Jim sat in his room, feeling like a beaten dog. He wanted to talk to Tony, but he was busy with Christine. He had no idea what he was going to do. He knew, in his heart, that Stacy was gone, but he didn’t want to believe it.
He decided to take a walk, to clear his mind. A little air was exactly what he needed. He had to figure out how to get through this. He walked down to where her room would have been and in some way his dream came true.
He stood there, remembering the night they shared. He remembered her beautiful brown eyes. He remembered her standing there looking at him. He remembered her soft lips. He remembered her body pressed against him in passion. He remembered her.
He took a deep breath and walked down the hallway. He figured he would take a chance and knock on the door when it started to open. His heart did 100 mph in a 55 zone. Could it be her? How he wanted it to be her. Please make it be her! His prayer went unanswered.
An old couple came out. “We’re surely lucky we got this room,” the old women said.
They walked past Jim, without giving him a second look. Jim groaned and leaned against the wall. Memories echoed through his heart, tearing him apart. They ran through his mind and tore up his soul.
He heard the door open and looked to see a little kid dressed in an army uniform with a BB gun. Once he saw Jim, he closed the door quickly. Looks like someone is trying to escape, he thought as he turned down the hallway. “Have fun at the shooting range,” he whispered.
He came to the room where he first talked to Stacy. This time he was able to read the sign that looked foreign in his dream. Nothing all that fancy. It just stated, “The Living Room.” He looked around and saw nothing of interest.
Deciding that he really should get some air, he walked out of the hotel. He unconsciously walked toward the dock. He walked as if he was a zombie. Slow and steady with nothing but memories filling his mind. Memories of nothing more than a dream, but memories, nevertheless. A memory that you wish you could touch but instead you could only remember touching it.
There was a chill in the air, but Jim didn’t notice. He looked up at the sky and watched the stars. The mighty stars that always filled Jim with beauty and awe seemed to lose their charm and grow dull. Without Stacy by his side, there didn’t seem like there was much point.
Why did she have to go? Why did she have to leave him? All the love he had for her seemed to become an enemy. What once made him feel strong now attacked him and was destroying the essence of his very soul.
He happened to turn around to see Amanda and Linda hurrying into the hotel. He knew what he had to do. He needed to tell Amanda everything and hoped she would understand. He needed some sort of human contact. He needed someone to tell him everything was okay and just hold him. Though there was a chance that she would become angry and turn him away, that was a chance he needed to take.
He walked toward the hotel.
26 “I’ll be going now!”
Jim stood in front of Linda’s door for a full five minutes before he got the nerve up to knock. I’m sorry Amanda, Jim thought somberly.
The door opened with Amanda appearing, laughing. When she saw Jim standing there her expression changed to surprise and a hint of fear. “Jim,” she said quickly, keeping the door from fully opening. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry,” Jim said urgently, “but I really need to talk to you.”
“Sure,” she said plainly. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“No,” Jim insisted. “I can’t wait that long. It’s really important.”
“What’s so important?”
“It’s about this dream I had last night.”
Amanda sighed. “I can’t leave Linda alone now,” she said quickly as if she was trying to get rid of him. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this right now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She went to close the door. Any other time he would understand and just walk away. But this wasn’t any other time. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer. To hell with Linda’s feelings.
He pushed past her and walked into the room. Amanda, shocked, took a step back. “I cannot wait until tomorrow, there’s something I have to . . .” Jim stopped in mid-sentence and saw how Amanda was cheering Linda up.
It seemed as if they had company. Linda was laughing - until she saw Jim that is, which is why her expression changed really quick - in the arms of a half dress man. On the other side of the bed Jim noticed the brute. The monster that got in his way and called him a pussy. He was sitting there with nothing but his shorts on. “And I was feeling guilty,” Jim said to himself.
“Damn it Jim,” Amanda said angered.
Jim gave her a confused look. “You’re pissed off,” he said in disbelief. “That’s funny.”
“Well,” she said ignoring his comment, “I guess you were going to find out sooner or later anyway. This is my new boyfriend.” The brute stood up.
“When were you going to tell me about it,” Jim said, keeping in control.
“I don’t know,” Amanda said plainly. “I’m sorry Jim, but I can’t stay with you. I need someone who could take care of me.”
“Really,” Jim said plainly.
“Please leave,” Amanda said looking directly into his eyes.
Jim turned to give the brute a final look over when he realized he was standing right before him. He looked directly into his chest. “You’re in my way again,” he said in a scary voice, “pussy.”
Jim looked up at the monster. “I guess I am,” he said plainly before delivering a jab to his kidney. He followed it up with a quick one two to either side of his jaw. He fell to his knees like a ton of bricks.
Jim turned and saw the surprise in Amanda’s face. “Good bodyguard. I just have one thing to say,” Jim said calmly then giving the brute a quick shot to the back of his head. The brute was knocked out cold. “I’ll be going now.”
He walked past her and out of the room. Amanda just stood there, staring at her new boyfriend in shock.
27 In the Heat of the Night
Jim ran out of the hotel, feeling abandoned. He felt like there was no one he could turn to for help. He ignored the fact that there was a crowd of people standing around. He pushed past them and ran to the lake.
When he reached the lake, he fell to his knees. New tears were born in his eyes and rolled down his face. He buried his hands under his arms. He felt the extreme torture of love scraping his heart, deeply. The pain of Amanda’s betrayal only added to pulsating destruction in his heart from the loss of Stacy.
“WHY?!?” He screamed into the sky. He shook his head and breathed deeply. He put his hands together. “Stacy,” he prayed. “I can’t do this. I’m lost without you. I’m lost and I don’t know what to do. Please! Please show me the way.”
It was then that he looked into the lake. He saw a warm orange glow. It took him a few seconds to realize the glow was nothing more than a reflection. He turned and found the source. The shooting range was engulfed in a fire that burned strongly.
He walked toward it, like a man possessed. Not one single thought crossed his mind. He just pushed past the crowd and walked closer to it. The fire seemed to beckon him. When he reached the front of the crowd, he saw the fire men.
“We can’t stay here,” The Fire Chief exclaimed. “This place is about to blow. Get EVERYONE BACK!”
The fire men listened to his commands. People had no problem moving away from the blaze before them. In the crowd, Jim saw the old couple from Stacy’s room. “TOMMY!” they screamed. “Where are you?”
Jim turned and looked at the blaze. The kid with the BB gun, he thought as he watched the fire laugh. Somehow, he knew that the fire, which showed not a hint of weakness, had trapped the kid.
He ran to the Fire Chief. “There’s a kid in there!”
“There’s a kid in there,” Jim repeated.
“How do you know that?” he asked nervously.
“I have a feeling!”
The Chief looked at the fire and then back to Jim. “Listen,” he said trying to sound sympathetic, “this place is about to blow sky high, and I can’t risk my men’s lives on a feeling.”
Jim knew he wasn’t going to convince him. There’s only one thing he could do. He punched the Chief in the gut and ran past him. Dodging other firemen, Jim jumped through the window and fire shot out from it.
“DAMN!” The Fire Chief screamed. He knew he had to decide, which he wasn’t capable of doing. The last big decision he made turned tragic. It was a fire much like this one. He ordered his men in to try and put it out before it blew. It blew all right taking three men’s lives, including his own beloved son. He wasn’t going to order anyone to their death again. “Keep everybody moving.”
The fire men just looked at him. “You heard me,” he demanded, “get everybody behind the hotel.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pieces of glass pierced Jim’s face as he flew through the window. He looked up at the blaze that filled the room. It seemed to be laughing in its roar. Almost daring him to try and test its might. Daring Jim to try and take its captive.
Jim got up and covered his mouth with his coat. The smoke was thick, but the fire was bright. He fought his way toward the staircase as his lungs started to close up. His eyes teared, making seeing a chore.
“Tommy,” Jim tried to scream, but the smoke muted him. Making him cough uncontrollably as if to punish him for that act. He trenched forward toward the stairs.
A box of bullets fell into the fire. They exploded in different directions like firecrackers on the Fourth of July. A stray bullet found its way into Jim’s left shoulder. He fell backward as he screamed in pain. Again, the smoke punished him. He stayed down waiting for the firecrackers to stop.
It was then that he realized his jacket was on fire. He quickly discarded it and threw it into the flames in anger. You will not beat me! He screamed in his mind and the fire swayed as if shocked. As if it were surprised by Jim’s rebellion.
Jim knew time was of the essence, so he ran up the stairs. He couldn’t let his new wound stop him. His left arm hung by his side, practically useless. Blood continually poured down it in an alarming rate.
He reached the second floor. The fire was at a minimum here, but the danger was high. The room was filled with methane gas containers. Enough to knock this building off the planet it so chose. They were dangerously close to the fire. He could see why the Fire Chief wasn’t ready for a commitment.
“Tommy,” Jim screamed as loud as the smoke would let him. “Where are you?”
He thought he heard a voice on the top floor. Without hesitation, he ran for the top floor. No fire up here. The room looked like it was used for storage - i.e.: extra BB Guns and the sort. It was easier to breathe up here, but it wasn’t safe.
He saw Tommy, sitting next to a window, terrified. “Come on let’s go,” Jim said weakly, as he picked up the kid. He winced a little when Tommy accidentally touched his wound. As quickly as his legs could take him, he went back to the stairs.
Fire shot up, knocking them backwards onto the ground. Their escape route had been officially taken over. Now the fire was claiming two hostages with intent on taking their lives.
“Shit,” Jim said, fears now filling his body. From the corner of his eye, he saw a crossbow and some rope. It was the only chance they had. He grabbed it and smashed out the window. He tied the rope around one of the arrows. He had no idea if this was going to work, but he had no choice.
He aimed for a tree in the near distance. His vision started to blur, and he started to feel dizzy. He had lost too much blood. His body started to threaten to collapse. He didn’t have much time for consciousness left.
He wiped his eyes and took aim again. He knew he only had one chance at this. Neither his body nor the fiery beast was going to give him the time for a second shot. “Please,” he whispered in a voice only he could hear, “let me make this.” He heard Stacy’s voice in his head. You could do it, Mr. Marksman.
Jim squeezed the trigger, and the arrow flew out. It flew straight and strong. The rope seemed to have very little effect on its course. It struck deep into the tree.
Thank God, Jim thought to himself. He took another arrow and fired it deep into the window pain. He then connected these two arrows with the rope. He made sure it was tight and held a line straight from the tree to the house.
Behind him, he heard the fire beginning to take over the second floor. It won’t be long now. They would have to work fast if they expected to survive.
He grabbed two pieces of smaller rope. His body was coming very close to throwing in the towel. With all the strength he had left in his body, he laid one of the smaller pieces of rope on top of the line.
“Listen, kid,” Jim said extremely weak. “I want you to grab onto both ends of this rope and slide down to that tree. When you get close, I want you to let go and jump into the lake. Got it?”
Tommy nodded. Jim knew it would have been a better idea if they both had gone together, but he wasn’t sure if he could hold his own weight, never mind both.
Tommy grabbed onto both pieces and flew down the line. He made it down with no problem, though he got awfully close to hitting straight into the tree. When the kid was safely in the water, Jim said a silent prayer in thanks. Using up the last of his strength, he got up onto the windowsill and laid the rope over the line.
The building exploded in a rage of fire.
The Fire Chief saw Tommy make it safely to the lake. When the building exploded, he ran to the water. “Put out the rest of those flames!” He screamed to his men. Pulling Tommy out of the water, he delivered him safely into the arms of his grandparents who smothered him in hugs and kisses.
Tony, Christine, Linda, and Amanda were among the crowd that watched the old couple sob in thanks. Tommy looked at the Fire Chief and asked, “What happened to the man?”
One of the firefighters came up behind the Chief. “The explosion put out most of the flames,” he said in disgust. He disagreed with the Chief’s decision and felt terrible for following his orders.
“What happened to the kid?” he asked, fearing the answer.
“He didn’t make it.”
The Chief nodded in regret. He knew he couldn’t keep fooling himself. He was no longer cut out for this job. “Any idea who he was?”
“We found his wallet,” he said as he opened it. “His name was James O’Brian.”
Those words hit Tony - as well as the rest of them - like a spear through the heart. He lost his footing and fell to his knees. Christine grabbed him and held him tightly. “Oh god,” he said not caring about the tears coming from his eyes. “No. It can’t be.”
Linda turned toward Amanda, but she was already halfway to the hotel. She jumped into her bed, hysterically crying. “Why?” She pleaded. “Please just make this a dream! PLEASE! I BEG OF YOU!”
But it wasn’t a dream. Not this time. A few days later, they buried Jim.
Jim woke up in a bright mist. First, he felt fear as he jumped up screaming. Then he felt very peaceful. “Hello, Jim,” a man in a white suit said. “How are you feeling?”
Jim looked at him as if he were crazy. “Okay,” he said, uneasily. “I guess I’m dead, huh?” He started to frown.
“I’m afraid so,” he said nodding.
“Am I going to heaven?” He asked even though he somehow already knew the answer. He felt a little regret, but at the same time a little relieved.
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “There’s someone that wants to talk to you.” He pointed behind Jim.
Jim turned to see Stacy in a beautiful white dress. His heart found a new type of happiness as he ran over to her and hugged her. They kissed and nothing felt more right to either one of them. “I love you,” Jim said, unable to take his eyes off her.
“Forever?” She said ecstatically as she looked deep into his eyes.
“And ever and ever and ever,” he said as he held her close.
The man in the white suit smiled. This was a beautiful moment, and he could feel the love they shared glow off their bodies. He could feel how strong and powerful it was. He could feel how their souls were one. With all the beauty and powerful things in this world, love was the most powerful of them all. “Come on you two,” he stated, “forever is waiting for both of you.”
Jim and Stacy walked into the light, exactly where they belonged. In each other’s arms.