October 12, 2001
They belong to Mark VII Limited and Universal Television.
Thanks to Peggy for the quick advice, and to Audrey for posting a Halloween story challenge to the All E! Fanfic Mailing List back in August!
**Station 51, child trapped. Haunted House at 432 Laurel Lane. 4-3-2 Laurel, time out 18:42**
“Hey Roy?” John Gage asked his partner as he climbed into their squad, “I ever mention that I hate the week before Halloween?”
“Yeah Junior,” the older man said as he pulled out, “you have. A time or two.” As he turned left and headed toward their destination, he mumbled “or ten.”
“I heard that!”
+ + + + +
“He’s in there,” the world-weary woman dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz said, pointing into a large plastic tube that led from one part of the PTA’s Haunted House Spectacular to another. “Apparently he got scared or something, tried to turn around and come back instead of going forward. Now he’s stuck.”
Cap nodded his head and turned toward his youngest, and skinniest, crew member. “John?” is all he said.
Johnny rolled his eyes. “Right Cap,” he responded, flipping on a flashlight and leaning into the tube. “I see him. Or part of him. Right where the tube kinks, about 8 feet in.” He stood up. “Why’d you make this so long?” he mused aloud in the general direction of the woman. She batted her eyelashes and shrugged.
The captain was studying the situation. “Easiest thing would probably be to disassemble it up to him, I think.”
“NO!” the woman shouted quickly. “This is our biggest fundraiser! You have no idea how long it took to put this thing together. If you take it apart we’ll be shut down the rest of the night and probably part of tomorrow! Please!” she turned her attentions toward Johnny again. “You can fit in there, can’t you? Can’t you just coax him out?” Again her eyelashes flitted.
Never one to be able to deny a pretty woman’s request, Gage looked at his boss. “Can I give it a try? We really don’t know how jammed he is in there.”
Cap sighed. “Okay, one try,” he said. “Tie a rope around your ankle, though. We don’t want you getting jammed in there, too.”
Chet got the rope, and within minutes Johnny was ready. “What’s his name?” he asked.
“Victor,” the woman supplied.
John put the flashlight into his mouth as he entered the tube. Once inside, he transferred it to his hand. He had room to spare, so within a minute he had reached the boy.
“Hey Vic, my name’s Johnny Gage.”
“VICTOR,” the boy corrected harshly.
“Okay, sorry, Victor. You can call me Johnny, and we’re gonna get you out of here. Kinda scary, huh?”
“No,” the insolent child sniffed. “It’s not scary. I’m just stuck.”
The boy had clearly been trying to turn
around in the tube. From his position Johnny had access to the boy’s feet
and his head. But one arm was pinned underneath the boy, toward the other
direction. This had to be the problem.
“Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. Can you go back, so you’re facing forward again? Then we can just back out of here.”
“If I could, don’t you think I woulda? I’M STUCK!”
Gage sighed wearily. He hated this time of year. “Okay, let me see if I can help you.” He reached under the boy, to try and reposition the arm, hopefully releasing the hold. “Let me know if I hurt you.”
When his hand made its way under the boy’s torso, John felt something. “What’s this?” he asked, giving the paper a slight tug, and meeting resistance.
“It’s my goody bag,” the boy explained.
“Are you holding it in your hand?” John couldn’t reach the boy’s hand, but if he was holding on to it, that would explain why it wouldn’t budge from its place wedged up against the kid.
“Uh huh,” the kid said, as if that was perfectly normal.
“Ya gotta let it go,” John said as patiently as he possibly could.
“NO WAY! I’ll lose it! It goes downhill from here and it’ll slide down and some other kid will steal it!”
John sighed impatiently and tried to blow his hair out of his eyes. “We’ll get you another one, promise. You won’t lose it. But you gotta let it go. That’s what’s got you jammed in here.”
“NO!” The kid was practically screaming.
“John, everything okay down there?” came the muffled shout of his captain. They must have heard the yelling.
“YEAH CAP!” Johnny shouted back before turning his attention back to the young victim. “Look, kid, you have to let it go, that’s all there is to it.” The paramedic reached in slightly more to get a firmer grab on the bag, and he pulled, trying to get it out of the child’s hand so he could drop it. He felt the boy’s grasp let go, and that’s when it happened.
“OWWW!” John yelled, pulling his arm back quickly, dropping the bag on the other side of the child in the process. As the boy had predicted, it slid away, down what amounted to a slide. But Gage was too busy trying to inspect his arm to pay any attention. “You bit me!”
“You stole my bag!” Victor countered.
“I didn’t steal anything,” Johnny mumbled. With the bag suddenly out of the equation, righting the boy became simple. John silently pushed the boy around until he was straight, and backed his way out, pulling the child by the feet. When John got out, he pulled the boy out and stood him up.
“Are you all right?” he asked the kid.
“No, you stole my goody bag!”
John closed his eyes, mentally counting to five. “I meant are you hurt anywhere,” he said with exaggerated patience.
“No,” the boy declared, crossing his arms and setting the paramedic with a steely glare. “But you owe me a goody bag.”
“John, pal, looks like you’re bleeding.” Cap was pointing at his paramedic’s arm.
John looked at himself and sure enough, there was blood on his left arm. “Why you little. . . .” he started menacingly at the kid before catching himself. “He bit me,” he finally explained to his captain.
“Hey, somebody lose this?” Chet was jogging up to them with one goody bag in his hand.
John immediately snatched it, and shoved it in Victor’s hands. “Here. I said we’d get it back for ya, didn’t I? You didn’t have to bite me!”
Hank had to keep himself from laughing. “Look, John, why don’t you go out to the squad and clean your arm off. Roy, why don’t you give young Victor here a once-over.”
“Right Cap,” the two men said in unison.
+ + + + +
John was sitting on the bumper of the squad, pouring saline over his injured arm when the rest of the crew exited the building. Roy headed straight for his partner, drug-box in-hand. “How’s it look?” he asked.
“Like a kid bit me,” Gage said sullenly, righting the bottle of saline and offering his arm up for inspection. There were two perfect rows of teeth marks on John’s left upper forearm, just under his elbow, and several of the teeth had broken skin.
“Wow, he really gotcha,” DeSoto remarked as he opened the drug box and pulled out a 4x4 gauze bandage.
“Tell me about it,” the dejected man said, resting his head back against the squad and letting his partner work.
Hank came up to them, with Chet and Marco close behind. Only Mike exhibited no particular interest in the injury. “How’s it look?” the captain asked. Roy lifted the gauze to answer. “Wow, he really gotcha,” Stanley said, unknowingly mimicking Roy’s earlier statement. “Should he have that checked out?” he asked Roy.
“No Cap,” Johnny interjected, quickly sitting up straight. “It’s okay. I just need to keep it clean. I’ll be fine.”
Cap looked to Roy for confirmation. “I think it’ll be okay,” the older paramedic confirmed. “We can have someone take a look at it when we’re at Rampart later.” He pulled out a roll of gauze and started to wrap it around his partner’s arm.
The engine crew started to depart, but Chet suddenly turned around. “Hey Gage,” he called. When John looked up Chet launched something at him. The paramedic had to throw his hand up and catch it, or be hit in the face. “Victor wanted you to have that. Nice kid.”
“Shut up, Chet,” the injured man grumbled before looking at what was in his hand. It was a piece of Double Bubble bubble gum.
“I hate Halloween,” he vowed.
+ + + + +
John exited the treatment room, where he’d just left a little girl who’d broken her arm. She’d fallen down the stairs of her home while trying to prove to her mom that she could wear mom’s 3-inch heels with her princess costume on Halloween.
“How’s the girl?” Dixie asked.
John glanced back at the door absentmindedly. “Oh, she’ll be fine. Don’t know how good that cast will look with her costume, though.”
“Yeah,” the nurse agreed. “The Halloween injuries seem to be starting early this year.”
“Speaking of which,” Roy asked, “is there a doctor free?”
“Joe’s in two, why?”
Roy grabbed his partner’s left wrist and held the arm up so Dix could see the bandage. “We have our own little Halloween injury here.”
“Oh?” the woman asked with an arched eyebrow, “what happened?”
John remained petulantly quiet, so Roy answered. “Human bite.”
“Oh, those can be nasty,” Dixie said. “Come on.” And she led the way to the treatment room.
Johnny followed silently for a second, then started to speak. But he didn’t get anything out before Roy spoke over him. “I know,” he said to the younger man. “You hate Halloween.”
Dix pushed the door open. “Got some business for you, Joe,” she said as she ushered the paramedics inside. “Seems someone bit Johnny.”
Dr. Early looked up with a bemused grin from the chart he’d been reading. “Who bit you, Johnny? Dracula?”
“Oh, ha ha,” John groused. “Actually, it was an eight-year-old kid. With teeth like Dracula. And an attitude to match.”
“Have a seat,” the doctor offered, patting the treatment table. “Let’s take a look.”
Gage hopped up and Joe removed the bandage. “Doesn’t look too bad,” he said after inspecting it for a moment. “It’s not too deep. What did you clean it with?”
“Hm. How long ago did this happen?”
Gage looked at his watch, momentarily removing his injured arm from the doctor’s grasp. It was 9:30. “About three hours ago?” he surmised.
“Hm.” Joe said again. He went over to the supply cabinet, rummaged around for a second, and pulled out a bottle. “I’m going to wash it with some antiseptic, and then I want to give you a shot of antibiotic. Human bites can be really nasty. You’re up-to-date on your tetanus, aren’t you?”
Gage sighed loudly. “Yes, I am,” he agreed, “and then some.”
“How’s the pain? Do you want me to numb it before I clean it out?”
Johnny shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “Nah, it’s not too bad. I’ll be okay.”
“You’re lucky it’s the fleshy part of your arm,” Early said with a smile before adding, “well, as fleshy as you can get, anyway.”
“Very funny, Doc. Now get to work, please?”
The doctor used a syringe to squirt the antiseptic solution deep into the puncture wounds, and Johnny did find himself squirming at times from the pain. After several minutes of irrigation, Joe declared the procedure complete. “You’re not allergic to penicillin, are you John?” he asked as he wrapped the injury in dry gauze.
“Good. Dixie here is going to give you a shot, and then I’m going to write you a prescription for a prophylactic dose. The chance of infection from human bites is very high. Maybe we can avoid it.”
“Great,” Johnny murmured.
“I want to see you tomorrow to check the wound, okay?”
“Aww, not tomorrow, doc! I’m going sailing with some buddies. We’ll be gone all day!”
“All right, then, day after tomorrow, okay? And sooner if you see any signs of infection. Got it?”
Johnny nodded. “Got it.”
The doctor left the room, and Dixie sauntered up to the patient with the injection in her hand. The paramedic started to push up his sleeve.
“Uh uh,” the nurse objected, shaking her head. “The fleshier, the better.”
“Awww, man!” Gage exclaimed. But he hopped off the table and started to unbuckle his pants.
+ + + + +
Johnny was sitting on the bench in front of his locker tying his shoes when Roy came in.
“Hey Johnny,” he greeted the younger man. “You’re early.”
“Two days before Halloween? And a Saturday? It’s gonna be nuts this shift. Thought I’d get here early to prepare myself. I’m just glad we’re not actually working on Halloween.” He finished tying, and flexed his left elbow, a motion not missed by Roy.
“How’s the bite?”
“You have Early check it yesterday?”
“Yes, MOM,” the annoyed paramedic said. But he didn’t elaborate.
“AND?” Roy asked impatiently.
“It kinda started hurting again, so Doc Early thought it might be getting infected a little. So he put me on a stronger antibiotic.” He pulled the bottle out of his pocket and looked at it before tossing it to his partner. “Augmentin.”
“This stuff can make you sick to your stomach,” DeSoto observed.
John shrugged. “I dunno. Only taken it twice so far.” He stood and took the bottle back before heading into the kitchen for some coffee.
+ + + + +
“What is it about Halloween, Roy?” John asked as the two men left Rampart’s nurse’s station. “I like kids. You know I do. But this time of year? Man! It’s gotta be the sugar, don’tcha think? Hang on, I gotta take my pill.” He skidded to a stop in front of the water fountain and pulled out his antibiotics.
“You’re supposed to take it with food, Johnny.” Roy warned.
“I know, but we’re heading back. And if Mike doesn’t have lunch on the table when we get there, I’ll take a bite out of him!!” He popped a pill in his mouth and took a long draft of water.
**Squad 51, what’s your status?**
Johnny stood up with a derisive grunt. So much for lunch.
“Squad 51 available,” Roy reported.
**Squad 51, child injured. Lawson’s Pumpkin Patch, 345 Barrow Lane. 3-4-5 Barrow. Time out 13:12.**
“Damn,” Johnny mumbled as he rushed out to the squad.
+ + + + +
“Hey guys,” Dixie greeted the two paramedics as they re-supplied their drug box after the pumpkin patch run. “What’s up?”
“I mean really, what kind of parent lets a seven-year-old use a knife that big all by himself?” Johnny was bent-over, getting something out of the bottom cabinet, and directing his rant into the cupboard. Roy was just standing there, patiently listening. He greeted Dixie with a silent smirk. “I take back what I said earlier. It’s not just the kids who get crazy at this time of year. It’s the parents too!” He stood and handed three rolls of gauze to Roy. “Hey Dix,” he inserted into his monologue. “That kid almost took his finger off!” Gage took a deep breath, indicating he was finished.
“Another one?” the nurse asked simply.
“Yeah,” DeSoto said. “Pumpkin-carving accident.”
“Waste of perfectly good pumpkins, if you ask me,” Johnny grumbled.
“Oh, Johnny,” the nurse chided, “don’t be such a grouch.”
“He’s hungry,” Roy explained. “And he hates Halloween.”
With no warning whatsoever, Johnny took off running toward the men’s room. Roy and Dixie looked at each other with surprise before following. Roy went in, and came back out after just a second. “Dix, think you can find Doctor Early for us?”
“Sure Roy, what’s the problem?”
“Johnny’s in here throwing up the antibiotic the doc put him on.”
By the time Joe Early had been located, Johnny was washing his mouth out at the sink.
“I thought I told you to take them with food John,” was the doctor’s greeting. Gage just looked up from the sink with a sour expression before continuing to wash up.
“You know what it’s like, Doc,” Roy said, defending his partner. “We’ve been on the go since 9am. No chance to catch our breaths, let alone catch lunch.”
“I know. Guess this won’t work while you’re on duty, huh John?”
The paramedic was drying his face. “Guess not,” he agreed.
“Okay, then. Let’s go take a look at your arm. Then we’ll decide what to do. You feeling better now?”
Johnny snorted derisively. “Oh yeah, wonderful.” He allowed the doctor to hold the men’s room door open, and walked through.
“One stupid little bite,” he grumbled as he passed Roy. “If I ever see that kid again. . . . .”
+ + + + +
John awoke to a throbbing pain in his arm. Still half-asleep, he felt the bandage, and could almost feel the heat emanating from his skin. It’s infected for sure, his weary brain supplied. Knowing that meant he’d have to head back to the hospital in the morning, Johnny groaned and turned over in bed. He couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do on Halloween. The place was sure to be crawling with crazy kids and their even crazier parents. Staring up at the ceiling, he contemplated going now, figuring that it would be quiet in the middle of the night. But Doctor Early wouldn’t be there.
Instead, the paramedic reached over for the bottle of aspirin that lived on his bedside table, swallowed three dry, and went back to sleep.
+ + + + +
Wakefulness came slowly. His head felt like it was full of cotton, and he was absolutely freezing even though his apartment always tended toward too warm. When he realized that the sun was streaming in his westward-facing bedroom windows, meaning it was afternoon, John sat up with a start.
Afternoon? Already? He leaned over to grab his watch off the table, but the second he put any weight on his left arm, it exploded in pain. Johnny clutched it to his chest protectively until the pain died down somewhat, then inspected it. Though a good portion of his forearm was covered by the bandage, the first thing John noticed was red streaks running up his arm at the crook of his elbow.
Damn, he was in trouble. He got the watch, and found that it was after one in the afternoon. He’d been sleeping for almost 14 hours. Despite the chills, his face was hot and covered with a sheen of sweat. He barely had the energy to sit up, let alone get up.
What was he going to do? Gage immediately eliminated the possibility of calling Roy. It was Halloween, and if DeSoto tradition was holding true to form, they’d be carving pumpkins right now. Jen would be bouncing around the kitchen asking “When is it gonna be dark?” and if she could put on her costume yet. Chris would be acting too cool for it all, but not doing a very good job of hiding his excitement from his eyes. John had been witness to these events in years past, and the memories made him smile.
But none of that solved the problem at hand. He could drive, probably, if he took it slow and easy. He clenched his left fist, felt the pain, and decided that wasn’t going to happen.
But it was a holiday! What was he gonna do? Call a squad? Hell, no. He knew how much they all hated the minor medical calls to houses full of people with drivers’ licenses who could have driven the victim to a doctor.
Yeah, but he didn’t have a house full of people, did he? A cab? Yeah, that’s it! He’d call a cab. He got up and dragged his dragging butt into the living room. He had to look up the number; he’d never called a cab to his apartment before.
“I’m sorry, sir, but the wait will be at least an hour,” the dispatcher told him.
“An hour?” John asked incredulously. “But I need a ride to my doctor! I’m sick!”
“Then you should call an ambulance,” the woman said, thoroughly nonplussed. “Do you want the cab?”
“No, never mind. Thanks.” John hung up the phone, sighed deeply, picked it up again and dialed. After a second, “Chet? It’s Johnny. I need a favor.”
+ + + + +
The doorbell rang, and Johnny slowly made his way to the door. There was Chet, in his uniform.
“Wow, Gage, you’re right. You look like hell.”
“I said I feel like hell. Why are you in uniform? You’re not supposed to be working, are you?”
Chet suddenly looked embarrassed. “No, uh, this is my costume,” he said. “I’m going to a party later.”
Johnny let out a laugh. “Chet,” he chided, “a fireman’s uniform is only a costume if you’re NOT actually a FIREMAN!”
“What do you want from me, Gage? I didn’t know it was a costume party until this morning. I didn’t exactly have much time. Are you ready to go? I don’t have all day.”
“You’re all heart, Chet,” the paramedic said with a sigh as he grabbed his keys. “And don’t you know,” he said as he closed and locked his door, “they’re all costume parties on Halloween.”
+ + + + +
“What’s his temp?”
Johnny took the thermometer out of his own mouth, ready to answer Doctor Early’s question, but Dixie snatched it out of his hand with a scolding look before he could even read it.
“103.2,” the nurse said.
“Wow, didn’t think it was that high,” John admitted. “No wonder I feel crappy.”
“I’ll say, John.” The doctor turned his attention to Dixie. “Let’s get a CBC,” he ordered, “and start him on an IV of normal saline. And 1500mg of Tylenol.” Joe unwrapped Johnny’s bandaged arm before speaking to him again. “Obviously the antibiotics we were giving you didn’t hit everything, and you managed to get yourself an infection anyway.” The wound was red and angry-looking. “Well, at least it hasn’t abscessed, Johnny. That’s something. We’re going to have to give you a course of IV antibiotics, though, I’m afraid.”
“Yeah,” the dejected paramedic said. “I figured as much.”
“Dix,” the doctor added, “let’s arrange for a room for our friend here when you get a chance.”
“Can’t I just go home after the IV?” John asked, but he wasn’t the least bit convincing.
“With a fever of almost 104?” Dixie asked with a smile. “Are you kidding? We’ll take good care of you. You know that.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Johnny mumbled. “I really hate this,” he told her. “And I especially hate”
“Halloween, I know,” Dix finished for him. Johnny yawned widely. “Let’s get you settled in so you can get some rest, okay?”
+ + + + +
When Johnny woke up he felt a lot better. He knew several hours had passed, because it was almost dark outside. A dinner tray sat on the bed table in front of him, and he realized that he was kinda hungry, so he sat up and pulled it close. The food, something that looked like chicken, was still warm. He’d almost finished eating when Dixie entered the room.
“Well hello, sleepyhead.”
“I didn’t sleep that long.”
“Still in a bad mood, huh?” the nurse asked as she was shaking down a thermometer. Johnny was about to protest, but she stuck the instrument in his mouth first. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
When she returned, Dixie was holding a basket full of cheap little toys—plastic tops and toy soldiers and games like the one where you have to fit the BBs in the little holes. She put it on the bedside table, and pulled the thermometer from John’s mouth.
“What’s that?” the paramedic asked, motioning toward the basket.
“Down to 101.2,” Dix said, momentarily ignoring the question. “Good. How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good. Better. What’s that?” John asked again.
Dixie smiled. “Just the answer I was hoping for. I thought you could help us out.”
Gage immediately got wary. “How?” he asked suspiciously.
“Some of the kids from pediatrics are about to go trick-or-treating through the hospital. Obviously, we can’t give them all candy, so we have little toys and things like that. I was thinking that your room could be one of the ones they visit. You’re right around the corner from pediatrics, you’re not too sick, and you’re not contagious. You’d be perfect.”
“Awwww, Dix! Come on! Don’t do this to me!”
“Do what to you? Are you saying you don’t want to help out some sick kids?”
“No, of course not. But I hate--"
“--Halloween,” the nurse said. “I know. You’ve been saying that all week.”
“Well, I do! I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for this stupid holiday! I hate it!”
“Well, Johnny, guess what? I don’t believe you. You up for sitting in a chair? It would probably be easier to hand the toys out if you were up. The first ones should be by…” she checked her watch, “. . .in about ten minutes.” Dixie didn’t even wait for an answer. She lowered the side of the bed, and took down the two bags of IV solution hanging over his head. “Let’s get you into a robe, too,” she added.
Clearly there was no room for discussion, so Johnny got up with an exasperated sigh.
“Roy called, by the way,” Dix said as she was pulling up the robe and tying the belt. “I told him you were fine, and not to drop everything and come running.”
“I was gonna call him later tonight. You know, after all the Halloween stuff was over for the kids. How’d he find out?”
“Chet apparently called him. Hank Stanley knows, too, so you don’t have to worry about calling out sick.” By now the nurse had her patient dressed, ready, and seated in a chair.
“I’m gonna hate this,” Johnny groused.
“No you won’t,” Dixie promised with a confident smile.
She was right, of course. By the second sick little kid, Johnny was totally enthralled. Most wore silly little costumes provided by their parents, and those who didn’t looked like doctors, with surgical scrub hats and borrowed stethoscopes. They came in wheelchairs, on crutches, or toting portable IV stands--“just like me,” Johnny told those kids. One of the last children to come to his room was a 10-year-old boy Johnny himself had rescued from a collapsed building not two weeks earlier. He’d spent close to three hours in a tiny space with the boy while they’d tried to free the child’s legs.
“Hey, I know you,” the boy said as he entered.
Though tired, Johnny smiled broadly. The boy, confined to a wheelchair with a healing compound fracture of his leg, was dressed like a fireman. “Yeah, you do. How you doing?”
“I get to go home this weekend. Did you get hurt helping someone?”
“Not really. Someone,” the paramedic started, but then he stopped. There was no point in telling this little boy what some other kid had done to him. “Yeah,” he changed his answer to. “But not too bad.” He held out the basket of toys. “Take your pick,” he offered. “Take two. Or three. It must really stink to be here on Halloween, huh?” Gage asked as the boy rummaged through the basket.
“It’s okay,” the child said deciding on a plastic figure attached to a parachute, that you threw up in the air and watched drift back to earth. “At least we got to do something, and it’s fun getting to see other parts of the hospital, and the doctors and nurses are all dressed up in costumes ‘n stuff.” He handed the basket back.
“You don’t want anything else?” Johnny asked. “There’s plenty.”
“Nah, that would be greedy. My mom says you should only take your share. I’ll save it until I can go outside again. That’ll be a while, I guess.”
“You’ll get there,” Gage promised. “You’ll get there.” The boy nodded and turned his wheelchair around to leave. “Hey,” Johnny called after him. “I like your costume.” The boy looked back with a smile, then kept going.
Once he was gone Johnny got up and closed the door to his room. He was exhausted, and climbed into bed. But before he could get to sleep, his phone rang.
“Hey Roy,” John greeted, making an educated guess as to who was on the other end of the line.
“Hey Johnny. How’re you feeling?”
“I’m okay, I’m okay. They just need to give me IV antibiotics, that’s all.”
“I know, Dixie told me. Why didn’t you call me, though?”
“Cuz I’m okay. And I didn’t want to ruin your Halloween.”
“I bet you really hate this holiday now, huh?” Roy asked his friend.
“You know what?” Johnny asked rhetorically, thinking about all the happy kids he’d met tonight. “I don’t. It’s all right. Halloween’s all right.”
Like it? Hate it? Let me Know.
Back to E! Stories.
Check out my X-Files Stories.