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Backdraft Recalled

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Backdraft Recalled
by Bethany

 

“Dummy doesn’t quite cut it, does it, Brian!??” Stephen was relentless.
    “Piss off, Steve, or you might get piss all over you!” Brian told him, as he carried on relieving himself into the gutter.
    “Ohh, nice!” His brother wouldn’t let up.
    “What, you mean like you are to me!??” Brian confronted him. “All I did was try to save a voice I did hear!”
    “You can’t be everyone’s hero, little brother…” Stephen told him, then, walked back toward the engine…

Dennis McCaffrey couldn’t let the Proby die. She was the daughter of his best friend. Knew that John would save Stephen, if it were him in trouble… But Steven was in another part of the building, thank God…
    Rose McCaffrey was outside, behind the lines; way back, away from her eldest son and husband. She knew she shouldn’t be out here with the rest of them. Anything could happen, and her little boy would be there to witness it with her… But she couldn’t stay back on the Base. She was drawn to the fire; just a few blocks from where she’d taken Brian to see his Daddy and brother at work just fifteen minutes ago…
    Dennis McCaffrey dove across the floor-boards toward Joanne Adcox. She stood in a circle of flame. He stood behind her, scooped her up, and through her clear, beyond the door; praying she wouldn’t hit the ground, and go straight through a weakened part of it.
    He saw his son dash toward where he’d thrown Joanne, crashing down a corridor; John Adcox behind him… Stephen pulled Joanne away, pushing her into her father’s arms. “Dad..! Dad!!!”
    “Don’t you dare, Steven..! You hear me!?? Don’t you fuckin dare, boy!!” Dennis shouted at him.
    And John Adcox pulled the young boy away; out of the building…

“Good job today, by the way…” Alderman Marty Swayzak looked back toward the men of 17, as they stood in the yard back at their Station.
    Stephen walked out front of his friends; catching Swayzak by the elbow. “Good job, yeah!??”
    Swayzak tried defusing… “Yes, McCaffrey… You do hero’s work!”
    Steven swung at him then and there… “Why are you letting men whom do hero’s work die!?? Huh??! They’re –“He pointed back toward his friends while Swayzak hit the floor. “-not your heroes, are they!??”
    John Adcox, Stephen’s Chief, picked the Alderman up off the floor. Brian and Joanne held Steve back.
    “Why do you think I’m killing them??” Swayzak called, recovering. “You’re not doing anything to save them!”
    “I’d say that’s not very true; The new engines, the new gear,” he indicated their tattered threads, “they’re all to protect you!”
    Throwing his shoulders forward, Steven broke free of his brother and comrade… “Cutting investigation resources; slow-tracking building maintenance, here, at the Station; other places, too… I know your game!”
    “I’m a champion of the team’s importance!!” The Alderman told him.
    “You keep telling the world that, don’t ya??” Steven spat.

“Lieutenant, over here!!” John Adcox yelled at Stephen twenty minutes later.
    Stephen walked over in his towel; he hadn’t showered yet.
    “Is a Lieutenant all you ever wanna be, Steven!??” John Adcox flamed.
    “Yes, sir..!” Steven affirmed; turning and walking back to the door of the locker-room.
    John had to let him go…

Water pouring down over his jazzed body, Tim Krizminski, Brian’s pal, turned to his buddy. “It’s fuckin fantastic – That’s what this job is!!”
    “Great.” Brian replied.
    “Your brother is so right, man! Standing up to the flame is shit hot!” Tim shook his hair under the shower-head.
    “It’s shit and it’s hot, yeah…” Brian noted quietly.

Brian McCaffrey walked behind his father’s stretcher. One of the paramedics had handed the boy his father’s battered hat. He watched his brother’s footsteps to the back of the ambulance, supported by Joanne Adcox; John, her father, now consoling Rose.
    The sun was glinting down on Brian. It burned into his mind, like the flames had burnt into his father’s body.
    He stood and stared at the world around him as a paparazzi took a photo of him; the boy wearing the hat of a hero…

“Marty wants to prove your brother wrong, Brian… He wants you to come work for us, catch this Backdraft bastard!!” Jennifer paused, her drink in front of her.
    “And this was based on my sparkling performance earlier today, this job offer!??”
    Swayzak had moved up behind the pair at the bar. “Yes.”
    Brian turned. “No thanks.”
    “Why not?” The Aldeman stood next to his secretary, Jennifer.
    “I’m a firefighter!” Brian glowered.
    “I know – You saved a life all on your own today!” Marty Swayzak crooned.
    “Did I??” Brian put his empty glass on the bar.
    “Yes, son…” Swayzak assured him.
    “It was a manikin, Aldeman… My brother’s right about one thing – Things are not as they seem!!” Brian walked away.

    “Helen, can we talk??” Stephen McCaffrey asked her; cutting in as she danced with one of the paper-pushers.
    “Hi, Steve…” The man said; ignoring the fact that Steven had gotten between him and Helen.
    “What’s the talk gonna be about, Steven??” Helen queried.
    “Our boy…” Stephen told her.
    “What about Charlie??” She asked.
    “I don’t want him to forget his father…” Steven blurted.
    “You do still see him..!” Helen was exasperated.
    “Uhu… But how’s he gonna know me, how’s he gonna remember me when he’s Brian’s age..?” Stephen looked to his brother, whom was watching this unfold. “I wanna take him down the boat this weekend…”
    “You can!” Helen affirmed. “I haven’t got any shifts at the call-centre this weekend… I need some time alone; The house needs sorting, come and take him off my hands for a while..!”
    Meanwhile, her dance partner, a behind the scenes man at the emergency services call centre, an office across from the fire-station, had walked over to Brian…
    “Today was just a dummy run for you, then, was it, Bri??!” The idiot proposed.
    Brian sneered and ignored him.
    Stephen bolted at the man. “Back off, man!”
    “Hey, it was only a damn joke!” The man said, heading back to Helen.
    “We’re all a damn joke to you!!” Steven ran at him, knocking him to the floor, face first, inches from Helen’s feet.

Out in the night air, Joanne went to see Steven. “Helen doesn’t like that bloke, y’know…”
    “Yeah, right..!” Stephen stated.
    “Yeah, right!” Brian had followed Joanne out there. “What were you thinking!??”
    “He laughed at you just ‘cos you got the balls to wear the uniform!” Steven turned to his brother.
    “Why do you always tell me the world isn’t about me, but you always manage to make it that way!??” Brian challenged.
    “Because you gotta learn, little brother!” Stephen faced up to him.
    “He is, Stephen!” Joanne soothed him. “C’mon, that ass has left – Go back in and apologise to your wife!” She pointed him back toward the entrance door of the bar.
    Jennifer walked out of it toward them, smiled, but kept quiet; now wasn’t the time… “You ok?” She asked, when she’d walked to Brian.

The flames were eating at Tim. So, Brian went to help him. Stephen knocked him back… And ran to help Tim himself… Several of Tim’s comrades converged on the Proby; putting out the fire… And Steve took the boy into his grasp; running back past Brian, toward the exit of the building… More of their colleagues were waiting there; keeping the flames at bay, so the rescuers and the rescued could reach safety…
    Brian watched his friend be put into the ambulance, and he ran for the fire engine…

Minutes later; the team had piled into the waiting area of ER at their local hospital…

“I told him to stay back!!” Joanne hunched over in her seat, waiting for news, like the rest of them. “He did what I did!” She looked to Brian. “I’m so sorry!”
    Brian patted her on the back. “It’s what fire-fighters do, Jo!” He spoke genuinely.
    “Why did he want to be the first there!? I wanted to be the first in there ‘cos I was sick of the team’s teasing… All the fluffy comments. Your Dad saved me, at his own expense… Today, I nearly cost you your brother and your best friend!” Then, she stopped. The Surgeon had just walked in.
    “He’s as stable as can be expected…” The man announced.

Up on the roof at the Station, Brian could breath. Then, Steve joined him.
    “I told you to stay behind me!!” Stephen spoke roughly.
    “You can’t protect me forever!!” Brian looked back at his face.
    “I know!!!” Steve retorted. “You need to learn..!”
    “You’ve mentioned that, Steve!” Brian answered.
    “It’s true… So go downstairs again, go role the hose!” Steve ordered.
    “Drill is done for the day!!” Brian dismissed.
    “What did I just say to you!!!???” Steve McCaffrey shouted.
    “This is obviously all about getting me to quit; getting me outta your hair, like when we were kids!”
    “… When you were a kid, yeah!!” Stephen cut in.
      “Don’t worry, Steven..! I’m going where I can be of use; Going to find out who did this to Tim – I’m accepting Swayzak’s job offer!!!” Brian pushed past his brother.
     
     Steve drove out to his old place, parked the car up, walked straight into the garage…
     He worked on the roof into the dark; Then, Helen & Charlie came home…
     “Dad!!!” The boy dashed out of his mother’s car.
     “Hi, buddy… Where you been!??”
     “Went to see Grandma & Grandpa!” The boy stood at the bottom of the ladder ‘til his father’s feet hit the ground.
     “How are your Mom & Dad??” Stephen asked Helen.
     “They’re well…” She answered not unkindly.
     “That’s always the kind of news that’s best to hear!” He told her.
     “How’s Tim??” Helen asked, holding her little boy’s hand.
     “He’s pulling through, thank Heaven!” Steve informed her, as he walked back toward the open, lit, garage, putting away the stuff he’d used to fix the roof.
     
     Later that evening, Helen took a beer out to Steve on the porch. “He’s sleeping…” she told him of their son. She left the door open a crack, just so they could hear Charlie if he were to call…
     “I’m knackered, too, Helen… Really.” Steve confessed. “And Brian’s quit. He’s gone to work for fire investigation!”
     “I bet that makes you happy...” Helen told him straight.
     “I think it was supposed to!!” Stephen admitted. “I’ve had it, Helen… This whole world’s so fucked up!!” He searched her eyes.
     
     They laid side by side on top of their old bed… He curled into her the way he used to. She held him… She needed to as well. So, after a few moments, she unzipped him, undid his shirt, too… And began to touch him; to let him in…
     They made love all night… Fell asleep just before first light.
     
     “Charlie, man, what are you doing!??” Steve looked at his son, working away feverishly on the table-top.
     “Making scrambled egg!!” The boy stirred like crazy…
     “And what are the shells for!?” Steve smiled.
     “To make it look pretty! Girls like things to look pretty, Dad… Hadn’t you noticed!??” The child looked up, egg white on his cheeks.
     Steve cleaned him up… “You’re right, my boy! You’re so right!!!”
     “What are you two doing!??” Helen appeared at the kitchen door.
     Steve turned around. “We’ve been found out, son. Shall I send her back to bed!??”
     “She can’t have any breakfast in bed if she’s not actually in bed, Dad..!” Charlie scowled at his Mom. “Mom, me & Dad wanted to make you happy!”
     “… So, Charlie suggested we make you Breakfast In Bed..!” Steve explained further.
     “Oh..!” Helen grinned, for a second. “Steve, can I have a word!??” She walked into the living room.
     “He’s going to get used to this!! I mean, I could handle it, but can he?!”
     “Listen…” Steve held her. “If there’s one thing I learned myself about having a Dad in the Force, it’s that you’re better off knowing him than not..! Besides, dying might not be a McCaffrey family tradition!”
     
     “That’s not in my job description!” Brian looked at the charred bodies in the mortuary, and then, back at his new colleague, Don Rimgale…
     “I’m your boss, Mr. McCaffrey – Get your ass over here! The only difference between these and some of the crisps you’ve taken from the flames before, is that we couldn’t save these two..!”
     “Seagrave and Santos here were the only victims in their fires – Do you know why that is!?? No – Don’t look at the nice Pathologist to tell you – I know she’s a prettier specimen!” Rimgale smiled knowingly at Doctor Amanda Bentley, the Pathologist in whose lab they stood.
     Brian grimaced.
     “… I have a suspicion they were not only victims of Arson, but good old targets of it to boot! – They got the boot for a reason, Mr’s Seagrave and Santos.
     “Why??” Brian looked up at Don.
     “Because they were bent..!” Donald explained.
     “Gay!??” Brian fathomed.
     “No! Businessmen..!” Don frowned. “Aren’t I right, Amanda!??”
     “Could be, Donald!” She spoke up.
     
     A maelstrom running through his mind, Brian walked up to his father’s old boat, finding Steven clearing it out…
     “How’s life treating you, little brother??” Steve walked out, dumping some stuff into his truck.
     “What ya doin!??” Brian asked interestedly.
     “Moving back in with Helen…” Steven informed him.
     “Cool..!” Brian brightened.
     “Thanks!!” Stephen said genuinely. “How are you & Jennifer these days??”
     “Better than we ever were, I think…” Brian mused.
     “Ya think!??” Steve picked up on it.
     “Well, I gotta ask her to do me a favour!” Brian mentioned.
     “It’s always best to make it a favour they can enjoy, too, y’know..!” Steve grinned.
     “At work..!” Brian told him…
     “Oooh, even better! –Lock the door! – Don’t let Swayzak catch ya!!” Stephen was still smilin’…
     
     “The digging we’ve done is right, Jennie… Please, help us confirm it, for Tim’s sake!”
     “Marty deals with a lot of Insurance men, Brian… It doesn’t mean he asks each one to give him crooked appraisals of the longevity of your fire station!!”
     “No. He actually asks for crooked appraisals of its viability!! Please, Jen!!!” Brian begged.
     “What am I gonna do if you’re wrong, Brian, you and Don..? – I’ll be busted back down to coffee maker, probably in someone else’s office altogether!!”
     “We’re not wrong, Jennifer, I promise you..!” He assured her.
     “Yes, you do, don’t you??” She commented.
     
     “Jennifer – It’s not the truth! I simply used the firms these unfortunate men worked for!!” Swayzak defended. “Now, please, go and see Chief Adcox about the plans for rebuilding the training grounds at the Station!”
     “Yes, sir.” Jennifer replied quietly and obediently, getting out of the office as quickly as she could.
     
     “He denies it…” Jennifer met with Brian at the fire-station later… But |I think you’re right!!” She handed Brian some files. “He doesn’t know I made these copies… And he thinks I’ve come here to see the Chief.”
     “OK, Jennie…” Brian looked down at the papers in his hands, leant against the pillar in the canteen. “Thank you…”
     
     “We’re gonna go tail Swayzak..!” Don announced.
     “He’ll know Jennie gave us the papers!” Brian reasoned.
     “He will not. She was just acting on a rumour she’d heard; We’re investigating a crime; he’s the Alderman we’re supposed to report to!”
     
     Brian knew something was wrong… Don Rimgale could sense it, too. They approached the house cautiously…
     “This place is on fire!” Brian yelled, approaching an open back door.
     Don and he went in. Smoke was coming from beneath another door.
     “For Chissake, don’t open it!” Don warned Brian. He stepped back, and nearly fell over something he hadn’t seen; Alderman Marty Swayzak, unconscious on his hallway floor.
     Brian went over to both of them, helping Don pick up the prone Alderman… But he heard something move behind him… He turned and made out a silhouette; whom tackled him to the floor; shoulder bashed hard into the belt around Brian’s waist, before jumping out of a window; while Don heaved Swayzak to safety.
     Brian picked himself up and ran for safety; knowing that the silhouette had gotten away…
     
     In the morning, waking early, despite the rigmarole of having taken Swayzak to hospital mere hours ago, Brian went down to the Station to see Steve.
     He was walking past the locker-room when he saw Joanne getting changed into a clean T shirt. She didn’t see him.
     But he saw her; and the grace on her shoulder.
     The thought made him want to die.
     
     He went to the canteen again; found Steve, and they went and sat on the Station roof.
     “I don’t like it either, Steve…” Brian felt almost defeated.
     “Steve, Don told you himself last night when he dropped me at your front door.”
     “I don’t deny that, Brian… I’ll sort it!” Steve got up from sitting against the wall. He paced.
     
     That evening, Brian headed back to the Station… Didn’t want to be away from it. Didn’t want to be anywhere else. Those that were on duty were sleeping for the time being… He could think in the quiet. Jennifer walked in on him. “What are you doing here?” He called, from sitting atop one of the engines, moving forward from laying back on the lining of the kit it carried.
     “Coming to see how you are after last night; Helen said you were here…” She looked up at him.
     “Come up!” He invited her, patting the engine roof.
     She walked over, and climbed the ladder.
     He helped her sit down.
     “Helen called me to let me know… Why didn’t you!??” She asked.
     “All’s well that ends well…” He fathomed.
     Jen kissed him. “Let me be worried about you…”
     He knelt up, pulling her, gently, with him, and kissed her back… “Let me love you…”
     “You already do…” She leant into him. “And you know I love you..!”
     They kissed again and again, harder and harder, stripping each other of clothing…
     She lay back, and he came over her. They stopped hiding from one another then…
     
     Half an hour later, they heard the alarm first, and then, footsteps, as they fumbled for their clothes around them… They’d gotten down just as 17 rounded the corner, barrelling for their Engine.
     Brian looked at Jennifer, and ran to pick up some gear, his, still on the rack; before running to his car; hoping his brother hadn’t seen that he planned to join them.
     
     Brian pulled up; ran out of the car; His brother was already in there. He got into the kit and bolted after him.
     He could the voices of his brother and of Joanne.
     “Tell me this isn’t your doing, Joanne!!” Stephen roared.
     “How can it be!?? I was asleep in the bed beside yours!” Joanne countered.
     Brian stayed in the background; but by now, they both knew he was there. “You didn’t know, Steve… Tell me you didn’t know!!”
     “He didn’t!” Joanne shouted. “They were going to leave this city defenceless!! I figured it out from the figures Swayzak gave that were supposed to fob off my father!!”
     “And Tim!??” Brian yelled, as now, all three fought the fire together, in this part of the building in which they stood.
     “He wasn’t meant to..!” She cried. “Honest to God, he wasn’t meant to be a victim!!”
     “Neither was our father!!” Stephen boomed.
     “I haven’t been a crook so long, Steve, I swear!!!” Jo promised.
     “… I know you haven’t..!” Steven conceded.
     He and Joanne ran to a gang-plank of scaffolding inside the burning shell… And, as they did, it broke, most of it tumbling the depths into fire.
     Steve gripped the hot scaffolding, Joanne found herself clinging to him.
     “Let me go, Steve… I’ve caused your family enough grief! Let me go!! I beg you, Stephen, LET ME GO!!!” Joanne screamed.
     Brian ran to them both, holding the railings his brother gripped, firmly.
     “I can’t do it, Joanne!! Letting you go is not gonna happen!!” Steve informed her.
     “Help us!!!” Brian called back, shouting for his colleagues whose boots he’d heard in the corridor.
     They ran into the room…
     And Joanne fell, followed by Steve.
     Brian screamed in white-hot fury, agony, and fear.
     His brother landed hard, not far below him.
     Joanne had disappeared.
     Brian leapt for some dead cable over-head, reached his goal, and dropped down to his brother…
     Stephen was all gashed up… Blood all around them both. “I can get you out from over there! I’m going for that extinguisher – The boys’ll help you. They’re climbing down…” He moved aside; showing his brother their colleagues.
     Brian tore for the extinguisher, cracked open the lid, and tossed it into the ball of flames. It exploded, killing the intensity a bit… The youngest McCaffrey rocketed into the space, dragging forward the hose; which, with his brother, had descended to this lower level; where poor Joanne had gone down further.
     Stephen watched it all in awe, as his friends gathered around him, readying him for rescue. “Stop it!” He pushed their hands away momentarily. “Will you fuckin’ just look at that – That’s my baby brother!!!” He looked toward his brother for as long as he could, until they carried him through the space that his brother had cleared; and moved through, now, with them; At Stephen’s side.
     
     Brian got in the ambulance this time; fixated on his brother – The man whom had raised him since their father had died; The only blood relative he had left since their Mom had died ten years ago; of hidden heart failure.
     Paramedics swarmed his brother. But there were only two of them – The other drove to the hospital.
     “You learned, Brian… You proved good!” Stephen said, amid the chaos.
     “It’s true to say I learned from the best!” Brian told him.
     “You did – You followed your Daddy!” Steve assured him.
     And then, the machines started making noises, and the paramedics flurried, and Stephen was gone…
     
     Brian called Helen and Jennifer at the hospital, and looked after the inconsolable Chief, John Adcox.
     He couldn’t go to see his brother’s body. It was just a body… So, when Joanne’s brother, Carter, came to take his Dad home, Brian went to see Tim.
     The men cried together in that other part of the same hospital in which the bodies of Steve and Jo lay…
     And, when Brian was told by a nurse that his sister-in-law and his girlfriend had arrived; he stood with them through it all…
     
     A week later, 17 were at the joint funeral of Steve and Joanne. The road was blocked with officers of fire, and mourners.
     Brian marched alongside Charlie, held his nephew’s hand – Knew even more about the need to protect at that moment; knew what Steven had learnt.
     Helen and her parents walked behind Brian and Charlie. Jennifer was on Brian’s other side; holding his hand while he held Charlie’s, as the boy watched his father’s coffin along the streets.
     
     Brian had buried his brother the day before – Now, for justice. Arresting Swayzak. He and Don walked into the middle of a press conference.
     “Come with us would you, please, Alderman Swayzak?” Don interrupted.
     Swayzak turned around; seeing Rimgale and all his backup.
     But Rimgale moved aside.
     “We are arresting you, Martin Swayzak, on suspicion of bribery, embezzlement; endangering the public..!” Brian leant in conspirationally, whispering “The list goes on..!”
     
     THE END
     Written: 6.9.05