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       Suffocation at a Snail's Pace

              by Stephanie White

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"So, Chet," Roy DeSoto said as he entered the kitchen area.
"What's for supper?"

"This chick I've been dating thinks I need to branch out my tastes,
so she gave me a French Cookbook. Thought we'd start with escargots."

Roy's eyes widened as he looked at the stocky firefighter. "SNAILS?
You're serving snails?"

Chet's eyes glinted mischievously. He nodded and then leaned in
to whisper conspiratorially, "I just want to see Johnny's reaction
after he eats them."

"You're hopeless," Roy said as he rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, but don't tell him, okay?" Chet said giving Roy his best

Roy sighed. "Fine, I won't. Who knows? He might actually like

"Good evening, Gentlemen," a voice came from the door of the
break room.

"Brice? What are you doing here?" Marco looked up from the
couch where he had been reading a book.

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"I left my sister's birthday gift in my locker. I'm taking her out to
dinner tonight and I need it."

"Why was your sister's birthday gift in your locker to begin with?"
Roy asked.

"She's been staying with me while in California and I didn't want
her to find it before her birthday."

"So, what'd you get her?" Marco asked.

"A day planner," Brice answered matter-of-factly.

"Oh, you sentimental fool you," was Chet's reaction to this revelation.

"And tickets to the symphony tomorrow night," Brice added smugly.

"Nice choice," Roy said approvingly. "She DOES like the symphony,

"Of course," Brice said haughtily. "Would I have bought the tickets
for her otherwise?"

"Good point," Chet said with a sigh, knowing he had lost that round.

"Thank you Kelly," Brice answered. "The other reason I stopped in
here is that I noticed the squad was unlocked again. You know that's
against regulations, DeSoto."

Roy rolled his eyes. He wasn't in the mood to argue, so he fished
the key out of his pocket and tossed it at Brice. "Here, you can
lock it on your way back to your locker."

"Fine," Brice said.

"I think Johnny's back there, you can give the key back to him."

"You're the one in charge of it. I'll give it back to you."

"Whatever," Roy rolled his eyes again. "Tell your sister happy
birthday from me."

"Thank you, DeSoto, I will," Brice said as he went to lock the
squad's cargo doors.

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##Station 51…Unknown rescue…1335 Grandview Road. 1-3-3-5
Grandview Road, cross street 5th. Time out: 17:52..## the voice
of the dispatcher stated after the tones faded.

Brice came running out of the locker room as the squad and
engine roared out of the bay. "I still have the key!"

With a sigh, he went to put the key on the table where Roy
would find it easily. He promptly changed his mind as he saw
the mess Chet had left. He went back to the dorm and laid
the key on Roy's pillow.


Less than an hour later, the tenants of station 51 returned.

"Man, I hate false alarms," Johnny said with a sigh. "They
always drag me away from something interesting for something

"What was so interesting?" Stoker asked as he removed his
turnout gear.

"I was just reading this mystery novel. They were about to
discover a major clue."

"You were actually reading a book without pictures?" Chet

"Yes," Johnny answered with a glare. "I know you don't read
books without pictures, but you shouldn't assume the rest of
us don't either."

"When's dinner?" Captain Stanley asked, hoping to derail the
argument he could see building. "Kelly, you're cooking…"

"Uh…right, Cap," Chet answered as he moved to the kitchen.
"It shouldn't be too long now."


Nearly an hour later, Chet finally called the men to dinner.

"'Bout time, Chet," Johnny said as he sat down. "I'm starvin'!"

"Well you, Johnny, are in for a treat!" Chet said with a grin. "A
culinary masterpiece is what we are having tonight."

"Long as it's not Pop-Tarts like last time," Captain Stanley

"Oh ye of little faith," Chet said with a grin as he began serving
the salad.

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"French dressing?" Roy looked at the stocky firefighter in the
apron. "THIS is your idea of French cooking?"

"I kinda ruined the dressing somehow," Chet admitted
shamefacedly. "But the rest of the meal will be great!"

Johnny chuckled and Roy did his best to hide a snicker. The
rest of the men didn't try so hard and actually laughed out loud.

"Yeah, yeah," Chet said indignantly. "Just eat the salads.
We got four more courses to get through."


After the salad, Chet put out six small plates, each containing
several small, dark objects smothered in a creamy sauce.

"Voila!" he said with a flourish. "Escargots in cream sauce!"

"WHAT in cream sauce?" Johnny said as he eyed his plate

"Escargots," Chet said. "It's a delicacy in France. They love
'em over there."

"Yeah, but what are they?"

"I told you," Chet said. "Escargots. Now, are you gonna try

Johnny sighed and, with the other men watching intently, picked
up his fork and tried the dish. After a brief moment where he
chewed thoughtfully, he said, "not bad. A little rubbery, but
not bad at all."

The other men chuckled as they began to eat.

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"By the way, Chet," Johnny said with a slight cough. "What IS
escargots anyway?"

Chet looked at Johnny's empty plate, shot a look at Roy - who
rolled his eyes - and said smugly, "snails."

"WHAT?" Johnny's eyes widened in horror. "I been eatin'
snails? That's disgusting! How can people eat something
that carries its house around with it?"

"You did pretty well," Chet said with an evil grin.

"That was before I knew what it was," Johnny said. "I can't

Johnny's voice trailed off as he felt his throat closing up. He
put his hands to his throat and began gasping for air.

Chet rolled his eyes. "Oh, very funny. Johnny, they're just
snails, they're not going to kill you! You don’t see anyone
else here dying, do you?"

"Come on, Junior," Roy said. "Chet was just trying to expand
your horizons some."

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Johnny kept one hand on his throat and reached out for Roy,
desperate panic in his eyes.

"Johnny?" Roy looked at his partner. "Uh, Chet…I don't think
he's faking it."

"Of course he's faking it!" Chet said certainly. "He's just
trying to get back at me for…"

"Chet," Marco cut him off. "Would he turn blue if he were
faking it?"

"WHAT?" Chet exclaimed as he looked at Johnny. Johnny
was indeed starting to develop a bluish tinge around his mouth.
"Oh, damn! Johnny?"

Stoker, who was closest to the distressed paramedic lunged
forward and caught Johnny just as he started to slide out of
his chair.

"Cap, call in a still alarm!" Roy was in full paramedic mode
by this time. "Marco, get me the drug box and oxygen from
the squad."

Roy helped Stoker lower Johnny to the floor. Johnny, who
was still conscious,
was weakly grasping Roy's arm, desperately reaching for
comfort in any form.

"Hang in there, Junior," Roy pleaded softly. "Just hang in there."

"Ambulance is on the way," Stanley said as he came back
into the room.

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"Roy!" Marco came running into the room. "The squad's
equipment is locked in. I need the key!"

"WHAT?" Roy looked up at Marco, panic beginning to show
in his eyes. "DAMN! Brice locked the squad and...I never
got the key back! Cap! Get another squad over here NOW!
Chet, start looking around. No way Brice would've left with
that key in his pocket. Marco, call Rampart on the landline.
Stoker, give me a hand with Johnny."

Roy looked down at his blue partner. Johnny had slipped
into unconsciousness. Roy did the only thing he could do;
he laid his partner flat, tilted his head back and began
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

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"Station 51, we need another squad at our location. Squad
51 is inaccessible at this time."

Captain Stanley's voice barely registered with Roy as he
blew into his partner's mouth. He was alarmed by how
much air was not getting through to Johnny's lungs. He
did the only thing he could - he blew harder.

"Come on, Partner," Roy muttered between breaths.
"Don't you give up on me now."


"You've survived snakes."


"Being hit by a car."


"A wall falling on you."


"These are goddamned snails!"


"Don't let them beat you."

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"Rampart Emergency," Dixie said briskly as she answered
the land-line. After listening for a brief moment, she said,
"Just a minute."

She motioned to Dr. Kelly Brackett as he walked by the
base station.

"Dixie?" the handsome doctor said questioningly as he
took the phone.

"Station 51," was all she said. "Code I."

"Oh Johnny," Brackett sighed as he put the phone up to
his ear. "Go ahead, 51. What is your code I?"

"Johnny's having some kind of reaction to some snails
he ate. He can't breathe. Roy's doing mouth-to-mouth
on him now." Marco's voice came over the receiver.

"51, what are his vitals?"

"Uh, we're not sure, Rampart. All the equipment is locked
in the squad and we don't have the key."


"Craig Brice has the key. The squad is locked and we
can't get to any of the equipment…including the drug box."

"In that case, tell Roy to keep breathing for Johnny. That's
all I can tell you to do at this point. Without equipment,
there's nothing else TO do."

"Why don't they have equipment?" Dixie whispered loudly.

"I'll explain in a minute." Brackett said softly as he heard a
commotion on the other end of the phone.

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