The day started out alright. I slept in knowing that as the new kid I was going to be pulling the 5P to 5A shift. Not that I mind, that covers most of the rush hour at night, which I tend to think is usually worse, and therefore more interesting. That goes double for night shifts on weekends.
Okay, I know there's something messed up in that line of thought, but it's the way I think. There's nothing like some guy who's just parked his overpriced luxury vehicle into the back of a semi to put things in perspective. I mean, if I'm working, I'd rather it be constant and challenging than routine. And this job is anything but routine, most of the time.
I ate breakfast around two at the diner, checking in with Trina. I filled her in on my schedule change. With the way the schedule is, I have a whole three hours where I'm not driving to or from the station or sleeping. Not much I can do at the clinic during those three hours, but I have Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, and I'm not always on a run when I'm working. At least that's how it was in Baltimore. Some days we'd spend more time cleaning and stocking the rig than we would using it. That's life.
I brought a cup of coffee with me to the station and got to meet the rest of the day shift. It seems that they had planned all their 'new guy' pranks for the EMT that never showed, so they decided to use them on me.
I managed to avoid the loose cap on the sugar, the flour blast from the locker, but I was unable to avoid the toxic coffee, although judging by the general reaction of those around me, that prank was unintentional, and got everybody.
It was good to be working with Ray again. We knew each other well enough that when it came to working an accident scene, we had it down to an art. Things were a little rough on our first call where I rode in the Ambulance. It was about 8 or 9 when the call came in. Some dispute over a parking place of all things.
Now, when we worked back in Baltimore, Ray was my senior and I followed his lead, but that was almost 7 years ago, and I'd been running as senior paramedic for the last 4 and first on call with the bike for the last 3. Which meant there were a few things we needed iron out. When you're on a scene, you have to have one person in charge, calling the shots and any other medics on the scene are to take their cues from the primary medic.
The only problem was Ray was used to being primary, and so was I. Since it was his turf, I let him take lead on this one.
The fight involved no less than 4 victims, the original combatants and two people who tried to break it up, including one of LoneStar's finest. This is one of the few times you want to know who was fighting. Mostly so you don't end up putting them in the same ambulance. I put in the call for a second unit while Ray sorted out the situation.
From the looks of things, at least one knife was used. Several officers arrived before the second ambulance and helped us secure the scene, and the combatants.
One of the victims became belligerent, the one who started the fight. He started saying how we had no right to treat him if he didn't want to be treated and that we had to let him go.
Ray smiled at him, calm as you please and said, "that's right sir, you can refuse treatment and we'll oblige." The man started to smile at that until Ray added, "but then you'll have to go with the nice officers and be booked on assault charges. I really think you want this arm looked at before you go to jail."
I had forgotten about Ray's curbside manner. Needless to say, the man calmed down a bit.
By the third call we were pretty much back in sinq. Without really discussing it, we just fell into a pattern of every other call, unless it was one of our specialties. Ray's great at extraction, I'm good with sucking chest wounds.
We had a busy night, but still, by the time shift change rolled around, I had a few pranks setup for them.
I stopped off at the diner for lunch again and checked in with Trina to see how things were going. She says that the clinic should re-open in about a week and things were looking good. I asked if she wanted me to pick up some supplies for her, but she just smiled and told me that everything had been taken care of.
I'm not sure if she's just being nice, or if someone had indeed helped out. It would be nice if that were the case.
I thought about it on the drive to the station, but I pretty much realized that if I think about it too much, I'll only succeed in driving myself crazy. Besides, I've got a job that'll do that all by itself.
Today was a prime example.
Friday: People in such a hurry to get home for the weekend that they aren't paying attention. People in a hurry in the rain: not a good combination.
We got to work four accident scenes during rush hour and another three during happy hour. For the most part the accidents were rather simple, fender benders with minor injuries.
The last accident, on the other hand, was anything but routine. Seven cars, one tanker truck and a minivan. From the looks of things one of the cars pushed the minivan into the tanker truck, and everybody else got caught up in the wake. The folks in the minivan were wedged in and there was no getting to them without bringing in the heavy equipment.
Only problem was-- the tanker truck was leaking and judging by its markings, we did not want anything resembling a spark anywhere near the scene. At that point Ray put me in charge of everything else so that he could concentrate on the minivan extrication. Fortunately most of the injuries weren't too serious: three concussions, a possible neck fracture, a few cracked ribs. The worse injuries were in the car that ran the minivan into the tanker.
And that was where the real fun began. When we arrived on scene, I had already called in for support. After a brief triage we realized that the real work was going to be with the minivan and the car that ran it into the tanker. I let the others handle the other cases and moved in on the car. As I neared the car, I noticed the bullet holes in the side of the car and radioed that in.
My first concern was Ray. If the people in the van were shooting at the car, then he was in serious danger. Looking back I should have worried about myself as well, but I was busy worrying about the unconscious men in the car. There were three of them. One look at the driver's side window and I knew I was only worried about rescuing two people. The three bullet holes clustered on the driver's side didn't look good. I looked in and verified.
The other two were injured, but alive, and I was going to need the jaws of life to get them out. Again, the concern was the tanker truck. Unless we could identify the contents we had to assume the worst.
With a call into dispatch we were in a holding pattern until they could get a hold of the tanker truck's owner. While we waiting the Star came in and tried to take over. Securing the scene is one thing, but telling us how and where to do our job is quite another.
Dispatch settled the disagreement - the contents were not only flammable, the fumes were dangerous. We had to dawn our heavy gear. After a brief conference Ray and I agreed that we needed to get the two people in the car out first.
Once they were situated, the 97th got to work extracting the passengers in the van. I looked at Ray and then nodded to the truck. He shook his head. The driver was beyond our help.
Cap pulled our tanker into position and set down a layer of foam between us and the truck. We had less than 25 minutes of air left when we got the first of 4 out of the van. As we started carrying them out, the star was there making sure we knew that they were under arrest. I don't think any of us were impressed.
Our concern was saving them. At 15 minutes we got two more out, but the fourth was wedged in but good. He never stood a chance. We'd gotten him on O2, but he'd inhaled enough of the chems from the truck that when we did get him out, it was too late.
After that we were taken out of commission while the hospital checked us out and made sure that we hadn't inhaled too much. Ray and I were held over for observation.
Well, my third day on the job, and I'm not on the job. Like I said, Ray and I were kept for observation. Everything seemed fine for the first half of our observation period, but then we both seemed a little 'affected.'
Judgement was the first thing to go, and we were laughing our asses off watching the news. It didn't really sink in at the time, but the tanker was carrying some failed research pharmaceuticals to a dump site and the folks in the van were trying to hijack it. At the time, like I said, we were so out of it that I think we would have found the test pattern intellectually stimulating.
I know I don't want to repeat the experience, but it was interesting. The effect seemed to wear off by evening, but after our behavior earlier they were reluctant to let us go. To be honest I much preferred the idea of staying there, even if it did mean the station being two medics down.
Unfortunately we had very little to do, aside from lay there and have doctors visit us and test our reflexes and have nurses draw our blood to track the chemicals in our system. I got a call into Mario and he promised to feed the cats for me.
Seems he used to care for the cats when the boys were away, that was how he'd managed to get into the condo when the Night Terrors hit. Thinking about that, I started to chuckle. If they were the Night Terrors, these things were the Night Giggles.
The funny thing is, after the effects had worn off, I could remember everything in vivid detail. The deep theoretical discussion on the merits of dental floss, waxed vs unwaxed is forever etched in my mind.
That was probably why they wanted it. Something that makes you totally goofy and yet remember everything exactly as it happened.
Saturday night and I'm in a hospital room. The worst part is it gave me way too much time to think about things. Again my mind turned to what the boys were doing here.
Matt, a football player, jock... martial artist. Alan, a formally trained magician and Andy a computer phreak if ever there was one. I didn't want to think about it, but the answer that kept crossing my mind was just too unreal. I know these guys... they're my brothers. They'd never cross the line, go illegal... would they?
But the signs were there: no signs of a formal job, the condo was completely paid for. I began wondering how much I really knew about my brothers. Suddenly I was wishing that I was still feeling goofy.
Reality can be like that sometimes.
Today we were released, but they sent us home-- no work today. Ray didn't object and I had no desire to do anything other than curl up in a small fetal ball and sleep off the after effects. The only way I could describe it was to take the worst hangover you've ever had and go sit in a trailer in the middle of a hail storm.
Needless to say, I took a cab home. I was in no shape to be riding. My head was pounding when I got home and I wished the hail would stop, that the hangover would go away.
The last hangover had been the day after I completed the training program to become a medic. Matt had flown in for the occasion and he was the one that pinned my caduceus on for me. Then he and the boys had taken me out for a night on the town.
And it wasn't a night out downing brews not with my brothers, no... it was dinner and champagne at Skipjacks. That was also the night that Alan announced he was leaving Baltimore, leaving the college where he was TA-ing and going to Seattle with Matt. That made me drink more than I really thought I was drinking. It was bad enough that Matt was so far away, but he was nine years older than I was, Alan was closer, 5 years closer. It was almost like our family was being broken up again.
Of the three of them I think Andy understood the most. He gave me a hug, promised me that he'd always be there for me. God I miss them.
Part of me wishes I had stayed here two years ago. Maybe then I'd know what happened to them. Maybe I'd have a better idea of what they were up to.
I sacked out in Matt's room, curtains drawn shut and the blankets pulled over my head. When I woke up I could smell something in the kitchen. I staggered to the door and opened it. I shouldn't have worried.
It was Mario, playing mother hen to me again. I was glad to have the company. Mario and Trina are the closest thing I have to family out here.
After I finished eating he sent me back to bed and for once I didn't argue.
Today was an exercise in futility. Trina still didn't need me and I had to do something. I took a cab over to the station to pick up my bike. After that, I found myself at Lone Star HQ.
After I got my visitor pass I headed down to missing persons with a bag of doughnuts in hand. Saunders was there with a rather belligerent man who was trying to tell him that if his daughter wasn't found he was holding him personally responsible.
When he left a vacuum of silence seemed to follow him. There was a long pause before Saunders' voice called out, "next!"
I handed him the report requests in triplicate, as requested and he began processing the information. After a long pause he opened his eyes and shook his head.
"Nothin'" he said softly.
I nodded and handed him the bag of doughnuts.
"Is this a bribe?" he asked teasingly.
"Nah," I answered. "Breakfast."
He chuckled slightly then jerked his thumb towards the door. "And quit bustin' my chops," he growled after me, carefully sliding the bag under the counter.
I was in no mood for comforting when I reached the main desk and turned in my pass. Fortunately they were rather busy. They took the pass back with a slight nod and then it was another trip through the metal detector.
I can understand having to go through it on the way in, but out? I commented on that and all it got me was glowered at by the guard. With a shrug I headed out. I had a couple of theories about the boys, but I didn't know who to ask or where to begin.
If the boys were doing something shady, they were good enough to keep that hidden. The only people I know here, and trust are Mario, Trina, Fin and Ray. Of them, Fin would probably be the one to ask.
I left a message for him, but I still haven't heard anything.
I almost went to the morgue today, but I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. There's always tomorrow.
Something tells me, there's a lot I need to learn about this city and what goes on here. When I showed up at the morgue, Dr. Chen had several JD's waiting for me. None of them were the boys, thank God, but three of them were very familiar. They were the men from the van.
I knew that they hadn't survived the accident, but the injuries that brought them here were not the ones we'd treated at the scene. I could understand miss remembering one of their injuries, considering the circumstances we were working under, but three? And all three from small arms fire? To the head?
I don't think so.
I headed home, part of me wishing that I'd stayed in bed. My life was complicated enough before the boys went missing and now it seems to want to get even more complicated. Who am I kidding, I love complications: they keep me from thinking about myself and what I'm doing.
I almost called it a night, until I noticed the car that was following me. And I wasn't being paranoid. A few odd turns were proof enough for me. Believe me, after being stalked by someone, you learn to notice these things.
I weighed my options as I continued to meander through the city. If I went to a Lone Star substation, he'd probably leave, but then I wouldn't know why he was following me. Same for going to the station.
After a few casual turns I pulled into a local Stuffer Shack and went inside. I was watching the reflections in the slush-o-matic as I poured myself one.
I was never more relieved when I heard a familiar voice call softly. "Jess."
It was Fin. I turned and smiled at him.
He could see the relief in my eyes. "So, what is it now?"
That fast he was already shifting modes. "I got a tail."
He gave me a sly smile and nodded. "Plan?"
"I was going to try and id them, that's why I stopped here, but..."
I could see his grin grow as my sentence trailed of.
"But with me... I could try returning the favor?"
I nodded and so did he. He gave me a gentle kiss on top of the head and then faded into the night.
"See ya later," his voice called from the doorway.
Losing the tail was easy. I was on a bike, they were in a car. But what they wanted remained a mystery. I'm still waiting to hear from Fin.
Sleep was a long time in coming. After two hours of tossing and turning I gave up and pulled out some 3x5 index cards I'd bought. I walked into the livingroom and sat down on the couch. I began writing down the events I knew about, starting with my arrival in SeaTac.
Even after arranging the events so that the related incidents were grouped together, there was still no pattern. Was I being followed because of the 'accident victims', my brothers, the runners... some other factor?
I don't know how long I mused over the cards, only that it was light when I woke up. The cards were still arrayed around me and I was no closer to an answer than I was the night before.
I spent the day wondering why I was being tailed, trying to make heads or tails of this whole mess. And no matter what I did, the questions over rode everything else until I had to get out of the house.
I was careful, watching everything expecting at any minute to have the strange car pull up along side of me. I didn't need to worry. My guardian angels were looking out for me. Fin must have told the locals that something was up, 'cause everywhere I went, one or two of them were always nearby, just in case.
And then there was Mario. I'm beginning to think the man has a sixth sense when it comes to me being in trouble. Or maybe its just the fact that I always seem to be in trouble. I don't know, but I know I was grateful for the company.
I managed to distract myself for most of the day sorting bandages for Trina, but as evening came so did the tension. It didn't help that I started worrying about Fin. Should have known the man could take care of himself.
I didn't see Fin until well after dark, and he did not look happy.
I was sitting in the condo fiddling around with my guitar when Fin arrived. I let him in quickly and he ran a quick check of the place before settling down.
"Who did you tick off at the Star?"
I looked at him questioningly. "They were cops?"
Fin stared at me for a minute until he realized I wasn't playing dumb. "They were cops," he told me. "Special investigators."
The news did not make me feel any better, and I showed him the cards. After he read through them he sighed. "You've had a busy few weeks," he commented when he finished. "You noticed the car after you left the morgue?"
"And you're sure they haven't followed you before?"
I shrugged. "As far as I can tell," I answered.
"And how did you notice them this time?"
I sighed. "I had a boyfriend who went off the deep end," I told him. "He tried to kill me... I kinda learned what to watch for."
I've got to give Fin credit, he took the information and accepted it. "Okay, so... either it has something to do with your brothers, the runners you helped, the attack on the clinic or the dead guys at the morgue."
I nodded. "But if it were the boys- I've already been to the morgue once, and as for the others..." I shook my head. "I don't know."
He winked at me. "What does your gut say?"
I looked at him for a minute then sighed. "That it's the guys at the morgue."
He nodded. "Then lets go with that. Let me check into a few things..." He stopped his crystal blue eyes searching for mine. "But this wasn't why you were trying to get a hold of me?"
I took a deep breath and met his gaze. "No. I... I've been thinking about the boys," I admitted. "And... they weren't working regular jobs were they."
Fin studied me for a minute and finally shook his head. "Nah kid, they weren't. And they can take care of themselves."
I gave him a slightly stiff smile. I appreciated his candor. "Where do I start..."
He paused then nodded. "You let me run this through a few of my contacts and you act like nothing's changed. I'll get you what information I can- on the cops and your brothers.
One of the things I've always liked about Fin, he's never been the type to soften the blows, except by not answering the unasked questions. If I want to know, I know Fin will give it to me straight.
"Act normal," I sighed.
"Better you than me," He countered, giving my shoulder a squeeze. "We'll get this worked out." That said, he slipped out of the condo and faded back into the night.
'Normal,' I wondered to myself. A medic from Baltimore, shifting cities and coasts to look for three brothers who are missing- what is normal anyway?