Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chapter 66


       I’m still talking about the horrendous fire at the Wind Museum a couple of weekends ago.. during the gala celebrating the opening of the first edition of the expansion of the museum. Winston and I got out safely, and I now needed to get to work with the media. 

      Colin marveled at the way she worked, moving from one official to the other, pulling information, asking questions, directing the press area to be set up. 
I prepared a short statement for a grateful President Parker. There were some times, like now, audiences wanted to see the person in charge actually be in charge, so I had him memorize a couple of lines to give on camera and then stepped in to take any questions. 
Winston had asked me twice if he shouldn’t be the one talking to reporters, but I  convinced him I could take care of it. His persona doesn’t work as well on television as it does in person. No telling what audiences would make of his occasional jabberwocky which he still can’t resist. 
    I had returned Colin’s coat when Elaine showed up with a warmer one much closer to my size. Bless her, she’d also brought warm leather gloves and flat shoes that fit perfectly with her husband’s thick wool socks. I hadn’t asked for anything but the jacket, but Elaine knew I would be on my feet for a few hours and any woman with any fashion sense would be wearing very high heels under a Neiman Marcus evening gown. Elaine had been aware of the shopping trip to Dallas a few weeks earlier.
Elaine had also brought a spare cell phone, so I returned the one borrowed from a bystander — mine was still in my evening purse on the table inside the museum, more than likely soaked and useless along with my new wrap. Colin had left his at the house. 
Steven and Susan arrived to assist, and one or the other was in constant contact with Ricky who’d gone to the office to put out a campus-wide bulletin and post the news on the website, mainly to give assurances to parents that there was only one person injured and it wasn’t a student. That alone would save several thousand phone calls.    
Charlie had been working the gala and was continuing to capture the event with his Nikon, transmitting the photos to Ricky through his laptop.

   Every 15 minutes, I returned to the press area to give an update and then went back to gather more facts and confer with my staff. Through Ricky, I took a call from CNN, who would be there early tomorrow for video, and did a radio interview with the local Tech public radio station. I also had to tactfully ask the board chairman to step further away from the building — he’d been making jokes with other regents to cut some of the tension, but laughter at a disaster scene didn’t look good on camera.
   Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Bennett Boyle had returned, in more casual clothes and a heavy overcoat. He was talking with Winston, a little more calmly this time. Thankfully, he didn’t try to interfere with me or my staff and I dismissed him from mind as I went to find Chief Callahan for an update. Callahan finished talking with an officer when I walked up. 
  “We’ve just gotta stop meetin’ like this, Sweetheart,” the chief said with a wry smile.  
   “Yes, we do, and don’t call me Sweetheart,” I said matter-of-factly. Then I asked in serious frustration, “Was it an accident, do you think? Or is it the same as the others?”
“No idea, yet, Sweetheart. My man who called it in said he tried the fire pull, but it didn’t kick in for about five minutes. And the fire captain said the sprinkler apparently didn’t go off at all in the office area. He also said his inspector had been out here earlier this week and everythin’ passed with flyin’ colors. So, that’s somethin’ we’ll be lookin’ into. We’ve got our best men workin’ on it. Since this is the fourth campus fire, we’ve put a priority on it.”
   “Thanks, Chief. Do we have an ID on the injured waiter yet?”
   Callahan pulled out a notepad. “Yep. Henry Cassidy, age 42. Plumber. Been with Tech catering as a second job for about 20 years, they said. One of their best.”
   “Latest condition report?”
   “Critical, but stable. His upper back and neck were pretty bad. Said he was taking a leak in the men’s room when he smelled smoke. Went down the hallway to investigate and saw smoke coming up under the office door. Opened it and tried to see where the flames were and the ceiling fell in on him. Poor guy. It must’ve been burning for a while.”
“Can we release his name and condition?” I asked, writing down what he had said.
   “Yes, the Medical Center already has. His wife is with him. Seems she’s a nurse and was on duty tonight, and she gave permission for the release.”
   “Thanks, again, Chief.” I left to give the latest to the reporters.
   “No problem, Sweetheart!” he called after me. 
   “Thanks again for the ride, Jamie,” Colin said as he helped me out of the car in front of Sharon and Doug’s house close to midnight. 
  “Happy to, Murphy. Glad you’re okay. What a mess. We’ve been hired to go back and clean it up first thing in the morning. It’ll be good overtime, but I sure hate that it happened.” 
  “We do, too, son. Goodnight,” Colin said.
   Doug was waiting at the front door and welcomed us with steaming cups of hot buttered rum. My ruined gown was dry by now, but I still shivered and welcomed the drink and the fire in the den. Doug had given Sharon a sedative earlier and stayed with her until she fell into a deep sleep. She’d want to see me first thing in the morning, but I knew I’d need to be at the office to take calls most of the day, even if it was a Saturday, so I politely declined the offer to stay overnight. 
   After warming up slightly, I let Colin drive me home, where he insisted on staying — in one of the guest beds. He didn’t want to be across town just now. In fact, he didn’t want to even be in another bed, but he knew better than to push the issue. 
   At 7 a.m., which came much too fast for both of us, he made a breakfast of scrambled eggs and hot tea while I showered. I kissed him goodbye and headed for the office. He promised to clean up the kitchen before he left. Definitely a man worth keeping.
More on the aftermath next week. Enjoying a few snow flurries out here in Lubbock. 

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