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As Fire Marshal Georgia Skeehan investigates the deaths of two doctors, both victims of "flashover" fires and on the board approving "line of duty" compensation for disabled fire fighters, her whole world is shattered when her boyfriend and fellow marshal Mac Marenko is found murdered in her best friend's apartment, plunging her into a dangerous world of betrayal, greed, and corruption. 25,000 first printing.
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Suzanne Chazin is a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators. She has unusual access to the inner workings of the FDNY: her husband is a high-ranking chief and twenty-year veteran of the department, and her research has included interviews with many of its members. She lives in Westchester County, New York.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
At first, she was aware of nothing. Not the feathery darkness that stole across her closed bedroom window. Not the bitter smell that blanketed the lilac potpourri on her dresser. Not the odd way shadows seemed to flicker up her heavy floral drapes and across the dentil moldings on the ten-foot ceiling. Hers was the perfect blackness and stillness of deep sleep. The sleep without dreams. The sleep of death.
But gradually, something hot permeated that cocoon Dr. Louise Rosen found herself in. She felt the heat pressing down on her with physical force, tunneling into her unconscious. It curled the downy fluff on her arms until each hair felt as coarse as a steel scouring pad. She coughed violently, as if someone were trying to shove a towel down her throat. Her nostrils stung. Her airways began to spasm. She forced her eyes open. She saw what instinct had already told her: her bedroom was on fire.
Get out. Get to the door. Actions came slowly. Words, not at all. The smoke blackened, eclipsing everything in the room, sealing off the Manhattan streetlights below. She couldn't see the bedroom door, couldn't even recall closing it. She didn't have the energy to crawl to it, much less open it. Wisps of flame darted across the ceiling. There were jagged fingers of orange climbing up her drapes, devouring a padded chair in the corner. She tumbled off the bed, hoping to hide from the heat. Even here, on the floor, it bore down hard on her tender skin, blistering it. Her hair became as coarse and brittle as straw. She felt as if nails straight from a blast furnace were being driven through her flesh.
Got...to...got to-what? She couldn't remember the sequence of steps needed to get to the bedroom door. Fifty-six years of living, a Columbia University medical degree, and it had all fizzled in the space of a heartbeat. She wasn't even sure, if pressed right now, that she could remember her name. The pain was excruciating, tearing into her flesh like a pack of wild dogs. A dress she had tossed near the windowsill burst into flames, as if an invisible hand had just taken a blowtorch to it. She wanted to scream, but her throat had swollen up too much to make a sound. Skin hung from her fingers like wet tissue paper.
Hide. Got...to...hide. She rolled under the bed and lay on her stomach, her hands protecting her face. She was playing a deadly game of limbo now, trying to make her body as flat as possible to escape the descending curtain of heat. It banked lower and lower, like a murderer working his way down a flight of stairs. First the paint on the ceiling blistered. Then the pictures on the walls began to melt. Next came the lampshades. Then one by one, the bottles of perfume on her dresser began to shatter as if they were being picked off in a shooting gallery. The heat was on top of her now, sizzling like hot butter across the surface of the mattress. Soon, there would be nothing in the room that wasn't burning up. Nothing.
And then she heard it-a popping like gunfire, then cracks like footsteps on a frozen lake. Her bedroom window had shattered. The smoke, so black before, began to thin. The heat seemed to hiccup for a moment. But it lasted for less than half a minute before a new and louder roar took its place. A fiery cyclone. She couldn't see it, but she knew by the sounds of breaking glass that nearly everything in the room was igniting. The bed frame collapsed and the box spring ticking pressed down into her seared flesh.
She became vaguely aware of another noise beneath the roar. Someone was kicking down her bedroom door. She heard a whoosh like a huge wave. It hit the ceiling then fell like rain upon the floor. Then the wave subsided. The heat should've washed away as well, but it had crawled so deep inside of her, she felt branded on the soul. Before that moment, she believed the pain could get no worse. But she was wrong.
Someone doused the mattress and box spring with water, then lifted them off the floor. There was a tearing sound, like a Band-aid being ripped off hairy skin. The ticking had melted to the flesh on Louise Rosen's back. The movement of the box spring ripped it off her, right down to the nerve endings. Pain tore through the synapses of her brain, wiping out all other sensations. She knew no past, no future. She felt no joy or sadness, no hope, no will to survive. There was only a silent, unbearable agony. She couldn't even scream. Her throat had swollen up too much to make a sound.
"Hey, Cap, you better get on the radio. We got somebody," said an excited voice.
There was a murmur of other voices, a shuffle of heavy boots and then a long, slow, exhale before another, older voice spoke.
"Not for long."
--from Flashover by Suzanne Chazin, Copyright © May 2002, The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
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