Summary: A call that turned out not to be a call after all, but someone still needed help…
Spoilers: Set just after first season.
Notes: We saw on many episodes that Johnny Gage really didn't like guns. I thought it might be fun to figure out why.
"Squad 51. Possible heart attack victim. 317 Ninth Lane. Three one seven Ninth. Cross street Concord. Time out 05:48."
Ninth Lane was not the kind of street anyone should be walking around on at this hour, John Gage mused. He eyed the squad's side mirror at the abandoned cars that dotted the streets, at stores with yellowing signs of "For Rent" on their windows.
"Maybe the other side," Roy DeSoto muttered next to him as he turned the squad around the corner again. "You sure it was Concord on—" Roy gave him a glance and a corner of his mouth quirked at John's scowl. "Yeah, of course you're sure," he mumbled.
John only grunted. He stared at the call sheet their captain had scribbled out, neat despite the haste it was written with. Roy always complained John's handwriting looked like Dr. Brackett wrote it. Not that Roy's was any better. Sometimes, neither one of them could read it.
"Did we check that corner—never mind," John clamped his mouth shut at Roy's slanted look. Right. Roy did the driving and he did the pointing. That's how it was.
John squinted through the passenger side window. He avoided looking at his watch though. Roy was already checking his every minute. The silence in the squad was suffocating as they both scanned the streets.
"You should have at least let me take a drumstick with me," John grumbled half-heartedly as he slumped back into his seat. He was tempted to get out and sprint alongside the squad. He might stand a better chance of finding 317.
Playing along, Roy scoffed. "You'll get sick again," Roy murmured in that practical way he gets. He leaned into the steering as he looked up through the windshield. His brow knitted as he tried to spot 317. "Remember what happened last time?"
John's lips twitched. Get one little virus from one little monkey and every sniffle gets him a threat of a 10-8 to Rampart these days. Still, this was better than gnashing his teeth each time Roy drove around the corner for 317 again.
His finger went up to count. "First of all, you can't get sick from Mike Stoker's chicken. It's Mike Stoker's chicken. And second, I'm sure I got sick last time on something else."
"It was chicken. You got sick on the chicken." Roy pursed his lips and turned into the alley in-between Ninth and Eighth, careful to avoid the dumpsters that lined the vacant row.
John blinked, momentarily distracted from his survey of rundown buildings,his hand was left in mid-air. "It was? I did? On Mike's chicken?"
"One in the morning last month after that darn cat in the drainpipe; you and Chet said you were still hungry and had the whole thing in the fridge. You two were miserable throughout the rest of the shift. Cap was going to call a Code I. Don't you remember?"
No, but Roy obviously did. His partner conveniently remembers a whole bunch of information sometimes. John folded his arms across his chest and watched as Roy turned another corner. Again.
"Huh," John grunted, his head cocked. He looked back at Roy.
"Well," John fumbled, "that was because it…it was one. I was going to eat it for breakfast today."
Roy did a double take and glanced over at John, turned to the front, then looked at John again. He sighed and turned back to face forward with a shake of his head and a mutter.
John's mouth crooked to the side but it soon flattened when he gave in to checking the time.
"Roy, it's been six minutes," John murmured. His stomach clenched. He cupped a hand over his eyes and stared hard through the windshield. The numbers went by without success: 312, 314, 316.
Roy wasn't put off by the change of subject. "I know." His mouth pressed into a grim line. "I'm just not seeing it. Do you see anything on your side?"
"Nothing. Just lots. Roy. Possible cardiac…at six minutes?"
"I know," Roy just repeated and the hands curled around the steering wheel tightened.
John dropped his hand and wished he had never checked the time. He clamped a hand over his left knee when it started to bounce.
The squad slowed to park behind a Buick in the ugliest green color John's ever seen.
"Why are we stopping here?" John leaned forward and peered up through the windshield at the stucco-faced building. "This is 316."
"There's no 317, just that crummy car that looks like a rusted frog," Roy grumbled as he grabbed the radio handset. He peered into the vehicle from the driver's side though, just in case. "LA, this is Squad 51. Can we get a repeat of the address?"
Three chimes and dispatch replied.
"317 Ninth Lane. Three one seven. Cross street…"
John heaved a sigh and craned to study the building again that took up the city block. No one was screaming or crying for help. No smoke or gas either. He scrunched up his nose and took a deep breath. Nothing.
"You thinking false alarm?" It wouldn't be the first time they were called out due to some dumb dare.
"Or a hysterical caller," Roy murmured. "LA, this is 51. We cannot find 317. Has the victim called again?"
John and Roy exchanged a frown.
"Maybe 316?" John suggested although at—John stole a peek at his wristwatch again—eight minutes, he'd really hoped it was only a stupid prank call. He didn't care if it meant they had wasted eight minutes looking for it. Let it be just a dumb prank call.
Roy nodded. "Worth checking out. Might as well since we're already here." He thumbed the switch on the radio again."LA, this is Squad 51. We are going to check out 316."
"Squad 51," acknowledged the dispatcher.
John hopped out of his side of the cab, a hand tightening the chin strap to keep his helmet in place. He was already going for the drug box and biophone and slipping the citation book into his back pocket. "Yeah," he grunted. It didn't matter if it was 316 or 317. Someone called for help.
"I got the O2," Roy offered. He grabbed the frame that housed the green tank and trotted down the block to the front steps. "Hold on. I'm going to look for the building manager," Roy called out over his shoulder.
"Yeah. Wait here just in case."
"Right," John muttered. He kept his eyes on Roy's back as his partner bounded up the steps into the building. His fingers drummed the drug box handle, ready to grab it the moment Roy hollered. He was tempted to follow but someone needed to be ready if they needed to go elsewhere.
The stammer made the demand incoherent. John frowned to himself and twisted around but he reared back into the squad almost immediately with a yelp, his hands up.
John wasn't sure if he was more afraid of the gun pointed at him or how the gun shook.
Dirty, stringy brown hair nearly covered the huge blue eyes staring at him. The slouched posture made the man look hunchbacked but John knew he could meet the guy eye to eye (not that he would want to though). John swallowed as he stared at the trembling gun muzzle. Oh man…
"It's okay. I'm here to help. You the one who called us?" John tried in the steadiest voice he could muster. He wondered absently if the guy was hiding in the space between the dumpsters before. Hidden under the shadow of the building, the guy didn't look to be any more than a few years younger than him. Maybe. The lines around his eyes and mouth added decades to the pallor. Or maybe it was the gun.
"S-shut up. N-not another word." The firearm punctuated the command. It wavered to the side. "Th-hat it?"
John carefully tilted his head back to where the revolver was gesturing. He swallowed as he sighted the drug and code boxes inside the compartments.
"Well?" The demand made the gun go up higher. "Is that it?"
"You told me not to say anything!" John blurted out even while his head was ranting.
"Listen, funny man. Is that where the stuff is or not?"
"Stuff?" John lowered his voice. Geez, the guy was barely standing on his feet. John kept his words slow and clear, just like they taught him to keep a victim calm. John doubted Rampart's training ever took this intoconsideration though. "What stuff are you talking about?"
"The drugs!" The firearm was unsteady, too unsteady for John to even consider getting it from the guy. "Y-you guys carry drugs for people in pain, right?"
"Is someone in pain?" John tried again. He kept his eyes on the pistol. "Listen, I'm a paramedic, maybe I can help."
"That some kind of a doctor?" The gun steadied. "You don't look like a doctor."
Encouraged, John offered a smile. "Sort of, I can get in contact with a doctor over at a hosp—"
The gun jerked. "No hospitals!"
"All right! All right! No hospitals! Watch where you point that thing!" John gulped as the gun stilled, aimed for his chest now. John kept his hands up and wished he had an inch-and-a-half right this minute; nothing like a good blast of water at 800 PSI to solve any problems.
"Are those where the drugs are, or not?" Stammer gone, the voice grew harder, higher, more desperate and the hair in the back of John's neck rose.
"Take them out, right now! Hurry it up. No funny business! I have a gun and I'll shoot. I swear it. I-I'll shoot!"
"I'm a fireman,not a cop," John muttered as he turned his body slowly around to reach behind him.
"Shut up! I told you to shut up!" The voice was shrill. "Take that one out! Put that box on the ground and open it!"
John set the IV box on the pavement and slowly undid the latch. He flipped the top open and straightened up.
"What is this?" The kid crouched to the box and wrapped a fist around one of the packaged pouches. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"That's saline," John explained, slowly because the gun was shaky again as the boy tore open the pouch with his teeth. The saline splattered to the floor like one of Chet's water balloons.
"It's just water! Where's the stuff? The drugs? I know you got them! Get that other box out!"
John swallowed but he twisted around and took out the drug box with one hand, his back pressed against the squad.
"Listen," John began. "This box has some heavy stuff. You need a doctor to—"
"Shut up! Hurry up! Faster! No more tricks!"
"Take it easy! No one's going to hurt you—"
"I said shut up! Shut u—"
John never knew if it was because the gun was faulty, the mugger was or it was just a run of bad luck.
John felt a line of heat that sliced his upper left forearm. It was a hot bite that sent him slamming back into the squad and he sagged against the shelves in the compartments.
It was easy to find the wound even in the dark. John gritted his teeth as his right hand clamped over a deep, burning gash on his left bicep, just below where his sleeve ends.
"Ouch," John ground out. He looked down at himself. Not a lot of blood. A graze, he decided but it hurt a lot more than a graze.
"S-see what you made me do?" The boy sounded close to tears.
"What I made you do?" John gaped at the guy. He bit his lower lip. "Listen, just…argh…take the box and go. Okay? I don't want any trouble. Don't make this any worse for yourself than it already is."
The guy looked like he didn't know where to point the gun anymore. He stared at his own hand like he'd never seen it before. "I-I…" he stammered. The boy gulped and the gun went back up to John's chest again. "Those drugs…you know how to use them?"
If John weren't too busy trying not to throw up, he would roll his eyes. "Look, if you're trying to get help for someone, we—I can help you, but you gotta…" John breathed out sharply between his teeth. Graze or not, it was really starting to burn all the way down to his fingers. "You gotta put that gun down."
The boy bit his lower lip. The gun he held dipped.
The faraway call, down at 316, sent the gun back up again.
"Who's that?" the guy hissed. His eyes flitted from John to where the shout came from.
"My partner," John said and immediately he regretted it when the gun swung towards that direction.
"Your partner? Is he like you? A para…a para whatever?"
John pretended to scoff. "Him? No. He's…he's just a fireman to help me carry all this."
"A fireman?" the guy repeated. He screwed up his face and eyed Roy's direction.
John gave a shaky laugh. His arm throbbed and he was forced to let go so he could wave towards the drug and IV boxes. "Do you see what I've got to carry?"
"Johnny?" A little sharper now, Roy could be heard walking down the steps faster. John was about to turn around, shout to Roy to stay back when suddenly he felt the tip of the gun digging into his ribs.
The guy stood up his full length and his fingers dug into his good arm. His voice no longer stuttered and breathed hot on his ear.
"Pick up that box."