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Within Sight
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        Page  Nine

"Not me what? I'm looking out for everybody here.
My crewmates, my team kids and you..believe it or not.."

"Well you have a strange way of showing it. " Victoria
sighed. "...You're abandoning me.."

The rest of the firemen around the table hushed and
fell silent. By now, no one was eating.

Victoria felt the weight of the quiet so she pegged
Hank with a hurt stare. "Is this how you work your
investigations, Captain Stanley? By first stuffing the
witness you want with food and firehouse hospitality?"

Confused, Cap was mute.

Victoria went on. "I get it.. Then you all start hounding
in slyly, hunting for protected information..."

Cap snapped out of his shock.
"That's preposterous, Miss Vickie. And you know it.
My men and--"

"Spare me the high and mighty ethics speech. I've
heard it hundreds of times before from other firehouse

Cap's mouth shut.

"Yes,..I've dealt with other pyro cases where a child
has visited a favorite fire house in a sudden rush of
guilt or daring. So I do know what you and your
men are going through. And I do understand, Mike,
the stress you must be feeling not knowing who
for sure, was responsible for your accident."


Victoria rose in her chair and all the other men rose
too, in reflex. "If you'll excuse me, gentlemen.
I think we'd better conduct this fire investigation
separately, Captain. I know we'll work better that
way in the long run. And I promise you. I won't
withhold any information that may prove a danger
to either this crew, or anyone else. Good night.  
Mike, this was a truly memorable meal.."

None of the gang, including Roy and Johnny, knew
how to take that remark.

Victoria left quickly for the garage bay and the rear door
leading out to the back parking lot.

"I'm sorry, Cap. I don't know what's gotten into her. Let
me at least try to talk some sense-- " he broke off
hearing Vic struggle with the complicated deadbolt on
the back door. "I'll be right back.." Mike Stoker got up
and rushed out after her, using the willing Boot on a
lead as a guide dog.

"H*ll hath no fury like a woman surrounded." Kelly

That earned him a glare from both Johnny and Roy.

No one felt like eating until Victoria was back at ease.

Mike's roast chicken and dumplings grew cold, while
they waited for sounds of return from the back
parking lot.


Boot found Victoria out in front by the flagpole.
He barked, letting Mike know the woman was near.

"Victoria, I'm sorry if you got a weird impression from
us. It wasn't on purpose. The guys are still upset
about me being blinded even though we all know
I'm not going to stay this way. Just the fact that it
happened irks them.
And with firemen, that means turning over every
stone until a solution can be found to prevent another
accident like mine from ever happening again. Can
you forgive me? And us?" he asked.

Victoria's face crinkled into a half smile when Mike
held out two arms out in front of him like a child
looking for reassurance. He was pointed in
completely the wrong direction.

She spared him embarrassment by sidling into his arms
and returning his friendly embrace. "Oh, all right. I
just get so frustrated sometimes.." she sighed setting
her chin onto his shoulder.

"So do I. Frequently."

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The wind picked up just then, as the sun settled
below the horizon, and the flags on their chains
cracked suddenly, like a pistol shot. It startled
Victoria who ducked out of the hug in reflex.

Even Boot scrambled away, pulling on
the lead, nearly tipping Mike over in his haste to
locate what had startled him.

Mike chuckled. "Hey, Boot. Settle down. It's just
the flagpole, not an explosion. Come here, you.."

Victoria and Mike both crouched while they petted
Boot briskly to end his fright. Then Stoker stood,
drawing Vic upwards. "Here. This is my job, too, to man
the flagpole. Help me untie this chain from around
the hooks here and we'll take them down for the night.
Then we can head back in. I'll reheat dinner in the
oven." he grinned.

"You're so cute.." Vic said. "I can see why dad
chose your field to run his concession stand in."

"What? You didn't chose my field because the kids
I work with just happen to be the most troubled
kids in the city?"

"Well,.. that too." she considered. "What's your reason
for coaching them?"

"I like to keep all problems where I can see them. That
way, I can figure out how to solve or help them eventually."

"Sound principle.. I think I like it.." Victoria declared as
they fought with the large flags, folding them up in the
rising breeze that was rushing in on the heels of the fast
approaching dusk. "I, too, like to keep things well managed."

Mike grinned and took the folded bundles of silk from her
arms. Then he put two fingers in between his lips.
"*whistle* Come here, Boot. Come on."

The dog stopped his leg lifting "outing" around the
red fire hydrant by the boulevard and returned, trailing his lead,
to nuzzle Mike's hand. He then sat and dutifully accepted
the flags Stoker draped over his back for the short trip he
knew was necessary to carry them indoors.

Victoria laughed. "What a good helper!" She said, petting
him enthusiastically. Boot's tail thumped the flagpole with
loud metallic pings in happiness as she scrubbed him behind
the ears. "Boot's a real sweetheart. Had him long?"

"Nah, Boot's a stray. He was here for a few days two years
ago, checking us out. Then.....Marco ...said he came back
the night I was hurt, looking for me." Stoker said with some

Victoria took his hand. "Maybe he just likes to keep those
down on their luck...... within sight.."  

"Maybe. Come on." Mike said releasing her hand. " I'm hungry.."  


"And so's Boot." Stoker laughed. "Let's go inside. It's getting
cold out here. The sooner I have some hot food in me, the
better I'll feel."

"Maybe by then, Dad'll have found Jeremy.."

"Why's Old Ben getting involved? He should be resting."
Stoker insisted.

"Dad thinks if he spends more time with the kids off duty,
that he'll win their trust. He thinks afterwards, that
maybe they'll stop stealing his popsicles."

"It'll never happen. Not in a million years. Kids are kids."

"I know that. And you know that. But Dad's like me, Mike.
He's gotta try.."

"Let's hope between all of us, that the trying will be worth

"I'm sure it will be. Dad's almost a good a detective as
he was a fireman in his day."

Stoker smiled, and let Boot show them the way
through the side yard.


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From :"patti keiper" <>  
Subject : [EmergencyTheaterLive] One Dark Night....  
Date :Fri, 21 Feb 2003 06:13:32 +0000  

 **Tandom post by Cassidy Meyers and Patti Keiper
<> via Email Tennis.**

  Maximillion and Jeremy Conners ran
to the gap in the fence surrounding the old
firehouse on 223rd street. In his hand, the
red headed boy held two Coke bottles full of
kerosene stuffed with dull cloth wicks.

"Are you sure you wanna go through wid
this?" Max said. "I don't care what those gang
sentries say. You don't have to do this.. It's
craziness, man! What have you got to prove?"

Jeremy was bigger than his best friend and he
took full advantage of it. He grabbed the dark
boy's collar and yanked him close. "My dad's
soul for one thing. My honor for another."
he whimpered. Max was shocked to see his
usually quiet buddy suddenly losing it like a baby.
"I  want to belong  somewhere, Max.. " he
sobbed."So bad I can taste it..
I had it once. The perfect family.. you know?"
he choked. "Then one night, my dad...fell off the pole."
His face twisted in anguish and Max could see
rivulets of water streaming down Jeremy's
freckled face.

"What? I don't understand."

"It happened right here, Max. Right here..
In this old worn out firehouse!! The earthquake
made him slip and the fire after finished him..!"  
Jeremy shoved Maximillion away and scrambled
through the rend he had made years ago in
the fence line. "Dad!  Dad!!" he screamed in
grief and despair.. "I'm coming..!! Just like
I promised. On your seventh anniversary..y..y...yy."

"Jer, no! Wait!" Max leaped to tackle the red haired
boy, but missed, landing in a pile of dust. He coughed,
frightened, as he watched Jeremy's striped shirt
disappear into the bowels of the derelict station.

Maximillion froze when a rumble of motorcycles
at the end of the deserted block drew his eyes away
from the nightmarish scene he couldn't believe was

It was the Skinhead Gang, officiating Jeremy
Conners rite of passage.

Max wailed.."Jer! Come on!.. We can still
get out of here before they find us!! Jer!"

But Jeremy Conners was long gone.

The boy ran through the familiar ruins with the
ease of long practice to the brass pole still in place
among the dusty bricks.  He leaned up against it,
wiping his tears away, and he called. "Benjamin..
Are you here? It's seven o'clock. " he spoke to the
dark room and the stillness amid the rubble. "I'm so
glad you called me tonight. Now I have someone
to play with.." he shouted, smiling through his tears.
Conners reached down and found the old gas lantern
he had recovered from his dad's collapsed office
and he lit it with a match. "I'm over here. By the
sliding pole.."

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A sound of stumbling echoed around the gutted
foundation of the old fire garage and all at once,
Old Ben was there, leaning on a half buried
stone wall for support. "Jeremy Conners..? Is
that you, my boy? Heh. I brought a whole box
of popsicles we can share together. Won't
they go down good?"

"They sure will Ben.." Jeremy said, a slight grin showing
on his face. "I got something for the both of us.."  
He held up the two Coke bottles full of lighter
fluid. One in both hands. ::Dad, I'm coming...g..g..::
his mind whimpered.

"Sodas, eh? How nice of you to think of them.
Just let me catch my breath first. Not easy moving
around in here. Let me up a bit.. Then we
can have those drinks.." he gasped, then
Old Ben sat down on the rickety stairway littered
with heavy timber and dead vegetation.

Jeremy was going to shift his bottles to his throwing hand
when the other one lifted the lantern up so the old
man could see to sit.
A sudden, unfamiliar pang gripped him and soon after,
the memory of his dad's death retreated and floated

"Ah, that's better, such a thoughtful young man.
Now.. come sit beside me and we'll talk." Old
Ben said, brushing off dust and brush from
the step next to him. "Especially, about him.."

Jeremy's vacant expression...... changed.
To one of profound sadness and grief.  The
bottles in his hand fell out of his grasp, rolling
into a hole in the floor and out of sight. All
thoughts of suicide in Jeremy evaporated and
he seemed to lose years in age. "B-Ben, Is it
true you knew m-my dad? Victoria said that
you knew him."

"Eh? Come closer, Jeremy, so I can see you
better. Come sit with me. Don't be afraid.
I know it mustn't be easy for you to come
here to the place where your dad met his

Just like that, Jeremy's strength crumbled and
set down the heavy lantern, wilting in grief.  
"Oh, Ben...I miss him so much.." he sobbed.

The old man blinked and took the boy's head into
his lap and stroked his hair lovingly. "I know
you do, my boy. So do I. He was the best
captain an old engineer like me, could ever

-- -- -- -- -- --

Jeremy forgot time as he lost himself in the old
pain again. Dimly, he was aware of Ben relating
story after story about his father, each one more
exciting and more captivating than the last, and
he was aware of the gentle caring voice of the
old man sounding very much like the way his
dad's had, until full darkness had fallen.

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A brass bell began to strike richly in the stillness,
jolting Jeremy out of his foggy half sleep. "Ben?"

"It's all right, my boy.. Sort..of  a surprise.
I fixed up the old call bell again and rigged
it to sound off the hour. It's ok. Rigged it to
the city's board, too, just fer kicks... hehe hehe."

Jeremy froze when the bell stopped at eight.
"Oh my g*d.." he whispered. "They're coming.."

"Who's coming, my boy..? I don't understand."
said kind Old Ben.

"Them..! They've come to see if I have it done."
Jeremy whispered in fear.

"Have what done?"

"This!...Here!  Now!" said an angry voice. Older and
very mad. Ben and Jeremy turned and saw him at
the head of the collapsed stairs.

It was the Gang leader.
"Well, well well, looks like our little stooge is
gonna chicken out. Too bad. I kinda liked you, Red..
But now there's a price to pay for your miserable
failure, isn't there, little boy..?" he sneered.

And he held up the two very familiar looking bottles.

"Where did you find those?" Conners gasped.

"Below.." he shrugged diffidently. "I figured, why
waste a good thing?" he said evilly.

Jeremy ripped out of Old Ben's grasp and stood
on shaky feet, not caring that his shoes filled
with mud.

"Don't you hurt him. Please.. I've changed my mind.
He's not the one, please!"

"He'll do.." said the leader. And he leaped back
up through the hole in the roof he had come
through. And the twisted teen began to sing..

 "One dark night, when we were all in bed...
Misses O'Leary.. lit a lantern in the shed..
The cow kicked it over... She winked her eye and said...
They'll be a hot time, in the old town............. "

And then he whispered a final word..   "*Tonight....*"

"no... NO ! Don't!!" Jeremy cried and in his terror,
knocked over the forgotten lantern at his feet.

Its tumble smashed against the fallen bricks of the
derelict firehouse landing and into the rich mat of
dried sage and grass nestled there.  

Fountains of flame sprouted up through the
vegetation and a rising blaze caught and grew
with frightening speed around Jeremy and Old Ben.

"Awww, looky that? Little Jeremy's a red cow..
No, make that a yellow one.." chuckled the
homicidal gang leader.

"What's happening?" cried the old man.

"We're being trapped! We've got to get out of here!
Come on! I'll show you the best way out!" Jeremy
said, pushing Ben before him towards the outside
door he knew was in his dad's office.

Just like that, an explosion of fuel and fire dropped
directly in their path from a hole in the ceiling. One
of Jeremy's firebombs had been thrown, narrowly
missing them.

A manic face peeked through it and the gang leader
rolled his eyes with the sick pall of fascinated insanity.
"Going somewhere? I do believe we have a false
alarm...Please.. stay ..and warm yourselves by the

"Torch!!.. Don't do this!! It isn't right.." Jeremy

"You should have thought of that before you
joined my little gang of horrors, Red."

Jeremy and Ben stumbled, but somehow, they
made it around the new patch of twisting fire.

Echoey laughter swelled over the sound of the
growing flames building higher in the ruin.

Coughing, choking, the old man and boy were
slowly driven back by the intense heat of
the fire eating the dry old bones of the station.

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Within Sight
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