"When the Spirit Cries"
On a cool October morning, Jon and Ponch road down the 405.
"Hey, Jon, it's already four hours into our tour and nothing has happened. I think it's going to be a slow day, Partner."
Jon laughed and shook his head, looking over at Ponch. "Don't speak too soon. Have you looked at the sky lately?"
The sky was dark with the threat of rain in the air.
"Yeah, I know, Jon. Looks like we'll be in cars before the day is over." Ponch smiled, thinking of the last rainy day they had spent in a patrol car. Looking over at Jon, Ponch laughed. "Hey, maybe poor Grossie will have better luck then he did the last time."
Suddenly, the loud crash of vehicles hitting each other and car horns going off broke the peaceful mood of the morning. It didn't take Jon and Ponch long to arrive at the scene of the accident.
Jumping off his motor, Ponch yelled over to Jon, "I'll start checking it out. You call it in."
Jon picked up his mic, calling the accident into Central Dispatch. He watched as Ponch walked over to the teenager who had been thrown from one of the cars. Putting his hand on the young man's neck Ponch, could feel no pulse. Looking back at Jon, Ponch shook his head.
"Seven Mary Three and Four, we have a multiple 11-80, roll an ambulance, tow truck, and a coroner to my location."
"Hey, Jon! Help me with this car door!" Ponch yelled, as Jon came up to him.
Getting the door open, Jon reached in to help the young lady out of her vehicle.
"It's my leg, Officer. I don't think I can walk," the lady said as tears fell down her face. "Oh please, Officer, get my kids...in the back seat."
"Yes Ma'am, my partner is working on getting the kids out." Jon picked the young mother up and carried her to the side of the road. "Don't worry, Ma'am. We'll get the kids," Jon said with his soft voice and warm smile.
Ponch got into the back seat and unbuckled the seat belts from the two small girls "Hi! My name is Ponch. I'm going to take you to your mommy."
"Officer, is my mommy hurt bad? She was crying. I'm scared!" the young child wrapped her small arms around Ponch's neck.
Ponch held the child tight. "Listen, Honey, you have to be strong now for your younger sister and mommy, Okay?" Ponch took the child over and set her down beside her mother. "You did a great thing having the kids in their seat belts. It saved their lives," Ponch said as he started to walk away. Looking around him, he wondered if any one else would be as lucky.
The smell of gas was strong in the air. Ponch began to turn the cars off, hoping that by doing so it would prevent any explosions. Bear and Grossie were doing traffic control as Ponch walked by. "Hey, Bear! Help me get this man out. It looks like this light red van was the cause of all this."
Bear and Ponch pulled the unconscious man from the van.
Reaching in to turn off the van to prevent a spark from setting off an explosion, Ponch heard a rattle. Looking over to the passenger's side, he saw the large diamondback rattlesnake.
The snake was already striking out at him, and he had no time to get out of the way. He felt the sharp pain as the snake's fangs penetrated his wrist just above his glove, sending the venom directly into his blood. He moved quickly, closing the door as the snake's second strike missed.
As blood poured from the wound, Ponch turned to Bear, his face reflecting his fear. His long time fear of snakes was not helping with the situation. Unable to find the words, Ponch stood frozen.
Bear saw the blood running off Ponch's arm. "What happened, Ponch? Did you get cut on something? Ponch, talk to me. You're turning pale...PONCH!" Bear turned to look into the van. Seeing the snake now laying on the front seat, Bear yelled out for Jon.
"What's wrong?" Jon took one look at his now frightened and shaking partner. "Bear? What happened?"
"Jon, it's a rattlesnake in the van! It bit Ponch!"
Walking over to Ponch, Jon quickly took the glove off his hand, knowing the bite site would quickly swell. "Ponch, listen to me carefully. You must stay calm. Panicking right now is the wrong thing to do.
Ponch shook his head, still unable to speak as the pain increased.
Taking a handkerchief from his pocket, Jon wrapped it two inches above the bite, careful not to totally restrict the flow of blood. "Ponch, don't move this arm or hand for any reason. You need to keep your arm down beside you so the bite will be lower than your heart."
After making sure Ponch understood him. Jon turned to yell for a paramedic. "I need you over here...NOW!" Jon's voice was demanding as he watched the guys come to help them
Sergeant Getraer watched as they loaded Ponch into the ambulance. "What happened, Jon?" Joe asked, hoping it was nothing too serious.
Jon pointed into the front seat of the van. "That's what happened."
Joe looked into the van and saw the snake lying on the front seat, then rubbed his hand over his face. "It must be a good six feet long. Why did the driver have it in his van?" Joe noticed the worried look on Jon's face as the ambulance carrying Ponch departed. He knew Jon's thoughts would be on his partner and best friend. "Jon, go on to the hospital. I'll take over here."
Grossie jogged up to join them. "Sarge, the driver of the van came to for a few minutes. He said he didn't know the snake was in the van. He'd been camping out with friends in the desert. He saw the snake, panicked and lost control of the van."
An angry Sarge looked over the accident. "If he had just kept calm and gotten off the road. Even if he'd been bitten, he should've driven off to the side and gotten the help he needed. He panicked, though, and three people are dead, five are hurt, and one of my best officers is being taken to the hospital for a snakebite."
"How are we going to get the snake out of the van, Sarge? We can't shoot it without setting off an explosion with all the gas that's leaked from the van."
"Grossie, go get the fire extinguisher from Bear's car. That should do the trick."
Joe held the extinguisher in his hands. "Okay, Grossman, when I say 'now', open the van door." He took a position near the door, aiming the extinguisher at the van. "NOW!"
Joe sprayed the snake, freezing it solid. Carefully picking up the snake, he took it to the side of the road, intending to make sure it was dead. "Grossman, you and Baricza finish up here. I'm going to the hospital to check on Frank."
Placing the snake in a bag and dropping it into the saddlebag of his motor, Joe left.
Joe soon joined Jon in the hospital waiting room as what seemed like hours had passed by. Finally the doctor walked into the room. Joe stood as the doctor approached him. "I'm Officer Poncherello's Sergeant, Joe Getraer. This is his partner, Jon Baker." Joe knew just by the look on the doctor's face no good news was going to be said.
"Sergeant, your young officer had a adverse reaction to the antivenins. There's really nothing that can be done now. Only time will tell if his sheer will to survive will pull him through."
Feeling as though he could stand it no longer, Jon turned pale as he sat back down. Rubbing his hands through his hair, he had the feeling that this time Ponch was closer to death than he had ever been before.
"He's young, Doctor, and in good health. He can make it." Joe insisted.
"I want to see him." Jon stood up and started walking out of the waiting room. He turned back toward the doctor for a moment. "Don't give up on him yet."
Jon left the waiting area and slowly entered the room where his partner lay unconscious. Walking up to the bedside, Jon began to speak softly. "Hey, Partner. I'm here now. You're not alone, okay? I'll stay with you until you wake up." Trying to hide the fear he was feeling, he began to joke with Ponch. You know, Partner, there's gotta be a better way to get out of being in a patrol car all day." Jon knew that though Ponch was unconscious, he could still hear him. He hoped that in some way he could help calm and comfort his partner. "Ponch, listen to me, man. Don't give up. I know you can make it."
Walking into the room, Joe watched as Jon tried to tell Ponch everything would be all right. He knew that Jon would be no good at his job if he was worried about his best friend. He cleared his throat softly. "Jon, I guess you'll be wanting to take off some time to be with Frank. I'll see what I can work out.." He walked over to the side of the bed. "Listen, Frank, I know you can beat this. Don't give up...that's an order!" He looked over at Jon. "I need to get back to Central. Let me know how he's doing."
"Yeah, I will, Joe, and thanks for the time off."
With that said, Joe left the hospital room. On his way out, he noticed the chapel and the large cross hanging on the wall. "God," Joe whispered, "...please help my officer and friend."
As the day progressed, Ponch's condition worsened. His heart raced and his breathing become more and more labored, as his body struggled to handled the effects of the venom. By late day, seizure-like activity began, requiring the use of medication.
Standing by the bed, Jon whispered, "Ponch, try to relax. I know it hurts, but you need to calm down.
Ponch found himself in total darkness. Somewhere far away, he could hear his partner's voice. 'Jon, where are you?'
He began to walk toward the sound of Jon's voice...
...a large rattlesnake loomed up before him...ready to strike...its large fangs dripping with poison!
He began to run.
Pain surged through his body, bringing him to his knees.
Arms wrapped around his chest, he collapsed to the ground.
From somewhere in the darkness, he could hear the voice of his partner speaking, "Ponch ...try to relax. Just rest..."
As the night went on, Jon stood beside the bed. Each time Ponch started to become agitated and experience the muscle spasms, he took his hand and gently held it. "Ponch, you're going to make it. Just rest easy, Partner."
Desperately, Ponch searched for Jon.
The unforgettable HISS of the rattlesnake was all-encompassing.
Looking down, he saw the snake strike.
Agonizing pain laced through his entire being.
'Jon! Jon, help me!'
Jon noticed Ponch tense up once again and saw the look of great pain on his face.
Jon leaned down, talking softly. "Ponch, I'm here. You're not alone. You can do this. You can come through this."
Hearing Jon's voice again, Ponch looked around.
The snake had vanished.
As the morning sun shone through the window, Jon could once again see the painful expression on Ponch's face. Once again, he spoke softly, trying to calm him in some way, to encourage his friend to continue the fight.
Jon could hear the day-shift nurses talking about going to the beach after work as they walked down the hallway. One of the nurses, Cindy, entered Ponch's room.
"Mr. Baker, I need to take his vital signs. I heard from the night staff that you and your partner had a bad night. Maybe you should get something to eat this morning. I'll stay here with him while you're gone. We don't want you to end up as sick as he is."
Jon smiled at the young nurse, knowing she was right. He started to walk out of the room, then stopped at the doorway, looking back. "I need to make a phone call...is there a phone I can use?"
"There's a pay phone down the hall." Cindy said with a smile as she watched Jon leave the room. Her thoughts turned for a moment to how she could get a date with the handsome blond cop.
Jon ate a small breakfast, then went to look for the pay phone.
"Grossie, I need to you to do me a favor. I know it's your day off, but could you go down to the beach with your tape recorder and get me a tape of the sounds of the ocean?"
Grossie could tell Jon was tired and could hear the fear in his voice. "Hey, Jon, I already have a tape of ocean sounds. I'll bring it by the hospital as soon as I can."
"Thanks, Grossie." Jon hung up the phone and smiled. 'I hope it helps Ponch,' he thought to himself.
As he started back down the hall, the hospital's 'call system' sprang to life.
"Code Blue, Room 311! Code Blue, Room 311!"
"Ponch!" Jon yelled. He tore down the hallway, shoving his way inside his friend's hospital.
A team of doctors and nurses were frantically working on Ponch.
Jon stood, frozen, in one corner, watching as the doctors hooked his partner up to a defibrillator.
He heard somebody give the count: "100...200...300...400 Watt seconds. Go!"
Ponch's body jerked in response to the surge of electricity.
There was a pause, then a nurse called out. "No response. He's still in V-vib!"
"No, Ponch! Don't give up!" Jon was unaware that he'd spoken aloud until Cindy walked over and put a hand on his arm.
"Mr. Baker, let's step outside."
Jon turned a desperate look at her. "Please...don't let him die!"
"The doctor is doing everything possible to bring your friend back."
Jon's eyes filled with tears. "He has to live!" he whispered. "HE HAS TOO!"
Jon leaned his back against the cool surface of the cement wall, his vision fixed upon the door to Ponch's room.
They had forced him out...said he was in the way...hindering their ability to help Ponch.
What were they doing in there? Why was it taking so long?
Fear knotted his gut...would they be able to get Ponch's heart beating again?
Or would he be forced to say good-bye to his dearest friend?
Despair filled his soul.
'Not Ponch too...please God...not Ponch too.'
Once again the rattle snake came near Ponch, sinking it's fans deep into his right arm.
Feeling as if being struck my lighting, the man fell to the ground, unable to move as the pain run through his body.
Hearing the rattler's rattle, he had the feeling that the snake was laughing at him.
Not willing to let a snake get the best of him, feeling as if he wanted to fight back, Ponch found a large rock, picked it up and started toward the snake. 'This time, snake, I'M going to bite!'
He slammed the rock down onto snake's head...over and over...
Grossie walked down the hallway, whistling. "Hey, Jon, I got the tape you wanted. How's Ponch doing?"
"Grossie..." Jon began, his voice a whisper. "Ponch's heart stopped. They're...the doctors...they're in there now...trying...trying to..." Jon stopped, his sky blue eyes filling with tears. "They just have to bring him back.. they can't let him die."
Putting his hand on Jon's shoulder, Grossie for the first time could not find the words he wanted to use.
"Jon...I'll be right back...I just want to call the Sarge about Ponch...I'll be right back.. so you're not alone."
Jon waited for what seemed like hours thinking to himself, 'I'll just walk right back in there and see what's going on.'
Grossie stood beside Jon, thinking back on the many times he and Ponch had joked around or shared a laugh, of the times when the other guys at Central were teasing him and how it was Ponch who always stopped the teasing, before the rest of the guys did.
Finally the doctor came out with the grim look on his face. "We have his heart started again, but he's very weak. Right now he condition is critical. You may want to think about calling in his family."
Suddenly there came a bright light.
Ponch had the feeling of floating.
In the light there was no pain.
All was peaceful.
He could hear voices, some he recognized, some he only thought he knew.
'Where's Jon? What is this place?'
Jon and Grossie entered the room to find a much sicker Ponch now on a ventilator with multiple IV's going.
Jon stood beside the bed, "Don't you give up on me, Partner. You're a fighter, remember...so FIGHT!"
Back in the darkness once again, Ponch felt the sharp pains racing through his body.
'Jon, where are you? I need your help! Jon, help me!'
"You hang in there, Ponch. I have to go now...but I'll be back this afternoon." Grossie looked over at Jon. "Here's the tape you wanted, I hope it helps."
Jon waited for him to leave the room before talking to Ponch again.
"Ponch, I want you to listen to this tape. Think about the beach when the pain comes. Just think about lying on the warm sand, hearing the sound of the waves as they come to shore, and the seagulls' cry overhead. Think about how it feels to have Melissa rubbing suntan lotion on your back."
He started the tape, listening to the sounds of the ocean, hoping the fun memories of the beach would help Ponch relax and give him comfort.
Ponch walked along on the sandy shore of beach, enjoying the feel of the warm sun. The agonizing pain was easing up. He laid back on the warm sand listening to the waves crash against the shore. Soon he was sleeping peacefully, his last thoughts about finding Jon.
For the rest of the day and into the night, Jon kept the tape going. He stayed awake watching...praying...for some small sign that Ponch will make it.
Jon watched as the nurse took Ponch's vitals. "Well, his vitals are good. He seems to be stable now." Cindy looked at Jon and smiled.
Seeing how relaxed Ponch was, the look of pain now gone, Jon felt, the first time in four days, that just maybe his partner was going to pull through.
The next evening, Grossie and Bear stood beside the hospital bed, with a very tired looking Jon sitting in the chair, his eyes closed.
"Ponch was a good cop," Grossie said wistfully, as he watched Ponch, wondering if he'd ever wake up again.
"Yeah he was, Grossie, and a good friend you could always depend on." Bear responded in a sad voice.
"You two sound as if Ponch has died." Jon stood up, his body tensed. "You've already given up on him! He's trying his best to come through this." His voice had the anger in it that not too many people ever witnessed. Don't stand there and talk like if he's dead!"
Ponch heard the fury in Jon's voice, knowing just how close his partner was to losing his temper.
'Jon, what's wrong? Where are you?'
He started to walk toward his partner's angry words.
'I feel sorry for whoever Jon's mad at.' Ponch smiled. '...and they think I'VE got a temper.'
Grossie grabbed Jon's arm. "Look, he's trying to open his eyes!"
Jon leaned down over the bed. "Ponch?"
Ponch moved his hand, feeling the sharp needle in his arm. Thinking it was once again the snake, he tried to tear the needle out.
"No, stop Ponch, it's only your IV. You need it...don't pull it out."
Slowly, Ponch opened his eyes. "Jon...is...that...you?"
"Sure is, Partner." Jon responded, his eyes glistening.
Ponch remembered the anger he had heard in his friend's voice. "Jon, what's wrong?" he whispered.
Jon smiled. "Nothing, Ponch...at least...not anymore."