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I'm having a good time coming up with color schemes and quotes to help give the book some attention, and in case anyone was interested, the book is still FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
And here is a special gift for all of you who have stopped by my blog today... I'm including the first chapter of Through Smoke right here for you to check out!
The books in the trilogy are:
Through Smoke: Book One
Backfire: Book Two
Fire Escape: Book Three
All are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple!
Michael McGinnis thrived in intense situations. In hectic conditions split second decisions were automatic to him. He was more comfortable in a blazing inferno than in the confines of his own home. Today would be no different. Pulling up to the fire, a shimmy of excitement coursed through him, followed by brief pangs of fear that he forced aside. He opened and closed his fists, feeling the sweat forming on his palms. His breathing quickened as he studied the building and what floors the fire was already eating away.
Every fire had to be treated as routine, regardless of magnitude or caliber. His first goal was to find out if anyone was still inside. He was part of search and rescue and was first to go in if need be. His eyes scanned the crowd. There were several kids standing near their parents, older couples and people all alone, all wide eyed and in shock over their misfortune.
He had been on the job for eleven years. Eleven years of interrupted sleep and unfinished meals. Eleven years of false alarms and frequent callers. Eleven years of soot and flames. He wouldn’t have traded it for anything else. Even if the job had its boring moments, the one call where he could help someone made it rewarding.
He worked for the best fire department in the best city. FDNY. As the motto on the fire engine read, “New York’s Finest.” He patted the logo painted on the passenger door every time he got in the rig. It was like his ritual. After everything he and his friends had endured, he couldn’t help but become a little superstitious.
“I think there’s still some people up on the second floor!” A middle aged woman approached their captain, her voice frantic.
“Toward what end of the building?” Michael intervened in the conversation, attempting to save as much time as he could. By the look of the fire, it was already spread across the entire complex.
“It was apartment two twenty-five, near the back end. I saw them come home this evening and they aren’t out here now. I’m almost sure of it.”
Michael headed toward the door but felt his captain’s hand grasp his arm. “McGinnis, hold on a second. I don’t want you going in alone. We’ve got a probationary fireman that can go with you and we’re getting a hose ready.”
“Sir, we don’t have time. Looks like the second floor is the worst.”
“All the more reason for you to wait.”
Michael could feel the heat blaring off of the structure. Hesitating, he looked at the captain and back at the orange flames that lit up the street like it was daytime. “I’m going in. I got my radio, I’ll let you guys know of my every move.” He didn’t allow his superior time to respond and headed in, applying his mask.
Heat overtook his senses. He had to squint as he entered the threshold of the inferno. He searched for a way up and luckily there was a staircase made out of cement that was safe to stand on. He had to crawl, ducking under fallen debris and flame engulfed pieces of wood. The roar of the fire was so loud that when he yelled out for any civilians he could barely hear his own voice.
“Is anybody up here?” Pausing, he waited for a response but could only hear the crackling of the wood as the fire ate it away. “Yell out if you can hear me! FDNY!”
The voice was high pitched and coming from behind the door the lady had said. Michael crawled to it and ran his hand up and down the frame to make sure it was safe to kick in. The knob was locked.
“Stay where you are and keep talking so I can find you!”
Michael was able to kick in the door after a few attempts. Smoke lingered in front of him making the visibility next to impossible to see in. Getting on his hands and knees, he pushed his way across the floor. Gut instinct was to look in the bathroom. Most victims seemed to always be in their bathtubs. He went around the corner and came across two kids in the shower stall, both pushed up against the tile. The mother was crouched near the toilet, tears leaving trails through the soot that gathered on her face.
“Oh thank God!” She threw her hands in the air as if she were rejoicing.
“Can all of you walk?”
The oldest girl nodded but her eyes shot downcast to the toddler. “Not her.”
Michael knelt down and saw that the younger child was unresponsive. He scooped her up in his arms. “You two follow me. Make sure you stay with me and I’ll get you out of here.”
Both nodded. The trip back downstairs seemed like an eternity. Every couple of seconds Michael would glance back to make sure he wasn’t going too fast for them. He wasn’t sure if his imagination was playing tricks on him but it felt like the flames were getting hotter with each second. The building creaked and moaned and he knew the frame wouldn’t hold much longer. He tried to quicken the pace but they both fell behind and he had to stop and go back. The young girl he was carrying still lay limp. If they didn’t get out soon it wouldn’t matter. They would all be crushed from the cave in.
It had dawned on him that he wasn’t keeping in touch with his captain like he had promised. If he tried to queue the radio he would end up dropping the child. His legs felt like mush as they made it to the bottom story. The exit was just a few yards away and he gritted his teeth and fought through the pain to get there. Letting out a low groan, Michael pushed through the door and landed out on the concrete, appreciating the cold night air. A couple of firefighters came to aid in taking the girl to the ambulance. He watched as they guided the mother and the older kid to be checked out as well.
Judging by his captain’s body language he was going to be in for an ear full. Ignoring everyone, he made his way to the ambulance where they took the family. The toddler was still unresponsive as they put her on the gurney. It was a couple of medics he knew and probably two of the best New York had. Eva Crisante placed a mask over the child’s face and began CPR. Michael stood back, his heart pounding quicker than when they were in the building. He had lost victims over his time with the department and while all of them were hard to get over, a child seemed to stick with him a lot longer.
“C’mon Michael, let’s step back. You need to be checked out by the medics.” Darryl tried to pull Michael away but he jerked his arm out of Darryl’s grasp.
“It’ll be okay, let’s go. I’m fine.”
Eva looked up from her work and shot Michael a quick glance. Her brow creased with concentration and a small smile parted her lips, almost as if she were trying to reassure Michael. She reached for the back doors and closed them as the ambulance departed from the scene. Michael followed for a few steps, watching as it disappeared down the block, the siren echoing off of the high rises of the neighborhood.
“McGinnis, I don’t think there’s a need to lecture you about what you did.” Captain Rooker stood near the engine, his arms folded over his chest. Thankfully the fire was pretty much contained and they just needed to cover the secondary search. “Good job getting that family out.” He patted Michael on the shoulder. “I think you’re just trying to give me a heart attack.”
“Don’t pat me on the back yet, I don’t know if that little girl’s gonna make it.” Michael adjusted his hat and looked back at the building that was now dripping with water. A few embers still flickered in some spots but the fire was now controlled. “We were too late.”
The rest of the night sleep was impossible. Michael paced back and forth, waiting on a call from the paramedics or the hospital about the little girl. Eva had his cell phone number and she knew he liked to hear the outcome, but the more time passed the more he worried.
He glanced up at the clock. It was almost seven. His shift would be over then and he thought about going to the hospital to find out on his own if need be. Everyone else finally started to wake up. Michael tried to make it look like he had just gotten up too and sat at the dining room table with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. He nodded at a few of the guys, acknowledging them but keeping his head ducked to avoid conversation.
Captain Rooker came out of his office and sat down adjacent to him. “Go ahead and go home. Shift is over in about fifteen.” He paused and sipped down some coffee. “I know you didn’t go back to sleep when we got back. Get some rest and come back tomorrow ready to go.”
Michael wasn’t in the mood to argue so he finished his coffee and folded the paper, leaving it for whoever else wanted to read it. He grabbed his duffel bag from his locker and made his way downstairs. He usually walked back to his apartment. It was only two blocks over on Forty Fourth Street. There was no access to a subway that went that short of a distance and he didn’t own a car. It was good exercise.
He didn’t notice Eva standing down in the garage near the trucks. “Hey Michael.” She waved her hand and twirled a set of keys on her finger. Her long hair was loosely pulled back in a ponytail. By the looks of things she had been up all night as well.
“Hey Eva, what’s up?” He walked toward her. “Any news on that girl?”
She bit her bottom lip and shook her head. “She’s gonna be okay. Had a lot of smoke inhalation and a few minor burns but they said she’ll make a full recovery.” She tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear. “They said any longer and she probably wouldn’t have survived. That was good work, Michael.”
He could feel his cheeks warm up. “Nah, I just got her out. You guys are the ones who…”
“Don’t be so modest. Who else would’ve gone in that building? Be proud. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She turned and walked up the stairs before he could respond.
The cool morning air was refreshing. It was mid April and in New York it still tended to be pretty nippy, especially in the morning. Michael pulled his jacket tight around him, ducking his head away from the wind. The traffic was already thick down forty second. As he walked he moved faster than the cars that were lined up at the light. It was times like this that he enjoyed the fact that he didn’t have a vehicle.
He stood on the stoop of his apartment and stared down the street, nodding at Old Man Carlisle, a seventy-eight year old man that always sat out on the sidewalk in a lawn chair at that time of day. “Hey Mikey, how was work?” He puffed on a cigar and looked at Michael out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh you know.” Michael never gave him a straight answer and Mr. Carlisle was always content with that. It was small talk at its best but he got used to seeing the guy out by the stoop. “You better stop smoking those, Carlisle, they’ll kill you.” He shot the old man a smile. Another routine was razzing him about his tobacco usage.
“Yeah, well so will a five alarm fire, Mikey. Think about it.” Carlisle winked and extinguished the cigar with the heel of his worn boot.
Before Michael went inside he contemplated going down to the hospital where they took the girl from the fire but thought it was probably best not to. Eva had said she was in good hands and she wasn’t one to lie to him about the well being of one of his victims.
“I’ll see you around Old Man.” Michael opened the entrance and walked the five flights of stairs to his apartment. He liked taking the stairs over the elevator. While it wasn’t a strenuous workout it still got his pulse going.
He sat down on the couch and turned the TV on. Nothing was on but some morning talk shows and cartoons. Flipping through, he stopped on an old Bugs Bunny episode. Yawning, he stretched out and relaxed into the cushion, allowing his body to drift off into a deep sleep.
Jolting from sleep, Michael could have sworn he heard a loud bang on his door. He searched for his cell phone and found it on the floor under his coffee table. It was two forty-five. He didn’t intend on sleeping that long. Another loud knock echoed. It took him a second to gain his composure.
He walked to the door and peered through the peephole, rolling his eyes at the sight of who it was. It was Casey, his younger brother. Any time he showed up on Michael’s doorstep it meant he wanted something. Opening the door, he frowned at him, already expecting the same act Casey always pulled with him.
“Big bro! Did I wake you?” Casey opened his arms for a hug but Michael turned his back, inviting him in.
“What the hell are you doing here?” His voice was raspy and he coughed to clear it.
Casey pretended to pout but that quickly passed as he edged toward the kitchen. He picked up an apple off of the counter and ran it across his sleeve before he took a bite. “Tough love there, Mikey! Hadn’t seen you in awhile, figured I’d stop by and say hey.”
Michael sat at the kitchen table. Casey resembled him in a way. They were about the same height; around six foot one with dark hair, but Casey was rail thin, more than likely from the years of drug use.
“Can the act, Casey. It’s always the same thing when you come around.” Michael loved his brother but he had been taken advantage of one too many times. He had tried his hardest to get Casey on the straight and narrow but it was a lost cause. He felt hypocritical when he tried. He was a troublemaker as a teenager and didn’t feel right preaching to him about redeeming himself.
Casey swallowed a piece of apple and Michael could hear it from across the kitchen. “I know.” Casey snapped his fingers and paced. “I woke you up. Good God you’re always an asshole when you’ve been woken up. Want me to make you some coffee?”
Michael ran his hands through his hair as he grew frustrated. “What did you get yourself into this time?”
Casey’s playful expression changed, now more serious. “I was just wondering if I could borrow like fifty bucks. I’ve been living off of those damn frozen dinners. I need a change.”
Michael scoffed and leaned back in the chair. He didn’t need this right now, not after the night he had. “And what happened to the job you had down at that bodega on Fifth Avenue?”
“You know as well as I do that it doesn’t pay shit. C’mon, Mikey, just fifty bucks. You’re the big time firefighter, I know you can handle it.”
“You’re a moron, you know that?” Michael stood up and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and refused to offer Casey one. He reached in his back pocket and grabbed his wallet. “Hopefully twenty is enough for now cause that’s all I got.” He extended the crisp bill to him. Before Casey could grab it, Michael pulled it away. “You still got that job?”
Casey nodded and tossed the apple core into the trash. “Of course I do.”
“You better not be lying, you know I can find out. And don’t burn that bridge, I got you that job.”
Casey rolled his eyes and reached out for the money. “I still got the job. Thanks bro, I owe you.”
Michael let out a sarcastic laugh and released the twenty. “You’re damn right you do. I better not find out you spent that on drugs. You know how word gets around here in Hell’s Kitchen.”
“I need food more than drugs right now. Thanks, man.”
Michael walked him to the door knowing that he had just been lied to. “Stay out of trouble. See you next time you need something.”
Before Casey could say anything, he shut the door and sat back down on the couch, his mind running a mile a minute. He took another swig of his beer and peeled at the label. How could Casey lie straight to his face, his own brother, his flesh and blood? And how come he always gave in to him despite the fact that he knew the money was going to something illegal? He had a weak spot for Casey. Since they were kids he always protected him. From school fights to hiding things from their mother, he had Casey’s back.
In all reality, Michael felt guilty for Casey’s criminal behavior. His younger brother always followed him and did everything he did. At one point Michael was headed in the same direction. Casey gladly followed suit. The only problem was Casey never found his way back to the good side.
He jumped when he heard his cell phone ringing, laughing to himself about how jumpy he was acting. Eva’s name flashed across the screen. Smiling, he opened the face of the phone.
“Hey, Michael, what’re you doing?” Her voice sounded cheery.
“Just woke up. How’re you?” He finished the last few sips of his beer and scooted it across the top of his table.
“Good, thanks. A few of us are going down to Perry’s Bar for some drinks. Was seeing if you wanted to come along?”
Michael looked up at the ceiling and at first was going to decline but decided getting out of the house might help his mood. “Sure, that sounds like fun.”
“Okay, we’re gonna head over there about eightish or so. I’ll see ya then!”
“Sounds good.” He closed his phone and stared at the TV. He needed something to get his mind off of his brother and a few pool games at Perry’s just might do the trick.