Home > Consumed (Firefighters #1)(7)

Consumed (Firefighters #1)(7)
Author: J.R. Ward

Refocus. Inside his PPEs, he was sweating, and maybe bleeding—he didn’t know. But the heat wasn’t bad, so he suspected the fire was at least contained. Also, the ambient noise level was down, although maybe that was his shock talking. Or not talking. Whatever.

He had to get to Anne.

“Help . . .”

Okay, that didn’t carry far. He took a deeper breath. “Help . . .”

He had a glow stick and a whistle in his chest pocket. If he could just get to them, maybe he could make some noise, throw some light, that would give the crew something to find him with?

“Help . . .”

With dwindling strength, he gave the whole movement thing one last try, even though, assuming he had a spinal cord injury, that was ill-advised. Grunting, straining, he lifted his head and managed to free his left arm. It cost him, though. What little vision he had went on the fritz and something started to hurt in his chest.

Heart attack? Maybe.

He was young, but that was what his father and his grandfather had died of. Widow-makers were what the docs called those occlusions . . .

Not that he had anyone to make a widow.

Anne was the only woman who had ever held his interest longer than it took to have an orgasm. And she was never going to be the marrying type. Hell, she’d cut her own arm off before she’d let anybody put a ring on—

Oh, God, what had he done to her?

Groaning, he patted around with his gloved hand, feeling for something he could bang with or—wait . . . was this a pipe? No way of knowing, but it damn well felt like a cylindrical, super-hard object as he fit his palm around it.

With the speed and strength of someone a hundred and eighty years old, he managed to grip whatever it was and knock it against whatever he could find. Wet wood made a thucking sound that didn’t carry more than his voice did, but the concrete floor?

He got a good ring out of it.

Danny hit the pipe over and over again, training all his focus on raising his arm the five inches he could and bringing it down, over and over again. With every strike, the thing weighed more and made less noise.

Eventually, he gave up. And realized he was having a lot of trouble breathing.

The oxygen feed was dead. His thirty minutes up. So he’d been unconscious for almost twenty.

And still nothing but that dripping. No voices calling his name. No sirens. No debris removal. Yeah, sure, there was no more collapsing going on, but gravity had already won the grudge match against the warehouse and was doing victory laps around the ruins.

It appeared he was going to die here—and what exactly did that mean?

As he posed the question, he waited for the slide show of his life to roll out, that whole flash-before-the-eyes thing that people talked about.

When his mental screen stayed blank, he thought, Probably just as well. There wasn’t much he wanted to revisit. But shit, shouldn’t he go out with something better than . . . nothing?

All right . . . fine. He was pissed he didn’t know how Game of Thrones ended. And he was going to miss the taste of cold beer on a hot rooftop in August. And damn it, why the hell had he bothered to quit smoking?

He was not going to miss filling out paperwork, traffic jams, or his chronic bad elbow. He was glad his parents were already dead.

He really hoped he got to see his twin brother on the other side.

Yeah, it would be almost worth all this just to see John again.

Likely not in heaven, though, given the way they had behaved all those years. But Hell was more fun, wasn’t it? And he’d sure as shit know more people down there.

He was never going to know who the next president was going to be, or whether that raise he’d put in for would have gone through, or if that mole on his back was melanoma or not. And his landlady was going to be pissed. Out of the original four of them who had rented her shit hole, Mitch was in rehab, Moose had just gotten married, Jack was going to end up moving in with his sister . . . so it was just him left.

Who was going to get all his crap out?

Probably the boys on the crew, and they’d divvy up the good stuff—

Aw, fuck. He was going to get added to the list, wasn’t he. That horrible list they lifted whiskey to at the end of a long off-duty night when they were saturated drunk and the emotions they liquored up to forget came plowing back through the buzz like charging bulls.

It was the list of the fallen who had died in the line of duty, the ones who were missed every day and night, the ghosts who followed them on every call . . . the regrets that didn’t just have titles in all caps, but faces, clear as day.

Daniel Michael Maguire. Would they recite him in order as the newest one, or by his brother, John Thomas Maguire?

Anne would drink to him. Anne would raise her glass and think of this night and feel the tightness in her chest and the sting in the corners of her eyes. She would maybe remember the laughs. She would definitely think of working this fire. And she might just recall that one time they’d made love.

In the end, though, he would be another thing she ran from.

If he could have apologized to her for that, he would’ve, and wasn’t fate a bitch. He wouldn’t be dying now if he hadn’t saved her, so she could regret him and carry the guilt around with her for the rest of her life.

One-handed.

As he shut his eyes against the memory of that axe he’d swung, he had a passing thought that he should bang the pipe again.

And that was it.

The end.

Chapter 6

Victor “Ropes” Rizzo got out of his truck and flicked his cigarette to the ground. Crushing it with his boot, he ignored the way his heart pounded in his rib cage. Up ahead, on the far side of a ring of frozen scruff, the barbequed remains of an old abandoned warehouse were like a corpse at the end of an autopsy.

Holes everywhere. Leaking bricks. Whole sections gone.

Fire trucks were clustered at the collapsed northeastern corner, their flashing lights overlapping to form a surging red glow that showed little good news. Those brick outer walls had collapsed into a slope that was tall enough to require climbing, and his first thought was that if somebody was under all that weight, they needed a pine box. But at least the blaze was wholly contained, the hoses off, the steam as yet rising into the night sky while smoke, its not-so-distant cousin, lingered like a specter of the dead in the cold post-traumatic air.

As his nose tingled at the old, familiar of soot and chemical stink, his eyes tracked the movements of firefighters from both his 617 stationhouse and the 499 while they picked around the debris mountain, their bodies throwing shadows over bricks, concrete blocks, sections of wood.

He hitched his shoulder brace up a little higher under his parka and walked across the cracked asphalt. Incident command had set up post out of one of the engines, but he went right by the—

“You’re not cleared for duty, Rizzo.”

He shook his head at Captain Baker. “I’m going in. Sorry.”

“You’re med’d out.”

“So file me under concerned fucking citizen.”

“I am so fucking tired of all of you!”

Rizzo blew a kiss and marched across to the rescue efforts, his boots crunching over stones slippery from what had been sprayed and then frozen. A couple of the boys sifting through the pile looked at him, and one even spoke up, “No way, Rizzo.”

Of course it was his fellow 617 Chuck Parnesi—but at least the 499’s crew stayed out of it. Then again, you didn’t get involved in another family’s drama.

“Seriously, Rizzo—”

“Did I hear someone talking?” Rizzo started to climb up on the pile, his balance all marble-on-an-old-table because of his bum-ass shoulder. “I didn’t think so.”

“Your arm’s in a sling.”

“And again, I say, wouldn’t it be a waste of a someone’s time to comment on what is my fucking business.”

As Chuck got into a debate with himself, Rizzo tripped and went down to his knees on the uneven slope—but a gloved hand presented itself to help him up. It was Robert Miller, a.k.a., Moose, from the 499. Danny’s old roommate. The man’s civilian clothes were soaking wet and covered with ash, and there was blood smudged down the front of his shirt. His eyes were pits of suffering, his face pale beneath his trimmed beard.

   
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