Hey everyone! Here’s the first part of Trapped. Hope you enjoy it.
I got the idea for Trapped June 29, 2013. When I learned June 30 that 19 hotshot firefighters had lost their lives, I was thrown back. Here I was writing about a wildland firefighter.
Fire is a theme in many of my stories, and in the last several years wildfires have menaced communities I’ve lived in such as the Monument and Antelope Fires in Sierra Vista, Arizona in June 2011, and the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs in June 2012. Then came June 11, 2013 and the Black Forest Fire. Black Forest was where I grew up, and while I haven’t lived there for many years, it is dear to me. Fortunately, my old home survived the conflagration.
My relationship with fire is a curious one, as it has been all my life. It’s one of enormous respect for the raw power of Mother Nature and with it a fear that can’t always be avoided.
So with that, I dedicate this story to the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots who saved homes here in Sierra Visa in June 2011 but who perished in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona on June 30, 2013. They were doing what they loved and did so well, saving property and lives. Thank you for your service. May you rest in peace.
Disclaimers: In this story Chimney Rock, Arizona is a fictional town, but it might be Anywhere Town here in the Southwest. Also, as far as I know, University of Arizona does not have a fire science program.
Arlie Davis ran from fire once before and yet paid a terrible price. A new fire threatens her world and an entire community and fear nips sharply at her heels. When a madman decides she’ll succumb to the flames, firefighter Hank Clancy is her only hope for survival.
Chimney Rock, Arizona
100 degrees Fahrenheit
Arlie Davis watched the rickety building loom up in the distance as she floored the gas petal on the old blue pickup.
The gas station on the flats just north of Chimney Rock looked like it belonged in a damned slasher flick.
This isn’t a movie, Arlie.
Wind gusted heavy for a second and moved the truck around. She corrected with the steering wheel.
From a distance, the gas station appeared abandoned, but a closer look revealed it still operated. Sure, the big truck stop on the other side of the four-lane highway served more patrons, but the old station catered to locals who preferred a personal touch.
She pressed down on the gas pedal again. She’d passed cars like her life depended on it, and it well might. She wasn’t proud of her driving, but she didn’t have time to wait in line with the others fleeing before the Chimney Fire roared into the town and roasted the place into oblivion. She glanced in the mirror, half afraid she’d see Junior sailing up behind her in his squad car, or perhaps even worse—the raw and deadly power of the wildfire. Her skin prickled, goose bumps traveling along her body like the touch of many tiny insects. She shivered, unable to control the fear spiking her system into redline. One part of her was damned annoyed at not being able to control the reaction, but it came from somewhere primal. She tried slowing her breathing, but her heart didn’t care. It rattled in her chest like an old engine.
She shifted on the seat. Her butt hurt–the bench seat must have lost stuffing a long time ago, if it ever had any, and the seat belts were shoved so far down she couldn’t have reached them even if she’d had time. Her mouth was dry but she didn’t take her hands off the steering wheel to grab her water bottle.
This isn’t safe Arlie. Slow down. Yeah, but where am I going to go?
Hell, no. It wasn’t safe. She hadn’t had time for pretty, reasonable driving when she’d grabbed the keys and jumped inside the truck, rammed it into gear and shot out of the driveway. Tears moistened her eyes. God she was a mess. She blinked rapidly to clear her vision. It wouldn’t help her a damned bit if she ran into the ditch and wrecked the pickup. She needed Grandmother’s old contraption to make it out of here. To make it out of the universe. Because God only knew what it would take to escape the fire roaring down the mountain and Junior Douglas.
When Junior woke up with a splitting headache he’d be damned pissed.
That is, if he woke up at all.
She glanced at the gas gauge and groaned. She didn’t want to stop, but trucks didn’t run on fumes. Emotions battered her from a half dozen directions. She’d evacuated her grandmother’s old trailer with a few important papers in her purse, a suitcase of clothes in the bed of the truck, and the t-shirt, khaki shorts and athletic shoes she wore now. If the trailer burned, she’d start again. Starting again didn’t scare her half so much as the red beast chewing up the trees on the peak and the law that would be after her if Junior was dead.
She glanced in the rearview mirror as her scrambled thoughts tried to right themselves. She’d never suspected Junior’s pathology, never guessed he was nuttier than a fruit basket and meaner than an entire hive of Africanized bees. She looked at the gas gauge again. No one else was stopping at the old gas station, so maybe she had time. Considering the long line behind her that she’d circumvented by taking a back road, it was possible if Junior woke up he’d be stuck in the traffic jam. She could only hope.
Instinct prickled along her skin like a thousand tiny spiders dancing along her and arms. She knew that feeling well and the consequences of ignoring it. She’d ignored her squiggy feelings about Junior because he was a deputy sheriff and look where that had gotten her. The thought of running out of gas as the wildfire came across the mountains frightened her more than Junior catching up with her.
Part two coming up on Saturday!