I apologize for the delay in this final segment. Life got in the way…
WARNING: Child abuse and racial slurs.
"Okay Johnny. You have my curiosity peaked. What kind of decision have you made?" Kel was worried. With everything that had happened and Johnny's reaction he was afraid of what his friend had decided. Would he quit the program or worse?
"Doc…the call…I know you wanted us to talk the other night but…I…really…I couldn't." He wasn't sure how to go on. "It wasn't the call that had me so…off. Well not totally, I mean it bothered me and all but…you know it's kind of hard to talk to the guys sometimes. They've been around and well…I'm still new. I kinda felt like…I don't know like I didn't have the rite to feel the way I do…did … If… If that had been the only problem I had had…maybe I could have…dealt with it." Johnny stopped he din't know how to continue. He needed to gather his thoughts.
"Johnny what's going on? Will you let me help?" Kel's concern grew as he watched his normally confident friend stumble and stutter through.
Smiling Johnny replied, "Yes. Actually that's why I came here. You see I…Our talks and our friendship have helped me a lot. I never had anyone that I could confide in. It's kind of hard at times. It's not something I am accustomed to being able to do. You don't usually make me feel uncomfortable. I think you've always been able to read me better than anyone else I know. I mean come on…as my doctor you have either guessed at or should have known some things just by treating me. As my friend I'm glad you don't push. I can't tell Roy or the guys. They wouldn't understand…and Chet already hassles me enough. I don't particularly want to add to his list."
"I never have understood how you put up with him." Kel shook his head. He always thought Johnny was a strong person for not throttling Chet for the pranks he pulls.
Johnny gave a shy or maybe a sly smile as he answered Kel. "Don't tell him or I will deny it but compared to other stuff I've dealt with, he's not that big a deal. He doesn't know anything that could really hurt me and I'm going to keep it that way."
"I can understand. So do you want to tell me about the call?" Kel still wasn't sure if Johnny was going to open up or remain elusive.
"Not really but I guess I should give you this. Yeah. It was a bad scene. They were young and like the others said, it's hard to get pass the fact that they wont grow up…I mean they were probably good kids and all. They just made dumb decisions and now they're dead. I've seen it before and have known people who have died way too young…but you see…that's not what upset me… it's what they dredged. I guess with us having talked about my pass and all, I should probably open up a little more about some things.. You and I have really talked a lot about stuff that I haven't thought about in years. So I guess that's kinda pushed some stuff up front, if you know what I mean." Johnny tilted his head as he looked at Kel. He hoped Kel understood what he was saying but he wasn't sure.
"I think I do. What about the call brought up the past for you? Is it something you want to talk about?" Kel was concerned but he was starting to think maybe Johnny was alright after all. "Johnny, relax. People often have strong memories come back to them as a result of something they see, smell or taste."
The party had broken up and the guys had all gone home. Hank and Emily had gone off to bed but Hank hadn't been able to sleep well. Though the night had gone well he was still concerned about John. By 3 am he had given up on the idea of sleep.
Rolling over and kissing Emily on the forehead, Hank climbed out of bed and headed to the kitchen. He didn't want to disturb her. He made a pot of coffee and then laid back in his recliner. His thoughts were still focused on Johnny. If only he had been able to reach him. He figured by now Johnny had to have gotten home. Yet still he did not call. Johnny was known for a lot of things but not returning calls wasn't one of them.
Hank thought about it and tried to give John an excuse. "Well, maybe it was late when he got in and he didn't want to disturb my sleep. Like he isn't disturbing my sleep by not calling."
"You know this isn't the first time we've had a bad call. But there was something about it… something that brought everything back." There were tears in his eyes as he looked up to Kel. "I know I'm jumping around but when I was camping I started thinking about my mom. That brought me to my decision. The only way for me to find peace is for me to get all of this off my chest. You told me you would be there for me as my friend and or my physician. You are the only one I could think of to talk to. I don't know for sure but I kind of think I need you to fill that double role tonight."
Kel was relieved, for now, that Johnny only wanted to talk. He could handle this. "Sure, John, I'm more than happy to listen to you. We'll get through this."
"Please let me get all the way through before you ask me anything. I have never told anyone about the night my mom and Strongbow died but something about that call brought it all back to me. Can you do that for me? Can you let me get it all out first?"
"Yes John. I'll wait to the end. Just take your time." Kel knew this was a big step for Johnny. In all the years he had known John, John had never been willing to share information about his past if it was serious.
"I know I told you they both died when I was 12. But there's more to it than that they just died. I kind of miss led you about that…sorry. I insinuated it was an accident. But, it sure as hell wasn't an accident." Kel could almost tell there was a bit of anger in Johnny's voice.
"It was July 15th and it was hot. Strongbow had lost his job and things were tougher than they had ever been before. It was hot…dripping hot. Our electric had been turned off and we were miserable. To top things off Strongbow was drunk, rip, roaring drunk. I'd never seen him that drunk before and it scared the crap out of me. I could usually figure out how bad the night was going to be for me based on how drunk he was. He'd put me in the hospital a few times when he was really drunk. But this was worse. I remember it all like it was yesterday."
"Boy get your ass in here. I told you to clean this room. When I say clean something I mean clean it." Strongbow was barely able to stand much less walk. The anger poured out with each word he spoke.
Johnny walked into the room and started to clean it again. He didn't really see anything wrong with how it looked but was willing to do whatever it took to make Strongbow happy. He was sore from the beating he had been given that morning. He didn't want to get hit again.
Strongbow watched and waited for Johnny to get close to him. As soon as he did Strongbow grabbed him and turned him over the end of the couch. The belt was out and ready to go. Strongbow began striking Johnny, "You worthless half breed. I don't know why we keep you around. All you do is eat and take up space."
Johnny was openly crying. The beating that morning had taken it's toll. Strongbow gave up on the belt and began raining strikes with his fist upon Johnny's slender body. When he passed out from the pain Strongbow continued to strike him. When he finally stopped Johnny was a mass of bruising. He was having difficulty breathing.
When Strongbow left the house Sarah, Johnny's mother, went to help her son. Strongbow had been a kind and caring soul when she first started dating him. Or so she had thought. Everything had gone great for the first month. Then he met Johnny and everything changed.
Strongbow knew Sarah was married before. He had died shortly after Johnny's birth. Strongbow didn't know she had married a white man. He hated the white men. He had been beaten in a fight as a child by a group of white teens. He liked Sarah but couldn't get pass Johnny. He had never struck Sarah before but he did the night he met Johnny.
Sarah cared for her son but thought she needed a man in the house to help her and to protect her and Johnny. She married Strongbow 3 months later. The beatings had never ended and after the marriage they had gotten worse. Now as she knelt by her son's side she knew this was her fault. But she didn't know what to do about it. She carried Johnny to his room and treated his injuries as best she could. She feared calling for help or trying to take Johnny to the hospital. The last time she had done that she was beat and Johnny almost ended up in the hospital again. She feared for her son's health but she didn't know where to turn.
Johnny awoke to the pain caused by his mother's care. He whimpered but didn't say anything. She knew she could try to heal his wounds but she didn't know how to heal his heart. She sang to him and prayed for the Spirits to provide an answer.
It was 4 hours before Strongbow returned, nearly midnight. He was more sober than before but still the anger was boiling within him. He didn't want this life any more and though it was against his beliefs he decided he was going to end this agony. He had driven around and came to a park nearby. There he had sat until he could decide how he was going to end this misery. He wanted to make them pay, especially the kid. If it weren't for him, things wouldn't be so bad. He knew what he was going to do before he returned home.
As soon as he returned, Strongbow packed Johnny and Sarah into the car. He said they were going for a drive. He said it was to help all of them cool off. That's what he said.
Johnny sat in the back seat. He was terrified. He knew something was wrong but didn't know what. Strongbow had never taken them for a ride. He had never been nice to Johnny before and now suddenly he was doing something to be 'kind'. Johnny hung close to the door, his blanket in hand. He wasn't sure what he was going to happen or what he was going to do.
Strongbow headed back to the park. It was off the beaten path, he counted on that to give him time to put his plan into action. He stopped below the street lamp and got out. He walked to the front of the car. He pulled something from his pocket but Johnny couldn't see what. "Sarah get out of the car. We need to talk."
Without questioning his motives Sarah got out and rounded the car. Johnny watched from the back seat. Not another word was spoken. Johnny saw the flash of the gun. He heard his mother scream briefly. He watched her fall and then Strongbow turned towards the car. Quickly he got out of the car and ran into the nearby woods. He didn't know where he was going but knew he couldn't stay. Strongbow chased after him but couldn't catch him. He shot blindly into the dark. He only had two bullets left and didn't want to risk not having one for himself. He headed back to the car after searching for a while. He couldn't believe the little squirt had gotten away from him. He looked down at Sarah and decided she was dead. It wasn't perfect, the runt had gotten away but it would have to do.
"Look at what you made me do you worthless piece of shit. If it weren't for you, Sarah and I could have had a great life. But you were always around. You caused this. I'll see you in hell." He screamed to make sure Johnny heard every word. Johnny had made his way back to the edge of the woods and watched helplessly as Strongbow turned the gun on himself.
Once Johnny saw there was no movement from Strongbow, he went back to the car. He didn't know what to do. He wasn't sure how far he was from anyone that could help. Looking at the still forms before him he knew there was nothing to be done. He sat under the street lamp and watched as the blood pooled around his mother's body. Rocking back and forth he sat.
At 1 am a park ranger making his rounds and noticed a boy by a street lamp. He went to investigate. Upon approaching the vehicle he noticed the bodies. He immediately called for the police. The boy didn't move or say a word.
The bodies lay motionless on the pavement. The lights splashing across the scene. Red, Blue, Red, Blue. The bright white spot lights left nothing to the imagination as they lit the parking lot. The photographers snapped picture after picture.
The officers approached the boy and moved him to the squad car. He would have to be transported to the hospital. They tried to talk to the him but could get nothing out of him. He was pale and clammy. As they made their way to the hospital the boy remained silent.
Johnny was aware of everything around him. He had just watched his world shatter before him and now he didn't know what to do. He was frightened. He didn't want to talk. He didn't want to admit he had stood by and not protected his mother. He didn't want to tell them it was his fault.
When he arrived at the hospital he was brought to a room. An officer, Paul Timmons, remained with him hoping the boy would come out of his trance and tell them what happened. Paul hope to find out who the boy was and were his family could be found. He realized most likely the people in the park were his parents but did he have other family?
Johnny remained silent. He didn't appear to notice anything going on around him. Paul was beginning to wonder if the child was an idiot. Johnny hadn't reacted to anything going on around him until he was seated on the gurney. When the doctor entered the room Johnny recognized him. He had seen this doctor before when he had been hurt by Strongbow. He had fixed him up and sent him back to his living hell. This doctor had never seemed liked he cared what happened to Johnny, not until today.
The doctor too recognized his young patient. He had seen him numerous times and new the child was being beaten. According to the law you had to see who had done the beating. He had never been able to prove what he knew to be the truth. "Johnny, it's Dr. Simpson. Your safe now. No one can hurt you. Can you tell me where it hurts?"
He looked up to the doctor and started to cry again. He ignored the fact that a police officer was present. He reached out to Dr. Simpson who held him in a hug. Johnny's crying became worse. "IT'S ALL MY FAULT. STRONGBOW KILLED MOM BECAUSE OF ME. HE…HE…" He couldn't continue. He broke down crying and became hysterical.
Kel sat in shock. He had assumed Johnny's parents were killed in an accident. Now he sat listening to the kind hearted man talk about watching his mother be murdered. He was in awe of how Johnny had turned out to be such a caring compassionate man. To have lived through so much and still continue to find the good in life.
"Kel, I have never spoken about that night since breaking down to the doc. The police officer questioned me and then he left me alone. They sedated me and kept me calm until they were able to reach my Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose brought me here to Los Angeles and I never went back. She never asked and I never told her what happened."
Johnny reached for his glass of water. Kel noticed the slight tremble of his hands. Johnny had been talking for over an hour. He was glad he had a friend he could talk to about what he was feeling and what he was remembering. He had never trusted anyone before…he didn't want to risk opening himself up for ridicule.
"So you see, it wasn't the call from the other night that had me so down. When I watched the bodies be covered up and the flashing of the lights, well, it just brought it all back. Through the years I have become resolved to the idea that it wasn't my fault. Strongbow was a horrible human being. He took everything away from me. He stole my youth, my innocents and my mother. It took me a long time to realize the damage he had done. It probably would have helped if I had had someone like you to talk to. The Doctors I dealt with didn't give a crap about what was happening inside. They never asked me how I felt. When I told you I left Aunt Rose's house after only a year it was because I couldn't face her any longer. I knew she knew. The idea of her taking pity on me and yet still never talking to me about it…well it was just too much. She never spoke of my parents. No one ever said their names again. The only time I ever saw their names were on papers that had to be filled out. It was too much…I went off on my own and…well, you kinda know the rest of the story."
He sank back into the chair and relaxed. It felt good to have talked about this. Now, he hoped Kel understood him a little better.
"How are you doing?" Kel was worried about his friend.
"Better. Better than I have in years. I'm sorry to dump all this on you. But I gotta tell ya, its helped." He smiled and Kel could tell his friend was doing much better than he had when he showed up on his door step that evening.
"Johnny, you can always talk to me." He thought for a moment before he continued. "Now I understand why you take it to heart when you see victims of violence. I had always assumed it was because you were abused. But now…the fact that you do what you do…how do you keep it together?" He shook his head in wonder and curiosity.
"I camp…a lot." He smirked. "You see in my culture there are three rites. The first and most important is peace. Peace is something I find when I am camping. It grounds me and makes me see the bigger picture. Growing up on the rez and then when I was on the streets, I knew people who drank, did drugs and other things you don't want to know about. That was how they coped. I saw the results of what drinking did to my family. I never forgot. I never did drugs because I didn't want the loss of control and I didn't want to turnout like Strongbow. What I saw of people doing drugs…it scared the hell out of me. They were out of control and sometimes violent. I had had enough of violence I sure didn't need anymore." He looked up into the understanding eyes of his friend. "I remembered what my mother taught me. I go into the woods and leave my troubles behind. I sit and listen to the sounds of nature and realize my problems are insignificant. I thought about everything while I was away."
Johnny paused. He wasn't sure how to continue. Kel was just about to say something when Johnny continued. "When I was up there I started to realize how much of a pain in the ass I was to you the other night. Please let me apologize I didn't want to drop this bomb on you the other night and I sure didn't want to say something in front of the guys. What you and Dixie did for the guys…you helped them. There is no way you could have known what was going through my mind. I didn't want you to worry and think I was going to go off half cocked and do anything stupid. I just needed a little time. I still need to apologize to Dixie as well. I just don't know how to do it without saying everything else. I don't want her or any of the others to know. It's known of their business."
"I was concerned you were going to quit the program. Or possibly quit the department. All I could think was how hard it would be for you and the guys if you weren't around. I don't think you realize even today what a contribution you make to your crew, to your friends and to the strangers you run on. Thank you for coming to talk to me but don't feel like I was looking for an apology. I knew something was up. I figured you would talk when you were ready. I'm glad you felt you could talk to me. I can talk to Dix for you and tell her you are alright."
"I can't believe how much I have told you. Roy would flip out." Johnny yawned and started to notice the stars had shifted since he first sat down. "Kel, I'm sorry I kept you up all night. I guess I should have waited until our next day off."
"No problem. I work night shift tomorrow. But don't you have to work this morning?"
"Yeah, I better…(yawn)…get going. I have to be to work in 4 hours. I think I'll just run home and get my uniform. I can sleep on the couch with Henry. At least I won't be late for work and maybe get a few extra minutes of sleep."
"Be careful. If you need anything else, call."
Hank arrived early the next morning. When he entered the kitchen he realized something was wrong. He was afraid they had had their own horrible night. Everyone sat around the table drinking coffee but no one was talking. He crossed over to get his own coffee. When he turned around he noticed Johnny lying on the couch.
"When did he get here?" Quietly he asked so as not to disturb his young crewmate.
Bob Bellingham was the first to answer, "Don't really know. We had a call about 3 am and found him asleep on the couch when we came back. He didn't stir when the morning wake up sounded either. We've just stayed relatively quiet so he could sleep. Don't know if he's sick or what?"
"Well, I guess we need to find out." Hank crossed over to the couch and reached down to wake Johnny. As soon as he touched Johnny on the arm, Johnny sat bolt upright with a look of fright on his face. "John, it's me Hank."
"Sorry Cap. I guess I was really out of it. I'm not late for roll call am I?" Wiping sleep from his eyes.
Hank smiled at his young friend. "No not at all. I just wanted to make sure you are alright. Are you?"
"Yeah, haven't been better. Went camping and got in late last night. I didn't want to be late so I cleaned up and came here to sleep. I hope it's not a problem."
"No, why don't you go get ready and then meet me in my office." Johnny nodded and excused himself.
Hank sat behind the desk and waited for Johnny. He was concerned. He remembered the signs Dr. Brackett had warned them to look for and excessive sleeping was one of them. Johnny walked into the office looking tired.
"John, close the door and have a seat." Hank waited for him to comply before he continued. "How are you doing? I tried to call, hell everyone has tried to call you. We're worried about you."
"Cap, I'm fine. I didn't get home until early this morning and just grabbed my uniform and came in here. I'm fine, really." Johnny was smiling. He knew how much Hank cared. "I didn't mean to worry you. Sorry about that."
"I worry about all of you. Is there anything you need to tell me or anything you want to talk about?"
"No, like I said I'm fine. Actually, I went to talk to Kel last night. That's why I didn't get home until so late. If you want you can give him a call. But you should probably wait until this afternoon. We were up late talking about stuff and he's probably trying to get some sleep. He has to work tonight."
"Ok, John. I'll do that but until then if you need to talk or anything my door is always open."
Everyone seemed to be back to normal at roll call. Morning assignments were begun and finished without interruption. Hank was glad to see how well everyone was doing.
Each of the crew members took the time to talk to each other about how they were and to Johnny about his trip. They didn't know what Johnny had found in the mountains but he was definitely better than he had been when they had last seen him.
Hank looked into the kitchen to find all of his men sitting at the table playing cards. Johnny was participating and everything seemed to be going fine. It was getting late in the day and they had had several runs but nothing major.
Dinner was peaceful and uninterrupted. Hank was glad to see his crew be given a break from the horrors of their job.
No sooner had the thought occurred to Hank then the claxon sounded sending them on a vehicle accident. Station 51 responded along with two other stations. It was a big pile up on the highway. Hank said a little prayer for his crew. They were just getting back to normal he didn't want them to have to deal with anything that would set them back.
"LA Engine 51 on scene. We have at least 10 vehicles involved. One on fire, two over turned and possible persons trapped. Send 5 additional ambulances and two engine for man power."
Hank jumped down off the truck and began issuing orders. He looked to his men but they were already doing what he was ordering. Marco was hitting the car fire. Chet was searching the area for survivors. Johnny and Roy were triaging the patients. Mike was operating the truck. As additional man power came in they were able to divide up the assignments and get more accomplished.
Hank looked to his men to see how they were doing. So far they already had two fatalities. Who knew what the final count would be…he prayed there would be no additions.
Marco and Chet had covered the victims from the vehicle fire and had moved on two help Roy and Johnny. Roy was working with a teenager and her mother. They were trapped but appeared to be uninjured at this time. Johnny wasn't so lucky.
Hank's heart beat faster as he approached to see Johnny starting CPR on a small child. His mother was unconscious and laying just a few feet away. Johnny and Chet worked hard and were nothing but professional. Hank could tell their efforts were most likely futile but he wouldn't stop them. They had enough help and more on the way.
"Cap…can you contact Rampart?" Johnny didn't even look up when he spoke.
"Sure John." Hank contacted Rampart and was glad to hear the voice of Kel Brackett on the line. "Go ahead John. I have Dr. Brackett on the line."
"2 victims. Victim 1, approximately 35 year old female…unconscious, fractured left wrist, hematoma on the frontal lobe. VS stable at this time…pupils sluggish but responsive. Victim 1... 3 year old female…found pulse less and apenic. CPR initiated. Pt now has a pulse and respirations are being assisted. No fractures obvious…possible internal injuries…bruising on the abdomen…hematoma to the occipital lobe. Ready to transport immediately."
Hank relayed orders from Dr. Brackett and sent Chet along to assist enroute. Hank assisted getting both victims loaded into the ambulance. As he gave the customary two thumps on the back of the ambulance he sent another prayer out for his crew.
After Johnny left, Hank made his way over to Roy. His victims were doing alright. Minor cuts and abrasions. Nothing that would require him to do a follow up at the hospital. As soon as he could Hank pulled Roy to the side and told him about Johnny's victims. Roy headed to the hospital to collect Chet and hopefully Johnny. He too was concerned about his friend.
The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever. Johnny and Chet worked hard to maintain the child. They arrived at the hospital and turned their victims over to the Doctors. Johnny trusted the docs at Rampart. He knew he had done his best and there was nothing left for him to do.
Chet was anxious and wanted to get back to quarters. He hated hospital and didn't want to spend anoy more time than absolutely necessary. He wasn't happy about the kid but he was alright with what he and Johnny were able to do.
Roy arrived at the hospital to find Chet and Johnny in the lounge. Both appeared relaxed and seemed at ease. Roy didn't want to jinx it. They quietly made their way back to the house. Hank was waiting for the men when they arrived. They appeared to be alright but he was still concerned about John.
Kel finally had the chance to sit down in his office. Hank Stanley left him an urgent message. He was concerned about Johnny. Kel hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary when he spoke to Johnny earlier. He reached for the phone and was happy to hear Hank answer the phone.
"Hank, what's going on? Did Johnny get hurt and not tell us?" He was a little worried but again nothing had seemed out of place.
"No, he's not hurt. How was he when he was at the hospital? I have been meaning to call you. Johnny was sleeping on the couch this morning and apparently showed up here sometime after 3 am. Kel…I'm worried about him. Are you sure he's okay to work?"
"Hank first of all, yes he was fine when he was in here earlier. Second, Johnny told me he was going to head in to work when he left my place this morning. He didn't want to be late. Finally, Johnny is fine. I can't tell you what we talked about both as his friend and his physician but I can tell you he is fine. He's dealing with some stuff but it is not related to the job."
"Thank God. Kel thanks for being their for me and my men. It's nice to know I have some backup with them. Is there anything I can do to help John?"
"No Hank. Just give him a little time. I doubt he will ever tell you what is going on. Like I said I really can't say much but I can tell you he is fine."
"Thanks Kel. I'll talk to you later."
Hank sat at his desk thinking about John, his conversation with Kel and about his men in general.
Not long after he hung up with Kel, Johnny knocked on the office door. Hank looked up into the anxious face of Johnny.
"John…do you need something?"
"Yeah Cap…you got a minute?"
"Sure come on in."
Johnny walked into the office closing the door behind him. He sat on the couch in front of the desk and tried to think about what he was going to say. Hank sat patiently knowing John needed a moment.
"Cap, I…this is harder than talking to Kel. Cap…I'm okay. I know you are and were worried about me but honestly I haven't been this good in years. I know you don't understand that but….I talked to Kel last night and well into the morning. He's really been a help to me these past several months but no more so than yesterday. I can't go into this with you right now….it's all too raw….Maybe…well maybe someday I will be able to talk to you about all of this but not yet. Just know that I am okay. I am working through this and no it wont affect my job. I'm sorry I am being so vague but I don't know what else to say…I just can't talk about it right now."
When Johnny remained silent and Hank was certain he was finished he responded. "John I do worry about you and all of the men. I know I don't tell you this often enough but you are a valued member of this crew. You give us life and we always know you are there to back us up when we need you. I just want to make sure you know we are always here for you as well. If you need me…day or night…I will be there for you."
"I know that Cap. Thank you. Maybe some day I will be able to talk to you about this but don't count on it. I had never told anyone before…talking to Kel last night was the first time I ever spoke of it in 15 years. You are going to have to give me some time before I will be able to talk about it again. Cap…we're lucky to have you as a Cap." Johnny looked down at the floor and then rose from the couch. "I guess I'll head off to bed. Everyone else has already turned in. Good night Cap."
"Night John." Hank wasn't sure what Johnny was talkinga bout but he seemed to be doing fine just like he and Kel had said. He hoped what ever was going on he would be able to work it out.
Kel sat on the lounge chair next to Dixie. He loved that women more and more every day. Maybe someday he would actually tell her.
"Dix, Johnny came by last night. He wanted me to tell you he was sorry for the other night. It didn't have anything to do with you, he was working through something else. He also told me to tell you he was grateful for you coming to help out the crew." Kel sighed and looked Dixie in the eye. "Dix…I've been thinking a lot about the guys at 51 and you. You told me once you wondered who took care of them when the calls were over. I think we found that out. What you did…talking to them about how you dealt with the war and everything after…no one could have done that…I sure couldn't."
"Kel each of us deals with the stress of what we do differently. Look at Marco and Roy. Marco finds peace in the church and Roy finds it in his family. We all learn to deal with it…we learn to cope one way or the other. It just helps to know someone out there knows what we are going through. You deal with it all the time as well. I think you cope by trying to find ways so it doesn't happen again."
"When I was talking with Johnny last night I started thinking a lot about you. He wanted you to know he can't talk to you about it right now…maybe never…but he's fine. He is dealing with some stuff from his past. That's what got me to thinking about you. I know I wasn't in the war but I want you to know I will always be here for you. Dix….I…I love you more than I can say…I just want to be there to help you any way I can."
Dixie had tears in her eyes. She too loved Kel. It had been a long bumpy road but they were finally here. "I love you too Kel."
The next morning Johnny once again went to talk to Hank. "Cap, you got another minute for me?"
"Sure John come on in." It had been a peaceful night and Hank was extremely grateful. His friend looked refreshed.
"Cap, I would like to put in a request for a couple of days off. I…I need to go to Montana to deal with some family stuff."
One month later Johnny walked through the grave yard. He approached a stone with his mother's name on it. Johnny was shocked by the emotions that raced through him. 15 years seemed to be just a minute ago.
"Hi mom. I'm sorry I haven't been here before. I couldn't. I know you've been watching over me. I'm trying to live the life I think you would have wanted for me. I hope I am making you proud. I love you. I think of you often. I remember what you have taught me. I don't know what else to say. I thought coming back here would help me somehow but…I don't think I really needed to come here…I talk to you all the time when I camp and when I am at home. Thank you for trying to help me. I know it wasn't easy and he didn't make it easier. Anyway…I guess I better get going. Like I said I love you and I keep you with me always. Tell we see each other again...good bye."