This Old House
(And The Blood Flowed Like Wine)
*Parts 1 and 3 of This Old House can be found in Kenda’s Emergency Library.
Chet Kelly took three giant steps backwards. A smile caused his mustache to twitch as he took in the sight of his home sweet home. The bungalow that appeared weathered and sad just three months ago was now becoming the talk of the neighborhood thanks to John Gage.
Though Chet wouldn’t admit it out loud, he’d bitten off more than he could chew when he’d purchased this fifty-four year old house. The day the Realtor showed it to Chet the fireman pictured what the decrepit place would look like once it was fixed up. He envisioned fresh paint on both the inside and outside, followed by new carpeting in every room. Modern bathroom fixtures would replace the Pepto-Bismol pink tub, sink, and toilet. Then would come a new sink, cabinets, and countertops for the kitchen. After that some shutters and window boxes filled with flowers to make his California bungalow look like an inviting cottage to a weary fireman after a twenty-four shift. But, long before Chet’s home could be considered his castle there was a lot of work to be done.
Chet had only thought about surface appearances when he’d purchased the house. Cleaning and painting sounded easy. He hadn’t realized the ancient electrical wiring would need to be replaced if he didn’t want to blow a fuse each time his washing machine and his Mr. Coffee were turned on together. He didn’t know tearing out bathroom fixtures meant discovering the floor underneath them was rotten and would have to be replaced. He never imagined deciding to hang new oak cabinets meant discovering the kitchen walls were crooked because of the way the foundation had settled over the years. But as a first time homeowner Chet was learning all this and more thanks to Johnny. And learning there was an order in which things had to be done. As anxious as Chet was to make his house look like a home, Johnny kept reminding him there was no use painting walls or buying carpeting until the dirty work was done.
“Chet, you don’t put down new carpeting in the living room one week only to be ripping out the windows the next. When you’re fixing up an old house you’ve got to remember two things.”
“What two things?” Chet had asked in the Station 51 locker room the day he and Johnny were engaged in this conversation.
“You start at the top and work your way down. And you start on the outside and work your way in.”
that means stuff like a new roof, and new windows, and rebuilding the sagging
porch, and putting on siding and shutters, has to be done before I can make the
inside look nice?”
“Yep. Well...the siding and shutters can probably wait, but there’s no point in making the kitchen brand new only to have water leak in the next time it rains. And unless you have your new windows custom made, which will cost you more than you earn in six months time, there’s no way you’ll find anything that’s an exact fit to the old windows you have now. Especially considering you want to replace the two long ones in the living room with a bay window. That’s gonna take some prep work first, Chet. We’re gonna have to tear out the old windows, then build a frame for the new one before we’re even ready to put it in.”
For once Chet didn’t argue with Johnny. His co-worker’s knowledge in this area far exceeded any Chet had. Though Chet was loathe to admit it, he’d come to admire Johnny’s remodeling skills. The guy could do anything from running electrical wiring to tearing out crooked walls and then rebuilding them so they were straight. Not to mention the piping. Johnny had saved Chet the expense of a plumber a month earlier by running new water pipes under the house. That act had almost cost Johnny his life when he unknowingly came into contact with an insecticide called Dieldrin. The insecticide poisoning made the paramedic dangerously ill, but fortunately his collapse happened at the station. Thanks to the emergency medical care Roy was able to give Johnny on the scene, and the tests and research Doctor Brackett did that led him to conclude Johnny had been exposed to a poisonous chemical, the paramedic made a full recovery.
It had taken Chet a few weeks to get over the guilt he felt about Johnny’s illness. Aside from the assistance of Roy and Doctor Brackett, Chet knew it was only by the grace of God that Johnny survived. On a scale of one to six, one being the least toxic and six being the most, Dieldrin rated a six. Which was exactly why the EPA banned its use in the United States the previous year. But Chet’s house was built on what once had been an orange grove like a lot of older dwellings in Southern California were. At Johnny’s urging Chet called the EPA and had a man come who tested his soil and water. Chet was told the home was safe to live in, though the man advised Chet it would be wise not to allow anyone in the crawl space. The fireman didn’t need an overpaid government employee to tell him that. Recalling how ill Johnny had been after coming into contact with the Dieldrin made Chet declare the crawl space off limits from that day forward.
Chet’s mind returned to the present as he watched his friends work. Mike, Marco, Roy and Johnny were here today to help install new windows. Even Captain Stanley had given up his Wednesday off to pitch in his talents.
They’re a good buncha guys, Chet thought as he listened to hammers pound in unison. A man couldn’t find better friends than I’ve got at Station 51. I’m gonna hate it when the day comes we all move on to bigger and better things. No matter where I go from here, I’ll never forget this crew and how close we are.
Of course, one would be hard pressed to see that closeness openly displayed.
“Hey, Kelly!” John Gage yelled through the eight by ten foot square opening that had once been two living room windows and a portion of the living room wall. “You gonna stand there and watch the rest of us work on your house, or are you gonna pick up a hammer before I have to hot glue it to your hand?”
“Stow it, Gage. I was just takin’ a minute to admire my handy work.”
Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “Your handy work?”
Chet knew better than to make a remark countering that one when every man present looked up and nodded their agreement to Johnny’s words.
Chet trudged toward the house. He watched Johnny unclip a tape measure from his belt and use it to double check the dimensions of the window frame. At the same time Johnny turned and answered a question for Mike, while holding a board steady that Marco and Roy were hammering in place.
Man, Gage is really good at this. He could be making big money as a foreman for some multi-million dollar construction firm. Hell, he could make big money working for himself doing this kinda stuff. Or showing other people how to do it on TV.
“Hey, Johnny, have you given any more thought to that TV show I was talkin’ about a few weeks back?”
“Oh, come on, Gage. I’m tellin’ ya’ it’ll be a smash. This Old House. All we gotta do is find a producer, get a camera crew together and...
“Chet, all we’ve gotta do is get this frame finished before your windows arrive. Quit worrying about a TV show that doesn’t exist, and if it did exist would have no viewers.”
“I bet a lot of people thought Julia Child had a dumb idea, too.”
“That might be true in your opinion, but I bet she’s rich.”
“Good for her. But my point is, you’re not. So if this frame isn’t done when that truck arrives with your windows then you’ll be paying the guy extra for having to wait around while we finish.”
“You know, Gage, I never knew you could be such a hard ass when it came to work.”
Hank Stanley looked up from the circular saw he was operating three feet from the house.
“I never knew that either. I’ll make a station captain out of you yet, Johnny.”
John simply smiled as he continued working. If being a station captain meant giving up his work as a paramedic he wasn’t sure he cared if such a promotion ever came to pass. Yes, it would be nice to be recognized for his skills and years of service with the fire department, but he didn’t want to imagine the day when Roy was no longer his partner, even though Johnny knew that day probably wasn’t too far into the future.
Roy can’t put two kids through college on a paramedic’s salary. Someday he’ll be forced to take whatever opportunity pays him more.
Roy glanced at Johnny as he reached out the large opening to take a board from Cap. Despite the two nails Johnny was holding between his lips Roy could see the slight frown tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“Something bothering you, Johnny?” Roy asked over the din of the screaming circular saw and pounding hammers.
Johnny reached up and removed the nails so he could speak.
“Just thinking about the future.”
part of the future? The part Cap wants
for you? Or the part Chet wants for
“Being a station captain? Or being the host of your own TV show?”
That remark changed the frown to a smile.
“Neither I guess.”
“I was just thinking I’m not all that big on giving up being a paramedic. Which is what I’ll have to do if I ever wanna advance much beyond where I am now in pay and all.”
Roy simply nodded. They’d had this discussion in the past. Until the day came when the fire department recognized the value of not having to train new paramedics when the veteran medics moved up in the ranks, Johnny was correct. It was odd to find yourself working a job you loved and found deeply satisfying on a personal level, yet at the same time being fully aware you were traveling a dead end street.
have a feeling something will change eventually,” Roy said. “Someday we’ll
be able to earn promotions without leaving the paramedic program.”
“Yeah, but will that day come soon enough for us?”
me, Junior. Guess we’ll just have to
bide our time and see. But hey, if
you’re getting anxious to move on with your life you could always take Chet up
on that TV show idea. What did he call
it? This Old House?”
“That’s exactly what I’m gonna call it,” Chet said as he climbed through the opening that would soon hold his bay window. “This Old House, with John Gage as your host.”
Johnny rolled his eyes at his partner. “You just had to get him started again, didn’t you?”
give me some credit here. I heard what
you and Roy were just talking about. If
you wanna make more money you’ll have to give up being a paramedic. So, if you have to give up doing something
you love, what better career could await you but one in television?”
“I could think of several,” Johnny deadpanned.
“Any that would involve the ability to legally shoot you and dispose of your body. Come on, Kelly, quit your jawing and pick up a hammer. We’ve got work to do.”
“I know, I know. I’ve heard you say it a hundred times in the past three months. It’s my old house, not yours.”
“Not that anyone watching would be able to guess that. Your neighbor across the street invited me to a ‘welcome to the neighborhood cookout’ next Saturday.”
“My neighbor across the street? You mean sexy Shanna? Shanna with the legs that don’t quit, golden hair like an angel’s, big come-hither bedroom blue eyes who doesn’t wear a bra Shanna?”
“That’s the one.”
“She thinks you live here.”
“That seems to be her impression, yes.”
you didn’t tell her differently?”
“Hell, no. I’m over here so much lately I do feel like I live here. You’re not payin’ me a dime, so I might as well get some benefit for my labor.”
“Gage, I can’t believe you’d let Sexy Shanna think...”
Before Chet’s tirade could go any farther a supply truck rumbled down his residential street. The words Barker Windows were clearly visible on the truck’s doors.
Chet’s bickering match with Johnny was forgotten as he scrambled out the open living room wall.
“Hey, my windows are here! My windows are here!”
The men left behind simply looked at one another and laughed.
“I wish latrine duty got him this excited,” Cap joked.
The men put down their tools and headed for the truck. The back of the vehicle was a flatbed surrounded by metal bars. A yellow hook and chain mechanism sprouted from the center. The square windows that would go in the kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms were individually packed in thick cardboard boxes and strapped to the truck’s bed. Once the truck’s driver got the metal bands undone that were holding the windows in place, the men would be able to lift the boxes and carry them to the appropriate opening in Chet’s home. The big bay window would be handled differently. Its box was sitting up and strapped to the truck’s metal bars. The window weighed three hundred pounds. Because of its size the window would be removed from its box, then hoisted from the bed by the big metal hook and carefully guided to the ground under Johnny’s direction.
With six men present it didn’t take long for the smaller windows to be unloaded. Once they’d been carried to their destinations the firemen returned to the truck. Chet indicated for the young driver to take instructions from Johnny.
you back this up within about six feet of the house?” Johnny asked.
This was just the second day on the job for the nineteen year old man whose round shirt patch said his name was Dan. Dan wasn’t about to admit he had doubts regarding his ability to do anything requested of him.
“Sure. No problem.”
“Great. Then we’ll have you lower the window to
us. While it’s still on the chain we’ll
guide it into the opening.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Dan agreed, just happy there was someone on this job site who was more knowledgeable than himself. He hopped in the cab of the truck, took a few seconds to secure his long brown hair into a ponytail using a rubber band he had on the dashboard, then started the vehicle and backed it into the street.
Johnny told Mike, Marco, and Cap to go into the living room. Roy and Chet would remain outside with him. Between the six of them they’d slide the window into place and then secure it.
Roy and Chet stood back as Johnny guided Dan with motions of his left hand. The rear of the flatbed slowly inched itself toward Johnny.
“That’s good! Keep her coming! Keep her coming!”
When the truck was six feet from the opening Johnny held his palm up.
Dan shut the truck off, put the parking brake in place, then jumped from the tall cab. He and Johnny climbed onto the bed. Dan used tin shears to cut the metal straps that were holding the window to the truck’s side while Johnny used his utility knife to cut away the cardboard. Chet’s eyes widened when his beautiful window was revealed. Again, in his mind’s eye he could see just how this house was going to look when the remodeling was finished...say in about two years.
Johnny took a step back. “There she is Chester B.”
“And quite a lovely sight, too.” Chet said. “When it comes to this remodeling stuff I’ve got excellent taste if I do say so myself.”
Three heavy metal bands wound around the window. The wood between the frame and the straps was protected by thick blocks of foam rubber.
Though Dan had yet to use the truck’s hook to hoist anything, he spoke like this was a job he’d been doing for years.
“The hook will go right here around this middle band. Once it’s secured I’ll get in the truck and start lifting it. Can you help guide me again so I clear the bars?”
Johnny hopped off the back of the truck. Neither he nor his co-workers paid attention as Dan fitted the hook through the thick band surrounding the middle of the window. Dan dropped a metal gate over the hook. The gate had been installed as a safety precaution the previous year. When latched, it prevented anything from falling off the hook. But if the gate wasn’t latched a person ran the risk of dropping a customer’s one thousand dollar window and shattering it into far too many shards of glass to count.
Johnny stood three feet from the driver’s side of the truck with Chet and Roy another three feet behind him. Mike, Marco, and Hank watched from their vantage point in Chet’s living room.
“Okay!” Johnny called. “Take her up!”
Dan started the truck again. There was a long pause before the men heard the power-take-off unit kick in. Another long pause followed before the window started rising with jerky movements.
Chet pursed his lips as his eyes followed the window’s spasmodic travels.
I hope to hell this kid knows what he’s doing. If my window ends up breaking ‘cause of something stupid he does I swear I’ll have his long-haired hippie hide.
Johnny was beginning to wonder, as well, just how familiar this young man was with the workings of the truck. He was about to suggest Dan trade places with Mike Stoker when the window cleared the metal bars.
“Okay, clear!” Johnny called, as he took a couple steps toward the open driver’s window. “Now take it up about five more feet, then swing it back toward the house. I’ll let you know if you’re getting too close. When I say lower it, go ahead and bring it to the ground.”
Johnny’s instructions left Dan confused as he reached for the gearshift on the PTO drive.
Did he say swing it back, or take it up, or drop it down? Damn, I don’t remember.
Without meaning to, Dan tried to do all those things at one time. He shoved the gearshift in one direction, only to decide he should have shoved it in another, and then another. He heard an indignant, “Hey!” shouted by the curly headed guy with the mustache, and could only imagine that he’d just caused the window to bounce and sway with reckless abandon.
Please don’t let me lose this job. Please don’t let me lose this job. If I lose another job my dad’s gonna make me join the Marines.
Chet’s cry caused Johnny to turn around for a brief second. That second was all the jerking window needed to pop the metal gate open and work itself free of the unsecured hook. Johnny wasn’t sure which of the men in the living room yelled, “Look out!” but by the time the paramedic realized what it was he was supposed to be looking out for it was too late.
Johnny glanced up to see the window rocketing down like a torpedo. He turned to run, catching a glimpse of Roy and Chet doing the same thing. He felt something heavy smash against the lower portion of his left leg. The pain caused Johnny’s leg to collapse beneath him. The force of the blow flipped the paramedic’s body as he fell. Johnny closed his eyes, unable to watch as the window came down on top of him.
Roy and Chet were still running when they heard Marco scream, “Johnny!”
Up until this point Roy thought his friend was right behind him. He turned around, momentarily stunned by the sight that awaited him in Chet’s front yard.
Johnny was lying face up underneath the heavy window frame. Broken glass littered his body like snowflakes glistening in the California sun. At some point Johnny, either through quick thinking or simple reflex, had thrown his arms over his face. That act had prevented glass from getting in his eyes, and had deflected the window’s frame from his skull. The upper portion of the frame rested a foot above Johnny’s head. The lower portion rested across his shins. Roy briefly wondered if his partner’s legs had been broken by the impact of the heavy frame pinning them to the ground, but right now that wasn’t his biggest concern. As he raced to Johnny’s side Roy’s biggest concern was the piece of jagged glass sticking up from the left side of Johnny’s chest like a well-aimed arrow.
The first thing Roy did was scream, “Don’t touch him!” to the men gathering around the fallen paramedic. Regardless of how bad things looked, Roy knew he had to assess Johnny’s condition before they attempted to lift the heavy frame.
“Chet, get me towels, sheets, blankets...anything and everything you’ve got! Marco, if no one’s called this in do it now! We’re gonna need all the help we can get!”
Neither man answered Roy, but they both ran for the house on his commands. Roy grabbed the work gloves from his back pocket that he’d been wearing earlier. He put them on as he knelt beside his semi-conscious partner.
“Johnny, don’t move! Don’t move. Let me have a look at you.”
“Off.” Johnny’s head rolled back and forth beneath his arms as pain began to assault his nerve endings. “Get...it...off.”
“We will. But I need to have a look at you first.”
Roy glanced up and spoke quietly.
“Mike, hold his legs. Whatever you do, don’t let him move. Cap, do the same with his arms.”
The two men nodded. Glass crunched beneath their boots as they hurried to do Roy’s bidding. Mike placed his hands on Johnny’s ankles, keeping his grip firm but loose for the time being. Since Johnny’s arms were still resting on the upper portion of his blood speckled face Cap didn’t attempt to reposition them. He simply laid his hands on top of Johnny’s forearms and said, “It’s gonna be okay, pal. Let Roy check you out, then we’ll get this thing off of you.”
“I know, I know,” Cap soothed as Roy carefully brushed and picked glass from Johnny’s body. “But try to relax.”
Johnny found relaxing to be difficult at best. Even the slightest movement caused glass still dangling from the window’s frame to slice into his chest and abdomen. If someone didn’t know the T-shirt Johnny had put on that morning was pale blue, the person would think it had been red. Blood red. Johnny’s denim Wranglers afforded his lower body more protection than the cotton T-shirt afforded his upper body. Johnny couldn’t feel any blood seeping through his jeans the way he could feel it seeping through his shirt.
Marco and Chet arrived back at the same time. Blankets, towels, and sheets were laid a few feet from Roy’s patient as Marco reported, “I called it in.”
Roy merely nodded at that news before issues furthering instructions.
“Chet, put your gloves on and help me get this glass off him. But whatever you do, don’t touch that piece in his chest.”
When no helping hands joined Roy’s he barked, “Chet!”
Marco saw the way Chet’s hands were shaking and the hint of shock surrounding his eyes. He reached for his own gloves as he raced around to the opposite side of Johnny’s body from where Roy was working.
“I’ll help you, Roy.”
Hank glanced up to take in Chet standing a few feet behind Roy, and then the wide-eyed Dan standing outside the truck. He figured it was a toss up as to which of them looked the most upset.
Roy could only attribute luck to being the reason the glass piercing Johnny’s chest wasn’t still attached to the window frame.
Thank God it broke free. At least we can get this thing off of him. If it was still attached to the frame I don’t know what we’d do.
For the next few minutes Roy and Marco gingerly broke glass free from the window frame and tossed it aside until the frame was empty of anything that could further cut Johnny.
“Roy?” Cap asked, when he sensed the paramedic was ready to make a decision.
“Until we get this frame off him I can’t tell if his legs are broken or not, but all the injuries from the glass seem to be fairly superficial except for that one.”
Hank could feel Johnny trying to left his head.
Roy’s eyes met his Captain’s for a brief second, then he spoke to his partner.
“Johnny, you’ve got a piece of glass piercing the left side of your chest.”
“I...I figured as...as...much,” Johnny rasped. “Hurts...hurts like hell.”
“I know. But that also means I can’t remove it. We’re gonna have to let them do that at Rampart. I don’t see any other serious injuries, though. Do you hurt anywhere else?”
“Not...no. My legs...are kinda...numb, but no...Roy, just...just pull it...pull it out. Please.”
“Johnny, I can’t do that.”
“Yes...yes, you can. Tell Brackett I said...I said it’s...okay.”
“I have a feeling your authority won’t hold much weight with Doc Brackett in this case, partner,” Roy teased with a light tone to his voice, “so you let me decide what can and can’t be done.”
Roy knew it was going to take all of them to lift the frame from Johnny. He glanced down the street, praying to see a fire engine and squad. He glanced over his shoulder at Chet while fishing his car keys out of his pocket.
“I’ve got a First Aid kit in the trunk of my car that includes a stethoscope and B/P cuff. Bring it to me.”
Chet snared the keys Roy held out to him and ran for the paramedic’s sports car. He found a black bag in the trunk like the medical bags doctors carry. Chet brought it back to Roy’s side. Roy removed his work gloves, then opened the bag and took out the equipment he wanted. There wasn’t much in here that would help Johnny. If Roy was able he’d contact Rampart via the bio-phone, and from there receive instructions to start an IV with Ringers Lactate and give Johnny a few milligrams of MS for the pain. But Roy wasn’t able to do any of those things so he settled for monitoring his friend’s vital signs.
“Cap, you can let go of his arms now. But be ready to grab them if he reaches for that glass.”
Hank nodded. He wanted to reach for that ugly shard of glass piercing Johnny’s chest as well, but knew for the sake of their patient he couldn’t.
Both Hank and Roy were on guard as the captain released his grip on Johnny’s arms. The upper portion of Johnny’s face was injury free, but he had a long slice on his left forearm that was bleeding freely. Roy held out a hand.
“Chet, give me a towel.”
Roy felt the terry cloth towel being placed in his palm. He folded it once, then wrapped it around Johnny’s forearm in a makeshift bandage. He secured the blood pressure cuff above it and pumped the ball. His first instinct was to frown at the reading, but when he saw Johnny watching him he smiled instead.
“Doing good, partner,” Roy lied. Without lifting Johnny’s shredded shirt, and being careful not to come in contact with the glass in his chest, Roy placed the stethoscope against Johnny’s upper torso.
“Roy...this thing is really...killin’ my legs. Get it...get it off.”
“As soon as 36’s arrive we will,” Roy promised, speaking of the station he knew was closest to Chet’s house.
“No. Don’t wanna...wait. Juz...juz...get it off.”
“We will, Johnny,” Roy promised as he watched his friend slip deeper into shock. “We will.”
When more time passed and Roy heard no sirens he looked at Marco.
“You said you called it in?”
“Damn. How long has it been?
“Ten minutes I’d say.”
Roy chewed on his lip as he took Johnny’s blood pressure again. He motioned for Chet to take his spot.
“I need to talk to Cap. Keep him calm and quiet. Whatever you do...”
“I know. Don’t let him touch that glass.”
Roy started to stand.
Roy knelt back down and placed an arm on Johnny’s shoulder.
“I’m right here, Junior. I just need to talk to Cap for a minute.”
The sun prevented Johnny from getting a good look at Roy’s face, but what little he could read of his friend’s expression told him Roy was awfully worried about something. Johnny licked at his dry lips. He fought back the urge to shiver and wondered how he could be so cold on such a warm day.
“I...I..thought maybe you were...steppin’ out for ice cream. Was gonna...gonna tell you...bring me back...choc...chocolate malt.”
“No, I’m not stepping out for ice cream, but as soon as Brackett gives the okay I’ll get you that chocolate malt.”
knew Johnny wasn’t talking about ice cream now, but in that one word was
asking, “Will this be over soon, Pally?”
“Yeah,” Roy nodded as he squeezed his partner’s shoulder. “Soon, Junior. Real soon.”
“Good. ‘Cause I’m...kinda...kinda gettin’ tired...of bein’...bein’ Chet’s window frame.”
“I bet you are. And speaking of Chet, he’s going to keep you company while I talk to Cap for a few minutes. Okay?”
Roy relinquished his spot to Chet. He and Hank walked several feet before they stopped to talk. Roy made sure their backs were to Johnny so no words would carry to him.
“Cap, we can’t wait much longer. I don’t know what the hold up is with 36’s, but his B/P is dropping fast.”
“Meaning he’s bleeding internally.”
“From the glass in his chest,” Hank guessed.
“Cap...Cap, I think there’s a strong possibility it’s pierced his aorta.”
Hank Stanley didn’t have to ask any questions about that. He was smart enough to know the aorta was the main artery in the body that carried blood from the heart to all other organs. And even if he hadn’t been smart enough to know that, the look on Roy’s face would have told him as much.
do you want us to do?”
“We’ve got to get that frame off him. After that...after that if there’s no squad or ambulance here we’ll have to drive him in ourselves. That act means taking one hell of a risk with his life, but we’re rapidly running out of choices here. If he doesn’t get to Rampart soon he’s going to di...,” Roy paused there, until able to say the word die for some reason. Instead, he finished with, “He won’t pull through this.”
The one thing Roy DeSoto had long admired about Hank Stanley was his ability to make a decision even while under tremendous pressure. When action needed to be taken Cap never hesitated.
“Let’s do it then. You tell us how, and we’ll get the job done.”
“I’ll cover him with blankets as best I can first, then we’ll just lift the frame straight up and carry it off of him. I know it’s gonna be heavy, but I don’t trust that hook.”
“Neither do I at this point, pal.”
Roy and Cap rejoined the men gathered around Johnny. Roy issued instructions that were quickly followed. They carefully covered Johnny’s body with blankets in the event any small bits of glass Roy and Marco might have overlooked shook free from the frame when they moved it. Once again the men avoided coming in contact with the glass piercing Johnny’s chest as they worked.
Roy knelt by his partner’s head.
“Johnny, we’re gonna lift this thing off of you. I’ll cover your face with a couple towels so you don’t get cut any more than you have been, okay?”
Johnny’s eyes were glazed and unfocused, but he seemed to understand Roy’s words.
‘Kay. Do I...do I...look like...I
cut...cut myself shaving?”
“You might say that. That is if you’ve taken to shaving with chunks of your living room window.”
“I’d laugh...but it hurts...hurts too much.”
Roy gave Johnny’s shoulder a light pat. “I know, partner. I know.”
By now two of Chet’s neighbors had been drawn to the yard by the commotion.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” One of the men asked.
Chet made short work of explaining what they were going to do. Roy was grateful for the extra hands. It meant he could remain free to help Johnny while the window was moved away.
Hank waved Dan over. The young man seemed reluctant to move away from the truck, but the Captain urged, “Come on! We need your help, too. The more of us there are to lift this, the easier it will be.”
Roy directed everyone as to where they were to stand. He made sure one of the Station 51 crew, in this case Hank Stanley, was positioned the closest to the left side of Johnny’s chest. The last thing he needed was someone accidentally making the dangerous injury there worse. Roy nodded to his captain to give further directions.
“On my count of three we lift the window frame straight up,” Hank said. “We’re not going to step over John, but instead we’ll walk it down his body until we’re far enough away that we can set it in the yard. Whatever you do, watch where you’re going and don’t accidentally jostle him. If he cries out in pain, which he might do when we lift it off his legs, don’t stop your movement unless I tell you to.”
Roy had made certain to intersperse one of his co-workers between each of the civilian helpers. He knelt by Johnny’s head with towels in his hands.
“I’m gonna have to step out of the way for a few seconds, Johnny, just until they get this frame off of you. Then I’ll be back.”
Roy wasn’t certain if Johnny was kidding or not when he said, “Prom...promise?”
“Good. ‘Cause...’cause I don’t wanna see...see Brice lookin’ down at me when...those...those towels come off.”
“Not a chance.”
Roy gave his partner a final smile before covering his face and neck with two bath towels. He stood then and stepped away.
“Go ahead, Cap. Let’s get this done.”
Hank nodded. He and the rest of the men bent to grab their sections of the window frame.
“Okay, men. On the count of three. One...two...three.”
On three everyone lifted as instructed. Just like Cap predicated Johnny cried out as the frame came off his legs, but no one stopped their progress.
The men barely cleared Johnny’s upper body with the frame before Roy dove for his side. He grabbed his friend’s wrists and held them to the ground.
“No, Johnny! Stop it! Stop it! You’ll hurt yourself!”
Johnny withered in Roy’s grasp, knocking the towels askew that covered his face. If he couldn’t sit up and rub his tingling legs then he wanted to pull that thing out that was making his heart throb in a bizarre and uncomfortable way with every beat it gave.
“Guys! I need some help!”
The men made quick work of putting the frame down once it cleared Johnny’s body. The Station 51 crew ran to Roy’s side. Without being told what to do they each grabbed one of Johnny’s limbs and pinned it against the ground. Johnny continued to arch his back while giving cries that were rapidly growing weak and incoherent.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Roy said as he took another blood pressure reading. “His B/P’s dropping fast and he’s having trouble getting air. He’s going to go out on us any second here. Mike, we’ll need to use your pickup to take him to Rampart.”
Roy looked over his shoulder at Chet’s neighbors.
“Can you guys take these blankets and towels to that blue Dodge pickup parked at the curb?”
“Sure,” the men responded as one.
“Spread one of the blankets out in the bed, then leave everything else piled in a corner.”
As the men did what Roy asked he turned to Marco. “Call Rampart and tell them we’re bringing Johnny in. See if you can talk directly to Dixie or Brackett. If they’re not available ask for Joe Early or Mike Morton.”
“Got it,” Marco acknowledged while running for the house.
“And call dispatch and find out where the hell 36’s and that ambulance are! If there’s been some screw up, see if they can meet us enroute!”
“Will do, Roy!”
The blond paramedic did a quick check of Johnny’s legs. He couldn’t detect any broken or crushed bones. As Roy had predicted he would, Johnny finally lost the battle to remain conscious, which at this point Roy knew was for the best.
“Guys, I need you to lift him straight up just like you did the window. I’ll have one hand on his back and one on his chest in an attempt to keep this glass from shifting. You’ve got to move slow and steady with him all the way to the truck.”
Everyone nodded as they took up positions around Johnny’s body with Roy remaining by his left side. Chet supported Johnny’s head and neck as they once again lifted on Hank’s count of three. The neighbor who was carrying Johnny’s ankles acted as a spotter, verbally guiding everyone through the yard and to the driveway in an effort to make Johnny’s trip to the truck as smooth as possible.
Roy managed to keep his hands on Johnny’s chest and back as they lifted the now unconscious paramedic onto the bed of Mike’s Dodge. Roy climbed up beside his friend, with Chet squeezing in on Johnny’s right side and Hank taking a position at Johnny’s feet.
“Mike, I hope I’m not asking the impossible when I say give us a fast, smooth ride to Rampart.”
Roy wasn’t surprised by the engineer’s answer.
“No. You’re not asking the impossible.”
While Hank and Chet covered Johnny with two blankets Roy took his blood pressure again. The last sight Roy had of Chet’s house as they pulled away from the curb was of broken glass sparkling on the front lawn like diamonds.
Thank God for Marco, Roy thought as Mike backed the Dodge up to Rampart’s ER doors. The truck hadn’t even come to a halt before two orderlies ran out with a gurney followed by Kelly Brackett, Joe Early, and Dixie McCall. Under Brackett’s direction they got Johnny transferred from the truck to the gurney without causing him further harm.
Roy followed the gurney into Treatment Room 1. He answered the doctors’ questions about the accident, and told of what help he’d given Johnny at the scene, while assisting Dixie with starting the IV’s Brackett ordered. Within seconds of completing that job Dixie was calling for a portable X-ray unit and for an Operating Room to be put on stand-by. Roy heard Brackett mention the name of a cardiovascular surgeon he wanted paged, then heard him tell Dixie to get six units of Johnny’s blood type down to the ER stat.
Roy stayed in the treatment room offering the doctors and nurse what assistance he could until the X-ray unit arrived. He had no choice but to step out then. Though Johnny remained unconscious, Roy patted his friend’s arm as he passed. In a voice too soft for anyone else to hear he pleaded, “Hang in there, partner. Hang in there.”
Marco had arrived at Rampart at some point while Roy was in the treatment room with Johnny. He and the rest of the men from Station 51 were gathered in the ER’s waiting area. They looked up when they saw Roy headed their way.
Chet couldn’t contain his question.
“They’ve got him stabilized, but that’s about all I can tell you. They’re doing X-rays right now, but Brackett suspects the same thing I do.”
“That the glass punctured his aorta,” Cap said.
“Yeah. There’s no doubt he’s losing a lot of blood internally. They’ve got OR on standby and Brackett’s talking to a cardiovascular surgeon right now. I imagine as soon as they determine the extent of the injury they’ll be taking him up for surgery.”
“And?” Chet asked.
are his chances?”
Roy shook his head.
“I don’t know, Chet. A wound like that...well, it’s serious. They’re going to be dealing with the loss of a tremendous amount of blood volume. They’ll have to get the damage repaired quickly, and replace what Johnny’s lost just as quickly.”
“So he might not make it.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But that’s what you’re thinking. I can tell by the look on your face that’s what you’re thinking. Damn! Me and that stupid old house anyway. Now for the second time in two months Johnny’s been hurt helping me.”
“Chet, come on,” Hank said, “don’t do this to yourself. I have a feeling what happened today had more to do with incompetence on the part of that young driver than anything else.”
“Maybe so...but, still...”
“But nothing. Right now Johnny needs your support as opposed to your guilt. When things calm down I think you’d better have a talk with the management at Barker Windows. Not only do they owe you a new window, but I believe they’d be wise to pay whatever portion of Johnny’s hospital bill our department insurance doesn’t cover.”
I suppose Barker Windows owes me and Johnny at least that much, huh?”
“At least that much and then some, pal.”
When the conversation between Chet and Hank ended Roy looked at Marco.
happened to 36’s?”
“They got caught in the middle of a fifteen car pile up on the freeway. Bellingham called it into dispatch and requested another squad be sent to Chet’s, but it hadn’t arrived by the time I left.”
“That could have made the difference,” Roy said softly.
“A squad getting there. It could have made the difference in regards to whether Johnny lives or dies. I couldn’t do anything for him other than offer the kind of First Aid a kid learns in Boy Scouts. I...”
“Roy, you did more for Johnny than any of the rest of us could have,” Mike pointed out. “Your knowledge kept us from pulling that glass from his chest, and your skills kept him alive long enough for us to get him here.”
“He would have bled to death,” Roy remarked with a vacant look to his eyes.
“He would have bled to death if that glass had been pulled out. When someone is impaled like that, the object actually prevents external bleeding. If the aorta was pierced...well, if we’d pulled the glass out there’s no way we could have controlled the bleeding at the scene. Not even if a squad and ambulance was there.”
“So see. You did everything right,” Mike said. “You worked with what you had at your disposal and gave Johnny the help he needed.”
Roy sank to the couch and rubbed a hand over his eyes. He tried not to see Johnny’s blood splattered face, or hear Johnny begging him to take the glass from his chest.
“I just hope my help was enough, Mike. I just hope to God it was enough.”
Roy DeSoto’s help did prove to be enough that day. Like Roy had suspected was the case, the six inch glass shard had punctured Johnny’s aorta. Kelly Brackett told the men of Station 51 that Doctor Gerald Cableman was the best cardiovascular surgeon in the state. Roy believed Brackett’s words were true because the surgery to repair Johnny’s wound went off without a hitch. Or so Doctor Brackett said when he talked to Roy and his co-workers late that afternoon in the waiting area outside the OR.
“He lost a lot of blood until we could get the aorta stitched. We’re still working on replacing that blood loss, but all and all both Doctor Cableman and myself predict a fully recovery for our accident prone paramedic.”
“This wasn’t Johnny’s fault, Doc,” Chet was quick to point out.
Kelly Brackett smiled. “It never is. Nonetheless, I think we’re going to wrap Johnny in cotton before we let him out in public again.”
“Can we see him?” Roy asked.
“He’s in Recovery right now, and after that will be moved to the Cardiac ICU.”
“Cardiac ICU?” Chet questioned.
“Just as a precaution, Chet. If all goes well, like I expect it to, Johnny will be moved to a regular room in a few days.”
“Can I see him for a few minutes before he’s moved to ICU?” Roy asked.
Brackett could easily guess what Roy was feeling. He told Roy the same things his co-workers had hours earlier.
“Roy, you did everything you possibly could. You did everything right. Johnny made it here alive because of your quick thinking.”
“I know. But I...I need to see him. Just for a few minutes.”
“All right, all right. But only a few minutes and no more. Let me go make sure he’s settled in Recovery first. You wait here and I’ll come get you.”
“Great. Thanks, Doc.”
Hank, Mike, and Marco decided there was no point in them staying at Rampart any longer.
“Tell Johnny hi for us, and that we’ll see him when Doctor Brackett says he’s ready for visitors.” Hank said.
“I’ll do that, Cap.”
“You comin’ with us, Chet? We’ll stop and get something for supper on the way back to your place. If I remember correctly we’ve got some big holes that need boarding over until we can get your windows in.”
“I’ll be there in a little while, Cap. I’d like to hang around here until Roy gets to see Johnny. Maybe tag along if Doc Brackett will let me.”
Hank understood Chet’s need to see Johnny as much as he understood Roy’s need.
“Okay, then. We’ll see you two back at the house.”
Mike handed Roy the keys for his truck.
“Here. Cap and I will ride with Marco. The truck’s parked in the east visitor’s lot, row D.”
Twenty minutes after the three men left Kelly Brackett came to retrieve the two who remained behind. He didn’t question Chet’s presence as he said, “Johnny just woke up. He’s groggy, and won’t be very coherent, but he should recognize you’re with him.”
Brackett led the men directly to Johnny’s bed in the large Recovery Room. The paramedic was receiving one IV of blood, and one of a clear solution Roy assumed was saline. His long, black lashes laid in sharp contrast against his pale face.
Johnny wasn’t dressed in a hospital gown yet, though a sheet and blanket had been drawn to the middle of his abdomen. A thick bandage covered the left side of his chest and a drainage tube sprouted next to it. The cuts on Johnny’s face had been cleaned and were now nothing more than random lines running in multiple directions as though a child had taken a red felt-tipped marker to his skin. The paramedic had a bandage on his left arm where Chet’s bath towel had been wrapped earlier. Doctor Brackett said it had taken fifteen stitches to close the wound. None of the cuts on Johnny’s stomach or chest required stitching, nor had his legs been broken. Roy imagined his friend would be sporting some pretty sensitive bruises across his shins, but he supposed that was a small price to pay considering he’d been pinned to the ground by a three hundred pound window.
“Five minutes, guys,” Brackett said as he turned for the door.
“Okay, Doc. Thanks.”
“Got it, Doc. And like Roy said, thanks.”
“If you really want to thank me you can do so by keeping our friend there out of this hospital except when he’s here performing his job.”
Kelly Brackett was gone before either man could answer. Roy bent over Johnny’s bed with Chet standing behind him.
“Johnny? Hey, Junior, wake up for a minute.”
Roy could see Johnny’s eyes moving under his lids.
“Johnny? It’s Roy, partner. I just wanted to tell you hi.”
Roy barely heard the hoarse, “Hi,” he got in response as Johnny’s eyes slowly opened.
“Hey there, Junior.”
you know where you are?”
Johnny’s eyes traveled the Recovery Room in lazy, weighted fashion.
“That’s right. They had to do surgery to remove that piece of glass from your chest, but Brackett says you came through with flying colors.”
“The accident at Chet’s house, remember? The bay window fell as it was being hoisted off the truck.”
Yeah. I...’member. Everyone...everyone else...okay?”
“Everyone else is fine. You don’t need to worry about anything except getting back on your feet.”
Johnny’s eyes began to close on their own. Or so Johnny felt as he fought to keep them open.
Roy placed a hand on Johnny’s right shoulder and squeezed. “Right here, partner.”
Because of the sedative he was being given Johnny had difficulty focusing his eyes on Roy’s face, and even more difficulty voicing his thoughts in a coherent manner.
“ ‘Member what we...talked...talked ‘bout this...this mornin’?”
“ ‘Bout not bein’ para...paramedics for...forever?”
“Glad...I’m glad...it was you...you there to help. I wouldn’t...couldn’t ever trust...anyone...like trust...you.”
Suddenly being a paramedic didn’t seem like such a dead end job to Roy.
“I’m glad I was there to help you, too, Johnny.”
Johnny’s eyes closed twice before he managed to pry them open again.
“Tell Chet...tell him maybe...his idea...for that TV show...not so...stu...stupid...after all.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I...I’m gonna need...some way...pay off...these hospital bills. TV stars...make lots...money. Chet said...This Old House...is sure to be...a hit.”
“Well, probably not much of a hit if you keep getting hurt while you’re fixing up Chet’s old house, but I’ll tell him.”
Before Chet had the opportunity to make his presence known Johnny was once again asleep.
Roy and Chet exited the hospital together that afternoon, headed for Mike’s truck. Neither man said a word as Roy drove toward Chet’s home. It wasn’t until they pulled in the driveway and saw Mike, Marco, and Hank boarding up the hole in the living room wall with plywood that Chet said, “I’m gonna get right on it.”
“You’re gonna get right on what?”
“This Old House. The TV show. Johnny told you I should.”
“Chet, Johnny was so out of it he didn’t know half of what he was saying, and by tomorrow morning will have forgotten he even had a conversation with me.”
“No, I think he really meant it. He’s finally seeing the beauty of my idea. ‘This Old House starring John Gage.’ Besides, it’s the least I can do for him after all he’s gone through for me.” Chet jumped out of the truck and ran for the house. “Hey, guys! Listen up!”
Roy rolled his eyes as he listened to Chet tell their co-workers that Johnny had given him permission to follow through on his idea for a television show called This Old House.
“Heaven help us if this actually comes to pass,” Roy muttered as he, too, climbed from the cab of Mike’s Dodge. “Johnny’s already suffered from insecticide poisoning and impalement because of Chet’s old house. I don’t even want to think about what could go wrong in front of a camera.”
As the list of possible injuries Johnny could suffer mounted in Roy’s head, he started helping his shift mates get Chet’s house closed up for the night. Chet never stopped rambling as they worked.
“I’m tellin’ you guys, before this house is finished we’re all gonna be on TV.”
“Yeah, on the six o’clock news rushing Johnny to Rampart,” Marco wise cracked.
“Naw,” Chet shook his head. “That’s not gonna happen. I’ve got a feeling Johnny’s luck will turn around when we start filming This Old House.”
“What makes you say that?” Mike asked as he hammered a nail into the plywood.
“ ‘Cause there’s no way Gage is gonna blow his debut on national TV. Just no way.”
Roy looked up from his work.
“Chet, do us all a favor and keep Johnny away from this old house for a while.”
“Oh, I will. I will. I know it’ll be a month or better before Brackett says he can return to normal activity and all that. But by then, Johnny’s gonna be a star.”
Mike, Marco, and Cap laughed at the absurdity of the idea. Roy merely groaned while thinking he’d better purchase a First Aid kit big enough to hold half of Rampart’s staff before ‘This Old House’ started filming in Chet’s front yard.
groan, Roy,” Chet scolded. “After all, what else could possibly go
you really want me to answer that?”
“Okay. Well, let’s see. Granted, Johnny’s been poisoned and impaled while working on your
house, but still the possibilities for physical harm are endless. Especially where John Gage is concerned.”
“Endless? Like how?”
“Oh...a broken bone perhaps.”
right,” Chet scoffed. “There’s no way Johnny’s gonna break a bone
workin’ around here.”
For some reason Roy had a premonition he couldn’t quite voice other than to say, “I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Chet.”
The paramedic wondered if he could fit splints into his First Aid kit as he slowly repeated with a distant look in his eye, “I just wouldn’t be too sure.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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