“I didn’t call no ambulance.” The guy is short, surly and in no mood to talk. He grimaces, leans his balding head against the door frame. He squints his eyes as if his head hurts.
“We got a 911 call at this address for an unconscious person. Is it possible that someone else called? Someone at home with you, maybe?”
“Nobody here but me. I’m house sitting for my brother.”
So who the hell called the big white taxi?
“So you haven’t seen any unconscious males just lying around unclaimed, huh? Cause we’re looking for an unconscious male,” I grin, trying to make a joke of it. He doesn’t share my puckish sense of humor.
“I already told you I didn’t call no Goddamned ambulance. Now leave me the hell alone.”
“My apologies, Sir. Dispatcher probably garbled the address. Sorry to have disturbed you.” By way of reply, the guy slams the door in my face.
Nice to have met you too, Asshole.
“Nice fella,” Rookie Partner observes wryly as we trudge back to the rig.
“Yeah, he’s a real sweetheart. We probably interrupted his daily Bible study.”
“So what now?” RP asks as she climbs back into the rig. She puts on her seat belt, checks the side mirrors, turns off the emergency lights – first the primaries, then the light bar, then the auxiliary strobes mounted in the grill. Then she checks the siren, clicks the selector from Hands-Free to PA and back. I watch, fascinated by her ritual.
“We get on the radio and ask for an address confirmation,” I sigh, wondering if it’s OCD or her own way of dealing with uncertainty and stress – the ambulance console as Worry Stone. “While you’re at it, see if they got a call back number.”
“Shouldn’t we keep looking?” she asks hopefully. RP is stalling. She doesn’t want to talk to dispatch. I sigh and roll my eyes.
“Why, so we can continue to take the fucking scenic tour of the neighborhood with our lights and sirens blaring? This is the third time we’ve been down this street. The house is clearly marked. We’re at the address we were given.” It comes out harsher than I intended it, and Rookie Partner takes it as a rebuke.
“I’m sorry I read the map wrong, but I just – ”
“RP. Chill. You got us here. Problem is, ‘here’ is evidently the wrong place. So get Satan’s Minion on the radio and find out where we need to go.” She still looks reluctant. “She can’t cook you and eat you, RP. The only reason she’s working in dispatch is because she suffered a traumatic brain injury and can no longer tie her shoes or function in normal society. She’s too ugly and rude to be a Wal Mart greeter, so dispatch is the only place she can go.”
“Okay,” she grins, picks up the radio mike. “Dispatch, A-3. Uhhh, no patient found at this location. Can you give us the address again?”
“Stand by, A-3!” crackles the peeved reply. Satan’s Minion sounds disturbed.
She has a pebble stuck in her hoof. Got her tail stuck under the chair or something.
“Uhhh dispatch, how about a call-back number?” RP tries again. “Can you get the caller on the line again?”
He request is met with a silence that speaks volumes.
Right about now, she’s performing an incantation, asking Satan to condemn our souls to an eternity of hellfire and torment. Or a dialysis transfer. Whichever.
“A-3…” the radio crackles. We wait expectantly. And wait. Wait some more. Still waiting…
Satan is asking for a blood sacrifice to commit that many demons to hunt us down. Either that, or she has become enraptured by the booger she just excavated from her nose and forgotten that she’s supposed to be doing something. You know, she’d be a much more effective minion if her IQ rose above room temperature…
“… A-3, the 911 call taker states that the call originated from that address. It was a child calling, saying that his uncle had passed out.”
Hrmmm. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Didn’t the guy say he was alone?
Rookie Partner looks at me expectantly, the mike still clutched in her fist. I mouth the words “PD” to her.
“Dispatch, contact Podunk Poleece and ask them to send a unit to this location, please.”
“Ten-four,” comes the terse reply.
“Thank you so much, Dispatch!” RP replies, ever so sweetly.
Brave girl. I’m going to miss her when the demons take her.
We settle back and wait for Podunk PD to arrive, watching the house. I can’t figure out why the guy would lie to us, but something does not fit. RP clicks the console master switch on and off absently. Click-click. Click-click. Click-click. Click-click. Cli–
“If you don’t stop that right now, I’m going to break all your fingers. Slowly, lovingly. One by one. I’m going to giggle like a fucking maniac when I do it, I swear.”
“Oh. Sorry. That bothers you?”
Before I can reply, a Podunk PD cruiser pulls up behind us and Scott Barton steps out. He works full time at Podunk Parish Sheriff’s Office and picks up the occasional overtime shift at the local PD.
He saunters up to RP’s side of the rig and motions her to roll down the window.
“What’s up, Home Skillet?”
“Funny call, Scott. 911 hands off a call from a kid, saying his uncle was unconscious. We get here, the guy says nobody called and pretty much slammed the door in our face. Thing is, he said he was alone. Something ain’t right.”
“Huh,” Scott frowns skeptically. “You sure about the address?”
“Yep,” I grin. “Seven-oh-sits Podunk Loop. This is the place.” I tease Scott because he can’t pronounce the letter “x.” He gives me the finger in reply.
“We’re just being etstra careful,” RP chimes in, all wide-eyed and innocent. Scott shoots her a dirty look.
“Do yourself a favor, kid. Don’t emulate this character.”
I blow Scott a kiss in reply. He sighs.
“All right, let’s go talk to this feller and see what’s up.” At that, he strides up to the house and knocks purposefully on the door. We follow a short distance behind.
“Yeah, what the fuck do you want?” the guy snaps as he opens the door. He stops short as he sees Scott standing there on his doorstep, right hand resting casually on his duty belt, just forward of his holster.
“Etscuse me? ‘What the fuck do you want?’ Is that how you answer your door?” Before the guy can reply, Scott continues. “I’ll tell you edzackly what I want. We got a 911 call from this address from a scared kid, said his uncle was in trouble. I intend to inspect this residence, and I want to talk to this kid. Step aside.”
Scott Barton may have a speech impediment, but he can make himself understood in ways beyond the power of mere words. Wisely, the guy steps aside and motions Scott in. We follow close behind, before the guy can slam the door in our faces again. He glares at us as we walk past, and I notice a small hematoma on the crown of his head, right above his hairline.
There is a young boy, perhaps eight years old, in the living room. Startled, he looks up from the television as Scott walks in.
“Howdy son!” Scott greets him cheerfully. He has the remarkable gift of being able to shift from menacing brute to non-threatening teddy bear in an instant. The kid smiles shyly back at him.
“You call for an ambulance, son?” The kid looks toward the short guy nervously, looks back at Scott.
“It was a false alarm,” Short Guy breaks in. “He just got -” he stops short, frozen by the look in Scott’s eyes and his left arm, finger extended and pointing at the guy’s face.
“Shush.” Scott turns his attention back to the kid and nods encouragingly. The kid swallows and smiles nervously.
“Uh, yessir. He… he… fell. In the bathroom. I was scared.”
“That true?” Scott asks Short Guy.
“Yeah, it’s true. I… uh, slipped in the bathroom. Cracked my head on the vanity. He heard me fall, and panicked.” The guy rubs the knot on his head for emphasis, looking embarrassed.
“And your name is?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Short. Short Guy. That’s my nephew, Jeremy. Pleasetameetcha…” he steps forward with his hand extended and an apologetic grin on his face. Scott just raises an eyebrow and looks at the hand. The guy’s grin fades and he drops his hand. Clears his throat. Fidgets.
“You live here, Mr. Guy?”
“Uuhhh, no. Not really. I’m babysitting my nephew over here while his parents are out of town. I’m from Quaint Little Hamlet.”
“Uh huh,” Scott muses, lets the silence hang in the air a little bit. Short Guy clears his throat and absently scratches at his crotch. “Tell ya what,” Scott suggests. “Why don’t you show me some identification, and show me the bathroom where you fell.”
The guy nods, eager to please, digs his wallet out of his hip pocket and heads down the hall, pointing the way. Scott gives me The Eye as he follows Short Guy to the back of the house, trailing well behind and peeking his head into open doorways as he goes.
“So Jeremy,” I grin at the kid, sitting next to him on the couch. “Whatcha watching?”
“Nickelodeon,” he grins back, picking up the remote and un-muting the television. “Super Sloppy Double Dare.”
“One of my favorite shows,” I wink. “I like it so much I took a job in real life that allows me to get slimed on a daily basis.”
“Really?” he gasps, then realizes I’m putting him on. Rookie Partner chuckles appreciatively.
“What’s your name?” Jeremy asks RP. She answers, extending a hand. Jeremy shakes it and blushes. Leans over and whispers to me, “She’s pretty.” RP hears him and answers with a blush of her own.
I turn and look back at RP appraisingly. “Yeah, I suppose she is,” I agree. “But don’t fall for it, kid. First they hook you with their looks, and next thing you know they’re nagging you because you’re hogging the remote and they never get to watch Strawberry Shortcake. Pretty soon you’ll be breaking camping dates with your buddies, just so you and her can spend some “us time” decorating Barbie’s Malibu Dream House. My advice is to stay a bachelor.”
Jeremy giggles, and RP sticks out her tongue at both of us.
“So Jeremy, when your uncle cracked his noggin, it was scary, huh?”
“Yeah, it was!” he nods eagerly. “But I called 911 right away, just like you taught us in school!”
“I thought I recognized you!” I grin at him. “The natural-born life savers always stand out from the crowd.” He beams back at me.
“Is that all that happened, Jeremy?” asks RP. He flashes a guilty look, almost as if he is making up his mind whether to tell us something, but says nothing.
“He didn’t hurt you, did he?” I ask, watching closely for his reaction. Jeremy just shakes his head emphatically.
“No Sir,” he denies. “I just heard him fall, and when I pushed the door open, I saw him on the floor. And so I called 911, but by the time you got here, he had already wakeded up, and he told me not to say nuthin‘. Honest!”
“Why did he ask you not to say anything?”
“Cuz he said he was embarrassed! So I promised not to say nuthin’. Don’t tell him I told you.” The last line was delivered in a stage whisper as Scott and Short Guy walked back into the living room.
“Well, I’m satisfied. Nothing else to see here,” Scott announces as he looks at me, one eyebrow raised questioningly. I shake my head imperceptibly in reply. Nope, nothing here either.
“Mr. Guy, do you want these people to look at that knot on your head? You did take a pretty hard rap on the skull.”
“No, nooo,” Short Guy brushes it off, pooh-poohing the thought. “I’ve been hit a lot harder than this.” He scratches his groin again, plucks at the fabric of his shorts and grimaces a bit. “Thanks for coming so quick, though. Sorry to have bothered you with all this.” He extends a hand. The same hand he’s been scratching his nuts with.
What the hell, I’m wearing gloves.
I shake his hand and make the de rigeur comments about preferring to be called and not needed, than needed and not called. Short Guy ushers us to the door, thanking us all the while, and promptly shuts the door on us, leaving us all scratching our heads on the front porch.
“Well. That was interesting.” Scott observes. “Bullshit, but interesting.”
“You get the feeling we didn’t get the whole story?” I ask him.
“Yep. But whatever it was, prob’ly wasn’t nothing illegal.” Scott stretches, yawns. “Well, if y’all will etscuse me, I’m gonna go do some building chets, and then find me a quiet shady spot to park.”
“Go protect and serve, Officer,” I tell him teasingly. “Thanks so much for your assistance.” Scott flips me the bird again, tips his hat to RP, and strolls to his cruiser. RP and I climb back into the rig, and we’re just about to drive away when a little hand slaps my window, scaring me silly.
“Jaysus Kee–rist!” I gasp. “Don’t scare me like that, Jeremy!” He is perched on my running board, holding on to the mirror mount. His other hand is holding something behind his back. He looks back toward the house, turns his attention back to me and thrusts something into my hand.
“He was using this,” Jeremy whispers conspiratorially. I look at what he has handed me – a large tube of nitroglycerin paste. “It’s my Dad’s,” Jeremy offers. “Mom got him some from the hospital where she works. Uncle Short was looking for some medicine, but I don’t think it was the right kind.”
“Why does your Dad take it?” I ask, fascinated.
Now, the truth comes out.
“His chest hurts sometimes,” Jeremy explains. “He’s a lot older than Mom. His chest hurts, and Mom smears some of this stuff on it and the hurt goes away.”
“So why did your uncle use it?”
“His privates itch. He gots a rash and everything.”
Oh. My. God.
“Wait a minute,” I tell him, struggling to suppress the belly laugh building inside me. RP has her head on the steering wheel. She’s slapping the dash and making strangling noises. “You mean to tell me he glopped out a handful of this ointment, and slathered it all over his privates?”
“Uh huh. He had it on his hands, and on the rash all around his privates and on his… his… talleywhacker. I wiped it off with a towel. I did good, huh?”
I’m sure Jeremy thought we had both lost our minds as we hooted, slapped our thighs and tried not to pee our pants. RP was leaning back in her seat, arms wrapped around her chest and tears streaming down her face. Her mouth worked, but no sounds escaped. I try to suppress the mental image of this idiot massaging nitroglycerin ointment all over his junk and then passing out when his blood pressure bottomed out.
God, a double handful of nitro paste, rubbed all over the most vascular area of his body. He’s lucky to be alive.
I wipe the tears from my eyes, catch my breath and hand the tube back to Jeremy. “Yeah kid, you did good. You probably saved his life.”
“I know that Dad doesn’t use nearly so much, and he puts it on his chest, not his… his… talleywhacker.” Jeremy proudly puffs out his chest. RP dissolves into a new fit of giggles.
“Very observant of you, Jeremy,” I tell him between snickers. “It definitely doesn’t go on your talleywhacker. In fact, don’t even get any on your hands. Just put it back where you found it, and thanks for calling us.”
“No problem!” he says proudly, jumping off the running board. Before I roll up my window, he calls out, “Hey, Mister AD?”
Jeremy looks back at the house to make sure his uncle isn’t peeking out the windows, and turns back to me. “When he fell down and passed out? He pooped on himself.”
“Drive,” I order RP as I roll up my window. “If you don’t get me to a bathroom quick, I think I’m going to poop on myself.”