The Worst Storm
"Roy, come listen to this," Joanne said as Roy and Johnny came back into the house after securing the patio furniture in the shed. She turned up the volume on the stereo before sitting down on the couch.
The wild weather knocked over a tree into an apartment building in Inglewood as resident Brett Reynolds was sitting at his desk. The tree shattered his window, sending glass and water everywhere.
High winds also knocked over multiple trees in Torrance, one of which hit into power lines and damaged a home.
Police Offices Pete Malloy and Jim Reed jumped over a fence to help a man trapped in the L.A. River. The group was able to slowly pull the freezing, frightened man out. The 46-year-old homeless man was taken on a stretcher to the hospital and is expected to survive.
Four construction workers who got stuck in a flooded truck near the amphitheater are also expected to survive.
Meanwhile, fire officials confirmed a waterspout touched down one mile south of San Clemente, but dissipated. It touched down just before 3 p.m.
Johnny let out a low whistle. "This is an incredible storm." I am actually amazed we still have power.
"Me too. Joanne, did you fill the water bottles and the tub?"
"Yes, all set. And I have the flashlights and candles lined up on the kitchen counter." The lights briefly flickered.
"Good job," Roy said to her smiling. The kids came down the stairs.
"Mom, Dad, did you see the lights?"
"Yes, honey, we did," Joanne replied to Chris. She pulled an excited Jenny up on her lap. "You okay, Jenny?"
"It's a little scary," the girl replied from behind her hand, her eyes wide.
"Don't be scared, Princess," Johnny said to her stroking the back of her head. Weather is an amazing thing and as long as you are careful you will be okay.
"Promise, Uncle Johnny?"
"Promise." He gave her a tickle in the ribs and Joanne laughed as her daughter slid out of her grasp and onto the floor in a fit of giggling.
The phone rang and Roy stepped into the kitchen to answer it.
"Thank you for being here with us, Johnny. I would worry about you two at your place."
"Well, Aubrey and I wanted to keep an eye on all of you too, you know," Johnny smiled as Aubrey came back into the room. He kissed her cheek and gave her swelling belly a rub.
"Ugh, I am so sick of peeing," Aubrey declared easing down onto the couch next to Joanne. Both Chris and Jenny snickered.
"Oh, I remember that. You never get through a night without at least two or three trips, right?" Joanne said giving Aubrey a sympathetic look.
"And I wake up every time she gets up," Johnny exclaimed expecting sympathy but instead got a throw pillow to the face. "Hey!"
Roy came out of the kitchen, "Come on, Johnny. They are calling us into the station."
"Oh no," both Aubrey and Joanne said. Jenny slumped down, crossing her arms in distaste as Chris simply groaned.
"What's up, Roy?" Johnny asked, concerned.
"Dwyer cut his hand bad enough to need stitches so he's out of commission and Bellingham's wife thinks she's in labor." He smiled as both women on the couch instantaneously became excited and worried at the same time. "Peg has had two bouts of false labor already so don't count your chickens yet, ladies," he said, kissing Joanne before grabbing his rain slicker and pulling on his boots.
Johnny also kissed Aubrey. "Are you going to be okay here, Aubrey?"
"Of course, Johnny. Don't worry about us. We can still have the living room camp out that Chris planned on, right Chris?" She grinned as Chris' mood lifted and he nodded vigorously.
"Come here and give your Daddy a kiss, Jenny Penny," Roy said crouching down and opening his arms. Jenny threw her arms around her father's neck and placed a big kiss on his cheek. She then did the same to Johnny. "Chris, you're the man of the house tonight," Roy said proudly.
"Don't worry, Dad. I'll take care of the women folk." Chris said laughing. Roy shot a glance at Johnny who grinned hearing his term being used by the pre-teen. Roy then gave his son a hug. Johnny playfully punched Chris in the arm and they both winked and 'shot' each other with their index fingers. Chris pretended to blow smoke from his finger tip and Johnny lit up.
Roy pulled Johnny out the door with him but not before Johnny could stick his head back in and say, "That was cool!" to Chris as the wives chuckled.
In just the few steps to Joanne's station wagon, Roy and Johnny were soaked. "Man, it is pouring cats and dogs!"
"My pants are wet up to my knees already," Roy grumbled. He pulled out of the drive and headed toward the station. After a few miles, he went to take the turn onto the main road when he saw a line of cars. A police officer was speaking to the driver of the car at the head of the line and pointing back down the road. The car made a u-turn and passed by.
"Looks like the road is blocked somehow," Johnny said watching another car make the same u-turn. "Let's make sure they don't need us before we head back the other way."
"Good idea," Roy said rolling down his window a few inches as he reached the officer.
"There is a power line down across the road, sir. You'll need to double back."
"Yes sir, but we are firefighter/paramedics. Does anyone need our help?" Roy said over the sound of driving rain.
"Thanks, but no. There are no injuries and there is already an engine at the scene."
Roy quickly rolled up the window and waved as he made the u-turn.
"You should go around on Barlow, Roy," Johnny said.
"That's my plan, partner," Roy replied as he put the windshield wipers as high as they would go. He then turned up the defrost a notch more. "Are you thinking about women or something – stop steaming up my windows, Johnny."
Johnny's mouth dropped. "I'm a married man, Roy." Roy grimaced slightly, knowing he had started something.
"It was a joke."
"With a child on the way, no less."
"No kidding, really? Congrats."
Johnny paused at that comment and then scoffed.
Roy leaned closer to the windshield hoping it would give him a clearer view of the road. His shoulders ached from the position and the tension of the drive. Johnny kept quiet knowing how stressed Roy was getting. There was a flash of lightning momentarily giving a good view of the road ahead. Roy relaxed briefly but then tensed as a huge crash of lighting shook the car.
"That storm is almost directly above us," Roy exclaimed but his voice was drowned out by another crack of thunder as the outside lit up again. "There, I see the turn onto Barlow." Johnny nodded in agreement.
Maneuvering around a large puddle, Roy made the turn onto Barlow Road. He flexed his fingers on his right hand and then his left. They hurt from holding onto the steering wheel so tightly. The road was a straightaway for about a mile so he pushed his head to his shoulder to loosen his neck muscles while he had the chance. The car bogged down in another large puddle.
"We should have taken the Rover," Johnny said but Roy shook his head.
"No, it was blocked in and I got wet enough as it was."
"If we took your sports car, we should have been floating back there on the corner like a rubber ducky." Johnny laughed trying to lighten the mood and Roy smirked.
The road began to curve and Johnny saw Roy's hands tighten on the wheel. Another burst of lightening followed by a loud crack of thunder made both men jump. Soon there were so many flashes that it was brighter than a sunny day on the back road. Johnny felt his own back muscles tense as he matched Roy leaning toward the windshield. He stared up at the sky and marveled. He saw the next zigzag of lightening hit the tree to the left of the road.
"Roy, look out!" he shouted as he pointed at the tree. Roy was so intent on the road, he hadn't notice the tree being hit. Not doubting his partner, though, he looked at where Johnny was pointing and saw the tree coming down. He slammed on the brakes but the car was mired in a deep puddle and the tires could not grip enough of the road to stop their momentum. For brief second, Roy wondered if he should have sped up to try to miss the tree. He heard Johnny shouting his name and then everything went black.
~ E ~
"Roy?" the word came from very far away. He felt as if he was in a room. A pitch black room. Far away in another part of the building someone was calling him.
"Roy." the word sounded closer now.
"Roy, wake up, man!" Suddenly he realized it was Johnny who was right next to him. His head hurt. Really hurt. Opening his eyes, he just saw gray; blurry gray…what was it?
"Don't move, Roy. We've been in an accident," Johnny said from somewhere to his left. Roy turned toward him. "No, don't move! Stay still. I don't have a neck brace so I need you to stay as still as possible. Do you understand?"
"Yeah," Roy croaked. His head was pounding. He blinked to try to clear his vision and realized the gray in front of him was the ceiling of the car just inches from his face. "Johnny?" he said, his breath quickening. "Are you alright?"
"I'm okay, don't worry. That tree landed on your side and caved in the roof of the car. You have a head injury and were knocked out."
Roy blinked again a few times but couldn't quite clear his vision completely. "How long?"
"Just a few minutes. Are you hurt anywhere else that you can tell?"
Roy mentally surveyed his body and didn't notice anything else beyond his throbbing splitting headache. "I…I don't think so. My head…it hurts."
"I know it does. Listen, I'm going to have to go get some help."
Roy's right arm lashed out and caught hold of Johnny's sleeve. "No! No, don't leave!"
Johnny put his hand over his partner's. "Roy, there aren't any houses on this stretch of road. I haven't seen a car since we've been driving on it. I need to find help." Johnny's voice was gentle but adamant.
Roy continued to clutch at Johnny's jacket sleeve. "You can't go out in that, Johnny. Someone will find us. Just stay here and wait. Please." Roy heard Johnny sigh as he considered his options. The rain had not let up and the mud from the hill had begun to slide onto the road. Roy could see it out of the driver's side window.
"The storm isn't directly over us anymore. I should go."
"Johnny, I know this road well. I take it on mornings when I have some extra time. There are no houses for over a mile in either direction. You could get struck by lightning, there could be a mud slide, a car or truck could come along and not see you on the road…"
"Okay, okay. Calm down. I'll stay here – for now." Roy relaxed his grip on Johnny's sleeve and let out his breath. "What I wouldn't do for a BP cuff right now."
Roy managed a smile. "I'm okay."
~ E ~
Johnny was calling him from down the hall of the building again. Roy was confused. Weren't they just in the car? He opened his eyes. Things were very dim. "John?"
"I'm here. It's okay. Am I in trouble? You never call me 'John.'"
Roy blinked a few times. "How long? Is it getting dark?" He hoped it was or he was in serious trouble.
"Yes, it is starting to get dark – don't worry." Johnny's heart went out to Roy as he remembered his own head injury when he had lost his sight not long after they got back from Bay City. "You were out about twenty minutes. Try to stay with me." Johnny had to talk loudly as the rain beat against the roof of the car and the wind blew so hard the chassis rocked.
"Hey remember our trip to Bay City last year?"
"Which one? The one where I almost died in a fire or the second one when we actually had a nice time?"
"Well, both I guess."
"Yeah, I get it. Keep the concussed guy talking, right?"
"Yeah, something like that." Roy could hear the grin in his friend's voice.
"You kept talking to me…when I was unconscious, remember?"
"Sure I do. You said you thought you remembered me talking." Johnny recalled how it had felt good to hold onto Roy to know that he was still with him. He reached for Roy's right wrist and took a pulse. After a moment, Roy took Johnny's hand and gave it a squeeze and Johnny blushed.
"So, did I tell you Starsky called me the other day?"
"No, you didn't. What did he have to say?" Roy asked.
"He was all excited when I told him about the baby and he said they want to come to LA when he or she is born."
"That's great," Roy said sleepily. "I'm looking forward to seeing the guys again."
"Hey, you still with me partner? Talk to me." Johnny said giving Roy's arm a shake.
"I'm here," Roy said after a moment. "So you haven't told me if you are hoping for a girl or a boy."
Johnny grinned. "You know I'd love either. I really don't think I prefer one over the other but I have to tell you…I think it's a girl."
"You do? Joanne knew Chris was a boy and was just as certain Jenny was a girl. I never knew but the surprise was the best part."
"I can't wait." Johnny beamed.
"Me too." Roy said but could feel his friend's confused stare even in the darkness. "Don't start wishing it away, Johnny. Savor this time. I can't believe my Jenny is going to be nine this year."
"She is growing up fast, they both are. Do you know she doesn't watch Sesame Street anymore?"
"Sesame Street, Roy. She hasn't watched that for a while now. I used to love watching that with her."
Roy smiled up into the ceiling of the car. "Well, you will get a chance with your little one soon. That is, if the show is still on in a few years."
"Still on? Roy, that show is going to last a lifetime. You mark my words."
Roy was happy that Johnny couldn't see him roll his eyes at the comment but the movement made his head ache and he winced. That Johnny did see. Reaching out, Johnny put his hand on Roy's shoulder in a comforting gesture.
"Roy, there hasn't been one car. I need to go get help for you."
"It is pitch black out there now and you aren't going anywhere, Partner. They must be looking for us."
Johnny ran a hand through his hair. "I hate to think of Aubrey worrying about us at a time like this." Roy began to shake and Johnny became concerned. "Roy, what's wrong?"
"I…I'm just cold."
"Well, the engine isn't damaged. I could turn on the heat for a while."
"No, that's okay. I'm fine. Anyway, they know some roads are blocked. Hopefully, they aren't too worried and just think we are stuck somewhere." It was Roy's turn to put a comforting hand on Johnny's arm.
"Uh huh," Johnny mumbled. He shifted in his seat and let out an uncomfortable groan.
"I'm alright, Roy. Stop worrying. I'm just cramped up sitting here this long, is all."
"Is that that the truth? You do have a habit of not paying attention to your own health."
Johnny opened his mouth to protest but thought about it. "Yeah, I know. But it isn't the case here. I'm okay. Worry about yourself. How's your head?"
"Throbbing. At least now it is too dark to notice that I can't focus." Roy instantly regretted saying it as he felt Johnny lean towards him. "Really Johnny, don't worry." Roy tried to stretch his legs.
"Roy, don't move!"
"Hey, I'm cramped too."
"Don't be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry about." Roy could tell his friend was getting tense and was worried he was going to do something reckless.
"I need to get out of this car! The rain is letting up."
"Johnny, I don't care if the rain stops. It is much too dangerous for you to be walking on this dark, messy, dangerous road." Roy jumped as Johnny's fist punched the dashboard.
"I'm sorry," he could hear the regret.
"Just warn me next time." Roy tried to laugh.
Roy was lying in his bed. He could hear the rain on the roof and feel Joanne next to him. He rolled over and reached for her. The sheet felt like rubber…a raincoat?
"You okay, Roy?"
"Yeah, you okay?"
"Did I go out again?" Roy was happy Johnny couldn't see him blush in the dark as he thought about the dream.
"Yeah but I think you were just sleeping this time."
"You should get some sleep too."
"No, I'm okay…" Johnny stopped talking and jerked around to look behind them. "Roy, it's a vehicle! I'm going to hit the horn, so be prepared." Johnny waited until the lights were directly behind them and laid on the horn. Roy grimaced as the sound cut through his head. He reached up and pinched his ears shut.
Johnny climbed out of the car. Roy couldn't see him but could hear the muffled sounds of a conversation. After a few minutes he heard the car pull away and for a moment was afraid he was alone. He sighed in relief as Johnny climbed back into the station wagon.
"It's going to be okay, Roy. He's going to find the nearest phone and call it in. Are you still okay?"
Roy felt Johnny's hand on his and again gave it a squeeze.
"Yeah, I'm going to be okay, Johnny. Thanks."
"Me and Thee, right?"
~ E ~
Roy came in the front door with Johnny by his side. Joanne followed them in and shut the door. Aubrey came to them and kissed Roy's cheek. "Welcome home, Roy."
"Thank you for staying with the kids, Aubrey."
"Don't give it another thought. I was happy to."
Jenny came down the stairs and saw her father sitting down gingerly in his recliner. She burst out crying.
Roy reached out. "C'mere, Jenny Penny."
Jenny carefully approached her father and surveyed the neck brace and pale face. "Oh Daddy," she said leaning into him. Uncle Johnny said that if we were careful we would be fine."
Aubrey put her arms around Johnny's waist as he hung his head.
"Well I was being as careful as I could be, honey. But that tree just fell over right there in my way." He patted his lap and she cautiously sat down. "I'm okay, I just have a bump on my head."
Jenny leaned over and kissed her father then looked at her Uncle Johnny. She saw the sad look in his eyes and slid off her father's lap to wrap her arms around Johnny's waist along with Aubrey.
"Don't be sad, Uncle Johnny." Johnny crouched down and picked the little girl up. She kissed his cheek. "You told me to be careful. You forgot to tell Daddy to be careful."
Johnny smiled sadly. "I did forget that. I won't forget again."
Jenny pressed her cheek against his and hugged his neck hard.
Joanne kissed Roy and whispered in his ear. Roy nodded.
"Chris, Jenny, I need you to go out into the yard and pick up all the sticks and leaves. I put a barrel out there for you to use." Both children groaned but did not argue with their mother and headed out the back slider.
"I can help plus I need to pull the patio set out of the shed."
"No wait, Johnny." Roy said grinning. Sit down. Both of you. We'd like to talk to you."
Johnny shot a worried glance to Aubrey as they sat down on the couch. Joanne sat on the arm of Roy's recliner. Aubrey took Johnny's hand and gave it a squeeze as she smiled.
"Everything okay?" Johnny asked.
"Everything is great," Roy began. "Well first, I'd like to thank you for helping me the other day."
"What? In the car? Roy, I didn't do anything."
"Of course you did, Johnny," Joanne said. "You kept him awake and talking. That was what he needed most." Joanne hugged Roy's arm to her chest and blinked back tears.
Johnny blushed and looked over at Aubrey who was beaming proudly. "Well, you're welcome, Partner. You know you can count on me." He started to get up off the couch when Roy waved him back.
"I said that was first – there is something else."
"Oh?" Roy and Joanne exchanged a look that completely confounded Johnny. "What is it? You two are starting to freak me out."
"We are going to have a baby!" both Roy and Joanne exclaimed.
Johnny's jaw dropped. "What? Really?!" he looked over at Aubrey who just smiled and remained quiet. Johnny jumped up and came over to Joanne to give her a hug. He slapped Roy gently on the shoulder. "Congratulations, Pally!"
"Thanks, Junior," Roy said until Johnny made a face. "Sorry. Thanks, Johnny."
Aubrey was beside Johnny now and he realized she hadn't said anything. "Bree, what's wrong? Did Joanne steal your thunder?" He snorted at his own pun and three pairs of eyes rolled.
"No, of course not. I am just not surprised – I knew." Aubrey exclaimed. She put out her arms and Joanne stepped in for a hug. She then leaned over and kissed Roy. "I'm so happy for you."
"How the heck did you know?" Johnny asked.
Roy and glanced at Joanne who threw up her hands. "I didn't say anything, Roy. It was really hard not to, though."
"I just had a feeling, Joanne. You never let it slip but there were certain remarks you made when I spoke about my pregnancy that made me wonder. I am SO happy! Our kids will be just a few months apart."
Johnny thought about that and grinned widely. "Wow, that's right. Far out."
"Well I'm already three and half months. We wanted to wait as long as possible because of what happened last time." Joanne said sadly.
"Do the kids know yet?" Aubrey asked glancing back to see the kids making a game of picking up the debris in the yard.
"Nope, we'll tell them tonight. Can you stay for dinner?" Joanne asked.
"Of course, but let me make dinner. You need to rest, Joanne," Aubrey said.
"Wait, you are pregnant too," Joanne replied. Both women got the same look in their eye and stepped back to survey their husbands.
"What?" Johnny said, bewildered.
"They want us to make dinner…but I'm injured. Looks like that leaves you, Johnny. Ladies, I hope you are in the mood for hot dogs and hamburgers because that's pretty much all he cooks."
Aubrey and Joanne laughed as Johnny smirked. "But this is a special occasion. This calls for steaks!"
"That's a nice idea, G-Man," Aubrey agreed.
"Okay then, steaks it is. Now I am heading out to get that furniture out of the shed so we can enjoy this beautiful post-storm weather, deal?"
~ E ~
After dinner when the kids where tucked in bed, Johnny took out his guitar. He looked at his beautiful wife resting her hands on her stomach as if already cradling their new baby. He then looked at his best friends sitting arm in arm, their faces radiant. He cleared his throat and began to sing.
I'll walk in the rain by your side
I'll cling to the warmth of your hand
I'll do anything to keep you satisfied
I'll love you more than anybody can
And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime
I'll be there when you're feeling down
To kiss away the tears if you cry
I'll share with you all the happiness I've found
A reflection of the love in your eyes
And I'll sing you the songs of the rainbow
A whisper of the joy that is mine
And leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime
I'll walk in the rain by your side
I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand
I'll do anything to help you understand
And I'll love you more than anybody can
And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime