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    The Helper's              High
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Page Two

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Subject: The Last Hours?
From: crash200225 (
Sent: Fri 11/02/07 9:48 PM

It didn't take long for the engine and squad to respond to the
address for an 'unknown type rescue'. The small house and yard had
seen better days, but still had the feel of a well loved home.

A woman appeared on the porch as the sirens announced Station 51's

"What do you want?" The woman demanded the moment Cap started up the
walkway. "I didn't call you."

"We had a report of someone needing help here." replied Cap kindly
as the others came up to the porch. "Is everything all right?"

"Nosey neighbors..." the woman mumbled, then sighed. "Thanks for
coming, but there is nothing you can do. Everything that can be
done, has been done."

Just as Cap opened his mouth to ask what she meant, a loud alarm came
from inside the house. The woman flew back into her home, leaving
the door open. Roy and Johnny both knew the sound well. They had
heard it at Rampart and it wasn't good. They all entered the open

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It was a bit of a surprise see a well equipped hospital room in what
once must have been the living room. The woman was standing by the
hospital bed, her back to the men. "It's okay, Harry. I'm here.
You pulled one of the EKG leads off again. Did you get jealous
because I was talking to a bunch of good looking firemen?"

A half choking, half chuckle came from the man in the bed.

"Ma'am, we are paramedics..." Roy began, but was cut off.

"I know what you are, but you aren't taking him to the hospital."
the woman stated. "He has end-stage cancer and only a day left,
maybe a few hours. He wants to die at home, not in some sterile
hospital. We've been in too many of them over the last two years.
You can't have him, not now."

The woman was getting agitated and bordering on hysterics when Mike
stepped up. "Barb? It's me, Mike."

"M..Mike?" stuttered Barb. "You can't let them take Harry. You
know when he started treatments that I promised him if they didn't
work, I'd be with him in the end at home. You can't take him!"

"The three of us have been friends for a long time. I know what
Harry wants. We talked about it before...." said Mike in a calm
voice, while looking at Cap. "... well, the last time we beached it
in the dune buggy. Why don't we go into the kitchen and get a glass
of water. You need to sit down for a minute. Roy and John will
watch after Harry for a few minutes."

Cap nodded his approval as Mike led Barb to another room. She was
crying and holding onto Mike's arm like it was her lifeline. The
whole time she muttered sadly, "You can't have him." over and over
again like a mantra.

Roy decided they would contact Rampart afterJohnny checked the
machines hooked up to the dying man. Chet stood by to assist if
needed, while Marco and Cap went to see about Mike and Barb.

Cap wondered. ::How close was his engineer to this couple? Why
hadn't he mentioned having a friend who was so ill?::

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From: "Erin J." <>
and "Patti" <> in
a tandemly written story posting.
Date: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:03 pm
Subject: The Final Fight

When the others were gone, Roy and Johnny made a point
to minimize their presence officially by leaving their medical
gear sitting by the front door, unopened.

A slight gesture with their eyes, set Chet Kelly to guard and
attend it until they could learn about any existence of legal
papers concerning the terminally ill man.

When Gage folded up his stethoscope and stuffed it into
his jacket pocket, the pale eyes physically relaxed around
their pain. A feeble hand tapped the bed, twice, in
unmistakable invitation.

Smiling gently, both firemen took off their helmets and set
them onto their laps so they could sit on either side of the
bed's edges, to join him.

Roy dropped all formality and adopted an open and honest
candidness while Johnny instinctively eyed up the treatment
measures in place discreetly. "So, it's been a long time."
DeSoto said in greeting.

Harry managed to cough. "L-Long enough. I.. I've finally
accepted the facts.. the way they are. My....only regret, is
that she's--  Nothing now, makes her happy any more."
he said weakly.

Gage absently tapped the regulator on the flowing oxygen
tank, adding comfort for comfort's sake to his laboring lungs.
"You must love Barb very much to be fighting so long."

The man's eyes darted for the first time from their tightened
false calm to the door through which his wife had been led.
"Oh, yes.." he said, tearing up. "Very much. But we...both
know it's time."  His voice cut off as a spasm of pain wracked
his body. He grimaced.

Gage gripped his hand, offering its warmth to the bony fingers,
offering serenity in his face. "Is it too bad right now?"

Again, the head pressed against the ample pillows, and nodded
yes. "But I don't want her to see it. " he begged. "This has been
such a...horrible disease. She' delicate."

Roy smiled, finally deciding that the cancer was in his bones.
"I only wish my wife, were half as devoted." DeSoto whispered

A laughing glimmer of affection made it past the pain in the  
bright blue of the man's eyes. "Barb's my life. Still is...  And I'm
only afraid of the past tense she'll have to start telling folks about
me, tomorrow." Harry gasped. "I know she's gonna hurt, even
worse than I do now."

DeSoto refolded a blanket that had fallen in Barb's haste to return
order to the monitors methodically displaying Harry's core vitals. "Where's
your nurse? You've several venous catheters from what we can see."
Roy wondered a moment, before pulling the sheet back up under the
man's chin, to rewarm him.

Harry cackled wetly.
"Sent away. There's.. there's no point is there? Someone like that nurses
life and I'm a hopeless case. She was nineteen, fresh out of her clinicals,
far too innocent for me. I was to be her first loss. We decided we
didn't want to be her number one." said the man. "That wouldn't be
a good legacy at all."

Roy nodded respectfully, taking full measure of the man's pain on his soul.
He noticed what Johnny was doing. And approved. Then he spoke. "Nothing
will be set before Barb, that she can't handle, because life just doesn't ever
work that way. For anybody. And I sincerely believe that." DeSoto told Harry

Sudden bright tears flooded anew in the dying man's eyes. "Ah, but she's
going to be so lonely without me." he sobbed, his veneer of strength cracking.

Gage flipped a switch to silence the tachycardia alarm, before it went off
as the pulse he could barely feel under Harry's sweaty skin began to race.
He had noticed the collection of framed pictures surrounding the bed, and
over the burning logs in the fire place. "She'll have the kids. They're not here
now, but they will be. For the both of ya, right?"

Harry's face faltered with remembered sting. "I asked them not to come.
Not until after. I don't want my grandkids to see me this way as their
strongest memory of me. They're all still too young to ....understand what
death is.." he declared.

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Marco walked into the kitchen not long after Mike and Barb. Mike said,
"Hey pal."

"Hey Mike, you doing okay?"

"Yeah. Barb, let me introduce you to somebody. This is Marco Lopez, our
shift's resident chili expert."

Barb smiled sadly, "Good to meet you Marco. Just wish it was under better
circumstances." She offered them glasses of water from the sink, still
actively fretting as she paced back and forth.

Marco said, "So do all of us ma'am trust me." he said, passing on the offer.

Barb and Mike both drank their water. Near them, Cap stayed quiet and kept
an eye on both of them, just in case.

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Roy deftly adjusted the crooked oxygen cannula in the man's nose. Then
he busied himself with refilling its port's humidifier on the wall with a pitcher
of saline that had been resting nearby on a homemade table. "They'll be here
tomorrow then." DeSoto told him, not looking away. "Helping her every step
of the way, once you're apart." He squeezed Harry's shoulder. "Sir, I wouldn't
worry about anything at all about them. Barb'll be well cared for."

Gage let go of the man's hand and folded it carefully back onto its cushion.
"What do you want, for right now?  That, you can do, and control." he joked.

Harry seemed to grow more transparent as his defensive smile faded and
as his heart continued to struggle with both the cancer and his warring emotions.
"Help me fight." he said at last. "For just a little while longer." he pleaded. "I..I-I
don't want her to know, hard it's been."

Johnny rubbed his mouth, growing uncomfortable. "You mean, you want some
kind of pain med from us?" he stated, realizing the risks.

Harry nodded. "Can you? I can't hide it any more. I just don't have the strength

Roy swallowed, but still kept smiling faintly."Sir, you know if we do anything
intravenously, we'll have to transport you."

The man's machines protested in response. "Can't you make an exception in
my case?"

"That depends on a couple of things that we don't have the authority ourselves
to decide." Gage told him, still disturbed.

Harry interpretted Johnny's expression accurately. "Look, I'm not asking you to
kill me. Quite the opposite. I just want to end this new pain."

Johnny's face stiffened into neutrality. "I'm sorry, sir, but we can't. Not in your
current condition, you'll pass out and perhaps not wake up again. Do you want

Harry melted visibly.

Gage shared more bad news. "If your primary physician's decided that your I.V.
pump running now, is where it's supposed to be, then he's the only one who can
change it."

"He's out of town! I've... I'm going a lot faster than any of us ever realized. Guess
it's from all the stress."

Johnny sighed, unsure of what to say but very clear on what position they had to
take. So he took it to the next level. "Sir, do you have do not resuscitate orders?"
he asked bluntly.

Harry was growing angry and that was adding some momentum to his shaking voice.
"Of course I do, they're.... she keeps them in that drawer over there.. In the night

Roy reached over, hesitating when he saw the man's face stiffen into another wave
of nauseating pain. Finally he had them. "Sir, do you have the originals? These
look like only partial copies."

"What?" gasped the feather light, sick man. "Wait. I know they're.. they're around
here somewhere. She's always so careful with all our papers whenever we draw
one up. She always... puts it into the safety deposit box at the bank."

Roy and Johnny exchanged a knowing look and failed to hide their dismay at
a truth revealed.

Harry saw their faces and he frowned again. "What? that a problem?" he
whispered, sucking in a series of difficult breaths.

DeSoto stayed frank and honest. "I'm afraid it is. Only the top, legal drafts in
ink, are valid. They...they have to be displayed and present in order to override
our rescue protocols." he said, leafing through them.

"I don't understand."

"We can't leave this house without you." Gage said simply, trying to be softer.

Harry grew agitated. "No,..that's not what I want. I don't want to go ANYwhere else.
We decided that with Dr. Thayer. Didn't she tell you?!"

Roy held out a hand. "Easy, sir. Don't get over excited or you'll get more out of
breath to the point where we'll have to start helping you."

But Harry wouldn't listen. He writhed on the bed. "No! I'm not leaving, you.. you
can't make--" The man broke off as a strangled choking jag demanded his
full attention to manage.

DeSoto looked over his shoulder as he raised the bed's head a little higher.
"Chet!" he shouted. "I'm sorry,sir, but until we hear from your doctor or see
the signed draft, we have to do everything in our power to keep you alive."

Harry purpled as he struggled to breathe, furious. But then his consciousness
began to slip and his eyes rolled up into the back of his head. The EKG sped
up into a crisis string of PVC's.

Roy leaned in closer. "Mr. Billings? Mr. Billings? Just try to relax. Can you hear
me?" Roy asked, tipping back his head.  The man drew in a long tortured,
shuddering breath.

"Roy?" Johnny asked as he began grabbing the drug box and airway management
supplies that Kelly eagerly handed to him.

"He's just tired, I think." DeSoto said, not letting go of Billings. "He's still got a
viable carotid." Roy drew out an ambu bag to help him on his in's. "He's still
awake." he reported.

"Okay, I'll contact Rampart." Johnny said, setting up the biophone. "Kelly, go
get Lopez. Get us,.." he said, tossing his head at Harry. "and him,.. portable."

Chet nodded and hurried to the kitchen where Cap and Stoker stood
comforting the distraught wife. Barb's head lay across her arm on
the table.

Kelly stopped in his tracks, dismayed. "Cap, is she sick? Does she need Roy
or Johnny in here?" Chet asked as he entered.

Hank shook his head. "No, we finally got her to calm down some. She's just
resting a little, while we get her some coffee. What's up?"

Chet jerked his head silently for him to follow him back to Harry.

"Ah, Mike, could you look after the missus for a while? I'll be right back. I...
forgot to give L.A. our update status when we got here." he fibbed.

"Okay, Cap." said Stoker, getting the underlying hint right away. He couldn't
hide the worry on his face as he did his job.

Cap left them behind.

Chet and Hank arrived just in time to see Roy deliver one more breath by
bag valve to their bed seated patient, who was just starting to gasp weakily

"Better now?" DeSoto asked, watching the man breathe. "All right, try on your
own here." he encouraged as he took the mask away.

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The husband fearfully obeyed, and began to relax as his color and muscles
improved. Then, he actually smiled fractionally in his distress. "Now I... know
why Barb keeps yelling at me all the stay calm."

"Yep." Gage grinned. "Here, let me get you cleaned up before she comes
running in here all in another dither." Johnny deftly dried all traces of tears
from Harry's eyes and cheeks." We ARE gonna figure all this out. Only you
never gave us the chance to tell you first.." he joked. "Now get your heart
rate down before she notices. Take a deep breath... Now a deeper one."
he said, placing a hand on Harry's damp chest. "Okay, looks like it's over.
But I still gotta call us in, all right?" he said holding up the biophone receiver.

Harry nodded gratefully, no longer resisting. His scare had humbled him back
into sensibility. "Okay,.. all right,..*cough* go ahead and do your paramedic
thing. But I'm still not going.." he said firmly as Roy refitted him with a new
non rebreather oxygen mask.

Gage held up his hands in teasing self defense in a mock surrender."Let's
run that by the doc in charge and see what he says." he said truthfully.

Johnny opened up their squad's frequency. "Rampart, this is Rescue 51. How
do you read?"

At the hospital, a buzzer sounded in the E.R. Dr. Brackett entered the base
station and thumbed the receiver. ##51, this is Rampart Base, go ahead.##

Johnny replied, reading the information that he could from the DNR carbons
in his hand. "Rampart, we've a conscious male, aged eight five in end stage
blastocystic lymphoma and leukemia. Uh, we were called in secondarily by
a third uninvolved party initially and not by either the patient or his immediate
family. We have their yellow forms only. Patient was tachycardic and is just
out of respiratory distress which was resolved with some manual assistance.
Doc, we have a pretty good set up here, but with only partial ability to
ascertain current ongoing treatment and therapy. Vital signs are: Central
line B.P. is 90 over 62, pulse 100 and irregular, respirations are twenty six
and shallow on six liters of home O2. His skin is cool and moist. EKG shows
resolving sinus tachycardia with some q wave elevations remaining. Rampart,
he threw some P.V.C.'s during his difficulty, but none are apparent now. Patient
is on I.V. fluids with a locked, preset undeterminable narcotic for pain that is
now ineffective. And by self declaration, he says that he is mordibund and does
not wish to be transported. How do you advise?" he finished quickly, getting
to the point for Harry's benefit.

##51, are you in contact with the patient's attending physician?## Kel asked.

"That's a negative, Rampart. Our patient says that he's unavailable at this time."

Brackett let out a huge sigh. ##There's no other option then, 51. I can't authorize
a med without learning what else he's on without a guarantee of getting him
in here. Either we find his doctor, or you find those original forms. My hands are
tied at this point.## Kel expressed firmly.

Gage let his breath out in a huff. "Rampart, stand by. I've got an idea."

##Standing by.##

"Hey, Roy? Do you think she'll leave him long enough to go to the bank for those

DeSoto, shrugged, watching Harry rest under the oxygen mask. "We could always

The man, gasping in front of them, moaned. "She's not gonna like that idea. She
hasn't left my side since I was diagnosed as terminal. And it's been two years."

Gage gulped, remembering Barb's earlier ire. He glanced up at Roy. "So,..will
you ask her, or shall I?" he blinked at his partner.

DeSoto's mouth slacked as he thought about it.

"Neither." came a third voice at their elbows. "I'm the captain. I'll go ask."
Hank Stanley said.

Harry tried to chuckle. "Good luck." he hacked, reopening his eyes.

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While Gage was on the phone, Chet had seen the confusion on Hank's face when
Mike had quickly stepped up when they first arrived. ::That's really odd. What's
going on here? Mike doesn't talk about his background.::

As Chet took his position at the foot of the bed, a picture
caught his eye. It was a color shot of two men in Navy dress whites.
Chet gasped.

Hank quickly said, "What is it?"

Chet choked out, ""

That caught everybody's attention. Johnny saw the sheer concern and total
surprise in Chet's eyes and kept it professional, "How?"

Chet carefully picked up the picture, "Look." He passed the picture to Cap and
Johnny then Roy who were waiting to reply back to Kel on the line.
Each man gasped when they realized it was Mike in the picture.

Suddenly Harry came awake fully, changed by fatigue, "Petty Officer
Stoker. Where is he?"

Stoker had heard the summons clearly.

Mike was out of the kitchen and by Harry's side in a flash. Barb was right
behind him with Marco bringing up the rear. Barb took Harry's right hand, Mike
took his left.

Mike spoke calmly, "It's okay, Commander. I'm here."

"What about these Air Force punks?"

Mike had to stifle a laugh, "Sir, we're civillians. We all belong to the Los Angeles
County Fire Department. These are my shift mates."

Harry was embarrassed at his growing confusion, "Quick intro?"

"My honor to. My Captain Hank Stanley, firefighter Chet Kelly, firefighter
Marco Lopez, paramedic firefighters Roy Desoto and John Gage." As Mike
introduced them, each man stood where they were, so Harry could see them.

Roy spoke up, "Sir, we will find a way to honor your wishes."

Harry choked out, "Thank you...    Hank."

"Yes, Commander?"

"Take care of my Petty Officer. I'm leaving him in your capable hands." said

Hank nodded, smiling, before he spoke, "Thank you, sir."

Harry's voice weakened, "Barb, my love."

Betty's eyes filled with tears, "Right here, on your right as I have been for
the last sixty-five years."

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Harry. You'll always be in my heart." she smiled, eyes

Harry seemed to fight another inevitable snooze. Marco grabbed for a shaking Barb
when she saw a final change begin as he started to give up.

Mike's voice cracked, "Stand down for a while, Commander. You've fought a
good fight today. Your watch is over. God speed and rest well, sir."
Tears stung Stoker's eyes.  

"Think I will, Mike. Barb, will you stay with me? I don't want you out of my sight.
You're so beautiful, my sweet lady. Come here.." he gasped.

She went to him willingly and gently took his face into her age trembling hands.

The smile never left his eyes as they closed in sleep.

Betty turned to face the others, "Thank you all of you for staying here until Harry
settled a little."

Cap spoke for everybody. "You're welcome, ma'am, it was our honor."
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A few minutes later, Gage was back on the phone. "Doc, there's got to be a
third option somewhere.. This is crazy. She won't leave him to go get his D.N.R.
originals and Dr. Thayer still isn't answering his phone service from where he's

Kel startled. ##Wait a minute, Johnny. Did you say Dr. Thayer?##

"I did."

##A Dr. Norman Thayer?"

"Rampart, the wife says yes."  Gage added when Barb showed up just then,
holding a mug of coffee, nervously crumpling a tissue in her hands.

Dr. Brackett hit the countertop in celebration. ##Hang on, I think I've got an answer
for you, coming right up.## he grinned, glad to get out from under the weight of
a huge DNR snarl.

"Standing by."

Kel got busy on a house phone. He dialed a few numbers on the rotary. "Hello,
operator? I need Dr. Thayer contacted and I need him now. Yes, I'll hold."
A pause. "What? What do you mean his answering service can't get through?
That's insane!....Look, I'm sorry I yelled at you. I know you're busy. But this is
important and it concerns a terminally ill patient of his who's in a lot of pain right
now unnecessarily. So try again! Please?..."  Brackett turned around and leaned
on the counter impatiently. "What do you mean no luck! Even I know where he is!
It's what time?" he asked, whipping up his watch long enough to peer at it. "10:26?
He's at the Hazeltine Golf Course, putting the green on the ninth hole as we speak.
I'll give you the number direct. Tell them to ship out a caddy and get his rear
dragged back inside over a bar phone to talk to me. How do I know? He's been
my golf partner vacationing up there for nine years whenever we go together,
that's how. Now go get the man, pronto!" he barked.


A few minutes later, Dr. Brackett was back in touch with Johnny.
##Squad 51, this is Rampart. You've got your third option here. I got
permission to take over your patient's case. Dixie and I will be coming
out there to make a personal house call via squad car. You can tell Mr. Billings
that we'll be there for the duration of time that he requires our services, for as
long as he needs us."

Both Johnny and Roy sighed in gratitude, deeply moved for the Billings. They
knew then that Dr. Brackett was offering to attend a one on one, until the
morning hours when Harry would surely leave his life.

::Best of all.:: thought Roy. ::He'll be free of all the pain that he would have
suffered emotionally, being at the hospital.::


Hours later, it was night, at the station. The gang finally asked Stoker the
burning question.

Everybody gathered around Mike.

Marco asked, "Mi amigo?"

Mike took a deep breath as he finished a silent prayer. "I'm okay. Harry would
shoot me if he realized we wouldn't have stopped working because of those
missing pages today." Mike looked at Johnny and Roy. "I know we always do
our best, but something about DNR orders...stinks when things don't go right,
you know what I mean?"  Mike held up his hands around his mug as he
warmed them with its heat before the T.V. set.  

Roy's face turned solemn. "Yeah."

"Guys, I was respecting his privacy by not talking about him or his illness at
work. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to the house now that I'm off duty
on emergency, to go be with him and Kel, and Dixie. It's what he wants, for
friends to be there with him in the end."
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Respectfully, the gang watched him go.

With that, the rest of the crew broke up and headed for the trucks to dry the dew
off all their painted fenders and chrome. They all knew they'd never forget
what they had witnessed that day and in that moment in Mike's quiet eyes.  His
devotion to friends and duty had parallel in ANY of themselves,..
the more they thought about it.

From: brenda murray (
Subject: Night Foray
Sent: Fri 11/23/07 5:42 PM

It was week after the Commander had passed away. Mike
was back at work. The Christmas holidays were
approaching. Mike decided if nothing else he would
put on a happy face for the rememberence of the
Commander. ::That's how he would have liked it. :: thought

Since daylight savings time, the night approached a
lot faster, making it feel as if it was later then it
was. The evening was quiet, the doors were locked up.

The firemen were getting ready for a meal. Marco was
cooking his enchiladas with this sliced avacados on
the side. ::The quiet evening for us is just going
to be a memory after this night ends most likely.::
thought Marco as he finished up.

Marco went to open the back door to get a little air into the
station, not knowing there was a gang in the alleyway having
another fight over something or another.  And as the door was
being propped open with a chair, there was a ping, off the
door. Marco felt a sharp pain in his hand, and the quiet evening ended.

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From: patti keiper <>
Subject: Faster than a speeding...
Date: Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:20 am

Recoiling in complete shock, Marco fell back into the
vehicle bay, cradling his left hand in his right. Looking
down, he wasn't surprised to find profusely oozing
blood welling up in between his fingers. ::What the
h*ll? I've been shot?!:: he thought crazily.

Thinking fast, he flipped over onto his belly long
enough to inch back over to the open door so he
could kick the door wedge free with a hasty foot.

The heavy rear facing door, slammed shut again
loudly, echoing like cannon shot around the bay.

His hand began to throb in increasing agony as he
crawled away from the thin aluminum garage door
to the interior wall on the same side as the county
map next to the mop cupboard. He groaned, his heart
thudding in his torn hand as he finally gathered enough
presence of mind to shout for the others now that he
was in relative safety.

"Cap! Guys! Call the police! I think I've been hit by
some gunfire coming from the yard!"

Outside, the commotion and loud arguing in Spanish,
issuing from the car dealership over the cement wall,
broke away with the sound of angry chasing feet, that
Lopez recognized as being from at least four or more
street kids. They hadn't even noticed the outcome of
their silencer's bullet ricochet near the station. All some
of them knew was that their target had been missed and
was getting away.

"Marco?!" came Cap's concerned shout. "Stay down!
Where are they?"

Lopez groaned, gasping with infuriated fright as he heard
the others making sure things were safe around him.

Someone killed the interior lights and began to crawl towards
him with a flashlight in the sudden darkness. It was Chet.
"How bad are ya?"

"It's just the side of my hand. I'm not feeling a hole." Lopez
panted. "Guys, I think they're gone. All of them ran after
somebody else. I don't think they even knew I was there."

Hank pulled himself up to the radio alcove and snagged down
the mic and caught it after a yank on its cord. "Can you say
that with absolute certainty they had no idea who they were
firing at?" Stanley snapped in worry from his guarded
place on the floor.

"Well, no."

"Well then shut up and don't move until Roy and Johnny get
over there to check you out. L.A., Station 51. Shots fired.
Fireman down. We need immediate police backup." he

Kelly grabbed Marco's wrist in both of his hands. "Come on. Let
go." he said. "I can stem this better than you."

"It's not that bad." Marco grunted painfully.

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"Like h*ll it isn't!" Chet fretted instantly. "You're bleeding like a
stuck pig here. Have you seen the front of your shirt yet?"

"It's nothing. That was from me sliding across the floor to get away
from the back."

Chet chided him skeptically as he pressed down on a pulse point
to stop the hemorrhaging. "Uh huh." he scoffed. "So there's no
reason at all that you're white as a sheet right now, huh?"

Marco sighed, shivering. "All right. I got scared for a moment. I'm
still fine." Lopez said, still sitting up gamely.

Gage startled them both with a tart reply from a dark corner. "I don't
see you moving those fingers any. Let me be the judge of that."
he said, appearing out of the darkness with a trauma box. "Chet, open
his shirt."

"Where's Roy?" Marco asked, feeling his eyes glaze as his heart
began to settle down. Lopez coughed, his arms and legs twitching.

"He's getting his hunting rifle out of his locker to use as a deterrent if
we need one." Johnny said, taking Marco's pulse at the neck. "Are
you short of breath any?" he asked, scissor splitting Lopez's T-shirt
away to look for other sources of bleeding.

"Not any more. Why?"

"You've got another nick here on your ribcage.  I want to make sure
whatever hit you didn't penetrate any further than skin deep. Does
this hurt?" he asked, pressing on the new blood-damp area.

"Stings a little."

"Is that all?" Gage questioned, studying his face dubiously.

"Yeah. Like a cat scratch."

Gage smirked. "You're lucky."

Marco clunked his head back against the cold wall. "I knew that
a second after, when just my hand began to burn."

Kelly showed Johnny the ragged tear on the outside fleshy part of
Marco's palm.

"Oww." Marco complained, trying to peer at it, too.
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