Second Shifts

The A shift at station 51 were gathered around the table, enjoying a cold breakfast. It had been warm an hour ago, before they'd been toned out. No one was complaining about it, even though they'd been called out twenty minutes before the end of their shift -- the house fire had been small, easily contained, and little damage had been done.

The occupants of the house had all been outside, waiting when the engine and squad had pulled up. The family's smoke alarm had gone off with plenty of time for the kids, who'd been watching cartoons, to hurry in to make sure their parents were awakened. By the time the fire had been put out, the neighbors had brought out robes, blankets, coffee, and donuts for the only temporarily put-out family. All in all, a relatively minor trauma -- the kitchen would need repair, but the house was safe.

Johnny had taken a moment to play medic for the six year-old's doll, who had lost a shoe on the way out, and thus suffered a scrape on her foot. Chet had snickered, until the girl turned to him and asked if he would kiss the doll and make it feel better.

Now they were finishing off breakfast, cheerfully letting B Shift clean up after and talking about their plans for the day off.

"I don't even have to make plans," Captain Stanley said, acting more upset than he truly sounded. "My wife will have a list this long," he held out his hands. "Chores she wants me to do around the house. I ask you, what if I wanted to actually take the day off on my day off?"

The others chuckled, but Roy just nodded. "I know what you mean. I think I'll be able to get out of mine, though. My daughter's home from school today with a sore throat, and she always likes me to read to her when she's sick." He grinned, triumphantly. "I'll be busy with her, I won't have time to fix anything other than sandwiches."

"Yeah, and it isn't like Joann can complain," Johnny pointed out. "You have to have your priorities."


The others grinned. "Hey, Johnny," Marco asked. "You still seeing Jessica today?"

"Not today," Johnny shook his head with a rueful expression. "This Sunday, though, we're taking a drive up the coast." His eyes sparkled.

"You've been seeing this chick for what, three months now?" Chet put in. "Is this some kind record?"

Johnny just threw a wadded up napkin at him. "And what about you? You spending the day with a beautiful woman or staying home and scrubbing the bathroom floor?"

"Actually, I'm spending the day with my cousin, Margie. She's visiting to check out UCLA -- I promised her parents I'd show her around."

"Chaperone, you mean," Mike said.

Chet nodded. "But she's a good kid, at least I don't have to worry about her sneaking off and getting into trouble. Not until she's in school, at least," he added.

"Kids'll do that." Captain Stanley agreed.

"Don't remind me," Roy said.

"Relax, you've got years to worry about it, before yours are old enough to give you grey hair."

"Thanks, Captain," Roy said, dubiously.

"Don't mention it," the captain grinned.

Mike waved to Marco after he dropped the other man off at a bus stop. Marco had lent his car to a younger brother, and was heading downtown today, the opposite direction from which Mike was headed. Mike had offered to drive him, but had been relieved when Marco insisted the bus would be fine. Mike wanted to get home and relax, and driving across LA wasn't his ideal method of relaxing.

It took him half an hour to reach the huge house where he lived, and it wasn't until he pulled into the driveway that he wondered if it was his turn to stop at the grocery store. Oh well, he figured, I'll found out soon enough. If anyone notices....

He parked behind Carrie's van, then headed up the stone walkway to the front door. Someone needed to chop the weeds again, he noticed. Probably after someone fixed the mower. 'Maybe we'll just get David's kid to do it again,' he thought, remembering the twelve year-old down the street who was always happy to earn couple dollars. His dad didn't even mind too much the sort of people he worked for, as long as he didn't stay any longer than necessary. Mike brushed the tattered rug away from the front door where it had blown up again, and headed inside.

"Hey, Michael," Dos nodded at him.

"Hey Dos. How's it going?"

The other man nodded, dazedly. He'd no doubt been sitting in the bean bag chair in the front room all night, observing the secrets of the cosmos -- and late night television. There was a crumpled bag of chips at his feet, and an empty can lying on its side on top of a newspaper. Probably today's -- Mike was glad he'd read the paper at the station. "Hey, Marcia wants to talk to you, man," Dos said suddenly, though not in a clear tone.

"Thanks," Mike nodded, and went further into the house. Marcia was new to the commune, but so far she was proving to be one of the grooviest. She had a job, for one thing, and didn't rag on Mike for having an establishment haircut. She could even be relied upon to wash dishes, though they'd learned fast enough not to ask her to cook. He found Stephanie in the kitchen, and asked her where Marcia was.

"Out back, I think. Rudy's upstairs, though, and man is he ever on about his truck."

Mike groaned. He'd dented the rear fender of Rudy's truck two weeks ago, and had promised to get it fixed. He hadn't, naturally. He grabbed a hostess fruit pie from the counter, and headed for the back door. Maybe he and Marcia could hide out in the garage behind the house, and Rudy would forget all about his truck for another two weeks.

Marco got off the bus much earlier than he'd lead Mike to believe. It wasn't that he thought Mike would care, or even ask about his plans for the day, but there was no point in taking chances. Besides, it wasn't any of Mike's business what he was doing.

He grinned as he headed up to the Alpine Gardens apartments. They resembled neither the alpines, nor gardens, but the inside lobby was clean, if not recently redecorated. Marco paid it little mind as he adjusted his shirt, and gave himself a once-over in the elevator's shiny doors. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

He was whistling as he rode the elevator up to the fourth floor. Too late, he realised he should have stopped for flowers or something. Maria hadn't been too happy with him last time he'd seen her. No idea what she'd been going on about, but she'd been frowning and saying something in a low, stern voice. He hadn't been paying any attention, but now he wished he'd at least remembered in time to make it up to her.

Shrugging, he figured that stopping by unannounced would be present enough. He rang the bell. He heard her shouting through the door, asking who it was. "Marco!" he shouted back, cheerfully.

There was silence for a few moments, then the door was being unlocked -- but not unchained. She glared up at him through the doorway. He opened his mouth to say how pretty she looked today, even though she really looked furious. Before he could, she let him have it.

He didn't even try to follow everything she was saying. It was like being yelled at by his momma -- most of what she said was just for effect and had nothing to do with what she was really mad about. Marco looked attentive, however, knowing that if he didn't the yelling would only get worse. Nor did he try to interrupt, until he heard her say something about responsibility.

Then he blinked. "Qué?"

Then more of her words sunk in. "El padre" and "una falta" then a spate of curse words he hadn't heard since his father had stopped in one day when Marco was a teenager, after being gone for a year.

He turned and ran for the elevator. He only hoped she hadn't gotten a lawyer, like the last woman who'd accidentally got pregnant. Why they went off on him after they didn't take measures to protect themselves, he didn't understand. He'd learned the second time some woman blamed him for her baby, that pointing that out was useless. The fourth time, he'd learned to simply walk away and not look back.

As he headed for the street, though, he brightened up. Now he could go see Candy!

Whistling again, he made his way down the block.

Hank Stanley stood in his living room, staring at the list his wife had left him. She was out all day, the note said, and would he please fend for himself for lunch and dinner. There was a casserole in the fridge, and she expected the entire list of chores to be completed by the time she returned, that night.

He spent a few minutes staring at the list, wondering which one he actually had to do to avoid getting into trouble. Finally he picked the one that seemed to have been on his lists the longest, and headed for the garage.

By one o'clock, he'd had a beer, watched some TV, and piddled around with the dryer she'd been after him to fix for the last two weeks. He couldn't find anything wrong with it, so it was a safe bet he couldn't fix it. He was prepared to spend the day tinkering with it, when he remembered what day it was. Leaving the dryer, he grabbed an old, beaten case from behind the boxes and left.

Joe's Bar was smoky, even at 2 in the afternoon. Hank made his way past the few day-time drinkers and went to the back of the room. Robert, Scoggins, and Melhame were already there and it looked like they'd been drinking since noon.

"Damn, am I late again?" Hank set his case down and looked around for the beer pitcher. Spotting it, he then looked for a glass. He had to flag down Amy, the waitress, but soon he was set. The others started moving slowly, gathering equipment and setting up. Hank swallowed half of his beer then unpacked his case.

"Hey, man, we're gonna cram down agan in chiy," Scoggins said from where he was trying to knock over Robert's drums.

"Yeah, ok," Melhame said as he separated the microphone wires. "Hank, you forget your strings?"

Hank groaned, then slapped the side-pocket of his guitar case. "Nope! I got 'em right here." Last time they'd played, he'd snapped three strings. Apparently he'd gone out the next day to buy more, because there they were, still in the store's bag. He sat down to begin restringing his ax.

"Hey, you guys hear about Stufe?" Robert asked. "Got busted, over at Diner's."

"Oh, man, that's rough. Are they gonna find another keyman?" Hank asked. Stufe was another band's keyboardist, and he was arguably one of the best to hit the tiny bars in this part of town. Which was to say, not very, but at least he could play harmony.

"Dunno, man. Hear they might be bustin' up." Robert gave up balancing the cymbal, and left it lying on the ground. "Which means, we are now the primo rock group of Joe's Bar. We might get paid, now."

"Tha' would be so far out." Scoggins said, almost clearly, before he lapsed into gibberish again.

"Ya think we'll get a record contract? Maybe we should invite the scouts, again," Hank asked. And the other three were soon distracted as well, talking about their future and trying to get their gear together well enough to actually play.

"We need a new name," Robert said. "How about "The Flaming Lips"?" The others hit him with peanuts and coasters.

Chet breathed a sigh of relief, as he headed out of town. Much as he loved LA and his work as a fireman, nothing compared to this. He drove for an hour, heading farther away from the smog and traffic. Soon he was pulling onto a tiny dirt road, unmarked and little-used.

When he parked at the bottom of a hill, he could see several of the monks already at work in the gardens. Some were busy repainting the outside of the main building, as well. Chet returned several waves as he walked up.

"Brother Malcolm!" he exclaimed, seeing one unexpected face out-of-doors. "You're feeling better?" The two men exchanged a warm embrace.

"Yes, Brother Thomas released me from the infirmary this morning. I'm feeling much recovered -- though the others won't let me work too hard, just yet." He grinned, and held up the tray of lemonade he'd been bringing out. "And how are you, Brother Chester?"

"Wonderful. I must go inside and see Father Ezekiel, but I hope to see you later."

"Of course," Brother Malcolm nodded, and moved away to deliver his refreshments. Brother Chester went towards the Abbot's office, stopping only long enough at his own cell, to change his clothes.

Roy spent a quiet morning with his daughter. He read to her, and left her to play while he made lunch. Afterwards he took a stab at cleaning the kitchen -- washes dishes and sweeping the floor. It needed more, but he didn't feel like doing any more. He took a look at the living room, and had just started to gather some of the old magazines and newspapers lying around when Joann came home.

Joanne - his first wife - was long gone. She'd fallen in love with a poll taker and was now somewhere in the mid-west protesting federal subsidies. At least, that was what the kids said whenever they'd come back from visiting. Roy had never understood the odd looks on their faces when they said it, though. He didn't understand it. Why anyone cared about the government paying farmers...even if they did have odd symbols cut in the fields....

His second wife Joann smiled as he saw him. "How's our lil punkin?" she asked. A half-lit cigarette dangled from her fingers, as she reached out for Roy's shoulder to balance herself while she tugged at the strap of her shoe. She'd adapted very well to being a mother, Roy thought. She hadn't forgotten either of the kids' names in weeks.

"She's fine, she was asleep a little while ago."

Joann grinned, and smacked bright-pink painted lips. "Wonderful! I'll just pop in a see her." She let go of Roy and went down the hall. Roy watched her go, enjoying the way her tight, red-vinyl mini-skirt inched up her hips as she moved. Maybe, he thought, lil punkin can sleep some more, and we can get it on. He followed Joann down the hall.

After dinner Roy got ready to leave again. Joann was following him around the house as he looked for his keys, then his jacket, then his sneakers. "And don't be touching nobody, Roy DeSoto," she said, as if she didn't warn him the very same way every night. "But bring home at least fifty dollars. I got my eye on this little jacket, down at Mayer's. It costs $200 and I've only got one-fifty." She gave him a small slap on the back. "So you bring back fifty, hear me?"

"I hear you, Joann." He rolled his eyes. Another jacket which she'd wear once, then put in the closet and forget about. Maybe he'd pack up everything in the back-half of the closet and sell them. She'd never notice, and if she did she'd just go out and buy more.

"And don't be waking me up when you get home. Unless you're home before one, then you can." She grinned.

"OK." Roy leaned over and gave his wife a kiss. "I'll see you."

He gave his kids a kiss goodnight, and reminded them to obey their mom while he was gone. Then he left, heading out to his second job.

It was nearly eight o'clock by the time he pulled up behind Roadster's Club. He parked in the back of the lot, well away from the building. Party-goers, when they felt like being sick all over the pavement, usually didn't make it much past the door. Alternately, when they were still in a partying mood, they would gather on whatever vehicle was closest, and carry on. It didn't happen as often at Roadster's as it had at The Rusted Nail, but Roy didn't believe in taking chances. He liked keeping his car one in, clean, piece.

He went inside and waved to Tony, the head bouncer. Tony nodded and continued towards the manager's office. Roy hoped that didn't mean there was already trouble. It wouldn't bode well for the night, if so. It was surprising, he reflected as he headed towards the dressing rooms, that even a lady's club would have so much trouble.

"Hey, Roy," he was greeted as he stepped inside the common dressing room.

Roy smiled. "Hey, Craig. I saw Tony with a mean look on his face. It is rowdy, already?"

"No." The other moonlighting paramedic shook his head. "I believe it is quiet, tonight. Hopefully, not for long," he added with a small smile.

Roy laughed, then began to get changed. He considered briefly which outfit to wear, keeping in mind he needed $50 over and above what he wanted to keep for himself. The tuxedo, then. That was always good for healthy tips. It always drove the woman wild when he got down to nothing but briefs and the bow-tie.

Johnny flipped through the morning paper, only absently scanning the front and sports pages. Not much happening there that interested him. The other sections he'd look at later, in more detail, after he gotten his coffee. He glanced up and smiled, as said coffee was placed in front of him.

"Thanks, Janice."

"You're welcome, Mr. Gage. Can I get you anything else?"

He gave her a wide smile. Janice was a lovely woman, middle-aged and happily married, and one of the most competent people he'd ever met. "I'm sure you already have everything well in hand, Janice. I'll need my usual half-hour to finish the paper and check yesterday's messages before you bring in the mail and memos."

She nodded, smiling. "Of course, Mr. Gage." She left, then, pulling the double doors closed behind her.

Johnny settled back in his chair and propped his feet up on his desk. The huge, cherry wood desk was mostly clear of clutter -- but only because he hadn't gotten anything out of his inbox, or allowed Janice to bring anything in yet. Half an hour he gave himself every morning he came into the office, to sit back and relax, and catch up on the world, before getting caught up on his own small part of it.

Sort of small. JG Enterprises was spread out over fourteen states, and they were thinking about setting up offices in Paris or Switzerland. Donald, his vice president, wanted to go into Baghdad, but Johnny had a hunch it wouldn't work out. Hong Kong, maybe, if they wanted to expand to other than Europe.

But he set such thoughts aside for the moment, and caught up on the business page. Dow Jones was looking bad, the recession was hitting full force. Fortunately JG Enterprises had enough diversified holdings that they'd remain above the ten million dollar mark for the rest of the fiscal year. Profits would be down, but only a little.

Johnny made himself a note to double-check the charitable donations for the current quarter, and make sure that, while the amounts would by necessity have gone down, the LA County Widows and Orphans fund would still receive its usual share. Maybe, while he was at it, he'd buy a few stations new engines....