Ear piercing klaxons rang through the small brick building, as red lights bounced off the dark walls indicative of the danger that lay ahead for the sleeping crew. Their shift from sleep to alert and prepared would appear seamless to the observer, watching them slide into turn-outs, heavy boots and hats without hesitation or pause. Their silent partners waited in the large bay, dormant until called upon, quiescent in their own nighttime ritual only to be roused by the instant activity that came in response to bells of alarm. Four figures swirled around the red fire engine, swiftly and effortlessly slipping into their pre-designated positions. Silently they buttoned up their coats as Captain Hank Stanley picked up the radio mike and opened the massive bay doors.
"10-4 Station 51, 235 West Eaton Blvd, Time out 0114."
It was Stanley, senior officer and Station Captain, a man with fifteen years of experience who climbed into the engine cab and nodded to his driver, Engineer Mike Stoker. Before them a red rescue squad pulled out ahead, leading the way into the starless wintery night.
The streets on the outskirts of Carson California were lifeless and seemed to echo the wailing sirens that blasted into the unusually chilly southern California air. It took less than six minutes for the units to locate the house that sent out the distress call, its flames visible from at least two blocks away. Stanley immediately picked up the radio and placed a call into headquarters for a second pumper truck as Stoker navigated the engine into position. Instinct told the experienced Captain that this two alarm fire would not be easily contained as it raged on in the darkness.
The rescue squad, which responded to all emergency calls, pulled up to the curb where firemen and trained paramedics Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto quickly filed out and ran back to meet up with the engine crew.
Chet Kelly, a veteran firefighter of eight years, his short curly dark hair matching his thick mustache, hooked the truck up to the closest hydrant, allowing the water to pulse from the ground into the tanker. Marco Lopez, lineman of nearly seven years, with dark brown short hair and mustache, labored at dragging hoses from the truck. Stretching out across the yard, they appeared as miles of snaking gray moving across the snow covered lawn before them.
"Kelly, Lopez, get a two inch at the front. Gage, DeSoto, gear up for search." Stanley knew at this hour the family would be home sleeping, somewhere inside there and now in need of rescue. The fact that no one was out of the house yet was an ominous sign.
Mike moved to his position at the engine's side, ready to prime the hoses and monitor the water pressure as the others began their assault on the flames by advancing on the house in a trained pattern that they knew in their sleep. Medics Gage and DeSoto quickly secured their air tanks and pulled down their face-masks. The first oxygen breaths filled their lungs as they moved in behind the hoses that would provide the cover and protection they needed to search the dwelling.
Marco Lopez took the flat head ax and slammed it into the door at a highly calculated angle and within two strokes the door was pushed in gaining them the critical access inside. Immediately, they were greeted by thick torrid waves of black smoke making navigating the rooms of furniture even more difficult in the dark. The downstairs appeared free of flames so Roy waved for Johnny to make a run through, in one direction and him in the other, in case someone had made it down the stairs before being overcome by smoke. His gut told him the fire had spread quick, so fast that the family wouldn't have made it this far. However, he had to be thorough. Missing a detail here would cost a life.
As linemen Chet and Marco moved up the stairs with the heavy hose, Roy re-met Johnny at the bottom after circling the living, kitchen and dining rooms. Roy pointed up and they both grabbed a portion of the water filled hose that trailed the stairs and advanced towards their shift mates.
Visibility was almost nonexistent as the smoke swirled around them making it difficult to see details, even with their flashlights. The beams cut through the hot smoke as they felt the surge of cold water course through the hose in their hands. They alerted the others of their presence with a hand on the shoulder and a wave to the doors down the hallway; unspoken signals that saved time and oxygen.
Roy directed Johnny to the left while motioning he would take the right side of the hall. Their number one goal being to find the family and get them out safely.
Fire licked at the ceiling, pouring out from a bedroom at the end of the corridor, the door now a charred mass of lumber that crumbled as the linemen pushed through it and fought the flames. Roy reached for the first doorknob he came too and opened the door. Finding a bathroom, he double checked the linen closet and shoved back the shower curtain to make sure no one was hiding. They had learned through experience that people, in fear of burning to death, would find every hiding space possible. Nothing could be overlooked in the rush of the moment. Stepping back out into the hallway he heard Johnny calling his name one door down from him. His flashlight was of minimal help as he pressed his palm against the wall for guidance and moved towards his partner's voice.
"Two kids!" Johnny shouted through his mask and held up two gloved fingers. One child was already in his arms and he quickly shoved him over to Roy. "I'll get the other one!"
Roy nodded his head in an exaggerated manner to make sure he was seen. The child was a boy, approximately five years old and unresponsive, hanging like a ragdoll in his arms. He immediately pulled off his mask and placed it over the child's face allowing the oxygen to flow into the deprived lungs. The smoke instantly began burning his eyes, pressing against his face, as the black soot fought to enter his own lungs immediately. He turned back to the stairs, the child in his arms and paused at Chet and Marco.
"One more coming out!" He yelled at them. With a thumbs up response he raced down the stairs and into the night air.
Stanley ran over as he saw Roy coming out of the house with the first located victim.
"Johnny's on his way out with another kid," he coughed. "Still don't have the parents out. Their trying to get access into the bedroom."
While giving the quick report he was also checking the child for breathing as someone from the second alarm brought him the trauma box and oxygen tank.
"He's breathing, let's get some oxygen on him." A quick exam revealed no burns, just smoke inhalation, which alone could be enough to kill the boy. Roy pulled open his pajama top and carefully listened to his lungs, noting the quality of air movement, trying to determine the extent of the damage. As the oxygen mask was placed over the small face he looked up to see Johnny coming out of the house with the brother in his arms.
"Not breathing," he said as he delivered another mouth to mouth breath to the child, his own mask now off and hanging to the side of his helmet.
Roy immediately slid over and placed the resuscitator bag over the small face and began to force air into his lungs. The boy was smaller than his brother, probably about four years old, now seeming so frail and utterly helpless.
"Heart rate 60," Johnny reported as he listened to him. "Him?" He nodded to the other child.
"Breathing, still hasn't come around though," Roy said sadly.
Johnny picked up the phone on the bright orange box that would connect them to Rampart General Hospital.
"Rampart, this is Squad 51, do you read?"
"We read 51, go ahead."
"Rampart, we have two victims of a house fire. Victim one is approximately seven years of age, unconscious at this time. Pulse is 90, respirations 16 and slightly labored. Blood pressure is 96 over 70. There appear to be no burns on him. Suspect smoke inhalation. Victim two appears to be four, initially in respiratory arrest, but now with a few spontaneous respiration's after assisted ventilation. Pulse is 110, respiration's 10, blood pressure 105 over 76."
"51, continue oxygen at six liters and start both victims on D5LR IV at 60. Transport as soon as possible."
Hearing the sirens, they looked up to see the ambulance approaching.
"10-4 Rampart, O2 at 6 liters and IV D5LR at 60. Ambulance is on scene now."
Hank approached the men. "How are they doing?"
Roy looked up. "Seem to be stabilizing."
"Kelly and Lopez have got to the parents and need some help."
Johnny stood up and slipped his tank back on. "I'll go in."
Without pause, the two men headed straight back to the front door. Two portable stretchers, or stokes, were being carried towards them and they joined the other fire fighters from 110 in the rush up the stairs and to the waiting victims. By this time the neighborhood road was filled with back up fire equipment and shocked neighbors who stood, seemingly petrified in the cold damp air, huddled together watching the roof now ablaze.
Hank moved back closer to the engine, directing the operation by his portable radio, pulling the ladder truck to the side of the house for roof access.
Inside, Chet struggled to keep the flames at bay from below as he protected the other two unconscious victims from the bedroom. When Johnny rounded the corner from the stairs the wall of intense heat was like a loaded punch, penetrating his clothes and glowing against the face-mask.
"We gotta get um out of here before this roof goes!" Marco called out to them as they headed into the bedroom.
Josh from 110 helped Johnny load the father into the carrier, as another team got the mother. Without haste, they exited the bedroom and back into the hallway.
"Anyone else in here?" Johnny yelled out to Marco.
"Cleared!" He called back indicating the last of the rooms had been searched and no one else had been found.
Out on the lawn they quickly laid the bodies down, on bright yellow blankets and began rapid assessments. The mother was still alive, not breathing on her own, but she at least had a heartbeat. To their heartbreak the father had neither. Without hesitation Roy began chest compression as someone placed a mask on his face and began rescue breathing. Johnny pulled out supplies and started the urgently needed IV on the father to aid in the resuscitation. With expert skill the IV was established with emergency medications started as he was placed on a cardiac monitor. Soon a second ambulance arrived as Roy called in the new victims to Rampart,recieving orders for stabilization.
"51, 5cc's of 1 to 1 Epinephrine IV now," the voice called urgently over the radio.
Johnny pushed the emergency medication into the man's vein as Roy continued the chest compressions. Both sets of eyes looked to the cardiac monitor and watched the flat heart line bounce into a chaotic rhythm.
"V-fib," Roy called out. He immediately reached out for the paddles and listened to Johnny count out the building charge.
"400," Johnny called out.
Roy placed the paddles on the man's chest. "CLEAR!" rang through the air loudly as the electric charge made contact with the skin, jolting the man's body off the ground.
With heavy anticipation, they watched the monitor and an audible breath of relief could be heard as the sinus rhythm pulsed on the screen.
"Rampart, sinus rhythm."
"Transport victims immediately 51."
Suddenly, a thunderous crash reverberated through the air, the explosive force of the roof collapse moving through the halls and impacting the outside walls like a tidal wave. The medics instantly turned and tried to cover their patients. As soon as it was safe they looked around to see who was outside and who was still inside the now out of control fire.
Roy motioned for the ambulance attendants to stand with the patients as he and Johnny hit the ground running, tanks and air masks in hand. Johnny reached down and grabbed the hand of Eric from 110 and together they picked up the hose again. Roy stood behind Johnny's shoulders, pushing against him for support as they began pushing back the flames that now engulfed the living room, fueled by the falling debris from above. Step by step they advanced, forcing their way up the stairs until they finally returned to the second floor.
Roy tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the open door on the left. Up above them, the water rained down by the buckets full, drenching them through the ripped open ceiling, as they battled from the roof. Inside the main bedroom, the floor was littered with debris and scattered small fires that they were able to quickly extinguish. One by one they shoved pieces to the side, smoldering hot chunks of falling ceiling until two feet emerged in the darkness.
"Roy!" Johnny yelled out. "Here!"
Roy ran over and they began moving the chunks of ceiling tile until they had uncovered Marco. The man began to stir as they called his name, and rose up on his elbows.
"Chet?" The stunned lineman called out and pointed towards the window, coughing, as he took deep breaths of his oxygen.
Johnny began to move the pieces of plaster until his friend was recovered. The fireman was unresponsive to his nudging and calls so he loaded him up onto his shoulder in the traditional fireman's carry and prepared to evacuate the building once again. Looking towards the door, he saw Roy already had Marco on his feet, an arm around his waist to support his staggering steps, as they headed back into the hall. Linemen hosed down everything around them and made sure a path was cleared to the front door as they hauled the injured men outside.
Once they reached the front yard they lowered the men to the grassy lawn, removed their helmets and opened up their turnout coats for the trauma assessment. Marco was now sitting up, coughing, as Roy placed an oxygen mask over his face.
"Here, hold this. You hurt?" He asked as he carefully assessed the man. "Here?" He asked as he palpated his ribs and abdomen.
"No, I think I'm okay. How's Chet?"
They looked over to see Chet regaining consciousness and battling the oxygen mask Johnny was trying to keep on him. Roy moved over to help, having to physically hold Chet's arms down as he fought against the haze of confusion with surprisingly strong protective reflexes.
"Chet," Johnny called out trying to capture his attention, his voice remaining calm. "Come on man, we got you now."
The man looked up to him with worry in his expression.
"Chet!," he called out louder, finally getting a slowing of the resistance. "That's it, take it easy."
"Roy?" The voice gasped out from behind the mask, hoarse and cracking.
Johnny looked over to Roy, who frowned. "It's Johnny, we got you. Just calm down and let us do our jobs." He released a sigh as the man eased under his hands, finally relaxing and gaining some orientation.
"They both go in," Hank barked, then took a deep breath as he made eye contact with Roy. "Make sure their okay."
Both medics nodded in understanding.
Rampart General Hospital was a large multi speciality hospital in the suburbs outside of Los Angeles. It's ER was one of the premier trauma centers in the region.
Roy walked beside his friends, Chet on a stretcher still protesting, and Marco walking in beside him. Even a busy day here didn't make these men blink. It was common place to see nurses and doctors swarming around, a state of controlled chaos, that to a lay person would seem nothing short of dangerous. These emergency workers knew differently. The medical team here was considered top notch and if the rare time came they needed their services, there was no question they were in the best of hands. This wasn't the first time they'd been through these door in their years of fire fighting and it wouldn't be the last.
Marco sat up on the side of the stretcher. The nurse quietly took his pulse rate, then his blood pressure, taking notes along the way. She was in her thirties, with almost more years of nursing experience under her belt than he had life.
"Sounds like a close one today," Dixie said as she wrote down his vitals.
"Too close," Marco answered, his exhaustion reflecting in his voice. "How soon can I get out of here?"
She just shook her head and smiled. "You know the routine."
He let out a heavy sigh. "All too well."
An older man, graying on top with a matching trimmed beard came in and pressed his eyebrows together as he took in the sooty, beaten man.
"Marco," he said with a firm and serious tone.
"I'm okay doc, I swear I'm okay." He swung his legs back up on the stretcher and laid back for the exam. "See, nothing's broken," he said as he patted down his own extremities.
Dr. Jo Early continued his exam, methodically with great care, and with full knowledge that Marco was desperate for an all clear. He could see Dixie smiling in his peripheral vision and he was determined to keep his own smile at bay for the time being. His tone remained serious.
"You got quite a bump on the head there," he gently palpated the area around his forehead laceration. "We might need a CT scan, Dix."
"I'll set it up right away," she said with raised eyebrows.
"Oh, come on doc, no headache, no blurred vision. I don't feel like throwing up and I only see one of you." He held his arms straight out and touched his fingers. "No lack of coordination, no paralysis."
Early struggled to not laugh. "Who's doing this exam anyway?"
Marco stopped and looked between the two with confusion. "Uh, well," he stumbled over his words.
Dixie couldn't help it any longer and let out a laugh. When Marco saw the wide smile on the doc he shook his head and let out a big breath.
"Now, mind if I give you my two-cents worth?" he asked.
He decided it was best to keep quiet this time and chose to simply nod.
"When you're hurt and wind up in my ER then I will do everything in my power to make sure you are capable of returning to work. The last thing either one of us wants is for you to collapse from some preventable complication when your buddies lives are depending on you."
Marco lowered his eyes and nodded again knowing what the doc said was the truth.
"I'd much rather have you out there saving lives than laying around here. So, I'll always promise to get you back there as soon as possible, but you have to let me come to that decision. Agreed?"
"Agreed doc." He waited a moment as they just looked at each other. "And?" He asked with anticipation.
"You're released back to work. Anything changes in how you feel, and I mean anything, you are to come right back here. Understood?"
He grinned his best white toothy smile. "Absolutely doc, right back here."
Early patted him on the shoulder. "And stop scaring Dixie like that. And you think I worry?"
Marco winked at the nurse as she passed him his gear. "Can I check on Chet now?"
"I'll walk over with you," she told him.
Outside, the hallways had become less congested and most of the staff now congregated in the nurse's station with charts and phone calls. She led him just a few doors down to another treatment room where Chet was sitting up and sulking in protest. Roy was leaning quietly against the back wall as a young doctor Cavanaugh finished her exam and went through the familiar list of concussion questions.
It was clear by Roy's expression that this wasn't his first time at the ER rodeo either.
Dixie and Marco stayed near the door, sliding to the side desk in an effort to be inconspicuous and out of the way. This also wasn't their first encounter with Cavanaugh, the young, brash, and newest addition to the ER medical staff.
"Your vitals are stable," she told him. "Feel okay?"
"Doc, I promise I feel great." Chet knew the answers that would gain him the needed medical release to return to work. His version of events easily convinced her.
"I know you do, I believe you." She reviewed his chart again.
"Doc, he was out for about twenty minutes," Roy quietly interjected despite the glare from Chet. He simply shared a head tilt and eyebrow raise with the patient as if saying, if you won't tell the truth, I will.
Dr. Cavanaugh sat the chart down. "Exam is normal. I think you're fine to return to work."
Roy shifted his feet, his hands pushed into his front coat pockets but remained quiet. Dixie saw him and wandered over to share a piece of the wall with him. As Chet waited for the nurse to remove his IV, Dixie found herself watching Roy, watching his friend. She'd spent many years in this ER and had seen a lot of emergency service personnel come and go, police, fire fighters, and paramedics. It was a well-known fact that this particular shift from 51 had defied the laws of nature more than once with their determination to survive and stick together.
She glanced up to Roy's who's six-foot stature seemed to tower over her. She had nicknamed him gentle giant years earlier due to his kind and gentle heart. He turned thirty this year and was now one of the senior members of the station, also one of the few duel certified paramedics/firemen in the county. She knew this because she had helped his wife coordinate the surprise birthday party they gave him last month. A small town bred a close knit community, especially where medical and emergency services intertwined.
There was a lot of mutual respect, but he was one of her favorites and her respect for him put him in high regard with her. For all of this, she learned a long ago to trust his judgment. If he was standing close to a shift mate with concern, then she knew she should be just as concerned.
"Rough call I hear," she asked him.
"Yea, the whole family was still in the house." He looked over to her. "How are they doing?"
"The boys are doing good, already hungry. Both parents have been moved to the burn unit, still in critical condition."
"Okay," he nodded. "I wasn't so sure about any of them for a while there." Quiet concern hung heavy in his voice.
"So, he got pretty clobbered, huh?" She gently probed him.
Roy looked at her with a serious expression. "Yea, out a while and was combative when he came around. That's just not like him, Dix."
Cavanaugh stood at the counter writing in the chart. Dixie walked over and ran through in her mind how to approached this newer physician.
"Did the patient mention he was combative when he came to?"
The doctor looked up. "Someone mentioned it, but it's not important because his exam is normal." She picked up the chart and headed out the room with it. Dixie stayed close to her heels.
"Dr. Cavanaugh, I know you're not familiar with these guys, but they watch out for each other pretty close."
She laid the chart at the nurses' station. "I guess that's their job."
"But, I don't think you understand," she started to say.
"I know how to do my job, nurse. I don't need a fireman or a nurse telling me how to do it." She reached down to pick up another chart for her next patient.
Early walked up and joined them at the desk. "Problem?"
Dixie knew he was the senior physician for the night; she also didn't want to be on the new doctor's bad side. But, more important than either of those was the fact that she didn't want Chet walking out if Roy was that concerned.
"Chet's in room four. He was knocked out in that house fire that you saw Marco for."
"He's also been discharged," Cavanaugh interjected.
"Roy's pretty worried about him."
That caused him to pause. "Why?" His question didn't imply judgment, but concern.
"He was the one that pulled him out, said he was overly combative when he came too. That he just wasn't acting right."
He looked over to the younger doctor. "CT scan clear?"
The younger doctor appeared flustered. "I didn't order one. His vitals are fine, his exam is normal. I've already released him back to work."
Early put the chart in his hand down and picked up the one for Chet. He spoke in a kind, yet firm voice. "We've learned over the years to really trust these guys gut instincts. Remember, they are right on the scene when the victim is rescued and assessed. Roy's one of our best medics. If he's not comfortable with what he saw then I'd reconsider discharging him without further exam. We always have to keep in mind that we are releasing them to a very high risk work environment. Even just being a little bit off their game could mean life or death to these men."
She nodded. "I understand, that makes a lot of sense. I apologize."
He smiled. "No apology needed. Stick with us down here and you'll come to know these guys as well as we do."
She smiled and returned to the treatment room. Chet was standing up and putting his coat back on when she came through the door.
The weary fireman froze. He knew that look. "Don't say it," he said jokingly.
"I've ordered a CT scan before you go. They'll be down to get you in just a few minutes."
Chet looked over to Roy with threatening eyes. He just returned a smirk grin. "Don't look at me buddy, doc's just doing her job is all."
He knew he had been beaten and sat back down on the exam table. Besides, his head was pounding now anyway.
He slapped Chet on the shoulder. "Don't worry, we won't forget about you."
"Yea, man, we'll even save you some omelet," Marco laughed.
"Why does this always happen to me on the mornings we plan to go to Abigail's for breakfast?" Chet groaned.
"If that's the case, I think I'd be afraid to work on those nights," Dixie chuckled.
"Look, we gotta head back. Just call." Roy was smiling now. "Take good care of him."
"You know we will."
Johnny climbed into the rescue truck. "He okay?"
"Concussion, bet my money on it."
"Damn, he's gonna be upset at missing breakfast" Johnny didn't question the diagnosis. Roy had been the one to train him and many others that came out of the medic program. They had all experienced his sixth sense regarding how people were feeling.
Marco laughed. "Breakfast is the least of his worries. Just wait til he realizes he can't go to the conference with you guys."
Johnny laughed out loud. "Well, I'm not going to be the one to tell him. Last time I broke minor news to him he painted my bunk with peanut butter and glued my hat to the rack."
Roy picked up the radio. "Rescue 51 available."
"10-4 Rescue 51," dispatch confirmed.
They backed up into the bay and watched Mike move over and close the large door back down to keep the chill out as much as possible. It was still dark out with at least a couple more hours before the sun would come up. Hank met them as they climbed out and stretched.
Roy opened up the side compartment and pulled out one of the oxygen tanks. "Probably a concussion Cap. They're keeping him for a CT scan." He slid the tank to the wall. "He'll be fine, but I doubt they're going to release him back to work today."
"I figured. I have Dwyer coming in early to cover for him." He turned to return to his office then stopped and looked back to them. "Did they say how long?"
"No word yet. I'm guessing two to three day's rest," Roy replied.
The Captain's face scrunched up. "Oh, he's not going to like that."
They'd worked together for several years now and could almost predict where conversations were headed.
"We'll bring him back a postcard," Johnny chuckled as he rounded the back of the squad and headed to them.
"I'm sure that will make it all better," Taggart said in a smart tone. "You two ready for it?"
Roy nodded. "We are. We have all the lectures planned out. Chet was covering technical updates so I'll get his notes tomorrow."
"I expect to hear a lot of good from this about you two. It took me two years to get you on the lecture staff for this."
"And we appreciate all your hard work Cap, we really do," Johnny replied. "Trust us, we've got this."
The Captain just shook his head at the younger medic knowing there was little that could squash the man's optimistic nature.
With a quick hour or so of sleep under their belts, before the end of the shift, the crew headed back into the kitchen to the smell of fresh brewing coffee. Johnny opened up the morning paper while the others sat around the table casually talking about plans for their upcoming days off.
"I don't even want to hear it," Marco complained. "Four days in Reno, all expenses paid." He waved his hand and scoffed at them.
"Please tell me you're not going to let him near the slots again?" Mike asked of Roy while motioning with his head to Johnny. "You know what happened last time."
Johnny put the paper down. "Now, that wasn't my fault!" He frowned and looked thoroughly insulted. "How was I supposed to know that section of machines was scheduled for maintenance?" He stuck his hands in his pockets. "Besides, I returned all the money."
Roy laughed. "The look on your face." He pulled out his wallet. "Wait, I still have the picture."
Mike and Marco got up to see it, again. Johnny jumped up and snatched the folded photo from his hand leaving Roy laughing so hard he couldn't even protest.
"I swear I can't believe you still have it," he grumbled as he glanced at it.
The others joined in laughing. "Dang you, Roy." He said while shoving the picture into his own pocket. "Hasn't Joanne taught you anything about respecting other people's, uh images??!"
They laughed even harder.
"You can ask her at breakfast," Roy got out then leaned over to the others. "Chris, has it framed in his room."
Johnny froze, "WHAT?!"
They laughed harder again.
"This station is messed up. That's all I got to say, messed up man." He stomped out into the bay. "Messed! Up!" He yelled back before disappearing around the corner.
Hank stood in the doorway of the kitchen. "Couldn't you wait until after the convention to get him all worked up?" He couldn't keep the smile down.
Roy shrugged. "Sorry Cap. It's just too easy with him."
He shook his head and passed over an envelope. "Here's your flight information and tickets. Just fill out the expenditure form as usual."
Roy took the papers. "Thanks, Cap. Hey, want anything from Reno?"
He nodded. "Yea, a jackpot in my name. Emily's ready for me to retire as soon as possible."
Roy chuckled. "I'll see what I can do."
"Just not natural," Johnny moaned as he rubbed his full stomach.
"What?" Roy asked, mimicking the action.
"It's way too quiet around here this morning."
Joanne, Roy's wife of ten years, was clearing dishes from the table but spared a hand to smack their guest on the back of the head. "Shhh, don't break the spell."
He reached up and tried to convince her he was injured, to no avail. "Dang Jo."
"This place rarely sees much peace and quiet, don't begrudge me an hour of it when I can get it."
Roy raised his eyebrows at his friend. "That's your one and only warning man, take heed."
Johnny laughed. "Don't worry. I'm more scared of her than I am the fire Chief."
For Johnny she was, in every sense of the word, other than blood, his sister, and everyone knew it. The pokes and comebacks were normal parts of a conversation between them. Anything less and everyone would worry.
He stood up and stretched. "Thanks Joanne. I better get home and get packed. Tomorrow will come early."
"I'll check on Chet and pick up his notes." Roy glanced at the door. "The boxes are packed and ready."
"Alright," Johnny nodded. "I'll be ready at six."
Goodbyes were said and Roy closed the door. "What time are the kids coming back?"
Joanne closed up the dishwasher and washed her hands. "Margie is bringing them home in about twenty minutes."
He came up behind her and nuzzled his face in her neck, pushing her long brunette hair to the side. "Twenty minutes, huh?"
She laughed. "I think I need to ask Hank why you seem so rested when you get home."
Roy smiled. "Lodging a complaint ma'am?"
She turned and looked up to him. "Never."