This week I published my third title on Amazon in both paperback and on Kindle. Bright Lights and Cold Steel is a prequel to my EMS novel Twenty-Five at the Lip and takes place in the early 1980s. It features a number of familiar faces from Twenty-Five at the Lip like Richard Henry, John Davis, Frank Macomber, Dr. Wilson, and Marty from the Union ER when he was still working as a tech.
I’ve always been fascinated by the practice of EMS and firefighting in the era when I was young or not even born yet. Bright Lights is something of a gray area in this sense because I was born the year that this story takes place in. In Twenty-Five at the Lip Frank Macomber laments about how the service has changed in the years since he started working in it; how crews used to help one another, partied together, etc. regardless of the uniform they wore. Bright Lights and Cold Steel gets into some of that.
G from The EMS Lounge was good enough to give me a shout out after beta-reading Bright Lights. If you haven’t heard The EMS Lounge podcast you should definitely check it out. It’s both insightful and humorous and is one of my all-time favorite podcasts. They are also on iTunes so if you can get over there, give them a listen they’d definitely appreciate it.
In a final thought, I’m working on getting my Facebook author page up past 500 followers. When this happens I’ll be giving away, at random, several signed copies of Twenty-Five at the Lip. I imagine I’ll also be doing something similar when I get to 1000 followers and so on and so forth.
from Bright Lights and Cold Steel
The phone ringing woke Richard from a sound sleep. It rang twice before Meg picked it up and he checked his wrist watch to see the time. It was 2:05 in the morning and he rubbed his eyes while Meg took the call. It was possible that the call could be turfed off on a EMT-Basic crew, but the feeling sitting in the pit of his gut told him he was about to be getting up.
The top door to Meg’s dispatch office opened and she leaned out with a slip of paper in her hand.
“Richard,” Meg rasped. “I need you and John to take it uptown. 19 Dexter Street for the difficulty breathing.”
He sighed, coughing into his elbow before swinging his legs over the edge of his bunk. “Got it,” he said. “I’ll go wake up John.”
Pulling his shirt back on he pushed the swinging door out into the garage where he found the ambulance parked in front of the door, right where they had left it. He reasoned that even if it had been a Basic call that he was going to have to move the Cadillac for them anyway and then he and John would be up for the next run.
He hit the garage door button on the wall and the door began to open. Walking to John’s office bunk room he wrapped on the door. “John, we got a job,” he called before going back to the Cadillac. He hopped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, checking the rear view for John to emerge from his office. Impatiently Richard climbed out of the driver’s seat and went to the door again, half expecting the man to be opening the door as he approached. Richard knocked again, this time John calling angrily through the door.
“We got a run!” Richard said. John groaned from behind the door.
“Take one of the Basic’s with you,” he said. Richard was about to argue that if another call came in then he was going to have to take it with the other Basic’s partner, a situation that nobody but Richard could truly stand to be in. Richard sighed and pushed the swinging door into the quarters and called to the sleeping crew.
“Which one of you wants to go on a medic run?”
The first on their feet was the girl on the top bunk, a short freckle-faced new girl with braided red hair. “Me! I do!”
“What’s your name?” Richard asked.
“Doreen,” she said.
“Alright Doreen, do you now where Dexter Street is?”
Doreen thought for a moment and then nodded, “It’s up past the community college, a few streets west of the cemetery.”
“Good,” Richard said walking back out into the garage. “Grab your shit, let’s go.”
John had made a point of not hiring females until it was brought to his attention that the practice was completely illegal. He believed that a woman’s place in the job market was as a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher. As he famously quoted when he opened the doors of Pocasset Ambulance, “A woman can’t be an ambulance driver…” something he still said in private company, mostly to Richard, which to Richard elaborated on just how much John Davis knew about his own company. He knew that John would have a few things to say about Doreen taking the call with him, but Richard wasn’t about to put sexism before patient care.
Richard climbed into the passenger seat and rolled the window down as Doreen scrambled into the garage bay still buttoning her shirt. She slipped on a patch of oil and fell onto the hood of the Cadillac. Horrified at her own clumsiness and shot back up and rounded the front of the car, swinging the door open and tossing herself in.
“Slow down, it’s not your emergency,” Richard said. “Light it up, but you can leave the siren off unless we hit traffic.”
“OK,” Doreen said as she put the car in gear. They rolled out into the lot and Richard tapped the garage door button on the visor of the Cadillac. Doreen pulled out onto the street, silent and still in the middle of the night.
“How long have you been an EMT?” Richard asked.
Doreen swallowed and adjusted her hands on the steering wheel. “About two months,” she said.
“How old are you?” he asked.
“Twenty,” she said. “But I was in the healthcare program at Diman…” she said tossing the technical high school’s name out, hoping it had some meaning to her new senior crewman. She fidgeted in the driver’s seat, beginning to sweat as Richard leaned back. He looked back into the rear of the Cadillac and Doreen turned around too.
“What are you doing? Watch the road!” Richard said.
“Sorry!” Doreen said nervously.
“Nothing,” she said. “It’s just that you’re Richard Henry.
“So you’re the boss’ right hand man…”
“Woah hold on there,” Richard said laughing. “I work with John, that doesn’t mean I’m his right hand man.”
“Sorry,” Doreen said sheepishly.
“Doreen,” Richard said. “Relax, alright? Like I said, this isn’t your emergency. Have you done many emergency runs, or just transfers?”
“I’ve only done a couple emergencies that Meg threw us when you or the other medics were busy. Mr. Davis said that he had to hire me, but didn’t want me running emergency calls.”
“Well, that’s some bullshit right there,” Richard said hanging his elbow out the window. You’ve been to school, you’re capable.”
Doreen sighed and turned onto Bedford Street, opening up the accelerator. “To be honest, I’m afraid of screwing up. I jumped at the chance to do a medic call because I want the experience, but I’m afraid of messing up.”
Richard shook his head, “You’re not going to mess up. Just follow my lead and I’ll have you listen to lung sounds and take a blood pressure. The best kind of experience is real world experience.”
“Alright,” Doreen said. “What’s the call for?”
“Respiratory difficulty,” Richard said. “You ever handle something like that?”
“No, like I said I’ve only had a couple of emergencies. A nursing home fall and a hangnail.”
“A what? A Hangnail?”
“Yea. The Kimwell Home called it in last week and Meg turfed it to us.”
“Did you drive or tech the call?” Richard asked.
“I teched it,” Doreen said.
“And how’d that one go? What did you do?”
“Well there wasn’t much to do,” Doreen explained. “I took a blood pressure and dropped her off at Union.”
“That sounds like a successful call to me,” Richard said smiling at her. “What about the fall? What did you do there?”
“Well I drove, but I put her on a backboard with Reggie, dressed a head wound, and took her blood pressure, pulse, and respirations on scene while Reggie got report from the nurse.”
“So you’re basically telling me that you ran the call, but Reggie rode in while you drove?”
“I guess,” Doreen said.
“I think you’ll be fine, Doreen,” Richard said. “This one might be a little more complicated, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Bright Lights and Cold Steel, Copyright © 2016 by James Windale