Authors: Jess Hunter,Sable Hunter
For A Hero
By Jess Hunter
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©Pending Jess Hunter and
All rights reserved.
Flames licked every wall of the once-beautiful Victorian home. The fire danced and made every hue transform into a dark orange. David knew exactly what to do. He felt more comfortable in a fire than out of one. A loud crack sounded above his head as a support beam gave way. Its heavy descent ended abruptly in the sturdy, solid palm of David’s broad hand. He effortlessly tossed it aside and continued searching the house.
Between the crackling of the burn, David’s ears caught a strangled cough. A child. Probably a young girl. He could hear her in one of the bedrooms in the back hallway. He sturdied himself. His self-contained breathing apparatus allowed him to stand tall without the smoke filling his lungs. The muscles on his back hardened, preparing to support whatever burden he was called upon to bear.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” David didn’t want to waste time searching each room. He needed to know exactly where she was.
“I’m in my room,” a tiny voiced choked out through sobs of fear. David checked, but the door was jammed. The hinges may have warped or the walls become compressed together due to the fire eating away at the studs and ceiling. Fire can kill in so many ways.
“Step away from the door,” David shouted. With a mighty shove, he broke the door open quickly and cleanly. A lonesome young girl lay on her bed, clasping a teddy bear wearing a red ribbon, while fire ate the room around her.
“Are you ok, Sweetheart?” David asked gently. . He would have liked to stop and check her for injuries, but there just wasn’t time.
“I want my mommy. I am so scared.”
“It’s ok, Honey. I know where your mommy is. I am going to help her save you. Is it alright with you if I pick you up?”
The young lady nodded and held her arms into the air, one still holding tightly to the teddy. David gently lifted her to his chest, flexing his biceps until his arms were solid as oak. She was wrapped in armor.
David walked back the way he came; it was imperative that they leave the building as soon as possible. It might fall any moment.
The house creaked at David, warning him of the impending collapse. He lengthened his stride. She mustn’t know what danger she was in. David had made her safe now. That was his purpose.
He was too late. Just as the light of day could be seen through the front door, fire ate through the ceiling and it came crashing down, blocking their way with embrous debris. The scream of the child’s mother was muffled behind the mountain of white-hot wood, insulation and sheet rock, obstacles fire had placed in his way. Ceiling tile and a large wooden board clashed with David’s back. The plank snapped on his trapezius. He felt no pain. This was his job. However, the sound of the crash caused the child to bury her face in David’s chest. He hated her to be afraid while he held her.
He turned around. Homes like this always had another door. He marched through the kitchen, shielding the child from spark and flame. He found it. The side door. It stood near the cooking appliances and the danger of electric shock kept most of the emergency response team clear of the area. David, however, had no choice.
Without a hand to open the door, he stepped back to ready his kick.
“Hold on, Honey. We’re almost there. Protect Teddy.”
A wicked snap resounded through the house and the door flew through the air into the back yard. The breeze of freedom wrapped their bodies in cold and comfort.
From the front, the snap could be heard clearly. Police held on to the woman, her screams echoing down the street. The house trembled and cracked. With a belch of smoke, her home imploded into rubble.
“NOOO!! God, no!! My baby! Why did nobody get my baby?” She screamed accusatorially at the firemen and police who stood idly watching fire steal her world from her. The news reporters had nothing to say. The cameras just rolled on.
“The Fire Chief, David Conlon, was in the house, Ma’am. He went in after your daughter.”
“He went alone?!?! Why was he trying to save her alone!?!? Where are they?!?!”
The team hung their heads while the fire hose rained life-saving water down upon the house. It would be hours before the firemen and EMT’s could retrieve and transport the bodies from the smoldering ruins. Despite the ruckus, a silence stole the minds of the spectators between the sobs of the mother.
At that moment, bursting forth from the cloud of smoke and water and despair, an angel walked calmly into the street, a little doll cradled in its arms. A wave of cheer and celebration erupted from the crowd. Where once there was silence and sadness, joy and hope popped like fireworks.
David handed the baby to her mother. Tears of joy streamed down her face and she petted the little girl’s face with kisses. He peeled off his hat and mask. His black curly hair framed his face. The ash-blackened silhouette of his SCBA encircled his brilliantly blue eyes. She gasped at the beauty of the man that saved her only child.
“Thank you so much. You have no idea what you did for me today. You are my hero.” Her thankfulness welled up within her. This man was her savior. Without him, she would have said goodbye to her daughter instead of hugging her.
“Please don’t, Ma’am. It’s just my job.” David accepted the gratitude, but he did not bask in it. He did not do what he did for the “thanks.” He smiled a little smile at the woman and kissed the girl on the crown of her forehead.
Without an ounce of pride or boastfulness, he turned and walked away. The excitement faded. The police and rescue teams retreated. The mother took her child and started a new life elsewhere. Fire rested to attack another day, and David returned to his home alone. He cleansed himself of the ash, treated his wounds and waited for another chance to do the only thing on this Earth he knew how to do.
“Don’t feel well today, Jenna?”
“What do you mean? I feel great. I’m going to kick today’s butt.”
“I know you will. You always do, but you can’t hide it from me. I have been working next to you for five years. What happened? Was it Ben again?” Margaret pursed her lips as she spoke to Jenna. It doesn’t matter that Jenna, at twenty-seven years old, was a full grown adult with plans and resources and experiences of her own. Margaret was the mother hen of Prudent Advertising. She could have been promoted or even retired at this point. But, she just loved her job, and the people she worked with, like Jenna.
“He is just being a guy. You can’t fault him for that.”
“He tried again. It’s bad enough that he has a girlfriend, but I know her.” Margaret leaned back and nodded as Jenna started her rant. “It’s always the same thing. ‘Let’s be friends,’ he says. ‘It’s not like that,’ he says. He always pulls this shit and I call him on it and he goes right back to ‘help me be better. You make me better. Help me not be such a whore.’ If his girlfriend knew how many times he tried to sleep with me, she would have a conniption. I just don’t know what to do. He really is my friend. He has been there for me when I needed someone. Maybe there aren’t any good guys.”
“Honey, you should just make some good girl friends. Helen and I get together every Thursday after work and play Chicken Foot down at Luby’s. Next time, you just come along and we will have a dandy-old-time, that is, if you can handle us blue-haired hurricanes.”
“Maggie, you are so sweet.” Jenna laid her briefcase down on her desk and slumped down into the chair. “I have always been one of the guys. I don’t feel very girly. Guys are easier to talk to, to relate to.”
“That’s because all you do is work, Honey. Take a break. Get a hobby. Chicken Foot is absolutely marvelous.”
“I don’t know. I’ll worry about it later. I finished this presentation for the Black Keys’ new album and I need to show it to the boss. This will get me that promotion for sure.” Life flowed back into Jenna as she put aside her man trouble and dove into her career head. She excitedly prepared her folder, stood, straightened her pant suit and began marching dutifully toward Mr. McBride’s office. “We’ll grab coffee after the meeting, Maggie. Thanks for making me feel better.”
“Of course, Jenna. Good luck. Ooooh, one more thing.”
“There are good men out there. I had one. He was an angel right up until the day I lost him. Don’t settle for less than a good man, Jenna. He is out there waiting for you.” Nostalgia, sadness and then the mask of everyday cycled over Margaret’s face.
“Thank you, Maggie. I’ll remember that.”
“Jenna, I have some news that you might find a bit unsettling.” These were not the words Jenna wanted to hear from her boss. His office was dark, and located far from the rest of the staff. It was never pleasant to walk down that way, and today proved to be no different.
“Unsettling news? I haven’t even shown you the Black Keys folder.” Jenna always thought Earl McBride was gay. He was very clean-looking, moderately athletic and on the smarter side of plebian, but there was a slickness to him, something awkward in the way he stood and walked. He seemed to stay on his toes.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Miss Johnson.” He closed the door behind her and crossed his arms as he leaned against his desk. “You are being moved to another position, effective immediately.”
“Is this the promotion? I was excited to hear Mr. Conroe was considering me, but I didn’t think he would have an answer for the next week or two.”
“No. The promotion is to fill an administrative position here at the Dallas office. You will be moving to Austin. That is, if you want to continue working for Prudent Advertising in any capacity.”
“Sir, I don’t understand. Austin hasn’t requested an account manager in months and I have been speaking with you and Mr. Conroe about this promotion for a year.”
“Well, it’s all a bit complicated, but I can assure you, this transition is the best move for Prudent.” There it was. She could see the smirk hidden just beneath the professional face he wore.
“You asshole! Is this because I refused to go back to your place after the synergy retreat last week?”
Earl’s crooked little finger surreptitiously pointed upward toward the camera in the corner of his office. “Now, now Miss Johnson. Any wild, unsubstantiated claims will be met with immediate termination. I’m afraid it is Austin or unemployment.”
For a second, Jenna was lost. All the hard work had been for nothing. She would have to start all over again, make a new name for herself in a whole new city. She would need to court the market, meet the artists, and prove herself. It would easily be another five years before she was considered for another promotion.
It didn’t take long for her to regain her composure. She would not let him see her cry. This snake didn’t deserve to see her bare her soul. All he was going to get from her was a cold shoulder. Jenna calmly collected her things, took a deep breath and walked swiftly out of Mr. McBride’s office.
As she reached her desk, the tempest of emotion grew more difficult to control. She feverishly began packing her things, her laptop, her notebook with kitties on it, her picture of her sister, all the items that she had looked at for half a decade while she built the ladder that would take her higher in her career.
“Honey, what is it? Did you quit? What happened?” Margaret asked out of love and concern.
“You were wrong, Maggie. There are no good men.”
The puppy tries to run back to the house. The young boy scoops it up and holds it tight. “Cooper, don’t go in there. You’re safe here.” The boy pulls Cooper underneath his father’s black Chevrolet Monte Carlo and hides from the fire that is consuming his home.
He wraps the puppy up with both of his arms, doing everything he can to prevent any harm from coming to it. All of a sudden, the voices of his parents echo around the building.
“Gabriel! Gabriel Eric Raine, where are you?”
“Baby, I don’t see him. I think he’s still in the house. Cooper, too. Stay here, I am going in after them.”
“No. Paul, you can’t carry them both. I’m going in with you.”
Little Gabriel’s ears perk up. He begins to crawl out from under the car. With the puppy clenched tightly to his chest, he drug his bare knees across the cement of the driveway. The tearing of his flesh on the sharp rocks brought tears to his eyes.
“Gabriel! Gabriel! Where are you?”
He stands up, puts the puppy into the open window of the black luxury car and turns to run toward the house.
The explosion propels him into the street. He can’t lift his head. With herculean effort, he pushes himself up enough to look toward his home. There is nothing. The house is shambled firewood. There are no more voices. Even the car is in pieces all around him.