To set up my scene, the main character, Ruby is having a turf war over her neighborhood with a member of La Eme - A mexican gang. The gang member, Antonio, warned her to back off or he'd kill her.
Ruby and her love interest, Tom, are in her free clinic talking...and she just told him about the threat to her life. Ben is a cop who likes her.
Tom’s faced changed. Anger flashed behind his green eyes. He put his hand on mine stopping me. “Antonio came to your work?”
I nodded. “He said he was going to give me one more chance to cooperate, and then he threatened me…oh, Tom. He said he’d put a bullet—”
Tom grabbed me, his expression hard. “He threatened you directly, and you didn’t tell me?”
My face heated up, confusion making my heart ram painfully. “I was so thrown by you showing up here and staying, and then the fight with Ben happened and it flew out of my head.” I gasped remembering Antonio’s face when he said he’d put a bullet in my brain. My hand went to the space between my eyes, and I felt the cold fingers of panic squeeze at my heart.
Tom grabbed me by my shoulders. His face strained, alarmed. “What did he say, exactly?”
“Uhm, he said that I was going to wish I had never been born, you know, standard evil guy threats.”
Tom looked at me, opened his mouth to say something, but his eyes snapped to the window. His face registered shock and then his eyes whipped back to mine, and I saw a peculiar orange glow in them before Tom threw us to the ground.
An explosion overhead sent shards of glass and liquid raining through the kitchen window. I screamed and tried to get up, but Tom wrapped himself around me covering me with his body. Flames spread across the floor like a molten wave crawling along the kitchen floor and counters in a flood of bright heat. Another crash and a bottle with a rag sticking out of it landed next to me, the end of the cloth on fire. Tom kicked it away and pulled me with him toward the back door. We got to our feet and he pushed me ahead of him, away from the fire. Heat seared my skin making it tight, and all around us the waving blur of superheated air burned my eyes.
“Go, Ruby!” He coughed. “The back door!”
I stumbled along the back hall gagging, struggling for breath. Overhead, the black smoke roiled up the walls and billowed along the ceiling. I heard another crash this time from my office. I turned in time to see the Molotov cocktail bottle fly through the window, smash into the opposite wall, and spew a sheet of liquid fire across my desk and files. The curtains went up with a whoosh. I kept running. Heart ramming in my chest, I reached for the back door and pulled. It wouldn’t budge.
Tom crashed into me, reached up to undo the lock, and together we yanked on the handle. It finally gave and slammed backwards into the room, knocking us down. Overhead, something hit the wall where my head had been. Debris flew out from the wall, and I realized that someone opened fire on the back door. If we hadn’t fallen, we’d be dead.
Tom pulled me to him. We took cover by the side of the back door. Feet from freedom, the hail of bullets overhead kept us from getting out of the burning house.
“We have to get out of here!” I screamed.
“Wait it out,” Tom said through clenched teeth. “Wait them out. We have time.”
His eyes flit behind us to the room engulfed in fire, and he squeezed me tighter to his body.
I nodded dumbly. Unable to open my mouth without screams ripping out of my chest, I clenched my eyes and wrapped my arms around Tom. The crackle and hiss of the building burning and breaking around us closed in on me and I coughed and choked. More gunfire split the door jam and then silence.
Tom moved next to me, and I looked to see him peering out of the doorway. “They’re gone,” he said.
He wrapped his arm around my waist, and we ran bent over to the wet grass.
I collapsed on the soft earth and took deep, gasping breaths. Lights flashed to my right as fire trucks and paramedics screeched to a stop in front of the building. Firefighters and paramedics ran toward the clinic shouting and pulling hoses.
Frightened, I flailed reaching for Tom.
He gathered me in his arms and held me tight. His ragged breaths in my hair, the only sound he made. He wouldn’t let me go.
“We have to warn Ben,” I coughed. “He’s the only other one who knows about this. He might be next.”
Tom, shaking and soot covered, finally stood and nodded. He helped me to my feet and wiped my face with his fingers.
“I’ll tell my boss to have Lilah picked up at her brother’s house, too.”
I walked with him down across the lawn to the front of the house. The paramedics spotted us and ran over covering us with oxygen masks and blankets. I pulled my mask off and tried to tell them about Ben, but they kept putting it back over my mouth. Neighbors gathered around us, and then I saw Ben. Surrounded by firemen, he strained against them trying to get to the clinic door.
“Ben!” I yelled and collapsed into a coughing fit. “Ben, over here!”
He turned at my voice, broke from the firemen, and ran over to us. One look at Tom and me, and he covered his mouth with both hands.
“I thought you were dead, Ruby,” he breathed, his face pulled into shocked worry. “I thought you were gone.”
Tom pulled his mask off and flashed Ben a brilliant smile made whiter by all the soot on his face. “I’m fine too, thanks.”
Ben looked at him and relief flooded his features as he laughed nervously. “Yeah,” he said. “What happened?”
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Photograph by redeye^, Uploaded on February 11, 2010.