For Lance Baum, becoming a Paramedic was the fulfilment of his dreams ever since he saved the life of a woman choking on her own blood at the scene of a horrific car accident.

After 20 years of full on trauma, missed meals, dealing with the sick and injured, the drug addicts, the sexually abused, carnage on the roads and the psychos who would spit in your face rather than accept help, he had changed.

Lance failed to recognise that he was suffering from an acute form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and entered into a nightmarish whirlpool of depraved behaviour that would lead him to disaster.

The descent into the depths of alcoholism and kleptomania, along with the rules he developed to work by, The Paramedic Rules, would lead him into a world of delirium tremens and hallucinations that would bare his very soul.

In Store Price: $24.00 
Online Price:   $23.00

Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 278
Genre: Fiction

Author: Dec Anthony 
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2004
Language: English


Chapter 1

The Present Time 


Lance stretched to the sky to ease his aching back muscles before he climbed into his car. It had been another long night shift. He was glad it was over and as usual the last hour was always the longest. Starting night shift at 1700 hours last evening and going hell for leather just about non-stop until 0700 hours this morning, makes for a long tiring shift.

The breezy day shift crews coming in at ten minutes to seven, slamming doors and rattling crockery made his nerves jangle. “Be quiet, you bastards,” he had screamed in his head as he had struggled out of the recliner which he had flopped into not fifteen minutes earlier. Now the shift was over and he had a grin on his face as he turned the key in his old beat up jalopy and revved the engine blowing thick blue smoke out of the exhaust pipe.

Fourteen hour shifts can be a godsend in a nice quiet leafy burg where the good citizens go to bed early and the paramedic crews sleep all night and go home refreshed, and don’t have to go to bed during the day, but a night shift in the city is a different kettle of fish.

The city crews usually averaged fifteen jobs during the night and this night shift he had just completed was no different. Three attempts to get his dinner put Lance in a frayed frame of mind. There are only so many times you can heat a pizza. But now it had ended, he was heading home on his days off.

      The sun was already climbing and gave off some warmth … enough to drive the over-night chill from his bones.

A new student, who Lance had never seen before, waved to him as he drove up the ramp from the rear open car park. Lance, being Lance, and not giving a shit, gave this new guy the finger. The new guy turned to watch the car exit up the ramp leaving the smell of burning rubber floating in the air.

“Christ, I hope they’re not all like that” he muttered to himself as he brushed invisible specks from his brand new uniform.

     This was his first day … nothing was going to spoil it. He had waited so long for this moment. ‘He was going to be the best of the best’ … went through his mind as he walked towards the mess room door.

Lance rubbed the bristles on his chin as he drove out of the car park of the city Ambulance Station one handed, with his right elbow resting on the open window as he swung out onto the mainstream traffic, not giving the new guy another thought. The early sun had been cooking the car in the car park, and it was uncomfortably hot for the time of year. The flat he called home would be heating up too. For years he’d promised himself some air-con, but between his gambling / drinking / stealing / and other acts of wanton arse-holeness, he’d never gotten around to it.

 What he needed right now though, was a drink. Any drink as long as it was an alcoholic drink. “After all,” he told himself, “every other bastard has a drink when they finish work, why can’t I?”

He could almost taste the ice-cold head of a beer as he stopped at a red light.

“Fuck this” he said to himself as he pulled out his half full, or as Lance, the perennial optimist would put it, his half empty hip flask of vodka. “I’ve earned this bastard,” he said out loud to himself.

The flask had been full when he started his night shift.

He took a big hit as the light turned green, and the guy in the car behind him blasted his horn, which in turn, caused Lance to nearly have a cardiac arrest whilst vodka shot out of his nose.

      “You rotten prick!” screamed Lance as the car accelerated around him.

He knew the car, and the driver, his partner from last night, Jimmy.

“I’ll sort you out you fucking tampon,” seethed Lance as Jimmy drove off laughing and giving Lance the two fingers.

Lance took off planting his foot hard on the accelerator, leaving a trail of blue smoke from the spinning wheels and wiping vodka from his top lip with the sleeve of his shirt at the same time. “You’re fucked Jimmy my son,” thought Lance as he rounded a corner and made for home. “You want to play with the big boys Jimmy, be prepared to play hard, because you are now in my little black book, you arsehole.”

His mind strayed to more pleasant things, like his days off, as he weaved through the morning traffic. He couldn’t believe that his twentieth anniversary as a paramedic had finally arrived, and had he plans to celebrate or what. He was forty years old now, joined up at twenty, and by all accounts he had twenty-five years to go until retirement.

For all of those twenty years he had worked in the city, apart for a short spell at a northern suburban station. Twenty years of missed meals, heartburn, extreme stress and running on adrenaline, was taking its toll on him, but he would not have it any other way.

The city station is where he wanted to be … and the city station is what he got. The idea of twenty-five more years seemed unreal to him, and he knew that it would be an almost impossible feat to achieve. In fact, he was more than certain he was never going to make it at all.

If anyone had said that to him twenty years ago, he would have laughed in their face and bet his last buck they were wrong. Now he would probably go along with them. Lately, making it through a day shift or a night shift without wanting to head-butt someone was hard enough, but, the idea of twenty five more years in the city, well, that was just as hard to take as knowing that prick Jimmy was going home to a hot breakfast from a loving wife and a bedroom with the air-con on full blast. For now though, he was content to have another hit of Vodka and get home.

Jimmy could wait for another day … his well-earned days off couldn’t.

What he loved most about finishing a night shift was watching the rest of the city come to life as he drove home. Seeing the faces of the men and women in their cars on the freeway as they drove to town to start their daily grind in the office or factory. Dulled, expressionless, sober. Seeing people at bus stops, hair still wet from showers, women still applying make up as the bus rolls up.

“Where do all these people go?’ He used to think. ‘Do they have any idea at all of the entire real world?’ This was another question he used to ask himself, and the only definitive answer he could come up with was “No”. The average shit in the street that worked in an office, shop or factory knew nothing of the world he inhabited. A world of misery where he and his like were constantly in demand. The wail of a siren meant nothing to most. It was just an inconvenience if an ambulance came from behind and they have to pull over, to make way. The fact that the siren meant that someone somewhere was in stress did not enter their tiny minds, he thought, for the umpteenth time.

  They knew sweet fuck all about what went on in the big dark city, with its street-walkers and night owls who preyed on the unwary, while they, the sanctimonious bastards were tucked up in their own little cocoon world.

      He and his fellow Paramedic colleagues knew.

      They knew it all.

     They knew life and death.

     They knew the smells, the screams, and the pleas.

     They knew every twisted distortion, and every lie ever uttered, every drunken vow, every act of begging to God for another chance, and every song of a schizo.

Every wail of a dead child’s parent, every empty thank-you, every excuse for murder, and every drunken driver’s protests that he was sober, and the kid appeared out of nowhere. Every scene of a hanging, a gassing, an assault, a gunshot, a fatality by car, a fatality by fire, and worst of all, a fatality by life. They knew it all.  Hence the rules.  The Paramedic rules.

               A creed that Lance had started to live by a few years back. The rules were … and are for him … and him alone. The rules are his own personal bible … that no one else is privy to. He, and only he, can add some, take some away, or invent new ones as time and opportunity present itself. They are simple rules, but only one rule, rule number one has stayed the same, and that is, “Finish what you start.” If you’re going to resuscitate someone, you go all the way, pump that heart, give those drugs, give them that tube and oxygen.

If you’re going to promise to get someone out of a car wreck, you do not leave their side, you see it through, you do your job, and you do it well. You give them optimum care and every possible chance of making a good recovery by being the best pre-hospital operative in the business. If you’re going to get someone, fuck them over, then you do it with equal gusto. The same rules apply. There is no compromise with rule number one, ever.

Amongst his peers Lance was considered a legend of the trade. His thoughts, actions and hands were fast and decisive. He knew his job … he knew the body and all its parts. He knew the how and why … right down to the microscopic depths of the tiny powerhouse that was the human cell … how and why the body kept going … and how and why the body just stopped.

       Twenty years in the city and his need to be the best, made him the man he was today, the great impostor. The man whose life was now a game … a charade to be enacted, on every shift.

Students spoke about him in awe. Fellow paramedics praised him on jobs, even most of the emergency Doctors in town called him by his first name. Yet, lately, the overwhelming desire to drink and stand atop a sky scraper and scream at the city below, “LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME!’ burned within him.

       He was approaching total burn out, he exhibited all the signs of total burn out, knew there was something not right, but would never admit it, not even to himself.

The rules state that no one will ever see his bared soul. The face he showed to the world was one thing … his inner face was of a world in turmoil by exposure to life at its worst. Lance’s emotional vault had been closed, welded shut years ago. There was nothing left to share with anyone. This was his secret. A paramedic rule from long ago … share nothing … play the game … put on the persona, but it all goes into the vault, filed away.

Now that the vault was full, jammed full, it will never be able to be opened. He often thought about what it would take for him to feel emotion on the job again … feel raw emotion for another person, but he just couldn’t imagine it … he had seen it all, 100 times, everything 100 times at least.

He just had to resign himself to the fact that part of his psyche had gone, possibly gone forever.

       “But it’s what they did to me”, he would tell himself. “They made me what I am.”

The traffic had thinned out considerably as he glanced in the rear view mirror to see the city skyline in the haze of the early morning light. He could not remember driving through the last few suburbs. This was not uncommon after a particularly busy night shift. Bone weary and emotionally drained, most night shift workers drive home on autopilot.

      He finished off the last of the Vodka as he cruised up to his driveway. He had a buzz going, and had no intention of letting it go. He was on his days off.

He was going to celebrate twenty fucking years, and celebrate hard.

      He was going to get that prick Jimmy, and he was also going to throw a trinket he had stolen from an old lady into the cupboard to join the other hundred or so trinkets he had stolen from patients during the course of his duties.

      All the rules are equal.

      He knew exactly where he was at. He knew all the signs. He had long ago seen the signs in other paramedics … but nobody was ever going to see his signs. The vault was closed. Paramedic rules ruled with an iron rod.


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