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 Too Close To Home
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Page Three

"I..I decided to take a snooze under the trees, can't you tell?
Oww..!" Kelly grabbed his leg.. "Something's  somethin...cracked..!"
I think I'm dying here."

Johnny restrained him, nodding curtly to Max to keep up the pressure
on the effected leg. "Easy now! Just take it easy.. We'll figure this out
and find a way to get you out of here."  He knew how close Chet's
quip really was to actual reality, deadly shock was closing the gap, fast. He knew
that it would take more man power to bring Chet into the open
where he could be treated.
"Just lie still."

"I know.. I know that just as well as you do.." Chet gasped.

Johnny peered under the makeshift dressing Max had made of his
own shirt and was pressing against Chet's thigh, he quickly set
it back.

"Roy, I think the femoral artery's been nicked."

Roy nodded grimly, taking a stethoscope out of the drug box
and slowing picking his way through the debris again to use
it on Chet. "Chet..Where else do you hurt besides your leg?"

Chet sagged limp. "Chet!"  Roy dug a few knuckles into
the bone in the middle of Kelly's chest and rubbed hard.
Kelly jerked, driven awake again by the pain stimulus.

Roy repeated his question.

"N-No, where else really.. I.. I'm just a little..dizzy.. Listen,
we've got to get out of here.. Cielo's a killer, something just
made her snap right before I was thrown.. If she sees us,
she'll trample you like she did me and this coop."

A shrill scream of anger pierced the air. It came from the far
end of the pasture.. Staccato hooves paced nervously.

"There..." Chet gasped, "See that dust cloud over there?
She's scented us.."

Marjorie glanced up in alarm from the outer fence, "Oh, no.
Not again... Shall I get the rifle, Max?"

Johnny thought hard.. "Just hold on here, everybody, Calm down.
No one is going to shoot any horses. First things first. Cap'll be
here in a few minutes . We'll let them handle her., O.K.?"

Chet began to pant with air hunger in a reflex he could not control.
A symptom of severe blood loss.
" don't understand.. She'll charge!" Chet sat up, and
hung onto Roy's shoulder, trying to stay upright.. "NO! It's dang--"
He gagged in agony and nearly passed out. Roy caught his head as
Chet fell back again locking all of his muscles around the pure agony
erupting from his leg. "Ahhgg!"

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From twenty feet away, Marjorie quailed, "Oh, Chet!
Don't do that to yourself.."

"Hey! Hey! Chet..." Johnny grabbed Kelly's face in a glove. "You're bleeding
badly from your leg and all of this moving around isn't helping matters
any one bit! Now keep your cool.." Johnny ordered.  He pushed Max's trembling hands
off of the gaping wound and pressed his own down firmly at the pressure
point farther up. He didn't like the amount of blood he saw around him.

Chet gasped. He slung an arm over his shaking face.."All right..all right."

Roy took some vitals. "BP's 80 Systolic. Pulse 140."  He looked at
Max and Marj. "Listen.. Someone's got to show the engine crew
where we are. And we'll need some blankets from the house."

Johnny nodded, agreeing with the distracting tactic. The less
Chet saw of his family's panic, the better off he'd be.

"...can you do that for me?" Roy asked..

They both nodded and Max crawled out of the debris
pile, under the outer fence and together, they ran into the
house and inside the rustic building.

Roy watched them enter the house.

Suddenly, Cielo Madre exploded from over the hill, right
at the gap Johnny had created for Roy and him to get
to where Chet was lying on the shattered coop.
Top speed.

"Ahhh!" Johnny covered Chet with his body while Roy
picked up a timber and brandished it over his head,

The infuriated filly drew up short twenty yards away.
Her ears flattened against her skull. But she kept away.
She was shaking her head and her skin was trembling
in an odd way. Johnny rose slowly back into his
crouch and repositioned his hands over his pressure
point on Chet's leg.  He noticed the
horse's strange behavior.."Hey, Chet.. Did you
two run into any bee hives during your workout?
That horse's coat is just crawling with hives and
bee stings."

"I thought I heard something.." he winced as Johnny
bore down on his leg again, stopping the
the feeling there along with the blood flow out of
his wound.  "nngg..." he closed his eyes.

Roy's voice came close to his ear. "Chet?"
he began quietly, not upsetting the horse in
any way. "You hurt only in your leg, right? Not
your neck or your back?"

"Yeah... "  Chet moaned, "I'm sure everything bad
is just there.."

"Ok,.. because we're going to have to move out of
here before she gets any more bright bee sting
crazed ideas.. and that means moving before
the engine gets here."

Chet looked up and saw the horse glaring at him
with a growing anger in her eyes. "Oh, wonderful.."
His face was very pale and sweaty.

Roy indicated the outer fence. "If she breaks again,
you're going to have to roll underneath that fence
on your own. We'll try to ward her off you."

"Good luck." he croaked. He swallowed with a dry mouth.
"uh,.. " his breathing shortened,.."..I..I think I'm going to
be sick."

Roy and Johnny eased Chet onto his side and held him. Chet
vomited. Johnny spoke, "Easy,, it'll pass. You're getting shocky
and this sometimes happens."

Chet relaxed at the end of it, gasping.."Terrific..Hope it's
over. "

"It is.."  Johnny felt Kelly's BP slip lower in the pulse hold he had
on one of Kelly's brachial arteries, monitoring.
It disappeared all together. ::D@mn! His systolic's dropped
to seventy..::
"Come on, Cap,.. get the lead out.." he whispered,
lifting eyes to the empty yard.

Roy pointed towards the biphone near the edge of
the coop pile. "I'll get Rampart." He crawled slowly over
the wooden boards and under chicken wire to set up the
aerial antennae and turned on the power.

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Johnny nodded, "You're going to have to risk it. Chet needs
an IV, now.."

Never for a moment did Roy's eyes leave the filly's. She
snorted and pawed dust up while she shivered off
the venom from her many stings. He held the phone up
to his face, shielding the receiver in his hands.

Johnny began to gather up the half conscious Chet up by
the shoulders, getting ready to pull him clear. He
swallowed hard, watching the filly watch them.

Roy's lips moved. He spoke quietly to hail Rampart.
"...rampart. this is squad 51. you read...."

The returning reply boomed, "Go ahead, 51..."
It was Dixie's voice..

Johnny and Roy froze as the horse whipped in a full circle
and shifted a defiant head in their direction. She snuffled
loudly, catching the scent of the men. She trumpetted low
in her chest.

Suddenly, she bolted low and fast, at them.

"LOOK out!!" Johnny cried.

Roy abandoned the biphone and together, he and Johnny
heaved Chet Kelly gracelessly through the coop's tangles,
ripping their own clothes in their haste to get away
with him safely. Together.. they rolled Chet under the
outer fence. Chet yelled aloud in pain when he landed, but
he was safely on the other side.

Roy glanced back over his shoulder in fear.
"Let's get out of here!" he shouted at Gage.

They vaulted the fence just as punishing hooves raked
the air inches away from where they had been.


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At Rampart, Dixie frantically tried to raise the squad.
Early looked up. "What happened?" as he entered
with Dr. Brackett.

"I don't know. I was answering 51's rescue call when
I suddenly lost contact.. I heard Johnny yell. Then..

Joe thumbed the board. "51, This is Rampart. Do you
read? Over.."

More thuds, then a crash. The line buzzed static.

"Nothing." he said.

Dixie tried once more, "51, do you copy? What's your

More static. No reassuring voices.

Brackett straightened irritably, "Dix, notify the fire
department dispatch about this. I want to know
what the h*ll is going on over there!"


Having silenced the red box, Cielo Madre then
vented her fury on the other strange boxes left
abandoned by her feet. Then she took off running
around the far side of the barn.


The force of their momentum had flung Roy and John
hard to the ground. Roy shook his head, clearing away
stars. He recovered and saw Chet face down, motionless,
a short distance away.  "Chet!!"

Johnny stirred too, climbing to his feet. "Roy?"

"Chet! Can you hear me?" Roy shouted again. He didn't
move. Together Gage and DeSoto ran over to Kelly just as
the engine crew flew across the yard with the O2 apparatus.

"Chet?!" Johnny called urgently. Roy and Johnny rolled him
over as a unit. A fresh blood stain discolored the grass
underneath him and was spreading out slowly. His face
was grayish looking. Roy covered the gash with his bare
hands, bearing down on it as hard as he could.

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Johnny frowned, straightening, "He's in deep shock, we had
to get away from the horse as quick as we could and it's
torn that femoral artery even more. Marco.. help him on
the O2, will you? He's breathing too shallowly right now
to do much good."


Marjorie and Max had returned only moments before with
blankets. Chet's sister stood, transfixed, tears welling up
into her eyes."What's wrong with him.?" she demanded.
"Why isn't he awake?"
Her brother's ashen color terrified her. "Tell me!"

Mike Stoker got up from the ground and led her away,
trying to calm her down.

Roy spoke in a dry voice, "Cap, we've lost all of our
equipment. Is the ambulance on the way?"

Marco nodded, giving Chet mask assisted ventilations
in time with Kelly's own weaker attempts at breathing
using the demand valve thumb button. "Last check, it's
ETA was six minutes." he answered Roy.

Cap wiped his mouth. "Anything we can do?" he asked Johnny.

"Yeah, go get a stokes and the engine cab's first aid kit.
And the mast suit.. And the defibrillator..!"

Moreno went with him.

"Johnny.. This isn't working.." Roy said, looking at his
bloodied hands and a fresh welling making its way up
around them. "How's his BP?"

"60 systolic.. I can barely get a carotid.  Marco, start
hyperventilating him. Last thing we need is him crashing
on us. Go to 30 a minute and see how he does." Gage

Marco nodded, stepping up his delivery rate of pure
oxygen into Chet's lungs.

Cap and Moreno soon returned, laden with the mast suit
case and the defib box.

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Roy saw his equipment lying around in the sun just out of
reach. He identified a few things that were still intact.
"Maybe I can go back into the corral and get a hemostat
or something to clamp off this artery. I don't think we have any
other choice here but to cut off the circulation to
his leg." he said urgently. His fright was growing.

Johnny nodded.. "Marco.." He gestured. Marco relieved Roy
at his pressure point while Mike took over the O2 vents
without missing a beat.

Roy arose. Max joined him back by the corral, as Roy
slipped on some gloves over his soiled hands, listening
for signs of Cielo Madre's return.

Max tossed his burden of blankets on the ground, "You're
not going back in there."

Roy shrugged, "Somebody has to. Chet can't wait for
treatment much longer." He watched  as Johnny, Moreno,
and Cap moved Chet onto the mast suit trousers and
fastened it up everywhere but where the artery wound
was. "They can't pump up that mast suit to buy him some
time until I clamp off that bleeder first. If I can't get that
clamp, nothing we do will do any good."

He ran back to the squad and got out the cab's fire
extinguisher. He lugged it back with him.
"Listen, Max.. Have you ever worked one of these

"Sort of, once at work, for  a safety test."

"Here's your chance to shine. This is simple. You pull out
this ring here and just squeeze the nozzle, see?"

A puff of CO2 streamed out.

"I got it.."

"O.K, let's go.." Roy glanced over and didn't like what he
was seeing by Kelly. Cap was seated and waiting with
his jacket and gloves off over Kelly's chest which was
now bare.  ::Cap's getting ready to work on compressions if Chet codes..
Come  on Chet.. Hang in there.::  Roy amended his snatch
list to include an endo trach tube along with the hemostat,
and dressings.

"Let's hurry.." he told the trainer.

Moreno had linked L.A. dispatch through a landline talkie
into the ranch phone which Marjorie had threaded
through the yard.  Cap relayed vitals to Rampart at
Johnny's direction.  Desperately ordered by Brackett, Johnny
finally got his authorization for the use of rotating
tourniquets in an attempt to keep oxygen flowing to
Chet's brain despite his critically low blood volume
level.  The EKG they had on the monitor was laced
with shuddering PVC's brought on by the blood loss.

It wasn't resolving into normal sinus rhythm, despite
the tourniquets and the hyperventilations.

Johnny was worried, Chet wasn't even trying to breathe
anymore, and Johnny could do nothing else to help him.
It was now entirely up to his partner to get
that hemostat clip from the corral.
"Roy... get that clip.. He's starting to cave.."

Cielo met Max and Roy at the perimeter of the fence
with reddened eyes. She snorted, facing them. "You
circle left, I'll go right. If she charges you, use the
extinguisher. The vapor and the noise should spook
her long enough for me to get that trauma box."

Max nodded, licking his lips. They climbed the outer
fence, sitting on its edge for a moment. Then they
started creeping forward towards the coop and the
scattered medical equipment.

"Easy, girl.." Roy soothed. She charged. Max
discharged a plume of vapor directly at her head.
She reared.

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Roy bolted for the equipment. He snatched up
everything he came for. On a second thought, he
ran over to the IV kit and started scooping up IV bags
and tubing boxes.

"Come on!!" Max shouted, "She won't hold for long."

Roy grabbed the trauma box up again and retreated,
shedding packets and meds along the way. He got
outside the corral in seconds.

Max gave a roar and threw the extinquisher bottle
itself at the beast. He rolled under the outer fence
in the nick of time. Both were safe.

Max helped Roy carry his armfuls back to the others.

"Fancyfoot work, guys.." Johnny grinned.  The firemen
gathered around in a concerned group as Roy knelt,
biting off the paper wrapping of the hemostat. He
probed the wound for the bleeder. He found it and
clamped the torn ends. The horrendous outflow
of blood there ceased.

Quickly, Johnny and Roy pumped up the mast suit to its
max levels. They got three IV's of D5W running full
volume through Kelly's jugular veins, the only ones
not collapsed by Chet's basement level BP.

Roy held aloft his prize find he had gotten from the
battered corral, a syringe of epinephrine, at just the
right concentration, 1 to 10,000 dilution for a man
Chet's size. He squirted its front load into the sky
to dispel any air then added it IV push as fast as
he dared.

Johnny looked at Mike by Chet's head. "Is he
breathing now?"

Everyone waited without moving for his answer.

Stoker nodded, feeling resistance beginning
against his demand valve triggering, "Yes..
and he's pinking up."

Gage grunted, taking a BP. He smiled, "It's up, 90 over
60.." Marjorie and Max hugged each other.

The EKG settled into a normal beat moments later.

Cap was estatic. "Way to take it out of the woods,
Kelly!!" he shouted, ruffling his unconscious crewman's
hair affectionately. His relief was infectious.
And everyone smiled for all they were worth.

"Come on you guys....Move!" Cap roared as he saw
the ambulance  attendants enter the yard..
"On the double..!!"

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"And the rest was easy..." Johnny Gage said. "Once we were
in the ambulance, Roy radioed ahead to dispatch to maintain
contact with you guys via the C.B. radio in the driver

He leaned back in his chair and stretched, a cheshire's grin
on his face.
Dixie nodded appreciatively, "And after another injected
stimulant, Chet did nothing else but improve.." she
smiled. "You boys amaze me with the exciting rescues you
find yourselves in so often. They make events around here
seem like a walk in the park!"

"Now I wouldn't say that.." Roy countered, "What about that
gang fight earlier today? All those cases came here, right?
You must've had fun keeping them from killing each other."

Dixie laughed.

Dr. Early had been listening in while he ate his apple.
"Say, How's Chet Kelly doing now? I heard from Kel
that he lost almost 4/5th's of his blood volume in the
field and didn't arrest. Now that's what I call one
lucky b--"

Dix shushed him,.. "Doctor.. There are young ears here.
Frankly,..mine. "

Johnny sighed chuckling at the good natured banter around
him, "We just heard. He's in recovery. The surgeons
found no internal hemorrhaging apart from that right
femoral artery. He will be up and around on crutches
in about a week."

"Well, give my regards to him for me will you?" Early
said, walking away.. "I've got rounds."

"Sure thing, doc.." Roy replied. He tapped Johnny on
the arm, "Maybe we should phone the guys and let
them in on the good news."

"Ooo, yeah..., Well, gotta go, Dix."

"See ya fellas.."


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A few days later over lunch, the gang carried on lively conversation.

The B Shift was just getting off and the two crews shared their
week's highlights. Johnny gestured grandly, concluding his story.
"And there we were, one crazed horse and a lot of smashed

Gil chuckled. "You got us beat, Gage. The most I've ever totalled
was my helmet, last year, in the McGuire warehouse blaze." He
sipped his coffee adding,

"How much did it cost to replace all of the squad's gear?" Bryce

"Plenty!!" It was Cap. "Chief McConike still won't look me in the eyes
when I told him why I needed a complete refit inventory. I've been
trying to live up to his expectations.. Really I've tried. But this
oddball rescue has undone years of careful kissing up, ever since
I was caught setting h-"  he broke off, embarrassed about something.

Johnny grinned wryly. "Cap you have to remember that he may NEVER
forget that you set his hat on f--"

"Don't say it Gage! Now's that's an order!!"

Johnny and Gil snapped dutifully into attention. "Yes sir..!"

Cap glared at them a second or two before he went through the
double doors leading out of the kitchen. Gil let out  long string of
giggles he had barely managed to contain in front of Johnny's Cap'n
Stanley. "On fire?! You mean Cap torched that ol geezer's hat?
Boy, he must have had a death wish or something."

Johnny shushed, trying to silence Gil to no avail. "Shh, He still might
hear you.."

Gil was dying against the wall. Johnny eyed him critically. "I gotta live
with him, you know.."  The glower faded into a smirk, "Yeah.. he pulled
that when he was still a wet behind the ears cadet looking for a
promotion a month early. McConike has a memory like an elephant!"

Gil was still tearing up, "W - What's he like?"


"M- McConike?"

"Oh, oh. oh. The old goat still dishes out holy hell come inspection day.
And WE suffer the brunt of it. You should see Cap before one of these
things. He's a basket case."

Gil laughed harder and started to leave. "Serves him right, Johnny. See
ya next week.." He left for the locker room.

"Take care, man.." Johnny said grabbing a plate and piling on breakfast high.
"Mornin.." he drawled.

"Did you hear?" Mike spoke excitedly, "Chet leaves the hospital tommorrow."

"All right!" Marco cheered.

"About time.." Johnny nudged Roy's elbow. "I'll just bet he's sick of all those
bedbaths, eh?" He sniggered evilly.

Roy waxed stone faced.

Johnny's face fell, "Sorry I keep forgetting that you are a married man and
can no longer appreciate the fin-"  He trailed off, uncomfortably caught
in Roy's baleful stare. He swallowed, "Forget I even said it." he sniffed.
"Forget I ever even mention bed b-- Marco..!  You look like a man who
could use some more potatoes. Here, have some more. They're great!
I try to eat some every w--" Marco was staring at his plate. Johnny
quit spooning out the spuds. A pile of them five inches high overflowed
the edge of the plate, running onto Marco's fingers.

"OOps! Sorry, Marco, I---Here.., have a towel." Johnny retreated from
the table.

Roy chuckled, following, a bowl of oatmeal in hand. "Johnny, you've
got to ease up on all of that caffeine. You're gonna kill someone
one of these days."

"Oh, Ha. ha." Johnny dripped sarcasm, "Very funny.."
he defended himself neatly, "So,..." he smacked his hands together.
"When's the big day? For your trip, Roy?"

Roy acted as if he had smelled something vile. He spoke out of the side
of his mouth, "Day after tommorrow.." he whispered.

"You're leaving when?" Johnny said a little too loudly.

Roy leaped up from his chair, "Oh, come on Johnny.. Shhhh! You know
I don't want word of this spread around."

Johnny basked in his success. "Ok. ok. Mum's the word." He looked around,
bored. "I wonder what's on TV.."

He flicked on the tube.

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##BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Station 51. Shed fire. 6560 Montezuma Road..."

Roy paled suddenly. "My god! That's my--"

He took off running. The implication of what he had said struck Johnny
with a sick weight. "Cap?  Cap! That's Roy's place!"

"Wha?! Desoto's ?!! Johnny, you drive!"

They left at a dead run.


The squad, squealing, slowed. Roy was out the door and into the
yard before Johnny could even bring the truck to a complete stop.
Roy didn't pause to put on his overcoat.

"Joanne?" he fidgeted in a panic in the driveway. Then he took a hold
of himself a little, looking around. "T-The car's gone. Maybe Joanne
and the kids went shopping.."  He ran back to the truck. The engine
screeched, pulling up. The sirens faded. Cap stepped out of the cab.
He smiled when he saw that the fire, was indeed, only involving a
small backyard shed.
He tried to alleviate some of Roy's stress, "When I meant you could
invite us all to a BBQ, I didn't have this in mind, DeSoto.."
and he grinned...

Roy didn't grin back.

Cap got serious, "Roy? What's in there?"

On the lot, was a gray two story structure. Its roof was under
repair, only tar paper covered it with stacks of roofing tiles
piled at one end. A half built porch surround the front door
of the little house. A small garden shed ten feet from the house
was totally engulfed in flames which threatened a nearby telephone


"What? Oh,, uh... I have about five pounds of termite repellent in
there. And two five gallon jugs of gasoline.." his face furrowed,
"And my BOAT!"

"Easy there, Roy, ah.. we'll try." Cap offered.

Johnny had his coat on and he was trying to give Roy his.

"Johnny..., I gotta know....What if... one of the kids?!" Roy
looked stunned.

John made sure he had eye contact with his partner, "Go ask the
neighbors. And Vince. He's over there." He called, "Vince!!"
The big cop turned.

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Johnny urged, "Go ask him, Roy.."

Roy moved leadenly.

Johnny noticed that he was still holding Roy's overcoat in his hands.
"Ah,, R--?" He gave up, letting it fall to the ground.

He sprinted over to Mike and Marco, setting up the hydrant.


Roy was in despair. Vince had said he hadn't seen his kids. Roy
cast about into the crowd.


A hose was dragged across the yard. Marco and Moreno twisted
on its nozzle head.

"You men!" Cap directed, "Use a medium spray.. Protect the house!"

"Right, Cap!"

"L.A. , this is Engine 51. We have a burning free standing garden
shed. It contains insectides and two cans of unexploded gasoline.
Please notify the gas company to cut their service to the entire
block. This fire might upgrade."

##10-4, 51. Will stand by.##

Cap surveyed the scene and noticed DeSoto shifting among the
onlookers. ::Oh, well.:: he thought to himself.::He's gotta reassure
himself that his family was nowhere near that shed when it went
up. I'll let him.::

"Mike! Set up the second hose for the shed. I'll have Roy help you
in a moment!"


On the outside of the firefighting trucks, Roy was only half scared.
Inside, his reasoning warred, making him jumpy. Then he saw
someone he knew. "Carrie!"

A slight, young girl clutching a teddy bear turned toward the
sound of her own name. She gave a cry and started to run
when she saw who it was who wanted her.

"Carrie! I have to talk to you.." Roy shouted. He easily overtook
her. He kept a hand on her shoulder. "Carrie, you and my daughter
are friends, right?"

She nodded. And started trembling.

"Are you scared?"

Carrie's face pinched and she began to cry without a sound.

Roy knelt down. "You don't have to be frightened.. I -I just want
to know ab--" Roy paused, not wanting to frighten the tiny girl
unnecessarily, "You and Jessica and Michael had a sleepover
at my house last night.. Right?"

She squeaked, still petrified, in a soft voice, "Yes.."

"Do you know where Mrs. DeSoto and Michael and Jesse are now?"

Carrie suddenly cried harder.

Roy became alarmed, "Carrie? What's wrong?"

"I" she looked at the ground. "I was playing in the shed..I- I found
the matches in the street and  and they started the fire.."
She rushed into Roy's arms, bawling, "I didn't mean it!" She cried in
catching, wet sobs, "Mr. DeSoto, I knew... I knew it was wrong.
Jesse and me,  w--"

"Jesse?! Where is she?"

"She.." Carrie screwed up tight.

Roy held Carrie away from him gripping her arms firmly.
"Did they go shopping?"

Carrie became quiet. Four fingers found her mouth.

He repeated his question. She studied the ground,
then she nodded, "Yes, Mr. DeSoto."

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"Thank you, Carrie.....Cap!! She says they're not home!"
He turned to her and knelt again.  "Carrie, Would you tell
that policeman over there that I sent you to him? That he's
supposed to watch you until the fire's out?"

Another nod. She ran off.

Roy sighed, returning to his company's engine. ::What a day::,
he thought, straightening his helmet.. ::My boat, torched!::

Mike handed Roy's overcoat to him, "Rough,eh?" he asked.

Roy nodded. He placed his jacket between his knees to hold
it while he adjusted chemical guages. Cap called from
across the yard. "Well, so much for that vacation, eh, Roy?"
He grinned broadly..

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 ****                                                                  *

Every head ducked. One of the gas cans finally had enough.
The shed sprouted a fire ball which sent a viscous black
plume, high into the air.

Johnny and Cap regained their feet and redirected their water
stream onto the shed.

Roy winced. "Oh, well, I've always said I wanted to rip down
that old shack anyway.."

Mike chuckled.

 ***          **            **           **          **        *
*     *      *   *         *    *         * *        *  *        *
*      *     *    *        *     *        *   *     *   *        *
****       *     *        *     *        *     * *     *        *
*     *       *   *          *   *         *       *      *        *
*       *      *  *           *  *         *               *      
*       *         *               *          *                *      
 ****                                                                  *

The shed went again and this time, the telephone pole toppled..
onto the house! It sprayed sparks. Embers fell and caught
on the exposed tar paper on the roof. Stray bits caught on
the naked timbers of the porch's virgin framework.

The house was threatened.

"Oh no.." Roy whirled back to the dials, connecting hose
couplings to their ports rapidly.

"Stoker! DeSoto! On the double!!" Cap hollered.

Then a strange thing happened. No one saw it. A burning bundle
of roofing tiles cascaded off the top story. It fell and hit the
ground, splattering sparks. Several of these sparks wafted
into a open basement window.

A colossal explosion ripped through the house's bottom story.
It spewed columns of twisting fire from all of its foundation

Every one was stunned. What had happened was a  freak
occurance. The furnace had blown.

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 Too Close To Home
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