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Old 03-13-2016, 12:22 PM   #251
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oh no! Suzanna!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
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Old 03-14-2016, 03:04 AM   #252
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Chapter Two - Fire

Carrie sat with Bart and Belle, helping Belle with her Canadian provinces when the explosion rocked her building. Racing to the big window in her bedroom, she saw the fireball rising high into the sky in the general direction of Sunshine Inn. Bart and Belle ran with her, jumping up to see what was happening.

“Oh no! A fire!” cried Belle, frightened. Bart stared.

“Suzanna,” breathed Carrie. She left the window and ran down the hall, grabbing her coat and scarf off the coat tree. “You two stay here until I know what’s happening.”

With that, Carrie took off from the apartment, running as fast as she could down the street as her two worried, scared cats watched.

A couple blocks away in Joyce’s tiny cottage, she and the cats were just settling down to do a little reading before the TV special when the explosion shook the house and cracked the bay window behind them on the couch. Joyce dropped her book and whirled around in time to see the fireball rip into the night sky. Pook and Saav flew under the couch, and Joyce heard Ruffie yelp in alarm from the kitchen.

“Oh my God,” said Joyce. She jumped off the couch and snatched up her coat
“Girls, stay where you are but make sure Ruffie’s okay.” She tore out the door and ran toward the fire, hoping it wasn’t where she thought it looked like it might be.

Even a mile away, Justin, TigTig, and Loki heard the explosion and Justin looked out his kitchen window and saw the fireball.

“Oh, damn,” he muttered to the cats, who had jumped up to see what was happening.

“That’s not Carrie’s place, is it?” asked TigTig, a little panicky.

“I can’t tell from here. But it looks close to there or the B&B,” he said, shaken. He went for his coat and jammed his hat on. “I’m going to go see what’s happening. Stay here.”
Grabbing his cell phone and car keys, he ran out the front door, calling 911 on the way. He jumped into the SUV and drove as fast as he dared in the snow toward the fire.

Carrie was the first to get to the B&B and although it was intact and the staff and guests were pouring out, she nearly tripped over Suzanna, lying in the yard. Meows was sitting next to her, licking Suzanna’s cheek.

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Old 03-14-2016, 03:12 AM   #253
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“She’s alive, I think she hit her head,” said the cat, shaking with fear and cold.

Carrie flipped her cell phone open and started to call 911, but then heard the sirens coming fast and furious, and she knew help was already on the way.

“What happened? What blew up?” she asked Meows. She couldn’t see past the big B&B.

“I don’t know,” said Meows, and he ran across the yard to the driveway. Peering past the B&B, he watched for a moment, then ran around the front of the inn. Returning around the other side, he dashed back to Carrie and Suzanna. “That abandoned old warehouse across the street and the ice cream place on the corner.”

“Do you smell gas?” asked Carrie.

Meows shook his head. “No. The wind’s blowing the other way. But two windows in the front of the B&B are blown out. I can’t tell how many others might be broken, but the building itself is okay, I think. Right now. But look at the embers falling.”

“Oh no. Okay, well, the staff knows the evacuation plan and they’re trained. See if you see an ambulance.”

“Fire trucks so far,” said Meows just as the first two engines arrived.

Carrie yanked her coat off and covered Suzanna with it, tucking it around her carefully without moving her.

Justin plowed the Ford through the snow into the driveway of the cottage behind the B&B.

“Over here!” yelled Carrie above the noise of the fire and sirens. Justin ran through the snow to her. “She’s alive. Meows thinks she hit her head. We need an ambulance.”

Joyce arrived after her two-block sprint, and saw Carrie in the yard behind the B&B while Justin was calling 911 back to request an ambulance. She jogged over.

“Good God!” she exclaimed. “What happened?”

Carrie explained as Joyce knelt next to Suzanna.

Justin put his phone back in his pocket. “Ambulance is on the way. They know where we are.”

“Meows, is Sunshine in the cottage or with a guest?” Joyce asked.

“With a guest.”

“He’ll be okay,” said Carrie. “In an emergency, the staff knows to return him to the cottage.”

“Okay, good. You want me to stay here or go with Suzanna? She’ll need her purse and her ID and all,” said Joyce.

“I’ll go,” said Carrie.
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:20 PM   #254
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“Where can I find her purse?” Joyce asked Meows.

“On the kitchen table,” Meows replied.


Joyce headed off to retrieve the purse, and returned a moment later as the ambulance backed into the driveway and Carole Furman came out of the back door of the inn, carrying Sunshine.

“I’ll take Sunshine and Meows to your place until they get this fire knocked down,” said Joyce to Carrie.

“Oh no!” cried Carole as she saw Suzanna. “What happened?”

Joyce explained quickly and took Sunshine. The staff was sending the guests to the Stony River Inn until the fire department got the inferno under control, and the ambulance crew was making their way swiftly across the snow with a stretcher.

The three friends watched as Suzanna was put on the stretcher, and Carrie climbed into the front of the ambulance with the driver. Justin quickly told Carrie to call him when she was ready to be picked up as he could get around well in the snow. The ambulance moved off in the night, its lights flashing red and white.

“Gods,” said Justin. “Maybe I should just go ahead and follow them there for support.”

“You might want to. I’ll take Sunshine and Meows to Carrie’s and call Pook and Saav from there.”

“Okay. Call mine too, if you don’t mind. They’re worried.”

“I will. Same ring code, right?” Joyce asked.

“Yes. I’ll call you at Carrie’s when I have any news,” he said, heading for his Ford.

“Okay, thanks.” Meows hopped to Joyce’s shoulder and with Sunshine still in her arms, she made her way to Carrie’s shop.

About six miles out of the town, Paul stood at his living room window, enjoying the view over the valley and the town. Zeus sat next to him on the back of a chair.

“Boy, nothing’s moving around there, is it,” Zeus commented.

“Nope, nothing. This must have been what whoever wrote ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ meant by not a creature stirring,” said Paul, taking a sip of his tea.

Zeus nodded, looking at Paul’s cup. “I think so. Hey, do we have any cream left?”

“I think so. Is that a hint?”

“That would be my first guess,” smiled Zeus.

“Come on, let’s go find some.”
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:24 PM   #255
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The cat followed the human into the big kitchen, and Paul poured some cream into a bowl for Zeus as Zeus hopped up on the table.

“I like that – “ started Zeus, then his ears swiveled. “Did you hear that?”

Paul frowned. “Thunder? This time of year?"

Zeus shook his head. “That’s not thunder. Sounded like a car backfiring real badly.”

“That’s probably what it was,” nodded Paul. He placed the bowl on the table for Zeus, and refilled his teacup. “I gotta get some more of this.”

Zeus looked up. “That’s the herbal tea Carrie gave you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I like it a lot.”

“Smells like boiled lettuce to me,” said Zeus, returning to his cream.

Paul smiled. “Then I bet Belle loves it.”

“Probably,” said Zeus, and finished the cream. He licked his whiskers and followed Paul back out to the living room. “It’s almost time for the TV special.”

“Yep. Belle isn’t thinking about getting a pet panda, is she?”

“Gaaahhhh I hope not. I can’t see Carrie going for that, can you?” asked Zeus, jumping up on the back of the couch behind Paul. He looked out the big window. “That would be – hey, what’s – look!”

“What?” asked Paul, turning to look out the window. An eerie orange glow lit the sky over the town below. He stood up suddenly and went to the window for a closer look. Zeus jumped over to the back of the chair closer to the window. “What the hell? A fire?”

“Looks like it,” said Zeus, alarmed.

Paul lifted Zeus up and held him close to the window. “Can you see any details? Your eyes should be better than mine.”

Zeus peered intently out the window, then fluffed up, hissing. “Call 911. Call Carrie. Call Suzanna. Do something, that’s a fire, and it’s downtown!”

Paul dumped the cat back on the chair and ran for the phone. He first called 911 to report a fire downtown, but the dispatcher assured him the fire department was already on the way. He tried Carrie’s, using the ring code for the cats when at first there was no answer. Bart answered.

“Bart? What’s happening?” asked Paul. “What’s on fire there?”

“There’s a fire at the B&B, I think, or close to it. Carrie’s gone to check on Suzanna,” Bart replied. He sounded terribly upset.

“Are you two okay?” asked Paul. “Is it getting closer to you? Want me to come get you?”
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:28 PM   #256
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“No, it’s not getting close to us. We will run if it does, we can get out. Wait a minute, someone’s here. Hold on.”

Paul waited, and then heard Joyce talking to the cats. In a moment, she came to the phone.

“Joyce? What’s happening?” asked Paul, worried.

“Hey, Paul, everyone’s safe here, it’s a fire right across from Sunshine Inn. I have Sunshine and Meows here, they’re fine. Suzanna’s been taken to the hospital, she fell in her yard and hurt her head, we think. Justin and Carrie went with her.”

“Do you need me? I can be there in just a few minutes. Are you okay?”

“We’re okay, no guests were hurt. Only Suzanna, and Meows says a few windows were blown out at Sunshine. My bay window cracked. The old warehouse across from the B&B went up like a bomb,” she told him. “I’m staying at Carrie’s with Bart and Belle.”

“Oh, God,” Paul sighed. “Okay. Look, I’m coming anyway, we’ll be there shortly. Are Pook and Saav there too?”

“No, last I saw they flew under the couch at home,” Joyce replied. “It scared them to death.”

“Okay. I can go get them and bring them to you. What about Justin’s cats? He’s farther away from this, though, I guess.”

“He said they were okay, just a little worried. I was getting ready to call them and mine in a minute.”

“How did you get there?” asked Paul.

“I ran my ass off,” said Joyce.

“Okay. I’ll bring Pook and Saav and your dog. If we need, we can check on Justin’s cats since we all have keys to each others’ places. Call me on the cell if you need anything else,” he said, and got off the phone. He looked at Zeus. “They’re okay. Suzanna got hurt. C’mon, Zeus, and for once don’t say a damn word about my driving!”

Zeus nodded and followed Paul as he got his coat, wallet, and keys. He didn’t really feel like giving Paul a hard time right now.

Suzanna came to on the way to the hospital, a little confused as to how she wound up in an ambulance. After a thorough exam, the doctor came out to Carrie and Justin in the waiting area.
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:33 PM   #257
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“She got herself a pretty hard hit to her head and a concussion,” said the doctor. “But that’s all. She’ll have some bruises from the fall, but she has no other injuries. I want to keep her overnight just for observation to make sure she’s okay, but I think she is. You can come see her if you like, and wait with her while they get her room ready.”

“Oh good,” breathed Carrie, her shoulders sagging in relief.

“Whew, that’s good news,” said Justin as the doctor led them through the double doors to the emergency room.

Suzanna was sitting up, sipping some water from a paper cup when her two friends came in.

“Hey there,” smiled Carrie.

“I’m so glad to see you two,” said Suzanna gratefully. “What happened? Last thing I remember was walking to the cottage from the B&B.”

“There was an explosion across the street, the ice cream place and that old warehouse went up. I think it knocked you over,” Carrie explained, and told her all about Meows finding her and the damage to the B&B.

“Windows I can replace. Would one of you call over there and make sure that’s all the damage?” Suzanna asked. “What about Sunshine and the guests? Did anyone get hurt?”

“I’ll call,” said Justin. “Be right back.”

“Didn’t look like anyone was hurt, Suzanna. Joyce took Meows and Sunshine to my place, farther away from the fire. Your staff got the guests down to Stony River Inn until they can assess the damage and get the fire under control.”

“It must have been a massive explosion. My ears are ringing,” said Suzanna.

“It was. Justin heard it at his place, and it cracked Joyce’s bay window and blew a bunch of yours out, according to Meows.”

“Geez,” said Suzanna, shaking her head. “They want to keep me here overnight. I really need to be there.”

“We’ll be there, and your staff is good. They know what they’re doing and you just worry about getting your rest. You can be there tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Carrie. How’s Meows?”

“Shaken, but holding his own. He’s a good guy, Suzanna, he’ll be fine once he hears you’re okay.”

“Poor Meows. He’s such a worrier. Wow, do I have a headache,” sighed Suzanna, finishing the cup of water.

“Want some more of that?” asked Carrie.
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:37 PM   #258
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“Yes, please,” she said, giving the cup to her friend.

Carrie found a water fountain in the hall, and as she stood filling the cup, Justin returned. Carrie looked up at him hopefully.

“Six windows broken, people are a little freaked out, but they’re safe at Stony River Inn and no one’s hurt. The staff is boarding up the broken windows but the fire department won’t let the guests return because they don’t know what was stored in the warehouse and if anything is toxic. Stony River Inn is letting them stay there for free, they have plenty of rooms available,” he said.

“Good. She’ll be glad to hear that,” said Carrie, and they went back to Suzanna to give her the news.

Suzanna listened intently, then sighed. “Okay, then everyone’s all right and Sunshine and Meows are safe. My God, this could have been so much worse.”

“Don’t think about that. It didn’t happen, and your staff did an excellent job,” said Carrie.

“I knew they would in an emergency. The fire department always monitored our emergency drills and the guests never complained about them,” Suzanna said with a smile, then winced. “Damn, my head hurts.”

“I bet it does,” Carrie said sympathetically, as a nurse entered.

“Ms. Pearson?” she asked Suzanna, who nodded. “Your room is ready now. You folks can come up and see her in just a few minutes after we get her settled in.”

“Thank you,” said Carrie. “Oh, wait. Suzanna, we can get some things you’ll need for the night.”

“Oh, would you? Thanks so much,” said Suzanna, and told them what she needed. It wasn’t much; but she wanted her own nightshirt and a few personal things.

Carrie squeezed her hand and Justin patted her shoulder. “We’ll be right back. What’s her room number?”

“Two-fifteen. Second floor, turn right off the elevator,” replied the nurse.

“Thanks,” said Carrie. “See you soon.”

Joyce called Pook and Saav, who were still unnerved, and they were glad to know Paul was coming to get them and Ruffie. TigTig and Loki were all right and preferred to wait for Justin at home. Paul brought Pook, Saav and Ruffie shortly before Carrie called with news of Suzanna, and the cats, Paul, and Joyce breathed a sigh of relief. Shortly after that, Suzanna herself called all of them, and the little group of friends in Carrie’s apartment settled in to watch the progress of the fire department.
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:43 PM   #259
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“I wonder what might have been in there?” Saav mused.

“Whatever it was, it was volatile,” said Meows.

“Yeah, that explosion shook the whole area,” Joyce said.

“Zeus and I heard something that sounded like a car backfiring or something, even that far out,” added Paul.

“Hope it’s not poisonous,” frowned Pook.

“Wonder how many other people lost some windows,” said Bart.

“Probably several shops did. Joyce, your bay window isn’t too bad,” Paul said.

“I didn’t think so,” said Joyce.

“I’m surprised we didn’t lose any,” Bart put in.

Joyce nodded. “So am I.”

“Rats,” said Belle suddenly. Everyone looked at her.

“What, Belle?” asked Meows.

“I missed my TV program.”

Carrie arrived home just before midnight, and was surprised to see the warehouse still burning. The brick walls had all collapsed from the explosion and heat, but the flames still lit up the whole block. As Justin drove down the main street, Carrie could see that the front porch of the B&B was scorched, and there were sheets of plywood over four windows.

“God, look at the porch,” said Carrie, shocked.

Justin peered across her. “That’s not bad. Probably from the explosion. A good sanding and a couple coats of paint is all it will take to make it look new again.”

“Poor Suzanna,” she replied. “First the front parlor, then that horrible woman kicking Sunshine, now this.”

Justin was silent, remembering Suzanna’s past near-disasters with the B&B. The front parlor had been completely trashed by a jealous husband beating up his wife’s boyfriend shortly after Sunshine Inn opened, and all the townspeople and shopowners had come to her rescue, restoring the parlor to its former beauty by the end of the day. Then a woman with a dog had come in demanding a room a few months later, and the dog had gone berserk when Sunshine the inn kitty walked into the foyer. She had kicked Sunshine viciously, injuring the cat, and now still sat in jail. He sighed and drove slowly to the apartment above the shop.

“Oh, look,” Carrie said, pointing. She had two large windows on either side of the shop’s front door, and both of them were badly cracked.
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:52 PM   #260
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“I’ll tape those up for you tonight,” Justin offered. “Paul and I could probably replace those with no problem tomorrow.”

“If we can find panes of glass that size tomorrow,” Carrie said ruefully, unlocking the door. “I bet half the town will be lined up at the hardware store for window panes.”

“That’s a possibility.”

They went up the steps, and Paul opened the door when he heard them coming up.

“I’m so glad to see you safe,” said Paul, hugging Carrie and shaking Justin’s hand.

“We’re just fine. Suzanna’s coming home tomorrow morning and she’s going to be just fine too,” replied Carrie, hugging Joyce and picking up the purring kitten. She gazed at all the cats and the non-sentient dog, and smiled. “It’s good to see you guys.”

Meows smiled. “Thank you both for taking care of Suzanna. I was quite worried,” he said.

Ruffie greeted her with her usual enthusiasm, and Carrie knelt to receive Ruffie’s slobber-kisses on her face.

“We were too,” said Zeus.

“Got any duct tape?” asked Justin.

“Yes. There’s a box of fix-it stuff under the counter next to the first aid kit in the shop,” said Carrie.

“What’s that for?” asked Belle.

“My shop windows are cracked pretty badly and Justin is going to tape them up until I can get them replaced,” explained Carrie.

“Gaaaahhhh, we never thought to check the shop,” said Bart disgustedly.

“I didn’t either,” Paul said. “I came in through the back, in the alley. Justin, I’ll come help you.”

“Thanks,” replied Justin, and the two men went out the door.

“What does the B&B look like?” asked Meows. “Is it all right?”

Carrie shrugged and described the damage. “It doesn’t look so pretty in the front right now, but with fresh paint and new windows it will look like Sunshine Inn again.”

Meows nodded. “Suzanna will hate to see that, though.”

“Rather that than a pile of smoldering rubble,” said Saav with a shiver.

“True, Saav. This could have been much worse,” he agreed.

“Geez, Meows, Suzanna said the same thing tonight. Don’t even think about it,” said Carrie, scratching the grey tabby’s chin.

Pook frowned. “Yeah, that’s a terrible thought. We can do without that.”

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