ONE HOUR EARLIER
The firefighters and officers of Engine 22 and Rescue 17 were uncharacteristically quiet, each man intensely alert and focused on the situation evolving in front of them. Normally a collective bundle of nervous energy, they were currently frozen in place, leaning forward and holding their breath in anticipation. In a station where even the most horrific run was normally met with at least a few wisecracks, something had their undivided attention.
“…What is ‘No Country for Old Men?’ No, I’m sorry Jeffrey, that’s also the wrong answer. The correct answer was ‘Before Night Falls’, and that takes you down to $0, which means that Melissa is our new champion!”
“FUUUUUUCK!” Probationary Firefighter Levi Bowden, the most recent addition to Engine 22, buried his face in his hands and let out a plaintive howl. In addition to being the most recent addition to Engine 22, he had also been, until moments ago, the most recent title holder of the post dinner Jeopardy game that traditionally marked the beginning of the second part of their shift. His wail was met with cheers and hoots of laughter from the rescue squad members and groans of despair from his fellow engine members. Captain George Mesker, a 28-year veteran of Rescue 17 and acting Station Captain jumped out of a well- worn recliner and broke into a spectacular end-zone dance while Alex Trebek droned on in the background.
“FAIL, probie!” guffawed the wildly gyrating gorilla of a man who was working his way around the living room high-fiving everybody in sight. “Looks like you pump chumps are doing wash out tonight, and make sure you make mine a LARGE milkshake!”
“Shit, Bowden, forgot about the ice cream bet,” consoled Engineer Tim Robinson, the thin as a rail driver of Engine 22 and, with the exception of Captain Mesker, the longest serving firefighter assigned to their Fulton Park fire station. Robinson was also (thanks to his previous job as a middle school math teacher) the official scorekeeper for the after dinner Jeopardy game, and was busily scribbling the final score on the station duty chalkboard which hung in the hall in between the kitchen and the watch room.
“Final score is Reynolds $4800, Bowden $501. Ballsy, bet, probie, but never underestimate how devious these old guys can be. Reynolds only looks dumb. He’s actually pretty bright for a Squad guy…”
“Cute, Robinson,” grinned Tim Reynolds as he thumped a knuckle into his counterpart’s shoulder. Reynolds was the Engineer of Rescue 17, and was widely considered the smartest guys at the station. His multi-shift losing streak to the new guy had been the topic of many a good natured on-duty conversation, but the consensus was that it would only be a matter of time before he laid a righteous intellectual smack-down on the probie. That time had come, evidently, and he was basking in the glow of his newly reclaimed title. “No hard feelings, new boy, and make mine a large milkshake, too.”
“Roger that, Engineer Reynolds” sighed Bowden, automatically referring to the senior firefighter by his rank, just one of the many traditions to abide by until he had completed his probationary period. A prior service Marine, that particular tradition came easily to the new firefighter, and he knew that despite the constant mock threats of reassignment from the senior member of both trucks, he was quickly becoming a well-liked member of the crew. He had a ready laugh, was a hard worker, and was able to keep his head under pressure, all traits that had quickly endeared him to his seniors. Plus, he had a smoking hot girlfriend who seemed to never miss an opportunity to sashay into the station with fresh baked cookies or other goodies. A blatant attempt at sucking up, maybe, but one that was uniformly well-received.
“Engine 22, get started on the floors, I’ll be out in a second to help.” That was Lieutenant Ken Cass or ‘K.C.’, the long serving officer in charge of the engine crew. He was bald as an egg, with a reddish-brown mustache that curled down past his chin and a weight- lifter’s physique that made him look like the world’s meanest biker. He was, in fact, one of the most skilled and compassionate paramedics that anybody at the station had ever served with, and had a long list of commendations earned in sweat and blood at fires throughout the city. A quieter man, but a man whose reputation and command presence seldom required him to raise his voice. Bowden and Robinson headed for the door to the apparatus room gathering buckets and squeegees along the way, followed closely by Firefighter /Paramedic Marcus Tasker, the fourth and final member of Engine 22.
Lt. Cass glanced up as his crew filed past, then returned to filling out the evening roll call in the watch room log book. That task accomplished, he flipped open another book and began finalizing an inventory of the medical supply cabinet used to restock the medic bags located on each truck. Both trucks had already made a ½ dozen runs that day, a routine mix of false alarms, dumpster fires, bullshit medical runs and investigations, but nights in this part of town were always hopping, and he wanted to make sure all the medic supplies were squared away and ready to go. He had skipped out on the normal post dinner game show and had been even quieter than normal for most of the shift, a fact that had not been lost on Captain Mesker.
“Everything alright, K.C.?”
Cass turned abruptly, startled.
“Shit, Cap, you nearly gave me a stroke!” he laughed.
“Hey, if you have a stroke, it’s because of that 3rd helping of lasagna you had, not because of me!” the big man chuckled. “Not that I blame you. New boy can cook, that’s for damn sure. If you can make a firefighter out of him I think we might have a new chef in this dump.”
“About damn time. If your boy Reynolds served up burned pork chops one more time I was going to put in for a transfer.”
The banter came easy between the two officers. They had worked together for 15 years and had developed a great deal of personal and professional respect for each other. Unlike many firefighters, they rarely associated with each other off-duty, but their mutual admiration was evident to everybody on both crews. They worked well together, and the quiet professionalism of the Lieutenant combined with the boisterous good cheer of the Captain helped make the station a happy home for the seven men assigned there.
“Everything’s fine though, Cap. Why?”
“No biggie, you’re just quieter than normal, thought something might be going on that I needed to know about.”
“No, I’m good,” Cass replied. “I’ve been working a ton of OT at St. Agnes, so I’m probably just tired. Whatever bug started going around last week has us really slammed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the ER and floors so full. I would give a nut for one good night’s sleep.”
“Not too damn likely, bubba, not on a Saturday, and sure as hell not in this area.” The neighborhoods surrounding the Fulton Park station were some of the poorest in the city, a mix of crumbling, abandoned industrial buildings, boarded up apartments, and once tidy blue collar homes that had fallen into disrepair. Not exactly a gangland free-fire zone, but the decent folks were rapidly being driven away. The mix of poverty, drugs, and street level violence ensured that Engine 22 and Rescue 17 were consistently two of the busiest trucks in the city, but also ensured that a good night’s sleep was mostly unheard of for members of both crews. If the 1st half of the shift was any indication, tonight was going to be no different.
As if on cue, a single loud beep from the station loudspeakers echoed through the hall, followed by a disembodied voice from the 911 dispatch center.
Last edited by DannusMaximus
on Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Holmes: "You have arms, I suppose?
Watson: "Yes, I thought it as well to take them."
Holmes: "Most certainly! Keep your revolver near you night and day, and never relax your precautions..."
- The Hound of the Baskervilles