Page 16

Anne swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”

“Now, get back in that car, and go back to that site, and try to do the job the taxpayers of this city are paying you for. And remember, you’re a probationary employee for the next ninety days and I can fire you without cause or notice.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Marshall nodded to the parking lot. “G’head. G’on now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Anne wheeled away and blindly walked off. She was halfway to the car when Don called out, “What about the dog?”

She turned back around. “The dog?”

“What did you do with it?”

“I, ah, I made sure it’s at a good vet’s.”

“Better than the streets.”

“Yes, better.”

Lifting a hand, she returned to the car before she apologized again. Remade promises the man didn’t want to hear. Got teary about the dog she was abandoning even though the thing wasn’t hers in the first place.

God, she was so sick of life.

She really was.

Chapter 11

Box alarm. Two engines and a ladder from the 617 responding to back up the 499.

As Tom arrived on scene, he pulled up behind the ambulance, and got out. The primary house on fire was your typical two-story wooden structure, built back when Rubik’s Cubes and Flock of Seagulls were popular—and its next-door neighbor was looking pretty toasty as well, the wind carrying the flames across a tiny yard and onto siding that was dry. It was a little unusual to smell the electric burn in the air. Still, faulty wiring wasn’t solely the purview of 1920s bungalows and fifties-era cottages.

The plumes of water being used to fight the initial blaze were coming out of the windows on the first floor. Then again, the 499 was already on scene, and of course, those dumbass cowboys had dragged lines into the house, as opposed to extinguishing the flames via an external position.

Tom strode over to Captain Baker, the incident commander, and was not about to be diplomatic. “What the hell are you doing, Chip?”

The man held up a hand. “Don’t start with me.”

“Why are those idiots in the house?” He knew the answer, though. “Chip, you gotta backbone this shit. Come on. You’re in charge here.”

“The fire’s almost out.”

Tom shook his head and opened his mouth—but then he caught the pisser recruit walking by.

Reaching over, he grabbed onto the sleeve of the kid’s turnout. “Stop. This is done wrong.”

The newbie halted and looked up with wide anxious eyes. His name was Reggie, but he’d already been given the nick of “Wedgie”—which, considering his last name was Boehner and it could have been “Boner,” wasn’t all that bad.

“You fold this side first, secure here . . . and buckle here. They taught you this at the academy.”

As Tom made quick work of the jacket, the kid nodded and stammered something. And was cut off as glass shattered on the second floor.

Smoke billowed out—and then flames.

“Goddamn it,” Tom muttered, “it traveled up the joists.”

Wedgie blinked. “Huh?”

“Go help get the house next door wet.” He shoved the kid forward. “Chip, get those boys out of there. Or I will.”

“Bring those lines out,” Baker barked into the radio. “Repeat, all lines and personnel out. Now. Reposition southwest exterior, six-one-seven fighters next door.”

Three firefighters emerged from the open front door, dragging lines with them. Emilio, Duff, and Moose, Tom guessed by the body sizes.

“How many did you send in there?” he asked. When there wasn’t a reply, he elbowed Chip. “I said, how many?”


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