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        En Route
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From: patti k (
Sent: Sat 9/18/10 12:26 AM
Subject: Beddy Bye

"*Sigh* I'm bushed." said Chet Kelly as he put his feet up onto the kitchen
table and leaned back into his chair in utter weariness with closed eyes.

Without looking up from a crossword puzzle he was studying without
marking, Brice picked up Chet's crossed ankles by their pants cuffs and
slid a folded want ad underneath Chet's shoes to keep things clean. "Do
you need a med evaluation, Kelly? I'm offering." Craig asked.

"Not unless it includes Gage's hanging stokes rocking cradle stuffed with
down pillows and five woolen blankets, it doesn't." Chet mumbled, half

Craig looked up, frowning in incomprehension.

For once, Cap didn't enforce the no feet on the furniture rule. "Brice."
he said. "Long story. He's fine."

Craig nodded and returned his pen to his mouth. But that didn't keep
him from stealing a sidelong glance at Chet to take a respiratory rate
anyway. "If you say so, Captain Stanley. It's not beyond the realm of
improbability that one of us wasn't caught in the same gas pocket that
pooled around Gage, sir."

Chet chuckled. "My name is Chester B. Kelly. It's 12:25ish on a Friday
night and I'm in Station 51, fourth chair from the door leading out to
the bay, seven feet nine inches from the window next to me, exactly."
he pointed, without opening his eyes from where he was slumped.

Bob Bellingham narrowed his own eyes in doubt where he was scratching
Henry's broad upturned belly enthusiastically on the couch. He got up,
grabbed the yardstick from the chalkboard, and started measuring the
air distance from that wall, end over end with it, until he reached the crease
on Kelly's sleeve. He finally cocked his head in admiration as he peered
at the final tick mark. "He's dead on, Craig." he said, pursing his lips.

Kelly lifted a surrendering palm to the ceiling."How's that for being oriented
to time and place." he grunted tiredly without moving a millimeter.

Brice's mouth flopped open. "How did you do that?"

Chet scoffed. "I am a seven year survivor of a dozen Captain Hookraider
fill in shifts from H*ll, that's how. I can probably tell you the distance between
bed spread hems across the width of the floor in the bunkroom to the nearest
quarter inch, too, Brice. Be glad you aren't a Station 51 assigned regular or
else you, too, can learn this force honed skill. It's not a joy. Now shut up and
let me get some sleep." he grumbled.

Cap just raised his eyebrows in a mental shrug where he was listening in.

Craig finally turned back to his newspaper. "Okay. That sounds like a typical
Chet Kelly retort. I stand corrected."

"Yey, team.." whisper roared Bob in subtle mock as he cheered with raised
hands and elbows, trying to get a rise out of his partner using a goofy face.
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Brice only lifted his still pristine crossword puzzle up even higher until he couldn't
see Bob anymore.

Bellingham nudged Chet's feet with his own shoe, sharing the same dirt
catching paper mat."Ya could have milked out an inhalation exposure check
to the max, Chet. Why did ya pass?"

Kelly finally opened his red eyes over the arms he had crossed on top of his
chest. "Wouldn't have been any fun. Gage isn't here for me to pester to death."

Hank snorted. "No wonder you're sleeping." he sniffed. "It's a nice change of
pace though." he said.

"Hey.." Kelly protested.

"Truth is truth." Stanley shrugged mildly. "I just happen to like a little peace
and harmony around my station. Has that thought ever occurred to you?"

"Sign up for the County Examiner's spot if you want a lot of dead quiet."
Chet groused. "Us guys are still breathing."

"Brice." Hank ordered.

"Yes, sir?"

"Let's put him to bed." Cap grinned softly.

Craig carefully set aside his paper and rose.

Bob joined him. "Come on, Cheerful. Let's tuck you in for a nap." he
said to the oblivious Chet.

"Idon'twannawalk." Kelly slurred.

"That's okay, we'll carry you." Bellingham said. And together, he
and Craig hefted up Chet, chair and all, between them by the handles.

Barking, Henry happily escorted the trio, nipping ankles playfully to help
them along their way.

"Night, Chet!" Marco called out, waving as he read a National Geographic
magazine over coffee.
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From: patti k (
Sent: Sat 9/18/10 10:13 AM
Subject: Chemistry

Johnny Gage had just finished changing into his street clothes
at Mayfair. He zipped up his leather jacket as defense against
the late evening's chill.

He was about to leave for the parking lot and his rover for the
night when a shadow joined him at the entrance to the ambulance
door leading into Rampart's ER.

It was EMT Arnold, wearing jeans and a thick Mexican Cabana weave
pullover with a hood. "Hey, there, Gage." she waved.

"Oh,  hi Rosalie, uh, do you need an escort out to your car?"
he asked. "Security's notorious for always being too busy to
offer one almost every hour of the day or night."

The petite flaxen haired EMT just smiled.
"I don't need one. I'm a black belt and I'm packing concealed pepper.
Ponch just gave it to me."

"Oh, uh, he did?" Johnny gaped.

"Yeah. He found out where I live."

"Oh? Where's that?" Gage grinned lopsidedly. "Man, I didn't mean to pry."
he said, immediately taking a verbal backstep.

"Yes, you did." Arnold grinned, hefting up her duffle bag higher onto her

Johnny kept on gushing.
"I had... no business diving into your personal life like that. I was just
curious about you. I ask questions when... I'm curious." Gage sputtered, really
feeling his tongue trip over his teeth. "Especially when a girl's as pretty as you."

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"Oh, what about the ugly ones? Do you just walk right on by them?"

Gage choked on his reply.

Rosalie  grinned again and didn't mince words. "Ponch made a pass, too.
But he's not my type. Too macho. I really hate guys who pump up their
career life stories just to impress a girl."

"You do?" Gage floundered. ::That was gonna be my angle to start to
connect with her.:: he thought. "Well, what DO you like?" he asked. ::I can't
believe I just said that.:: he agonized mentally. But outwardly, he just schooled
his face into mild hopefulness.

"Honesty and up front truthfulness. Kind of like what you're doing right now."
she admitted, straight faced and yawning a bit.

"So I'm not coming on too strong?" he asked, not translating her mixed signals
too well.


"And I don't seem too pushy to you?"

"Nope. Your approach is refreshing. I can read you like a book."

"So I take it you get hit on a lot." Gage suggested boldly, wincing against
possible rebuttal from a crush.

"And I'm guessing that you get dumped an awful a lot." she said openly.

Gage winced, feeling nerdy.
"Yeah." Johnny sagged. "I guess I like girls so much that I just try too hard."

Rosalie cocked her head and pursed her lips, thinking. "Do you always try
to be so eager with just nurses and journalists? That's what I've heard."

"You.. heard about" Gage sputtered.

"Yeah. Word gets around." she smiled with amusement. "About who to avoid.
And who not to." she smirked, moving just a little closer. "Actually, Valerie
is my best friend, the one you used to date who had the three kids and a dog?
You and Roy took care of her after you saw her get hit by a car. I was one
of the EMTs who was there to transport her. I was waiting in the rig on
an observation ride along with Mayfair. I had just been hired and that
was my first day at work."

"And..and you saw us... that day?" he said, wanly.

"The whole thing."

Johnny blinked and blinked again. But then he just said simply. "My reputation
precedes me. I have no defense." he shrugged, giving up.

"That's okay. I like you anyway. Take my bag?" Rosalie asked, handing it out.

"Sure. Are you hungry at all? I mean, I know it's midnight, but I'm starving. Roy
didn't believe me when I told him I really needed that sandwich." said Gage, taking
her uniform duffle from her hand and flinging it easily onto his own shoulder.

Rosalie brushed her long sandy, wind blown hair out of her eyes.
"We can go to a diner. My roommate won't be back for a few hours yet.
She worries about me."

"She's not...Valerie is she?"

"No, silly. Valerie got married, remember?"

"Not really. I just seem to remember her really memorable kids." Gage
frowned. "And the fact that she was really eager to marry me."

"That's a laugh. I feel the same way you do about her parenting style." Rosalie
said. "I'm not going to be that kind of mother when I get married. For that matter,
I may not even have any kids. It's not like I have any great urge to rush off and
have babies just because my friends do. I wanna.... live a little." she shared.

"Oh, really? So do I. I mean, I do, sometimes. Oh, you know what I mean. I'm
an open book to you." He finally looked her straight in the eyes and wiped all self
consciousness away from his demeanor. "Rosalie, would you care to go out with me?
I mean, not as coworkers just to eat after work, or even friends. Well, I- I mean yes, as
friends, but also..."

".. with you like out on a first date?" Arnold interjected helpfully.

"Yeah." Gage said. "I- I wouldn't try anything."

"Liar." she smirked. "You're a hot blooded guy. And a firefighter to boot."

"Well, I'm a civilized fireman. Roys says I might be awkward with women but that I
also possess some manners as a.. compensating, saving grace despite my
career choice." he offered, nervously clearing his throat.

"He does, does he?" Arnold grinned. "I'll just have to test that later by asking DeSoto
about it, now won't I?"

"Feel free. I keep no secrets from him."

"Just Chet." Arnold suggested, teasing.

Johnny sputtered again. "How'd you find out about him and me?"

"Like I said. Word gets around. Firefighters gossip about female Mayfair EMTs and
we gossip..."

"....about male firefighters. I got it." Johnny frowned ruefully.

Rosalie shrugged. "It's a two way street."

Johnny suddenly snapped his fingers, suspicious. "Stoker. He's been talking to you."

"So what if he has? He's my friend, too. He cares about your happiness."

"Since when does an engineer ever care about a paramedic? Beyond just business?"

"Mike says that when you're happy, only then is the whole station happy. Whatever
that means."

Johnny cleared his throat again. "I... have a tendency to.. emote a little." he said, putting
his hands onto his blue jeaned hips.

"Roy told me." Rosalie chuckled.

They stared at each other, only moving out of the way for Rampart staff coming or
going out of the busy ambulance doors.

"Look, are we gonna be an item? Or not?" he finally asked, tossing a finger back and
forth between their stomachs. "I know, I'm a typical impatient, rutting male."

"Gage, I think it's sweet. Shall we go eat?" she said, letting him off the hook.

He stared at her, looking for a female ploy. ::You're not a book to me, I'll have you
know.:: he thought privately to her. He sighed in relief when her eyes started twinkling
merrily. "I'll follow your feet." Gage said, finally relaxing, seeing only genuine attraction
there. "Hey! We just made our first poem, Rosalie. Did you hear that?"

"I'll carve it into a tree." she said with amusement, offering him her hand easily.

"Hey, you're cold."

"Not any more." she smiled.
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From: patti k (
Sent: Sun 9/19/10 12:35 AM
Subject: Smoted..

In the parking lot, Ponch turned to Jon Baker as they put on
their helmets and checked their motorbikes. "Do we need to
report back to Central that we've been released from our
Mayfair ride along observation day?" Frank asked.

Baker thought about it. "Nah. They've already got our
schedules down for the whole summer, barring any sudden

"Oh, you mean like the tunnel fire." Ponch said, putting on his
leather gloves.


Ponch got on his cycle. "I have a feeling we're gonna get called
away from our daily routine more often."

"Of course." said Jon. "We're doing two jobs at the same time.
Just like the fire department."

"Nuh Uh. Not them. I heard that their battalion chief assigned a
pair of replacements." Frank commented. "They're not bad guys
to work with. And boy, do they know their stuff. I like that." he grinned
toothily. Then he noticed something. "Hey! That's Rosalie!" he said
out loud, seeing her in the gloom of the dark lot.

She turned and waved at the sound of her name.

Johnny turned, too, smiling. And then he put his arm around Arnold
possessively, on purpose, as they hurried away for food. Together.

"That fink!" Ponch cursed, shoving un-needed sun glasses away into
a pocket fold. "He stole my future girlfriend." he said, glaring at them
as they walked.

Jon just shrugged. "That's just it. Arnold's not your girlfriend." Baker
said with a smile.

"Yet." Ponch spat. "And I know how the fire department works once
they get their greedy little hooks on you or something of yours after
they put their minds to it!"

Baker just chuckled. "Yeah, they never let go and they never give up."
he said with admiration. "I like that."

"And I hate that." Ponch moped, still angry. "Gage just cost me my pepper
spray can."

"You can always get a new one from Requisitions. Tell them you lost it trying
to get that teenager out of that burning car today."


"Why not?" Jon asked.

"Because I really lost it to a very beautiful, safety needy lady I thought I
could really care about." he said, his lower lip quivering with tears that
nearly overcame him.

Baker froze in his pre-checks, really studying Ponch's face. "You learned all
that about Rosalie in just one day?" he gaped.

"Yeah, it was love at first sight." Ponch sniffed.

"Not for her it looks like." Jon finally said when he saw her reclasp hands
with Johnny as he guided her genteelly into the driver's seat of a green
AMC Matador.

Poncherello finally relented. "Ah, you win some, you lose some, partner." he
beamed. "What do you think I did wrong?"

"You tried too hard." Baker said, revving up his ignition in a test. "See you in
the morning, bright and early."

"Yeah, in about five hours." Frank groused, still remembering the smell of
Rosalie's freshly washed hair with sadness. "See you then."

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"So how did it go?" Kel asked as he settled in with a glass of wine at
Dixie's place, on a couch. He opened the afghan he had draped about himself
invitingly to her, noticing her fatigue and chill hunched body posture.

McCall dove under his warm arm and curled up next to him but refused an
offered sip of his Cabernet.  She snuggled down, cheek to cheek with him
companionably. Dixie sighed. "We had a gruesome death on a scene
already. So it wasn't such a nice first day as an ambulance company manager."

Kel hugged her and kissed Dixie's head. "I'm sorry, hon. How'd they take it?"

"Bad. Roy and Johnny had to run the usual interference. But these EMTs are
so green, I'm not sure that it did any good."

"Yeah? Well, you'll find out in the morning at any rate." Brackett said.

"Find out about what?"

"Oh, probably how many decided not to come back for another go." he replied.

"Are you saying if they quit or not? Kel, these are really good people. They really
really care about being a part of the business. I got that feeling from all of them
right away. Very strongly."

"If so, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about." Kel smiled, kissing her nose.
"Come on. Let go. Relax. I'll watch you sleep and wake you at four thirty in time for

Dixie never remembered lowering her heavy head onto Kel's shoulder before she
washed away into a blissful, deep slumber.

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Joe Early decided he had gotten off lucky being the only on call M.D. specialist
besides Kel not working a double shift. He felt well rested and ready to handle
anything. ::Anything except this.:: he thought.

The smoothly running, well organized emergency room of Head Nurse Sharon Walters,
was no longer that. ::It's not her fault. We just got busy.:: Joe reasoned inside. ::Same
as always.:: He turned back his attention onto his current patient seated on a treatment

"My dogs are howling, I tell you! And others all over the neighborhood! And my headache
is back. Don't you know what that means, doctor?" she wailed, upset.

Joe set down his chart meaningfully as he put on his best professional smile. "Mrs. Barton.
All of your tests have come back negative. Your brain scan's fine. X-rays are normal.
You check out. So does all of your labwork. You are not having another stroke."

"Really?" said the fifty something, tearful, slight woman.

"Really." he beamed.

"Well, the last time the dogs started howling everywhere, I had the big one."

::Not big enough.:: came Joe's unbidden thought. He squashed it immediately.
"When was that?" Dr. Early asked.


Joe sighed and dropped his head. "Mrs. Barton."

"What, doctor?" she asked breathlessly, fearful.

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"Go home. You'll be okay. The dogs have to stop barking sometime, don't they?"
he blinked pleasantly.

"Well.." she sighed, studying her own flowing EKG rhythm on a nearby monitor. "If
you say so. If you think that's best. All right." she nodded timidly.

"Okay." Joe said, expansively clapping his hands together. The woman jumped.
"I'll have Sharon draw up your discharge paperwork. Hang on, just a sec for that."
he said, backing out of the room. He winced when the wall of loud chaotic noise
outside returned once more to assault his ears after the peace of the treatment
room.  "Sharon." he called out to Walters as the crowded emergency room was
quickly sorted out. "Sharon!" he yelled louder as she directed arriving stretcher
traffic to preplanned out destinations.

"Yes, Joe? Sorry, I'm--"

"Who's next?" Joe shouted over the din.

"The dog bite in Five."

"Dog bite? Not another one." he bemoaned.

"Fraid so. That's what caused his heart attack. But don't worry, he's stable.
The paramedics brought him back about a minute before they got here."
she grinned.

"Okay, sounds like a top priority to me. I'll be in there with him." Joe pointed,
exaggerating his gestures to be understood since voice communication wasn't
working so hot.

"I'll mark you down." Sharon shouted back with a firm nod, holding up her chart.

Joe escaped once more into someone's oasis of false quiet as he got back
to work.

The fun, was just beginning.

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From:  patti k (
Subject:   Self Analysis
Sent: Mon 9/20/10 1:35 AM

The coffee machine was working overtime in Rampart's main
staff lounge. It was four forty in the morning. Ponch, Jon,
Roy, Johnny, Dixie and Joe Early were all clustered around the
table with a breakfast brunch hosted by Mayfair Ambulance, Inc.
owners, to thank the hospital, fire and police departments for a
smooth county merger and successful first day of operation.

"Wow, this is quite a spread." said Gage, patting his stomach in
anticipation of a feast.

Roy leaned into him, whispering. "Maybe not for you and that
bottomless pit." he quipped, glancing down at Johnny's actively
rumbling interior that he could hear.

Johnny merely smiled. "I was....busy...last night." he said in a
subtle hint.

"So who's the unlucky lady?" DeSoto grinned.

"Very funny. We weren't amorous, we were.. Well, we were talking
to each other all night." he said, with a look of confusion.

"To? Not with?" Roy asked with raised eyebrows.

"Yeah. I'd say "to" because I'm not exactly sure I completely
understood half the things she said. You know, like how
she was feeling, what her thoughts were about the world at large,
how she felt about guys..."

"Oo." Roy winced in sympathy. "Now there's a toughie." he said. "I've
been married to Joanne fifteen years now and there are still days when
we either can't or don't understand one another in face to face

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Gage stopped loading food onto his paper plate. "Well then how do you
get around that to the point of finally figuring out what you both mean?"

"You muddle through." he shrugged.

Johnny wasn't satisfied. "Nah.. Different angle. When exactly did the
two of you discover that you were entirely suited for one another?"

"You just know." DeSoto smirked, realizing that his answer would bug
the snot out of Johnny. He wasn't disappointed.

"Now that's just pure craziness. You just know?" Gage gaped.

"Yep." said Dixie, who had been overhearing easily as she picked choice
bunches of grapes to go along with her eggs benedict and powdered sugar
donut. "That's about the size of it. Sorry, Johnny, but your voice carries
really well in small spaces."

"Great. Now I'm not happy, or hungry." Johnny groused, not pleased that
he wasn't getting what they already knew.

"Yes you are." said Joe Early as he looked down at another growl from
Johnny's midgut.

Dixie shifted her plate to a single hand, waitress tray style. "Tell you what."
she offered. "I'll give you a woman's intuition about your date, if I know her,
in trade for a fireman/paramedic's opinion on a certain working female
nurse we both know. Deal?" McCall asked, raising serious eyebrows as
she offered Johnny a handshake palm.

Roy watched preceedings with interest, nursing a hot cup.

Gage smiled crookedly, intrigued. "Deal." he said, accepting her grasp.  
     "Who is she?" he asked lifting his head.
     "Who is she?" Dixie said at the same time.

Johnny narrowed his eyes and cocked his jaw sidewise. "Rosalie Arnold."
he volunteered in challenge.

"Really?" Roy asked, surprised, almost spitting out his sip of coffee.

They both glared at him.

"Sorry." DeSoto said, nosing out of it.

"All right." Dixie replied, studying Johnny's face like a rival, intent and serious.
"She's me." she gestured simply.

"You're kidding." Gage gaped.
   "You're kidding." Roy sputtered simultaneously.

This time, at their mutual stares, DeSoto melted out of their closer quarters  
while raising surrendering hands of humble mute apology.

Dixie turned back to the focus of her attention. Gage was no longer chewing
any food. "I'm not kidding." she finally grinned, without moving, or breaking
her divulging stance.

Gage swallowed. "Oh. Uh. Okay." he said, thoroughly taken aback.

"You first." she pegged, narrowing her own eyes. "I've been waiting all
spring for an answer to this."

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Johnny's ill at ease did not go away. He cleared his throat. "May I ask just
one tiny one word question?" he peeped.

Dixie finally let her smile come easy and she blinked. "Sure."


McCall didn't even flinch or look away from him. "Because gray hair really
gets heavy on the head when it first starts coming in and not long after, you
begin to feel like you're over the--"

"...hill." Joe cheerfully interjected, flashing gimme more fingers while she

"..hump!" Dixie corrected, glaring at Dr. Early with a fake angry smile.
She ignored him.

"Thank you for your honesty." Gage said gravely, inclining his head. "I'll,
uh, try to answer you honestly."

"So will I." Roy said, puzzled as well, but as eager as Gage to get it right.

Dixie licked her lips and squared her feet, setting down her plate. "I'll
take whatever you two dish out." she closed her eyes. "Okay, I'm
ready." she said, clasping her hands together to still them. The first crack
of apprehension colored her voice. "Tell me" she requested,
raising her eyebrows nervously.

DeSoto's puzzlement only mounted and he was the first to touch her arm
in reassurance. "Dixie? Are you beginning to doubt your own abilities?"

She suddenly let out the breath she had been holding in a rush.
"Thankyou.Ihavemyanswer.Bye!" she blurted out quickly, snatching her
food up again. She fled to a more crowded area of the lounge without
looking back at anyone as she retreated.

Roy and Johnny just looked at each other in confusion. Still in mid
gesture and thought.

Joe nodded his head sagely. "Good answer."

Gage grumbled in irritation. "We haven't said anything yet."

"Yes, you did." Joe sniffed, still amused. "You both implied that you
hadn't noticed any difference in either her stellar career performance, or
in Dixie, for years. Same thing half the staff's been telling her for weeks,
ever since she started imagining a non-existent change in herself one day
while taking a break in the base station room."

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"Mid life crisis?" Gage guessed, floundering hopelessly.

"Women don't get those." Roy countered, shaking his head. "They get more
flexible to change with age. It comes with motherhood."

The two of them suddenly did a double take when a light bulb went off for
Roy. DeSoto stared at Joe, who quickly found the crumb scattered tablecloth
interesting beyond all distraction to the point of sharpening the creases of
already folded buffet napkins unnecessarily. Then Roy got mad. "Tell her she
can adopt my kids any day she feels like whenever she feels the need.
It's only a tiny change. She's not old yet, despite that! " he declared.

"In spite of what?" Johnny asked.

"Come on, Clueless." Roy hissed at his partner, upset at Dixie being fearful.
"Time to cash in on your side of the deal, okay?" Roy said, dragging Gage
away by the arm, hinting strongly with a head motion for Johnny to just drop it.

Early sighed and got back down to the business of eating and watching the
early morning news on the ceiling screen.

Gage was still rankled in confusion when he finally carried over his overloaded
Coronet plate full of food over to Dixie's side. Roy quickly rescued Johnny's
coffee cup when Gage had to suddenly rescue his own plate from a fatal sag
on two edges suffering the laws of gravity. He looked up at Dixie after
fumbling a little. "We're glad you're happy now. Can you help me?" he
asked, miffed for unknown reasons he couldn't identify.

Dixie was calm now, and eating hungrily. "Yes." she said, back to her old
self again. "The two of you look right, feel right, smell right--"

"Smell right?!" Johnny gaped.

Roy held up appeasing fingers. "Ah. Women do that." he suggested to
Johnny dismissively. "It's what I call the dirty diaper gene."

" you ARE right for each other." Dixie finally finished with an analyzing
flourish. "Rosalie's definitely the one."

Gage's face fell from ambivalence into one of sheer joy. "I'm happy!" he
beamed at Roy. "I never had a single doubt about her." he grinned stupidly.
Then he headed off to the banquet table to reinforce his platter with another
plate for support.

Dixie and Roy just looked at each other, slack jawed, back the way he had gone.

DeSoto broke the pregnant pause when they both turned to one another,
frowning. "Isn't that how this whole conversation got started?"

"Yes!" Dixie chuckled. "Johnny's just being Johnny." she said, getting up
from a couch to go join him.

Roy was left behind with his thoughts. "Oh, yeah?" he hollered. "Well, you're
still you!" he reinforced on the other subject that Joe couldn't share directly.

Dixie just waved a few casual fingers at him in thanks and continued on
her way, not feeling the holes Roy was burning into her back.

Across the room, Joe Early raised his coffee cup high to toast Roy's comment.
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From: patti k (
Sent: Mon 9/27/10 9:12 AM
Subject: Throat Of The Earth..

"So, partner, are you ready for another day?" asked Ponch, setting
aside his empty buffet plate.

Jon Baker contentedly sighed and stretched his long length from
where he sat on the couch. "Yep. I'm well fed. My boots are polished,
and I'm no longer doing dog duty."

Ponch just laughed. Loud and long. "Wait a minute. I thought you liked
dogs." said Frank, polishing up his smokey mirrored shades on a buffet

"Not when they're lost and I know that the pound's probably not gonna
find their owners in time."

Ponched dropped his head, his mood immediately sorrowful. "Harlan
told me you found six last night, running loose on the freeway."

"Yeah. And not one of them had a collar. It's weird that there were so many."
Baker said, exasperated.

"Did some activist free them from a life of bondage as that junk yard's watch
dogs again?"

"Nope. These are different dogs. I found them all by themselves. One by one.
It's too bad we've no direct way to find their owners."

"I'm glad Harlan isn't going to turn them over to the pound just yet.
He knows they'd be under a death sentence if we called for a pick up." Frank

"I'll take one if any are small." said Dixie. "Bonnie's son needs a buddy."
she explained. "He started howling last night for the first time."

"They're all big." Jon shared. "That's probably how they all got over
their yard's fences. I'm glad we've the space out back of CHP Central to
house them for a week or so while we make some phone calls and post

Ponch smiled proudly at that. "I'm good at guessing their names."

"And Harlan's good with a camera." Jon chuckled.

Dixie handed over ten dollars. "Here. This is to feed them. Good luck with
the hunt."

"Thanks, Dixie. Harlan will sure appreciate this. Ponch and I have already
given all we can."

"Tell Harlan I'll hand over my last meal if that's what it takes to save more.
Just how good is your placement using Ponch's knack for rediscovering

"Excellent. Last month, we had three saves out of three. Man, were
their owners happy they saw our Police for Paws flyers hanging about
their kid's school yards." Jon said.

Dixie sighed, "I love dogs. But boy, last night really challenged even my
tolerance for mischief. Beau kept waking up Kel and I as we slept
on the couch."

"Not hungry?" Baker guessed.

"Nope. His bowl was full. Water, too." McCall yawned.

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"Puppies will be puppies." Johnny chuckled.

"Beau just turned two." she countered. "He's no longer a puppy, Johnny."

Joe Early wandered over and sat down next to Dixie on the striped lounge
couch. "Glad that's over?" he asked her, about facing Roy and Johnny's
appraisal of her career and self, being sneaky.

"Yes." she answered honestly.

Ponch thought she was talking about Beau, her Yorkshire terrier.
"Ah, you'll sleep better tonight." Ponch said tossing his head. "If he's
going through a phase, he'll settle down fast enough."

Early raised his eyebrows. "What's the subject?" he asked about their

"Dogs." Jon Baker offered.

"Oh.. those." Joe sighed, rubbing his tired forehead. "Don't get me onto
that topic this morning."

"Why? Dogs're fun." Dixie asked.

"Every patient who came in last night had problems associated with dogs
in some way. They either got bit by a dog, tripped by a dog, startled into
a heart attack by a dog..."

"You're kidding." gaped Johnny Gage, joining them as he sat down onto a
nearby chair to eat. "Chet called me last night saying that Henry was acting
weird and asked me whether or not the station should call a vet for him."

"What did he do?" Dixie asked.

Gage smiled. "He took ownership of Chet's mop in the apparatus bay and
wouldn't let it go."

"He did what?" McCall laughed.

"Yeah. And he didn't even chew it up." DeSoto chimed in. He just looked at
Johnny wearily. "Kelly, called me about him, too."

Johnny's face pulled into a frown. "Maybe he's starting to get senile. I mean
nobody actually knows his real age for sure. Not even the vet. Remember how
he was a few days ago?"

"Yeah." Roy laughed. "He attacked our resuscitation manikin during a monthly
skills exercise." he told the others.

They winced in sympathy.

"Won't hurt anything." DeSoto said. "That dummy's supposed to look ripped up.
It's crafted to look massively injured."

"Not for trauma by dog teeth." Gage scoffed.

"We can paint some red around the puncture marks. The other shift's'll never
know the difference." Roy replied.

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"That could work." Johnny smiled easily. "Cap's butt will be off the hook with
Headquarters for hiding damaged property."

"He's not hiding what Henry did. The station's probably been so busy that he
hasn't had time to report it yet." DeSoto countered.

"If you say so." Gage said, inhaling another donut.

All six of them piped down when a news bulletin on the television near them
said a familiar word. "...dogs all over the neighborhood. It's like a scene
from One Hundred and One Dalmations. Callers this morning joked about
'The Twilight Bark' going on all across town. Are canines adopting the traditional
role of barnyard roosters? Only time will tell." said the newscaster.

Everyone hospital staff in the lounge laughed at the irony of the news story, recalling
their night shift involving dog owner patients.

All except Dixie. She just glanced at Joe with a suddenly disturbed face. "Joe.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"What?" he asked.

"Earthquake." she said. "I'm going to call the USGS hotline to see if they've
sent out any kind of early alert for pre-shocks."

"I didn't feel anything." Early told her. "And you're good with tremblers, too."

Dixie's frown only deepened.
"That's why I'm getting the heebie jeebies. Be right back." she said, moving
to a scanner set on top of the coffee machine. She turned it up.

Every head in the room lifted at the sound of the scanner's familiar transmission
voice. Nothing was remiss. She turned it back down.

Dixie bit her lip. "Huh." she grunted. Then she picked up the black phone on
the wall to call the agency directly for fresher news.

A minute later, she rejoined the others in front of the TV.

"So?" asked Joe. "What's the USGS's take on things. Did you tell them
about the dogs?" he joked.

Dixie directed a tongue jutting face at him and spoke. "No. I didn't. Their
staff says everything's quiet. Not much going on with any fault anywhere in the
entire state this morning."

"That's a relief after the night we've had." Dr. Early told her.

"What's going on?" asked Ponch.

"I'm not sure." Dixie said. "Guys, something must have set off all the dogs on us."

"You don't believe all that animals-predict-disaster hoopla do you, Dix?" asked Johnny.

"The vote's still out on that one. The theory's still too new." Jon Baker shrugged.

Gage got a grin on his face. "Maybe it's woman's intuition." he said spookily.

Dixie smacked him a good one on the arm.

"Hey. I'm still bruised there from all of yesterday's great fun." he defended.

Rosalie Arnold sailed into the room and immediately sought out Dixie.
"Oh, hi, Johnny. Dixie, is everything okay at the hospital? I just got the funniest
feeling a few hours ago. Something's seriously off."

"Are you sure it isn't the fact that the coffee pot's drained dry again?" Johnny
joked, taking her around the waist into a hug from where he sat in the chair.

Rosalie kissed him on the top of his head. "I'm not a caffeine addict like you
are. I'm just... poking around a little because I'm noticing something anomalous."

"The USGS says nothing on radar." McCall told her.

"Tell that to the dogs." Rosalie scoffed. "They woke me up last night. And then
all night. D*mned neighbor. I knew I should have moved out into the country."

"You still can. My ranch is plenty big enough." Johnny grinned.

"Don't rush me." Arnold smirked.

"Well.." said Joe. "There's nothing we can do until something happens, right
all?" he sighed. "We humans can't predict the future."

"Maybe we should start listening to other voices." said Dixie about the newscast.
"And plan ahead a little."

"Listen to what?" Ponch asked. "So dogs are going crazy. Maybe it's
the full moon or even some smoke finally arriving from San Bernardino
County's brush fires that's setting them all off. They go nuts for simpler
things sometimes."

Joe Early added more. "The hospital administrators won't be happy if
you call in an unscheduled Condition Orange exercise just to stock us
up in supplies and personnel based on a whim, Dixie."

Rosalie and Dixie just frowned, not comforted.

Joe Early got to his feet. He affectionately patted Dixie's knee. "Glue your
ear to the USGS alert radio if you have to today. But by all manmade
indications, all's calm on the western front." he grinned.

"That's what worries me." she mumbled. Her look was shared with Arnold.

Somewhere outside, next to Rampart, a nearby yard leashed neighborhood dog,
began to bark. His loud ansiness set off a cacaphony in others that began once
more, to spread across the city.

The sun began to peak over the horizon of the mountains, filling the Carson
City basin, with orange light.
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