Monday's Child Excerpt

05

FIRE BATTALION 12

Pacific Ocean Bridge

Embre Vana bounced in the passenger seat of the Locke and Keye Studio’s Fire Battalion 12 SUV, reaching up to her head, twisting her long red, orange, and yellow hair into a bun, before securing it with elastic bands behind her head.

“County Fire is already on scene and reports are the driver is still trapped in the cab,” Nuit stated as she drove the Studio painted vehicle toward the exit, “They don’t know if he’s alive or not. The fire is too hot for them to get close enough from the road and the brush fire is preventing access from the other side,” as she turned the large red vehicle out of one of the studio’s emergency exit and onto California State Highway 5.

“When we get to the scene,” the older woman said while moving onto the soft shoulder to around the stalled civilian traffic, raising her voice over the screaming siren, Nuit explained her plan of action, “I’ll try and park where no-one can see you get out. You take care of the driver and I’ll create a few distractions,” Nuit focused on the narrow shoulder ahead, doing her best to ignore the flashing red lights reflected back at her from the cars next to them. She quickly glanced over at the twenty-something pale Asian woman who nodded her response.

“Ok,” Embre replied, pointing forward, redirecting Nuit’s attention to the narrow path before them as she worked one arm into the oversized heavy, cumbersome, kaki colored, bright reflective striped Kevlar and Nomex coat.

Nuit cut through an opening in the traffic, forcing Embre to lean into Nuit’s aggressive turn as she asked, “Any word on who’s the incident commander is?”

Nuit nodded, “Yes, Operations said Captain Scott called asking for your special talents, then paused before snickering playfully, “I think she just wants to see you again.”

“She’s too old for me,” Embre replied, honestly, “Besides, I’m not into married women.”

Nuit nodded with a smirk, before she pointed with her finder on the steering wheel, “There she is. I’m going to park behind the Quint; you jump out and do your thing while I check in with Captain Scott and help her keep the fire crews away from you.”

Embre secured the black composite helmet over her head, pulling down the custom tinted face shield. The moment she felt Nuit applying the brakes, she unlocked, then pulled the door’s release handle. By the time the Chevrolet Suburban’s forward motion stopped, Embre was already out the door.

Not looking back to check on Nuit, Embre used one arm to hold herself up as her body arched over the rusted metal guardrail; she would have tumbled down the steep embankment if she had released her grip on the curved railing.

Racing alone the edge of the metal road edging, toward the column of black smoke billowing into the morning sky, she stopped for a moment to survey the situation.

In front of her, and resting on the crushed guardrail, aimed down into the gully, Embre could see the fuel fed fire had surrounded the cab of the tractor-trailer and spread to the uncut dry wild grass covering the slope.

The front of the vehicle appeared to be intact, but lying on its side and angled slightly downward. Moving closer, Embre felt, more than saw water droplets raining down from the other side of the gasoline fueled inferno.

Hopping over the railing again, onto the solid roadbed, Embre stopped to make sure the firefighters were focusing on the tanker itself, and not the cab; hoping the heat was too intense for them to approach; too hot for them, but not for her.

She raced across the open roadway, confident the fire blocked her actions from the others. Looking up at the front of the cab she could see the arm of the driver dangling limply through the sideways steering wheel behind the two meter high flames.

Casually, and comfortably, walking through the road melting waves of heat and the dense black smoke, she approached the cab wondering how she was going to get the driver out safely.

Stopping halfway through the hottest part of the flames blocking access to the cab, Embre closed her eyes, soaking in the warmth of the thousand degree fire, savoring how enjoyable and soothing it felt to her sore joints and bones; especially her bare feet.

The nearly constant aching and abrasive feeling she always felt when her limbs moved, when not warm, or super-heated as they were now, vanished for a moment. Embre extended that moment unbuttoning the top three tabs of the heavy coat around her, allowing the intense heat to kiss and caress more of her body.

The open coat also provided her a little more freedom of movement, which Embre used to her advantage, quickly climbing the steaming hot exterior of the sideways cab.

Fortunately the driver’s side window was open, and, unburdened by an unnecessary air tank, Embre was able to lower herself into the cab easily.

There she found the single driver contorted into an odd shape with his arm twisted in, and around, the steering wheel; his broken arm dangling the top half of the man’s crumbled body on over the passenger door.

She almost screamed, but didn’t when she felt his other hand on her shoulder; then she heard him cough several times.

Squatting down to align her head with his, she lied loudly, “Keep your eyes closed or the smoke will burn them,” then announced, “I’m going to get you out of here, but you need to do exactly what I tell you; do you understand?”

The man nodded his head, coughing, “Si Senora.”

“Senorita,” Embre replied, more to herself than him, as she wrapped her arms around his chest, struggling to lift him up, freeing his trapped arm.

The man cried out, reminding Embre his arm was in fact broken arm before she carefully freed it from inside the circle of the steering wheel.

Gently lifting his limp appendage until he could hold it with his other arm, she worked the moaning man into a seated position in the sideways, downward angled cab.

Standing up she took a few deep breaths of the smoke-filled air, tasting the burnt bar-b-que flavor in her mouth, and liking it, but not the gasoline aftertaste; or the irritating melted rubber and plastic aroma in her sinuses.

Watching the fire dancing outside, through the smoke and flame blackened windshield, she began to work out how she was going to save the driver and not expose herself to the fire crews or the news media.