A/N: I've been missing writing this series. I hope anyone's still reading!
Chapter 11: A Cold Day in L.A.
"It's hot," Marco said, sitting sullenly at the table, arms crossed over his chest as he scowled. "It's like ninety in here."
"Lopez, we all know it's hot. We're all living in the same world. So will you please just stop saying that?" Chet complained.
"Could you pass the beans, please?" Roy asked, ignoring the bickering.
"Sure." Chet gave the dish a shove, sending it across the table. On the way, it hit a bump and ran into Johnny's glass of milk, overturning it onto his plate.
"Aw, for the love of Pete!" Johnny said, jumping up to avoid being splashed. "Couldn't you just pass it like a normal adult?"
"Apparently not," Mike muttered. He stood up and got a clean plate, and piled a healthy portion of spaghetti on it from the pot on the stove, while Johnny scraped the salmon-colored mess Chet made into the trash.
"Thanks, Stoker," Johnny said, sitting down at the table again. "Good thing for you there was more, Chet," Johnny said, gesturing at Chet with his fork, "because I'm starved, and you oughta know better than to get between me and my dinner!"
"It was an accident!" Chet protested. "I couldn't've done that if I'd been trying to!"
"No, you would've accidentally come up with some other disaster," Marco said. "And I could use some of those beans when you're done, Roy."
"You're awfully quiet tonight, Cap," Mike said, during a lull in the conversation.
Chet and Johnny both snorted.
"Well, Stoker, I'd comment on the irony of that remark, but I don't have the energy. Plus, on a hot day like this, tempers flare up easily, and mine is no exception. So I'm just trying to stay out of this mess, is all."
"Good plan, Cap," Chet said. "You always know what to do."
"Can it, Kelly," Captain Stanley said. "Just … just eat your dinner. You never know when—"
BWAAM, BWOOOM BWEEEEEP! "Squad 51, unknown type rescue, 4386 Villa Drive, 4-3-8-6 Villa Drive, cross street Bordeaux. Time out: 1809."
Johnny crammed one more gargantuan bite of his dinner into his mouth, and he and Roy trotted out to the squad. Johnny was still chewing as Roy pulled out into traffic, but had swallowed by the time they reached the first intersection.
"I'm gonna get on the horn to dispatch and see if they can tell us anything else," he said. "I hate these unknown things."
Johnny picked up the handset of the mobile radio.
"L.A., Squad 51."
"Go ahead, 51."
"Do you have any additional information on our incident?"
"Caller stated she could hear her neighbor moaning, but couldn't see anything, and all the doors were locked. Law enforcement and ambulance are en route."
Johnny sighed. "Copy. 51 out." He wiped the sweat from his brow as he replaced the handset in its bracket."Maybe by the time I retire, they'll have AC in these things."
"Maybe," Roy said.
"And damn it, we're probly gonna hafta break in," Johnny complained.
"I don't know why that always bothers you so much," Roy said. "It's part of the job."
"It was just that one time, you know? Where the lady got mad that we busted her door, even though she probably woulda died if we hadn't gotten in?"
"Yeah, I know. But that's the exception," Roy said.
"I don't care. I still don't like it. Especially after that time we got accused of stealing that guy's wallet. I knew we hadn't done anything, but being treated like a criminal kinda made me feel like one, ya know?"
"I remember. That kind of stuck with me, too. But the cops will be there, and they're on our side here. Okay?" Roy frowned as the tires screeched when he took a corner a little fast.
"I know, I know," Johnny grumbled. "Here's the cross street. You're clear on the right."
Roy went through the intersection, and they pulled up in front of the house.
A woman was waiting, wringing her hands, in front of the building.
"Oh, thank goodness you're here! I could hear her, just barely, when I was watering the garden, but I can't hear anything anymore!"
"Are you the neighbor who called?" Johnny asked, as he unloaded some equipment from the squad.
"Yes—I was outside watering my plants, and I could hear her, very weakly," the woman said. "Oh, I hope she's all right—I mean, as all right as she can be."
Roy looked at her questioningly. "Is she ill?"
"Oh—no, she's in a wheelchair. She had polio as a child."
"All right," Roy said. "We'll take care of her."
The black-and-white pulled up to the curb, and the officer and the two paramedics trooped to the front door. Johnny tried the door handle, on the off chance that it was unlocked, but had no luck.
"Nobody leaves their doors unlocked around here," the officer commented.
"Yeah, well, try before you pry," Johnny said, as he jammed the prying end of a Halligan bar between the door and the frame. He pushed the frame in just enough that the deadbolt cleared the strike plate on the frame, and Roy pushed the door in.
"Fire department!" Roy hollered as he entered. His voice bounced around, echoing off the terrazzo floors, but there was no response.
"I'll take this way; you go that way," Johnny said, as he headed into the kitchen. The low counters and wide doorways looked odd, but probably made life easier for the occupant of the apartment.
"Johnny, in here!" Roy called.
Johnny raced around the corner where he thought he heard Roy's voice coming from, and found him hovering over a still form sprawled out on the shiny floor. A wheelchair lay on its side on the floor, a few feet away. A large pool of urine suggested the woman had been on the floor for longer than anyone present wanted to think about.
"Miss? Miss?" Roy said. He squeezed the woman's earlobe when she didn't respond to his voice, and she mumbled, her arms moving slightly.
Johnny finished getting an initial set of vitals. "Pulse is 50, weak and irregular, respirations 6 and irregular, BP is 70 palp. Roy, call me crazy, but I think she's severely hypothermic."
"Not gonna bet against you, Junior," Roy said, as he started setting up the Biophone.
"Huh?" said the police officer. "But it's like eighty degrees in here, even with the AC going!"
"Do me a favor," Johnny said to the police officer. "See if you can find blankets. In the bedroom or something. We've got this one," he said, as he ripped open the package of the yellow emergency blanket, "but we need more."
"Uh, sure," the cop said. "But I'm sweating just thinking about it," he said, as he left the room.
"I guess we're gonna backboard her," Roy said, frowning. "Seems a little weird, with someone who's already paralyzed."
"Yeah," Johnny said, as he placed an oxygen mask over the patient's nose and mouth. "But she obviously can use her arms, and we can't rule out C-spine injury, so there we are."
"There we are," Roy agreed. He returned his attention to the Biophone, as Dr. Early came on the line.
"Rampart, we have a female patient, age approximately thirty-five, medical history significant for polio as a child. She's fallen from her wheelchair onto a cement floor. A large amount of urine on the floor suggests she's been here for some time. Patient is unresponsive to voice, but moved her arms to pain stimulus. Skin is cold and dry. Pupils are slightly dilated, and vitals are as follows." Roy repeated Johnny's readings, looking on as Johnny put the cervical collar on the woman's neck, and he and the officer rolled her onto the backboard.
"51, her condition is suggestive of hypothermia. Is the floor cold?"
"Affirmative, Rampart. The floor is polished cement, and is cold to the touch."
"Send me a strip, 51."
Roy affixed the EKG leads. "This will be lead 2."
On the datascope, Roy could see the arrhythmias that Johnny felt in the woman's irregular pulse.
"Reading multiple arrhythmias, 51. She's likely severely hypothermic. Her body heat probably transferred to the thermal mass of the floor. Assume hypothermia—immobilize with great care, avoiding sudden movements and bumps. Remove any wet clothing, and cover with blankets. Is the patient compartment of the ambulance heated?"
Johnny started cutting away the woman's urine-dampened clothing, and covered her with the yellow blanket before strapping her securely onto the backboard.
"Uh, unknown, Rampart, but on a day like this we should be able to get it pretty hot in there."
"Understood. Keep her from losing any more body heat, and transport as soon as possible."
"Affirmative. The ambulance just arrived, so our ETA is …" Roy thought about their location, and continued. "… approximately twelve minutes."
"Copy, 51. Alert us to any changes en route."
Roy and Johnny finished packaging their patient, swaddling her from head to toe in the blankets and quilt the police officer had retrieved from the bedroom.
"We gotta be real careful with this one," Johnny said, as the ambulance attendants came in with their stretcher.
"I still don't get it," the officer said, as the Mayfair attendants helped move the backboard to the stretcher.
"The floor's the same temperature as the ground," Johnny said, as he started to pack up their equipment. "Maybe fifty, fifty-five degrees. And it's cement. Sucks the heat right outta you. And she coulda been lyin' there for … well, who knows how long."
"Wow," the officer breathed. "Who'd'a thought? Kinda makes me feel a little chilly just thinking about it." He shuddered, as if to prove his point.
Johnny frowned, and paused in his movements. He shook his head. "Nah. Not me, man. Though maybe when we get back to the station, I'll lie on the apparatus bay floor for a while if it's still ninety degrees in the day room."
Johnny got stuck in traffic that the ambulance was able to zip past, and arrived at the hospital some fifteen minutes after Roy and the patient. Roy was in the staff lounge, filling out some paperwork and sipping some coffee.
"How's she doin'?" Johnny asked.
"Well, Dr. Early said it was still too soon to tell for sure, but that he thought she'd probably be okay. They got her some warmed IV fluids—had to cut a vein down to get access, but the warmed fluids and some warmed up blankets and heat packs are helping already, apparently."
"That's great!" Johnny said. "But that's a weird one for the records, ya know? Hypothermia, on one of the hottest days of the summer."
Roy raised his eyebrows. "You know we've seen weirder than that, Junior. Hypothermia's not all that weird, as things we see tend to go."
"Well I know that, Roy. It's just weird timing, is all."
"Okay. I'll give you that," Roy said. "C'mon. Let's get back to the station."
"But it's air-conditioned in here!"
Roy sighed, and took the radio off his belt. "Squad 51, available."
Station 51, 2052.
Hank Stanley closed and locked the filing cabinet with satisfaction. Even though it had been a busy, hot, irritating day, he'd finished the paperwork from all the runs they'd had during the daytime part of the shift. He'd even had time to set up the next round of code inspections, so B-shift would have something to do if they weren't busy tomorrow.
He left his office, and turned the corner into the day room. It was quiet—too quiet for a normal fire station, especially on a day as hot as this one. Even at almost nine o'clock, the temperature was still in the mid eighties, and the cloud cover promised to act like a blanket, and keep the heat in.
Hank frowned, as he found that the day room was deserted. Had the men gone to bed already? He doubted that. He poked his head out the kitchen door—nobody was outside at the picnic table, though he wouldn't have expected that. He started to have a bad, bad feeling that he was about to be seriously pranked.
Hank sighed, and steeled himself for whatever might be coming as he headed into the apparatus bay. He didn't mind getting drenched, or what have you, to help his boys let off some steam. As long as they weren't at each other's throats, he didn't care if—
"What the … ?"
Five men were lying supine on the apparatus bay floor, arms and legs spread out wide.
"You should try it, Cap. It's nice and cool down here. Nice and cool," Chet said, patting an empty spot on the floor. "We saved you a spot. Right here."
"You guys look ridiculous," Cap said, shaking his head.
"And you look hot and sweaty, Cap," Johnny said. "C'mon, give it a try!"
"I mopped and dried the floor," Stoker said. "You don't even have to worry about getting dirty."
Cap looked behind him, as if there could possibly be anyone who was watching.
"All right," he grumbled. "But this better not be a prank."
He settled his lanky frame onto the floor. "This is ridiculous," he grumbled to himself.
Ten minutes later, when the sound of clicking toenails on the apparatus bay floor heralded the arrival of Henry the basset hound, six men were lying supine on the apparatus bay floor.
The End (of the chapter)