocky's care, heard the comment.
"Who, Rocky?  I thought there was no one else hurt in your fire."

"Oh. Just a couple of horses I was asked to look after, ironically, for a buddy of mine who's
in the hospital." he croaked, his voice still hoarse despite the oxygen cannula he was
wearing.

"Such horrific luck." Karen said, after listening to Rocky's lung sounds again. "Find anybody
who can check to see how they're doing?"

"Yeah. A fire engineer. Nice young man. I think I made an impression on how urgent it is to stop
by at their stable." and then he coughed, wetly.

"Ooo." Overstreet smiled. "Glad I booked you for at least four days. That sounds like smoke
inhalation taking a hold."

"Can you clear it up?"  Rocky frowned, still weak with exhaustion.

"No problem." Karen smiled."The symptoms you're feeling are only temporary. Sharon, could you
set up Respiratory to give him the first of his nebulizer treatments? Here's the order."

"I'll get right on it, Doctor." said Walters, moving to the room's wall phone.

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Once the team was there taking over his pulmonary care, the two women stepped out for
a very welcome coffee break in the nurse's lounge.

Sharon shyly offered Karen a mug from the wall shelves along with her own. "You know, you
do have access to the Doctor's Lounge being an intern and all. You don't have to stay here."

"Oh." Karen blew out a bit of self conscious air. "I guess I.. still feel more comfortable here,
in with the medics and all the nurses.  It's still feels like home to me even though I've changed
coats."

Walters didn't say anything else.

And Overstreet felt a sudden gulf open up between them. Karen sighed. "Oh, I hate status
differences, don't you? I'm no different than I used to be. We can still have cafeteria lunches
together. In fact, I'd welcome that. It's still the only way I get to win debates we get into with
Craig."

Sharon couldn't help herself, she giggled. "It's not that. I am just sympathizing with you
being under Brackett's gun. It's clearly smoking."

Karen's face fell into shock. "Is it that bad?"

"No, but now I know you're thinking that it is." Walters said, filling both of their coffee cups from
the hot pot.

"Sneaky."

"Yep. I learned it from Dr. Morton." Sharon said. "He's an excellent teacher. Even better than Dixie."

"No, really?  Doesn't McCall run the place?" Overstreet gaped.

"But Morton shares it. And that's a very good thing for interns." Walters said.

"Have you ever tried getting a chart off Dixie's desk before she's through with it yet?" Karen
asked with mock horror.

Sharon turned beet red with a memory.

"Guess you have." Overstreet cackled.

Both women laughed.

Sharon recovered first. "But she's right, though. We're nothing without accurate, up to date charts."

Karen leaned in for the deeply desired pearl. "So how did you get over Brackett?"

Walters spit out her coffee, hysterical laughter taking her. "I took his clothes off."

"You what?!" Overstreet blurted out, her mouth flopping open in utter shock. She immediately
checked herself. "Okay, I know you didn't mean that literally. Kel and Dixie have been an
unmarried item for years." she said, immediately sober.

"Visualization. I knocked Kel down a few pegs, mentally, by picturing him in his boxer shorts.
It worked. I was no longer intimidated by anything he said and I could work again without
being a total klutz case." Walter shared.

"Hmmm." Karen grunted, mulling it over. She sipped her coffee, leaning on both elbows
and savoring the mug. Unconsciously, Sharon Walters adopted the same pose.
"So what color were they in your head?"

Sharon didn't even bat an eye. "What color are Craig's?" she teased. "A few inquiring nurses
want to know."

Overstreet laughed openly. "Brice scares nurses?"

"Yeah. So what of it? He's perfect." Sharon said, dead pan.

"He's a paramedic. Er.. okay, no longer. He's just a captain." Karen sputtered, incredulous.

Sharon wilted. "Even worse." she said, sagging in her chair. "He's got two hats now, to
our one." she said of all nurses at Rampart, pointing to the paper hat on her head. "And that's
really scary stuff. Even from at a distance."

"Could that just be because you're introverted?"

"Nope. Shy doesn't equal unconfident. It means ..a little slow to fire up relationships. But we
do get going by the time it matters a hoot." Then she amended herself."Eventually..." she shrugged.
Then she eyed up Karen and confessed. "Okay.. I was sent in with you and Rocky because they all
wanted the answer."

"Like I wanted mine?"

"Yeah.." Sharon laughed.

"They're black.  And satin." Karen said with mock sensuality.

"Ooo.. I'll let them know." Walters giggled like a kid with a happily fresh secret.

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*****************************************************
From:  patti keiper (pattik1@hotmail.com)  
Sent: Sun 12/27/15 9:10 PM
Subject:  Chafe...


Marco Lopez and Roy DeSoto wearily peeled themselves off the tarp they had lined
the inside cab of Squad 51 with to protect the upholstery and got out into the apparatus bay.
It was late afternoon and the sun was just setting.

Mike Stoker passed them with a wave, heading out to take down the flags for
the night. "Dinner's ready." he said, holding a hand over his nose against the wave
of scorched petroleum wafting off his coworkers.

"After we shower." DeSoto grinned at him through the oil on his face. "One of these
days, they'll design a hazmat suit that fits over our air bottles and we'll be spared
slimey jobs like the last one, eh?"

"Can't come fast enough for me." the engineer retorted as his back disappeared out the
office entryway door to the front driveway.

Brice peeked his head out of the captain's office. "Ah, I thought I smelled you two at home."
How's the patient?"

"Out of danger." Roy shared. "There were no complications during treatment for his smoke
inhalation."

"That's good to hear." Craig sighed. "Stoker said pretty much the same thing."

"Johnny followed up on scene to find his next of kin so Rocky won't be alone at Rampart."
DeSoto added.

"He did? Well... That was going beyond the usual call of duty." Craig said with surprise.

Marco frowned. "Why? Shouldn't we locate victims' family?  We hear a lot more contact
information from witnesses and patients than the police do."

"Because that's not falling under our primary job description, Mr. Lopez. Our only duty is to
protect life and property."  Brice answered.  "We're technicians, not social service employees.
We're going to leave the relative tracking to them from now on."

Marco began to color in vague, open mouthed shock.

Roy stopped Lopez in his tracks. "Sir, make I speak freely?"

"You may. There's an open door policy in this department." Brice blinked, leaning on a door frame.
He was oblivious to the sudden tension blossoming like an ugly flower in front of him.

Roy met Craig eye to eye and he did not look away.
"There is such a thing called compassion, captain. We dish it out just as thick as we do I.V.s or
oxygen. Showing some to the public hasn't interfered with doing our jobs in the slightest." DeSoto
said, incredulous. "Please don't ask us not to care a little bit more about the people we help."

"Getting emotionally involved has a price tag, eventually, Mr. DeSoto. A certain distance keeps a
firefighter on an even keel in my experience." Craig shrugged.  

Marco spoke softly, the oil from the fire cracked and drying on his face. "Craig, some of us aren't
wired to work that way. We have to reach out like that. Even to total strangers."

Brice swept out a hand that held the day's log run book. "Maybe it's time to learn to grow a thicker
skin, Mr. Lopez. I feel that will raise our overall efficiency considerably in the long run." Brice said.  
"Don't talk with anyone not related to a call from now on and see how it goes. You'll see that I'm
very close to being right."

Marco opened his mouth to blow up at Craig, when Roy grabbed his shoulders and led him
away swiftly to the showers.  "Thank you, Captain, for your view and assessment." Roy said.
"We're both going to get clean now. W-We'll follow your orders."

Brice nodded and returned to his desk.

Once out of sight, the Mexican firefighter protested. "Roy!"  Marco squirmed. "What are you doing?"
he said, not resisting being dragged. "We're not done with him yet."

"Shh!" DeSoto hissed at Lopez. "Keep your voice down. Marco, he's our Captain. Shut up.
Come on."

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In the bathroom off the bunkroom, Johnny Gage was just finishing up with ammonia
and soap and a little floor wax.  The whole place was sparkling and crispy. He
smiled with satisfaction, swiping off the last of the steam from the mirror. "There.
Everything's perfect. Bathroom detail.. complete." he chuckled.

Then he heard commotion as filthy Roy and Marco, still in their turnouts, entered and
began peeling out of their clothes with hasty relish.  Boots, pants, and shirts that were
no longer blue hit the floor with soggy splats of black grease and oil stains. Even their under
shirts and boxers were midnight and reeking.


"Hey! No no no... not here! Why not strip outside in the yard like we did?!" Johnny complained.

"It's not very efficient walking all of the way out there and back in the nude, now is it?"
Lopez snarled. "Might make us slower in getting ourselves set for the next call."

Roy was equally irritated. "Johnny, you knew we were coming. If this bugs you so much, grab
out another tarp and we'll pile it all on top of it. So you got toilet detail. So what?! Being stuck
doing a little more elbow grease in here after us won't kill you."

"Geez, what the h*ll happened to you guys?" Gage grimaced. Then his face paled. "Oh no.
Did our truck driver take a turn for the worse? Not after all we did for him."

Johnny's statement froze Marco and Roy's frustration about Brice cold. Roy looked up and said.
"Rocky's fine. Going home in a few days." Then he ducked into a shower stall with a box of rags
and steel wool to use as skin scrubbers.

Marco bubbled under his ample and steamy water stream. "That's right. I saw him myself.
Awake and talking to his doctor. Was that really Karen Overstreet, Roy? The one who saved
you from that electrical shock cardiac arrest you went into the other year?" he asked Roy, from
his own shower stall as he began to scrub off all his slime.

"Yep!" said DeSoto over the top of his closed stall door over the strong sound of blasting hot
water. "Proud of her even more now. She really knows she's her own woman if what I've
seen and heard today is any judge." Roy laughed. "She's a case of the student out doing her
mentors. You can start smiling about her, too, Johnny. Both of us were her teachers."

"Why were you guys so cross when you came in here? Something's still pissing you off, big time."
Gage asked.

Sudden silence stretched out and Johnny found himself stuck watching the mirrors fog up.

"It's Brice."  "Yep, Brice."   came two voices from behind the two closed shower stall doors.

Gage busied himself with kicking clean rags around to soak up the oil they had dripped off.
"Why him? He hasn't been bad. I think him being our boss kind of suits him to a T." Johnny
said, gingerly picking up Marco and Roy's greasy uniforms, clothes, and jackets with a pair
of forceps from his paramedic holster to throw the pieces, one by one, into a convenient
laundry bag.

"He thinks so, too." Marco growled. "Looks like we can't be nice any more, Johnny."

"What? Wait! W-Why can't we be nice to our brand spanking new captain?" Gage chuckled.

"No, it's not at him. It's what he ordered. We can't talk to anybody not call related victim or
witness. We've all just been forbidden to get involved with any next of kin from now on."
Lopez sputtered, getting mad all over again. "We were told it might slow us down job wise."

"You're kidding. Brice said that?"  Gage scowled, finally understanding.

There was no reply from the two shower streams raining down. But the affirmation was
palpable in the very humid air billowing around him.

"Wow." Johnny said to himself, troubled, as he looked back towards the apparatus bay in
the direction of the captain's office. "Boy, wasn't that a pitch way off in left field."
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"Thank you for calling, Nurse McCall." said Sara Butler, a formal waitress at the Paradise Cove
Beach Restaurant in Malibu. "I'll tell Jim Rockford right away. Who did you say saved my neighbor's
dad from the fire? Firefighter Johnny Gage of Station 51?  Okay, got it. You're sure Rocky's
out of danger?  What is the address of the hospital he was brought to so I can tell Jim?
Uh, huh.  Uh, huh, 1000 W Carson St, in Torrance? I'm writing it down. Thanks for reaching out
like this. Rocky and his dad are inseparable. They eat here every week just like you do. Jim's
probably worried sick. Rocky was late for their dinner appointment here tonight. Bye, Dixie."

The black and white tuxedo dressed Butler tucked a sandy curl behind her ear quickly
as she hung up the phone at the hostess stand. "Melissa, I have to step out for
five minutes. There's an emergency contact I need to reach on behalf a regular patron."
she said, holding up her notes that she took during Dixie's phone call.

The hostess nodded and took a pager and food ordering book from Sara.

Butler planned ahead, pantomiming a break to her boss, who was coordinating a parade of white
top hatted chefs preparing a banquet.   He held up five fingers and Sara flashed him an okay sign
before she took off her tips filled red apron. This she gave to their bouncer to guard.

A minute later, Sara fled the restaurant's affluent atmosphere for the run down beaten up
aluminum trailer sitting in the shadows at the edge of the parking lot just off the ocean beach.

Almost stumbling over a curb in the growing darkness, Sara reached the trailer's door and
started pounding on it. "Jim! Jim! It's your dad! He's been hurt."

A light flicked on and fifties grizzled, brown eyed, black haired, Private Eye James Rockford,
wearing a checked wool blazer and navy pants answered the door. "Sara?!  It's about Rocky?!
What happened? I've been calling around all over, looking for him." he said, rushing down the
three wooden steps to grab her arms to steady her.

Sara was tearful and sat down on the stairs as the seas wind whipped her sandy shoulder length
hair around her face. "A nurse said he crashed his truck. Jim, it was burning! The fire department
had to get him out in a hurry."

"Oh, I knew something was wrong when he missed our reservation we had at your table! I just
got back from waiting in the lobby. Where did they take him?"  Jim asked urgently, trying to
keep calm.

"Rocky's here." Sara said, handing Jim her notes. "At Rampart Hospital. And this firefighter was
one of the paramedics who was with him. He's the one who started the search to find you."

Jim angled the paper to the trailer's dingy porch light. "I know where this place is. And I've got
that name memorized."

"Dixie said he's stable and resting comfortably."

"I'll be the judge of that." he said, letting the wind take their piece of paper.

"Jim! He's really okay! How and what she told me felt very believable." Sara shouted as Jim
locked up his front door and began to run for his sports car.

"Thanks. I'll let you know what more I find out, hon!" he shouted, squealing the tires on his
gold Firebird as he accelerated away. "Take care. Don't worry. I got this." he sobbed with
stress and encouragement both.  "Get back inside before you get fired, girl." he grinned.

Sara Butler's hazel eyes nervously laughed in relief at his grace under pressure filled joke.  
Her serious news had successfully been delivered.

Butler was back at her next table half a minute later, her hair neatly returned to its usual
efficiently tight bun.  "Thanks for waiting. May I take your wine order, madam, sir?"

Her black and white starched uniform only faintly smelled like the sea and her dried up tears.

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##Eee Oh ooOOOOooo## came the tones for Station 51.

"Ah, good timing at last. We're done eating." Gage smiled at the gang seated around
the table.

"One in a row, man." said Chet, already parked on the couch with Henry sprawled across
his lap while he dozed in front of the T.V.  "That one is all you guys. Have fun."

##Squad 51. Man down at the Paradise Cove Beach Restaurant. Probable heart attack.
28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. Time out:
17:55.##

Brice ran out into the bay with Roy and Johnny to write out their run slip and acknowledge
the call. "Station 51, Squad 51 is responding. KMG 365." Craig radioed out to L.A.

Gage and DeSoto took off Code 3, taking a right turn to travel north. "Whew! All
the way up to Malibu?  I wonder what's tying up 99's." Johnny wondered.

"All the brush fires. They're in their neck of the woods, remember?" Roy said.

"Oh, yeah.. ick." Gage grimaced.

"Commute's not that long. I'll call for police escort to speed us up." DeSoto decided.

Gage's mouth fell completely open. "You're doing what?"

Roy smirked, picking up the microphone. "L.A., this is Squad 51."

##Squad 51.##

"Requesting an escort north along the PCH, we're on a priority mutual aid
call to our freeway bound location in 99's service area."

##What's your current twenty, Squad 51? I have a unit available.##

Gage took the mic from Roy so he could take a right turn to enter an on
ramp. "L.A., Just leaving the Alameda Street exit. Repeating. We are northbound
PCH."

##Squad 51, Seven Mary 9 reports an intercept time of three minutes.##

"L.A., 10-4." Johnny replied, hanging up the channel. "A point man at rush hour? Good
idea, pally. One of your best I think."

"It was Brice's idea. He had it posted on the suggestions board by the payphone."

"Huh."  Gage grunted.  "I haven't gotten around to reading any of those yet."

"You should." Roy chided. "Brice may be a new captain but he's an old, long time
firefighter. He's been around just as long as I have. He shared my class when
we both became paramedics."

"I didn't know that." Johnny said defensively.

"You never asked." DeSoto shot back.

Johnny grew thoughtful and nodded respectfully.  "Why haven't you considered
taking the cap's test? You're more than qualified."

"That time I almost left the paramedics for an engineer's spot really made me
appreciate what I do for a living. This is where I belong, Johnny. Like you
told me once at the very start of our partnership, I like being a rescue man, too."
DeSoto smiled.

He put his poker face back on when Vince showed up alongside their lane. He waved
to them in a signal, with his lights and sirens going, and then sped up to take their
lead.

Soon, what their patient might present, took hostage of all their thoughts.

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