By Enola Jones
As was our usual luck, it began on a run. Monday morning the Tones sounded at ten AM. We soon found ourselves outside a scene out of Hades.
The fire was so hot I could almost feel my paint bubbling! “It’s too hot for me,” I whispered.
Roy nodded. “Roll closer to Big Red – if we need you, we’ll call.”
I obeyed him, keeping a wary eye on my boys. Big Red was lucky, in a way. She wasn’t alive, and she couldn’t feel the fire’s heat.
Then came the part I hated more than anything. The waiting.
Success came an hour later as the victims were bundled into ambulances. Roy slid behind my wheel and we followed. “Are you all right?” I asked.
He smiled at me. “Ate a little smoke – nothing to worry about. What about you?”
“A lot better. Moving away from the heat sure helped. I’m so thankful you know what to do to get me out of such stuff!”
Roy gasped. His head fell forward and his hands fell from my wheel. Instantly, I took over the driving so I wouldn’t crash. “Roy? ROY?”
Nothing. No answer. No movement.
I didn’t hesitate longer. I turned on my lights and siren and accelerated, breaking a few speeding laws on the way to Rampart.
The ambulances had already unloaded and left Johnny came running out, gaping at me. “Vi? What’s…?”
“It’s Roy!” I gasped. “He passed out about twenty miles back!”
Johnny pulled Roy from my seat, and Roy’s eyes opened. “Easy, Pally,” Johnny said soothingly. “I’ve got you.”
Roy looked up at him – and burst into a fit of—giggles! “What’re you gonna do with me? Who’re you, anyhow?”
Roy was bustled into Rampart and John picked up my mic. “LA, stand Squad 51 down! Code I at Rampart!”
Code I. Firefighter down. Poor Roy….
John dropped my mic onto the seat and ran in after Roy.
I pulled the mic back into the holder and settled in for another frustrating wait.
I hate waiting like this. I’m in a public lot; I can’t even roll around…
A light blue Pinto pulled up beside me. Before I had time to complain, the driver got out and took off his sunglasses. “Vi?”
“Craig!” I gasped. “What are--?”
“I heard the Code I on the scanner.” He tapped my door and I opened it. He slid inside and ran a gentle hand over my dash. “Who was it?”
“Roy,” I sobbed. “No warning – we were just talking and he passed out!”
Craig nodded, then asked, Mind if I wait with you?”
“All right.” He smiled. “I’ll wait with you, then.”
“Thank you, Craig.” We sat in a comfortable silence for awhile. Just having someone with me seemed to help. “Craig?”
“Your counseling is helping.”
I could see that threw him. “I…don’t understand.”
Chuckling, I said, “You came without a second thought. Your friends are in trouble and you came. Not a thought for what’s proper, not a thought beyond we – I -- needed you.”
Craig smiled and leaned forward, wrapping his arms around my steering wheel. I accepted the hug and returned it – wrapping the seat belt around his lap and then retracting it.
“What a day,” I sighed. I’d been watching and waiting. “Craig – here comes John.”
Craig sat up and slid over, making room for him as I opened the door for John. John stopped cold, gaping. “….Brice?”
“Hello, Gage,” he said with a genuine smile, which quickly faded. “I heard the Code I. How is he?”
John got in and sighed. “He’s ten.”
I gasped. “He’s what?”
“Roy’s ten years old. Mentally. There isn’t a mark on him…Vi, what happened?”
I sighed. “Exactly what I told you. We were talking, and he literally just passed out!”
“No cause?” John pressed. “Brackett wants to know.”
“No, John. Nothing that I know of.”
John nodded. “I’ll tell them…. They’re going to run a skull series to find if there’s anything inside.”
Craig nodded. “I’ll go to the station and change – I’ll fill in for the rest of the shift.”
John blinked at him. “LA clear it?”
“They will.” He tilted his head toward the hospital. “Roy’s my friend. Vi’s my friend. And the team needs to be in service – to give everyone something to do.”
“He’s right,” I said. “I’ll take him to the station while you fill Brackett in – and we’ll meet you back here.”
John nodded. “I’ll see you then. Oh – Brackett wants to talk to the ‘witness’.”
I laughed. “I doubt he’d believe me!”
With a grin, John got out. Craig slid behind my wheel – and off we went.
When we returned to Rampart, Craig was in uniform. We pulled up and he jumped out. “I’ll go get my car from the emergency lane.”
“I’ll wait,” I assured him. I watched him move his little Pinto and then my attention was caught by something at the front of the hospital. “Craig!” I called. It’s Roy!”
He was walking toward me when my cry reached him. He turned and saw it. “Roy!” He broke into a run and met them. John and Roy were walking out side by side!
I smiled as he joined them, exchanged a few words, and then they walked over to me. “Vi…” Roy ran a hand over my door. “I’m so sorry if I frightened you.”
“It’s all right, Roy – what happened?”
He sighed. “Brackett wants us to go over what happened – recreate it as exactly as we can. One second, we’re talking, the next I’m in a bed at Rampart, and nearly three hours have passed!”
Together, we told him what had happened. “…and I told you how glad I was you knew how to get me out of the heat and you gasped, and you passed out – and then I drove you here!”
“Yes, but I’m still an adult. I don’t understand how one second I’m an adult and the next I’m mentally ten years old!” Roy sighed and ran a hand along his forehead. “I swear, it’s just like this weekend!”
Craig tilted his head. “This weekend? What happened over the weekend?”
I opened my door and Roy climbed in, sitting on the edge of my one seat as he told the story.
“We took the kids to a carnival. A stage hypnotist was there, and we went to see him. He put Joanne and I under, and we were told we were reduced to ten years old.”
“Exactly what happened today,” Craig nodded. “I understand.”
“I’m glad you do!” John burst out. “You just lost me!”
“And me,” Roy said softly. “Tell us what you’re thinking.”
Craig sighed. “Vi? Are you confused as well?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “I am.”
“All right. Roy, you were hypnotized and reduced to a child, yes?” At his nod, Craig went on, “It sounds to me as if somehow, he left a post-hypnotic suggestion in your mind.”
Roy’s jaw dropped. So did John’s. If I’d have had a jaw, it would have been hanging open too.
Craig nodded. “Somehow, something triggers your shifts to a child. It could be a word, a sound, a movement….”
Roy shook his head. “Then – I-I’m a walking time bomb!”
“Until we find what it is, yeah. I’m sorry.”
Roy sighed. “All right, so how do we figure this stuff ou—“ He stopped, gasping. His eyes widened, then closed as he slumped.
“This is what happened before!” I screeched. “This is exactly what happened before!”
Sure enough, it was the little-boy Roy that emerged when he woke up. While I kept him amused with my gadgets, John and Craig went over the last few minutes.
“Maybe it was a word he said?” John guessed in pure exasperation. “Or some movement he—“
Craig held up a hand. “A word he said…considering he was talking when he went out, I’d say that’s the most logical explanation.”
“Yeah, but how do we—“ He looked at Craig and smiled. “Go ahead. Try.”
Nodding, Craig walked over and began to recite Roy’s last sentence back to him, one word at a time.
“All. Right. So. How. Do. We. Figure. This. Stuff.”
Roy gasped and sagged in my seat.
“That’s it,” Craig whispered.
John nodded and I sighed. “Okay, well, we know what not to say…”
Roy raised his head, blinking and disoriented. “…what?....John? …Vi?....Craig?”
“Welcome back, Roy,” I greeted him. “We found it out – Craig was right.”
Roy frowned at Craig. “There’s a trigger?”
“A word. When said aloud, you turn into a child mentally.” He lifted his pad and wrote ‘stuff’ on it. “Do not say this aloud, or you will become the child again.”
Roy’s eyes widened. “That? That’s what does it?” They both nodded, and he sighed. “Well, hell. What do we do now?”
Before I could say anything, Johnny said exactly what I was going to. “We find this hypnotist and have him put you to rights!”
That turned out to be not as easy as we thought. When we went to the fairgrounds, we found it locked and empty.
The hypnotist was gone!
Roy let out a wail that was a cross between angry grief and hopeless despair. I groaned, unable to believe this.
Craig groaned too. “I can’t believe it ends like this!”
“It doesn’t,” John growled. “Vi, stay with Craig and Roy!” He ran toward the fence.
Before any of us could react, Craig was running after John. Together they grabbed hold of the fence and shinned over it. Landing on their feet, both took off at a run toward the fairgrounds’ main office.
Roy sighed and leaned back against my seat. “Do you think they’ll have any luck?”
“I know my boys, Roy. You, John, Craig – you’re all three my boys When one is in trouble, the other two will move heaven, earth, and hell to help.”
He chuckled. “Craig didn’t used to be that way. Counseling is really helping him.”
“No – he was that way all along. The counseling has helped him break the chains of perfectionism and OCD.”
Roy smiled slightly. “You’re pretty wise – for a truck.”
We laughed together, then Roy heaved a sigh that seemed to come from around his toes.
“Roy,” I reassured him, “they’ll find him. Things are going to be all right.”
“I sure hope so, Vi,” he replied tiredly. “Because I sure as hell can’t function as a paramedic with this st —uh, this garbage – going on and we can’t keep you out of service for much longer!”
What could I say to that? I studied the building John and Craig had vanished into. We sat in silence for a few moments, then I saw a welcome sight. “Roy! They’re coming back – and they’re not alone!”
Roy sat up and his face lit up. “It’s him! That’s the hypnotist!”
The man opened gate and the three of them walked out. “Yes, I remember you,” they hypnotist said. “Allow me to drive you home – I’ll reverse it on you and your wife at the same time. I do apologise – I thought I had reversed it. Obviously I was so rushed that it didn’t ‘take’.”
Roy agreed, and the car drove away with him a few moments later. Craig called us available, and I rolled toward the station. “So…what happened?”
“We told him what happened,” John said. “He did their hypnosis last of the night.”
Craig nodded. “And his boss was shutting down the show, so he was rushed while he was implanting the counter-suggestion—“
“And that’s why he still becomes a kid?” I asked.
They both nodded. “But he’ll be all right now,” Craig assured me. “This time he’s taking his time and will do it right.”
John sighed. “It’s over….”
And two shifts later, when a cured Roy returned to work, I knew it truly was over.
Return to The Realm