The Gage Surprise-1
John Gage climbed into his white land rover and drove it away from Station 51. He had the next four days off but grimaced at the thought of all that had to be done in a matter of hours. His first stop was at the dry cleaners to pick up his dress uniform.
"Good morning, Mr. Gage." Said the young clerk in her most flirtatious voice.
"Mornin', Lisa." He said with his trademark smile. "I'm here to pick up my uniform, please."
"Sure thing." Lisa chimed back with a smack of her chewing gum while batting her overly mascaraed lashes.
In only a few moments she returned with his freshly cleaned and pressed garments neatly packaged in a thin sheet of plastic. He paid for the service, seemingly inoculated against her charms, and resumed his trip to his ranch. He took his usual route which allowed his mind to wander back in time; back to the place he found himself nearly two years ago.
His Aunt Kitty, Katherine Gage, had died in an automobile accident and a few short days later he'd learned that the young woman, whom he'd assaulted for breaking into his barn, was in fact his cousin – Katherine Gage's daughter. The daughter she had placed for adoption nearly twenty years earlier.
Alyssa, being homeless, had reluctantly agreed to stay with Johnny for a few days after being released from Rampart General Hospital. It had taken some work but he and Alyssa had developed a close relationship since that day.
Johnny continued to drive with his windows down and allowed the wind to blow through his dark hair. The feeling was comforting and relaxing allowing his memories to flood his soul as he drove.
Twenty-two months earlier:
"You seem nervous, Junior. You ok?"
Roy had been watching Johnny while they completed their usual inventory checks on the squad and noticed he'd pulled the drug box out twice…..and inventoried it both times.
Johnny snapped the drug box shut leaving his right hand resting on the handle. "I don't know. Just…." He couldn't seem to find the right words and just shook his head negatively with a smirk. "Aaahh, nothing."
Roy watched again as his partner hesitated momentarily and then pulled the drug box open again and began to absent mindedly count the syringes for the third time. Roy's azure gaze shifted from Johnny's hands to his face. He noted that his forehead was creased and his lips were pressed into a thin line.
"How many defibrillators we got in there?" Roy asked with a look of grave concern on his round face.
"Huh? Oh, I..I don't know….let me count and see." Johnny spoke in a distracted voice.
"Ok, that's it. Pack up the DRUG box and let's go in the dorm…..NOW!" Roy was not about to let his partner cause a victim to be harmed. Nor was he going to allow his friend to continue in his current mindset.
"What'd I do?" Johnny quizzed as he snapped the box closed and slammed it back into the compartment of the squad before he followed his partner into the dorms; his footsteps echoing in the empty apparatus bay as the engine had been called out earlier for a dumpster fire.
Roy shoved the dorm door open and began pacing in front of his bunk as he waited for John to join him. He didn't know what was going on and he didn't like prying into other people's business but he knew that if he didn't do something then Captain Stanley would and he knew Johnny would prefer it come from him.
He looked up at the sound of the dorm door opening again and stood with his arms crossed staring at a now brooding John Gage.
"Wanna tell me what's goin' on, Roy?"
Roy caught the snicker that almost escaped from his lips. "I was about to ask you the same thing, Johnny."
"Nothin'….I'm fine." John said propping his left arm against the brick half wall that separated Mike's bunk from Marco's and Chet's; his right hand poised defensively on his hip.
"No….no you are not fine. I just watched you inventory the drug box twice and then open it up for a third inventory. Plus, I asked you how many defibrillators we had in there and you said you'd have to count them. DEFIBRILLATORS, Johnny!" Roy's eyes bore holes into John.
John closed his eyes with a heavy sigh. He rested his head down on his forearm that was propped on the wall. When he looked back up he saw that Roy had begun to close the distance between them.
"Johnny, the citizens - our citizens - need you to keep your head on straight when you're on duty. The rest of us here," he swept his arm out around the dorm room, "do too."
"I know, I know." He said wearily. "Got a minute?"
Both men headed toward their bunks; Roy sat on the edge facing Johnny while Johnny sat with his back against the wall staring out into space.
When the silence became too much, Roy broke the ice. "Did she leave?"
"No, she's still there but…" He hesitated then looked over at Roy before he continued. "She only agreed to stay a few days. It's been a week now and…..well, I'm just afraid that every time I go on shift she's gonna pack up and go."
"Johnny, Alyssa is an adult. Granted, she's an adult who's been through hell recently but yet and still, she is an adult. You can't stop her from leaving but….well, has she mentioned anything about going?"
"No….just my paranoid side, Roy."
Roy knew that Johnny was overjoyed when he'd learned about Alyssa being the daughter of Katherine Gage. Their introduction had been rather unusual but then again, most things John Gage did were rather unusual.
"Ok, look…I gotta ask you…..why haven't you talked to her about it?"
"Hummph." John looked down at his hands and then back up at his partner. "You really want to know?"
Roy just nodded his agreement.
"I'm afraid to start that conversation because I'm afraid she'll say it's time for her to leave."
"Johnny, what if she's just waiting for you to offer for her to stay longer? I mean, she's your cousin – in some ways a surrogate sister – so, at least sit down and open up with her."
Johnny nodded feeling somewhat ridiculous for his juvenile behavior.
"Hey, I have an idea. Next weekend is our Memorial Day cookout at my house. The kids want to meet Alyssa so why don't I ask Jo about inviting you and Alyssa over to help us get ready. You and I need to repair some boards on the deck and I'm sure Jo can find something that she needs help with. Maybe it'll make Alyssa feel more like a part of our family? If she agrees then at least you won't be spaced out for the rest of the shift…..no more than usual anyway." His comment brought a lopsided grin from his partner.
"Thanks, man. That sounds nice….but I'm buying the food for our work day."
Roy held up his hands. "No problem, I'll get the drinks."
Roy leaned forward to stand just as the sound of the engine returning made its way inside the station.
"Lemme go see if they need help while you call Jo."
Roy smiled and headed to the dorm phone as Johnny made his way out to the bay.
"How'd it go?"
"Gage, there is no shortage of dumbasses in L.A." Chet pulled off his turnout coat and removed his helmet as various affirmative sounds came from the remainder of the crew.
Johnny watched as Hank trudged toward his office to complete the required paper work while Stoker began to clean up the engine. Marco headed for the showers leaving Chet alone with Johnny to ventilate his frustrations.
"Ok, Kelly, what did the dumbass do this time?"
Chet rolled his eyes as he made his way into the kitchen for some cool water while he waited for Marco to finish his shower. Johnny was close on his heels with a smirk on his face. He and Chet were very close friends even though to outsiders they seemed more like mortal enemies.
Chet filled a glass with ice and water as Johnny leaned back in his chair waiting patiently for the story he knew Chet would enjoy sharing very soon. He watched as Chet emptied the glass once and then refilled it before taking a seat.
"Ok, we were at this dumpster behind that new restaurant over near Rampart right?"
Johnny just nodded with a smile. He opened his mouth to remind Chet that he'd been present when the engine was called out so he knew where they'd gone but then he decided just to keep silent and let Chet tell his story.
"Well, I don't know how the owner got permitted because his cook decided to save mayonnaise jars to use to store the old grease in. Glass jars, Johnny!" Chet shook his head then lifted his glass for another drink.
"I mean, I know they don't use much oil for cooking in there and all but that is NOT how used grease is to be disposed of, ya know?"
Johnny couldn't help but laugh then. "Yea, I know."
"So anyway, this guy was just screwing the lids back on and tossing them into the trash. Now what happens to glass jars when you throw them into a dumpster huh?"
Johnny was still grinning. He knew where this story was heading but he gave Chet the space he needed to talk. "Uh, they break?"
"Yea, Gage….they break. Then as if the cook wasn't a big enough dumbass one of the waitresses decided to take a break and go out back to have a fight with her boyfriend AND smoke right?"
"Right." Johnny snickered.
"Well, instead of stomping out her cigarette butts on the pavement like the rest of the world does to make sure they're out…..Noooooo…she just tosses 'em into the dumpster." Chet ran both hands through his dark curly hair leaving stray tufts sticking out like small horns.
"And the smoldering cigarette butts collided with the broken mayonnaise jars leaking grease?" Johnny grinned at the sight of his shift mate's hair sticking out awkwardly.
"Yep, ca-blewie!" Chet emphasized the statement with both hands in the air. "Dumbasses…" He mumbled again reaching for his water just as Marco entered the kitchen.
"Shower's yours." Marco said reaching into the cabinet for his own glass.
"Thanks, Marco." Chet placed his glass in the sink and opened the door to exit just as Mike was making his way into the kitchen.
"Hey Mike, Big Red didn't get any damage did she?" John had noticed him inspecting the rig closely earlier.
"Nah, just like to check after I take her into a narrow alley." He said opening the refrigerator. He'd been assigned cooking duty and wanted to let the hamburger meat he'd be using thaw out a little.
Momentarily the kitchen door swung open again and Roy stuck his head in. "Hey, Johnny, we need to make a supply run."
"See you guys later." Johnny said standing.
"See ya." Mike offered
"Bye." Marco added.
Roy pulled out of the bay and made the right turn headed to Rampart General Hospital.
"Ok, we're on for a work day on Friday."
"Sounds good, Roy. I'll call Alyssa from Rampart."
"No need, Junior. Jo's gonna call her and invite her over." Roy grinned. He hoped that the gesture would be accepted by Alyssa and that she'd begin to feel a sense of belonging.
"I'm gonna call Joanne back when we get back to the station so hopefully you'll feel a little better soon." Roy didn't look at his partner but he could feel Johnny looking at him.
"Thanks, man." Johnny thought for a moment before continuing. "So, since I'm supplying the food, what do we wanna eat?"
"Johnny, do you ever think of anything other than food?" Roy cast a glance at his partner who sat staring at him wiggling his eyebrows.
"Yea, ok….never mind…..sorry I asked ya, Johnny."