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   Crossing The
    Red Line
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       Page Four

"I haven't had time. With the San Bernadino brush fire season in full
swing. I'm behind doing a lot of things."  the wizened chief's eyes
alighted on a tray of packaged sandwiches being carted past
by a relief worker. "Including finding some grub. Hungry Hank?"

Stanley was not slow. He intercepted the tray of food that
surprised the young tunic'd woman for a few seconds when
its weight left her hands. She saluted and did an about face
to head outside for more sandwiches. "Thanks, maam. Could
you run a tray to the morgue? I've several downstairs with

"How many?"

"Just under a dozen.."

"I'll be there.." flashed the young woman's smile
in the smoky lobby. "Give me four minutes."

"Appreciate it." Hank waved, munching on
a ham and cheese.

Battalion was equally engaged with a roast beef
on rye. "Umm, nothing like deli on a busy work day."

"Even inside a morgue?" Cap asked.

"Even in a morgue, Hank. Location's never stopped
my appetite before. Never has, never will." The chief
hefted up his sandwich in a mock toast. "Here's to
light civilian casualties and a rapidly dying fire."

"Here, here." Hank celebrated. And the whole room of
firefighters concurred from whereever they were.

The chief bellowed. "Get back to work all of you slackers!
We still got a full week's hazard cleanup to do.." he yelled
with an unserious grin. "Now where was I?" he asked Hank
over the map.

"Hot Zone center cleanup."

"Oh yeah.. Right. Now the best angle of attack I can see
for clean up is to continue the EMS personnel's evacuation
of stragglers for full decontamination in the Green Zone.
I'm convinced we won't need Level A barrier isolation for
either the Decontamination nor the Rehabilitation Stations.
Gloves and aprons will be enough." the chief reiterated.
"We'll just keep using polybags for the evacuee's leather
clothing articles. Benzene will stay concentrated in those."

Hank nodded. "And I have the third alarm units gathering
names and addresses and the businesses on all of
them so we can get our headcounts and check for any
other potential missing people."

"Good. Good." the chief nodded. "I've already had L.A. call
a clinical facility to handle all the hazardous waste we'll create
with our soaking sandpiles and demolition operations."

"And I've instructed L.A. City Fire Departments Nine and
112's to continue to check for airborne contaminants down

"Their findings?"

"Mostly carbon monoxide and some tetrahydrocarbons.
Nothing in the OSHA risk ranges yet. I'm most happy
with the fact that the benzene is dissipating. The foam units
are doing the trick. Only one backflash outside the back
alley has been reported." Captain Stanley said.

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"Hmm, the one that you boys drove through getting back
here. Is your engine bad off?"

Captain Stanley was silent.

"Don't worry about E-51. I'll handle her repair paperwork
personally. I'm sure Charlie the mechanic and his lackies
will make her a priority. He loves your station's vehicles you

"I know he does.." Cap complained. "The way he jumps all
over my men on every visit proves that. " and he broke
off into an imitation of Charlie's gruff New York taxi driver
accent. "You boys're gonna stop jamming the squad tires up
against the curbs on rescue calls or I'm gonna come jam your
skulls along side of the backyard walls the first chance I get!"
Hank parroted.

"Ooo, " grimaced Battalion in sympathy. "He's that obssessed
with the Ward and Chrysler?"

"Yep. Almost as much as I hate getting surprise insp--" he broke
off, suddenly pale with embarrassment.

The chief cleared his throat, pretending that he didn't hear
Hank's slipped comment. "I'll curb Charlie, too during
the repair job. Your whole station crew today has done
the department proud. I'll be issuing commendations for
each and every one of you as soon as my staff can
get to it."

"Thank you, Chief." Hank said, lowering his head
in humility. "I'm sure my men will be thrilled see those
during the next monthly meeting."

"Keep them a surprise." Battalion ordered.

"Yes sir."

Right then, Hank's HT, connected to the one
in the morgue, came to life. It was Dr. Scribbs
with news.

##Mr. Stanley. Your paramedic's awake and talking.
The M.D. you got here's a real efficient man. Knows
his stuff better than I know mine. Just thought you should
know. You're busy so I'll sign off now.##


Battalion started grinning. "Hank..."


"Get down there before you burn holes in this
map of ours. Your body's home but your brain isn't.
Go see your man. You'll be no good to me until you've
reassured yourself that he's out of hot water." the chief
chuckled. "You have three minutes.. Go....I'll assume your
command assignment until you get back."

Hank went.

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Johnny Gage was still vocally protesting where he was.
"Oh, ughhhHHh.  I'm on a cadaver table?! Get me off of
here. A stokes suspended between two chairs'll be just
fine.."  Marco and Kelly hastened to move him but
Kel Brackett halted them.

"Ah, ah ah.. Not so fast. You're still suffering some myocardial
sensitivity Johnny. Any unnecessary motion might send you
into V-fib." Kel warned.

"I'm willing to take the risk. You've got a defibrillator right there.
I'll just slide over into the basket here and--"

"You just freeze right there, Johnny Gage..." Dixie glared,
pushing both her hands down onto his chest so he couldn't
rise up onto his elbows.

Mike Stoker whined. "Aw, Gage. Don't make me live through
a second endotrach on you again. The first time was scary

Gage blinked, shifting his blankets around over his bare
body. "You..did ..did what? Where was Roy?"

"Elsewhere." DeSoto grinned.

"Oh yeah?" Gage asked, frowning at Mike. Then he
slid a tongue over his front teeth. "I think you screwed
up a bit Stoker. I feel a chip here."

Mike Stoker's face started to fade into a look of horror
when Gage smiled, letting him off the hook.

Dr. Brackett crossed his arms in a no business attitude.
"Leave him alone, Gage. Or I'll sedate you myself and let
him take another run at you. Now lie still. And that's an
order you can't ignore."

Gage realized his cause was lost. "All right, all right. You win.
Just.. gimme some eye covers or something. I don't wanna
see what's in those jars over there. And a nose plug." he mumbled
through his oxygen mask.
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Dr. Scribbs looked up from admiring Dr. Brackett's triage
chart with a wounded look. "My ward's spotless Mr. Gage.
Not a trace of odor anywhere. I personally disinfected your
table myself before you were transferred onto it."

"Charmed, doc. It's not the physical odor I'm talking about
it's the..."

"...psychosomatic one.. I know.." Scribbs sighed sadly. "I hear
that from absolutely everybody non department who comes
in here." he sniffed. "And I've even tried to cheer up the place,
too, for all the clinical residents I get visiting me each week."
and he threw a hand at a prominent Garfield wall calendar
tacked up under a stark white, round two handed clock.
"Doesn't it help?"

Chet Kelly started an empathetic no, but Mike Stoker
stepped on his foot to silence him.

Gage let his head thunk back onto his paper sheeted pillow.
"A little... I guess.." he replied when Dix put on a little visual
pressure with a do it or die face.

"Oh, what a relief. I can only decorate so much you know.
It's because of the nature of my work."

"If you're so hung up on decor, why don't you go be
a mortician in a funeral home. That kind of place is
totally lavish. Satin coffins, velvet curtains, carpetting.."
Chet needled Scribbs.

Scribbs refused to rise to the bait. "I like problem
solving too much to be satisfied with just corpse restoration
for burial. Here, I can determine cause of death and there's
nothing, gentlemen, more intriguing than that." he
said with a grin.

Mike Stoker cleared his throat. "Yes, well. Uh... Chow's
on. Looks like Cap sent us down a tray.."

Gage reached for a sandwich eagerly.

Dixie slapped his hand away. "Not so fast, Near Death Boy.
You've orders for nothing P.O."

"Aw,, Dix. I feel fine.." Johnny said.

"Yeah?" Kel admitted. "Well the tests Dr. Scribbs and I
ran on you say otherwise. If your blood alkali normalizes
within the next hour, I'll see about you eating anything.
Until then, that I.V.'s all you're gonna get."

"Ok, doc, you're my doc."

"And so am I." glared Scribbs. "er... for the time being."

Johnny mock saluted them both, grumbling while
everyone but Sheppard moved away to fill their bellies.

Malcolm declined his food saying he
might lose it when his arm was reset.

Dixie dove into her egg salad. "Suit yourself."
she told him.

Johnny threw a needle cover at Mike Stoker's
back to get his attention when the others had
gone. He didn't mind Gil Sheppard remaining
for Gage trusted the paramedic to have selective
hearing while he dove through the sports pages.

Stoker swallowed his last bite of chicken breast on
wheat and he sat by Johnny. "Need something?"

Gage studied his hands. "Yeah, your ear." he said
timidly. "Look, I didn't mean to critique all you did for
me. This chip's nothing the dentist can't fix. I have
soft teeth I'm told. And you must've had to hurry or

"I did. You quit breathing less than ten seconds after
you dropped the BP cuff.." Mike Stoker said.

"I did?"

"Yeah. That must have been some benzene dose you
took. Something in liquid form I suspect." Mike nodded.

"Was anyone else effected?" he asked quietly worried.

"Chet was. Both his eyes.."

Johnny's face screwed up in complaint.. "Well why does
he get to eat?! For crying out l-- That's not fair.."

Mike hushed him. "His tests came out negative for phenol."

Johnny relented and suppressed a cough so the EKG monitor
wouldn't set off a PVC alarm and send the others running.
He just thought about what he was going to say for a minute
and then he looked up at Stoker. "Thanks for bailing my
butt, Mike. I could've died today."

"Well you didn't. And even if you had, no one does for long
under MY c.p.r."

"That much is true.." Johnny chuckled, seriously. "Still.
Thanks, pal." And he held out his I.V. taped hand.

Mike Stoker took it into a clasp, moved far beyond easy
words, so he didn't speak. A nod sufficed. But then he tilted
his head and he stuck out a pinning finger. "The first moment
you're back on your feet and back on duty. You're gonna drill
me on the mannikin. I wanna get a full intubation done in less
than the minute they give you. And I wanna learn how to NOT
cause a laryngospasm."

Johnny warmed up to the new subject heartily and his
cardiac monitor sped up into an excited range. "That's
easy. Here, move closer. I wanna tell you how I do all MY endotrachs.
Roy's method's good. But a tad slow. I got a few seconds on him
and he's been in this line of work longer than me.." he grinned
lopsidedly. "Now after you've visualized the cords there's
a positioning trick you can do with your elbows where you just
cock your non stylus hand up a hair.. like this.. Here let me
show you.. Gimme your hands.. Are you with me so far?"

Mike nodded.

"Ok, so you've got your scope blade in and the tongue's
pushed to the right out of the way.. now all you have to do


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Roy DeSoto listened to his crewmates quiet babble from
the far side of the room with contentment while he sipped
the well deserved cup of coffee Dixie had given him. She
was with him now, helping DeSoto keep an eye on Gage's
EKG monitor and she caught his slight smile of pride.

"What?" she asked, mirroring one of her own.

"Nothing. They're bringing back some memories that's all."

"What kind of memories?" Dixie pegged, challenging.

Roy was caught like a dog on a pole and noose.
He sighed. "I remember talking shop with Johnny about
paramedic stuff, just like they're doing right now."

"Does it feel good? Or bad?" McCall asked with a mixed
look on her face, half worried and half horrified.

"Both, actually. I taught Johnny everything he knew and now
he's got a chance to teach Stoker the same thing. In one
respect, that proves that I made a good teacher. On the other
hand, it makes me feel really ...old.." DeSoto mused.

"Oh, rubbish.." McCall said. "If I felt that way every time one
of my student nurses suddenly figured it out and became
well seasoned, I'd never crawl out of bed in the morning.
Just,.. let it happen,. and be done with it.."

Kel Brackett interrupted them from the autopsy reports he
was reading through that Dr. Scribbs was showing him
like a proud papa. "That's what I do, Roy. Look how I feel.
I'm a great grandfather now.. First I trained you. Then you
trained Gage. Now Gage is training Stoker... See? Great
grandfather. And I never wallow in an I'm getting older
pity pit."

"Yes you do.." Dix peeped.

"I do not!" Kel said, setting down his report slate.

"Sure you do. Whenever you graduate yet another
paramedic class, it happens every time. Carol tells me she
hears you doing it all the time."

"Well,," Dr. Brackett sputtered. "That's ..that might
be true.. But I try to curb it."

"Relax, doc.." Roy smiled, leaning forward. "I won't
let anyone on to the fact that we're all human beings."

Dr. Brackett frowned sarcastically and reburied his
nose into the autopsy reports.

Scribbs added his own opinion. "I know the value of
human sentimentality probably more than the both of
you put together, since I see just how mortal each and
every person,.. truly is." And he raised his cup in
an invite. "Here's to life. And our mutual fight to thwart

Roy and Dix and Kel all raised their mugs of coffee
and joined the medical examiner in his toast.

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Chet Kelly sat in his chair, well away from the others
and the corpse cooler, watching Stoker and Gage run
through an intubation call at his tableside. Something
inside of him made him get up and walk over there.
He interrupted their conversation self consciously.
"Can I listen in?"

Mike Stoker and Johnny Gage fell silent.

Chet stammered. "I ..I..I mean.. I was there, too. Maybe
I could learn a thing or three... like... like he is." he

Mike Stoker smiled and pulled up a second metal
stool. "Why don't you find a third seat for Marco. We'll
all learn together." And Stoker's eyes twinkled in the

It wasn't long before a newly arriving Hank Stanley was
just as rivetted as the others to Gage's helpful hints and
entertaining expertise on the finesse of good advanced
life support techniques.

And it seemed like no time at all before the whole quarantined
bunch was bound for Rampart aboard the helicopter,
soaring high above the Carson City skyline.

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