Knowledge and ignorance
I followed the delicious smell of gravy through the halls, working my way up to the kitchen, my stomach growling in anticipation of another of Heidi’s sumptuous feasts. I spotted Tom lingering around his office, a clipboard clutched in his grasp as usual, and dodged around the corner as quickly as I could, hoping not to be dragged into a last minute task that would keep me from dinner.
I waited out of sight for him to pass, watching him disappear down the hall, nose still in his paperwork, then I dashed up the stairs, the smell of sausages now joining the strong and tantalising scent. I practically ran through the doors into the busy dining area. Everyone else bustling around with drinks and carrying their towering plates of food to the table.
“Dammit.” Jax groaned as I arrived, “I was just about to have yours added to my plate.”
He winked at me, Will and Cain laughing and moving towards the table. Jax followed after them whilst Heidi sighed.
“I don’t think you’d be able to eat another bite after that lot.” She said, gesturing at his heap of mash potatoes swimming in dark gravy.
“Oh I can always eat more of your cooking Heids.” He called back, devouring a spoonful and closing his eyes, smiling satisfactorily.
“Don’t worry Bane, I kept yours safe and warm.” She laughed, opening the oven and taking out another plate.
My stomach rumbled and I gratefully accepted the plate, thanking her and joining the others at the table where they were talking about last night’s call out.
“I’d like to find the little fuckers and wring their necks.” Will snarled, digging into another mouthful.
I dropped into the seat next to Sam, catching Lacey’s eye as I sat down and flashing her a small smile.
“I don’t know how that would help.” Cain chimed in.
“Well I presume that they’d have trouble calling in hoaxes if they’d had their necks wrung.” Cassie smiled evilly, much to Will’s agreement.
It had been the third hoax call this week, and last night’s one almost kept us from a genuine emergency. Thankfully we were able to make it there in time, but they were beginning to grate on all of us. I tuned out the discussion, my focus being on Lacey, sitting opposite and listening to the others, injecting her thoughts now and again, unaware of my concentration lingering on her, and my mind being on the events of our date a few nights before.
“... What do you think, Rebel?”
The sound of my name brought me back to the room and the conversation, and the sets of eyes now on me, waiting for my answer.
I heard Lacey laughing quietly at my obliviousness, clearly picking up on my momentary loss of concentration.
“Where’d you go there bro?” Dodger asked, smirking ear to ear.
I shot him a cold glare and he backed down with a cocky grin, taking a drink from his glass.
It was a few hours later, whilst cleaning down the appliances, that Dodger cornered me. Lowering his voice so that the others couldn’t hear him:
“I know what’s going on.”
I continued cleaning the back of the truck, not even looking up as I answered, figuring this was another of his wind ups.
“With you and Rosie.”
I froze, turning to face him.
“I’ve known you for years now, you think I wouldn’t be able to pick up on the change in you since she’s been here?”
I sighed, rubbing at the back of my neck in resignation, rolling my eyes at his triumphant grin.
“Lose the grin, before I make you.” I threatened half heartedly.
He clapped me on the shoulder, laughing and shaking his head.
“No need for that. Your secret’s safe with me.”
There was sincerity among the lightheartedness, and I knew that I could trust him. It wasn’t that I wanted to keep it from everyone, just that it was new to me, and I wanted it to not be rushed, observed and pigeonholed.
He shrugged my gratitude off, picking up a rag to help me clean.
“No problem. We’re brothers. Besides, I’m glad that you two are hitting it off, you make a good pair.”
I was grateful to have someone who knew me, telling me that this wasn’t a mistake to get close to her. I had enough of that from the lingering part of me that was still firmly against all of these actions. But currently I was helpless to stop it, caught up in the woman that was rapidly wiping all doubt and fears from my body, replacing them with a reckless cocktail of lust, desire and passion.
The rest of the evening passed quietly enough. We had no further call outs, and after another few rounds of poker, we retreated to our bunks and were out within minutes.
It was just after lunch the next day, when the peaceful hours were rapidly snatched away and we were summoned to an office block fire downtown.
Teamed up with Lacey, Sam and Dodger, we entered the building, and began ascending the staircases, checking floor by floor for anyone left inside, whilst the others searched the lower floors, and tackled the flames.
“Situation Report.” Alex’s voice crackled into life from the radio.
“No persons so far, Sub. Making our way up to the fifth floor. We’ve got smoke, but visibility is good, no fire, over.” I responded, turning towards the stairwell.
“Flames reported on the first and second floors only. Fire is under control. I repeat, under control.” Alex continued.
“Received, Sub.” I reported back.
“Looks like we’re on a scouting mission only then.” Dodger said from the back, his voice rasping through the BA.
“Seems so. But hey, why should we have all the fun.” I answered, taking the stairs two at a time, leading the others up to the next floor, which was even clearer than the last.
We covered every nook and cranny of each room in the building, and found no one. We were on our way out of the office, passing by the now ruined second floor when a glint of gold caught my eye. Blinking at the brightness, I looked towards it, and saw a blackened plaque against the wall. The names of various employees were carved on the smooth surface, now covered in soot, and dripping water from the hoses. I was about to continue on when a surname jumped out at me. Harper. I shrugged it off, it was a common name, there was no reason to think that. Yet, as I went to take another step, something held me back. Curiosity burned inside me, and on some level, I needed to know. Taking a breath, I reached out a gloved hand, and wiped the soot from the rest of the name: Erika K. Nausea, anger, resentment, loathing, sadness, it all hit me at once, and my hand dropped to my side, curling into a fist.
“Hey, I was wondering where you’d got to.” Lacey’s voice rang out behind me. “You okay?” She asked anxiously when I didn’t reply.
I struggled to tear my eyes away from the brass plaque as I nodded. Only moving when I heard her footsteps getting nearer. I pasted a fake smile on my face and whirled around, letting her take the lead, heading in the direction that she’d just come from, eager to get the hell out of this place.
Lacey didn’t say another word on the way down the stairs, and out onto the pavement. A large crowd of the workers were grouped along the pavement as I tore off my BA gear, handing it to Jax, and breathing in some fresh air as he scurried off. Avoiding looking in the direction of the workers, I began to walk towards the appliances, when someone called out from behind me:
I bit back the choice curse words that were on the edge of springing from my lips, and turned to face the woman.
“I’m Mrs Halloway, I manage… Well, what’s left of the building.” She explained, looking a little dishevelled as she glanced at the smouldering structure, patting down her auburn perm, and straightening her square spectacles.
“How can I help?” I asked her politely, already regretting the words.
“I was wondering what kind of damage is inside, particularly regarding our files? We have a lot of-”
“Debbie!” A woman’s shout cut across her rambling, followed by rushing footsteps.
That voice hadn’t changed since the last time that I heard it, and it was the very one that I didn’t want to hear. My blood turned to ice and I wanted to walk away, but instead, I was trapped there, unable to rudely turn and leave. She came to a stop in front of us, gushing over Mrs Halloway, and asking what had happened. I didn’t hear what they were saying as I stared at the face that I’d never forgotten, but had never wanted to see again, my heart thumping with an emotion that I wasn’t even sure of anymore.
“... I don’t know. I was just asking this young man here.” Mrs Halloway gestured at me, and that was when she finally looked my way. Those dark eyes found mine, and for a split second, I expected there to be a hint of recognition there. But there was nothing. She looked at me as if I was a stranger, nothing within her realising that she was looking at her son.