Somewhere, Texas, was too small for a five-alarm fire. So when Will Johnson tore his eyes away from the late college football game to find his phone buzzing with five little fireball icons on it, his whole body went on alert.
Aidan’s phone went off only a few seconds later, as A&M was about to kick an extra point. “We should get going.”
“FIU to the rescue.” Will pushed his unopened beer back across the bar. “Better settle up. We have to go on the clock.”
Joe Walker took a swipe at the dark wood in front of them with a white bar towel and leaned in. “Shouldn’t you be off-duty, if you’re gonna drink?”
“We are off-duty.” Aidan pulled out a couple of bills and Will added his to the pile.
Joe’s eyebrow went up. “Why are you getting called in, then?”
“We’re not really getting called in.” Will searched the surrounding chairs for where he’d thrown his McA cap after the touchdown. “It’s this volunteer unit that new chief made us sign up for.”
“We just call him Steven, now.” Aidan snorted. “For more than a year.”
“Yeah, I think that makes him officially not new,” Joe said.
“Not to me, it don’t.” Will let his old accent out and held out the phone for Joe to see. “He actually sends us texts with little mini fires on them.” He pulled the cap down over his eyes and stuffed the phone in his pocket. “Jackass.”
“You’re ornery today.” Joe scooped up the money and took the unopened beer bottles behind the bar. “Who spit in your soup?”
Will shook his head and walked to the door, not caring much whether Aidan followed or not. The football game had put him in a bad mood, but Joe had a way of getting down to what was really pissing a guy off, and that was the last thing Will wanted.
Aidan stopped at the door to Will’s truck. “Should I follow you to the station so we can take the new FIU-mobile?”
Will shook his head. “It’s still in the shop.”
“Good. That thing is a beast.” Aidan jumped in the cab and slid onto the slick leather bench seat.
“You call in,” Will said, letting the truck idle. “I won’t be home tonight so I should call my…” but he stopped and his chest tightened. His finger froze on the front of his phone. No, he didn’t need to call his mother. She wasn’t there to call.
Even a month hadn’t been enough for him to remember. He waited for the awkward silence to begin.
“You do it. Give you a chance to razz Ruby, anyway.” Aidan handed him the radio that had been Velcroed to the front of the seat. “We all know how you love to do that.”
Will depressed the button with a thankful smile. “Hi, Ruby. It’s Will and Aidan.”
They exchanged the typical inside-joke glance when Ruby huffed onto the radio. “William Fitzgerald Johnson, how many times have I told you to use your protocol sheet?”
“That’s not my middle name, Ruby.”
She sighed in a staticky burst over the radio and then her holier-than-thou tone. “This is base, unit nine. Go ahead, please.”
“FIU9 responding to fire code. We’re on our way to you, base.”
“Negative. Respond immediately to location.” She read out an address south of Old Town, not far from Town Square.
“Is that business or residential?” Will asked.
“Residential fire, spread fast. Both trucks are out, and Chief put in a call to surrounding rural volunteer stations as well.”
“All right, base.” Will punctuated the words with care, in case the chief was listening. “FIU9 responding to residential fire call. Over and out.”
Aidan’s brows went up. “He called in the small trucks again, plus the tanker and ladder. What the hell, man?”
“I swear to you, Aid. If he keeps wasting city money like this, I’m gonna register a complaint with the commissioners.” Will’s knuckles whitened as he closed his hand tighter around the radio.
“If this isn’t the biggest fire the town has ever seen, I might back you up on that.” Aidan turned onto Front Street. The night sky made the smoke hard to see, but as they turned left onto Center Street, they noticed the flashing lights.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish