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   A Day In The Life
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Page Six

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From: patti keiper (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Sent: Fri 6/29/12 3:20 AM
Subject: Oscillations..

Dr. Morton was finishing up his triage charts. Of all the staff piled in shoulder to shoulder
at the same cramped E.R. desk to get all of their paperwork done, Mike was the
most bright eyed and bushy tailed. He was so energized, he actually began to whistle
a passionate slow blues tune.

"Oh, that's vile." Nurse Carol groaned next to him as she tried to focus on organizing
her own pharmaceutical inventory forms.

Morton instantly looked up from his rapid check-listing. "What is? Me?" he
asked, self consciously sniffing an underarm beneath his spotless scrubs. "Nurse
Evans, I showered twenty minutes ago."

The fifty something, brunette assistant head nurse angled her fatigue aching head
carefully and just sighed. "It's not a smell thing. It's your effervescent cheeriness,
Dr. Groove." she grumbled as his song resumed through his pursed lips like a broken
garden hose.

Dr. Morton took that as a compliment and began grinning from ear to ear. He paused
all the music, to sip from his entirely coffeeless water cup. "Thank you. I can't help but
feel good today. Triage went very well last night, all things considering." he said,
referring to the riot victims they had processed en masse.

"Only thing worse is all of the birdsong going on full blast outside the window." Evans
winced as his airy rendition of It's A Wonderful World started up again.

Mike broke off, smiling widely.
"That's because you didn't get any sleep on your breaks like I told you to." Morton
grinned. "It's not like we didn't have every available medically trained person
in Los Angeles County here for the crisis. Quite the contrary. Even people from
the morgue chipped in on all the life saving. You worked straight through solely
because you wanted to out of the goodness of your heart." he mocked with amusement,
bowing his neatly afro crowned head genteelly, flashing his white teeth.

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"Oh, there he goes again with all the saccharine." Carol moaned, trying to tune him out
by shading her eyes with a spare folder. "A Morton reaction totally uncharacteristic of
the man himself. It's an historic landmark!  Total catastrophe has turned our surly
resident into a saint, folks! Enjoy it while it lasts." she announced to everyone at large
as she moving away from the young doctor and his music for a little peace and quiet.

A spate of laughter followed her as she departed for the solitude of the quiescent glass
enclosed base station.

Nearby, Joe Early leaned into Dixie's ear. "What was the magic formula that cured our
local Mr. Hyde?"

McCall jabbed him in the ribs with a not so discreet elbow. "Shhh."

"Ow!" Early protested. "I'm just asking. No need to give me a flail chest about it."

Dixie finally cracked a tiny smirk. "Mike was called in off his sailboat, remember?
Unlike any of us, he had a chance to completely finish a scheduled weekend off of
rest and relaxation." she clarified, drinking a large swallow of coffee from a wisely
chewed on and lip stick smeared styrofoam cup.

"Oh." Joe said, his voice modulating into mildly stone faced jealousy. "That explains
his about face personality." He glanced up as Kel Brackett waved and walked on by
them. The head of the E.R. picked up where Mike Morton's whistling concerto had
left off. "What about Kel's oddball cat-that-ate-the-canary grin?"

Dixie began to cough suddenly as she choked on her coffee. Her face began to
turn very red as she didn't answer the question.

Carol waved off Joe's suprised medical concern for Dixie. "She's fine. Or she will be
once she gets over it." she quipped dryly. "Your best bud's magic pill, doctor,  was a
little love birds' closet time with a very special someone." said Evans saucily, directing
a few not so discreet fingers in McCall's direction. "I overheard that activity, too,
a half an hour ago."

"Carol!" Dixie admonished in ultimate betrayal. She did not check her full force
patient chart arm smack directed at Evans.

Carol didn't even blink, remaining as unflappable as ever. "What? A doctor asked a
question and I answered him, like a good little nurse.....Miss Bad Nurse." she winked.
And then Evan's first and only on-shift smile began to blossom like the rising sun.

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On the ground floor of Rampart, the county coroner and his assistant cleaned up.

Quincy quickly washed his hands and fingernails once more in the bathroom sink
using a heavy brush. "I'm telling you, Sam. People always act strangely when
they're under excessive stress. I'm seeing signs of it everywhere." he said,
eyeing up his Asian assistant. "And those firemen won't be an exception."

Fujiyama was nonplussed. "Why are we worrying about them? It isn't our job."
he said, flossing his teeth carefully in the mirror deftly to rid himself of invisible
plaque.

Quincy glanced in his direction curiously. "There's nothing there, Sam. Give it up."

"What? My mouth. Or your subconscious misguided mother henning?"

"Both!" the coroner spat emphatically, offended. "Look, my evaluating Station
51's crew for post traumatic stress disorder's over. Yeah, I was shanghai'd into
it, but now it's done. We can just file it all away, forget about it, and go home." he
said, drying his hands meticulously on a nearby surgical cloth snatched from
a stack. "We're off the time clock."

"I don't believe that for one minute, Quince. You never forget. Especially something
like this. You're an absolute bulldog when it comes to problem solving." replied Sam,
his high elegant cheek bones, glistening with left over soap. "And these firefighters
are far from being free of their immediate problem, enough so that it's really
bothering you. I can tell."

Quincy fell silent then and perched thoughtfully for a long while on the sink's edge
with a hip. "Oh, I know. I'm sorry, Sam, but I have to get further involved. None of
these boys deserve what's coming up next inside their heads. And you and I know
that far better than anyone else. Don't you see? We know about death. Very
intimately." he said sadly. "And their knowing about how that girl baby's mother
met her end is going to tear them apart. Remembering that hostage situation is
only going to make things even worse."

"Should we talk to Boss again about them?"

"No, Sam. Dr. Asten would just order us away. We'll try to do something as the new
friends to Station 51 that we've now definitely become. Entirely off the record."  
And with that, the gray haired coroner energetically abandoned his towel into the sink
and made a vigorous beeline for the door. "If they won't listen to the CISM counselor,
perhaps they'll listen to me."

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Sam hastened to catch up, quickly tidying up the mess he and Quincy left behind
into a proper biohazard garbage and disposal hamper. "Where are we going?"

"To catch up with my girlfriend, Terri Stonelake. She of everyone we've met here
at the hospital is the one most likely to sympathize enough with us to cough up some
contact information on our firehouse gang so we can continue to help them out." said
Quincy brusquely as he walked swiftly for the emergency department. "I want to
go on a few personal house calls."

"You hope."

"She'll do it. She loves me." Quincy said, quirking a lip matter of factly.

"Enough to break employee information sharing policy restrictions?"

"Those firefighters aren't Terri's coworkers, Sam. They're casual acquaintances.
And besides, I can't see them being subject to patient confidentiality nor any official
legal privacy laws, technically. None of them have been scheduled to see an official
psychiatrist."

"Yet."

"Sam, every one of them is probably easily found in the White Pages. All we're going
to do is get some last names to go along with the first names I already know." he said
enthusiastically. "Then our fingers can do some walking in the phone book on
their own, far away from even the tiniest bit of official red tape."

Sam grumbled, keeping up behind him. "And our noses will still be sticking in business
where they don't belong."

Quincy became a little crestfallen and his voice showed it even as he hastened to
get where he was going. "Oh, ye of little faith. I want to prevent a death of the spirit
in all of them like I can't officially prevent a death of someone's physical body in my job.
It'll be fine, Sam. You'll see. Firemen may be the toughest fighters in a fire, but total
pussycats when it comes to handling the public. This I know. And you can't get
anymore public than the two of us can when we're off duty."

"I'm not going to argue with you."

"Why not? I love our sniping. Keep it up, Sam." Quince grinned back at him. "You're
good friction and I like using you to keep me sane."

"Insane, more like." Fujiyama said out of his ear shot as they finally reached the
nurse's lounge. Taking a deep breath for courage, Sam finally caught the door and
followed Quincy inside.

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From: patti keiper (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Subject: Holing Up..
Sent: Fri 6/29/12 11:48 PM

It was eight a.m. and the day after the hostage crisis.

Lightning was just beginning in earnest from an incoming line of thunderstorms
when the rain came down in sheets.

Dixie McCall pulled her car up into a slot nearest the main entrance of Carter Street
Animal Shelter. She got out, clutching a carrier full of steaming coffee cups
from the Dunkin Donuts down the street in one hand and her purse in the other.
She hastened for the animal clinic's closest door to keep the rain from
entirely wrecking her hairdo.

A sharp breeze still carried the smell of fire smoke left over from riot damage
but that was the only sign that anything was still out of the ordinary. She pushed
through the vet office's narrow glass entryway and a merry bell spring toggled
musically as she passed through into the much larger white and amber waiting
room.

Patty, the receptionist at the front desk, looked up from her filing. "Can I help
you?" she asked brightly over the sound of the pounding rain on their sun roof.

Dixie pulled off her head scarf.
"You sure can, Patty. Remember me? I was the one who smuggled a pygmy goat
into Rampart Hospital for some surgery about three years ago." Dixie said,
setting her beverages on the counter and peeling out of her raincoat.

Patty's face fell from professionalism into one of deep affection and admiration.
"I thought your voice sounded familiar. Yes, of course I remember you, Miss
McCall. Every time we see a goat come in we think of you and how you saved
that little girl's pet by being so stubborn in the face of your hospital's standing
animal policy."

"I hope that's a good thing." smiled Dixie.

"Oh, it is. Doc Coolidge can't stop talking about the day he talked a human doctor
through goat open heart surgery.." she chuckled. Then she noticed that Dixie was
alone. "What can I do for you? Do you have a sick pet at home?" she asked, noticing
the dark circles under the off duty nurse's eyes. "We can do house calls."

Dixie shook her head. "I was told by the police station that this is where Fire Station
51's dog, a...scruffy brown mutt about knee high named Boot, was transported after
he got shot yesterday.." Dixie shared.

"This is the place. Boot's doing just fine. The bullet just creased him. But I don't
understand why you're here. I thought someone from the fire station was going
to pick him up today." Patty told her in confusion.

McCall angled her head. "They can't right now. There's nowhere for him to go home to
just yet. The police are through with their investigation, but repair and clean up crews
are working day and night to get Station 51 back up and running.  The whole place
is still a real mess."

"I don't understand what happened there." Patty said. "No one told me the circumstances
behind how Boot got himself hurt, Dixie. I mean,.. I know about the jail break riots and all.
But about anything else, I'm totally clueless."

"Patty, Station 51's crew had their lives threatened at gunpoint by a pair of murderers.
All day. These men shot Boot, hurt a firefighter while breaking in, and then used a
newborn baby as leverage to get the gang to do whatever they wanted them to do."

"Oh, that's awful, Dixie. I mean, I saw the newscasters, but they didn't really know that
many details."

"It was bad. So I told my fellas to stay home to heal as long as it takes. I said I'd watch
Boot until they felt ready to take him back.  I'm also paying his entire vet bill. Shhhh."
Dixie shared, asking Patty to keep a secret. "I know how slow the fire department is
for compensating community resources."

"That's really sweet of you to foster Boot until they recover."

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"It's the least I can do. They brought me in patients, didn't they? So I can babysit a stray
dog for a while. It's a fair trade to me. I'm just being a good neighbor. Just don't tell my
landlady." McCall grinned. "So...how much do I owe you?"

Patty pulled out a tally sheet and showed her. "Let's see... One code three ambulance ride,
one basic wound care kit with sutures, a renewed rabies shot.. and ten days worth of oral
antibiotics.  That'll be seventy eight dollars, thirty cents."

"Ouch, there goes the paycheck." Dixie teased, digging out her checkbook.

"Oh, I'm so sorry..."  Patty looked dismayed as only a very young receptionist could.

"I'm kidding. I know Doc Coolidge's rates are the lowest in town." McCall bailed her out.
"I actually do okay as head E.R. nurse. I can afford this easily." she smiled. "I saved a
bit for a rainy day."

A loud crackle of thunder made both women duck involuntarily and the rain began to
fall in a torrential flood even heavier than before.

"Hmmm,... it's a very loud, very wet one." Patty laughed.

"Now you know why I brought us all some coffee. I knew I'd be stuck here a while until this
front passes by. Doc likes his black, if I recall." McCall said, sliding the fast food beverage
tray forward. "Help yourself."

"Thank you, Dixie. He'll be out in a moment to speak with you about Boot's injury and how
to care for it. Though I think, with you being a nurse and all, that it would be a bit of an
overkill." Patty chuckled.

"Oh, let him rant. Doctors do that. I'll just keep nodding and pretend I'm soaking it all in."

A new voice cut through the bright gray of the morning. It was the
heavy jowled local vet, Doc Coolidge. "Soaking in what? The rain? You don't have to, Miss.
We've got a state of the art grooming room in back if you need to dry off. A horse dryer ought to do it."

Dixie barely hid a highly amused smile. She managed to pull herself together before
addressing her benefactor. "I'm.... very comfortable, doctor. I managed to get in before
I got wet. I brought you some caffeine." Dixie dangled.

"Did Brackett put you up to it to keep extending the olive branch between us?" Coolidge
smirked merrily as he reached for his and offered Dixie hers.

"Probably." Dixie answered sagely, taking the cup. "I encourage him, too, in case the fire
department ever has to bring in another four legged patient having a heart attack to the
hospital."

"That will no longer be necessary. That goat incident is why I bought Les and Dave that
ambulance of theirs you saw parked out front. Now we vet people, can go to our patients.
Speaking of which. I have one who's no longer one of mine." And with that, the stocky
vet opened a side door and Boot, wrapped in bandage, came rushing in to greet Dixie
with whines and rolls and tail wags of happiness.
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"Oh, Boot!" Dixie crowed, crouching down to her knees so she could give him a smooch
and a hug right on top of his frizzy muzzle. "I'm so glad you're all right, you big baby. The
guys are all okay, sweets. Can you smell them on me?" she asked as her face was
liberally smothered in dog kisses.

Boot dutifully checked her out and soon settled contentedly down at Dixie's feet as she
tumbled into a place on the orange vinyl waiting room couch nearby. McCall turned into
a total kid for long seconds as dog and nurse rebonded.

Then McCall looked up, speaking professionally. "Is he medicated?"

Coolidge harrumphed around his unlit tobacco pipe.
"Nah, he needed just a local for five stitches to seal off one small artery. His faint of
relief was enough to keep him calm on the way in." Coolidge beamed as he, too,
began to scratch Boot affectionately. Then he looked up. "I've got the radar on, looks
like the weather's going to get a little worse before it dies down come evening time.
Dixie, I'd be grateful if you decided to stay and have lunch with us in a few hours. If
you do, Patty would worry less about your safety going back down that canyon road."
Doc suggested. "Mud slides are common when it rains this hard."

Behind his back, Patty grinned in amusement and pointed empathetically at the
real worry wart in the room wearing the white lab coat and spectacles.

Dixie giggled. "You twisted my arm. I guess I'll just have to consider myself well invited
then, Doctor." she told him. "Thanks for your hospitality. I'll have to give Kel a ring and
tell him he's on his own for dinner this afternoon though."

"Heh. Feel free to use our phone. We've got TV in back and a whole slew of dog toys if
you two want to play some while you relax some and wait for the weather to clear."
Coolidge shared.

Woof! said Boot. And he shot to his feet, dragging Dixie eagerly into the back
treatment area by her neck scarf.

Doc boomed suddenly, even louder than all the ensuing thunder.
"Boot! Go easy, boy! You don't want to rip out those stitches now or I'll have to put them
in all over again and cause this nice young lady to suffer another vet bill. You wouldn't
want that to happen, would ya?" Coolidge challenged as he followed them into the hallway.

Boot instantly let go of his human toy's clothing and politely began to lead the way like
the really good fire department search dog he was.

Patty shut the reception door neatly behind them. "Have fun, you three!"

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"Well, so much for the big BBQ later on. Even the yucca out there is drowning."
sighed Stoker as he, Marco and his mother Inéz Lopez peered sadly out Mike's
front window at the sodden tempest raging outside.

"Es bien, Miguel." said Mrs. Lopez. "Ningún sol, ningún dolor en los ojos."

Mike chuckled. "Yeah. Don't worry. I left my sunglasses on the dresser this
morning."

"His name is Mike, mom. Not Miguel. El es Americano." Marco yelled over a thunder
clap as he and his station mate tied on aprons to start making some fresh tortillas
from scratch. íPor favor!" he begged. "Sorry, Mike, she's a little off today
because she's hungry. She hasn't eaten in two days because she was too
scared to during all the rioting."

Inéz, the subject of their conversation, was mortified at her naming mistake.
"Oh, lo ciento. Apprendo malo, soy senora viejo." Inéz blushed from head to toe
for her host while the engineer set the breakfast table. The three of them had
been up since the crack of dawn, creating a culinary delight. Mike's whole rustic stone,
golf course facing house, smelled of spicy huevos rancheros.

"Mama, you are not old!" Marco scolded. "And you do not learn new things poorly.
You've nothing to apologize for. You're still sharper than a tack."

Mike raised his eyebrows. "Will she try a little orange juice?"

"Yeah, I think so. Just put it in a clear glass so she can see what it is
before she puts it into that mouth of hers." Marco grumbled, embarrassed.

"Diabetes is nothing to shake a stick at, pal." Stoker told him. "Are you sure
your mother is only borderline? We could call in for a squad."

"Nope. One's not needed. Borderline senile from lack of food is all."
Lopez quipped in amusement. "Her eyes are still tracking."

"íMarco! Oí sus palabras!" Inéz shot back, her polite meek smile turning
into a very powerful scowl.

"Uh, oh. Now I'm in trouble. She heard and understood that english." Marco
said, rolling his eyes.

For the next three minutes, the only Lopez son in the room, a grown firefighter,
bore his well deserved dressing down like a tiny, very cowed, young boy. He
took it, dutifully cringing at every passionate outburst of her disciplinary ire.

Mike soon came to the rescue with a tall sweaty glass of juice. "Hey,
Inéz, want some of this?"

The glass was snatched out of Stoker's hands so fast, his fingers smarted.

Inéz gulped down the offering in long, deep swallows swiftly. When she was done,
she let loose a loud belch of gratitude. "Gracias, Mike. I was very thirsty. But, I
cannot yell at my hideously disrespectful son all day. It's bad for my heart."

"Ah, good. Your blood sugar's normal again." Mike sighed in relief.

Marco uncurled from where he stood. "Feeling better, mama?"

"Oh, yes. Let's get cooking, querido." Inéz purred sweetly, instantly turning to the
stove and counter top once more. Soon, chopped peppers and chiles were
flying into her highly polished copper egg pan at breakneck speed.

Mike's grin grew hopeful. "Wow, she's fast. When do we eat?"

"In about two minutes." Marco said in huge dismay. "There's no way we'll fry up our
tortilla dough in time. We're just going to have to let her do it all by herself." Marco
said, in active disappointment.

"Well, you did warn me that your mother was quite the lean, mean, cooking machine."
Stoker shrugged.

Inéz laughed openly at Mike's compliment. "That I am. Now sit, and I will feed you well."

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   A Day In The Life
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