Kneeling by the bio-phone, Johnny Gage shielded his eyes from the sun. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so tired but he had no time now to rest. He had to get help for Roy and they were miles from anywhere. He prayed that the bio-phone would work.
“Rampart base, this is Squad 51, how do you read?” He paused, waiting for a response. He knew that the base wasn’t manned all the time and that there could be a delay of several seconds in getting a response, but today was not the day for there to be a delay. “Rampart base, Squad 51, do you read me?” Johnny could hear the edge of panic in his voice.
“Rampart base, reading you loud and clear.”
For a moment, the sheer relief threatened to undo Johnny’s fragile composure. “Rampart base, I have a male victim, age approximately 30. He is unconscious after a traffic accident. Vital signs are…” Johnny squinted at the paper in front of him. Why couldn’t he read it clearly? He wiped sweat from his eyes and repeated the vital signs. “Rampart, be advised the victim is Roy DeSoto. The squad was involved in a collision with a deer and we are stranded.”
At Rampart hospital, Doctor Kelly Brackett frowned. “”Squad 51, have you contacted the dispatcher?”
“Uh, negative, Rampart. The radio is out of commission.” Johnny wiped sweat from his eyes again and looked over at Roy. His partner was still unconscious, but breathing well. That was about the only plus Johnny could think of. Roy had several serious injuries that required hospital treatment as soon as possible.
“Give me your location, 51,” Brackett ordered. He wrote down the reply as Dixie McCall, the head ER nurse, rang the LA county fire dispatch to up-date them. Brackett frowned again as he grasped what Johnny was telling them – they were miles away. Sending an ambulance would take too long. Roy was in a bad way – his BP was already in his boots. They needed a life flight right now. “Johnny, we’re sending a chopper out. Are you hurt?”
“Negative, Rampart,” Johnny replied. “A bit bruised, but I’m okay.”
At that Brackett’s mouth twitched. He knew that when Johnny said he was fine, he was usually the opposite. But with Roy so bad, there was no way Brackett wanted to upset Johnny. “Johnny, do you have the drug box?”
“Uh, affirmative, Rampart,” Johnny replied. He had found it quite near the wrecked squad.
“Start an IV,” Brackett ordered, telling Johnny exactly what he wanted. “Give him O2, 6 liters.”
“Negative on the O2, Rampart,” Johnny told him. He wiped the sweat from his eyes again and resumed shielding them from the sun. The sun was beating down on his bare head and Johnny was finding it increasingly difficult to see against the glare. “I… uh… I couldn’t find it.”
Exchanging a worried glance with Dixie, Kel restrained an urge to ask what had happened. “10-4, 51. We have alerted dispatch. Hang tight, Johnny and keep the line open.”
“10-4 Rampart,” Johnny agreed. He sank back onto his heels. All he could do now was wait. Then he shook his head; no, Rampart had ordered an IV. He grabbed the drug box and bit back a moan as pain shot through his shoulder. Ignoring it – it was only a bruise after all – Johnny scrambled to find the IV with Ringers that had been ordered.
It seemed to take him an extraordinary length of time to get the IV up and running. His vision kept blurring as sweat dripped into his eyes. He finally got the drip established and tucked the bag behind Roy’s shoulder. It was then that he noticed the amount of blood that was soaked into Roy’s shirt, just here and there. Alarmed, Johnny ripped open his partner’s clothing, but he couldn’t see anything that would cause that amount of blood. Sure, there were cuts and bruises, but nothing serious.
A surge of adrenalin ran through Johnny’s body. The blood must be coming from somewhere, he thought, but it didn’t occur to him that it was coming from a head wound he had sustained. Glancing over at the wrecked squad, Johnny began to shake as he remembered the accident.
They had been called out to a remote ranch for an unknown type rescue. Just before they reached it, the dispatcher had cancelled the call. Disgusted, they both removed their helmets and Roy found a place to turn the squad.
“It never fails,” Johnny groused and Roy braced himself for a full-scale Gage rant.
“I hate it when this happens, too,” Roy commented.
“I wonder what it was,” Johnny went on. He glanced at the desolate landscape around them. There were trees lining the road on one side, and another thin thicket on the other side, set back from the road slightly. The weather had been very dry and the leaves on the trees were limp and dying. The grass was sparse and brown and dust was being blown around by the breeze.
Roy didn’t answer. There was no need. Johnny could keep talking for hours without a reply being necessary. Roy smiled slightly. There were times that Johnny drove him mad with his complaining, but he wouldn’t change him for the world.
And in that instant, the world changed. Something darted out of the trees by the road. There was no time for Roy to swerve. The heavy squad hit the stag square on. The shock reverberated through the vehicle. If that wasn’t bad enough, the stag was sucked under the squad, fouling the steering. The brakes caught, then failed and the squad spun off the road, crashing though the trees before clipping a large boulder and turning over several times.
When Johnny came round, he knew only that he hurt. It took several seconds for it to register what had happened, but when he did, he bolted upright, ignoring the pain in his body. “Roy!”
His partner was slumped against the side window. Roy was bleeding from a head wound and they were both peppered with shards of glass from the windshield. It was obvious at once that Roy had broken his right arm, just from the angle it lay at. Johnny felt frantically for a pulse, relieved to find it steady, if a bit slow.
But the most worrying thing was the smell of gasoline. Johnny knew that he had to get them both out of the squad. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes as he tried to decide how to do it. The easiest way seemed to be out through the already-broken windshield. Johnny snatched up his uniform jacket, which lay at Roy’s feet and covered his unconscious partner before he knocked out the rest of the glass. He was oblivious to the cuts on his arm.
“Come on, Roy, I’m gonna move ya,” Johnny told his partner. “Its gonna hurt, but we can’t stay here.”
It did hurt, but Johnny didn’t have time to worry about his own pain. Roy remained unresponsive during the move, which had Johnny’s anxiety spiraling out of control. But at last, he had Roy a safe distance from the squad and he once more wiped sweat from his forehead before stumbling back to the wrecked vehicle to see what he could salvage from their equipment.
Not much was the answer. The biophone was wedged into the compartment and it took Johnny a few precious moments to get it loose. The drug box was lying – still shut - about 6 feet away. As Johnny grabbed it, he felt rather than saw the squad going up. The explosion knocked him off his feet and he lay there, panting desperately to get his breath back.
So now there he was, alone, waiting for rescue to come. Johnny checked Roy again and was pleased to see that his friend was now responding to pain. Johnny thought he ought to report that to Rampart, but he couldn’t make the effort. In fact, Johnny blinked; the world seemed to be moving in small circles.
“Squad 51, this is Rampart.”
“This is 51,” Johnny slurred.
At the base station, Kelly Brackett looked sharply at Dixie and Joe Early, who were with him. The concerned looks on their faces told him that he wasn’t imagining things – Johnny did sound bad. “51, the helicopter should be with you in a few minutes. How’s Roy?”
“Uh, he’s responding to pain,” Johnny replied. “Vitals are… are…” It suddenly became too much for him and Johnny slumped to the ground, unconscious.
“51! 51! Johnny, please respond!” Pursing his mouth, Kel looked at his friends. “He’s passed out.”
“Johnny, can you hear me?”
The husky female voice was very familiar. “Dix?” Johnny whispered, trying to open his eyes. He knew at once that there was a bandage over them and he tried to reach up, but his hand stayed stubbornly by his side.
“Easy, tiger,” Dixie soothed, taking his hand in hers. “Don’t move, or you’ll knock the IV out. You don’t want that.”
“Roy! Roy?” Johnny now remembered the crash. “Roy!”
“Roy’s going to be just fine,” said another familiar voice. Kelly Brackett. “Joe’s with him and he’s going to have his broken leg set.”
“He’s really… all right?” Johnny asked, subsiding slightly.
“A concussion, broken leg, broken arm and a load of stitches, but he’s all right, Johnny. He was asking for you.”
For a moment, the relief made Johnny's head swim. “What’s wrong with my eyes?” Johnny asked.
“They were full of dust and dirt,” Brackett explained. “We’ve irrigated them, but they are really irritated, so to give them a chance to heal, we covered them. Plus, you’ve got a huge gash across your forehead and your eyes were caked in dried blood. Why didn’t you tell me you were hurt?”
“Roy needed me. I didn’t notice,” Johnny mumbled. He was suddenly feeling wiped out and pain was now making itself felt all over his body. He winced miserably.
“We’ll give you something for the pain,” Brackett assured him. “Johnny, you dislocated your shoulder, too. We put it back while you were out. You’re gonna miss a few shifts, I’m afraid.”
Sighing wearily, Johnny simply nodded. He felt someone fiddling with the IV and a few seconds later, the pain began to ease. Sleep swept over him and he relaxed into the darkness, knowing that Roy was safe and going to be all right.
When Johnny next woke, his eyes were free and he opened them, seeing sunlight lying across the ceiling. Rampart again, he thought and turned his head sharply. Lying in the next bed, still sleeping, was Roy DeSoto. True, he looked bad, but so much better than when Johnny had last seen him.
The door opened quietly and Dixie came in, smiling at him. “So you’re awake at last! We thought you were going to sleep forever.”
Sheepishly, Johnny gave her his crooked grin. He did have vague memories of pushing away people who were trying to waken him. “Sorry.”
“The rest of station 51 is outside,” Dixie explained. “Want to see them?”
Eagerly Johnny nodded. Dixie turned and went out. At that, Roy stirred. “Hey, Pally,” Johnny called, cheerfully.
Looking round, Roy smiled. “Hi.” He moved slightly and winced. “Some ride, huh?”
“You got that,” agreed Johnny. “How ya feelin’?”
“Sore, but all right – thanks to you, Junior.” Roy looked at his friend and partner gratefully.
Embarrassed, Johnny was saved from making any response by the entry of the rest of the crew. They all looked concerned, especially Captain Stanley, who eyed both men sharply. He had seen them hurt too many times and had become quite adept at reading their posture to see how they were. Now, he could see they were both sore, but were going to be all right.
“I don’t think Charlie is going to be too pleased with you guys,” he greeted them teasingly. Charlie was the chief mechanic and he cherished each squad. “What was it that happened, exactly?”
Between them, Roy and Johnny told the story, putting up with the little asides the other men put in. but at last the story was told and a short silence fell. This episode had come too close to being a tragedy and they kept their thoughts private.
It was Chet who broke the silence. “Geez, Gage,” he complained. “The lengths you go to to miss my Irish stew for dinner,” he went on and everyone laughed.
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