I didn't need to find Chloe, she found me. After everything that had happened, the story did make the papers. Something about a Paramedic being held captive underground. The spookiness of it, the timing- it was the perfect end of Halloween story.
She waited until the reporters were gone and things had once again settled down. I'm not sure who she was trying to protect, me or her, but it didn't really matter. We finally met and she was all right.
She was more than all right- she was me. She was an EMT from the Motor City. That sent chills down my spine. I thought about her and then I thought about the headline he'd shown me on the phone.
I told her to hold on a minute and then went back, hoping that it was still on the phone- hoping I hadn't destroyed it last night in my little ceremony. I rewound the tape and found it- and the masthead. It was an Boston paper.
Casey was worried about me as I sat back down, but something in Chloe's eyes told me that she understood. She'd been there after all.
We talked for quite a while and after a bit Casey left us alone, figuring it would be easier if he wasn't there. That still makes me smile.
Chloe's story was like mine- enough to realize that Aaron wasn't just a fluke... he was hunting from the start. He'd met her at a bar after a particularly harsh shift- swept her off her feet; made her forget everything else.
Then the relationship drifted apart. He was changing- getting more possessive. Then the phone calls started.
I nodded shivering as she told me the story. It was our story- Aaron and me- only it had happened two years before Aaron and me.
Chloe' had run, hidden, changed her profession. He found her a couple of times before she'd learned to really hide. She became as much a chameleon as he had. It was hard, but somehow, having someone who understood without having to say a thing- it helped both of us.
She gave me her address, told me she was moving back to Detroit. I nodded- relishing her freedom almost as much as I did mine. I chuckled and looked at her.
"We're free..." I sighed. "We're finally free."
She nodded in silent agreement.
We went to the park, with Casey watching us worriedly. We watched the sunset, each in silent reflection and joy.
It is indeed over.
For the first time since I came here-- I slept soundly. I was safe-- and I was home. I think it was the first time I really believed it. Somehow I had let my search for my brothers interfere with something very important, and I hadn't realized until it was almost taken away from me.
When I rolled over with my new-found wisdom Case sat up straight in his chair and smiled.
"You're looking a lot better," he said. His voice had a slight gruffness to it, like he hadn't had enough sleep lately.
I can understand that.
"I'm feeling a lot better," I told him.
It wasn't necessary-- he could see the change in me, the change in my search.
I'm still going to look for my brothers, and I'm not going to give up until I find something out-- but its not going to be my life. I think the boy's would want it that way.
Physical Therapy was tough, but it looks like I'll be able to return to full duty in about 2 weeks. Until then-- and until Citywide clears me for duty, I'll be manning the phones at dispatch. Its not too bad.
It means I'll get to spend some time with Casey... and Michael, and - everybody. I went down to the clinic when Case had 'a few things to do downtown.'
Trina didn't mom me for once, and I was glad. I didn't really need that right now. I don't think either of us did. I did talk to her about Casey. She told me that considering her track record with men that she probably wasn't the best source to consult.
Then again, with mine, neither am I. I think I'll stick to triage and emergency medical procedures-- those I understand... It's the whole wondering about relationships that drives you mad. I think we've both had enough madness for right now.
Of course that decision went straight out the window when Casey showed up with Jonathan and they took the two of us out to dinner. It was confusing, but nice.
Sometimes I wish men came with instruction booklets. Looking at Trina last night, I think she feels about the same. I think we both felt a bit awkward-- until we noticed that they were paying a lot more attention to the man two tables down from us than they were to their food, or us.
And here I was starting to worry that he was letting his work slip 'cause of me. Ego... do it to you every time.
Oh man... I had to laugh this morning. I told Case I wanted to go to council Island and see the folks there-- I figure Michael and I have some serious catch-up to do on cartoons-- and life.
Anyway-- Case got this worried kind of expression. I had to do some major prodding to find anything out, but when I did... I was rolling on the floor.
He was worried that I was upset about him using me and Trina as cover on a stake out. The look on his face as I was trying, and failing, to get it under control only made it worse.
I shook my head and finally gasped, "next time, you may want to give us some warning." I was still chuckling when I explained . "I mean... if one of them started choking.. your 'dates' would have been all over them -- hardly what you'd call inconspicuous."
He chuckled in spite of himself. You know-- he's almost as much of a work-a-holic as I am.
It was a good day. I even managed to have a nice long talk with Mrs. Walker about Raz and Aaron, the ritual. She nodded knowingly... and then took hair, blood and tissue samples-- just in case.
She said that this way she could find me if anything like this happened again. With the way I live my life-- its probably a good idea.
I ended up going to church this morning- something I haven't done in ages. It felt good though- like being home- like I've finally decided that this is my home.
The sermon was on forgiveness- how anger and grudges could make you a prisoner.
I can vouch for that one.
After services Case took me to a decent restaurant for a brunch buffet. I spent most of the time plowing into the food, he spent most of the time giving me an almost shocked look. I think I was on my third plate when I noticed and looked up at him.
"What?" I asked innocently.
He just shook his head and poured some syrup on my pancakes. "Nothing," he said in an amused tone of voice. "Nothing at all."
By my fifth serving the manager came over to ask if everything was alright. I probably should have stopped there, but it was just too comical watching the manager... watching Case. As I stood and headed for the buffet line Case just shook his head-- the manager was reaching for his calculator.
I had a hard time keeping a straight face. Its good to see Casey smiling though.
It was a rather lazy afternoon-- we spend the day reading the papers, downloading the latest info. Then I decided to search the Boston papers- looking for that article.
I found it.
Her name was JoAnn Johanson-- Jo to her close friends, Hanna to most others. She had been found bludgeoned to death in the entrance to her apartment. It was still an unsolved case, but they were still looking for her estranged boy friend in the hopes he could shed some light on the subject- Aaron.
I showed the article to Case, who just shook his head.
"You just aren't happy with the idea of smooth sailing are you?"
I grinned. "More like I don't like mysteries niggling at me."
"You could ignore them," he suggested.
I know it would make life easier-- but its not my style. I can't ignore something that's wrong-- not until it's been dealt with.
I'm not sure what possessed me, but I suggested something about him distracting me.
He took me up on the offer... I think we surprised each other.
Have I mentioned that dispatch is BORING?
"Hello Citywide, may I help you?"
"No ma'am, I don't think its against the law for a troll to be out walking his dog."
"No, if the dog is making a mess, his owner should clean it up."
"Well ma'am- that isn't a medical emergency- you really should call the Star or sanitation."
"Hello Citywide, may I help you?"
"Ma'am, I told you... this line is for fire and rescue. A dog pooping on the street does not constitute... Yes ma'am, I'll pass you on to my supervisor."
I have to admit there were a few interesting calls- but from the dispatch end, even those were boring. You take the calls, you track the people taking the call. Its paperwork without the paper. I was so bored it wasn't even funny.
I had to keep from taking it out on the callers.
"Hello Citywide, may I help you?
"Ma'am... I don't understand. You need to call out 17 men, three trucks and an ambulance because your cat is stuck in a tree. He'll come down you know... they do that."
"Ma'am- have you ever seen a cat's skeleton in a tree?... Believe me- they come down."
"Yes ma'am, I'll pass you on to my supervisor..."
All day like this.
"Hello Citywide, may I help you?"
"Sir, slow down please, I can't understand you..."
"Yes sir, I speak English-- do you?"
"No sir, I'm not making fun of you... "
"Yes sir, I'll pass you on to my supervisor."
I was actually relieved when the supervisor called me into his office and gave me a "talking to!".
"Miller," he told me. "I know these calls are... not our jurisdiction... but you have to make it sound like you understand and that'll you see to it that the appropriate authority is notified. Telling the woman that her can will come down when its ready may be true, but- its not what they want to hear."
I nodded, but he could tell my sentiments on it.
"Look Miller, we take the calls and pass them on to be handled accordingly. If its not our jurisdiction, we pass it on. No discussion, no attempts to correct the world. I know its not what you're used to- but this is what we do and since we need a medic here to figure things out, and you can't ride- we're stuck together."
I nodded. "But I need to play nice with others."
He nodded. "You got it."
I tried to be pleasant, but it's a lot easier to figure out what you need to do when you're there. On the phone its mostly tone of voice and you usually aren't talking to the person in trouble. Guess I need to work on my phone side manner.
What I really need is to get back out on the streets.
After work last night Casey picked me up and took me out to dinner. It was a nice ending to an otherwise boring day. This morning I had a hard time getting up for another one. The second day was a little easier than the first one.
I think I learned early just how mind numbingly boring some of the calls can get. I had managed to convince myself that they couldn't get any more boring and I was for the most part right. I did get a few "live" calls- calls that required me to talk people through what to do until the medics arrived.
Those calls were few and far between. The rest of the time it was just taking calls and passing on the information.
Still, I guess, it beats staring at an IV drip.
Sometimes-- when you least expect, everything turns upside down. It takes everything you have to get things back where they belong. Then when you think everything is fine and order has been restored... you find out the chaos has just begun.
Tonight I learned another reason I'm really bad at this job. Its one thing to take the calls, keep track of the people doing their job: monitoring; waiting; watching...
Its quite another thing when you dispatch a friend to a call-- and they never make it there. It was a chest pain call. Something simple, yet something we flag 'cause it could be bad... a motormedic call. Ray...
He's in surgery now... I took a cab over to his place and told Gwen. Needless to say, she didn't take the news all that well.
Her question hit me kind of hard. "Why?"
Why do we risk our lives like this?
Why do these things seem to happen when you're least prepared to cope with it?
It takes a while to realize the fact that there is no reason-- just something that happens. She nearly slapped me when I told her that, not that I really blame her. Still, Ray's my partner and-- in some odd sort of way I guess she's my sister-in-law.
I got her down to the cab alright, but then she started having second thoughts. Second thoughts about going, second thoughts about Ray. I took a deep breath and smiled at her.
"He needs you," I told her.
She gave me a look that could have frozen me to my seat if I'd let it-- if I hadn't seen it dozens of times when I'm working on a patient.
I nodded. "Look, I'm not going to candy coat this. Anytime a bike goes down, it's serious. But-- its part of who he is. And if you're having doubts now, that's fine. But this is the reality we face everyday, and another part of it, is him knowing that you're there for him."
"... I don't think I can..." she said softly.
I wasn't sure if she meant then, or-- long term. Like I said, the job is hard on relationships.
I nodded and offered her my hand. "I'll stay with you if you'd like."
She sat there for a long time then nodded. I'm not sure if she'll stay for the long haul... but it's a big step in a relationship. Its when you realize there's a lot more than just being with them-- like being there for them.
Case was at the hospital when we got there. He'd heard Ray'd gone down, knew I'd be there. Ray's pretty messed up right now, but he's going to be all right. I just don't think I can take any more dispatching. I'm better at doing then telling someone else how or what to do.