After several minutes of silence, the radio crackled to life, startling Steve and his partner, John. “612, I’ve got a call for you just around the corner”. John, who’d fallen asleep in a matter of seconds, reached out automatically for the mic, “612, Go ahead.” His voice echoed around the dark parking lot, bouncing off the hills nearby and Steve snickered as he reached out and handed John the appropriate mic. “Aww, Christ, why do they put these things side by side?” He muttered as he grabbed for it, “Ahh, 612, go ahead.” Steve reached up and switched on the overhead light, digging his pen out of his pocket and taking the clipboard.
“612, you’re responding for an elderly woman short of breath, caller states the patient is turning blue. Address details, 1-3-8-2 Talbot Lane, that’s Tango-Alpha-Lima-Bravo-Oscar-Tango Lane. Use the front door for access.”
John groaned, “That’s affirmative, can you confirm, is there a dog at this address?” He un-clicked the mic and growled at Steve, “Yeah, I think I’ve been there for that ol’ woman before, got a dog the size of a Volkswagen, mean too, damn near bit my arm off last time.”
Steve just shrugged his shoulders, John was not the greatest partner to work with and having only 2 years on the road to John’s 25, did not help in the whole ‘getting along’ part. John was washed out, any human left in him went sour years ago.
“We’re just talking with the caller now…(pause)…that’s affirmative, 612, we’re instructing the caller to place the dog in another room now.”
“10-4, you can count us mobile to scene.” John growled into the mic. As he hooked the mic back on its holder, he looked over at Steve, “Holy crap, Stever, don’t talk much do ya? Guess I wouldn’t say much if I had your rep either.” Steve looked down and slowly shook his head back and forth, as he reached for the map book. In his short career he’d gained the reputation of “Black Cloud”, if things were to go very south on a call, you could bet Steve was on that call.
“Map book!?” John whooped, “Map book eh, rookie? Lemme tell ya, the last time I needed a map book, Jesus was a baby.” He snickered, “You know Jesus don’t ‘cha Stever? You and he gotta be like that.” He held up his hand with his index and middle finger pressed together. Steve looked at him and rolled his eyes, tossing the map book back on the floor and shaking his head again, this guy was exhausting!
There was a huge hand on his shoulder then, shaking him, “Well, buddy, ya can’t win em all, I tell ya…” John snickered taking his hand back and putting the vehicle in gear, he began to drive out of the parking lot, “after a few years, you’ll get used to it, or you’ll leave. Kids come and go these days, can’t take it anymore, too soft y’know, Mommies caterin’ to em’, hell, you know, you can’t even yell at em’ anymore? Nope, got policies, policies to protect the new kids….we never needed policies, we stood up for our own.” He paused, looking for traffic as he eased the vehicle out into the darkened street.
Steve stared out the window, internally groaning and hoping that the address was literally around the next corner. He glanced at his watch, it was early in the shift yet, still another 5 hours to go, he wasn’t sure he could take listening to this joker for the entire night. His coworkers had it right, avoid at all costs, any shifts that they may schedule you for with John but he hadn’t listened, nope, he needed the money, he enjoyed what he did and it had this odd way of calming him. A Black Cloud may follow him, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. He smiled to himself.
Meanwhile, John was still going on about something, “….what an asshole, y’know. I’d never call anyone that really, especially an Old Lady but this one, if I remember her right, this is the one. We ain’t no fricken caterin’ service, short of breath my ass, she’s wakin’ people up in the middle of the night, orderin’ them around, screamin’ and jus torturin’ those people that live with her. They’re scared a’ her y’know? I’d never put up with that bull crap, I’da taken a bat to her a long time ago. She’s nuthin’ a good pillow can’t fix.” He chuckled to himself. Steve was intrigued, what was this guy talking about? “W-What? Sorry, who?” He asked.
“Holy hell!! It talks!!!, Jesus buddy, you almost had me jump outta my skin there. Weren’t cha’ listenin? This ol’ bag we’re goin fer’, she’s a tyrant, has ever’one in that house under her finger, she sneezes they jump…..thinks she can do that to us too, y’know. Don’t let her get to ya, one sign a’ weakness kid and she’ll eat cha up. That dog? The Volkswagen monster?, It’s a rottie y’know, answers only to her, thing tried to tear my arm off last time cause she told it to, wad’nt a damn thing I could do, stupid Managers took her side. Got me a scar to prove it.” He gestured with his right arm. “Partner I had that night, he was a real pussy, said he didn’t hear her exactly tell the dog to bite me. I coulda’ had that monster put down, but nooooo, no one wanted to go against her. You know, I was jes’ helpin’ her? That’s the thanks I got fer’ bein’ good? Doin’ my job?”
They pulled onto a narrow,tree-lined court in an older neighbourhood. All was dark except for one house at the very end of the street.
“Yeah, that’s it alright, that’s the place……that’s a night I’ll never fer’get.” Steve wondered if that was what turned this guy sour. He’d been warned about the things that could happen on this job, injuries, people said it like it was the plague, you had to be careful at all times because the one thing this job was good for was injuries. “So she actually got the dog to bite you?” He asked incredulous.
“Yup. Don’t you ever go against yer partner Stever, partners gotta back each other up, got it?” Steve nodded. “She fell down the stairs that night, always after midnight this one, I think it’s ’cause she gets a kick out of makin’ her family run around like roaches. I don’t think she actually fell y’know, musta’ laid down at the bottom of those stairs and started hollerin’. Ol’ woman like that woulda broke her neck in that fall – you’ll see the stairs when we get in there.” He sighed, “I was jes’ tryin’ ta help, y’know, doin’ my job….now I can’t even straighten these fingers out completely anymore, damage is permanent.” Steve saw a look in John’s eyes, regret?, remorse?, sadness?, something, he wasn’t really sure but in that moment he really felt for the old guy, this was likely what caused all this anger at the world, and no, it wasn’t fair.
“An’ here, she’s still alive, torturin’ people. She wad’nt old really when this happened to me, y’know?” He put the vehicle in park and held up his right hand attempting to straighten his fingers, they stayed in a half curl, his hand, backlit, looked clawed like something out of a horror movie. “Couldna’ been more than say, 55? Now she’s like a hundred…” He giggled, “She wad’nt hurt that night, I checked, I know my job, but we were bein’ cautious y’know, puttin’ her on a board an’ stuff. I went to move her and she screamed like the devil his self, looked at me with hate in her eyes, like the evil eh?” John’s eyes glossed over, he was lost in another time, “Can still hear her, ‘Get em, Chance, Get em’. Big monster came over, clamped onto my arm and shook me – Shook Me! Like a rag doll! My arm came outta its socket, blood pourin’ off a’ my hand. Me screamin’ and no one doin’ a damn thing. My partner ran out the door to call fer help. I managed to git’ my feet up under me and kick it in the belly hard as I could before I passed out.” Steve sat in stunned silence, he’d heard horror stories but this, this was coming from the horse’s mouth. “My partner told me she moved outta the way right quick after the dog gotta’ holda’ me. There was never ana’thin’ wrong with her, ‘cep in her head maybe. You be careful in there Stever, she’s the devil, don’t let her frail ol’ body fool ya…..asshole to the core.”
Steve got out of the truck as John told the dispatcher they were on scene. They unloaded their equipment and headed for the house in silence, at the door, Steve turned and said to John, “I can do this alone if you’d prefer….” John still on the stairs, looked up at him. He smiled sadly at the offer and said, “Naw, kid, I can’t let ya go in there alone. I got yer’ back, you gotta have mine, K?” Steve smiled reassuringly at him, “No worries.”
A young man met them at the door and ushered them into the adjoining room, Steve scanned the scene, there were people rushing around all over this house, women packing a bag, someone looking for insurance information, another one running to get a glass of water, John was right, they were scurrying like roaches and all afraid, there was this sense of urgency. Off in the distance he could hear a dog growling menacingly – locked up. He entered the livingroom. On a rather large throne looking chair sat this gray-haired, tiny frail looking woman, holding a cane, huffing and puffing. An open container suddenly appeared before him and he looked inside, no real medications, just vitamin containers. Red flags went up. He approached the old woman, got down on one knee in front of her and tried to ask her a question, she looked at him annoyed, then took her hand and pushed his face away from her. Steve was taken aback. He’d never had a patient lay a hand on him. He stood up and announced to the room, “Well, she can’t talk to tell us what’s wrong, so we’re going to the hospital, she needs more advanced help.” John looked at him stunned, he knew that she was just playing with them, why would this kid go and do this after hearing his story?
Steve was wise, he got her family to assist her to the stretcher, never once laying a hand on her as she swatted at them and hit them repeatedly with her cane. As they loaded her into the truck, John grabbed Steve roughly by the collar and hissed, “Ya think she’s not foolin’ kid? Be careful in there, ya’ don’t need a sexual assault complaint, an’ take that cane away from her, she’ll use it on ya. Yer a braver man than I, Stever. Good luck.”
As the vehicle pulled back onto the street, Steve took his place in the chair behind the head of the stretcher so the woman could not see him. He reached for the cane as the old woman huffed and puffed, half sitting up, she began to struggle with him for the cane; she managed to turn and hit him hard in the left shoulder, just missing his head. Steve began to smile. This was the end.
He felt a presence take hold of him and he reached out once again for the cane as the old woman twisted on the stretcher to look at him, forgetting about her scripted huffing and puffing. Their eyes met and locked, Steve smiled widely at her as she started to raise the cane again, he grabbed it with a death lock and ripped it from her hands. She was stunned. His right hand was reaching into the cupboard by his knee taking a long sheet out. In one quick movement, he half stood, reached over and wrapped the sheet around her shoulders, pulling her backward and securing her tightly to the stretcher as he sat back into his chair. She began to struggle and scream.
“What the hell? Stever, you okay back there?” John yelled through the small window between the cab and the back of the truck.
“Uh, yeah, Uh, shit, I think she’s seizing here, for real!” Steve shouted with feigned shock in his voice.
“What!?” Came the reply, “Holy crap, fer real? Holy shit, Kid, maybe the witch dies tonight! Holy shit, I’ll let them know.” John sounded more excited and alive in those few seconds than Steve had ever heard.
Steve smiled widely, “Ya’ better call the hospital John, Shit, call them and let them know!!”
Steve quickly reached under his seat to unlock the swivel so he could block the view through the window…..he’d done this so many times. He knotted the sheet to hold her down and immobilize her as she screamed and screamed kicking her feet wildly. Steve then put his face near her ear and whispered coldly, “Enough, you’ve done enough. No more torturing the innocent. It ends now.” Her eyes widened in disbelief as she struggled to turn her head to see him. He quickly pulled the pillow from under her head and placed it over her face, pushing down. Her cries muffled sounded more like moans, within a few minutes the struggles stopped and her body went flaccid.
“Awww, Crap, John….John, I think she’s coding! Awww, Shit man, she’s really coding!” He screamed in the back. John switched on the lights and the sirens began to wail as they picked up speed.
He kept his hands pressed on the pillow and he felt an overwhelming sense of calm flood through his body. It was like warm water running through his veins. He closed his eyes and lifted his face to the ceiling revelling in the sensation, breathing it in. It was over, she would never hurt another person, no more ‘Chance’ harm. Black Cloud strikes again. He giggled to himself at that thought. He removed the pillow and placed it back under her head, he untied the sheet and folded it nicely, placing it back in the cupboard. Her eyes were staring straight up, dull, lifeless. He patted her forehead and went about taking out his resuscitation equipment – he had no intention to use any of it, but the scene had to look good.
Steve had always been a sucker for a good ending.