A look into John's past.
John Dolton crashed to his knees in front of the inferno that consumed his life.
His heart pumped against his sterum with strong, wild vibes, but his brain felt starved for oxygen. How could that be?
Heat like tiny flesh straved piranhas gnawed at his skin. He gulped against the pain. Roasting air seared his lungs, expanding them until his chest felt as if were about to explode.
He didn’t care.
“Damn, John, snap out of it.”
He blinked and focued on the face in front of him.
“Come on, man. You’ve got to get back.” He heard his partner’s cry but Luke’s voice was diffused, coming at him from several directions.
Something looped under his arms and yanked him upward, lifting his dead weight off his knees—the ones that had given way when he’d seen his life gone. The heels of his boots marked the tarmac with duel tracks as he was drugged away from the wreckage. He didn’t fight. He couldn't. Every muscle in his body had died. His gaze remained on the windows of what once was his SUV.
Staring beyond the flaming bizarre tongues licking at the vehicle’s roof, he saw his wife and little girl as he had left them only ten minutes ago. Happy. Laughing. Anticipating a long overdue family vacation.
“Why?” A screamed like that of a savage, wounded animal rivaled sirens.
He searched the faces staring at him. Wide-eyed, brow ceased, sad faces stared back.
Had the horrendous cry come from him?
He had to save them.
Adreline surged through his veins and John pulled from the force that pulled him back.
Luke’s grip tightened.
“Let me go. I've got to try.” John twisted and swung a fist at his partner’s jaw, but Luke ducted in time.
Pain ripped through John's shoulder as Luke grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.
“They’re gone, John. You can’t save them.”
The agency’s emergency response team raced around the inferno, but John knew in his heart they were too late. He was too late. He had failed to keep Julie and Katie safe.
John caught a glimpse of the smothering arm lying on the sidewalk against the store front a moment before a fireman covered it with a white plastic sheet. A silver band encircled the tiny wrist.
John swore a fiery rod stabbed his gut. He clutched his ribs and a second later, he hurdled the egg-muffin he'd consumed an hour ago.
“We’ll get them. I promise you.” Luke’s voice shook as he held John. “I swear. I will die before they get away with this.”
John fell to the sidewalk. Cold laughter mingled with the taste of vomit in his mouth. Luke nor he knew who they were.
They had taken his reason to live. When he found them, they would wish this day had never happened.
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