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Watching Trin
Author: Freya Barker

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Bodhi

 

I can smell the bacon out here.

Someone got an earlier start than I did. I’m late, or rather, later than my regular fifteen minutes early. That can be a precursor of an off-day and it had already started out swimmingly.

This morning I woke up in a puddle. Literally. Water was streaming down the wall behind my bed from a leak in my upstairs neighbor’s apartment. I live on the main floor of a duplex and the idiot who has the floor above me came home drunk last night, had a shower, and forgot to turn off the water before he passed out.

I spent the past hour and a half trying to rescue what I could before leaving the mess for the landlord to deal with. Luckily the guy lives right across the street, so he showed up minutes after I called him. The good news is I’ll have a dry bed to sleep in tonight, upstairs at the firehouse, but I have a feeling I’ll be out looking for temporary housing tomorrow after my shift.

Our station chief, Aimes, is in his office when I pass on my way to the stairs, lifting his chin in greeting before looking back at his computer screen. Upstairs, Hog and Cap are in the kitchen, getting breakfast going, and the smell of coffee draws me to the industrial vat of joe made fresh at least three times a day.

“You’re late,” Cap points out, an eyebrow raised.

“You mean I’m on time,” I counter. “And good morning to you too.”

Cap is Captain Scott Beacham, in charge of our shift. The rest of the crew is made up of Hog and Cheddar, both of whom ride Rescue 3 with Cap and me, and to round out the team we have Sumo and Blue manning Medic 3. We’re a relatively small station but a busy one. The advanced life support ambulance in our bays ensures frequent callouts, not only to fires but to a variety of accidents and rescues.

I steal a piece of toast Cap just buttered, narrowly avoiding the slap he tried doling out.

“My apartment is flooded,” I share around my mouthful of toast, as I sit at the large dining table with my coffee.

“How’d that happen?” Hog asks, cracking eggs into a large bowl. I relay this morning’s events as the rest of the team comes dripping in. “I may need a place to crash tomorrow.”

“You can have my couch,” Evan ‘Cheddar’ Biel offers. “You’ll have to contend with dog slobber and little Matty’s nightly crying bouts, but you’re welcome to it.”

Cheddar and his wife, Tahlula, have two kids under two. Nuts if you ask me. We’d just celebrated Hanna’s first birthday when Matthew came screaming into the world, and in the past seven months he hasn’t stopped exercising his right to free speech. More often than not Cheddar comes in yawning with bags under his eyes. Like today.

I grin up at him.

“Thanks, pal, but I think I’ll pass.”

“I’ve got room,” Hog pipes up, as he sets platters with bacon, home fries, and scrambled eggs on the table. “An empty stall in the barn.”

“Fucking comedians, all of you,” I grumble, leaning over the table to pile food on my plate. “Forget it. I’ll talk to the chief.”

“Talk to me about what?”

I look up to see the chief coming up the stairs, a blonde woman who looks vaguely familiar behind him.

“Roadkill needs a place to crash. His apartment got flooded,” Cap volunteers, chuckling at my expense.

“Roadkill?”

The blonde looks at me with an amused look on her face. I don’t get a chance to explain how I earned that name before the chief steps in.

“Roadkill is Bodhi Jones.” He points at the other guys. “That’s Noah Hodgekins, Evan Biel, Ava Navarro, Kyle Matsumoto, and Captain Scott Beacham. Hog, Cheddar, Blue, Sumo, and Cap respectively. Guys, meet Victoria Paige. Vic spent eleven years at Station 16 before taking an extended leave of absence, but she’s back and ready to join our family here at 3.”

That explains why she looked familiar. I must’ve seen her at calls but that was clearly years ago. I glance over at Cap, who doesn’t look surprised at all, and walks up to the woman, shaking her hand. Ava is next, welcoming her to the firehouse, but the rest of us don’t get a chance when the alarm sounds.

“…Engine 3. Medic 3. Structure fire at the Econo Lodge on Main…”

“Vic, you ride along for this one,” Chief announces. “Get your bearings.”

I snatch a fistful of bacon from the platter and dart past them, pounding down the stairs. I still miss the fire pole they took out when they renovated our firehouse. Downstairs I kick off my runners, shove my feet in my boots, and pull up my turnout gear. Then I get behind the wheel, wait until everyone is accounted for and pull out of the firehouse.

 

 

“Fire department. You need to evacuate!”

My voice echoes Vic’s, who is banging on doors on the other side. Smoke is filling the upstairs hallways quickly and we need to evacuate the two-story building. At not even eight in the morning the likelihood is most of the rented rooms will be occupied. Problem with hotels is, every door automatically locks when it closes and we need to unlock each one to do a visual check.

The front-end manager provided a list and given that it’s still technically tourist season, they’re almost at full capacity. Forty-two rooms on two floors to check with a fire that looks to have started in the kitchen, which is under renovation. To complicate things the sprinkler system isn’t working and you can barely hear the fire alarm down these hallways.

This means all-hands-on-deck and despite the two other engines called in, Cap didn’t hesitate to put the newbie into action. I see her duck into a room on the other side, just as the door I was banging on swings open to an older woman who is coughing and looks confused.

“Ma’am, you need to get out. There’s a fire.”

She’s disoriented and ducks back inside. “My things—”

“Ma’am, no time for that, you need to get out now.” I stop her from heading back into the room and pull her into the hallway. “Is anyone else in there?”

She shakes her head. Vic hustles a couple out of their room toward the exit door at the end of the hall.

“Vic, can you take her too?”

She nods and puts an arm around the woman’s waist, walking her toward the emergency exit as I bang on the next door.

“Fire department. You need to evacuate!” I open the door and don’t see anyone, but a stuffed animal on the floor by one of the beds catches my eye. “Fire department! Call out!”

Nothing.

I’m about to leave room for the next one when I hear a faint whimper behind me. I step back inside and scan the room. Then I hear it again, a soft, muffled cry. Dropping down on all fours I lift the covers that have slid off the bed and look underneath. Two pairs of liquid eyes look back at me.

“Hey, guys. We need to get out of here.”

The bed is too low for my body to crawl under, and when I reach my arm underneath the two little bodies scramble out of my reach. Poor kids must be terrified and with my full-face mask on, I probably scare the shit out of them. Outside I can hear Vic banging on the next door and I engage my radio.

“Vic! Need some help in here. Two kids in two fourteen.”

I keep eye contact with the children until I feel her hand tap my back. Then I crawl out of her way so she can have a look under the bed, but she first pulls her mask off before ducking under.

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