Since I wasn't allowed to apply my brand of subtlety to Jonathan, I applied it to the next best thing– Case.
Not that I got very far. I think I managed to get Jonathan's name out before Case was already waving the question off and running for the hills.
His words, and I quote– "The man has been through enough, just give him time. If you don't, he's going to run away from the best thing that's ever happened to him... "
That got my curiosity way up, but Case refused to explain further, believe me I tried.
Hasn't he learned by now that I hate a mystery?
I had a few hours to myself before Angie and the others showed up for the briefing. I tried to use the time to find out why Jonathan was so gun-shy. The search was an abysmal failure.
At least it put me in the right frame of mind for dealing with Bull. The man struts into my office gives it a condescending look and then tries to control the meeting.
Not just deciding who talks and when mind you– he was trying to dictate my actions and the kinds of calls we'd cover– as in, I would only respond to calls that would make interesting viewing, and leave the standard boring accident calls to the others.
I sat there dumbfounded for a few seconds before jumping in with both feet. The look he gave me– man!
Fortunately I'm immune to the ‘hairy eyeball.'
He tried to tell me that they wanted news. I told them I had a job to do and that their presence wasn't to interfere with that– and that dictating what calls I take definitely into that category.
Bull was sulking for the rest of the briefing as I described the types of calls we typically get and how the types of calls vary from area to area. They asked me what were the most ‘dangerous calls'.
I thought about it a minute and explained that it was the ‘unexpected calls.' That took some explaining. But basically every call has its own dangers and problems and when you forget that, take something as ‘routine'... that's when the trouble really begins.
Its true too– you forget how tenuous our grip is on life– you're going to get reminded of it in a very hard and memorable way.
I showed up for work early so I could prep my gear and to make sure that Angie's bike was rigged and up to speed. Angie arrived with Bull and several other reporters. Bull was angry that I'd ‘Started without them'
I just shook my head. "Briefing's in ten minutes," I told them and finished with Angie's Bike.-- its one of the spares from the garage.
Ten minutes later I walked into the briefing room and was handed the log book and I got a run down on the cases from Bruce– one of the newer Motormedics. As he handed me the board he told me, "been a slow day– sorry."
One of the reporters asked me about it after he'd left.
"Usually when it's a slow day, its going to be a busy night," I explained.
This seemed to make Bull very happy. He seems to feel that my ‘spare time' when not on a call is meant for answering deep probing questions. On the bright side, it was a busy night, if -- odd night and I didn't get to see much of him at all.
Angie had a good time, even if some one of the calls was– mislabeled. About 0300 we got a call– woman in labor. More like Labrador... It was priceless...
I keep trying to tell they guy we can't help and that dogs have been doing this for centuries, and he was yelling about how he pays his taxes and since he pays my salary I should damn well take care of his dog.
I told him to call his vet, and he told me he already had. The vet had told him that he'd meet him at the hospital– the animal hospital. Angie and I ended up helping him load the mother to be into the back of his station wagon– but she wasn't very happy about it. She was perfectly happy where she was and was in no mood to be moved.
The most exciting call of the day involved a shooting victim. We got to the call before the police and the gentleman in question wasn't really the trusting sort. Not the I blame him really. Here he is hiding behind a dumpster, shot three times in the chest and I come rolling in.
He fired a warning shot in front of me and politely told me to leave.
"Can't do that hon," I told him in one of my more reassuring voiced. "I do– you're going to bleed to death before the ambulance gets here."
It took some debating but he finally let me take care of him. Good thing too– my estimate wasn't too far off the mark.
As we cleared that call, Angie asked me if this was a typical night for me. I was about to tell her that its never ‘typical' when the next call came in– Dolphin boy was in action back at the Aquarium. It kind of rounded out the night. Nothing like being shot at and having to go swimming at 3 o'clock in the morning to balance out your evening.
Angie met me early at the station and asked a lot more questions since Bull wasn't there to run everything. As we went over the equipment she pointed to my helmet and asked "What's that."
I paused, refraining from making the smart-assed comment of "A helmet" and looked at what she was pointing at. Next to the reflective caduceus, were three winged motorcycles and a cave. I chuckled.
"That's my kill history," I told her. "Over three years, I've had three bikes go out from under me and a cave collapse on me."
"Go out from under you?"
I nodded. A lot of people either ignore or don't realize just how dangerous the job can be. Under the best of circumstances, a motorcycle rider's at risk. He's smaller than even the smallest economy vehicles and all that stands between him and the road is the protective gear he wears.
Add to that the fact that it's an emergency vehicle, and it becomes not a question of ‘if', but rather ‘when' you're going to go down.
She listened to my explanation and nodded-- She knew the risk of riding.
"Here they come," she warned me as the reporters and other cameramen arrived for the briefing. Bull glared at us, especially at Angie for talking to me without his guiding hand to slant the conversation.
The man is definitely a barracuda.
During the briefing he suggested that we run from a different station where there's more action. I told him that if he wanted to follow a different rider that was fine– but downtown is my turf right now and we can't go reassigning people just for a story.
He glowered at me muttering something about my knowing that they already have too much ‘invested in my.'
I love that– they've ‘invested in me.' Right.
After the briefing it was back to just Angie and me patrolling the area and answering questions about last night's calls. They all agreed that there wasn't really anything ‘special' about the calls.
I was just as glad they weren't. Tonight however, they got some of the ‘gritty action' they were looking for.
We had three major accident calls that would appease even Bull. The first call we had to rescue a man trapped in a car that had gone off one of the freeway bridges. That was fun–they got repelling (and some great footage of what it looks like from my side), the jaws of life and a good shot of the snorkel truck as it lifted the driver back up to the freeway where the ambulance could take him to the hospital.
The other two were dull in comparison– but all in all it was a good night. No one died and everyone went home.
Some days you kind of wish you'd slept through. Not only did I have one of those days, Angie caught it all on film.
The day started off innocently enough, a fury of getting ready, tucking in the munchkin, a brief conversation with Case about his day and then off to the station for pre-flight and the briefing. Even Bull was happy with the footage from the night before and was a little more amiable.
I should have known it was a harbinger of things to come. I should have known disaster was waiting in the wings– and that I'd be miserable before the night was through.
It wasn't even a bad shift– everything was running smoothly. We had a few accidents, a sever allergic reaction– anaphylactic shock: good documentary stuff. Then it all went south.
There was an accident on I-5. Angie had learned to give me a wide enough berth which saved her– but there was no hope for me. We crested a rise and I started to slow as the accident scene came into view. It was obvious that everyone had skidded into each other– and the I was skating down the road as well.
Yes sir– you just know that they're going to use the footage of you going down, and there's nothing to do as you slide towards the cause of the accident... a sewage truck spill.
The only good thing I can say is – at least it was a soft landing..
It was a mess– literally and figuratively. I was a mess and in no uhm... position to help until the Hazmat truck came and washed me down. By the time I was cleaned off and checked out, other units had dealt with the injured and the Hazmat folks were cleaning up the scene.
Then I had to call Joe and have him pick up my bike. He was not very happy with me– at least he had the sense no to complain. I caught a ride back to the station and took a very long hot shower and changed into a clean uniform.
If there were days you could just skip– this would have topped the list.
If my week had been missing any action and excitement– tonight gave them more than enough footage to make up for it. From briefing to briefing we were on call and moving. It started off with an O.D. at a hot nightclub where the management didn't want a big scene– image and all.
They didn't appreciate my showing up code three, I didn't appreciate their attitude– but neither one of us was there to cause trouble– just to get our jobs done. In the end the victim was shipped off to Harbor View and I rode off into the sunset, or the next call.
Between accidents, over indulgence and a ‘gold fish incident' we had a busy night– a lot busier than I like. Still, I'd rather accidents and stupidity over what finished off the night.
A knifing downtown led to a beating three blocks away, which turned into a shooting, which was followed by a drive by. All the while I'm bouncing from scene to scene trying to keep people alive. I knew better than to think that the incidents were unrelated. The alternating colors my patients were wearing was too hard to ignore.
I told Angie to keep her eyes open and to stay near me. We were loading on victim into the back of the truck when several members of the opposing gang arrived– determined to finish the job. I faced them down.
"We aren't here for you," their leader told me.
"I know," I told him. "But he's off limits now."
"His people killed two of mine."
That simple– to him. I have another take on the matter
"The truck is off limits. You violate that, nobody gets help."
He stared me down and I could see several of his friend's preparing to take us all out. I moved forward slightly, putting myself between the truck and the new arrivals.
"He ain't worth it," he warned me.
"Some'd say the same about you," I answered. "And I'd be standing between them and you just the same."
It was a very tense few minutes, but finally he signaled his men to lower their weapons.
"Some day– everybody's luck runs out."
I nodded. "I know. And that's usually where you'll find me."
He gave me a half smile and shook his head. "Here I thought all the white knights had left us."
"We're out there..."
I was shaking when Angie congratulated me on my handling of that. I looked at her and told her that that exchange never happened.
It took her a moment and finally she nodded. "Shame– its some of the best pieces to date."
Without another word, she dropped the tape and started a new one.
She needn't have worried– we got much better work coverage in the next three hours. A warehouse collapsed in the Barrens. All hands were called out on that one..
We pulled twenty-seven people from the wreckage and seven of our own who got trapped in further collapses. For a change, I wasn't on the injured list.
Everybody made it home, even if some of us were limping. I was two hours late, but I was whole. Sometimes that's all that matters.
We were late getting over to the Walkers, but I shouldn't have worried. Mom had heard about the collapse and knew I'd be tired. She even prepared the bed in her studio for me. I did end up taking a nap but for the most part I stayed awake and socialized– imagine that.
It was fun seeing Michael playing with his niece. He's about fifteen now, that borderline adult stage, but when he's with Bri– its like nothing else matters. Its good to know that he's there for her– and in her own way, Bri is there for him.
We still talk about our ghosts from time to time– when we do, there are times I swear he's older than I am. Sometimes I wish there was more I could do. I think the same goes for the boys. You can't do everything and you can't undo what's done.
Its just that sometimes moving on is hard– especially on holidays... I think the worst is when everything is going right and you turn to share it with them, and for that one moment– you forget that they're gone and then reality crashes in on you.
Its happening less for both of us– but I know it still hits him. Still, sometimes– I swear Gwyneth is there. Mom says she can see the sparkle in Bri's eyes when she sees something that piques her interest. It's a nice thing to contemplate sometimes.
We all live on in each other– not a bad idea.
Copyright 2000 M.T. Decker