"The Phantom Fire Brigade"

                      By Ross


It was a dark and stormy night in L.A. County. Lightning strikes had been causing localized power outages in the Charter Oak area, all evening. But, that wasn’t why the six firefighters from Station 51 were basking in the surreal glow of burning candles. One of the storm’s bolts had hit uncomfortably close and the resulting surge in the electrical lines had, apparently, blown the ballasts in the building’s ceiling fixtures. At least, that is the conclusion that was reached when simply replacing the six foot lengths of fluorescent tubing had failed to resolve their lighting problem.

Captain Hank Stanley opened his black leather belt up a notch. "That was a pretty respectable meal, Chester."

The rest of the guys agreed.

‘Must be the ambiance,' the chef--who was unaccustomed to compliments--figured. "We should eat by candlelight more often," Chet Kelly commented, as he finished clearing the table.

"Yeah," Mike Stoker concurred. "Especially on the nights you cook."

The guys grinned.

"Kelly obviously cooks better...when he can’t see what he’s doing," John Gage managed to get out, between giggles.

"Maybe it just tastes better when we can’t see what we’re eating?" his paramedic partner, Roy DeSoto, counter-proposed.

His colleagues snickered.

"Everything tastes better...when you’re starving!" Marco Lopez realized. It had been an exceptionally busy shift. The men had missed both breakfast and lunch. Which meant, the only thing he’d eaten all day--prior to the Irishman’s meal--was half a’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Chet eyed his chuckling chums disapprovingly. "You guys don’t deserve any dessert!" he concluded and handed only his fearless--and faithful--leader a fork.

"Dessert?!" the guys exclaimed, in unison.

Stanley studied the fork for a few moments and then flashed his now frowning friends a smug smile.

"Ahhh...C’mon, Chet!" John lamented, "We were just teasing..."

"So was I," Kelly quickly came back. "Gotcha! Now, be a good boy and pass these out for me."

Gage exhaled an amused gasp and began dispensing the utensils he’d been handed.

"What are you doing?" Marco wondered, as Chet began to collect the candles that were scattered about the room...and place them all in the center of the table.

"He’s trying to gather enough light for me to read," Stanley insincerely said, as his eyes reconnoitered the adjoining rec room, in search of his evening paper. The couch, chairs and coffee table came up empty. Finally, he spotted the rolled up newspaper resting on top of the tall cardboard box beside the step ladder. In their haste to clear the dinner table, his hungry men had left the lights and ladder out.

"I’m making a campfire," Kelly calmly explained.

His Captain’s brows arched and his attention suddenly shifted from his paper to...Kelly’s campfire?

Chet completely ignored the strange stares he was receiving. "I was gonna make up a double batch of Rice Krispy Treats," he further explained, as he began rummaging around in one of the overhead cupboards. "But, then, the lights went out, and I got ta thinkin’...roastin’ ‘em might be more fun," he finished and plopped the two packages of marshmallows he’d finally found down on the dinner table.

A gleeful giggle escaped from Johnny Gage. The paramedic snatched up one of the sacks, ripped it open, pronged one of the plump objects with his fork and held it up to Kelly’s ring of candles...er, campfire.

The rest of the firemen quickly followed suit.

"Anybody got a good ghost story?" their Supreme Commander queried, over the ominous sounds of rumbling thunder and wind-thrashed rain.

"I got one," Mike admitted. The fireman squirmed nervously and tried sinking down into his seat, as his admission prompted even stranger stares than Kelly’s campfire comment had.

"Go on, Mike..." his Captain encouraged.

"Remember last month, when I worked a split-shift for Phil Bucholtz...so he could see his brother graduate?"

The men nodded thoughtfully, gazed into the flickering flames and watched, as their ‘dessert’ gradually began to brown and mushroom.

Marco’s marshmallow combusted and he had to jerk it back and blow it out.

"Well...at around two in the morning, we got called out to a nursing home fire. The building was already fully involved when we arrived. The manager assured us that everyone had been accounted for. So, we went to work. Several of the home’s totally disabled residents were lying out on the front lawn. Captain Woodson asked Leeman and Saunders to help the staff carry the invalids across the street...which they did. We had the fire suppressed and were just about to begin overhauling, when the home’s manager came running back up. He said the residents were being moved to another facility. But, before they left, they wanted to thank the firemen that had carried them to safety. Captain Woodson sent Leeman and Saunders over, to get their ‘thank you’s."

"What’s so ‘spooky’ about that?" Gage grumbled, through a mouthful of melted marshmallow.

"Turned out, the residents didn’t want to thank the firemen who had carried them across the street. They wanted to thank the firemen that had carried them out of the building."

"What’s so ‘spooky’ about that?" the paramedic repeated, and sucked the sticky, sweet substance from his fingertips.

Stoker swallowed hard and reluctantly replied, "We were first in."

Captain Hank Stanley and his crew felt shivers go down their backs...and it wasn’t cuz they were cold.

"Now, that’s ‘spooky’!" Marco nervously acknowledged, as his ‘dessert’ re-ignited.


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Stormy Challenge Page        Stories by Ross


*Ross's challenge:

Use these five items in an E! story of 2,000 words, or less:
a step ladder
a black, leather belt
a cardboard box
a newspaper
and, a half-eaten PB&J sandwich

Also the story has to start with the words, 'It was a dark and stormy night'.