**Warning for stronger language. Bad guys cuss a lot, you know. **

What a Pain! - Chapter Twenty

The man's boot held Johnny's face to the ground as Jordan went on a tangent, snarling out reasons why he hated firemen in general and Stoker in particular. He added in why no one was going to get in the way of his lucrative "business venture" and why, if it hasn't been for Stoker snooping around during that house fire, he and Piper would have never been found out.

"Me and Piper, we got a good thing goin' with those guns, ya' know. Keeps us in cash and plenty of it. He's been takin' 'em from the cops for months now, and I been sellin' 'em. Nobody even misses 'em, either! I got connections, too," he snorted, puffing out his chest, "we just sell off what we don't want and keep the rest- piece of goddamn cake, man! We get all the hooch and weed we want, anytime we want! Betcha' can't do that on a fireman's pay!" He let out a strange screeching laugh, and wiped the sweat from his face. Johnny quickly realized that Jordan was higher than a kite.

"Great ," Johnny thought, "stoned, with delusions of grandeur...perfect."

Jordan ranted and raved and then suddenly grew silent, panting for breath, his anger diffused for just a moment. He moved his boot from Johnny's cheek to the middle of the paramedic's back, still holding him fast to the ground. Johnny wanted to know more, and took that opportunity to mumble out, "Who's Piper?"

Jordan's rage instantly returned. "Don't gimme your shit, Stoker!" Jordan spat, "You know damn well who Piper is, he just left your freakin' house a couple hours ago!" Jordan used the .45 to clout Johnny on the head. Gage cried out, then silenced himself, hoping to avoid another assault. Sir Pain remained unobserved in the scrub tree, his growl low and constant as he watched Jordan's manic behavior.

"Man, Piper told me you couldn't finger us 'cause you hit your head durin' that fire, but I told him I wasn't takin' no more chances! Huh. But then he said..." Jordan's voice faded away as he practically stood on top of Johnny, peering around Gage's face. There was blood, but it was fresh from the wound Jordan had just created. Jordan wondered to himself, "Wait. Piper said Stoker was in the hospital for a long time. If this is Stoker, shouldn't he have stitches or somethin'?"

Leaning down closer to Johnny's ear, he hissed, "Wait just a goddamn minute. You ain't Stoker at all, are ya'? Who are you? You tryin' to play hero? I'm not stupid, ya' know. If you was hurt, where's it at?"

Johnny was seeing stars by then and desperately tried to not pass out, yet in his dimming awareness, realized Piper must be a cop, and that Jordan was on to him. As he struggled to think of what to do, he prayed that Piper wouldn't be one of the policemen that Roy would surely call tonight.

Enough of Johnny's wits remained for him to know he needed to keep Jordan talking for as long as he could. Roy would be in the house helping Cap and Stoker by now, and Johnny wanted to be sure they could escape before Jordan remembered them. The agitated man was clearly suspicious, but if he was also enough of an arrogant punk to continue bragging about his misdeeds, then perhaps he would unknowingly give the others the time they needed.

Roy turned down on the door handle and pushed his way into Mike's house. The door wasn't opening fully, and Roy shoved hard, wondering what the door was hitting. Finally, he opened it enough to look inside and saw the obstruction was...Mike!

"Good god, Mike!" Roy yelled, "are you okay? Can you get up so I can open the door?"

Stoker only groaned out a painful sounding, "Roy...h-help Cap..." as he rolled himself over as far as he could. It was enough for Roy to squeeze though and he dropped to his knees beside Mike and Cap.

"Shit, Mike, what happened?" Roy asked, trying not to add to Mike's growing panic.

"C-Cap, Roy...h-he shot Cap! J-John's gone! Jor-dan took John! Uhhh..." Mike moaned and began to shake. "I-Is Cap dead?"

"Hang on Mike, let me check him out..." Roy scrambled over to Cap, who lay unmoving next to Mike on the floor. He tore open his medical kit and gently rolled Cap to a laying position. Roy saw the blood pooled there on the tile, the moonlight shining on the small, slick puddle. Roy made fast work of finding where his Captain was shot, and there, in the left side of Cap's chest, Roy found the bullet hole, still slowly seeping blood. With his hand under Cap's body, he located the other wound, unsure at first which one was the entry point and which was the exit.

Still woozy, Mike was pushing himself up with his arms, trying to get up, but wasn't successful. His head turned toward DeSoto and their Captain as he choked out, "R-Roy? Is he d-dead?"

"No," Roy said simply, his hand feeling the reassuring beat of Cap's heart, "he's not. Where's your phone, Mike? We need an ambulance."

"J-Jordan mmmight still be h-here, Roy. We need to l-leave. We were leav-ing when Jor-dan stopped us," Mike said. His voice was becoming stronger and he was more aware, yet his BP was still soaring, leaving Stoker too dizzy and weak to help Roy at all. "Jordan th-thinks Gage is me. Wh-what if h-he comes back?"

"Okay, uh..." Roy exhaled, trying to keep calm, "Mike, can you get up?"

"Um, m-maybe with help?" Mike answered, completely unsure.

"Alright, let's do this," Roy announced. He located the pale blue blanket that lay on the sofa and gently wrapped it around his friend's shoulders. "Mike, I'm going to get you out to my car, then come back in for Cap. Are your neighbors okay to wake up now?"

"Y-Yeah, go two d-doors south. That's Jerry's pl-place. He can h-help us," Mike gasped. His head was really beginning to pound at that point, and his stomach was warning him of impending upheaval. Gingerly, he pushed himself up on to his elbows, and then, with Roy's help, made it to his knees. Roy stole another glance back at Cap, and waffled again, wondering if he was doing the right thing. Should he just wait for help and stay here with Cap and Mike? Should he take Cap out first? Should he leave them both and run for help? What if Jordan came back? Shaking his head to physically banish his doubts, he hauled Mike to his feet and half walked-half carried him outside as fast as they could manage.

"Mike, I'm gonna go get Cap, then I'll get help. Stay here and keep still." He deposited Mike in the Porsche's passenger seat and ran back inside to check on Cap once more. Mike moaned and let his head fall back on the leather seat. Then, deciding puking was imminent, he kicked the door of the little yellow Porsche out of the way and leaned out as he threw up.

Back inside, Roy sighed in relief, still able to find Cap's pulse. He glanced around the room, on high alert, hoping Jordan would stay away long enough for him to get Cap to safety. Roy paused and looked toward the garage; he could hear shouting coming from the back yard. He prayed desperately that if Johnny was involved, he'd somehow be safe from Jordan. Roy tore off Cap's shirt and undershirt, tossing them aside like used napkins, then rooted through his medical bag. He ripped open two large pressure dressings and applied one each to Cap's wounds, taking only enough time for that, as the shouting was getting louder. DeSoto was afraid that Jordan would return to finish what he'd obviously started.

Roy looked up when he heard the door opening again and saw a man standing in the front doorway. It was Jerry Shears, Mike's neighbor. "Hey, let me help you there", he offered.

Startled by the sudden arrival of help, Roy could only nod and sputter out, "Uh, yeah. Find another blanket and then help me get him outside."

Jerry ran to the bedroom and tore the two blankets from Mike's bed, dragging them down the hall behind him. The men slid one of the blankets under Cap and fashioned a make-shift stokes, tucking the other blanket tightly around him. Then the two men each took an end and lifted the wounded man to bring him outside. Roy cringed as the front door banged loudly against the wall as they hauled Cap outside. They lay him down gently on the soft grass, still wet with the evening dew.

Jerry looked up at Mike's friend and could tell Roy was still confused by his presence. "Look, um, Mike came over and banged on our door and woke me up," he explained, "and my wife is calling the police and the fire department. Mike's kind of out of it now, though. He's sittin' on the porch with my son, Paul."

"Mike made it to your house?" Roy asked, incredulously. He removed the earpieces of the stethoscope from his ears and unwrapped the BP cuff from Cap's arm. "I didn't think he..." Roy was interrupted by the impending arrival of the police and rescue squads. The shriek of the sirens penetrated what was left of the night as the vehicles careened down the street and skidded to a stop at the curb. The paramedics from Squad 19 jogged up to Roy and Jerry, followed closely by two police officers...Piper and Blake.

"DeSoto? What's goin' on? Aw, shit, this your Captain?" one of the paramedics asked.

"Yeah," Roy answered hoarsely, "uh, here's his vitals: BP 110/100, respirations-40, pulse-130. Our engineer, Mike Stoker is injured too; he's at the neighbor's place," he told Squad 19's men. "You're gonna need another ambulance. We're going over there now."

One of the medics acknowledged Roy's request for another ambulance and turned to his HT to call it in. Satisfied that Cap was in good hands, Roy gathered up his medical equipment and turned to Jerry.

"Jerry, take me to Mike."

Piper approached Roy, "Your engineer is over there?" Piper asked,"is, uh, is he okay?" Obviously Jordan hadn't succeeded in taking out Stoker and the last thing the officer needed was Stoker still able to spill.

Roy didn't take time to chat, he just motioned for Piper to follow him. Reaching the porch, they saw Mike leaning against the siding, his eyes closed. Jerry's wife sat with him, rubbing his arm and speaking softly to him.

Roy kneeled down in front of Stoker while Piper looked on, anxiously. "Mike? Let me help you out, pal." Once again, Roy donned the stethoscope and wrapped the BP cuff around his friend's arm. Everyone was all business until a shot was heard coming from Mike's backyard. They all froze, wide-eyed, until Mike whispered, "Nooo...J-Johnny..."