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Within Sight
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        Page  Seven

From : "Cory Anda" <>  
Subject : The Tinder Kid  
Date : Wed, 19 Feb 2003 21:53:18 +0000  

"Hey Coach.. What are you doing here?" an adolescent
voice said, cutting through the sound of the active baseball
game playing on the field. "Last I knew, you were
wearing angel wings in a flaming tin can of a factory,
squashed flat. Heh."

:: Gotcha.. ::Mike thought in triumph. His mind raced.
::So you were at my fire, Max. And you knew about
the resulting roof collapse accident. Now how does Jeremy
Conners fit into all this? ::But out loud, Stoker said.
"Hello,  Maximillion." Mike smiled through his bandages.
He could just imagine the dark skinned, slightly overweight
boy, taking the seats two at a time, to get up to him.
"Can't keep a good man down I guess." :: Or a good
fire crew.:: his mind amended.  "My crew bailed me out,
last second, that night. Have a seat and take a load
off for a while. I'd love to catch up on what I've been
missing around the old dugout."

He heard the boy's jaws cluck noisily as
he chewed something. Mike fervently hoped it
wasn't a tobacco plug again. He couldn't tell for
the hot afternoon wind was blowing in the wrong

"Not much. Same old same old." Max drawled in
heavy L.A. inner city accent. Then his voice changed.
"Say..Coach, you feeling ok? You're kinda pale,
even more than you honkys usually are." Max said.

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"Oh, I see. I'm gone for under a week and suddenly I'm
demoted to being a honky instead of a hose jockey.
Thanks alot." he teased. "What does that make you then,
Max, eh?" he said punching his friend's shoulder in jest.
"Hmm.. A darkie instead of a delinquent juvie? G*d
forbid.." he moaned dramatically.

"No, a darkling. Get it right." Max found Stoker's
error on city lingo very hilarious and he let out a
rich peel of laughter. "Gonna give me a reason why
you're looking like a ghost, Coach? Or are ya just
gonna be funny and 'burb talk me to death?"

Mike's amused grin fell away into seriousness.
"Susan just gave us a good scare down there.  
She's the reason why I came here to the park with
Johnny and Roy today before my eyes healed if
you're wondering."

"Little ol Susan? What's she got to do wid
you, man?"

"She got a little sick just now because of her asthma.
And it almost got dangerously out of hand. Didn't you
see me trying to help out?  Surprising since your
favorite game roost in the scoreboard sign has the
best overview of the whole parkland."

Max scoffed. "I didn't see nuthin'!  That little liar's
been trying to wimp outta playing good all summer.
Besides, Jeremy told me she was faking it."

::Yeah, so then where were you to miss the sirens
and all the excitement of the last hour?:: his
conscience fathomed. Again, Mike spoke differently
from his mind's track. "Never mind. You had to
be there." Stoker sighed. The callousness of the
city kids he coached had long ago ceased to
surprise him.  

"Here.. Hold out ya hand.." Max said. "Got somethin'
for ya.."

Mike lifted a palm, and he felt a slender stick with a
weight pressed into it. He smelled a rich, mellow
sweetness coming from the frozen treat in his
hand. "Ooo, banana! My fav. Thanks for the popsicle."

"No problem. Got one for me, too." the boy said
proudly and he leaned into Stoker's arm, trying to
tip him over in a play wrestle. But as usual, Mike
was an unmoving stone on the bench. But that
didn't keep Max from testing out his young strength
on his favorite program coach.

"How'd ya pay for it?" Mike said while Max grunted
with a failing effort to budge him off his place
on the bench.

Max bristled tangibly and Mike felt him stiffen and
let go of him."Some gratitude! Here I do for a friend
and what do I get? Snoopy questions. What do ya
take me for? A criminal?"

Mike schooled his lips to stillness so the boy wouldn't catch
on. He thought. ::Yeah, the worst kind. One that
would burn down old buildings with a total disregard
for any possible loss of life. :: But out loud, Mike said.
"No. I never pass judgement on anyone without proof.
I was just wondering since your uniform doesn't have
any pockets to hold loose change and you travel light
with nothing but your bike usually, when you come here."

Max frowned and rubbed his curly ebony hair where it
itched his game sweaty face. "I.....uh, coins in my
roost, Coach.. Jeremy and I got a whole tuna can
full up there from his paper route. " he lied.

"Ah, I see." And Stoker let the subject matter drop.
It would be easy enough to ask Old Ben later if
his popsicle cooler had been raided yet for the day.
"So, how's the game going?" he waved a hand
absently in front of him.

"Going good. Smitty's on first, Tiny's on third and it's
Cruz up to bat. I'd say we'll smear da other team
next inning up." Max said, slurping noisily on
his popsicle as it melted in the hot sun. "We're six
to nothin."

Mike ate his, too, just as fast. "Go Zephyrs!" he called
out. And got an enthusiastic round of cheer whistles
from his kids on the field. He grinned despite himself
and then parked his licked clean empty popsicle stick
in his polo shirt pocket. He held out his hand to Max
without saying anything for his, just as the older boy
was about to sail it like a spear onto the playing field.

"You sure you can't see?" Max said grumbling as
he handed it over.

"Not yet, but soon they tell me. Close that mouth
before you draw flies, Maxie boy. I just know you very
well. You should start collecting these from the other
kids and save them for me. I collect these sticks for

"Whatever for?"

"He likes to build firetrucks out of them." Stoker said.
"I already have one at home from him that looks like
the engine from my station. It's on my mantle above
the fireplace."

Max's voice changed. "Oh, you mean the Ward LaFrance."
he said in an admiring tone. "I like dat one, too."

Stoker angled in like a blood hound. "So you like
Big Red. Didn't know that."

"Oh, yeah, Coach." Max sighed. "I's specks there ain't a
fire truck around that I don't know the name of...I like
the way they look."

"Oh, really? So why don't you ever come to the
firehouse with me and the other kids for tours?"

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"Man, stuff like dat's for little kids. And I'm almost twelve."
Max declared. "I got other ways of seeing them.."

Mike felt a chill. "Oh, yeah. What do you do?"

"I go to fires. Lots of em happening in the neighborhood.
Then I can get real close. And it's real odd sometimes,
cause usually Jeremy's right dere with me even if I
hadn't showed him where da burning building was first."
Max said.

Stoker managed to swallow around his dry throat.
"H-how do you know when there's a fire?"

"Use your noggin, Coach. Or did that get just as
bashed up as your eyes did? From a police scanner,
man. There's one in Old Ben's concession stand."

That snapped Mike out of his fears. "There is?"

"Yeah. He keeps it under the popsicle cooler.
And I'm the ONLY kid who knows it's even
THERE." He said proudly. "Didn't you know that
Old Ben used to be a hose jockey just like you?
And just like Jeremy Conner's dad before he got
burned up!"

Mike shook his head no and didn't say anything
for a while for a long stretch of time. Stoker didn't like
the new thoughts forming in his head. Feeling disturbed,
he tried to focus on the happy sounds of the game
entering its final inning.

Then he heard Max trickle, "Uh oh.. Gotta go, Coach."

"Why? You just got here."

"The shrink's comin..Old Ben's daughter."

Mike said, "Victoria won't bother you. She doesn't
bother me.."

"Well dat's just you, Coach. She psycho analyzes
us juvies all the time and it's startin to get on
my nerves big time. She's not nice like you and I've
given her plenty of times to get dat way. Gotta split
before she sees me. And if she asks, I wasn't here
talking wid ya.."


Just like that, Maximillion was gone.

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A half minute later, Mike heard fresh sneakers
climb the bleachers to his level. Out loud, he called,
"Hi, Vickie.. Long time no see..." he joked.

The woman actually stopped in her tracks in shock.
"How did you do that? I could have been anyone
from the game.."

"I'm clairvoyant. You should know blindness causes
the other senses to sharpen."

"Not that fast."

"Well, guess my case's the exception to the rule."
he replied.  He waited for Victoria to sit down
next to him before he said, "Say, Vic. Where were
you about a half an hour ago?"

"I went to get Dad some more ice for the popiscle
cooler from the supermarket. Why?"

That answer got Mike mad. "Don't you know you
have to keep an eye on these kids when they're
out of the Home?  Your father's not physically able
to keep tabs on them well enough to matter anymore."

"Mike, why are you getting so angry?"

"Because just now, I responded to Susan Jordan's
rescue call with the squad when she suffered a severe
asthma attack."

"Susan? What?... Where?!"

Mike could almost see the psychologist's face
search around for the little girl. "Vic, sit down. Just sit
down! Most likely, she's still at Rampart getting treated
or at least waiting for the duty counselors to come pick
her up to take her back to the Home." Then his anger
really went ballistic. "I'm surprised you didn't even
notice she was MISSING until I told you she had fallen

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"Mike Stoker, that's enough!" Victoria flared. "I am a
volunteer in this park. Not a paid employee like you
and my father are.  I only come here to lend an ear,
to help these poor kids work out some of their
hostile feelings about being abandoned by their families.
But only if they come to me. I'm not responsible for
them or for what they do outside the Home."

"Yeah, well somebody should be! There are problems
I could tell you about that crop up out here
that you couldn't even dream of.."

"Try me, Coach. I'm a licensed expert."
Vickie said in a steely voice.

Stoker hung his head in shame. "Sorry. I just get
a little possessively protective of these kids
having none of my own."

"I get the same way I'll have you know." she
said, a little less defensive. "So, who'd you talk to
that got you so up in arms?"


"The popsicle sticks. You've got two in your pocket
and I know you only eat one a game so you can
stay fit for work."

Stoker subconsciously felt where they lay in his
shirt pocket with a thumb, and he drew them out,
fingering them nervously in a palm.

Then he sighed in heavy resignation.
From the beginning, Mike Stoker told Victoria all he
had learned from the kids and Cap about the fire that had
trapped him and about what he newly suspected about
his closest and dearest project kid. He only hoped that
it would get the ball rolling fast enough to save him.

"And just who is this child whom you think is so
deeply disturbed about his father's death? We've
dozens of pyro potentials in the Home that fit
that psychological history profile."

"The boy I'm referring to is Jeremy Conners."

"Oh my G*d.." and Victoria sucked in her breath.
"He's not a pyro risk in my files."

"Put two and two together, Vic! That's the only
conclusion we can draw here.. oh, man. His night visit
to Cap was all a sham. A cry for help. I can see that now.
And his finger pointing at Max was just afterthought."
Stoker stood, very agitatedly, and Victoria had to
grab his arm to help him keep his balance. "Where is he
now?" Mike asked urgently. "Do you see him anywhere?"

Victoria's heart began to pound when Mike's new
found worry began to fill her soul as well. "Uh,..
L-let me look..uhh.. The ballgame's over, Mike." Her voice
trembled. "All the kids are going back to the Home
from what I can see. Even Dad's closing up shop."

"You sure."

"Yes, straight back. I'm counting.... ten bikes moving
across the field."

"We're one short."

"I subtracted Susan's bike."

"Think, Vickie! The team's got twelve kids on it. Oh, Lord..
And I'll bet when we get to the Home that every bike will
be there, but Jeremy's."

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From : "patti keiper" <>  
Subject : The Pecking Order  
Date :  Thu, 20 Feb 2003 06:45:13 +0000  
It was shortly after the squad had gone
10-8 to Rampart with their newest patient.

  "WwwooooHHHOOOOooooooo!" Chet
war-whooped in the garage.

The resulting echo around the bay brought
Cap out of his office on the run.  "Kelly just
what the heck is going on out here? Why'dya
yell like that? Ya scared me half to death!"

"She's ok! She's ok!" Chet singsonged, dancing rings
around Marco and his captain. He even picked up Boot's
front feet and danced a jaunty jig with him.

Hank knew immediately what he was talking about.
"Oh, the kid call." he said drawly. Then his face picked
up. "Glad to hear it turned out all right, pal." and he
started back to the mounting paperwork on his desk.
He immediately about faced and asked. "Just uh,.
one thing... What was wrong with her? I didn't
quite get all that paramedic stuff over the HT."

"A COPD case, Cap. That little girl had asthma so bad her
lungs almost sealed off. Gage and DeSoto managed to
locate her inhaler and find out who she was in time to
use it on her. And poof! They had an instant cure for a
potential killer annnddd,.. It's another kid save in the bag for
the magic dream team! That's what? Twenty kid calls in a
row, no losses? That run was a thing of beauty!" Chet

"Huh.. Imagine that." And Cap started walking back
once more towards his office.

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"I'm telling ya, Cap.." Chet called out after him. "You should
start taking some of those auxillary courses the chief
makes us take for us guys who work with the medics.."
He shouted when Cap's back totally disappeared.  
"You might enjoy learning something!!" he grinned

"Uh oh...." Marco trickled to his engine mate. "Now
you did it.."

Cap suddenly reappeared and glared at Kelly pointing
the all mighty, much afeared finger right at his face.

Chet cringed, stooped, and instantly picked up
Boot as a security shield.

"Are you saying that I know nothing about my
job, Kelly?"

"No, Cap, I.... I..." Kelly stammered. " I...meant
about all that medic stuff..heh... I....I.. just thought that
you might want to.... educate yourself more on all
that medical jargon that goes on over the biophone
between the squad and Rampart by taking the same  
classes that, uh.... we...." he voice tapered off limply.

"That's sound advice there, Kelly. But I think you may
be just a bit ahead of yourself in the hierarchy.
Now, get THIS advice from ME. I know it will behoove
you to educate yourSELF on just exactly what the rank
of CAPTAIN means."

Kelly winced at the word "captain" and thereafter,
at every repeating of the word.  He shrank smaller
and smaller behind Boot's back, whom he held near
to his face for dear life.

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"Especially if that same CAPTAIN holds a vote on
whether or not a mere regular time firemen, YOU,
will ultimately get Stoker's job on the engine until
he returns .." Cap's voice had been rising higher
and higher and louder and louder until even the
unflappable Boot in Chet's arms started to whine.
"Is that clear?!" Cap boomed at the curly haired

"As crystal, Cap..." and Chet tried to chuckle

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Within Sight
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