Descent Into Panic

Chapter 12

"Looks like we got 'em, boys!" the fireman turned and announced to his colleagues through his breathing apparatus. Then he turned back to Drew.

"Miss Kingston said there were still some folks left in here. We're surprised to find you so far down. Are you the last?" He had to shout to make himself heard through the protective mask.

"I'm… not… sure sir," Drew answered honestly, finding that talking was an enormous strain, "I think so."

Anyone left in the building now had little chance of making it out alive.

The lead fireman, whose helmet identified him as Captain Peters, turned to his colleagues again, "Brown, Murphy, get them out. Hunt, you're with me." He pointed up the staircase to indicate they would check a bit further for possible survivors.

He moved to the side to allow the two descending men to pass him. It was only when they were level that Sam acknowledged his existence.

He paused; looking perplexed for a moment and then seemed to recognize the uniform.

"She's dead," he declared in a hoarse whisper, his eyes lowering to the step beneath him.

"His wife?" the fireman asked Drew, noting Sam's miserable expression.

"No sir," Drew replied croakily. "Ms Mancini - the opera singer. We were in the lift. It jammed. Mr. Quincey got us all out." Drew coughed dryly.

"Not all." Sam corrected. "I should have saved her. She shouldn't have died."

"You did all you could sir," Drew reassured him, "More than anyone could have expected..."

"Not enough," Sam stated flatly. "I was supposed to save her. If I hadn't given in to that panic attack there would have been time, I could have saved her. It was my fault."

"No, sir. I'm the attendant. The safety of the guests is my responsibility. If anyone failed her it was me."

Al looked at Drew. Seemed like he was on a bit of a guilt trip of his own. The kid was as kind-hearted as Sam. Al felt he had to put his own two cents worth in, even though only Sam could hear him.

"Personally, I think if anyone's to blame it's that nozzle Wayneforth. If he'd pulled his weight and helped get you two up topside instead of bailing on you, you'd have had longer..."

"I'm sure you both did your best," the one called Murphy told them. "But this is neither the time nor the place to debate it. Let's go, gentlemen."

The other one, Brown, passed Sam a breathing mask that was attached to a small oxygen tank, encouraging him to take a couple of shallow breaths to clear his lungs. It was then handed to Drew with a caution not to inhale too deeply lest it make him lightheaded.

"Better?" Brown asked them both, and got muted nods in response.

"It's not far now," Murphy promised them. "Here, let me," he moved to take over Drew's position as Sam's human crutch.

Drew shook his head, "I can manage." He was worn out, and could barely stand himself, but he had sworn to get Mr. Quincey out, and he intended to see it through to the end.

"I thought… I was… meant… to be rescuing… you," Sam told him.

"You did, sir. Now I'm just returning the favor."

Murphy wasn't going to stand around arguing the point. He allowed Drew to continue propping Sam up, but kept close in case either should need further assistance.

As they completed their descent, Brown radioed ahead that medical attention would be needed.

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