Inferno of Love:Firefighters of Long Valley Book 2(14)

By: Erin Wright


Dammit, why was some dude out hiking in the foothills today? It was nice enough weather for spring, sure, but didn’t he have a job to be at or something? It was too early for it to be a tourist – they almost never showed up until after Memorial Day.

Whatever. He needed to call Jaxson before he lost all signal. Leaving the chattering radio beside him on the passenger seat, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. Jaxson answered, sounding out of breath. “You on your way?” he asked, not even bothering with a greeting.

Moose didn’t either. This was no time for pleasantries.

“I’m on my way to the fire,” he said bluntly. “I’m not coming to the station beforehand.”

“What?!” Jaxson roared. “You can’t go fight a fire single-handedly! And without equipment!”

“I know,” Moose broke in, before Jaxson could get a full head of steam on him, “but I’m not going to. I know Eagle’s Nest – I can get up to it from the backside. No fire truck is going to be able to reach this area, which means we’re going to be fighting this with Pulaskis and chainsaws. By the time you guys get the fire under control, this tourist is gonna be dead. I’ll go up the backside of the foothills and over the top, down to Eagle’s Nest, and get the guy and his dog out.”

Jaxson started to protest again, but this time, Moose just bluntly cut him off. “Jaxson, I’m gonna pull local boy card here. I know this place like the back of my hand. I’m already a lot closer to it than y’all are, because I was at the dealership when the call came in. I can make a difference. You gotta trust me.”

And then the phone was beeping in his hand and Moose pulled it away from his ear to see “No Signal” flashing on the screen. “Dammit!” he growled, putting the phone into airplane mode before dropping the worthless hunk of electronics into an empty cup holder. He didn’t know how much of that Jaxson had caught.

His radio had gone silent also, which Moose did not take as a good sign, but he snagged it from the passenger seat and tried to radio in anyway.

“Moose Garrett to base,” he said.

Nothing.

He let out a curse that’d set his grandmother’s hair on fire if she’d heard him, and tossed the worthless radio into the backseat. After 9/11, the federal government had made a concerted effort to get radios into the hands of all first responders that should work anytime, any place, anywhere, and most fire departments had taken advantage of that grant money to get a top-notch radio system for their crew.

Every fire department, that was, except for the Sawyer Fire Department.

He cursed former Chief Horvath as he slammed his hand down on the steering wheel. The man had been in that position for far too long, and had just gotten damn lazy. Anything that smacked of paperwork, he’d done his best to duck. He’d bought that overpriced, brand-spanking-new fire truck a couple years back, and ever since then, he hadn’t even bothered trying to pretend that he was interested in doing more. He’d done his part, he’d stayed the course, and from there forward, he was just biding his time until he could retire.

Well, with any luck at all, Jaxson would’ve heard most of what Moose had said, and wouldn’t panic too much. He needed to focus on getting the rest of the guys out to fight the fire. Moose could take care of himself.

The road shrunk down to one lane, and then pavement disappeared completely and Moose was bouncing along on a rutted dirt road an elk would be horrified to walk down. He grunted in pain when he was bounced up high enough that his seatbelt locked, slamming him back down into the seat.

The good news was, his truck was as tough as shoe leather, and a 4x4 to boot, so it’d climb a greased pole if need be. He could get pretty far up the backside of the hill that dropped off into Eagle’s Nest before he’d be forced to get out and climb. Any mile he could drive, he would. It would shave precious minutes off his arrival time, and right now, every minute counted.

Finally, he reached the row of boulders that he couldn’t wind his way past. This was where the truck ride ended and the hiking began. He shifted into park, and jumped out to begin his search through the backseat for supplies. The first thing he reached for was his emergency backpack. Part of his first responder training had been to always carry a backpack with water, snacks, and extras like matches and a couple of space blankets, just in case he was ever trapped out in the wilderness unexpectedly. He wasn’t going to attest to the freshness of the food, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers.

He unzipped the front pocket and pulled out the headlamp he kept tucked in there, pulling it into place on his head. He didn’t need to turn it on yet, but having it ready to go could only be a good thing. The sun was starting to head for the western horizon, which meant that they were about to enter the seemingly endless twilight zone that came along with living in a deep valley. For hours after direct sunlight would’ve disappeared, the sky would still be lit with the fading rays of the sun. Hopefully Moose would be able to get the guy and his dog back up to the truck and to safety before the light completely disappeared, but that was nothing more than a hope at this point.