Mike stared at the image of Jackie, his friend’s granddaughter, standing down the hall of the burning building. Only the glass on his mask kept him from rubbing his eyes. The figure, unaffected by the thick smoke, waved him deeper into the inferno. Mike tapped the regulator on his tank. Was it defective, a bad mix? Thirty years with the department and he had never hallucinated. Mike ignored the commander’s order to evacuate. He couldn’t leave Jackie. Besides, his escape route was already blocked. Four great strides and a leap took him past the collapsed floor — into a cool untouched pocket. Mike’s jaw dropped. The wall of flames stopped three feet from the door. Jackie was gone.
Fire roared at his back, snapping him into action. Mike kicked in the locked door. Experience sent him under the bed where he found a terrified eight-year-old boy wrapped in a wet towel. Now all they had to do was get out of the building. Mike’s heart pounded as flames crept closer. No windows, no way out. Jackie reappeared next to the bed pointing at a sliver of hope. He raced down the hidden stairs clutching the boy. The old servant’s access led them out as the building crumbled. Events churned through Mike’s head as he tried to catch his breath. There was no way he or the boy would have made it out of that building without Jackie’s help. It was time he gave his old friend a call.