How To Tame A Wild Fireman(3)

By: Jennifer Bernard

“Always a relative term when it comes to him,” Sabina grumbled as she followed the general flow of movement.

Captain Brody stepped out of his office, where he’d been trying to distract himself from the imminent birth of his baby with a pile of paperwork. He took in the madness, a faint frown creasing his forehead. “What the hell is this all about?”

“Psycho’s got an excavator!” Fred shouted. “He’s in the backyard.”

The captain looked at Sabina, who shrugged. “You got me, Cap. I heard all the shouting and came running.”

Vader picked up the intercom through which firefighters made general announcements about such things as dinner and handball matches. “Attention, everyone. If anyone’s missing a sweet piece of heavy equipment, you might want to check the backyard. She weighs two tons, she’s painted bright yellow, and she’s a hot little piece of machinery.”

“Get off that thing, Vader,” snapped Captain Brody.

“For more updates, stay tuned to your local channel,” Vader intoned, then quickly dropped the mic at a glare from Brody.

“Vader, go out there and find out what’s going on.” He’d go himself, but these days he liked to stay as close as possible to a phone—to two phones, in case his cell decided to drop reception.

“Jones, when’s the last time you saw Psycho?”

Sabina rolled her turquoise eyes toward the ceiling. “To tell you the truth, Cap, I try to block it out when I see him. Anyway, he’s off shift today.”

He fixed her with a stern stare. “Anything I should know?” All his crew members knew what that meant. He liked to stay out of firehouse drama until his presence was absolutely necessary.

She shrugged. “It’s a heat wave. Everyone’s going a little nuts. And Psycho’s Psycho. What more do you need to know?”

Brody groaned. The brass had begged him to fill in temporarily at his old position until they could settle on the perfect replacement. The authoritative and powerful Chief Roman had recently left, after becoming engaged to Sabina, and his shoes were hard to fill. Brody had warned them that he’d be taking paternity leave as soon as Melissa went into labor. But it wasn’t happening yet, so Psycho’s latest adventure would be his problem to solve.

“Stan,” he muttered to the firehouse mutt, a beagle mix who sat patiently by his right ankle. “What am I going to do with him? He’s liable to blow this place up.”

Stan gave him a wise look, but kept whatever insight he had to himself.

“Fine.” Brody checked to make sure his cell phone was on, stuck it in his pocket, and strode out to the backyard to see what havoc Patrick Callahan IV was wreaking now.

In the cab of the excavator, Patrick took another long slug of vodka-spiked Arizona iced tea and sang the words to “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady” as he lowered the bucket toward the crackling dry grass of the back lawn. He didn’t ever drink on the job, but he happened to be off shift at the moment, as he’d switched with Brent on the A shift.

Alcohol wasn’t permitted on the premises, but then again, he wasn’t technically on the premises. The way he looked at it, he was a couple yards over the premises.

And the premises weren’t much to speak of. It hadn’t rained in eight months and temperatures had been stuck over 100 for the past two weeks. The grass was probably dead. For sure, no one would miss it.

“She’s once . . . twice . . .” He hooted at the top of his lungs. Why couldn’t he remember more than that one line? He scowled at the bottle of iced tea. Too much poison. He really had to straighten out one of these days. As soon as he got this thing dug, he’d do it.

New leaf. A new life. A clean, relaxed new life.

Vader appeared in front of the excavator, waving his arms over his head.

Patrick stomped on the brake and the machine lurched to a halt. He leaned out and shouted over the noise of the idling engine. “What’s the rest of the words after ‘Once, twice, three times a lady’?”

Vader cupped a hand behind his ear. “What?”

“Once. Twice. Three times a lady. What comes next?”

Vader’s forehead creased in thought. He sang the tune, tracing the rise and fall of the notes in the air. “La la la la la . . .”

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