I immediately drop to the floor where the smoke is less dense, sliding my arms through the straps of the tank and getting it on my back so my hands are free. I army crawl across the room, poking my head out into the hall to assess the situation. From this vantage point, I can see into the living room. Well, what’s left of the living room. It’s one big wall of fire and almost every square inch of the floor is up in flames. When I heard Finnley scream moments ago, it sounded like it came from upstairs, so I’m praying to God she isn’t in that f**king living room. Luckily, the stairs aren’t located right in the living room, but in a hallway a few yards away from it. As it is, I’m barely going to be able to get to the stairs leading up without burning my skin off.
I keep low to the ground and move as fast as I can, pulling the neck of my shirt up over my nose and mouth, cursing myself for not using my head and grabbing my air mask. As soon as I get to the hallway, I feel the heat from the blaze like a punch to the face. It’s so hot I can feel it singeing my exposed skin. It steals the breath from my lungs and my eyes, already blurry from the smoke, begin to water even more. Through the wall of fire, I can just barely make out a gaping hole in the front of the house. In an orange, hazy glow I see the guys through the hole scrambling around the front yard. The flames are quickly licking up to the second story and even if they had managed to get the attack line hooked up to the hydrant out front, I’m not sure it would have helped. I watch as a support beam from the front wall comes crashing down over the opening, blocking the entrance. I cover my face and head as ash, sparks and fire shoot towards me like a blast from a firework when the burning beam smashes into the opposite wall. With a quick glance upwards, I see the fire quickly eating up part of the ceiling and I know if I don’t hurry, the entire second floor above the living room will go up in flames and come crashing down.
I move as fast as my legs will allow, flying up the stairs and taking them two at a time, shouting Finnley’s name as I go.
“FINNLEY! FINNLEY, BABY, I’M HERE! FINNLEY!”
I’m having trouble breathing by the time I get to the top step. The smoke has filled my nose and lungs and each breath I take feels like knives are being dragged up and down my throat. I know I should stop and take a hit of the air from the tank on my back, but there’s no time. I need to get to her. She’s been in here longer and she’s going to need it more than me. I’ve done this before. I’ve been trained to deal with smoke inhalation, I just need to stay calm and keep going.
There are three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and I head towards the door closest to me, coughing and spitting out smoke and ash-filled saliva as I go. Knowing that I can’t touch the doorknob in case there’s fire on the other side of it, I step back with one leg and prepare to kick it in. A noise directly behind me gives me pause and I pray with everything inside of me that the small thump was Finnley and she’s okay.
I quickly turn and a fist connects with my eye. I hear a crunch and feel my eye immediately start to swell. I don’t even bother pressing a hand to the area to try and ease the pain that’s radiating right up to my skull.
Jordan laughs as I glare at him, my hands clenched into fists at my sides. As much as I want to beat the shit out of him for what he’s done, I don’t have time. My only concern, my only thought right now is that I need to save Finnley. I would have been perfectly fine leaving him standing here with that smug look on his face, but of course he wouldn’t make it easy on me. As I turn to walk away, he grabs onto the back of my shirt, clutching the fabric in his hands to hold me in place.
What the f**k is it with people trying to stop me? Don’t they understand that NOTHING can stop me from getting to Finnley?
Without a word, I twist out of his grasp and quickly turn, the momentum of my body bringing my arm and fist flying towards his face so fast he doesn’t even see it coming. With one solid punch to the side of his head, he goes down like a ton of bricks.
As much as I hate him, as much as I want to shove him down the stairs to be swallowed up by the wall of fire, I know I can’t leave him out here in the hall. I’m a civil servant and I took an oath, swearing to do everything I can to save every single person whether they are an innocent child or the piece of shit that started the fire in the first place. I will drag his worthless ass out of this burning building because it’s my job, but I will absolutely make sure I get to Finnley first.
Figuring there’s no way Jordan would have left Finnley alone, I go into the room he came out of when he confronted me, stepping over Jordan’s unconscious body as I go. The smoke has gotten so thick I can barely see an inch in front of my face and with only one good, working eye, that’s not a good thing. Pulling my leg back, I kick in the door to Finnley’s bedroom. The smoke from the hall immediately billows into the room and I drop down on all fours to crawl inside.
“Finnley! Are you in here? Please, baby, answer me!” I shout as I crawl blindly through the room, moving my hands all around me in the hopes that I’ll feel some part of her under my fingers.
Coughs wrack my body as I continue moving around the room, feeling my way and coming up completely empty. My heart drops as I quickly turn and make my way back out into the hall and over to the next bedroom.
With a quick glance downstairs, I see the fire has made its way down the hall and to the bottom step. Pieces of the house crash down from the ceiling and walls, completely engulfed in flames, and I know the only way we’re going to be able to get out of this house is through one of these upstairs windows. Unfortunately, the fire is so strong on the first floor that my men are never going to be able to get close enough to put a ladder against the house. They won’t be able to reach the second floor and we won’t be able to get out. There’s no way the floor up here is going to hold much longer considering how fast the fire has spread along the ceiling on the first floor. If I don’t find her quick and figure a way out, we’re going to come crashing down to the first floor, right in the middle of the fire.