This is a text version of the original still airing imaged, music soundtracked story.

Emergency Theater Live, Episode Twenty Three

23. The One That Matters Season Three Episode 23 Short summary-
The unexpected arrives from a surprise source and Mike Stoker finds that he's the unwilling target of an adolescent fire buff.

****WARNING**** The long summary to come is very story spoiling and will take away plot surprises if you read it now before reading the longer story below it.

Decide now if you want to read this episode's detailed summary before doing so.

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Long Summary-
Gage complains about running out of uniforms one morning at the station. Bonnie is discovered guarding Johnny's ball of socks on his bunk. She's soon found to be in late labor and the father's speculated horribly to be Boot, raising concerns for delivery problems.
Les Taylor and Dave Gordon from the L.A. County animal pound of the tiger-in-a-meat-shop fame are called in to emergency assist. Cap calls Rampart as backup and gets an off duty Morton and Dixie to come to the station. Station 51 gets a sports injury call at a high school. Stoker gets a voiceless hang up caller that puzzles all. Later, Dixie learns the mystery caller to the station is a young artist woman committing suicide by plant seed pod ingestion who's got a crush on Stoker. A clue in the form of a singing canary over the phone line provides the last bit of information on the girl's location. They save her from pool drowning at the last possible second. Mike Stoker decides to keep in touch with the depressed minor through her future chaperoned counseling sessions to help her heal faster. He promises her one of Bonnie's newborn pups as a token of friendship.

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The Story Unfolds...

Season Three, Episode Twenty Three.
The One That Matters Debut Launch: July 1st, 2005. *
From: Jeff Seltun Date: Wed Jul 13, 2005 2:10 pm Subject: Tiny Little Bundles..

The scents of sizzling bacon and frying eggs were already thick in the air when Johnny Gage finally dragged himself out of the shower.
He scrubbed a white towel over his head to begin drying his hair and staggered by feel back to his bunk to where had already laid out a fresh uniform and pair of shoes. "You know, Roy, I think I should just buckle down and sign up to get another set of shirts or something. It's not even nine yet and already I've burned through two of the four of the bunch I already have.." he complained.

"That's funny. In the eight years I've been working on the department, I've never gone through all my shirts during the course of any work shift. Guess I'm just neat enough to make it through one without ever using them up."

Johnny threw his hair towel onto the wall in a clever flick and he began combing fingers through his unruly black hair to tame it. "It's tough some days, Roy. If I don't total em from a messy auto rescue, I lose em to cleanup fire grime. I don't know how you manage to stay clean." He eased his towel covered rear down onto the foot of his bed.

A hostile snap of teeth and a fierce pygmy growl immediately arrested him in the process and he shot back up onto his bare feet. He almost lost his balance on the water dripped floor as he danced off his painful splinted toe. "What the h-?!"

Roy raised his eyebrows at the sight of little Bonnie, the station Boston Yorkie, crouched with flattened ears, on the pile of paramedic clothes near Johnny's pillow. "Wow. I don't get it. You weren't anywhere near enough on your end to make her think you were going to sit on her.." he said in absolute stunned amazement.

Bonnie continued to watch the two paramedics warily from her tight protective ball. She never stopped baring her teeth. She emitted a growl or two when Gage finally sat back down carefully onto his bunk to finish dressing. "Think Chet forgot to feed her again?"

"Unlikely.." DeSoto said mildly. "He knows Cap'll get on his case if she gets cranky past the usual around him." DeSoto answered.

"Maybe she just got out of the wrong side of bed this morning."
Johnny said, still frowning at the posturing ball of fur.
"You mean, kinda like how you did a couple of hours ago for that trash fire call? How's that toe ya stubbed?" asked Roy, leaning on the wall with a section of newspaper in his hands.

"It's fine. You can see I taped it to the one next to it. I don't think it's broken."

"Good. Last thing you need is more injured days off. You've already max'd out for the month."

"Thanks, mom.." Gage said with mild sting. "You sound like Cap did a few hours ago."

Roy didn't get offended, but he apologized by changing the subject.
"I only came in here to tell you that breakfast's almost ready."

"I appreciate it, Roy. But the aroma's already beaten you to it by a good five minutes or so." chuckled Gage.

"I can't tell. My allergies are kicking in." Roy admitted.

"I told you to take some benadryl tablets last night. I even told you the ragweed pollen counts were on the rise."

"I know. I know. I've just been so doggoned tired after the week we've had, that it completely slipped my mind to take my prescription."

"I'll remember to leave the bottle on your pillowcase tonight." chided Johnny as he zipped up his pants over his boxers. He blindly reached back for his balled up socks.

Bonnie lunged forward in a viscious bluff, charging over the top of them until they were under her furry belly and hidden from sight. Her punishing teeth clicked shut just a hairsbreath away from Johnny's fingers and he jerked his hand back in shock at the attack. Then he got mad. "Hey, you little piece of mop scrap. Now cut that out! Do you really want me to be late for my next rescue call? You think you're mad, just wait until I catch it from Cap for being slow and then I promise to come back later looking for something else to dump out my frustrations on and you'll be it!" he said, stabbing a guarded index finger in Bonnie's direction.

Bonnie was unimpressed. She even went so far as to stuff the oversized ball of black socks into her mouth and went on glaring at the two men standing above her. Her soft growls became only slightly diminished.

Gage sighed hugely. "Now what am I going to do? My others are still hanging over the shower rod."

"I'll go get a pair of mine you can have." Roy said, puzzling over Bonnie's odd behavior. "I don't get it. She's not hungry..and she's definitely not sick."

Gage agreed empathetically. "Not with that kind of energy. She could drive off our mail carrier with that act."

"Hmmm. That's females for ya. I married one...but I can't say I understand em completely yet. I'll be right back with your socks."

Johnny didn't even see him leave. He went right on staring strangely at Bonnie and she went right on glaring back and salivating angrily. Until Gage couldn't take it any more. "Hey Cap?! Guys! Get in here ASAP!
I need ya!" he hollered loudly.

The gang came in on the run. Some of them still chewing food.

Hank started up. "What's the problem?" he said in immediate concern.
"Is somebody hurt at the side door?" he said, looking up at the one they never used exiting the bunk room.

"No, it's nothing like that. It's Bonnie, Cap. Watch this. And Chet, if you start laughing, I'll kill ya and I won't let Roy get anywhere near ya enough to bring you back."

Kelly's bushy smile spread into one of mischief anyway. "I won't know if I'll do that until we all get brought up to speed on exactly what the problem is here, Johnny.." he said deadpan in tone, but his face was already deep in gonna getcha mode.

"Cut to the chase, John. My eggs getting cold." Hank ordered.

"Sorry, Cap. Here.. Watch what she does.." And he wrapped his hand protectively in one of his shower towels before he brought it down towards where Bonnie was guarding the sock bundle.

Bonnie immediately let loose and latched on like a tiger in a fierce bite. Then she scrambled back to pick up the pair of socks into her mouth again. The others leaped back in surprise. All but one.

Chet started laughing.."Nothing mysterious here, Gage. I'm utterly surprised at you. I mean with you being a paramedic and all." he grinned.

Gage's face fell into a frown, not liking that he was being baited, once again by Chet, who knew something he didn't.

Roy returned into the room and handed Johnny his loaner pair. "So you had to drag the others in here to witness our poor dog who's just having a bad day?"

"Kind of?! Roy, she's an absolute menace!" Johnny said, taking the socks and putting them on where he stood. He winced when he had to pull the first over his sore toe.

"No she's not." Chet said quietly, still smiling. "She's being broody."

"Broody? I know she's crabby. We can all see that."

"Not that definition of broody, Johnny, the other one." said Kelly smugly.
"She's growling for another reason because it's the season, man,
...for lovvvee." he crooned.

The other firemen started chuckling and they left the room. Chet stayed behind to enjoy the fallout. Everyone but Gage, had understood him.

"Quit using twenty dollar words at me, Chet, and speak plain language already." Johnny flickered, rubbing his chilling arms.

"Ok, I'll spell it out for ya. My uncle's dog used to do this all the time when it was her time each month. She's adopted your socks in lieu of the puppies that she now wants to conceive or already has conceived." he said knowingly.
"Her mother's instinct is roaring to the foreground and in that state, she'll guard the first thing handy. In this case, it's your bunk and socks, Johnny."

Roy stayed quiet and waited for the punchline while that last digested inside of his damp partner's brain. Then it came out, wholly satisfying.

"No way. She's not pregnant. She can't be! She--" then he broke off, remembering.
"Oh, no... Roy, I thought it was odd that Boot came back to the station away from his favorite laddertruck at sixteen's. Remember two months ago?" Johnny asked.

Roy started frowning. "Yeah.. He didn't take a nap under the engine like he always does, waiting for Stoker to come out and feed him. He went right for the b--"

Chet completed his thought gleefully. "The bunk room." he said, nodding eagerly. "Uh, huh. It's making sense now, isn't it?"

DeSoto's face fell, figuring it out finally. "I thought that was kinda odd behavior, even for him."

Johnny's mouth flopped open. "But how could he? I mean, how could they-- He's three times her size, guys.."

Kelly stopped laughing and headed for the door, his mouth quirked in mirth. "Where there's a will, there's a way, fellas, and that's all there is to it.
Hey Gage, looks like you're just gonna have to face the facts. Your little Bonnie here's about to become.... a mother."

"On my bed?!"

"Looks like it now.." remarked Roy speculatively.

"Oh, Roy..."

"Oh, Roy, nothing." said DeSoto. "Sheets are replaceable."

"I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking about the size difference here."

"Johnny, that's sick."

"No, I mean the puppies....not what... happened earlier between them." he said clearing his throat uncomfortably. "What if they're too big for her to deliver naturally? It could explain why she's so mad. She might be in a lot of pain here." Johnny said in a new light.

On cue, Bonnie folded up onto her right side and moaned pitfully. The ball of socks rolled out of her mouth limply.

Roy's whole demeanor completely changed.

Gage started to anse nervously. "Hey guys! Get back in here. I think we've got a real problem now and I'm not kidding this time! Stoker, bring the gear and the O2 apparatus on the double!"

Cap ran in irritably. "Now what? Gage, if this is some stunt to get back at Chet I'll--" he broke off when he saw Bonnie, seeming to strain and pant.
"You mean this broody stuff of hers is the latter case?" he guessed.

"Uh, huh... and she's probably already laboring, too." Roy said, trying to get near the now distressed dog. Bonnie was so deep in her misery that she finally allowed Roy to touch her. He took a fast leg pulse and respiration count.

Stoker and Marco came dashing in with everything. "Not the defibrillator and the biophone you dorks.. We can't use those!" Gage snapped.

"You know,.. 'Bring the gear' 's pretty vague there, Johnny." said Marco.
"What's up?"

Chet's forehead was wrinkled in concern. "Bonnie's actually having...puppies?!"
he said licking his lips. He had said that like he didn't believe it himself.

"What?!" said Hank. "I didn't even know she was pregnant."

"Who could have known under all that fur.." said Stoker. "Cap, permission to--"

Cap sighed. "Yeah,...go ahead. We can grab another tank from the closet to replace this one."

Mike Stoker got to work and fitted a peds oxygen mask to the regulator and laid the flowing mask on the pillow near Bonnie's lolling tongue.

Johnny was able to feel her tensing muscles and the bulging shapes moving there. "I think I feel three very large puppies, Roy. And one of them seems to be stuck head and shoulders down inside of her."

That got Chet thinking. "She's having em now?! Where did her water break then?"
he said, looking across the shiny floor.

"Probably in the yard, Chet." said Cap, stroking Bonnie's head, murmuring reassurances to her. "She was out there alot this morning sniffing around."

"Yeah, but now what are we gonna do? It's Saturday. Our vet office's closed."
Roy asked. "I don't know much about dog deliveries but I've heard that C-sections are common in tiny dogs like Bonnie."

Bonnie gave out a cry of pain that cut through everyone and her tail arched into the air and trembled.

The gang immediately fell to soothing her and carefully positioning her body so that she could breathe in the easiest possible way.

Cap didn't even hesitate. He picked up the mic from the bedside radio console and thumbed the trigger. "L.A., this is Station 51. .."

##Go ahead, 51.## said the dispatcher's voice. It was the very familiar Sam Lanier on duty for them and for that Cap was eternally grateful. It would make his next request only that much easier.

"L.A. we need a patch over to Rampart Hospital on a personal medical call over to the emergency desk. This is not a still alarm. Can you put us through?" Cap asked.

##Stand by, 51.##

A few seconds later, the phone rang on the table. Cap picked it up. "Hiya Dix,
listen, I know you're puzzling over why I had the fire dispatch connect you to through this radio. This is why. Bonnie's pregnant. Not only is she pregnant,
she's very pregnant and having extreme difficulty giving birth. ......I know this sounds crazy but none of us even knew she was expecting.. Can you help out at all here?"

Amazingly, Dixie could. And soon she outlined her plan. ##I'm off duty in five minutes.
Mike Morton is, too. I'll swing him by with a full animal OB kit from the lab. Captain,
keep her on her left side. That much I know about dogs. It'll take the pressure off her heart and lungs if you do at least that. She should stop panting. At least that worked when my dog was having her puppies last year. Try that and we'll be over in fifteen minutes. Keep trying to reach an on-call vet, too. Morton was only a vet candidate when he gave it up to intern here. He might not be able to do much for her on his own. ##

"Will do, Dix. Thanks for the suggestion and the aid. I'll have the boys get the rear garage door open for ya." And Cap closed the connection on the radio mic.
He didn't even have to jerk his thumb to get Marco to crack open the station.
"Gage, Dix says to put her onto her left side. She's coming with Morton."

Roy got busy with a stethoscope. "Don't know if knowing this'll matter but I'll try to pinpoint how many heartbeats there are. Johnny, you said three puppies?"

"Yeah, the stuck one's stopped moving a few seconds ago. Stoker, turn that liter flow a little higher would ya?" Johnny said. "Maybe it's just keeping still to protect itself. Better safe than sorry."

Cap stood back and said, "I'll get water boiling."

Chet looked up with an worried expression. "What for?"

"Don't know, they do that in the movies, don't they?" Hank said.

"We could use it for clean up later.." Gage shrugged as he shifted a limp and moaning Bonnie onto her back and to the proper side.

Her gasping eased off just a bit. And the first obvious contraction that the gang could see twisted her body in waves. Bonnie gave a pitiful shriek, trying to suppress it. "Easy girl.. that's ok.. You're doing fine, we're just trying to help ya."
soothed Chet, as he stroked her head. "Are you seeing anything?" he asked Gage.

Gage looked. "No, not so much as a single foot." he admitted.

"That can't be good.." Kelly said.

"This whole situation's not good, Chet. Do you know how hard it's gonna be to find a vet to treat her on a weekend?!" Johnny said rubbing his face in utter frustration. He still had one bare foot getting cold on the tiles.

"Could get even harder if we get another run to go on." said Cap seriously.

"That's probably why Dixie and Morton agreed to head over here." Johnny nodded. "Roy, what do you think? I.V. with saline? Or Ringer's? We could keep it TKO."

"Make it saline. I don't know what a dog's electrolyte hemostasis level is..."
DeSoto admitted.

"250 of normal saline. Ah,.. there's a cephalic vein right here. Chet, can you shave her leg bare using your razor. She'll hate the sound but we'll hold her down."

"My razor? Why are we using my r-- I'll be right back." he amended after he got a glare from everyone else.

Cap issued another order. "Marco, take over for Stoker. Mike, go make sure all the food's off the stove. And see if you can call around for a nearby vet.
We'll notify animal control to take her there if we have to."

"Isn't Les and Dave in our area today?" Chet asked.

"Yeah. Yeah! I think so. I think they have all the city pound duty assigned for our neighborhood." Gage said, looking up from Bonnie's belly.

Roy smiled, "Then there's our standby doggy ambulance."

"Great idea, Kelly. That's using your noggin. Mike, why don't we call em sooner rather than later." said Cap to Stoker.

Stoker left the room at a run.

Roy frowned and took the stethoscope out of his ears. "There's not much more we can do until everyone gets here. That third puppy's heartrate's sinking fast. And Bonnie's is rising."

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Photo: A closeup of Bonnie the Yorkie growling.

Photo: Captain on the radio in the bunkroom.

Photo: Dixie reaching for the phone.

Photo: Gage and DeSoto making beds in the bunkroom.

*
Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2005 10:13:23 From: "Roxy Dee" Subject: The Other Rescue Squad..

Across town, towards the heart of L.A., the phone rang on the desk of Sandy, at the Animal Shelter. "L.A. County Pound. Doc Coolidge's office..." she stated after picking it up.

##Hey, Sandy. How's my favorite dispatcher doing?## said a deep saxophony voice into the receiver.

"Dave Gordon, don't tell me you're bored already. You and Les just got to Carson City on patrol half an hour ago.." she said with her hands on her hips. Then her face blossomed into an eager smile.
"So tell me, how do you guys like the new truck? It's not everyday the state commissioner commissions one for us. And not everyday that we put one into service for the first time."

For fun, Dave hit the speaker phone button on their brand new white and green squad's radio panel so Les could hear the whole conversation.

## We're liking it real fine.## Gordon said, flashing white teeth from his ebony face in the sun at his tanned blonde haired partner sitting next to him. ##You know, maybe we should scrounge up another tiger like the one we rounded up for the fire department at that meat market last year. Seems the publicity has done us nothing but good. Just look at our new wheels, man.## he said throwing his palms up in celebration.

Sandy was a firm counter to his jubilation.
"Don't push your luck, Dave. You're forgetting the fines we almost got for conducting surgery over the radio for the baby goat that that same fire station rescue squad pair brought in to that human's hospital."

##We brought William in, Sandy, remember? Those paramedics had done everything they could for him, even over the ire of their medical director. I know. I watched them use their defibrillator to get a heart reading. So if you want to blame someone for that stunt. Blame us. They were completely innocent of the crime.## spouted Les.

Dave agreed wholeheartedly. "Yeah, How could we have refused a handicapped little girl in need? Those paramedics sure couldn't.##

Sandy softened, even audibly, over the airwaves. "That was one expense the Doc was happy to pay, eagerly. He compensated Kel Brackett for the anesthesia and medical supplies we used up in William the goat's care."

Les's face melted into genuine dismay. ##You never told us that. Why that inhuman human doctor! Didn't he understand the meaning of the word humanitarian back then?##

"Les. Les..." chided Sandy. "Now before you go charging off to Rampart to confront that heart surgeon, let me let you in on a little secret. Dr. Brackett had to account for the missing supplies somehow for insurance purposes, or it would've meant his license if it was ever found out that he used them for an unauthorized surgery, kapeesh? I know that hospital administrator they have upstairs on the ninth floor, and he's a real task master! Kel put his job on the line or at the very least, his reputation, I'll have you know!"

That quieted down the passionate flaxen haired animal control officer.
##Oh. Well that's different, then.##

"Thought you might think that." said the vet office secretary. "Now, what's on the agenda for today?"

##Not much.## said Les Taylor. ##We just completed our first rescue call.##

"Would that have been one of the mewling kind?"

##No. We didn't have to rescue any kittens from any attic today. Not yet,
anyway. We had to relocate a gila monster from a public swimming pool back to the foothills before he bit someone.## said the African American man.

"Now that's exciting! Makes me wish I could join you sometime. But," Sandy sighed. "..someone's gotta man the phone calls. I can't see any of you guys or the Doc, as having enough patience to sit through some of the more irritating ones."

##For all your years of passionate service and dedication, our hats are off to you, Sandy. ## said Les, smiling widely in mock exaggeration.

"They always are when you're patrolling, fellas! But,..thanks for the tribute. I'll keep you posted if anything really good comes in today. The Doc should be in by three."

##You do that, 240-Sierra, out.## said Gordon, thumbing off the microphone connecting them to the animal shelter.

Les grinned at Dave as he rounded the turn leading into the industrial section of Carson City by the Arco refinery plant. "Well, another day, another dollar,
partner."

"Yeah, but in such luxury? Feel that blissfully cool air conditioning!" said Gordon.

"Believe me, I am. I wonder if the fire boys have that ability in any of their trucks..." said Les as he saw that they were driving by a fire station on their left. He couldn't read the number on it but he recognized it as being one of their county's.

"Nah, they're probably used to the heat from working all those fires, man." said Dave. "Skin tough as nails, remember?"

"Yeah, you're probably right." said Les, looking away from the brick station receding behind them.

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Mike Stoker set down the receiver after getting just rings at six animal hospitals that were near by the station. He decided to ignore proximity and time factors and abandoned the phone book. Instead, he dialed the Los Angeles County Animal Shelter and he finally got a pleasant sounding woman named Sandy as his last resort. After all, it had been Cap's orders to call in a team from there if nothing else worked.

Mike reiterated his situation.

Sandy spoke carefully. "A Yorkshire Terrier in advanced labor? I'll let them know. I've got a med vet truck patrolling very close to you. Expect their ETA in just minutes.."

"Tell them to come into the yard in the back. The door's open.." said Stoker.

"I will. Station 51, right?"

"That's right."

"Watch for them. They're driving a white and green truck fitted with yellow flashers."

"Like a hawk."

"Oh, there's one thing you should know, mister. Our vet won't be in until three. He's attending a veterinary conference in Anaheim and won't get back until then."

"That's okay. We've got a doctor of our own with some vet experience on the way.
He'll be handling Bonnie long enough to make sure it isn't dangerous to move her. And a nurse, too."

"That wouldn't be a Rampart physician and one of his top ER nurses coming over, would it?"

"Why, yes.. How did you know?"

"Let's just say I've experienced some of the compassion that particular hospital staff seems to hand out by the ton indirectly and let's leave it at that. It's nice to know that Kel Brackett rubs off on his juniors occasionally when not rubbing them the wrong way."

"You haven't met Mike Morton, then. He's still a little rough on the edges."

"Huh?"

"Nothing. Never mind. " said Stoker. A shouting from the bunk room got his attention. "Sandy, I've got to go. Something's happening.."

"Sure. I'm hanging up right now. I'll have the treatment bed waiting for Bonnie and any of her puppies A.S.A.P once all this sorts itself out ! "

Click.

Mike left the kitchen at a run for the bunkroom.

He skidded to a halt when he spotted a street clothed Dr. Morton and Dixie rushing into the garage from the backyard searching around the Ward LaFrance for the rest of the gang. "She's on a bunk in there!" he shouted.

Then the phone rang again. This time, on the wall by the large county map.
Stoker jogged over to answer it.

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##240-Sierra. 240-Sierra. Come in.##

"Go ahead, Shelter Base.." said Les Taylor, picking up his microphone.

"More business already? That was fast.." said Dave Gordon.

Les shrugged.

Sandy's voice returned to give them the call assignment. ##19 over to Station 51 at ...2049 E. 223rd Street just east of Wilmington. They've a b*tch in severe birthing difficulty. She might be a small dog C-section for the Doc.##

Les startled. "Hey, didn't we just pass them? They're three blocks behind us."

Dave gripped the wheel. "Hang on.." and he flicked on the lights and tapped his horn as he did a u-wee in the avenue. Dave took over the microphone so his partner could drive. "Ok, Sandy. We got it. We'll bring in the vet box with us."

##Good going. Let me know updates when you know them, okay? You know how I feel about new puppy calls. They've got some human doctor and nurse arriving,
too. So be nice.##

"We will. 240-Sierra out." Dave replied and he hung up the receiver onto its spigot.

"Man, speak of the devil. We were just talking about firefighters." Les shivered.

"Try not to get too weirded out over it, partner. Relax and try to remember that we are all working for the same goal. We both save lives when we can."

"I know. I know. But what two departments are farther apart than we are under the county's jurisdiction? Still feels awkward when we get together. I feel a bond better with a cop than I do a firefighter." Taylor frowned.

"That's just you. To me, we are all on the same team. Here we go......" said Dave as the animal squad straightened out to turn into the fire station's side drive.

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Photo: Animal control rescue truck driving away.

Photo: Dave Gordon, close up, animal control officer.

Photo: Les Taylor, medium shot, animal control officer.

Photo: Barney "Doc" Coolidge, animal shelter vet.

Photo: A sooty Roy and Johnny treating with paddles and a stethoscope.

Photo: A picture of an African pygmy goat wrapped in a shock sheet.

*
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2005 15:00:45 -0700 (PDT) From: "Sam Iam" Subject: Reaching Out..

Mike Stoker picked up the phone receiver. "L.A. County Fire Department, this is fireman engineer Mike Stoker speaking..."

The person on the other end of the line never started talking.

But Mike heard the sound of an open line, and some soft brassy wind chimes moving faintly in the background. A male canary was singing joyfully over it.

"Hello?" Mike said again more loudly. "Is this a wrong number?"

Thinking that one of Marco's family was calling to chat, but was taken aback by getting another english speaking firefighter,
he repeated the question in broken, halting spanish.

The phone clicked dead a few seconds later and the dial tone buzzed harshly in his ear. "Huh..." he shrugged, hanging up the black phone.

Glancing up, Stoker returned to the bunkroom detouring only long enough to grab a stack of folded bathroom towels from the locker room.

==========================================================

The scramble around Johnny's bed, and Bonnie, was noisy.

Dr. Morton and Dixie were already in vet gloves that Les and Dave had given them eagerly.

"Just how do you check a blood pressure on a dog?" Johnny said, shining a utility torch down on Bonnie's tail end, so Dr. Morton could see what he was doing in his exam.

"Doc, I got the I.V. in and taped the line up around her leg so she can't pull it out..." supplied Roy at the same time. "Set it at the drip you want.."

Les and Dave piped up even before DeSoto finished his thought.

"Doctor, do you want us to transport her to the shelter? Our V.M.'s not in yet. Coolidge comes at three." said Dave.

"Dave, she's breathing awfully fast, I think that it's already too late to transport." said Les. "Just look at how close those contractions are together... It must be less than ten seconds in between each one."

Dixie placed soft hands on either side of Bonnie's panting face and crooned. "There, girl. Easy. We'll find out what's wrong.
Stay down. Stay. It's ok to be scared. I would be, too, if I had three babies one sixth my body size working their way out of me."

Morton surfed calmly through all the chatter. "Everybody pipe down.
Thanks, Roy. Don't need one, Johnny. No, Dave, it's too late to move her. I see that, too, Les. That's right, Dix, distract her. There's a problem down here."

"What did you find?" Johnny asked quietly, all professional.

"She's pushing out two puppies at the same time..." Carefully, he lifted her tail at the height of a contraction and they all could see a pair of birthing sac bulges peeking out briefly before they slipped back inside of her. "Probably a leg and a snout.." Morton said, palpating the area gingerly. "What kind of heart sounds did you get?"

Roy answered, passing off the stethoscope to Morton as soon as he remembered that it was still framing his neck. "I don't know what normal is on a dog. But Bonnie's heart rate is much faster than it was just a few minutes ago and one of the puppy's sounds slow and depressed..."

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Closeby, Cap leaned into Stoker. "Who was on the phone?"

"Don't know, Cap. I got a hangup before I could find out anything."

Hank sighed. "Figures. Why don't people have the common courtesy enough to apologize when they do that?"

"Because of some embarrassment?" Stoker suggested.

"Only in the very young or very very old. I think that people are just getting sloppy nowadays and get rude without meaning to."

Mike mumbled to himself with a half smirk. "That was the nicest rude canary I've ever heard..."

"Huh?"

"Nothing, Cap. Just thinking to myself."

The two fell to listening to the huddle around Bonnie again.

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"Marco, tip her head back a little more. Dixie, let's slide her to the middle of the bed." ordered Morton.

"Got it.." said Dixie.

Morton frowned. "I'm a bit out of my element here. It's been years since I worked in a vet clinic. And even then, I was just a technician."

"But can you help her out?" asked Chet.

Mike pulled his hands away from Bonnie's heaving stomach and started to examine Bonnie's eyes with the penlight that he had deftly snatched out of Gage's shirt pocket. "I'll do the best I can, but I can't guarantee anything boys. She's in a real bad way.. I think.."
he amended. "She's not yet shocky but I don't want to risk a Cesarean section under these unsterile conditions. The resulting infection would only kill her later on."

Marco moved the oxygen mask closer to Bonnie's mouth and nose on the pillow case. "Poor girl. I know it hurts. Hang on.. The doc's gonna figure out something.."

Mike Morton shot him a sharp look, feeling uncomfortable with the confidence the others were giving him to solve the situation. Then his features settled into resolve. "Dixie, your hands are smaller. I want you to do this next part. I'm going to try to turn these pups in utero.
I want you to hold back this one's head in the birth canal while I twist this second one's hind paws right out of her. It may return the endangered one's umbilical circulation flow to normal before his heart stops completely.
Then I'll figure out how I'm going to free the first for delivery.
Fellas, I'm not going to rupture either placenta at all until we've got just one puppy into position. We need the cushioning in there to safeguard the third still waiting inside. If these suddenly burst, all the cords will start shunting blood into all the puppies. And that may bloat them too big to pass through Bonnie's pelvic arch. Each sac is supposed to break only when its attached pup's nose and head is pushed outside into the air."

Hank blathered. "W-What ever you say, doc. You're the expert."

"Far from.. I'm on one hundred percent guessing ground territory here.
Don't get your hopes up.." Mike grunted. "I'm afraid this dog might still die before we're through if things don't start moving along a little faster."

Dixie smiled quickly to soften Mike's bluntness. "We'll do everything we can to save her guys to the best of our abilities. I promise." she said, kissing Bonnie's nose affectionately.

The gang was still uncomfortable. So were Les Taylor and Dave Gordon.
"I hate getting calls like this. D*mned if you do, d*mned if you don't. And none too fun for the pups."

"Got any sage advise for me?" Morton asked the two shelter officers uncharacteristically.

"Yeah, start praying." said Les.

Dave, was more thoughtful. He rubbed his chin. "I remember one time when the doc had a mother straining like she is with some large pups."

"Oh, yeah..?" Mike said, still working feverishly with Dixie to unknot the two glistening twin bulges peeking out under Bonnie's writhing tail.
"What did he do to help her?"

"He got her warmed up. To relax the worst contractions long enough for him to right the pups positioning to normal. Worked better than any drug I've ever seen.." said the sweating African American man.

Gage flew into action. "Roy, how about a burn pack from the squad.
We can fill it with hot towels straight out of the shower.."

"Sounds like a plan.." said DeSoto.

"Here." said Mike Stoker, passing off his stack to the two paramedics who rushed to soak them. He handed them a plastic wrapped yellow bundle as well. "No need to run for this. I already got a burn pack. I thought we'd be needing it for a stretcher."

Right then, the tones went off..

"Oh noo.." Chet fretted angrily. "Not now.."

##Station 51, unknown type rescue. At the high school. 1701 Western Ave. 1701 Western Ave. Cross street Lincoln. Time out 0940.##

Hank Stanley fumbled with the bunkroom radio mic until he got a good grip on it. "Uh,, 10-4, L.A.. Station 51 is responding, KMG 365."

Gage reluctantly tossed the towel bundle to the two animal control officers. "Les, Dave.. could you?"

"We're on it. The showers are where?"

All the gang told them eagerly and nervously, talking over each other.

Dave held up his hands. "I got it. We'll radio on Tach Two with news when we can. The doc here can fill us in as soon as he's able to."

"Appreciate it.." Hank said as he and the others ambivalently retreated for the fire vehicles. They shoved into one another like a comedy act before finally pulling themselves together emotionally and physically for the run.

Soon, the county animal team and Rampart's team were left alone to deal with Bonnie's ineffective labor.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Stoker on the payphone.

Photo: Dixie in street clothes at the station with the gang.

Photo: Morton in close up at the station.

Photo: Two birth sacs sticking out of a dog.

Photo: The gang hovering over an animal on a station bunk.

Photo: Cap answering a rescue call on radio.

Photo: Johnny and Roy pulling on turnout at a scene.

*
From: CONSTANTINOS BOURAS Date: Fri Jul 22, 2005 1:42 am Subject: The Story continues kb9ora

As the Engine and Squad sped out the door, Morton placed the warmed towels around Bonnie to help her get warmed up after Dave returned with them from the bathroom.

---------------------------------------------------------

Back at the shelter, Sandy's phone rang and she answered it "L.A. County Animal Shelter, can I help you?"

"Sandy, it's me, Doc Coolidge, calling in to check my messages. Anything important?"

"No. No calls. But Dave and Les are on a call at L.A.
County F.D. Station 51, for their female Yorkshire Terrier that's in labor and having a difficult delivery. I understand Rampart also has a doctor and nurse on scene also." Sandy replied.

"Oh, great! And I'm still three hours away by vehicle.
Do you have a phone number to reach them at ? Maybe I can call them and help by phone." Doc Coolidge answered.

"Sure it's (310) 830-3170." Sandy told him as she passed the --- yes. That's the real phone #.
number from her directory. ETL Hosts

"Thanks." as he hangs up his phone, then places a call to the station.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, at Rampart General Hospital, Doctor Brackett asks Dr. Early if he has seen either Dr. Mike Morton or Dixie.

"No Kel, sorry." Dr. Early replied as Dr. Brackett walked away searching for his missing nurse and doctor.

Photos: None.

*
From : Cassidy Meyers Sent : Monday, July 25, 2005 4:35 AM Subject : Eye to eye...

Kel made his way over to the nurse's desk in emergency in a last ditch effort to find his head nurse and youngest resident doctor. He saw Carol's retreating back as she guided a father carrying his son with a pillow cocooned broken arm into treatment room five and trailed by Joe so he squashed the plan to ask her their whereabouts.

Frowning, he turned to Sharon Walters, the large dark eyed lip gloss oiled brunette in a blue nursing student smock, working on resupplying the drug cabinet behind the main desk. "Miss Walters, have you seen either Dixie or Mike in the last half hour?"

"Yes, doctor." she replied. "They both had their coats on and both said that they had an urgent errand to run. They told me to give you the Greggerson chart that they finished up together for you." And Sharon handed Doctor Brackett a steel chart holder opened to the prescription ordering page along with the blue pen that she had been chewing on thoughtfully while she worked.

Dr. Brackett took the lip gloss smothered, tooth dented pen politely after only a short, half smiling hesitation. "Thanks. I WAS looking to add a med to this. How'd you know?" he asked changing the subject to get his mind off the masticated pen.

Sharon shrugged. "I saw that Mrs. Greggerson's w.b.c. count was high enough to get an antibiotic order since that wasn't started by the paramedics who brought her in. Then I saw that your name was on the base station log as having dealt with their call.. The rest was pretty easy to figure out."

Brackett gave her a rueful grin. "That's Dixie rubbing off on you,.. all over." Then he threw back his head and laughed. "Sharon, you're turning into the epitome of efficiency around here. " he quipped.

"Thank you, Dr. Brackett. I have a good mentor in Miss McCall. Second only to you."

Brackett was good enough to blush with the compliment. But then he frowned again. "I wonder why Dix and Dr. Morton left so soon.. Their ER rotation doesn't end until six o'clock this evening."

Sharon just blinked her shy, mascara heavy eyes at him. "It's Thursday already, Dr. Brackett. Doesn't time fly when you've been having fun working all night?"

Dr. Brackett looked as if a sudden realization leaped up and bit him in the pants and he sighed expansively in unpleasant discovery."Oh,.... it's ......Really?"

Sharon went on apologetically nodding her head yes. "Today makes it their payday "friday." And on fridays, both Dixie and Dr. Morton get off by nine fifteen in the morning for their..."

"...their subjective weekends. That's right. I still feel like it's Wednesday. Did I ever tell you how much I hate the graveshift effect?"

Sharon batted her eyes with a shiny smile. "Frequently, doctor."

"I do?"

"About as much as you used to yell at me for making a mistake." she said.

"Well, let me compliment you again on your foresight to start offsetting that past negative balance..." Kel grinned, hefting the patient chart for which he had been looking so intently. "I can be an ogre but that's..."

"...that's what helps shape unconfident students into confident nurses.." she echoed along with him and she started laughing. "I know. Dixie says that's one of your personal mantras that you'll never sway from in practice. Brackett mantra number thirty seven."

"Thirty seven?!" Kel said starting to boil with a lit wick. "I know Dixie likes to psycho analyze me to death, but spreading around what she discovers about me on you nurses is ...is...taking things a little too far into personal territory!"

"Doctor.."

"What?!"

"Please don't yell, I think the people over there in the waiting room can hear you..." Sharon said, without ruffling. "Besides, it's all been for a good cause, doctor."

Fuming, Brackett just turned redder the more he tried to whisper angrily. "Oh yeah?! Well how do you figure that?"

"Well,..there hasn't been a student nurse quitting because of one of your famous tantrums in over three months.." she said honestly. "Because Dixie's deflated the fear in practically everyone in my nursing class by continually reciting these B mantras she attributes to you to each of them over coffee. Including me."

Kel was struck speechless. He just handed back the order scribbled chart he had just finished penning without a word, gummed the air a few times, and walked away with all the dignity he could muster, until he reached his office across the hall. ::I'm gonna have a long talk with my supposed head nurse. I can't believe she's made good on her threat to make things go softer on all the nurses during training. If she keeps that up, pretty soon they'll all start questioning doctor's orders as soon as they get them for thinking that they know it all fresh out of nursing school!:: he thought vehemently.

Soon, he had the hospital operator spill the beans on the latest base station call that Dixie had last recorded in an attempt to find out where she had gone. He was told about the land line call from Station 51. Soon, he was on his own landline to her, directly.

"Dixie..Come on now! Spreading ANY kind of rumor or grapevine about me is just short of insubordination in my book and you know it.."

##Uh huh! Brackett mantra number nineteen, DOCTOR. And I don't care what you think about what effect MY nurse training methods are having. I never tell you how to do heart surgery!##

"Touche, Dix." Kel just had to smile at her verbal ire even through his own stung ego."Thirty seven, Sharon said... I have that many?"

##No, Kel. You have thirteen MORE. Just call them the fifty deadly vices of Kelly Brackett and be done with it. I had my reasons. And I have an even bigger one to hang up on you because Bonnie's about to become a mother in just about five minutes. And I'm not there to help Mike out with her because I'm tied up on the phone .. arguing....with you! We'll talk about this on Saturday when I'm not busy doing something that's really none of your concern right now that's on my own personal time!##

Click!

Dr. Brackett's ears stung with the reverberation. "Oh, for Pete's sake. Who the h*ll is Bonnie?!" he said, hanging up the phone grumpily. He pegged a guess in the wrong direction about that name and his little reputation problem. "Next thing you know, they'll be hiring female firefighters to go along with the female paramedics already filing through! It's gonna be ..pure matriarchy for sure. Between them and all my nurses! And a living h*ll for every doctor who'll ever hope to train with me at Rampart for the next decade!"

Kel drowned out his sorrows in a cold bottle of spring water from his office frig and tried very hard not to think about the word ..."mantra."

=============================================================

Photo: Kel Brackett at the desk base station with Sharon Walters.

Photo: Dixie on the rec room couch with Henry and Johnny Gage.

Photo: A closeup of Brackett looking perplexed outside his office.

*
From : Roxy Dee Sent : Monday, July 25, 2005 9:52 PM Subject : The Wrong Crowd~~

Station 51 rolled to a halt at the high school across town. The sirens had already attracted most of the school's inner students, who were in between classes, like flies to a roadkill. They clustered around the firemen as they got out of their vehicles, quickly.

Cap was hard pressed to locate the call originator in the front cul de saac parking circle. He approached the nearest person old enough to look like a school employee. "Captain Stanley of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Did you call us?"

The gray haired man nodded and replied. "I'm the superintendant here. I thought he'd never listen to reason. Oh, ...thanks for coming so fast."

Roy DeSoto spoke up. "Sir. what exactly is the problem here? Is there a fire? We can't tell whether all these students are out here because of an alarm or because of the fact that they saw our trucks pull up."

Nearby, Chet Kelly was almost pushing the crunch of kids away from the engine.
"Hey, guys. Step back onto the curb. You're crowding the h*ll out of us.
We can't work without space. Please, just step back. You can see fine from the lawn and sidewalk across the street. Now move for your safety until we figure out what the problem is.."

At least some of the hundred or so chattering curious, rowdy excited teenagers did what they were told. Stoker finally scattered the rest of the large milling group off the driveway with a blast of the airhorn on the Ward set at full freeway volume.

They didn't stay there for long and soon returned to smother the firefighters.

The superintendant tried to answer Roy's question but got bumped strongly by a pair of horseplaying young men who were shoulder wrestling. Marco steadied the man. "Hey! Knock it off you guys!"

"Says who?" replied one of the mock fighters, who promptly ignored Lopez and turned away, waiting for his sporting game to start up again.

Hank immediately got on his HT. "Engine 51,...L.A., Respond a police unit to our location for crowd control A.S.A.P. They're interfering with our ability to ascertain just what our current situation is." he said in hurried frustration. He ran interference to protect their contact caller by jamming himself between the play shoving teens and him without touching anyone with his hands.

##10-4, Engine 51. L.A.P.D.'s reports their ETA as three minutes.##

One of the boys bounced off Hank's broad back and glared at him in mild irritation for spoiling their fun. Cap stared back as his men began to probe for information from their contact again.

Gage hung onto the superintendant to be heard over the noise of all the teenagers boiling around them. "You ok?"

"Yeah, stupid kids. Don't worry, mister. The bell's gonna go off right about....."

RIINNNGGG!

As if by magic, the students suddenly looked up in horror and started rabbiting back into the school in droves, parting like a river around Station 51's crew.

Soon, they were alone. The superintendant sighed hugely and wiped the sudden sweat off his forehead. "Whew! That's a relief. It's not a fire.. or anything like that, guys. The call was from our coach. Out there.
He says he's got a player down on the field.." said the man, pointing across the very car congested parking lot to a full to capacity outdoor bleacher stadium filled with game attendees at an active football match. "Glad you called the cops, captain, because I don't think the father's gonna let anyone near his son long enough to treat him. He's dead set on him continuing to play.
You know the type. Macho ex military.."

"What happened?" Roy asked.

"Bad tackle. I think the kid busted his leg real bad. Coach said when he got his shoe off, his toes were already turning blue."

Cap jerked into motion. "What's the best way out there? If that leg's circulation's been cut off, that kid's gonna have major problems."

The superintendant shifted his urgent gesturing. "Through the utility gate. There's an access road that leads right to the fifty yard line to the north. All you'll have to deal with is a few picnic blankets and lawn chairs from those who couldn't get bleacher tickets. Come on! I'll open the gate for you. I have the key.."

"Uh, huh. And what does this coach look like?"

"Green jacket. The downy kind. And gray hair like mine!" shouted the witness.

"Ok, thanks a million. Now let's move.." Cap urged the man.

Roy and Johnny were already beelining for the squad, peeling off their helmets and overcoats. They threw them inside before restarting their ignition.

Hank shouted to Roy. "You want us to follow you?"

"Yeah, we'll need the extra hands if active traction's gonna be involved. A stokes wouldn't be a bad idea either. That player may be pretty far out onto the field."
"Ok, You lead the way after him."

Cap gestured to Stoker, still sitting in the cab, to follow the squad that was quickly dogging the hurrying superintendant's back. The sweating man soon got hold of the the privacy blinded chain link fence sealing off the access road and had it pulled out of the way.

The engine and squad roared with lights and siren down the red rock until they cut a sharp right onto the grassy expanse around the stadium. They soon were leaving deep muddy gouges on the pristine grounds that had just been sprinklered.

Behind them, the superintendant put his hands to his face. "Oh, no. Not the lawn.
Just look at those furrows. The nightshift groundskeeper's gonna kill me."

Cap got on the horn as he and the rest of the gang bounced wildly as the engine alternately had its opposite tires sink into the water soft ground as it moved. "Engine 51, L.A. we have a football player down with a serious leg injury. Respond an ambulance to our location at the outdoor stadium at the end of the high school's side maintenance road to the north. Update P.D. to our new twenty. Also tell them that we're not out of our little crowd problem yet either." he added as he spotted an illegal bottle rocket arching into the air from one of the bleachers. "I'm seeing pyrotechnics.."

##10-4, Engine 51.##

Hank looked at Mike when he had rehung the radio mic onto its spigot in front of them. "How do the treads feel? Are we gonna get stuck?"

"Not a chance, Cap. Torque is still good even in first."

"Ok, just take her slow."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gage and Roy found the gap between the bleachers and pulled up as far as they could go to the painted field boundary. "Man, they're really into this game now, aren't they?" he shouted to Roy over the loud booing roar from one side of the high school's wooden risers. And it wasn't from the home team.

"Sounds like this football team's just as aggressive as the book learners around here."

"Yeah.. if those two wrestling clowns were any indication.." Johnny remarked as they gathered up all of their medical gear.

Hank snapped out orders. "Chet, Marco. Lay some line and cover spray all the garbage you see under the bleachers in a complete 360 around the stadium.
Connect off to the hydrant by the concessions stand. If any sparks from those rockets firing off reaches the paper debris down here...."

"No one's gonna burn past emotionally in this game, Cap.." Kelly promised.

Cap nodded in satisfaction. "Stoker give me a megaphone and then go grab a stokes out for them as soon as you can. Getting a hare traction splint's not a bad idea either. We've a fifty fifty chance on this being a femur fracture."

Hank got his portable loud speaker. ###You there in the bleachers. This is the Los Angeles County Fire Department! Stop lighting those fireworks off now! It's too dangerous in such close proximity to all the spectators!###

He was met by jeers from the few people who even bothered to peer down through the bleachers slates at the boring pair of fire vehicles beneath them. He was shocked to see full grown adults, obviously parents, in the home team crowd misbehaving right along with younger teenaged ones.

The bottle rockets continued.

Soon, Cap, Stoker, Johnny and Roy got their first look at their surroundings.

To their absolute amazement, the game was still ongoing in an active charge.
They winced as green and white jerseys colliding in bone jarring, no stops bull in a china shop momentum.

"So where are they?!" Gage shouted back at his crewmates over the angry buzz of the crowd. "I can't see anything yet.." He had to dodge a full paper pop cup that suddenly hurdled down onto him, full of chocolate shake. "Look out, Roy!"

DeSoto wasn't fast enough and got a face full of ice cream.

"Knock it off you idiots!!" Gage shouted up to whoever threw the drink.
"We're on a rescue call!"

Cap took Roy's gear boxes and tossed them into the stokes he and Mike were carrying and hurried after Johnny while Roy cleared his eyes enough to see and follow. "You ok, pal? D*mn that crowd. I should have called for six squad cars!"

"Cap, now that wouldn't be good PR to cast a nuisance fine on the high school like that. I'll live and we haven't been delayed enough to matter here." Roy sputtered. "I'm not hurt.."

"You may not be. But a few more of them might get that way if this animosity between teams keeps up like this." Cap growled.

Another bottle rocket went off into the sky.

"CUT IT OUT LAUNCHING THOSE ILLEGAL FIREWORKS! YOU'RE GONNA START A FAST MOVING BLAZE RIGHT UNDER THE BLEACHERS IF YOU KEEP DOING THAT!!" Hank bellowed through his megaphone.

"Cap, I think you oughta tone it down. We're on the wrong side if you know what I mean." Stoker yelled. "They realize we're gonna be helping one of the rival team's players.."

"What a bunch of... And this is their own home game?! Just what kind of high school is this?" Cap complained.

"A very very cliquey one, Cap." Stoker said, pressing foward, as he lowered his helmet to shield himself from a raining box of popcorn that suddenly started pelting down like confetti to compliment the ample bottle rockets continue to hiss into life around them.

"They're gonna fry if they keep this up. And they don't care. What monsters!" Hank said in exasperation. "It's only a matter of time before one of those spent works reaches the trash under the bleachers. And then we'll really have a hot time."

"That's only if Marco and Chet are slow wetting the stuff down, Cap. And they're never slow when it comes to a potential fire risk."

"You got that right.." Cap muttered angrily.

Stoker and Stanley heard a series of indignant squawks from above them when Chet shot all the bottle rocket launchers and the drink and food throwers in the butt with a sharp icy stream from his hose under the seats. The home team boos choked off, and ones from the rival team across the stadium shifted to the opposite point on the compass into light mirthy jeers.

They got the rest of the way out to the tight coach and staff huddle over the downed football player unmolested, amid a jumble of cheers and shouts of encouragment from his team's onlooking spectators.

"Yey, they're here!"
"Don't worry, we'll protect ya on this side!"
"Is he all right!? My g*d that leg looks awful. He's got a second knee! I think I'm gonna be sick!..."
"We'll cream 'em in the second half time for injuring our star quarterback like that. Just you wait. " said several.

Just shy of the rival team's fifteen yard line, the firemen finally got to a team of three coaches kneeling over a navy jerseyed african american teenager. One of the coaches was making gestures in an obvious can-you-breathe-ok? motion.

Gage shoved past him with the O2 and quickly got some on him by the faster demand valve around the teenager's screams of utter agony.
"Ok, Move aside. We got it from here. You down there, keep holding that leg still until my partner can take a better look at it."
he ordered, crouching over the boy's white helmeted face.

Roy ignored the pointed curious stares he got from the coaches as they eyeballed the pinkish brown goo dripping out of his hair and down his shoulders. One of them threw a towel over his shoulders to use quickly so he could work.

"Sorry about that." said the man who could only be the coach who requested their response on scene. "I've been trying for six years to get my boys' family and friends to behave nicely at these games. Believe me, it's been a war this whole season keeping them civil. I'm surprised murder isn't being done yet judging by how your partner looks." he told Johnny.

Another coach spoke up around him, a woman of thirty with short brown hair. "He's real shocky. His pulse's 126 and bounding. I've tried to get Lance's breathing slowed down but..."

Roy turned to her. "Thanks for the information ma'am, we appreciate it.
Now could the three of you step back a little? We can't work with you folks sitting shoulder to shoulder with us like this. He's gonna be just fine.
He won't suffer with this for long here. We have pain meds that can take away all of his pain in seconds. Lance? I know it hurts, but my partner is gonna have to check you out to make sure you don't have a head injury working on ya before we can handle any of your discomfort. Ok? Now how old are you?"

"OwWWW! *gasp* S-seventeen.. Mister.... I can't feel my foot anymore.
Ohmyg*d my leg hurts!! It's real bad. Something's wrong inside."

"I'm trying to help that down here." said Roy, gingerly manipulating the leg even before he cut open the teenager's leg wraps and tights to see the extent of the thigh bone's misalignment. "This is gonna hurt but I'm gonna try to get the blood flowing back into your foot by moving it back down the way it rests normally."

"Just do it!" gritted the heavily muscled dark skinned young man. "I wanna play ball again without facing a lifetime on crutches-S-S as a total crip, man, understand me?! AghH! Just fix it!"

Roy carefully drew the leg down to neutral position and smiled tightly when the foot began to pink up very weakily in a surge of rapid pulses.

Lance started gagging and nearly blacked out.

"Lance!.. Lance!! Now breathe in this oxygen to get your mind off it. The pins and needles'll go away in a min---" Gage started to say.

Lance rolled over onto his side and was violently sick. Johnny barely slid his knees out of the way in time. Stoker quickly handed Gage a suction wand in trade for the demand valve so Johnny could rapidly clear food out of Lance's lolling mouth.

He bent close to make sure Lance started breathing again when it was all over. "Easy.. easy. We're done, Lance. We're done.. Spit the rest of that out. I'll get it out of the way."

Lance groaned and full consciousness returned cruelly once the oxygen was settled back onto his face.

Roy looked up as the boy lifted violently off the ground with a return of more sensation in the shattered bone. "Where's his father? We can't treat with any medications here without a parent's--"

"I'm Lance's step father." declared a big beast of a man who suddenly barged through the trio of smaller coaches. "He don't need no dope for his leg. He'll take his lumps like a man. He won't be showing no weakness to those heckling jackals in the stands by taking junk. Ain't that right, Lance?"
"Y-yes, dad. I'm just....*egff* fine the way I am..." he grunted as another gush of cold sweat poured off his straining face.

That set Johnny off the deep end. He glared fiercely up at Lance's father and said....

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A high school football field.

Photo: A jeering bleacher's crowd in closeup.

Photo: Coaches treating a wind knocked, stunned player.

Photo: A spilled chocolate shake.

Photo: An ice cream soaked Roy.

Photo: Cap ordering police on an HT by a concessions stand.

Photo: Johnny looking up from treatment at someone above.

Photo: An angry inner city man outside, glaring.

*
From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy Date: Wed Aug 10, 2005 8:44 am Subject: The Winning Combination..

"Stoker, take over for me on his mask." Then he rose to his feet, pointing angrily at Lance's step dad. "Listen mister! If this pain goes on much longer, shock's gonna set in worse than it has already and the circulation to this leg's gonna stop completely and there'll be no chance in h*ll then to save it! Let us do our jobs! Is your pride over looking weak worth your son's future?!" Johnny growled up at him.

"He ain't gonna die, fireman. Even I know that. Not while you're still here. I know how paramedics work. And besides that, a broken leg never kills unless fever sets in." demanded the massively tall man.

Johnny tried to go over the truth of the danger of Lance possibly having a torn femoral artery again but Cap held up his hand to hush him.

The frightened boy on the ground sighed under the demand valve as Mike eased his head back for easier breathing. "Dad,..*gasp*
I tried to be what you wanted to be.. but now this has happened.."
Lance swallowed around the bile in his throat. "No one can be perfect in the game, dad. Don't you see? We've had two chances to live a dream. But now it's over.. Pleas--please.. Let them help me.
I don't wanna be crippled. I don't wanna end up like y--..."

"Shut up, boy! It's not over until I say it is!" shouted the step father.

Right then, Vince Howard, his partner, and four other officers arrived in three squad cars. He sized up the situation in moments when Gage gave him a significant glance at Lance's grossly swollen leg and the drug box.

Vince barked with all the authority he had. "Fireman Gage, is this boy's life endangered?"

"His leg is. This gentleman here is keeping us from treating his son with anti-shock medication. If Lance's pressure falls into black out levels, the leg will start dying." he said truthfully.

"Treat him. He's now under police department protective custody.."

"What?!" spat the step father. "You can't do that.."

"I just did. Or would you rather face reckless child endangerment and parental neglect charges in front of a board of inquiry?" Vince shouted back. "My other officers can see what's going on here clearly enough. They'll be my witnesses to the judge about your lack of judgement on providing humane care to a minor under your responsibility." the officer shouted back, just as street sharp.

The gang didn't know whether or not Lance's dad backed down because Vince was his own nationality or because he had finally thought things through as he felt up the permanent brace he wore on his left leg. But step back he did, and he broke away all eye contact with the officers and the kneeling firefighters.

They got to work.

Roy quickly got another blood pressure reading on Lance. "80/50, Johnny.
I'm leaving this pumped up for an I.V. stick. I got the MS right here."

"Right.." and Johnny ignored Lance's father as he directed his crewmates on applying the Hare traction splint swiftly. "Lance.. once this goes on,
the pain will lessen significantly once the bone's put back into better alignment. Just hang on. "

"...O..ok.." said the boy.

"Ok, Cap. Start cranking on that knob until I tell you to stop." Johnny ordered.

Roy made a hasty call to Rampart. "...Doc, we've got a badly fractured femur complicated by muscle cramping due to severe pain. Circulation's twenty percent at best. Request permission for some MS a.s.a.p. to calm our patient down before applying pull on the traction splint. He's shocky with a systolic pressure around 80."

Dr. Early asked a question. ##What's the nature of the break?##

Roy replied, "It's closed, Rampart, but convoluted from an excessive tackle in a high school level football game." the paramedic told him to let him know the forces involved.

Joe mulled over that. ##Do we have parental consent?##

Hurriedly, the now cowed father nodded briskly, aware that his honor and reputation were now risked in a more binding, legal way.

Roy sighed. "We do."

##Go ahead with ten milligrams morphine sulfate, 51, into an I.V., half Ringer's Lactate, half Normal Saline,.. set to wide open. Monitor his breathing rate closely and support him on one hundred percent 02 if necessary. Let me know when the traction splint becomes effective in returning the leg's normal blood flow. Then transport as soon as possible. I'll have a vascular and an orthopedic surgeon standing by when you get here. If his vitals don't improve promptly, place him in antishock trousers and inflate only the chambers over his abdomen and the good leg until he regains 90 systolic at the minimum or higher. And I want a set of new vitals every five minutes.##

"Already drawn up, doc. 10 milligrams MS I.V. into a Ringer's Normal Saline bag. Anti-shock trousers on stand by for possible use to regain low normal. 10-4. I estimate our ETA at fifteen minutes. I'll have a full set of vitals once we're moving." DeSoto said.

##10-4, 51. Standing by.##

Roy soon established an I.V. and he began to administer Lance's MS into the piggy back hub.

Johnny had his hand on Lance's popliteal pulse as Cap and Marco adjusted the clicking tension on the Hare splint. He halted them when a beat appeared under his fingers. "Ok, right there.. right there.." he said. "Lock it off."

Lance groaned at the relief of pain from both his narcotic injection and manual realignment and his wet face sagged under Stoker's hands, into a numb stupor.

Lance's father started forward in alarm, grabbing his son's sweaty arm in both his hands. "Lance?!" he choked, his voice now full of worry and a genuine panic any father would have for his hurt child.

Mike smiled. "He's ok. He's breathing just fine. And look at his leg. It's straightened up well. Johnny's getting a good pulse down to his foot now."
he told the man as he watched the American Indian paramedic checking the splint's settings and straps.

"No kidding? His leg's fixed now?"

"Not by a long shot. This splint's just a temporary measure until an operation to repair the bone with rods and pins can begin." Johnny told him.

"That's not like any splint I've ever seen. That one's got a crank or something on it. Mine didn't have anything like that when I broke my leg in this stadium eighteen years ago when it was applied by the coaches. In fact, it didn't help at all and now I'm half the man I was." And the distraught, tearing man lifted his pants leg to reveal a steel metal brace strapped around his upper leg.

"It's called a Hare traction splint. Remember that when Lance starts walking again in a few months after some physical therapy. And the name of the medication that released the muscle spasms cutting off your son's leg's blood flow. That one's called Morphine. Because together, those two things will make sure Lance gets to the surgeon's table in one living piece. He'll most likely play football again,....someday. But you're gonna have to be more patient with him from now on, and a little more forgiving. Don't push him so hard next time, ok?" Gage grinned respectfully.

The step dad said nothing but Gage could see that he was chewing over what he was seeing and hearing around him as food for thought.

And when the ambulance attendants started wheeling the boy's stretcher out across the infield to the waiting Mayfair, both sides of the stadium suddenly started cheering.

"See?" Roy said to the father as he held up the boy's high flow I.V.
over his pillow out of Stoker's way. "No pride lost at all. I don't think they've forgotten all about you yet like you think they have. They know a pair of heroes when they see them. Both the home team and the away's."

================================================================ Subject: And Then There Were Four... )
From:

Les, Dave, Dixie and Mike Morton were still all alone in the bunkroom at Station 51, working feverishly. The only difference was that someone had kicked on the sleeping room's light switch with a foot while they attended the hard birthing Bonnie.

They had been successful untangling the puppies internally but no one was smiling. Bonnie lay barely trying so Morton helped her with an injection of saline into her uterus to stimulate effective contractions.

Dr. Morton's hands flew. "Here comes the first one. Les, Dave.. take puppies two and three since you already know how to do this.
Miss McCall, take the first. Your hands will be faster. Dixie, now when it's fully born, take the bulb syringe and clean out its nose and mouth free of fluid by doing the nose first. Then take a towel and rub the puppy briskly all over. It'll act like CPR and resuscitation all at the same time. A puppy this young's still all cartilage.." said the sweating doctor. "...so don't worry about hurting it. The harder the better. Its got to start breathing within a half hour or the mother's surfactant inside of its lungs will dry out and kill any hope of further alveolar oxygen/CO2 blood exchange. The pup needs to be breathing by then to make more of its own."

Dixie rubbed a drip of sweat off her chin with an elbow and got a nest hammock of towelling draped over her palms by the sandy haired LesTaylor. "Gimme.." was all she said at last, pure determination making hard angles of her face.

The youngest animal control officer put the worried nurse at ease.
"It's easy to revive a newborn, ma'am. Just watch me when I get mine to get an even better technique once you get started." said Les Taylor.

Dave Gordon smiled when Mike Morton snipped the first limp puppy's cord and scraped some gloved fingers over the small form to get off the placental sac and a lot of the mucous from around the puckered looking head. "It's a boy!"

"Here, Dix.. Take him." ordered a brisk Morton. "I've cut and clipped him off. Whatever you do, don't pull off the umbilical clamp until all the fluid's done crossing over into him."

Dixie made a deeply unconscious maternal sound. "He's so limp. My g*d,
the poor thing's all distorted." she murmured, teary eyed, working fast with the blue syringe bulb to get air in a clear string down inside the male puppy. Two suction pulls later and only air gushed out of the bulb.

Dave reassured her. "He'll shape up. They always look a little crunched at first."

"Good. Now pick him up with some stimulation." Morton told her from the corner of his eye while he watched and helped Bonnie deliver the second puppy's head. He used a pair of blunted scissors to tear open its tougher than normal birth sac. Brown green rectal meconium poured out. A sign of a difficult birth. "This one's stressed and apneic, too. Les, you get this one. You're closer to me." The second puppy's nails, skin and cord were stained a sickly yellow.

"Think rolling bread dough." coached Dave at Dixie, holding her shoulders while she scrubbed and rubbed the small still pup with the folds of her towel. He watched his partner get the second pup into his own nested towel.
Then Dave showed the very jumpy nurse how to safely hang the puppy's head down low to drain him out even more. "And drying off one of the kids.
There, just like that. Put a finger on either side of his shoulders like a whip cream can so he won't fall."

"I don't have any kids.." Dixie said softly. "And this is nothing like that at all, Mr. Gordon." she said even louder in her fear.

"Okay, picture drying off your own head after a shampoo. It's the same motion." soothed the calm officer. "That's right. See how he's not getting any paler around the mouth and gums? That's you, acting as his heart and lungs until he figures things out on his own." Dave told her. "Now, keep it up.
If you get tired, we'll have one of the fire boys take over. I hear them pulling into the garage."

"Oh, thank goodness. A paramedic when you absolutely want one." Dixie babbled.

Les Taylor's eyes went up as he worked on his own limp newborn. "Give yourself credit, Dixie, you're doing a wonderful job. You can't screw up. That one's either gone already or he'll come back real soon. Just give him time. " Then he cried in discovery. "Mine's a girl! Hey, sweetheart! Come back to me and mama..!"
he chuckled.

Dixie ignored Les's amused candor. She was all analytic. "Mike, is Bonnie in danger from all that waste material inside the birth canal?"

"No. Dogs are different than people. At the very most, she'll catch a urinary tract infection that'll clear up on its own in a couple of days." Morton said, pulling out the third puppy for Dave and he opened up its placenta like a podded specimen with his delivery scissors. "This one's lively. Dave..." he prompted, holding out the last pup as it squirmed and opened its tiny mouth mutely in his glove. "Come take her. And yes, I checked proper for gender this time."

Gordon left Dixie's side to gather up his own towel and Morton concentrated on making sure Bonnie didn't bleed out by massaging her abdomen firmly while she lay under the oversized pediatric oxygen mask.

"Is she breathing okay?" Dixie asked Dave about the third puppy.

"Yes, she's trying. I just have to get out some of this fluid so she can talk a little."

A few seconds later and a loud peeping protest erupted from the healthy girl pup. It acted like a jolt in Bonnie, who shot bolt upright onto trembling legs.

"Easy girl.." Morton told her. "You're not going anywhere until you've finished the job." Then he used the fact that Bonnie had heard one of her new pups and tested out a teat. It generated ample colostrum and a little milk. "We'll give them back to you. Don't worry. We're all friends here..." he said distractedly.
Then he looked up. "Well, her mother's milk is good enough. Dave, give me your puppy when you're sure she's cleared out. There's nothing like a mother dog's tongue to do a proper job of drying out dog hair."

Dave gave baby three to the doctor who set the pup to one of Bonnie's nipples and offered her a squirt after he showed the pup where to find it.

Bonnie immediately was all mother and she finally tolerated the human doctor fussing down below, checking to see if she had torn herself with the birthing effort. The newborn puppy started suckling hungrily with strength right away.

Dr. Morton got busy assembling all the parts of the puppies' afterbirth onto Bonnie's burn sheet. "Well, for a first time mother, she's thorough. Everything's here." he announced. "And I'll have no stitching up to do."

Les and Dave sighed in relief but Dixie didn't know what to think, still curled quietly around her lifeless puppy on Roy's bed, rubbing desperately all along its wet sides and face.

Les's puppy sprang into weak voice that stereoed the last puppy's cries still fresh in their memories and she, too, was put to a breast to calm under Bonnie's attentions.

That left Dixie's puppy, still lying limp and nonresponsive despite vigorous stimulation.

Mike Morton heard the garage door rumble shut. "Gage! DeSoto! Bring the drug box.. double time!"

Soon, the whole suddenly panicked bunch of firefighters, minus Roy, who had beelined for the nearest shower, appeared behind Johnny, skidding on the tiles with the asked for equipment. "She crashing?!" Gage minced.

"No....no. no.." Morton said, putting him at ease. "It's the first pup, the one that was stuck. Nothing's bringing it around fast enough for me. Grab out a spent epi from your sharp's bin."

"What?" Johnny gasped. "Can we do that?"

"Sure, why not? I heard you used some on that teenager to boost his breathing en route to Joe a few minutes ago. Your captain was kind enough to leave the scanner on for us to listen to so I know you have that syringe handy. So crack open that bin and get it out. Time's wasting!"

For a moment, Gage jumbled with its lid and almost reached inside the disposal chamber when Cap smacked his shoulder and handed Johnny his own forceps from his utility holster. "Use these.." snapped Cap. "Clever, doc.
This way Brackett's form happy minions won't ever catch on that we used epi from our stores in an unauthorized way."

Morton's head nodded.. "Umm hmm. There's more than enough left in this syringe to turn this little guy around." he said, fitting a new needle into the injection hub.

Gage's face flushed with embarrassment that he hadn't thought of that way to protect himself from a contaminated needle stick. "Well, what about the I.V. we're using on Bonnie?" he said a little sharply. "Don't we have to account for that?"

"Got a plan for that, too." said Morton. "The I.V. fluid we can account for. Don't be so clumsy next time,
Johnny, you stepped on the bag here without watching, and broke it earlier on one of this morning's rescues. I'll file that incident report myself for the supplies people."

Johnny started sniggering. "Who says you're not the devious type,
doc. You're a sheer genius when it comes right down to it."

"Anytime. Now.. Dix, let me see the little fellow, but don't stop what you're doing.." Dr. Morton ordered.

The gang crowded around Dixie's towel and tiny charge.

Morton opened the limp puppy's mouth, grasped its tongue and shot some drops of epinephrine from the recovered syringe deep into the lingual tissue there.

The reaction was instantaneous. The puppy coughed, wretched,
then pinked up and started breathing weakly after dumping out a gush of meconium from under his twitching tail.

"Got you!" crowed Les Taylor.

"Ah, I knew he was a fighter from the start." Dave murmured softly,
admiring the markings on Bonnie's first born son.

Johnny snatched away Bonnie's no longer needed O2 and held it over the pup's face on blow by. "What liter flow?"

"Four will do. Watch him though." Morton ordered, pointing to the injected pup. "When he sucks on your finger, Dix,, stop the rubbing and put him with the other two to nurse. It'll keep Bonnie from bleeding out any more. Keep all of them warm. Except Bonnie. She needs to cool down or her milk'll fail. I'm going to go wash up.." said Morton, peeling off his obstetrical gloves.

Johnny adjusted the mask's flow and handed it off to an eager Kelly,
who took over his place next to Dixie when Gage rose up. "Uh, doc. Roy's in the shower.. he got a little messy after a run in with some irate fans."

"Is he hurt?"

"No. Just a little ice cream spill over."

Morton's face looked as if he was going to ask a few more details on that one but he finally chalked it up as another story of the weird and said. "A sink'll do. I showered before I left work. I'll stick around long enough to discontinue Bonnie's I.V. But then I got to split.
I've got a hot date tonight.." celebrated Morton.

That made just about everyone do a double take in disbelief and amazement.

"Dix, you showering after Roy?" Johnny asked finally, after clearing his throat to get by the stunning announcement.

"Are you kidding? I'm married to the little guy here until I'M sure he's all right. I'll sleep in my clothes on the couch if I have to." she promised.

Cap's eyebrows went up. No nurse had ever stayed overnight at the station before. And for that, he knew he had to make some changes.
"Chet, go rig a tarp in front of the rookie's bunk down there.
And do the same for the spare locker and extra sit down toilet."

"Captain Stanley. You don't have to go through the trouble..." Dixie began.

"No trouble Miss McCall. You did us all a favor by bringing him." he said jerking a thumb at Morton's back as he grabbed a few leftover clean towels to bathe with. "..so the least we can do is feed ya and offer you a place to sleep tonight if it comes down to that... or is Bonnie and her puppies relocating to the V-E-T-S before then?" he asked Les and Dave.

Les picked up the phone next to the bedside radio station that reached an outside line. "I don't know. Let's find out. It's way after three p.m. The doc's in now."

All of them gathered around Dixie and her furry brand new patient and around Bonnie to satisfy their worry that all was now truly well.

Dave soon gave Sandy, the shelter receptionist, the good news and was on the line to the man he most wanted to talk to right then.
"Heya, doc. It's done. Three live pups with no complications on the mother. The human M.D. did a fine job and only needed fractional epi on one of them. Do you want to see the whole bunch now?"

Doc Coolidge chuckled. ##Nah, why bug them? We'd just be disturbing the mother/puppy bonding stages. A whole firehouse crew, a nurse and two paramedics are plenty to monitor and succor to them. Tell me the play by play when you get back here after supper..##

"Supper?"

##Yeah, sure.. Use some of your animal rescue clout and make those boys over there to feed ya real good. After all, this emergency squad call of yours will be free of charge. My gift to the men in tan for a job well done. Tell them they can get a free check up for her and her pups from me in a couple of days.##

"I'll tell them, doc. And I'll have my report on your desk by sun up."
Then Dave hung up and addressed all the firemen and the seated nurse.
"Doc says a checkup's not necessary right away since things went just fine all things considering. He's offering to check them out for nothing in forty eight hours. All you have to do is swing on by."

"Wow, that's terrific." said Hank. "Can we offer you boys some barbecue? It's Stoker's night for KP and he's already started grilling.
Dixie's same offer extends to you. Marco, go see if Dr. Morton's got time to chow before he heads out. I don't know of one hospital resident who can't pack away more than one meal when given the chance. They all just plain work too hard not to be able to do it."

Marco headed off to ask him.

======================================================

Lopez peeked his head into the bathroom where Morton was lathered up like a surgical scrub down. "Doc, what time's your date at?"

"Ten p.m. We're going to the late show." replied Mike.

"The dinner table's open. Ribs. Are you game before you leave?"

"You have to ask? And I'll bring my raging appetite, too.
Thanks Marco."

Marco nodded and turned to leave. "Hey Roy!" he shouted over the rush of steaming water in the shower stall.

"What's the matter? Is it Bonnie? I'll be right there."

"Relax, pal. She's fine. She delivered two girls and a boy who came back with only a little puppy CPR and leftover epinephrine from the trash."

"Glad to hear it. Bonnie's a real trooper. I wasn't worried at all."

::Sure you weren't.:: Marco thought privately. ::You would've stayed sticky with chocolate malt in defiance of Cap for the next run if he hadn't've put his foot down to get presentable, in order to be there for her delivering.:: "I'll go set the table. Our four guests are staying to eat."

"Ok. I'll grab out more soda from the cooler in the yard when I'm done changing..." bubbled DeSoto under the hot water.

================================================================ Subject: A Home For Each.
From:

It was two hours later in the depths of early evening.

"Come on fellas. You've stopped stuffing your faces so drink up some of this soda. The case Roy brought in's already starting to get warm.
What's the matter? You got a sudden aversion to carbonated prune juice or something? Hmmm, this is yummy.."

No one even looked at her from where they sat burping or reading or playing checkers. So Dixie improvised, trying to get some bodies as thirsty as she was."Drink Dr. Pepper,..BE-eeee a pepper... " croon sang Dixie, to the others while sipping on hers. "Well, maybe not you. You're still on just the soft stuff." she babytalked to the snoring scruffy coated puppy nestled in her arms inside the shock blanket.
"I think I'll call you, Max. You're definitely gonna be mine after all I went through trying to save you." she murmured.

The guys didn't protest. Gage smiled as he turned off Max's wafting oxygen source. He had just finished drifting over for the fifteenth time to monitor his hind leg pulse.

Dixie smiled. "Hey, check this out. Little Max thinks I'm Bonnie or something and he's looking for some insta-dinner. Isn't that the cutest thing you ever saw?"

He was just barely visible in between all of Dixie's curves.

Johnny's grip on the regulator valve slipped and the tank key clanged loudly against metal on its chain when he dropped it as Gage contained his shock and surprise at the casually mentioned observation.

Every male in the room ( except Morton ) suddenly found themselves studying the walls, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere....but towards the couch. ( Nothing humanly body functional...ever surprised a doctor. )

Johnny started in awkwardly, thick with embarrassment, when Dixie finally decided to shift Max to her shoulder for a cuddle. "So u-uhhh.. *cough* What are we gonna name the other two? I mean, Dixie's got dibs on him. Uhh, congratulations to you." he said deadpan. He looked everywhere but at Dixie as he spoke.

"Why thank you, Johnny..." McCall demurred. "He's definitely the best of the bunch."

Chet piped up, the first fireman to sound somewhat normal in several seconds. "I dunno, Johnny. Whatever names we decide on, I guess. Maybe we should make em the epitamy of cuteness so that they'll be sure to adopt out when it comes time to give em away or sell them."

"You got a dog allergy like Mama Lopez or something there, Kelly?
That's why Marco can't take one. His mother'd only get sick." Cap asked."Why don't you take one of the girl pups for yourself? All I know is that I can't myself. My wife would kill me."

"Mine, too." piped up Roy.

"Oh, no..." Kelly evaded."You guys aren't gonna stick me with doing this. My cat Bruno will eat that tiny ball of fuzz for lunch. He doesn't tolerate having other animals around. At all."

Gage laughed lightly. "Nor any of his dates either.." he joked, letting the others in on a little secret.

"Very funny, Gage. But uh,, speaking of the subject, you're a bachelor. Why don't YOU take one of Bonnie's puppies home?"

Johnny became uncomfortable, now that the tables were turned.
"A puppy'd only get lonely for sure at my house. I'd be outside minding the ranch all the time and besides....I'd .. probably'd never remember to feed her on time. I'm just too dog-goned busy with my horses for that kind of thing."

The guys didn't relent in their disbelieving stares. Chet shrugged "Is that a pun, Johnny. If so, it wasn't a very good one."

Gage went on babbling and pretending that he never even heard Kelly's jab. "I swear I only go inside the house to sleep."

"Among other activities.." Chet implied with innuendo. "You're not always alone, Johnny." said Kelly, revealing a little secret of his own.

Johnny stabbed Chet with a glare to silence him but Dixie caught onto Chet's implied observation and laughed richly.

Gage was stung.

Dave Gordon raised his hand. "I'll take the third born. I kinda feel like she's half mine already. My heart strings are already getting pulled too hard to ignore." he admitted. "She's definitely woven her spell on me, the little witch. I think I'll call her Sabrina."

"Glad you joined my adopt a puppy club.." Dixie said, raising her pop can into the air.

"Anytime.." Dave replied, lifting his own in a toast to match.

"That leaves one puppy left." Kelly tallied. "Uh..."

"The last's a girl, Chet. Wanna check again?" Gordon said,
moving Bonnie and her basket of babies a little closer to them on the kitchen table.

Marco spoke up. "You know I can't take her. Like Cap said, my mama's deathly allergic. How about we check to see if there's a still a fire station around who doesn't have a mascot yet? A puppy'd be the perfect thing for any crew to have to baby to death to burn off excess stress on the job."

"I don't think there is one." Hank said. "Boot's done a lot making everybody want a dog just by his visiting their stations. So that's what they all went out and did. They each got a dog. And as I recall, the chief brags constantly at meetings that there isn't a single solitary firehouse in the whole county that Boot hasn't yet influenced in that way. McConnike swears up and down that we were his absolute last stop when he arrived for that cliff top rescue two years ago."

Gage stared at the garage in utter amazement. "Why that sneaking little ball of fur..."

"Not so little.." Roy intoned.

Johnny ignored him. "If I had known two years ago that I'd be forking out thirty dollars a year in dog food expenses, I never would've even started scratching those flea bitten ears of his. And now there's this fatherhood thing he has with Bonnie. I wonder if he even knows he HAS any puppies."

Roy smiled. "I'm sure he does, Johnny. He does get around. Who knows how many Boots are running wild through the streets of L.A. by now. I'm surprised that none of us even guessed what he was up to."

"How do you mean?" Johnny asked Roy.

"What better way to guarantee his own survival than to train us firemen to take in station mascots for him to play with. Especially if they're females ones."
DeSoto grinned.

Morton started laughing. "And I thought I held the market for possessing a high grade of cleverness. Boot definitely had all of us fooled. Right from day one, I hear?" he teased the firecrew.

They pointedly ignored him.

Morton was nonplussed. "I still can't believe you fellows didn't even realize that Bonnie was pregnant."

"Did she look pregnant to you?" Johnny and Roy asked the Rampart folks simultaneously.

"Yes." replied both Dixie and Morton.

Dixie chortled. "And you two call yourselves paramedics... How could you miss her belly settling? She was practically dragging the floor with it when she walked." McCall said, returning Max to his anxiously waiting furry mother. He already wore a ribbon in his hair, like Bonnie's.
Only it was blue.

Morton grew serious faced. "Uh, boys. I wouldn't let Brackett find out for all the world about your little slip up. He just might sic Craig Brice on the both of you for some retraining in the paramedic skills canine lab."

Roy and Johnny paled.

Mike Morton let them off the hook by bursting into a huge toothy smile with a guffaw bellowed out at the top of his lungs. "I'm joking, guys. Got ya, good."

The others fell into a giggle fit.

Morton went on. "And before you ask. Pets aren't allowed where I live."

"Same here." said Les Taylor, the blond headed animal control officer.

Chet wiped tears of mirth out of his eyes. "That leaves one left to speak up. Mike.. what's your excuse for not taking the last pup?"

All eyes turned to Mike Stoker.

The soft spoken fire engineer didn't move in his chair. His answer slammed them all into complete silence. "I don't like dogs.."
came his reply. Even as he petted the snoozing Bonnie's head.

"Why ever not?" Gage asked incredulously. "Dogs are great.."

Hank said. "Stoker, you've absolutely stunned us flat with that kind of remark. Care to reiterate?"
Mike Stoker lifted suddenly sad eyes and said.
************************************************** Subject: A Call For Help.
From:

"Whenever I've gotten a dog in the past, something bad always happened to me. I guess.. I ...sort of ...built up a negative association with dogs that's now become impossible to ignore. I know this sounds stupid and even a bit crazy. I've tried to get over it, but I find that I can't." he replied. "Not even for a moment.."

Cap was matter of fact, "A defensive mechanism?"

"Maybe.." agreed Roy, analyzing.

"And Mike is the shyest of the shy at times. It makes sense." Hank angled in.

"A man of few words.." murmured Chet.

"But big on heart." Morton added.

"Mike why didn't you share this with us before?" asked Marco. "That's what friends are for. We never would have agreed to keep Bonnie, or Henry or even Boot for his few weeks of visiting for that matter for one single minute,
if it meant that you'd feel any pain by having them near you."

"Amen to that.." snapped Cap wholeheartedly.

Mike Stoker studied the floor, but one hand strayed to Max, to keep tactile tabs on his shallow napping breaths.
"Forget I even said anything. Guys, I ..don't know what to tell you about it."

"You don't have to." said Dixie with sudden conviction. Her tone was all friend and not even a hint of nurse colored it.
"Sometimes, there are things people have to keep to themselves in spite of everything else."

That made Stoker stand up, unusually uncomfortable.
"Ok. I'll take her home with me."

"Are you sure?" Cap asked, angling his head. "Wasn't that rather sudden?"

"No, it wasn't. And yes, I'm sure. Maybe she'll get me over this negativism I have once I grow to love her like I do all my hutch rabbits."

"You have hutch rabbits?" Chet chortled with a laugh.

Gage smacked him.

Stoker ducked his head shyly but then he grinned.
"I do. They're the best pets in the world, Chet, I'll have you know. And they'll never ever claw you to death like your cat does to you whenever you p*ss him off with the garden hose when you shoot it at his window." Stoker said with a smile.

"I do not!"

"You do, too. I see you do it whenever you have me over and you think I'm still just sleeping in the hammock."

He made a graceful exit to the armchair that Cap had vacated and retreated behind the entertainment section of the newspaper.

"Why that shy little snitch..." Chet grinned. "I had no idea he was watching me."

"Have you ever heard of a fireman engineer who stopped watching a fellow firefighter?" quipped Cap.

"No.." Kelly answered.

"There you go. Stop looking so surprised then." Roy said with a smile. "So now you know that Mike Stoker never stops watching anyone he cares about. Something we all learned about years ago."

"Yeah, all except you, apparently.." Gage mocked at Chet with a predator's smile.

Chet made a face at his still gathered tormentors.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the wall, the outside line payphone, started ringing.

Dixie sprang up off the couch and scooped up Max joyfully in a short dance of happiness. "I'll get it..." She positively floated to the phone, giddy with the idea of having adopted a shaggy mini version of a Boot/Bonnie combination. "Los Angeles County Fire Department. This is Nurse Dixie McCall. How may I help you?"
she asked shifting the whimpering Max to a shoulder to soothe him.
The smile on her face instantly wiped away and disappeared into a haunted, barely contained mask of shock. "Honey.. honey, can you still hear me? Please, whatever you do, ..don't hang up.. I'm not going anywhere, ok?"

That attracted everyone's attention instantly and they all started speaking at once, asking questions. Dixie silenced them desperately and mouthed two totally silent words, "Suicide attempt.."

Cap dashed out of the kitchen, "I'll let the phone company know."

"Get Detective Crockett, too, Cap." Gage urged in a whisper. "He's got our district on shift tonight."

"I know! He's gonna know second. Now shhHHH!" he hissed back. "Give Dixie your pocket pad and pen so she can take notes!" he ordered.

Johnny stayed with Dixie, crouching cautiously near the receiver in her ear so he could make out their conversation as it happened.
He handed over a green pen and pointed to his back so Dixie could start writing, using him as a desktop. Max, he put into her shirt pocket, having no better place to put him where he wouldn't cry out for Dixie's body warmth.

The guys split up. And Roy went to the phone in the bunks room with Morton so that they could eavesdrop in on the conversation to see how far the caller had actually gone into harming themselves by listening to how they sounded.

Marco went to the communications alcove and put the station out of service for an off site still alarm suicide attempt via phone call.
Something that headquarters might be able to trace on their end.

Chet got a chair for Dixie and set it down for her to sit on. Then he freed Johnny up by carrying over an end table after setting its lamp onto the floor. Dixie immediately started scribbling, using its new conveniently horizontal surface as a desk.

In a sudden thought, Kelly ran out into the garage and opened the night doors so police negotiators and Detective Crockett could enter without ringing the visitor's doorbell.

Johnny read what was on Dixie's paper.

..Female. Younger than fifteen by the quality of her voice. Maybe fourteen. No other sounds except windchimes and a bird of some kind...

"A bird?" Johnny mouthed.

Dixie nodded. "A nice sounding one. A nightingale or a mockingbird or something expensive.." she whispered, then aloud she shouted.
"I'm listening honey. What's your name?"

##I'm....not dumb...enough to...tell you that. I... I just called in order to have someone to talk to... Only you.....aren't him...Why couldn't you have been him? To...tonight ..of all nights..## said the unseen,
groggy sounding girl. "Oh,... I feel ...so sick.... I shouldn't've-" There came the sound of vomiting and it was a fairly long time before Dixie heard the sounds of the girl's difficult breathing again.

Dixie didn't waste time reestablishing dialogue to dig for information.
She opted on delaying long enough for a trace to be successful.
"Who's him? Can you tell me his name? Hello? Who's the one you wanted to speak to tonight?"

Johnny mouthed two words. "Stall her." and threw his hands apart in a growing expanding gesture.

Dixie nodded in an exaggerated, irritated, I know that already move.

They could both hear Cap on his private office line with the phone company, setting up a trace to their kitchen phone's number echoing quietly through the vehicle bay and a twin voice from Lopez, setting up the slower second trace via L.A.. over the station's alcove mic.

##...Mike..... Mike Stoker..## sighed the weak voice answering Dixie's question.

Dixie's eyes flashed panic. ..Should he get on the phone.
she wrote in a panic.
..Where is he?..

"I know him. He's a good friend of mine.
And yes, he's still here.....working.." Dixie told the girl. "But he's out of the room. Can you hold on a moment while I find him?"

Gage wrote back on a pad that Chet gave him from his pocket.
..He went to move the engine into the driveway to run her hot if we can trace this call and find out where she is.. He'll be right back..

##No tricks.. What's your....name?##

"Dixie. What's yours?" she tried again, while Johnny hugged his head near hers to listen in.

##Uh uh. No clues. I'll only talk to him... I know him.... See?" gasped the girl. ##Put him on... Now..## demanded the short of breath caller.
## I...I don't think I have much....time left..##

Gage scribbled a furious suggestion. ..Tell her he's hanging hose and that it'll be a few minutes while he climbs down for the phone.
It's dark outside..

Dixie told her.

##Ok,... I'll wait ...those couple of... minn.. utes.. But no more! I don't ...trust you, yet, Dixie...*gasp* Only him..##

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Morton sat still and contemplative next to Roy where they were at the little writing desk in the bunkroom. The tiny lamp was on and an HT was in Roy's lap already connected to Cap's in the office.

And he was listening intently. He had already unscrewed the talking microphone in the mouthpiece of the dial out phone receiver so that he and Dr. Morton wouldn't be overheard by Dixie or the girl.

"Does this happen very often?" Morton asked DeSoto.

"Not very often. This is maybe the third time it's happened since I started in the department. And all three of those calls came to this station. Enough for us to develop our own game plan on how to try and handle it..." said a paling Roy. "It's ironic though."

"What is?" asked the Rampart doctor. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that Johnny and I were going to take our new "suicide call to the station" protocol ideas to the fire department board of directors tommorrow on our mutual day off. So we could fine tune things for just this kind of worse case scenario."

Morton nodded in sympathy. "She sounds bad.."

"Yeah. There's no denying that this isn't real. Do you think it's pills?"

"No. She's speaking too lucidly for that. Dixie can't seem to trick her into releasing any information here."

"Natural gas?" Roy guessed again, grasping at straws.

"No, we're not hearing any hissing in the background. Anyone who wants to die that way usually sits in the same room as the source.
Besides, that bird singing in the background would've asphyxiated long before she'd even START to feel the effects of that."

"The minehole canary idea?"

"My modern day version of one.." Morton remarked darkly.

"I don't think I like the way your mind thinks, doctor. It's too morbid."

"Sorry, I was trained to think clinically, using symptoms. And right now, her symptoms are too vague to pin anything on." Morton said. "I'm stuck with pure suppositions."

"Let's concentrate here. Maybe her breathing pattern'll match something. We know she's already vomitted enough to sound projectile."

"A chemical irritant..." Morton agreed.

"Right. With no head injury. Ruled out and refuted. Again, due to the current level of her talking ability. So no gunshot wounds there or ...." Roy thought hard.

"But what about a knife? She could be bleeding to death.."
Morton asked. "Slashed wrists? Could she be a cutter?"

"Nah, bleeders never vomit, not until near the end." Roy said.

"Now who's getting morbid?"

"Doctor, let's keep our Sherlock Holmes/ Dr. Watson observations to ourselves and start paying closer attention here. This girl's life's in danger."

"I haven't forgotten that for a moment, Roy. Let's keep listening and see what Johnny and Dixie can come up with.."

*
Subject: Birds Of A Feather.
From:

Dixie was beside herself physically, but emotionally, she instilled false calm into her voice, an ability born only of long years spent working in the medical field. "Can you tell me how you're feeling?"

##Why should you care? You don't even know me..##

"I'm here at the fire station." Dixie countered. "If I didn't care about helping people, why would I stay here to answer the phone even a single day?"

But backward logic seemed lost on the suiciding girl and growing beyond her. ##What?!## and she screamed in overwhelming pain. To Dixie, it sounded like someone who had crippling abdominal pain.

##Hey! Tell me what's wrong.. Is it because of something you ate? Maybe I can do something for you!##

##You'll only tell mom and she'll tell my shrink and then I'll end up in the hospital again with a bunch of people who get paid trying to figure out what's going on inside my head. I know ...how you nurses ...work..## she panted. ##You only push paper and ....give shots and never ever do you really get to .....know the people you treat. Oh!## the girl wailed.
## I hurt.!! It's not supposed to hurt this ...bad.##

"Tell me. What did you do?"

There was no reply.

"Hey, listen to me. Are you alone?"

Again, came only the sound of shuddering half breaths.

"Is there anybody with you?" McCall asked.

##No one to care...## sighed the pain wracked girl. ##Just Raphael..and he always cheers me..*gasp* Do you hear him?
He's my ....dearest pet. ## she said through a slurred haze. ##Mom travels.. you see, and she's never home for me when I need her.
I hate being alone by myself in such a big house...## she wailed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Captain Stanley met Detective Crockett at the door, who asked.
"How long has she been on the line?"

"Just under five minutes. She's on the payphone in the kitchen."
Hank replied.

"A payphone, huh? That's gonna make things a little more difficult for the phone company to trace. Public communications cabling has checks and balances and other security systems to thwart just exactly what we're trying to do here." said Crockett. "It's not anything that was planned for in the designs. It just turned out that way because the phone companies are now out to protect themselves and their businesses these days."

"My man, Roy, one of my paramedics, has an open HT to a voice pickupless speaker phone in the bunkroom. They've been listening in..." said Cap and he turned up the volume of his handy talkie.

"Have you been able to determine the method she's using?"
the African American police detective wanted to know.

Hank's face fell. "No. Not yet. Whatever she's doing. It's bad enough."

The two men froze, listening to Dixie's desperate dialogue with the troubled, isolated girl and caught the scream that made both of them wince in horror.

"Ok, captain. Me and my men will take it from here. You get your man Stoker talking to her as soon as possible. Make him use her payphone only.
As we learn clues, I'll put out squad cars in a grid around the immediate neighborhood. That way we might get close by enough to respond in time to reach her." said the man. "Increased numbers is the idea.."

"And buy us time to get there with our rescue squad once your officers find her. Ok.. What do you want us to do?" asked Stanley.

"Listen close, here's the plan..." said Crockett.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"So you live in a big house. What is it? A mansion? Or simply a big split level bungalow?" McCall plugged.

##Definitely...a ...bung.. An- and the only thing I ....like.. here is... that Raphael can watch the sun come up every morning because we're so high up..##

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Crockett snapped his fingers as Cap turned the volume down low again.
"She sounds close. Within a couple of miles or so. Camden Bluffs is the only house neighborhood I know of in your area that's on clifftops."

"Mike Stoker would know more about this. He lives out that way.." said Cap. Hank shouted. "Mike, front and center!"

A pale, worried Stoker ran in from the driveway. "I pulled up the squad,
too, Cap."

"Good. Now get ready. Yes, you're gonna be talking to this girl. From the kitchen. But first, tell us about Camden Bluffs. How many houses are up there?"

"Is that where she says she's from?" Stoker asked.

"Not specifically."answered Crockett. "We're just guessing. She sounds very near. There isn't the usual city static sound of distance on the line.
She doesn't sound tinny. Not even a little bit. We think she's in the vicinity of the Camden neighborhood because she says she lives in a bungalow high up."

"There's around sixty houses up there. I live on the outskirts on the east side..." said Mike.

"East, did you say?" broke in Crockett.

"Yeah, why?"

"This girl said that the view was the only thing she liked about her house, because Raphael could watch the sunrise from the window."

"Who's Raphael?"

Crockett gestured absently.. "Oh, just a family pet..."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What does she do?" Dixie asked the girl. "Your mother..."

## Her job's......not im--p portant. Dixie, I thought you said.
th-- I was.##

"You are, hon. Please don't forget that already. Your mother might not be there but know that I am, ok? Tell me what you like to do...." McCall stalled.

##Where's Mike..? Y-You promised that he'd be there. Or did you lie to me?!## she gasped.

"He's here! Don't hang up. I'll get him to hurry up... Mike!
I need you on the phone, now!"

Mike Stoker ran into the kitchen at a jog. His face was gray with fright and in his hand, he held an HT with Stanley's name on it.

Dixie showed Mike her notes with her last question asked written on it , encircled thickly with ink. Stoker took the phone from Dixie and repeated it. "Tell me what you like to do."

##Is that you, Mike?##

"It's me." he said simply.

##Oh,..I'm so...glad. * cough* I was too chicken to talk to you directly earlier ....t-today..##

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cap looked up in shock. "Mike had her on the phone this afternoon?!"

"Did she speak for long? The phone company may have a recording of it. They always record what calls go into fire stations, for obvious reasons." the policeman said.

"No, he said that he heard no voices. That it was a hang up."

"About what time was that?" Crockett asked.

"Oh, about five minutes before we got the high school leg injury call."

"That's a lead! I'm on it. Is your man Marco still on the air with L.A.?"

"Yes. I told him to stand by with a live channel in case we needed to patch in to this girl remotely." Hank answered.

"Ok, get set for the next stage. I'm going to find that recording's calling number's imprint.. Give me three minutes.."

"That's up to her.." sighed Cap as the passionate detective left his office at a dead run.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

##I make...things. From...th- the garden.## sighed the girl.

"Ah, do you mean you bake from it?" Stoker asked shakily.

##No, silly. Don't you remember? I craft from it. J-Jewelry and stuff. Didn't you get my ..my present? I ....sent it through the mail to your .....stationhouse. ##

Like a heavy shot to the heart, Mike remembered. "Gage."
he hissed. "There's a package from her that I got yesterday.
I haven't opened it yet. It's sitting on the wall over my bunk.
I moved it to get it out of the way for a nap and forgot all about it.
It's got to have an address on it at least!"

Johnny ran.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dr. Morton and Roy were still listening for clues when Gage burst into the room and skidded out on the floor tiles onto his butt.

"Johnny! You ok?" DeSoto shouted. Together he and Morton got him to his feet but he quickly broke out of their double grasp.

"I've got to get to it."

"Get to what?" Morton asked.

"Mike's package. The girl on the phone sent it to him! It's right there!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mike Stoker heard the sound of wretching and it was followed by the sounds of a short seizure. "Hey.. are you ok? Talk to me..."

The thrashing ceased.

"Talk t--"

##I'm...st- here. But I'm sooo scared, Mike. It's got blood in it.." she sobbed.

"What does? From what you threw up?" Stoker asked.

"No, the ....other way..." and she began to cry.

"Diarrhea?"

"Yeah. And I can't ...go anymore. I haven't for two hours.." she cried.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Morton and Roy met in close conference over the bunk desk,
thinking. "Renal failure? Intestinal blood?" DeSoto listed her symptoms.

"It's got to be an organic poison of some kind.." Morton guessed.

Johnny Gage slammed the box down and snatched for the mail opener. "There's no postmark or return address."
He grabbed Roy's HT. "Mike? I'm opening it!" he yelled into it.

He got a clickback in return.

The two paramedics and doctor quickly pulled off the neat brown wrapping and got to a white paper box, hand drawn in colored marker, filled with ornate designs of garden flowers and butterflies: a child's work. Then they got down to tissue paper and a carefully wrapped bundle that was meant for the engineer.

Gage ripped it open and a necklace made of natural materials fell into their laps.

Morton snatched it up, staring. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking,
Roy?"

"Yeah,... aren't those seed pods on that string castor beans?"

Gage held his breath. "Oh, that poor girl. Ricin! Her mother must have some adult plants growing in the garden. If she's bitten into even one of those seeds..."

"Let's go tell the others.." Morton commanded.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"They couldn't get it. She wasn't on long enough for them to trace from the recording this afternoon." Crockett told Cap when he had returned from the receiving alcove.

"Let's check and see how the others are doing then, shall we?" Hank said. "I refused to believe that we are plumb out of options.
Things just don't ever work out that way."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Morton, Roy, Johnny, Cap and Detective Crockett all got into the kitchen as rapidly as they could. They entered fast but quietly, so as not to disturb the trembling Mike, who was still on the phone with the still living soon to be dead girl if they didn't find out where she was located in time.

"Beans.. Ask her about the beans.." Morton told Stoker with no preamble. He waved the necklace in front of his face.

Stoker noticed that the doctor wasn't holding the necklace with his bare hands. He had it clutched in a pillow case to protect his skin. "I will.." he squeaked.

Captain Stanley noticed. "Doctor, are those dangerous to us?"

"No, the poison only causes local skin reactions in this form.
It can only spread by being inhaled, injected or ingested. Mike,
find out how many she swallowed..."

Dixie added. "Oh, no..these have no anti-toxin.."

"Then what do we do once we get there?" Johnny asked intently.

"Treat the symptoms and wait it out. A stomach pump would be more than nice. Are you fellows issued one?" Morton wondered.

"No."

Crockett spoke up quickly. "Don't worry. You'll have one yesterday. I'll radio one of my officers and get one from Rampart immediately. Whereever we all end up, he can just meet us there with it. " and Crockett ran out of the room back to Marco Lopez's dispatch radio to get it done.
"Give me the hospital's exact address. I may know where it is but that officer might not know it."

"1000 West Carson Street, in Torrence!" Captain Stanley shouted after him.

Mike Stoker was about to ask the girl about the pods she had taken when a beautiful canary burst out into full voice on the phone at a flare of heat lightning that flashed both over the station and over the girl's clifftop house.

His face went white as a sheet. "A canary? Is Raphael a pet canary?"

##.....yes....he's so beautiful.. He's my yellow angel. Always there to keep me saf---## the girl broke off when she slipped into another convulsion.

Stoker shoved the receiver back into Dixie's hands.
"Cap, I think I know where she is! There's a white house above mine to the left about a quarter of a mile. I swear to G*d when the wind is right, I can hear a canary in the mornings. And windchimes...."

"Can you take us there, pal?" Hank asked.

"In a heartbeat.."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Station 51, with a vanguard of two squad cars, one bearing Crockett, the other bearing a stomach pump and nasogastric tray from the hospital soon wailed through the night towards a fourteen year old girl on the brink of death.

Mike Stoker was beside himself so Cap did one thing more while his engineer drove fast, breaking the speed limit with permission. "L.A., Engine 51. Patch my station's live phone through to my HT unit three, priority band one, over all units. Notify Batallion of the override! Clear all frequencies on Tach 5 at 101.8 ! We need an immediate link to our suicide attempt."

## 10-4, Engine 51. You have the band now at 20:07... Mark.##

L.A.'s soothing baritone left the air and soon, the joyful canary's confused song over the lightning, returned. Chet Kelly held the HT over Mike's mouth as he drove the Ward towards the block above his house.

"Hey,.. listen to me." Stoker shouted over the engine's sirens, until Cap flicked them off. The two flanking squad cars and the preceding rescue squad, holding Morton, Roy and Johnny were more than enough to ensure their safety on the dark road in front of them. "Are you still there?"

## ...*moan* It's...over soon, Raphael. We'll show mom that it's never..... ever..right to abandon me at home for ....weeks at a time. I'm so...lonely now. It's nice to know you're there, Mike.
But..I think....I'm ...going to...die....##

"No you won't." Mike promised. "We're coming! What's your name? At least tell me that." he begged her.

There was no reply for long moments, until Dixie's voice on the payphone cut in. ##Listen, honey. Do you want a new pet to care for? I know people haven't proven to be any good for you but listen... can you hear her?##

The sounds of whimpering and puppy talk filled the cab of the rushing engine.

## We can bring her to you, just as soon as we can. All you have to do is tell us your name.## repeated the shaken nurse.

Crockett, in his speeding car, leaned into the scanner, with a pen from his pocket poised over his notebook.

Silence reigned over the air wave. And Mike was oh so aware of how many breaths he was breathing in the stretching interval that follow. He was about to burst,
so he blurted out. "She's my puppy. Born a few hours ago. I'd like you to have her in exchange for that secret necklace you gave me. Please, will you tell me? I want to know what to call you before.." Stoker broke off, overcome.
"...before it's too late."

##....promise.... ?...? ## came the softest whisper.

"Yes.."

They all heard the sound of a door opening to the storm growing outside and the sound of a body dragging across textured concrete. And the sounds of lightly wind stirred waves as they rippled along the edges of what could only be a a closeby swimming pool. And the haunting wind chimes that Mike had mentioned earlier.

##It's Soledad...." the girl sighed. "Soledad Martin.. Ah, Raphael.
Keep singing. Keep singing until I can no longer.......hear you#
whispered the seed poisoned artist girl who admired a firefighter from afar.

The phone line issued a terrible splash and the HT fuzzed into a piercing signal lost squelch when its transmissioned channel snuffed out as the girl's body fell intentionally into the deep end of the pool.

"No!!" yelled Mike, even as Chet whipped away the radio so Mike couldn't hear her struggles anymore. He briefly grappled with him to get it back.

Cap grabbed his arm firmly. "Keep your mind on the road! We'll get there just as fast as humanly possible, Mike. But we have to get there in one piece first. Understood, pal?" he said, his eyes weeping.
"You've got eleven tons of fire engine sitting under your butt and you're driving. Hold it all together until we get there!"

Mike Stoker nodded blindly, his eyes wet with incredibly fresh grief of his own. "Ok, Cap.." he sobbed. "I hear you."

Cap then beckoned for the radio from Kelly. "Dixie,.. let us know if you hear any more sounds. Any at all." he said grimly. "We're three minutes away at the very least!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Crockett was practically eating his microphone. "Madeline! I want the address of a Soledad Martin, a female minor living in Camden Bluffs and I want it NOW! She's just thrown herself into a pool to drown and we're nowhere near enough to save her yet!"

The frightened police dispatcher finally gave the information as fast as she could push it from between her lips.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They found her at the very bottom, drifting almost peacefully under the water.

Captain Stanley wouldn't let Mike Stoker anywhere near her as they worked to get a clear airway and later, to get a dried off chest for an EKG reading on the pulse they had recaptured on her using the manual defibrillator.

Dr. Morton let Roy and Johnny establish an ET first before he threaded an NG to extract the offending seeds that Soledad had consumed. Six beans spat out into the collection jar. And to his immense relief, all of them were unbroken and entirely free of bite marks.

Mike Stoker began to weep. "She swallowed them whole, doctor?"

"Looks like it. If she manages to last three to five days, that'll see her over the worst of it."

"How can you treat a poison that can't be cured?"

"You wait it out. Her condition appears young and strong. She seems to have kept herself well fed from what the police found in her refrigerator in spite of being left to her own devices." Morton replied as they watched Roy and Johnny package up the girl even while they breathed for her.

"Those d*mned plants are everywhere. Glad you pointed them out to me,
Dr. Morton." said Cap, stepping near. He was putting on his jacket again after having been the one to be Soledad's chest compressor for her CPR. "I'll know what to watch out for in the ornamentals around houses on unknown child down calls from now on. They just might be these, then. Pretty things, aren't they?"

"That's the trap..Grownups cultivate them in their gardens and kids find them irresistable." Morton sighed, holding up the jar of deadly beans he had taken from Soledad's stomach. They glistened in the moonlight, beautifully coated with an appealing speckled seagreen and maroon. "Kids and crafters everywhere like to make them into jewelry. And they wrongly think that just because castor oil is safe, that the plant's beans are, too."

"How..how does the toxin work, doctor?" Mike Stoker asked as he watched the slight girl get wheeled away and rushed to Rampart by his coworkers.

"Just one milligram of ricin, one of the main toxic proteins in the plant, can kill an adult. The ricinus lectins act by inhibiting protein synthesis by destroying a cell's ribosomes. The seed is only toxic as the outer shell is broken or chewed open. Or baked and glazed as they usually are to make top selling jewelry for all the art shows. People are dumb enough to be ignorant and they buy them. Then the many children playing with these homespun necklaces get sick and die after they eat the attractive seeds, thinking they are actually the candy pieces they appear to be." Morton said sadly. "Early symptoms are the gastric upset and later there's kidney and circulatory failure along with seizures and acute respiratory distress syndrome, if not complete apnea in all cases after severe exposures."

Crockett sighed and folded his arms together. "I know of at least one man who's been killed by ricin." he said thoughtfully. "He's on all of our books and his death is now a subject to be taught about at the police academy.. Bulgarian Georgi Markov, was a communist defector working for the BBC World Service, last year.
He wasn't considered a popular man by his countrymen because he was a playwright and satirist who had broadcast scathing accounts of Communist high life to Bulgaria abroad. He was killed by a poison dart filled with ricin that was fired from an umbrella in London last spring,
1978. Markov's assassination was detected only because the pellet carrying the poison had not dissolved as expected properly into the muscles of his thigh. It took him four days to die and he developed a very high fever and the most hideous symptoms. That's why I became so distressed when I learned that the girl had taken some of this in the form of castor beans."

"I don't know what horrifies me more, doctor. The fact that ricin is so deadly or the fact that Soledad knew about them from her mother and tried to take some to end her life.." Mike said, stroking the brilliant brass cage that housed a now silent Raphael.

The brief summer storm had long since passed without spilling a single drop of rain and that explained the bird's sudden quiescence.

There was no more lightning for him to mistake for a rising dawn.

Stoker smiled. "And this little guy, deserves a reward. He saved her life you know. I never would have put two and two together if he hadn't've burst his heart out when he did."

"Miracles do happen." Chet Kelly grinned, picking up all the paper wrapping from the medications and stimulants that they had used on the girl. "Seems like us crew of Station 51 got a real good quality one today. Man..." he puffed, stretching like a cat.

"Kelly.."

"What, Cap?"

"Make yourself scarce."

Kelly missed nothing and realized that a conversation never meant for his ears was about to take place. But that was ok in his book because he knew that fire captains sometimes needed private times to talk and sort out problems with the men under him. Mike didn't look happy, but that was ok, too. Chet would fix any ruffled feathers he found on him later, when they were alone. "Ok.." said Chet and he disappeared back into the house to help the police locate information on the whereabouts of Soledad's mother.

When he was gone, Cap turned to his engineer and met his eyes.
"What are you going to do now, Mike? I mean, when she comes back home again, you'll still have your secret admirer problem looming over your head." Cap asked with a faint smile.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. But you know, I think we both should become friends anyway, Cap."

"Why? You know how obsessive types usually get with us. We usually have to get a restraining order to keep them away from the station."
Hank said matter of fact.

"I know. But she's young. Only fourteen. I don't think she'll get too bad. Not with state psychologists chaparoning all our visits together. And I think that she'll be able to teach me how to love dogs again through that pup I'm giving her as much as I can show her how to love other folks again. Maybe we can learn a lot .
....from each other."

"Admirable, my man, simply admirable.." grinned Detective Crockett with a large smile. The policeman's face lit up the night sky like a beacon. "Outta sight."

FIN

Episode Twenty Three

The One That Matters

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