Authors: Brenda Cothern
Spark & Blaze
A Guns & Hoses Novel
Spark & Blaze
First Printing July 2016
newspaper, magazine, journal, or on
Wench Publishing, Inc.
136 E. 145
Tampa, Florida, 33613 USA
Mad Dogs vol.1
Mad Dogs vol.2
Mad Dogs vol.3
Not For Sale**
Goddess of Fate
Guns & Hoses
Fire & Ice
Spark & Blaze
To all the men and women who run toward the flames instead of away from them. You don’t get nearly the pay or recognition that you deserve. Thank you for your service.
As always, special thanks The Body Shop in Tampa for letting me treat their bars like my personal office and to Chris, the bartender who has learned to ignore me when I am talking to myself!
Of course, I have to once again thank my beta team, both those who have been with me for several books and all of the new members who have joined me for this one.
Karen, Lora, Shirley, & Amy. Without you, my writing wouldn’t be nearly as clean and the story would suffer.
tones that indicated an emergency call echoed through the 1 a.m. silence of the firehouse. It had been a quiet shift, but all the men at station twenty-two knew that not having a call for the first seventeen hours of their shift didn’t mean they wouldn’t have a one before their shift was over.
“Umph,” Brett stumbled and reached out a hand behind him to grasp the man who practically ran him over. “Easy there, rookie. The truck won’t leave without us.”
“Sorry, man.” Evan scooted past the larger firefighter to run into the bay where the trucks were parked.
Brett shook his head. All rookies were the same when it came to responding to their first fire. Their adrenaline was pumping through the roof and Brett knew the rookie would be vibrating in a seat while they responded to the call.
Evan Carmichael started at their firehouse three days ago on his last shift. He was young and full of the spark they all had after graduating from the Fire Academy. Like all rookies, Evan believed that running instead of just walking quickly, would be the difference between life and death. Brett learned years ago that running fifty feet to save thirty seconds didn’t make a damn bit of difference.
The tones bounced around the bay again as Brett hauled his large frame into the truck. He groaned when he heard the code for a three-alarm fire and the address that placed the building in Ybor city.
They hadn’t had a fire down there are in almost a year and that one had been a nightmare. He was sure this one would be too. Any fire in Ybor was, for several reasons. The buildings were old; most were the originals from before Tampa actually became a city. The cobblestone streets were narrow and it didn’t help that curbside parking was allowed. It also didn’t help that it was Friday night and the sidewalks were more than likely full of partygoers club hopping to start their weekend. He could only pray that the fire was at one of the less populated ends of 7
Avenue. Of course, Murphy’s Law dictated that wasn’t the case.
“Shit,” Brett cursed as the engine crept closer to the building that was aflame on the corner of 7
Avenue and 15
Brett knew the building the beast was hungrily consuming. Although he had never been inside Shadows, it was hard to miss when it was right next door to Bradley’s which he frequented. Seeing the flames lick up Shadows’ walls reminded Brett of when the residences above Bradley’s had caught fire last year. Thankfully, his favorite haunt hadn’t been damaged by either flame or water when they finally killed the beast. Bradley’s might not be so lucky this time.
The engine came to a slow rolling stop and their rookie was out the door as if it was his bunker gear on fire instead of the nightclub. Brett just shook his head at the younger man’s haste and climbed out of the truck.
“Malone,” Brett turned toward his boss. “Take Carmichael and clear the lower level.” Brett nodded and turned to find the rookie standing behind him holding two fire axes. “Flame, Brostowski, clear two and three. Branson, Noonan, take four.”
Brett ignored Captain Stevenson yelling out orders to his fellow firefighters and grabbed an axe from Carmichael’s hand.
“Follow the book and stay close,” Brett ordered the rookie before he pulled his SCUBA mask down to cover his face.
Brett checked the seal on his mask and nodded to Carmichael to do the same. Once the rookie was finished checking his mask, Brett led them toward the entrance to Shadows.
The smoke was dark as it rolled in wave after wave out of the door to the club. Water was already being sprayed on the building and cascading down the glass windows of the club to pool on the sidewalk. Flames were licking the window frames of the houses of all three stories above them.
Brett had only taken a moment to assess the outside of the club. But apparently, that was a moment too long because before he could stop their new rookie, Carmichael swung his axe and shattered one of the clubs front windows. Smoke billowed out of the new escape route.
“Son of a bitch!” Brett cursed and knew his words were muffled inside of his rebreather mask.
Carmichael was swinging his axe back again to break another window when Brett stepped up behind him. His hand wrapped around the handle and tugged. Carmichael wasn’t expecting the yank and stumbled back.
“What the fuck?” Evan shouted in his mask so Malone could hear him as he stumbled to catch his balance.
“Yeah, what the Fuck.” Brett pulled on the axe and caused Carmichael to step closer. “What the fuck do you think you are doing?”
“What the hell does it look like?” Evan spat back. “I’m ventilating so we can go in!”
“We don’t fucking ventilate when there is flame above us and there is already a route for the smoke to escape! You trying to tempt a backdraft?” Brett growled and didn’t hide the anger in his voice. “A fucking backdraft would kill anyone still inside. You’re lucky it didn’t!” Brett shoved the axe back at Carmichael. “Leave the fucking windows alone and stay the fuck close while we clear.”
Brett started walking toward the door that was still vomiting smoke from the fire. He felt the rookie behind him and prayed the kid would do as he was told.
“I know what the fuck I am doing. I don’t need you to tell me,” Evan hollered through his mask to ensure Malone heard him.
He was pissed the older, larger, fireman gave him shit for ventilating the building. They trained him in fire school about ventilation
backdrafts. The chance of a backdraft caused from him breaking the windows to ventilate the club was minimal since the club door was open. It was still possible, but minimal so Evan did as he was trained.
Brett stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned to look back at the rookie. He couldn’t believe the little, wet behind the ears shit was trying to justify almost causing a backdraft by claiming to know what the hell he was doing. This was only the guy’s second shift, his first fire, and he had only graduated Fire College two months ago.
Evan paused and gripped the axe in his hand tighter when Malone turned to face him. He could clearly see the man’s expression through the clear plastic of his face mask. It was an expression that conveyed the man wasn’t happy with him. In fact, the firefighter looked downright pissed. When Malone stepped toward him, Evan unconsciously took a step back.
“Listen, you little shit,” Brett leaned in so close to Carmichael’s face that their masks almost touched. “I don’t care what you
you know. You fucking stay glued to my back while we clear the club. You’re a rookie. Shit, still on probation, so do as I fucking tell you and you won’t be fired for fucking up your first God damn scene!”
Brett watched as Carmichael’s eyes grew wide when he stepped in the guy’s space. They didn’t stay wide for long though. Once Brett began to tear the rookie a new ass, Carmichael’s gaze grew stubborn and hardened. Still, Brett was sure that by the time he finished reaming him out that Carmichael would do exactly as he was told.
“Now, we have a floor to clear. Let’s fucking go.” Brett spun on his heel and entered Shadows.
The smoke was so thick they could barely see the glow of the emergency lights that were mounted several places along the wall. However, even though the smoke was thick, it moved past them toward the front of the building.
“Tampa Fire Rescue!” Brett called out while he placed his left hand on the bar. He used the bar as a guideline to venture further into the club.
Flames licked up the wall that Shadows’ shared with Bradley’s. Small pockets of flame could also be seen glowing like many bonfires at random spots along the ceiling. The further they ventured into the club, the thicker the smoke became. It became so thick that it was not safe for them to continue. If anyone was still in the nightclub, they were already dead.
“Turn around, we are heading back,” Brett stopped and turned to look at Carmichael so the rookie could hear him.
“The room isn’t cleared,” Evan argued. He couldn’t believe the other fireman was just going to ignore the job they had to do.
thick, but they needed to find anyone that could still be inside the club. If the older firefighter was too chicken shit to do his job, then Evan would do their job on his own.
“We aren’t clearing it,” Brett leaned closer to Carmichael so the rookie could hear him over the crackling flame and spray of water that was bombarding the building.
“It’s our fucking job to clear this level!” Evan yelled at his partner for this fire. “If you are not going to do it, I will!”
“Jesus Christ, rookie!” Brett spat out and stepped close enough that their chests bumped. “Turn the fuck around and start moving back toward the God damn door!”
Evan had to look up a few inches to glare into Malone’s facemask. They had a job to do, but the look on the older firefighter’s face told him they weren’t going to be doing anything but backtracking out of the club. Still, Evan stood his ground.
“Move rookie, because if you make me carry your ass out of here when you could walk on your own two fucking legs, you will regret it!” Brett growled, grabbed Carmichael’s shoulder and spun him around, then shoved him in the direction of the club door.
Evan couldn’t have prevented Malone from manhandling him even if he tried. Well, he could have tried, but resisting the larger man while they were standing in the middle of a burning nightclub was not an option. So instead, he allowed himself to be shoved toward the exit. The moment he stepped outside Evan tore his helmet from his head and yanked his rebreather off his face. He stormed toward the Captain with every intention to report Malone’s negligence of duty.
“Whatever has you so pissed Carmichael, needs to wait until we return to the station,” the Captain said without sparing him a glance.
“Captain Stevenson, I need to report dereliction of duty and it can’t wait until the station.” Evan informed the captain in what he thought was a professional tone. When the captain turned to look at him, leveled him with a steely gaze, Evan questioned if his tone was as professional as he had thought.
“Carmichael, now is not the time. Go sit in the truck.”
“But sir,” Evan broke in, but the captain kept talking.
“And think very carefully,
, about any accusation you wish to make when you file your report.” Evan stared at his captain and saw nothing but seriousness in the older man’s eyes. “Sit in the truck, Carmichael.” The captain nodded toward the rig.
Evan was dismissed and he knew it when the captain turned away and spoke into his radio. Evan climbed into the jump seat of the engine and felt useless. He should be out there clearing floors or at least holding hose to fight the fire. Instead, he watched his co-workers, his fellow firemen, do the job he itched to do.
Evan realized he was watching Malone. The man spoke to the captain and barely glanced in his direction before he jogged around the corner of the building. Evan could hear the captain’s radio communications with the firefighters who continued to battle the beast and all that did was make him feel like he was listening to adults while he was in timeout.
There wasn’t shit he could do about any of it, but that didn’t mean he had to like it either.
Brett focused on the job and didn’t let himself dwell on the rookie until they were seated in the rig and on their way back to the station. He knew he had pissed the rookie off before they even exited Shadows while the building burned down around them. He didn’t care. The younger firefighter needed to learn to control himself and his desire to play hero before he got himself hurt. Or worse, got someone else hurt when he went all yahoo on a scene.
He wasn’t so old that he didn’t remember being green and determined to save the world when it came to a blaze. Still, he didn’t think he had been so recklessly determined to the point of possibly putting others in danger.
The frown that furrowed his brow when he looked across the cab at Carmichael couldn’t be helped. Brett wanted to rack up Carmichael’s behavior to a rookie’s first time fighting the beast, but his gut was telling him that the newest firefighter’s behavior on the scene wasn’t just the result of a newbie being overwhelmed by adrenaline.