“Other Side of The Coin”
“Attention all units: be on the lookout for a white, late model Oldsmobile two door, license number 6 Ida William Charles 9-2-6 last seen traveling southbound on the Harbor Freeway near Greendale. Suspect is wanted in connection with a hit and run that occurred 15 ago.”
California Highway Patrol Officer Jon Baker felt his heartbeat quicken. As he and his partner Frank Poncherello took in the call and responded, he could feel a rush of adrenaline wash over him. 12 years on the patrol hadn’t made him any more used to this. Glancing over at Ponch, he knew he wasn’t alone. Ponch’s swarthy features were set in a grim stare as he rode alongside Jon, his jaw tense and twitching slightly.
“Nothing!” he called as they rode past the Greendale off ramp, “you think he pulled off somewhere?” Ponch asked.
“Maybe….either that or-” he was interrupted by the coarse buzz of an engine pushed beyond its limits. Suddenly the Oldsmobile appeared on the opposite side of the freeway.
“Ponch! Over there!” he yelled over the roar of his motor.
“Son of a- he must have turned around back there!” Ponch replied as they made a U-turn on the grassy shoulder, kicking up a cloud of dust and dirt. As they rode over to the northbound side, Jon reached for the radio.
“L.A.,7-Mary-3 and 4 are in pursuit of hit and run suspect, now going northbound on the Harbor Freeway!”
As they sped after the car, their speedometers inched higher and higher. Jon clenched the handlebars of his motor so tightly his hands hurt. Ponch’s mouth began to feel like cotton as he inhaled clouds of dust and exhaust. Suddenly the Oldsmobile swerved over and sped down an off ramp.
“Now where’s he going?” Ponch yelled.
“This leads to an old mining road…he’s gonna try and lose us!” Jon replied, reaching for the radio.
“L.A. Hit and run suspect is now headed north on Canyon River Road. Is the copter 10-8?”
“Negative Mary-3. The helicopter is on a blood run to Marina Del Rey.”
“10-4 L.A.” Jon replied, swearing under his breath.
“Looks like we’re on our own!” Ponch yelled as they followed the car down a dusty dirt road, deeply rutted and dotted with rocks and branches.
“He’s not gonna last long on this road!” Jon called back.
As if the driver had heard him, the car crashed into a tree. As the two officers rode up to it, the driver, a short, stocky man sporting a bloody gash over his forehead, struggled free of the wrecked car and disappeared into the brush.
“Oh great,” Ponch yelled, dropping his helmet and taking off after him, “I just polished my boots too!”
“L.A., hit and run suspect is now on foot about 5 miles north of Canyon River Road near the old mine. Send back up to our 10-20!” Jon yelled breathlessly as he tossed his own helmet aside and took off, leaving the radio dangling.
Their lungs burning for oxygen, they followed the man into the old mining camp. It was nothing more than two ramshackle, roofless buildings and a dark dusty mine entrance. They stopped and drew in great breaths of the hot dry air as they watched the suspect disappear into the mine.
“Now what does he think he’s gonna do in there?” Ponch asked.
“Let’s get the flashlights and find out.”
* * * * * *
They approached the mine entrance cautiously. It’s opening was strung with cobwebs, and a rotting sign proclaimed it “Delahanty Gold Mine. est. 1867” As they stepped in side, they were suddenly blinded by the pitch black. Jon switched on his flashlight and looked around. The ground was damp, and somewhere in the distance water dripped. The air was filled with a rich musty smell, and it was at least 20 degrees cooler than it was outside.
“C’mon partner, let’s get this turkey and get outta here. This place gives me the creeps.” Ponch said, his voice echoing.
“Whatsamatta, afraid of the dark?” Jon teased as they inched forward.
“Who me? No way. I’m afraid of what lives in the dark.” Ponch replied with a grin. He jumped as something dark and furry scurried by his feet.
Jon swung his flashlight around and began to laugh. “Relax Ponch, it was just a field mouse.”
“That was no mouse…that was the Mean Joe Green of mice!” Ponch exclaimed.
Jon shook his head and walked forward. Suddenly he stopped. “Ponch, over there.” he said quietly.
Ponch shone his flashlight in the direction of Jon’s. The man sat cowering in a damp corner, sweating.
Ponch sighed. “Okay, the games over. Come out of there nice and-”
He was interrupted by a dull rumble.
“I don’t like the sound of that Ponch. We better get out of here…fast!”
Suddenly the sky fell on them. ***** He came to with a start, clawing at the dirt and rotted wood on top of him until he could sit up. It was blindingly dark, except for a thin yellow beam of light. It took a few minutes before he realized it was one of the flashlights. He grabbed it and struggled to stand up. Peering down the mine shaft, he saw a faint light. Relief swept through him. The whole thing hadn’t gone after all. As he took a few steps forward he tripped over something and fell. He sat up right and flashed the light on it. It was an arm, a dark olive skinned one. One of the CHP officers was lying there, face down. Nearby was his partner, his face caked with dirt and blood, his left wrist twisted grotesquely. Neither one made a sound; neither one moved.
“Oh damn!” he cursed. They were probably dead…he needed to get out and as far away as he could.
Gasping for air he ran as fast as he could, stumbling into the bright sunshine, coughing and blinking…and straight into Barry Baricza and Steve McLeish.
“Going somewhere?” Steve asked, reaching for his cuffs.
“Where are Officers Baker and Poncherello?” Barry demanded.
“In…inside…the shaft collapsed…I…..I think they’re dead!” he sputtered as he was shoved inside the cruiser.
Barry and Steve looked at each other and at the old mine.
“We’d better get some help…there’s no way we can get them out alone.” Steve said finally.
* * * * * ****** “I’m tellin ya Johnny, the cops don’t have a quota anymore than we do. C’mon now.” Firefighter/Paramedic Roy DeSoto insisted.
His partner John Gage sat down at the big wooden table in the kitchen at Station 51 and sighed.
“Well then they must just dislike me. Why else would I get 4 speeding tickets in a month?”
“Um…because you were speeding?” Roy suggested, his blue eyes twinkling with laughter.
“What’s the matter, the Chippies bothering ya, Gage?” asked Chet Kelly as the Engine returned from a trash fire.
“Oh, don’t you start.” Johnny retorted.
“Hey isn’t there an old joke about the CHP?” Chet continued, ignoring him, “Oh, yeah, I remember now. The CHP…Triple A with a badge!” He laughed delightedly at himself.
Johnny opened his mouth to say something when the alarm tones went off.
“Station 51….Men trapped at the old mine operation off Canyon River Road. Meet the Highway Patrol at the scene. Ambulance is responding. Time out 1345.”
“Station 51, 10-4. KMG-365.” Captain Hank Stanley replied, hurrying to the Engine.
* * * * *
Ponch stirred, slowly sitting up. He felt around in the darkness for the flashlight. He found it and succeeded in producing a weak yellow beam.
“Jon? Jon? Jon, can you hear me? You all right?” he called in the darkness, swinging the light around.
Jon sat up slowly, holding his left arm close to his body. “Yeah…yeah…I’m okay, I think…man, my head hurts.” he said in a hoarse voice.
“My legs are pinned…I can’t move!” Ponch exclaimed.
“Yeah, well that makes two of us..my wrist is busted, my ribs too I think…aww my head…”
Jon went silent. “Jon? Jon man, c’mon…talk to me! Jon?” Ponch called, fear in his voice.
“I’m still here Ponch.”
“Man…how are we gonna get out of here?”
“We called for backup, remember?” Jon replied, wincing as he moved,” just sit tight partner.”
* * * * *
Joe Getraer arrived at the scene shortly after Engine 51 and its squad. He jumped off his motor and strode toward Baricza, who was watching the rescue.
“What the hell happened, Barry?”
“Near as we can tell Sarge, Jon and Ponch were on a foot pursuit after this joker,” he jerked his head toward the man in the cruiser, “when he ran into that old mine. They went after him. Apparently part of it collapsed. He got out. Jon and Ponch didn’t.”
Joe ran a hand over his face and walked over to the Captain.
“I’m Sergeant Getraer…do you think you can get my men out?”
“Captain Stanley. Sergeant, you’re looking at the best in the business.” the man replied confidently.
* * * * *
“How ya doing, Partner?” Jon called.
“I’m okay…aww man!”
“What’s wrong?” Jon asked, worried.
“Man, I just remembered…I have a date tonight…what am I gonna say to her? ‘Sorry, but I got trapped in a mine shaft.’?
Jon began to laugh painfully. Ponch soon joined him.
“Hey…can anybody hear us?” shouted a voice.
“Yeah, over here! Over here!” the two officers shouted back.
They heard heavy footsteps and muttered conversation. Suddenly two men emerged from the darkness in a cloud of dust, blinding them with their flashlights. Both men were tall and slim. One was blond, and sturdy, the other thin and a bit gangly, with a mop of black hair.
“You guys okay?” the blond one asked.
“Think so..my wrist is busted.” Jon replied.
“Yeah, and my legs are pinned.” Ponch added.
“Hang in there guys, we’ll have you out in no time.” Johnny Gage assured them.
Roy set up the biophone and called in as Johnny looked them over.
“Rampart, this is Rescue 51, how do you read?”
“Rampart, this is Rescue 5-1, do you read?”
“Go ahead 51.” replied a crisp male voice.
“Rampart we have two victims, trapped in an abandoned mine shaft. First victim is male, approximately 35 years of age. He appears to have sustained a broken wrist, possible concussion and head and facial lacerations. He’s complaining of pain in the rib and lower left leg. Respiration is shallow and labored. Second victim is also male, approximately 34 years of age. Victims legs are pinned, possible concussion and he’s complaining of shoulder pain. Respiration is shallow. Vitals to follow.”
“10-4 51. Start an IV on both victims. D5W TKO. ”
“10-4 Rampart.” Roy set the phone down.
“Roy, help me move this piece of wood, it’s what’s pinning his legs down.” Johnny said.
Slowly they moved the chunk of wood off Ponch’s legs.
“Can you move your legs?” Johnny asked.
“I think so.”
“A little bit. They aren’t broken, are they?” Ponch asked.
Johnny smiled. “I don’t think so. Looks like you got lucky.”
“51, do you have those vitals?” the crisp voice of Dr. Kelly Brackett asked.
“10-4 51. Vitals as follows-” Roy began.
A low deep rumble interrupted him.
“What the hell was that?” Johnny asked.
Suddenly the dark shaft began to shake.
“Roy! Johnny! It’s gonna go!” Hank Stanley’s voice shouted.
“Oh my god.” Roy said.
* * * * *
Outside, everyone froze as a huge cloud of dust and debris spewed from the entrance to the mine. Hank grabbed his handi talkie.
“Roy, Johnny, come in! This is the captain..can you hear me?”
Joe Getraer’s face was white and taut.
Suddenly the radio came alive.
“L.A. Engine 51…Rampart General reports they have lost contact with Squad 51..please advise…repeat….Rampart General has lost contact with Squad 51….”
Roy straightened up with a small groan. He’d thrown himself over Jon when the collapse started. He reached for his flashlight and shone it over on Johnny. He was brushing dirt and debris off himself and Ponch.
“Everyone okay?” Roy asked.
“I’m all right.” Johnny said, ignoring the cut over his right eye. “How bout you?” he asked Ponch.
“I’m okay. Jon?”
“I’m fine Ponch. What exactly happened?”
Roy shone the flashlight down the shaft. “Looks like the entrance collapsed. Took half the shaft with it.”
Johnny dug out the biophone and got on it. “Rampart, this is Rescue 51, do you read?”
A burst of static answered him.
“The signal’s being blocked by the cave in.” he said, tossing the handset down.
Roy dug around until he found the handi talkie. “Engine 51 this is Rescue 51, do you read?”
He repeated himself twice. Nothing.
“Well this seems to be as useless as the biophone. We’re on our own, Johnny.”
“This is great. The rescuer’s need rescuing!” Ponch said with a faint grin.
Roy shrugged. “Hey, it happens.”
For the next few minutes he and Johnny busied themselves getting Ponch and Jon comfortable. I.V.’s were started, Jon’s wrist was immobilized, and their cuts were bandaged. When the finished, Johnny snapped the drug box shut and sighed.
“What do you think, Roy? Should we start digging?”
“No way, Johnny. We could end up bringing the whole thing down on us. We’d better just sit tight.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Johnny propped the one remaining flashlight up so its thin yellow beam shown across them. Then he sat down next to Ponch, who was gingerly leaning against the shaft wall.
“Well, we may be here awhile. You guys are lucky. Your injuries are relatively minor.” Roy said, his voice echoing.
Jon and Ponch looked at each other and grinned.
“So, you guys come here often or what? How’d you get into this mess?” Johnny asked.
Roy shot a look at him.
Ponch laughed softly as he told them about the hit and run suspect.
“Let me guess, he got out safely.” Roy replied.
“Of course, “Jon answered, “isn’t that always how it goes? I can’t count the number of times I’ve responded to the scene of an accident, and it’s always the innocent party that gets hurt the worst. Never made any sense.”
Johnny sighed. “Don’t look at us. We haven’t figured that one out yet either.”
Ponch grinned. “By the way, as long as we’re getting friendly, I’m Frank Poncherello, he’s Jon Baker.”
Roy smiled. “I’m Roy DeSoto, he’s John Gage.”
“Nice to meet ya, I guess.” Jon said, wincing as he chuckled.
“Hey,” Ponch said, suddenly serious,” we are gonna get out of here, aren’t we?”
“Sure we are, but it may take awhile. They’ve probably started digging already.” Roy reassured him. At least I hope so, he said silently.
“I know they have.” Johnny added. “I still owe Chet 5 bucks. No way he’s gonna let me die before he gets repaid.”
* * * * * *
“L.A. This is Engine 51. Advise Rampart that there has been an additional cave in. We can not contact Rescue 51 at this time. Tell them to stand by.”
Hank looked up. “Okay, it’s too dangerous to try and dig through the entrance. If we can pinpoint exactly where they are in there, we can dig a tunnel perpendicular to them and get them out that way.”
“Sounds good Captain, but how the hell can we tell where they are?” Getraer asked, worry evident in his face.
“Sarge, I know who can tell us.” Steve said, approaching them.
“Yeah, who?” Getraer snapped.
Steve jerked his head toward Baricza’s cruiser. “He was there. He knows.”
Joe walked to the cruiser and yanked the back door open. He reached in and hauled the man out.
“Okay..you want to earn some brownie points? Tell us where they are in there-and think very carefully before you answer. Do you really want to be responsible for the deaths of two cops and two firefighters?” he snapped.
He swallowed hard and began to talk.
* * * * * *
Johnny was pondering the other end of the shaft. “I wonder what’s down there?”
“Probably more of what’s down here.” Roy replied.
“There’s got to be some kind of opening down there-an oxygen source.” Johnny went on, ignoring him. He began to stand up.
“Don’t even think about it, Johnny. Two patients are enough.”
Johnny looked dejected as he sat back down. He rubbed his chin and suddenly brightened. “Let me ask you guys something, professional to professional.”
Roy, sensing what Johnny was about to ask, just shook his head.
“Sure, go ahead.” Jon said, looking amused.
“Do you guys have a quota? Tell the truth now. I promise I won’t tell.”
Jon and Ponch looked at each other, looking like two men who’d been asked that question all too often.
“No, the CHP doesn’t have quotas. Never has, never will.” Ponch replied.
“Told ya Johnny.” Roy added.
“Hey wait a minute…I thought you looked familar! I remember now…didn’t we pull you over on the Harbor Freeway last week?” Jon exclaimed, wincing as he grinned.
Roy laughed. “Johnny, I swear, you’re gonna become a legend!”
Ponch winked at Jon. “Now where have I heard that before?”
* * * *
“Okay guys! They’re about half a mile in. Let’s start digging. Marco, make sure the Portapower is on standby.”
“Is there anything we can do?” Getraer asked.
“Sergeant, the best thing you and your men can do is just stay out of the way.”
“You don’t understand! Those men are my friends!” Getraer shouted.
“And those paramedics in there are our friends!” Stanley shouted back. “Look,” he said, his voice softening. “We’re doing everything we can. Just sit tight.”
Getraer ran a hand over his face as he watched the Captain hurry away.
In the dark, dusty mine shaft, the four men made themselves as comfortable as possible. The flashlight continued to shine its yellow light over them. It was deathly quiet, save for the faraway sound of dripping water, and their voices echoing down into the darkness. Jon and Ponch had never seen such darkness, thick and suffocating. It was nothing new to Roy and Johnny. They were used to the kind of darkness you could cut with a knife…the kind that threatened to swallow you up. Or at least, as used to it as they were going to get. The air was filled with the musty scent of rotting wood and damp soil, its silence so heavy it made them weary. Roy and Johnny checked over their patients. They were going to be okay. Jon was going to need a cast on that wrist, they were both going to need a few stitches, and they were both going to be sore for awhile. Luck, Roy thought, plain dumb luck.
“Man,” Jon muttered to himself, his blue eyes filled with amusement.
“Pardon?” said Johnny.
“Oh, I was just thinking to myself, ‘Jon, yet another story your grandchildren won’t believe.’ “he explained with a grin.
“Tell me about it,” Roy replied, “sometimes this job is stranger than fiction, I swear.”
“How long have you guys been partners?” Johnny asked.
Ponch smiled. “Oh, about 5 years, going on 6.”
“Look’s like we got you beat. We’ve been doing this for over 10 years now.” Roy told them with a smile.
“Yeah, sometimes I wonder how we lasted 5 minutes.” Jon grinned.
“Thanks partner, love you too.” Ponch shot back.
“I hear ya. I can’t believe Johnny and I lasted this long.”
“Hey, now what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing, Johnny. It’s just that I always thought we’d have moved on by now.” Roy replied, fingering his stethoscope.
“Hey, we tried that, remember?” Johnny said softly.
“Yeah, thank God it didn’t work, huh Johnny?”
Johnny smiled. “Yeah, thank God for little miracles.”
Jon and Ponch exchanged puzzled glances, but remained silent.
“We were promoted to Captains a while back,” Roy explained, “but it didn’t take long before we realized we weren’t cut for it. So we came back to paramedics.”
“You asked for a demotion? Now that’s dedication.” Ponch replied.
“Hey, it’s in our blood, ya know?” Johnny answered.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Jon said, gingerly moving his immobilized arm as he shifted position.
“Wait a minute, what do you guys know about saving lives?” Johnny retorted, “beyond writing tickets and catching bad guys that is.”
“Excuse me?” Ponch said, “why do you think we’re out on the beat everyday? We do a whole lot more than write tickets and arrest people.”
“Ponch and I are certified in Emergency First Aid, and believe you me, we use it. We’ve resituated heart attack victims, delivered babies…you name it.” Jon went on.
“That’s right. We see everything out there, from insulin reactions to panic attacks. Trust me, we’ve seen it all.” Ponch added.
“Oh, and by the way, I think catching the bad guys and stopping the speeders and drunk drivers saves lives too.” Jon finished.
“I’m impressed, I really am. I guess I never really realized how much you guys really do out there.” Johnny replied.
“Not many people do. People tend to believe that old joke. You know, that the CHP is nothing more than Triple A with a badge.” Ponch winked.
“Hey, can you guys do something about these jerks who won’t stop for us? I mean, I’ve seen them cut off an ambulance!” Johnny exclaimed.
“Yeah, and one of the guys on C-shift told me that just last week some guy in a little sportscar cut off the engine! The engine! Can you believe it?” Roy added.
“Sure can,” Jon said, “they don’t stop for us either.”
“Yeah man, it’s tough on the cruisers. They’ll be responding to a call doing 65, 70, maybe more, and some dude will pull in front of them doing 30! As if they can’t see the lights or hear the siren.” Ponch agreed.
“Lucky for us, our motors can get us around almost anything.” Jon said.
“Wish I could say the same about the squad. We’ve been forced onto people’s lawns, just to get around some idiot whose radio is so loud he can’t hear us!” Johnny grumbled.
“People just don’t get it.” Jon replied.
“You know what is, don’t you? I’ll tell you what it is. It’s stupidity beyond comprehension. Plain and simple. These people need brain transplants or something.” Johnny proclaimed.
“Yet, for all the complaining we wouldn’t miss a minute of it, right Johnny?”
He grinned. “That’s right.”
“Tell the truth now,” Jon said with a smile, “you do what you do for the exact same reason we do what we do.”
“Oh, and what reason might that be?” Johnny asked.
“For the glamour and high pay of course.” Jon laughed.
Roy snorted. “Yeah right.” he grinned.
“We haven’t gotten a raise since we started.”, Ponch said, “I wonder how many raises the legislature has voted itself in all that time.”
“Tell me about it. We have to fight with them everytime we put in a request for an equipment upgrade or replacement. “Roy added.
“So Jon, tell me…why do we do what we do? What’s the magic reason?” Johnny prodded.
“Simple Johnny. It’s like you said, it’s in our blood. It’s what we were meant to do. Me, I can’t imagine being anything but a highway patrolman. When I was a kid it was right up there, just below cowboy and just above fireman.” he smiled.
“I think for me, it was just above cowboy and just below policeman.” Roy replied with a grin.
“I never wanted to be a cowboy.” Johnny said, “I mean, they weren’t exactly my people’s friends.”
“What did you want to be?” Ponch asked.
Johnny looked around. “You guys promise you won’t laugh?”
“Sure Johnny.” Roy answered.
“Okay…what I really wanted to be was a rebel.”
“You mean like James Dean?” Jon asked.
“Exactly! I wanted to ride around the country…speeding into town, sweeping the women off their feet and movin on out again. Just me, my Mustang, and my guitar.”
Roy, Jon, and Ponch all stifled grins.
“I’m sorry you had to settle for being a paramedic.” Ponch told him.
Johnny grinned. “I’m not.”
Suddenly his grin faded. He reached for the flashlight and aimed it towards the open end of the shaft.
“Hey, was that puddle there before?”
Roy stood up carefully and went to stand next to his partner. “No, no it wasn’t.”
“Where’s it coming from?” Johnny muttered, shining the flashlight down the dark shaft. He could hear the sound of water dripping, but he couldn’t see a thing. Roy nudged him. The puddle at their feet was growing larger.
* * * * * * *
Hank Stanley glanced at his watch. 5:45pm. They’d been in there for 4 hours. An additional engine had responded to help with the digging. A low rumble caused him to look up into the sky. The clear blue from earlier that day was quickly being swallowed up by thick dark clouds. Fat raindrops began to fall. Damn. A rainstorm was the last thing they needed.
Joe Getraer walked up to him, handing him a cup of coffee. He accepted it gratefully, cradling the steaming cup in his wet hands.
“Any progress?” Joe asked, his steely blue eyes filled with concern and fatigue.
“We’re getting there. Our equipment has given us evidence of life signs, so we know they’re alive at least. It’s just a question of getting to them before another cave in does.” Hank replied wearily.
“I’ve known Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello for a lot of years. I know it’s hard to believe, but they’ve been in worse situations. I know they’ll be okay. I just know.” He said, his voice trailing off.
Hank smiled, his face reflecting Joe’s worry. “Ya know, it’s funny, but I can say the same thing about Roy and Johnny. Oh, the messes they’ve been in.”
Joe smiled. “Well Captain, seems we’ve both been lucky. Partnerships like that don’t come around much these days.”
“You’re telling me.” Hank replied.
They were interrupted by the roar of a motor as Artie Grossman drove up. The hefty officer parked his motor and pulled some wrapped sandwiches from his saddlebag, then hurried over to them, his boots squishing in the rapidly muddying ground.
“I brought some supper. Any word Sarge?” he asked breathlessly, handing them the food.
“Ah, thanks Grossie. Not yet. ”
* * * * * *
“We’ve got to find out where the water is coming from!” Johnny insisted.
“Okay, fine. But I’ll go. You stay here with them.” Roy replied. taking the flashlight from him.
“Why you?” Johnny protested.
“Because you’ve already gotten yourself a bump on the head, remember?”
Johnny touched the small cut over his eye. “Oh c’mon, it’s nothing and you know it!”
“What I know, Johnny, is that nothing has a way of turning into something in the blink of an eye.” Roy replied, heading towards the dark shaft. Johnny had managed to dig a second flashlight out of the rubble and had propped it up to illuminate the widest area possible.
As Roy began to disappear down the shaft, he turned around. “Now I’m not gonna go very far. I’m gonna try and stay within earshot. If something happens and I don’t come back, DON’T come after me Johnny. You know the rules. Got it?”
“Got it.” Johnny replied glumly, the darkness hiding the worry on his face.” but be careful, would ya?”
“Always.” Roy called, disappearing down the shaft.
The three remaining men were silent. Ponch’s groan broke the silence.
“Hey, you okay?” Johnny asked.
“Yeah,” Ponch said, moving gingerly, “I’m just getting stiff sitting here.”
“We’ll be out soon.” Johnny reassured him.
Jon watched Johnny’s face. “Hey, Johnny, I’m sure Roy’ll be just fine, ya know? He’ll be back in no time.”
“I sure hope so.” Johnny said softly, keeping his eyes on the yawning blackness of the shaft.
* * * * * *
The rain was coming down in buckets now. The sky was a deep gray. Jagged bolts of lightning tore at it again and again.
“Okay, let’s shut it down!” Stanley yelled, “its too dangerous to be working with this lightning! We’ll have to wait out the storm!”
Roy’s feet squished as he walked slowly along the dark damp passageway. Aiming the flashlight in front of him, all he saw was blackness. He sighed as he felt the dampness in his shoes. His sandy hair was plastered to his head with sweat. The sound of his heart beating in his ears nearly drowned out the sound of the dripping water.
* * * * * *
Johnny couldn’t sit still. If the shaft had allowed, he would have been pacing back in forth. Instead, he fiddled with his stethoscope, slapping it from one hand to another.
“Hey man, calm down. I’m sure Roy knows what he’s doing.” Ponch said gently.
“Yeah, I know. Of course he does. I just can’t help it. We usually do this sort of thing as a team, ya know?”
“Yeah, we know.” Jon replied softly, ignoring the dull throbbing in his head, “We’ve been there.”
Ponch’s laugh floated across the darkness. “Hey partner, remember when I had the accident, right after I got out of the hospital?”
“Oh do I! I don’t know what we were thinking when we got you that scanner.” Jon laughed.
“A scanner huh? Let me guess, you listened to all those calls and went crazy.” Johnny smiled.
“Are you kidding? We couldn’t keep him out of it. He may as well have been back on his bike.” Jon told him.
“Hey, I helped bust those dudes using city vehicles for jewel heists, didn’t I?”
“Yep,” Jon said, the laughter in his eyes belaying the pain on his face,” you sure did.”
“Hey wait a minute-I think I remember reading about that. Didn’t they use one of our engines for that?”
“Yep, not to mention an ambulance, cherry picker, and LAPD cruiser.” Ponch replied.
“Imagine, dressing up as one of us to commit a crime. Used to be they dressed up as us for Halloween.” Johnny sighed.
“Not anymore.” Jon said.
Johnny looked heavenward, then began to laugh.
“Hey, what’s so funny?”
“Well, I had a date tonight. A blind one. Not that I was looking forward to it. I hate blind dates. But I’ve never stood a girl up before.”
“Well you’ve got a heck of an excuse.” Jon grinned, then winced.
“Are you okay?” Johnny asked.
“Yeah. I could use a couple of aspirin though.”
“Sorry. I really wish I could.” Johnny replied apologetically.
“I know. I understand.”
Johnny wiped his hands on his pants and stood up, taking a few steps toward the gaping darkness of the shaft.
“Hey Roy! Roy?” he shouted, “You okay down there?”
“Yeah Johnny, everything’s fine.” Roy faint voice shouted back. “I found the problem. I’m on my way back.”
Relief flooded Johnny’s face.
A few minutes later, Roy’s dirt streaked face appeared in the entranceway.
“There’s a natural spring up there. That’s where the water is coming from. Pretty nice swimming hole.”
“And here I went and forgot my swimsuit.” Ponch joked.
“Why the puddle then?” Johnny asked.
Roy sighed. “Overflow. The forecast was for a little rain this evening. I betcha it’s pouring out there and we’re getting the run off somehow. We’d better keep an eye on it.”
Roy sat down and took a look at Jon’s wrist. “I’m sorry we can’t give you anything for that.”
“Hey, my partner’s a tough old lizard. He can take it.” Ponch grinned, trying to hide the concern in his eyes.
“I’ll take that as a compliment- I think.” Jon replied.
“Hey Johnny, I think I heard some digging going on farther down. They’re way off on our location.”
“Yeah well, let’s deal with that bridge when we get to it, okay?”
“Ya know, you guys are not what I expected at all.” Ponch said suddenly.
Roy turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure exactly. I guess I expected the cold and clinical routine. But you guys seem more like friends.”
Jon smiled. “Ah, Ponch, I think it’s called bedside manner.”
“Thanks,” Roy said with a smile, “we try.”
“Bedside manner? I thought it was just my natural charm.” Johnny laughed.
“Yeah, ” Roy told them, “Which he’s tried on every nurse at Rampart. Tried and struck out that is.” He grinned at his partner.
“Hey, Ponch, sounds like you.” Jon laughed painfully.
“I’m gonna forget I heard that.” Ponch said with a smile.
“Hey, what’s that?” Roy said suddenly, cocking his head toward the opening.
They all fell silent, listening. The roar of rushing water filled the air.
“Roy, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Johnny asked sharply.
“Yeah..the shaft is flooding!”
Joe Getraer sat in the makeshift command center the two departments had set up. He stared out at the pouring rain and sighed. He could barely see the mine through the sheets of windblown rain. Suddenly a bolt of lightning tore through the sky, illuminating it for a split second. Damn, Joe thought, why the hell did it have to rain tonight?
A few feet away sat Hank Stanley and his men, their thoughts echoing his.
“C’mon Capt, we’ve gotta keep going!” Chet insisted.
“Kelly, we can’t do anything with that lightning. You want to add electrocution to our troubles?”
“We can’t just leave them there.” Marco replied.
“And we’re not going to. The storms gotta blow over sooner or later.”
“I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.” Chet said glumly.
* * * * * *
“Flooding?” Ponch exclaimed, “what do you mean, flooding?”
“I mean,” Roy replied, aiming his flashlight down the shaft., “that it looks like there’s a lot of water headed this way.”
“Where the hell is it coming from?” Johnny asked.
“I don’t know. The spring must bigger than we thought-”
“Unless it’s not the spring that’s causing it.” Jon said suddenly.
“What are you talking about?” Johnny asked.
“If I remember my history correctly, these early mines were pretty crudely constructed.” He looked up, “I bet my badge that ceiling is nothing more than dirt. No reinforcement at all, save for those rotting beams. I’d also being willing to bet that it’s raining pretty hard out there.”
“And it probably leaks like a sieve.” Johnny finished.
“And I bet the guys weakened things when they started digging.” Roy added.
“So the rain is coming in down there-” Ponch started
“And running down the shaft to us.” Jon finished.
“So what do we do?” Ponch asked.
“Well, the way I see it,we’ve got two choices. We can either dig through that-” Johnny jerked his head toward the caved in entrance.
“And take a chance on bringing the rest of the shaft down on us.” Roy interrupted.
“Or we can find away to block the water.”
“How?” Ponch asked, “With what?”
“All right then, we dig.” Johnny replied.
“I don’t like it Johnny.” Roy said quietly. “It’s too dangerous.”
“I know Roy, but do you have a better idea? I’m open to suggestions.”
Roy sighed. The water was now swirling around their ankles. “I guess not.”
He walked over and knelt by Ponch., reaching for the hand his I.V. was in. “I’d better disconnect this for now. The bag’s almost empty anyway.”
When he finished he turned to Jon. “Your-” he stopped. Jon’s eyes were closed. his head lolled to one side.
“Jon!” he said sharply, shaking him gently. “Jon!”
Jon’s eyes opened slowly. “I’m okay.” he said sleepily.
“Jon, you gotta stay awake, okay? Jon?” Roy said.
Jon eyes began to close again. Roy cupped his hands, scooped up some of the water swirling around him, and splashed Jon’s face with it.. Jon head shot up as he began to sputter.
“Sorry,” Roy said,”but I’ve got to keep you awake.”
“I know.” Jon replied, his voice clearer.
Ponch got up painfully and went to sit next to his partner.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep him awake.” He smiled.
Jon rolled his eyes as he wiped his face.
Johnny was looking around. “Okay, what can we dig with?”
“Ponch, ” Jon said, “give him my baton.”
Ponch slid it out of Jon’s belt and handed it to Johnny.
“The two of you had better stand up. Think you can manage?” Roy asked.
“Sure.” Ponch said.
As he stood up, a sudden rush of water filled the mine, bringing the level up to their knees. Ponch reached for Jon and jerked him to his feet.
“Sorry man. You okay?”
“Yeah Ponch. thanks.” Jon replied, making no effort to hide the pain in his voice.
As Ponch turned towards Roy and Johnny, he felt his stomach lurch. The room began to spin. Suddenly everything went black.
“Ponch!” Jon yelled, watching helplessly as he watched the swirling water swallow him up.
“Ponch!” Jon shouted again, dropping to his knees in the muddy water. He groped awkwardly for his partner and best friend.
Suddenly he was brought to his feet. “Jon, it’s okay. Roy’s got him.” Johnny’s voice said.
Jon began to shake violently. He was cold, wet, exhausted. His belt seemed to weigh a ton. Yet somehow he summoned the strength to jerk free of Johnny’s grip. “Is..is…” he stammered.
Roy had Ponch propped up against the blocked entrance. Ponch was soaked, and shivering. As Roy checked him over he began to cough and sputter.
“I’m…okkayy…partner.” Ponch said feebly.
“What happened?” Jon asked, worry in his voice.
Roy looked up, water dripping off his face. “He fainted is all. He got up too fast, then tried to help you. That bump on the head didn’t help much either.”
Jon sagged with relief. “God I’m tired.” he said wearily.
“Yeah, me too, Baker.” Ponch replied.
“C’mon Johnny, let’s keep digging. You two just hang in there. And try to stay awake.” Roy turned back to the pile.
Ponch moved slowly over to where Jon was standing. His brown eyes were glassy and bloodshot.
“Take it easy Ponch.” Jon said softly. As Ponch settled beside him, his arm bumped Jon’s wrist. The pain was like nothing he’d ever felt before. His agonized cry made Ponch’s face go white.
“I’m sorry man!” he apologized.
“I know Ponch…I know.” Jon said painfully
Johnny handed Jon’s baton to Roy and hurried over.
“It’s okay Johnny, Ponch just bumped my wrist.” Jon said hoarsely.
“God..man, I’m sorry!” Ponch said again, shocked at the sight of tears streaming down Jon’s pain filled face.
* * * * *
“Capt, look! The rain’s letting up!” Chet exclaimed.
Hank looked up. It was…only a light drizzle fell now, and a faint outline of the moon had appeared over the mine.
“Okay, let’s go get’em!” he called, standing up. Marco, Chet, get the listening equipment and check again. The rest of you, start digging!”
As he watched his men scramble, Hank hung back and sighed. He’d been a Captain for more years than he’d care to admit, and he’d never lost a man. He couldn’t imagine 51 without Roy and Johnny. Had he ever told them that? Had he ever told them how proud he was to be their Captain?
Joe Getraer was thinking the same thing. He remembered way back to Baker and Poncherello’s 4th anniversary as partners. He’d joked about his “brilliant” decision. But had he ever told them how proud he was? What had happened to the other anniversaries? Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello weren’t just his men. They were his friends, his family.
“Sarge? Sargent Getraer?” Hank’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“Ah..yeah Captain, what is it?”
“I thought you’d like to know we’ve resumed digging.”
“Good…good…won’t be long now then, will it?”
“Not if my men can help it.”
As Hank turned to go, he heard Joe say something.
Joe looked up, his face full of worry and fatigue. “I was just saying, it’s funny how you never remember the things you should have said until it’s too late to say them.”
* * * * *
“Anything Marco?” Chet asked for the third time in as many minutes.
Marco listened carefully, then shrugged and pulled the earphones off. “All I can hear is water.” he said quietly, his dark eyes filled with fear.
* * * * *
Roy was exhausted. His hands hurt. His uniform was soaked. He had dirt in places he didn’t even know dirt could get into. He stood back and reached for the handi talkie. Luck had been on their side again. The water had stopped rising and was just above their knees.
Johnny was chipping away at the debris with Jon’s baton. When he saw Roy reach for the handi talkie he stopped.
“It’s not gonna work Roy.”
“Hey, let me find that out, okay? It’s worth a try.”
Johnny shook his head and went back to work.
“Engine 51, this is Rescue 51, do you read?”
“Engine 5-1 this is Rescue 5-1 do you read?”
* * * * *
Hank reached for his handi talkie to call for another light truck when he heard it.
“Capt, this is Roy! Do you read?” Roy’s crackling voice asked.
Relief swept over him. “Sergeant! Sergeant Getraer! We’ve got contact!” he shouted.
* * * * *
Roy tossed the radio aside in disgust and went back to digging. He jumped at the sound of Captain Stanley’s voice.
“Roy, this is Captain Stanley, we read you loud and clear! My God, are you guys okay?”
Roy grabbed the radio. “We’re okay, Capt, but the shaft is filling with water.”
“The boys are digging their way to you now.”
“Capt, we’re right behind the cave in at the entrance. Where are they?” Johnny asked
“Damn!” Hank’s voice said, “Stand by 51.”
* * * * *
“Marco, Chet, Mike! They’re over in front! Start digging close to the entrance!” Hank yelled.
“Roy, hang tight. They’re on their way.”
“10-4 Capt. Will you contact Rampart for us?”
“10-4 Roy. Will do.”
* * * * * *
As soon as the phone at Dixie’s station began to ring, Kelly Bracket dove for it.
“Rampart Emergency. Doctor Brackett speaking.”
Suddenly his tense features softened and he allowed himself a smile. “10-4 L.A. We’ll be waiting for them.”
Roy put the radio down and sagged with relief. Looking back up, he caught Johnny’s eye and the two paramedics smiled.
“Won’t be long now.” Johnny told the two weary CHP officers, “they’re on their way to us.”
“We talking door to door service?” Ponch joked, his voice hoarse.
“You got it.” Roy said with a grin.
A faint pounding began in the dirt wall behind Johnny.
“All right.” Ponch said faintly. “Maybe I can still make my date.”
Roy laughed. “I don’t think so Romeo. Only date you’ve got is with Dr. Brackett over at Rampart.”
* * * * *
Joe Getraer was pacing back and forth. “C’mon…c’mon!” he said softly.
Hank Stanley smiled. “Take it easy Sergeant. Your men are fine. My men ought to be reaching them anytime now.”
But Hank was fidgeting too. He tossed the handi talkie from hand to hand, readjusted his helmet over and over, and shifted from one leg to another. Joe watched him for a few moments and wondered if he looked as nervous.
“Hey, uh Captain, would it be okay if I talked to my men for a minute?” Joe asked.
“Sure Sergeant.” Hank lifted the handi talkie up. “Rescue 51, this is Capt. Stanley, do you read?”
“10-4 Capt.” Johnny’s voice answered.
“There’s someone here who’d like to speak with your two patients.” Hank grinned and handed the radio to Getraer.
“Jon, Frank…are you guys all right?” he asked.
“Hey Sarge.” Jon’s pain filled voice answered, “I’m okay. I could use some aspirin though.”
“And a hot shower.” Ponch’s added.
Joe smiled as he handed the radio back to Hank. “They’re fine.”
Hank returned the smile. “Hey Roy, is there anything you want me to relay to Rampart?”
“I don’t think so Capt. Both victims are more or less stable. One’s gonna need a cast, and they’re both gonna need a good nights rest. Oh, and Johnny’ll need a band-aid.” Roy’s voice replied.
“Oh, you’re just so funny.” Johnny’s voice said.
“Look, did you or did you not cut your forehead? I was only stating the facts.”
“What, are you turning into Joe Friday now?”
Hank laughed. “Roy and Johnny are just fine.”
* * * * *
Jon and Ponch watched the two paramedics argue, their dirty faces showing signs of amusement.
“You two always like this?” Jon asked.
“No, only when Roy tries to be a comedian.”
“I’m tellin ya Roy, sometimes you drive me crazy!”
“Wait a minute, I drive you crazy? Who’s brilliant ideas am I always being dragged into? Remember when you got us on TV for that table top demonstration? We made complete fools out of ourselves.”
“And don’t you remember when ended up doing a rescue on the air? Chief said we did more for the program then 10 years of PR could do.”
“I remember. You got out of it..somehow. The same way you did when you called Joanne and gave her Mike’s spaghetti recipe and got her mad at me for over a week!”
“Yeah, but it-”
“I know..it turned out okay. I tell ya Johnny, it’s frightening.”
“Frightening? I’ll tell ya what’s frightening. That girl you rescued from her car getting hung up on you. You! Of all people!”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’m married, not dead! You were just jealous that’s all.”
“Jealous? Me jealous of you? C’mon Roy!”
Ponch turned to look at Jon. “Hey partner, are we like that?”
Jon grinned. “Sometimes. Remember the time you trashed my apartment?”
“Trashed? I didn’t trash anything. I just made it look lived in.” Ponch grinned.
“Yeah right, okay. Took me two weeks to get my apartment back to where I actually recognized it. I should have sent you the bill. Never again…boy was that a bad idea.”
“You should know.” Ponch said innocently.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Does the phrase ‘rose up like a Roman soldier on his mighty two wheeled stallion’ ring any bells?”
Under the dirt and grime, Jon’s face reddened. Roy and Johnny stifled laughs.
“Ponch, don’t even-”
“Oh yeah? Whose idea was it to go on Name Your Price and win fame and fortune? You didn’t even know the price of the motor you ride everyday!”
It was Ponch’s turn to blush. “Hey, who would have thought?”
The four men looked at each other and began to laugh. “Guess we’re more alike then we thought.” Roy said.
“Yeah,” Jon replied. “guess the other side of the coin really isn’t so different.”
Ponch fidgeted. “Man I’m hungry. I could go for a Ding Dong about now.”
Jon rolled his eyes.
“Uh, a Ding Dong?” Roy asked, “what’s a Ding Dong?”
“C’mon Roy! You don’t know what a Ding Dong is? They’re great. It’s chocolate cake and cream filling-” Johnny exclaimed.
“You mean those things you keep stashed in your locker?” Roy asked.
“That’s right. Good stuff Roy, you ought to try em.”
Roy and Jon looked at each other. “Frightening!”
“Hey Roy! John! Can you hear me?” Chet’s muffled voice called.
“Yeah Chet! We hear ya!” Roy yelled back
“Stand back! We’re coming through!”
The four men stood silently listening to the clanking of shovels. Suddenly the dirt wall gave way and Chet Kelly’s dirt streaked face appeared.
“Hi there!” he called cheerfully.
Johnny grinned, hands on his hips. “You know Kelly, for once I’m actually glad to see you.”
“You better be. You know you still owe me five bucks.”
Johnny’s grin faded.
“Hey Chet, can you get us a couple of Stokes?” Roy asked. “Hey Marco!” Chet called behind him, “We’ll need a couple of Stokes!”
Chet grinned at Jon and Ponch. “Hey guys. Bet you don’t see this kind of excitement too often, huh?”
Jon and Ponch looked at each other and smiled.
* * * * *
Joe Getraer watched in relief as Jon and Ponch were finally pulled from the mine, followed by two very dirty, very wet, very relieved paramedics.
“Hey fellas…it’s….it’s good to see you.” Joe said as he followed the stretchers to the waiting ambulance.
Jon managed a weak thumbs up while Ponch gave him a half grin. “Hey Sarge…” he started.
“Are Jon and I getting overtime for this?”
Joe laughed. “Get ’em outta here.” he told the attendants.
Roy and Johnny watched as the two patrolmen were loaded into the ambulance.
“Hey be careful now,” Johnny called as he handed the biophone and drug box to Roy.
“Yeah.” Roy finished as he climbed aboard, “those are friends of ours.”
* * * * *
Dixie McCall finished her coffee and started her morning rounds. As her mind traveled back to the night before, she shook her head. She’d never seen a sight the likes of Roy and Johnny. Wet, dirty, cold, and yet they seemed oblivious to it. That was, until Dr. Brackett told them they’d be spending the night along with the two CHP officers. Oh what a fuss they’d put up! Of course they’d probably fallen asleep almost before their heads hit those pillows….
“Morning Dix.” Kelly Bracketts crisp voice broke into her thoughts,
“Morning Kel. How are the boys doing?”
“Roy and Johnny are fine. I’ll discharge them later today. Their friends should be fine too, but I’d like them to stay with us a another day or two.” he smiled and folded his arms across his chest.
“Did the Night nurse mention the special arrangements I made for them?”
Dixie’s face lit up with amusements. “Arrangements?”
“That’s right. The four of them are in a ward together. They insisted on it.”
“Dr. Brackett, paging Dr. Kelly Brackett!” the PA blared.
“Go see for yourself.” Brackett called as he headed for the phone.
* * * * *
Dixie walked into the ward and grinned. One one side of the room, the tops of two golden brown heads could be seen peeking out from the covers. On the other, Johnny and Ponch chatted excitedly.
“Morning fellows.” she said cheerfully, opening the shades and letting the warm morning sunlight fill the room.
“Hi there nurse.” Ponch said, flashing a grin.
“Well, I see you’re feeling better.” Dixie replied.
“I am now that you’re here.” Ponch replied flirtatiously.
One of the golden brown heads stirred, and a sleepy Roy emerged from under the blankets. “Don’t even think about it Ponch. Trust me.”
Johnny grinned. “I hate to admit it, but he’s right.”
Ponch smiled. “Think about what?” he said innocently.
Jon stirred and sat up. “Ponch at it already?” he smiled sleepily, then yawned.
Dixie walked over to him. “Morning. Feeling better?”
Dixie eyed the bright white cast on his wrist. “You won’t be riding a motorcycle for awhile, but Dr. Brackett says you’ll probably be home tomorrow.”
“What about me?” Ponch called.
“You too, Romeo.” she grinned, “Oh, I almost forgot. An Officer Grossman left these at the desk for you.” she reached into her pocket, pulled out a plastic sandwich bag with two Ding Dongs in it, and handed it to him.
Ponch’s face lit up. “All right! Breakfast!”
* * * * *
Roy stepped out of the squad and slammed the door shut. He squinted in the bright sunshine and headed over to the taco stand. Johnny grabbed the handi-talkie and followed him. As they took a seat at one of the round tables, they saw a CHP cruiser pull up next to the squad.
“Hey, glad you could make it!” Ponch called, as he stepped out of the driver’s side and headed over to them. Jon followed, his cast plastered with good wishes from his friends and station mates.
Roy smiled as they sat down. “For once we’re having a slow day.”
“Same here,” Jon replied, “it’s good to get out into the fresh air.”
“Ah…riding a desk huh?” Johnny asked.
Ponch grinned. “I got lucky. They’re letting me get back on my motor starting tomorrow.”
“Rub it in, Ponch.” Jon replied, trying to look hurt.
It had been two weeks since the mine accident. Jon and Ponch were back at Central. Jon was stationed at the front desk, while Ponch had been assigned to the file room, to “weed out the dead stuff” as Getraer put it. To the two of them, the assignments were little less than torture, but when they realized where they could have ended up, it didn’t seem so bad.
“Listen, we asked you to lunch because we wanted to say something.” Ponch said quietly.
“Yeah,” Jon added, “We wanted to thank you.”
“We were just doing our job-” Roy started.
“Yeah, we know- but you saved our lives. We owe you a lot.” Ponch interrupted.
The two paramedics looked at each other and smiled.
“You know, I really never thought about it before, but you guys are a lot like us. We both do the jobs nobody else wants to do, go to the places nobody else wants to go.”
“Yeah, and the war never ends.” Roy said softly.
“I have to admit, I never considered the other side of the coin before.” Johnny said, “but now I think we make a pretty good team.”
“Hey,” Roy said,”mind if we signed your cast?”
Jon laughed. “If you can find room.”
They were silent as they signed it.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starved. Tacos all around?” Ponch asked.
The others agreed. As Ponch got up to order, the handi-talkie came alive.
“L.A. Squad 51. Unknown rescue, 1256 Eldin Road. 1-2-5-6 Eldin Road. Cross street Pelverton. Time out 1228.”
Johnny sighed. “Squad 51, 10-4.”
“Later guys.” Roy said as they got up and hurried to the squad.
The watched the squad pull away and race down the street, then looked at each other.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, ol’ buddy-” Ponch started.
“L.A.-Attention all units- 2-11 in progress, United Bank and Trust, 324 Cloverton. All units responding identify.” blared the radio in the cruiser.
“That’s only a block east of here!” Ponch exclaimed.
“Go Ponch. I’ll call in for a ride.” Jon told him.
Jon watched Ponch take off, then sighed and scratched his cast. He caught sight of what Roy and Johnny has written and grinned.
“See ya on the flip side-til we meet in the next battle, Roy and John”