Shocked awake I sat up in bed. A millisecond ago I had been dreaming about flying. The real world crashed that dream in the form of a high-pitched staccato of beeps. As a volunteer firefighter, my pager was always close.
Stealing a glance at the clock I caught the time as being three in the morning. The beeping noise from the pager stopped leaving the room deathly quiet. Within a second the air is filled with a female’s voice.
“This is a page for the Platteville Fire Department and Platteville EMS. We have a two vehicle 10-50 with injuries and possible entrapment, Highway 151 southbound lanes just past the trailer court. Again, we have a 10-50 on Highway 151 just south of the trailer court. The complainant states there are injuries and thinks there could be entrapment. I have officers en route and will get you more details as soon as they are on the scene.” 10-50 is police radio code for a traffic crash.
Reaching down to the floor I grabbed the pair of jeans I always placed at the bedside. A simple tactic employed by many volunteers to speed up their response to a call. Out the bedroom door and down the stairs I sprinted. An old pair of shoes sat next to the back door already tied. I can slip my feet in, grab keys from the hook next and step into the garage in one smooth motion.
Jumping into the red Chevy Silverado, I fired up the engine. As soon as the garage door was up the gear selector got slammed into drive and I pulled forward into the driveway. Less than two minutes before I was dreaming, now I was jacked up on adrenalin in a state of heightened alertness.
Living just a few blocks from the firehouse my drive is short. There was a time I would jog the distance, but a patch of ice on the sidewalk cured me of that silly habit. The sound of sirens from other volunteers responding echoed down the city streets.
There was a flurry of activity after pulling into the firehouse parking lot. Garage doors were opening to reveal the massive red fire engines. Fellow volunteers were parking their cars, scurrying inside to grab gear bag and then climbing into the trucks.
I jump up into Engine 8 our cities primary pumper. The driver has the motor running, and other volunteers were clamoring in also. Everyone was pulling on gear. I could see the looks on their faces, Friday night, just after the bars close, we might have a fatal crash.
As a police officer, I see death often enough. Accidents, suicides, illness at home, and once in a blue moon we even have a murder. In the crew area of the fire engine are a local plumber, a college student and the owner of a local auto body shop. These guys don’t fear seeing death, at the same time they did not volunteer in the hopes of seeing it.
The radio speaker over my head crackles to life. “Truck six is in route”. Looking forward out the window I saw the fire apparatus that carries our Jaws-of-Life gear pass by. Our driver drops Engine 8 into drive and pulls out behind the rescue truck.
The first police officer on the scene, my friend Ben Graystock, calls on the radio to update us on the scene. “Fire department units be advised, we have a pickup truck versus milk truck crash. The pickup is in the ditch on the side with one person pinned under it.”
As we pulled up to the scene my first thought was a bomb had gone off. The small older Ford Ranger pickup had been decimated by the crash. A section of the axel with a tire attached was sitting in the middle of the road.
After climbing down from my seat, I jogged to the ditch. What was left of the pickup was laying on the passenger side. A body was half way out. From the top of the ditch, I could see he was beyond saving, the weight of the truck had cut him in half. Cop instincts kicked in, if this guy got partly ejected had someone else been in the vehicle and gotten entirely ejected?
Walking along the road surveying the scene with my flashlight it only took a few seconds to find the answer. Officer Graystock was standing a few yards away. At his feet, a person was laying face down. A local drug addict with the nickname Bull. A cut ran down his neck then across the shoulder. He was obviously dead also.
Thinking back on this scene, I should have known it would affect Officer Graystock. A month later he would be a fugitive on the run. The prime suspect in a string of Arson fires attacking local drug dealers I investigated.
Fire Cop is published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing Company, November 2015.
When Officer Ben Graystock becomes fed up with drug dealer Avery Spade’s ability to avoid arrest, he tries a highly illegal method to bust the criminal. Ben sets fire to Avery’s house. The officer assumes fire investigators will see the meth lab evidence and make an arrest. The plan does not work, resulting in Ben tracking down Avery’s other drug labs and setting additional arsons.
Police officer and volunteer firefighter Stuart Thompson is assigned to investigate these arsons. Thompson also happens to be Graystock’s close friend and partner at the police department.
Fire investigation turns to a murder investigation after Avery Spade assumes the arsonist is a local rival dealer. Spade kills the rival using a fire as a form of street justice. As the investigation progresses more fire deaths occur. The pressure is on for Officer Thompson to find a suspect and end the fires before more people die.
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Meet the author
During his adult life RJ has worked in the public safety field. He has been both a volunteer firefighter and paid firefighter. RJ now works in Law Enforcement and lives in Wisconsin.
Follow him on his web site Rescue Humor. . . at www.rescuehumor.com
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