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Consumed

Consumed

Page 18

Abruptly, Danny blinked and saw only white, that rage of his coming back online with a hard-on.

The next thing he was aware of was Moose’s bearded face. His old roomie was up close and personal, and he was speaking, that mouth moving.

Danny couldn’t hear shit. It was like he was underwater, everything muffled.

“—come on now. I’m riding with you.”

There was a pull on Danny’s arm, and he glanced down, seeing Moose’s hand grip his biceps and urge him toward the interior of the ambulance.

“Play the game,” Moose said quietly. “You got too much to lose if you don’t. You don’t want to go out like this.”

Chavez stepped up. “Come on, Dannyboy. The ER will fast-track you and then we’ll be at Timeout. Okay?”

“Work with us,” Moose added. “As much as I’ve wanted to kick your ass since eight this morning, I don’t want you taking a shot at the chief. You can’t trust that voice in your head, Danny. I know that firsthand. The one that’s talking to you now always steers you wrong.”

• • •

Anne left work at five p.m., taking the stairs from the third floor down to the first. As she funneled across the lobby to the glass doors, she joined a cue of fellow municipal employees, everybody walking out into the late afternoon sunshine and finding their cars in the maze of the parking lot. On the way back to her house, she stopped at Papa Joe’s Pizza, a locally owned joint that she’d been going to since she’d moved into the neighborhood six years ago.

With her pepperoni-and-onion in the passenger seat, she continued on to Mapleton Avenue and hung a left. Her house, a nine-hundred-square-foot Cape Cod, was halfway down the street. Her garage was detached, and she parked in front of its single closed door.

Pizza in her good hand. Bag on her left shoulder. As she came up to her front door, she used the forefinger on her prosthesis to punch in a numerical code on the new lock she’d had installed a month after the fire.

When you had only one functioning hand, keys were a thing.

Inside, it smelled like home, a combination of Tide washing detergent, lemons, and something that was intrinsically 1404 Mapleton.

Kicking the door closed, she was abruptly exhausted.

The trip through the living space into the kitchen was a whopping twelve steps, and she ate the pizza standing up and next to the sink because she always washed her hand first and it seemed pretentious to set her Crate & Barrel table for one. She made it through half of the medium pie, put the rest away for tomorrow night’s reheat in the oven—never the microwave, because that made the crust spongy when it was hot and tough as nails when it was not—and then she just stood there.

God, her place was quiet.

And the only good news was that it wasn’t a Friday or a Saturday night. A random Monday was no big deal to be home alone with no other options than a CrossFit class, Big Bang Theory reruns, or cleaning a perfectly clean house. The weekends, on the other hand, were bad. All her buddies had been firefighters, but that was gone now—and it wasn’t that they didn’t liked her anymore, far from it. Even though she’d been the only woman in the boys’ club, they’d never treated her as anything other than equal.

The trouble was, after things had changed for her, she’d become a reminder of the risk pool they lived in, a downer through no fault of her own. And besides, over at Timeout, the boys spent their time trading in-jokes, bad stories, and shit that had happened at work.

She was out of the loop for the last one, and as for the bad stories? She was part of a big one that didn’t have a har-har at the end.

Anne looked down at her prosthesis. When she’d had the mold taken of her remaining hand, she remembered the guy asking her if she wanted the nails painted any specific kind of color. She’d thought he’d been serious, but it was a joke—and not a mean one. He’d been a veteran who was missing both his legs and walking very naturally around on his artificial limbs.

You can do this, he’d told her. I promise you.

“I can do this,” she said to her empty house.

The lack of an answer back seemed a commentary on her life, and that made her think of her mother’s latest bright idea. The woman was always offering to come over and “add a few touches” to Anne’s place. “Spruce things up.” “Make things more cozy.”

So she wanted to bring over a ficus. And not a plastic one.

Anne had sent her an email saying no because that was more efficient than a phone conversation that had a one-minute hello and a nineteen minute I’ve-got-to-go-now on her side. And as for the home stuff? The woman had never understood. These four walls and a roof were like the refrigerator of someone who ate out all the time. Back when she’d been at the fire station, she’d only come here to crash and recover enough to go back to work.

Her home had been where her job was.

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