“Miller! Grab the pike and check those walls,” Josie’s partner yelled. Pete Thayer’s order, muffled by his facemask, rumbled low and gruff. She cringed. Couldn’t he see she’d already grabbed the hooked pole? Irritated, she cursed beneath her helmet. I know what to do.
Training for firefighters in this neck of the woods was thorough. She’d fought many a chimney fire before he showed his handsome face in her town. She ignored him, but stopped to give their record keeper her name and tag number before she headed for the stairs. With all this smoke, he probably didn’t see the pike in her gloved hand. Should I give him the benefit of the doubt?
Josie trudged up the stairs, her heavy fire boots thudding on the bare treads. The house was mostly wood, inside and out, a tinderbox ready to ignite if they couldn’t snuff out the fire inside the chimney in time. Her helmet weighed a ton and her arms felt cocooned in a bearskin. Her turnout coat and pants held in her body heat and made her climb seem twice as toasty. Gloved fingers slid along the rail as the stairway turned toward the third floor. The hundred–year–old–home’s central chimney meant every wall touching it needed venting to check for spreading cinders. Other firefighters climbed ladders to the roof to fight a frontal assault.
The owner acknowledged the old chimney lacked a ceramic lining. Ancient bricks settle or deteriorate over the decades, leaving air spaces where thick, flammable creosote lodged until just the right moment. The sticky tree sap congealed over time until it finally ignited. Who knows how much of the internal chimney—and adjacent walls—could be next?
Josie stumbled on the last step. She grabbed the banister before falling to her knees. She’d rather Pete Thayer didn’t witness her awkwardness. He’d stick her in the basement next time. Hunched over in a low–ceilinged dirt floor cellar while shoveling hot cinders from a flaming chimney’s clean–out made her terribly claustrophobic.
She reached her assigned area and located the wall on the north side. Smoke seeped into the halls from somewhere. The haze was barely penetrable. The owner stated the house had no fireplaces on this level, so she searched for another heat source near the open hallway. Thick gray smoke hovered near the ceiling. Clenching her fingers, she forced them straight then removed one glove. She swept her fingers along brittle wallpaper and handcrafted wooden door casements. No extreme heat here.
Slipping the glove back on, she entered the first room on her list. The small bedroom contained a single bed, stripped of its coverings. A mesmerizing swirl of smoke drifted in from somewhere. She looked at the windows then back at the bed. Through the smoky vapors, its striped cotton–tick surface rippled and heaved as if someone gently shook its frame. Gripping the top of her helmet, she arched her back and looked up.
Hope you enjoyed this 'tease'
from my latest romantic suspense
LOVE TO THE RESCUE
available NOW from