Revenge is Sweet

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

John Gage threw himself down on his cot, grinning. He had the perfect way to get back at the Phantom, aka Chet Kelly. The problem was he would need assistance in setting the stunt up. With Roy DeSoto, his paramedic partner and friend, out of town with his family, Johnny had to find another assistant. Marco Lopez, although a great choice, would be put on the spot as he was a friend of Chet. Captain Stanley was out of the question. Mike Stoker was a possibility, but would the quiet engineer be willing to help?

The engine crew were out on a call and hadn't returned as yet. The paramedics had just returned from a water rescue and were finishing cleaning up.

Craig Brice, Roy's replacement, returned from the shower, preparing for sleep. "What are you amused by, Gage?"

"Nothing, Brice." Johnny went over the ultimate revenge again in his mind. He had everything he needed, including the extra cannula, except for a helper.

"Damn it!" Brice jumped back out of the bed, dripping white marshmallow crème from his bare legs.

Johnny's initial inclination to laugh died at the pain barely hidden in Brice's clear blue-grey eyes. He realized that the men in Station 51 hadn't been very friendly to the man they called the Walking Rule Book. The jokes aimed at Craig Brice were just a little bit nastier than any aimed at Johnny. As someone who had been an outsider more times than he cared to recall, Johnny felt a pang of regret and shame. They had done nothing to welcome Brice during his stints at 51.

After Brice returned from showering off again, Johnny had finished stripping the cot and was putting clean bedding on. Brice hesitated, blinking at the sight, then joined in, helping put a pillowcase on his pillow and tucking the blanket in precisely.

Johnny had a brainstorm. "Hey, Craig, how would you like to help me get back at the Phantom?" he asked.

For the first time, Johnny saw a genuine smile break out on the solemn paramedic's face. The change amazed Johnny.

"I would like that very much, Ga…John."

Johnny sat on the edge of his cot, facing Brice. He rubbed his hands together. "Great! Let me tell you what I have in mind."

Brice frowned as Johnny outlined his great plan. "Uh, John, that's a good idea, but…"

Johnny sighed. He knew it was too good to last. The Perfect Paramedic was going to pick his plan apart.

"If you really want to shock and scare the life out of Chet Kelly, you have to be willing to go all the way. And I think I know just how we can do it." Brice looked down, then back up at Johnny, a shy smile on his face. "If you want."

Once Brice finished explaining his idea, Johnny was grinning ear to ear. "You, Craig, are my hero. That is beautiful! When do we…" Johnny heard the engine back into the bay and quickly gave Brice his home address. "Come over for lunch, about noon, we'll set up the plans."

Brice agreed and rolled over to sleep. Johnny flung his arm over his eyes, struggling to hold back his delight. This would be the best prank ever!

f

The paramedics came storming back into the kitchen, having just returned from a "person down" call. Johnny flung himself onto the nearest chair while Brice went to the counter to pour himself a cup of coffee. The other firefighters sitting in the room watched the two, heads twisting back and forth as if they were watching a tennis match. The silence was oppressive.

"You…you had no right!" Johnny began shouting, jumping to his feet. He knocked his chair back and it clattered to the floor.

"I did what was necessary. You were unprofessional," Brice replied tersely.

"She needed comfort, not an analytical discussion of her husband's injuries."

"Hugging a victim's family member is unprofessional. Your job is to care for the patient."

"Fine. If you had a problem with me, you talk to me, not to Brackett!"

"The situation needed to be addressed. Since you have shown a lack of respect for my opinion or my person, I felt I had no choice but to report the situation."

Johnny stared at Brice, his mouth trembling. He spun on his heel and stomped out of the kitchen. Brice resumed sipping from his mug, seating himself at the table and ignoring the looks directed his way.

"Uh, Brice? What's going on with you and Gage?" Chet asked.

Brice blinked at the mustached firefighter, pushed his glasses up on his nose and frowned. "It really is none of your business, Kelly."

The tones sounded, calling the station out on a possible gas leak at an apartment complex. Johnny trotted to the driver side of the squad from the dorm.

They arrived at the old three story Spanish style complex and found the front yard filled with people. A small man with random tufts of hair on his head hurried to the engine. After conferring with Captain Stanley, the man returned to help herd the apartment's residents across the street.

"Stoker, have dispatch verify that the gas has been shut off. Once the gas company verifies, we'll air the building out. Brice, Gage, Mr. Mankowitz states that everyone is accounted for."

"Excuse me. Sir? Excuse me, please." A rotund Korean woman came bustling up to where Captain Stanley stood with his paramedics.

"Yes, ma'am?" Stanley leaned over to better hear the woman.

"There is no gas leak. It is my dinner."

"Ma'am?"

"It is my dinner that they smell. I cook cabbage. It smell."

"Cabbage?" Stanley sighed. "Brice, get the detector and find out if this is a gas leak or a cabbage cooking smell."

"Yes, sir."

The captain was puzzled. If he didn't know better, he could swear that John and Brice exchanged a quick smile before the bespectacled paramedic went to follow his orders, shrugging into his SCBA and grabbing the gas detector.

Because Brice was obsessively thorough, it took a while before he returned, his mask hanging around his neck. He was met by Captain Stanley. "The smell is strong, but the lady is right. It's cabbage. No sign of gas leaking anywhere."

Stanley raised his helmet, running his hand through his dark hair, mussing it. "Okay. Pack up and head back to the barn. I'll let dispatch know we're available. Kelly, Lopez, wrap it up."

f

"Have you heard them?" Marco asked his friend as they hung the hoses after scrubbing them down.

Chet nodded, looking down to where Stoker was washing the engine. "I can't believe how vicious Johnny is being. It's not like him, even with Brice. I don't know what's going on, but I don't like it."

"Look." Marco pointed to where the squad was being hosed down by Johnny. Brice came up behind him, pointing at the bumper and windshield. Johnny hunched his shoulders up around his neck. A few more words from Brice earned a stronger reaction, the hose turned to blast Brice in the chest. Within moments, the two paramedics were struggling over the hose, then the water was abruptly shut off.

"Brice, Gage, in my office. Now!"

As if they might find themselves in trouble if they were seen, Marco and Chet pulled back from the edge of the hose tower and went busily back to work. They exchanged glances once the three men disappeared into the station. Without a word, they both scurried down the tower. Joined by the engineer, they hurried to outside the Captain's office and attempted to listen, but all they could hear were murmurs, no discernable words.

They were caught when Stanley opened the door. It was hard, but the three men tried to look like they had something to do, wiping the walls, scuffing at the floor.

"Gentlemen? Get back to work," Stanley ordered. He stood just outside the doorway while Johnny and Brice walked past him, heading for the dorm and dry clothes.

Chet began to follow, but was stopped by his captain. "Kelly. The tower. Now."

"Uh, yes, sir, Cap."

Johnny and Brice looked around, making certain they were alone. Once reassured, Brice advanced on Johnny. "You are a dead man, John Gage!"

Johnny laughed, backing up with his hands thrown up in protest and protection. "Hey, that's my line."

"I only have one more uniform left in my locker. Can you please not get it or me wet?" Brice began unbuttoning his shirt, barely catching the towel flung at his face.

"I'll do my best," Johnny responded as the tones sounded again. "Of course, I make no promises on call or Kelly related accidents."

Brice was buttoning up as they ran to the squad to accompany the engine to a structure fire in the hills.

Upon arrival, the Station 51 crew found the front porch of a two-story structure ablaze with no way to enter from the front.

"Lopez, Kelly, get the one and a half on the front of the house. Brice, Gage, go around the left, see if you can find a way inside, check for victims." Stanley went to the right side of the house.

"Brice, kitchen door's open." Johnny and Brice walked in and found an elderly woman cooking at the stove while an even older man read the newspaper at the kitchen table.

"Ma'am, sir. You need to come outside." Johnny leaned over and cut the stove off, removing the frying pan from the burner. "Your porch is on fire."

"Of course it is, son," the wizened man said.

The woman nodded, snapping the stove back on. "It'll be fine. Are you nice boys hungry? I can fix you some lunch. We're having some corned beef hash. I'll set places for you."

"Sir," Brice said, trying again. "You and your wife have to come outside. The fire…"

"I know," was the frustrated reply, "I had a nest of wasp nests up in the corner of the porch. I set 'em afire with good ole gasoline to get rid of them for good. It should be out anytime now."

At this time, smoke from the front room was rolling back into the kitchen. Sounds of glass breaking in the front room were audible in the back.

The wife turned to her husband, frowning. She gathered her composure, shut the stove off again and scurried out the back door, aided by Johnny who kept his hand under her elbow.

Her husband was speechless. "I don't understand. I do this all the time." Brice helped the man make his way out the door, mumbling all the way.

The husband and wife were checked carefully over by the two paramedics who found nothing.

"Elmer, you old coot, what did you do wrong?"

"I did the same thing I always do, Alice. I sprayed some gasoline on the nest and set it on fire."

Captain Stanley came around the house in time to hear the man's comment. "Sir, that nest was very large. The amount of gasoline you sprayed on the nest was enough to burn the whole house down."

"Elmer, that is the last time you take care of it yourself. I told you we needed to call the exterminator."

Johnny had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Poor Elmer was staring down at the ground while his wife berated him at great length. He jerked his head at Brice and they walked back to the front where Chet and Marco were finishing putting out the fire.

They helped with the cleanup. The house suffered damage only to the porch, the front room and, from smoke damage, two rooms upstairs.

While tearing down some scorched wood, Johnny stumbled, almost falling. Chet caught him and grinned. "Hey, Gage, wasp what you're doing. Get it? Wasp what you're doing!" Chet walked off cackling which Johnny groaned.

On the drive back to the station, Johnny looked at Brice. "I think it's time."

Equally evil grins adorned the two men. The plan was officially in motion.

f

Roy DeSoto was shocked. He had arrived home early and went to let Johnny know that his partner wouldn't have to cut the grass. The last person he expected to find lounging around the apartment pool with Johnny was Craig Brice. What was even more shocking to Roy's mind was that the two men were getting along. Roy glanced around, looking for the hidden cameras. Surely this was a Candid Camera moment. Either that or he should be hearing Rod Serling doing a voice over.

"I was thinking that we could go climbing on our next day off. I know a trail up around San Paulo…" Johnny began.

"I know that one! It has that switchback that leads to a fantastic view of the valley, right?" Brice said, smiling.

"Yeah, that's the one. I think we could do it in record time…hey, Roy!" Johnny spotted his partner and flashed a lop-sided grin at the dumfounded man. "Grab a beer and a chair."

Brice's easy manner disappeared. He began to climb out of the lawn chair. "Maybe I should go."

Johnny shook his head vehemently, laying his hand on Brice's arm, halting his escape. "Don't go, we still have to cook the steaks we bought. They're marinating and the grill is set up, all we have to do is light the charcoal and cook the corn. Stay."

Brice nodded slowly and sat back down.

"Man, Roy, we have the best stunt to set up Kelly, it's perfect! Craig came up with it and we're doing it during tomorrow's shift. Wish you could see it."

"Uh, a stunt? You and…Craig? Do I want to know what it is? No, stop," Roy said, holding up his hand. "Don't tell me now. I think I'll wait until it's over and done with."

Roy was reeling with the idea of Brice and Johnny as partners in anything, much less retaliation against the Phantom. He could also see that he was making Brice uncomfortable by being there. "Look, Johnny, I just wanted to let you know that we're back in town. You don't have to come and do the lawn; I'll take care of it."

"Cool. Sure you don't want to stay for a while?" Johnny seemed oblivious to Brice's discomfort, but Roy wasn't.

"No thanks. Joanne is waiting for me. I'll see you in a week." Roy walked out of the courtyard, pausing at the entrance and looking back where Johnny and Brice were chattering away. He shook his head. Maybe his wife could explain it to him. Roy certainly didn't understand how his partner, who had ranted about Brice for days on end, could suddenly be buddy-buddy with the man.

f

Brice stuck his head around the dorm doorway. "Are you ready?"

Johnny nodded, handing small red packets to Brice. "Almost. Check this out." He pulled a large knife from his locker and showed the other man how it worked. "This is gonna be so cool!"

Brice sighed. He was beginning to understand what Roy DeSoto had to put up with day after day. John Gage was like a child, his enthusiasm infectious and delightful to watch. "Okay, I'll make certain that Kelly is within hearing distance. You have the script memorized?"

"Yeah, yeah, I've got it down cold." At a disbelieving look from Brice, Johnny protested. "Honest! I know what I'm supposed to do."

Brice smiled, patted Johnny on the shoulder and, sighing, went in search of Chet Kelly.

f

"Gage, it is my belief that you are not fit to be a paramedic. My report will reflect that." Brice's voice was a cold as anyone could remember hearing.

"Hey, Marco, listen to this." Chet motioned to where he was peering through the dorm room door.

"What are you talkin' about? What report?" Johnny's voice was rising.

"Due to the recent incident with the family member, I was asked to observe you and make a report on your suitability for the job. The touchy-feely manner might have been adequate when the program first began, but now we must have a higher standard of professionalism. You are not professional."

"You can't take my job away from me, Brice. It's my life!"

"Consider it over."

Chet leaned farther out and saw Brice turn his back on Johnny and begin to walk away. Johnny roared and grabbed a knife from his locker. He jumped after Brice and began stabbing, blood spurting from the man's back.

Brice shakily turned and held up his hands to protect himself. "Gage, no! Don't!"

Johnny's knife slipped through and embedded itself in the man's stomach. Brice fell to the floor, his hand feebly trying to remove the knife.

Chet was in shock. He couldn't move. He felt Marco push past him to go into the room, carefully edging around a panting John Gage. Marco knelt beside Brice, uncertain what to do. "Chet, get Cap. Chet!"

Chet ran so fast that he was stumbling and falling. "Cap! Cap! Come quick! Johnny's killed Brice!"

Captain Stanley came bursting out of his office. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Johnny…he went…crazy…stabbed Brice…we've gotta call for help…" Chet was hyperventilating.

The two men went running back to the dorm, only to find it empty. Captain Stanley turned to Chet. "If this is your idea of a joke, I'm not amused."

"No, I'm not…I'm not joking. Look, there's blood on the floor." Chet pointed to the concrete where spots of red could be seen.

"Then where are they now?"

"And where's Marco? Cap, could Johnny…maybe he killed Marco, too?" Chet began looking around nervously, moving closer to Stanley.

"You twit, even if Johnny is the mad killer you seem to think he is, how would he have time to kill Marco and drag both bodies from the dorm? And where would he hide them? The lockers?"

This sounded so logical to both men after it was uttered that Captain Stanley found himself looking at the closed locker doors. "Chet, open them."

"Huh?"

"Open the lockers."

"Uh uh, no way, not me. I don't want a body falling on me."

"Hey, Chet, Cap. What's goin' on?"

To say that Chet had a heart attack might be a slight exaggeration, but only barely. He shrieked, jumped back and ran out the dorm door, heading for the radio to call for help. Captain Stanley, beginning to suspect the truth, frowned at his laughing paramedic.

"John, what did you do? And where are Marco and Craig?"

"Here, Cap."

"Right here, Captain Stanley."

Marco and Brice came out of the bathroom, Brice wiping at his shirt with a damp cloth. "John, this stuff stains."

"Hey, I can't help that. It was realistic looking."

"Where did you get this stuff?"

"From a buddy in the movie business."

"Gentlemen, fascinating this might be, but…" The tones interrupted Captain Stanley. He dropped his head when he heard the dispatcher's announcement.

"Squad 16, Code I times 2 at Station 51. Police have been dispatched. Armed assailant may be on site."

Stanley rushed out of the dorm and headed to the radio where Chet huddled in misery and fear. "You blithering idiot. How am I going to explain this to the Chief?"

Stoker appeared from the kitchen where he had been reading a book. He looked around in surprise when he saw everyone alive and well.

The captain got on the radio and cancelled the call for police and fire assistant. Once he was done, he turned to where his men stood in varying degrees of concern. "All of you, in the kitchen. Now!"

Chet was checking out Marco and Brice, slowly coming to realize that he had been set up. "John Gage, you bastard!"

Johnny, although worried about what his captain would do to him, grinned at his nemesis. "Got ya!"

"I've gotta admire a good scam and that was priceless. And to include Brice, how did you manage that?"

"Yes, that's what I'd like to know. I'd expect something like this from you, John, or even from Chet, but not from Craig."

"I…it wasn't…I wasn't...Craig didn't…" Johnny didn't know what to say or do. Because Chet managed to report the incident on the radio, there would probably be an investigation. Johnny didn't want to get anyone else into trouble, but he always had a problem lying.

"Sir, I actually had the idea. I convinced John to do what I had planned rather than his own idea to get back at Kelly." Brice spoke up, aware that Johnny was trying to shield him. He felt a warm glow at the lengths that his new friend would go, including taking the fall by himself.

"It was your idea? Man, it was a classic! I should've known that Gage couldn't think of anything so perfect," Chet exclaimed, looking at Craig Brice with new respect.

"Kelly, you're not helping." Johnny looked at Brice. "You didn't have to tell him that. I didn't mean for you to get into trouble, Craig. You were just trying to help me."

Captain Stanley didn't interfere, allowing his men to speak, knowing that he might find out more this way than through interrogation. The damage was done, now was the time to find out what was behind such a prank. Although Cap believed he knew why it happened.

"I cannot allow you to suffer the consequences alone, John. It wouldn't be right."

"Uh, excuse me, but since I missed most of this, could you explain it to me?" Stoker asked, tired of trying to read between the lines.

"Well," Johnny began. "Chet was being a pain in the…"

"John," Cap warned.

"Posterior! I was gonna say posterior. Anyway, he was being a pain to both me and Craig. I was already thinking of a way to get back at the Phantom and thought I had the perfect plan, but I needed help."

"After the last present from the Phantom," Brice continued. "I was ready to get him back as well. When Johnny asked my assistance, I jumped at the chance. I simply changed the idea a little."

"It was beautiful. We've been setting him up to believe that I snapped for days."

"The complaint to Brackett was a part of the prank?" Stoker asked.

"Yeah. Anyway, today we started an argument in hearing of big ears here," Johnny continued. "Chet's always eavesdropping, so we knew he wouldn't be far away. Then I snapped and stabbed Craig."

"But how would that be believable?"

Johnny held up the knife and pressed on the point. It slid into a sleeve in the handle. Brice turned around and showed Stoker the wet spots where he had tried to remove the fake blood from the packets he taped to his shirt. "They popped when the handle hit them, making it look even more realistic."

"I've gotta admit, Mikey, it was really good. I fell for it hook, line and sinker." Chet was admiring until Cap glared at him.

"Uh, Cap?" Johnny ventured softly. "How much trouble are we in? I mean, I don't think Chet should take the fall for this. I didn't think that he'd call it out before we could grab him, but we were busy telling Marco what was going on and…well, you know."

"There is one part of your statement that is accurate, John. You weren't thinking." Captain Stanley responded. "I'll have to call the Chief, find out what he has to say first. But, don't be surprised if there isn't a suspension."

"Could…"Johnny swallowed noisily. "Could we be fired?"

"Let me put it this way," Stanley replied. "I would advise you to contact your union rep."

The three men sat morosely in their chairs, looking at each other in shared concern. This prank had become all too real.

f

"So", Roy asked Johnny as they sat outside near the apartment pool. "What happened?"

"Well, we didn't get fired, so you won't have to break in a new partner." Johnny said.

"But," Brice continued, standing at the grill flipping burgers. "We are all suspended without pay for three shifts."

"Which wasn't as bad as it could have been," Chet chimed in, pouring soft drinks into the cups on the picnic bench. "The Chief actually liked the joke, I think."

"What gave you that idea?" Roy asked.

"I think it was the hysterical laughter coming from his office when Cap got done explaining the whole thing to him. We were in the outer office and could hear him through the door."

Joanne was listening to the men explaining what had happened while they were on vacation and was amazed. The three men had been at each other's throats since they first met, played the most vicious joke she could imagine on Chet and now they were all here at Johnny's apartment being friendly. She would never understand firefighters!

She shook her head and continued mixing the macaroni salad, the DeSoto contribution to the party. She was just grateful that Roy hadn't been caught in the backlash. This time, she reminded herself. Because where there was Johnny and Chet, there would be more pranks, more trouble, more friendly bickering and, she realized, more moments where one of the men would protect and save her husband from danger. Now there was a new member of the group. They were enemies and friends and brothers. To Joanne, that said it all. "Who wants macaroni salad with their burgers?"

The End

Note: You might consider this to be alternate universe, but if you look at them both, you can see that Johnny and Craig have quite a bit in common and might, if Johnny hadn't already taken it into his head to dislike the man who even managed to tick off Roy DeSoto, have become friends. At least that's my opinion! J

Some of the incidents and calls in this story are based on real events found in books and on the internet. Thanks to Terry Barger, Dennis Smith, and the nameless others who have shared their experiences.