The Scent of Smoke

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Scott's house is right on the route I take for work. Well, most of time. Sometimes I take another route, but that's usually more trafficky and not nearly as scenic.

It's October 30th and just the thought of Halloween tomorrow makes me cringe. Little kids coming up to my door asking me to give them candy just for dressing up? Please. They ingest enough sugar on daily basis. That's what I'm thinking about as I'm approaching Scott's cozy house, and how Lindsey better be one good pirate if she's going to ask me for candy. But when I near their street, the scent of smoke infiltrates through the cracked window of my car. I search for a fire, scanning the road, worried about what I may come across. Finally I see smoke billowing over the trees. It's coming from Scott's yard.

I pull into their long, gravel driveway and find police cars, firetrucks, and an ambulance outside a crumbling house. I'm shaking. I've never parked and hopped out of my car as fast as I do now. Scott isn't there. He goes to work around seven each morning, and it's eight now. He must've just missed it. But Christian drives Lindsey to school, and school is just starting. Did they miss the fire or are they in the fire? I'm sprinting, and let me tell you, I don't run. Ever. I glance over at the ambulance. The doors are open and they're pushing in a body. I try to run to it. Policemen block my path.

"Sir," one of them says, "sir, I can't have you going into the ambulance."

"I'm a family friend!" I think I'm screaming, but I'm not sure. "Who's in that ambulance?"

He looks at me with a stern expression. I don't care.

"Who?! It's either Christian or Lindsey, just tell me!" Firemen are using gigantic hoses to spray down the house, but the fire continues to blaze.

The other policeman flips over the paper on his clipboard. "The one currently in the ambulance is a young girl, around age ten. We are still looking for Mister Hoying."

"She's eight!" I yell, now fully aware of my shrill voice. "She's not ten, she's eight! Let me see her!"

They extend their arms to block me even more. "Sir, she is getting medical help right now, you need to calm down."

"Is she alive?!"

Neither of them answer.

"Did she die?!" I can feel myself tearing up at that thought. Lindsey dying would not only be horrible for her family, it would make me a complete emotional wreck. No matter how much I complain about that rascal, I have to admit, when the possibility of her death is staring me in the face, I lose it.

"We are not free to disclose any information to you right now. We are trying to put out a fire."

I'm so angry at them and so terrified for Lindsey's life that I try to get around them, but one grabs me. I fight him, trying to wriggle out of his firm grip, trying to get to the ambulance, trying to see if my favorite little girl survived this massive fire. But soon both police officers are restraining me, holding me back, repeatedly saying "Sir, if you don't calm down, we are going to have to remove you from the premises." That's when Scott pulls up. I'm weak from trying to fight against these tough officers, but I'm not giving up. Scott is next to me before I know it.

His face has an expression I know I'll never forget. Complete horror. "I'm Scott Hoying and this is my house. I received a call that I needed to come right away." Tears are filling his eyes, but he's trying to keep calm while talking to one of the policemen holding me. His voice cracks. "Is everyone okay?" I look over to see the flames are finally dying with the help of the waves of water they're spraying it with. One officer lets me go to speak to Scott while the other keeps me steady and unable to run forward.

"Mister Hoying, we've located one member of the household, an eight year old girl," he glances at me, "but have failed to locate the other member in the house, a Mister Christian Hoying."

Scott shakily covers his mouth, and I stop fighting against the policeman. The ambulance with Lindsey in it turns its sirens on and begins to drive away. "Is he dead?"

"I'm sorry, Mister Hoying, but it does not look good. In a large house fire such as this, it's nearly impossible to survive unless you evacuate the house immediately."

I stand straight up and watch the fire sizzle out, and all it looks like now is a charred outline of the beams and smoke coming from it. Scott is trembling at the sight. I reach over and hug him after the police officer lets me go, not because I'm thinking about how to connect with him, but because it seems like the least I can do after he just lost everything. He grips onto me for a long time. I whisper, "I'm so sorry," and he just shakes his head as tears begin rolling down his cheeks.

When he pulls away, he asks one policeman about his daughter, and he tells him that they have no information on her right now, but that he will be notified as soon as they know. In the meantime, they say he can wait wherever he would like, whether that be at the police station or at the hospital, or if he'd like to book a hotel room for the night. I'm in shock. I call in to work to tell them I won't be in today, and I just tell them the truth about why not, because everyone in town is going to hear about it soon enough anyway.

Scott asks the police what caused the fire, but they say they don't have that information. Angrily, he snaps, "Do you have information on anything?" and turns sharply once they don't respond, marching back over to me.

As we're staring at the remains, we see a body bag on a gurney being wheeled out. Someone is obviously in it. Scott falls to the ground sobbing into his hands before the police officer can even say "I'm sorry". I've never heard so much pain in my life. I never liked Christian, but I didn't wish for his demise. At least not like this. My mind is on Lindsey. She may be the only kid I would ever be willing to admit I like and she could be on her deathbed. I don't know what to do, so I kneel down and rub Scott's back, and make sure that despite all of the things he's went through in the past hour, that he's okay. He keeps sobbing out in a strangled voice, "He's gone, he's gone", and my heart aches.

After his crying subsides a little, he asks me if I saw Lindsey at all. I tell him that I tried so, so hard to see her, but they wouldn't let me. He looks me in the eyes and thanks me.

The policemen encourage him to go to the station so they can make sure he's safe. They offer to drive him, but he decides he'd rather ride with me. So, I bring him to the police station, and the whole way there he stares out the window, incredibly sad. When I park, he asks, "What if Lindsey isn't okay?" I press my lips together. "What if I just lost my husband and my daughter?"

I think he's actually looking for an answer, but I'm speechless, so I just gently take his hand and squeeze it lightly. I can't even tell him that she's sure to be okay, because I'm not too sure of it myself. And mostly, I don't think I can talk about the fact Lindsey might be dead without crying.

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