Bea Smith had been working for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade for twelve years now. The last five of these she had spent as Station Manager here at Wentworth fire station in Melbourne. She was responsible for teal watch, a motley crew that she had come to respect over the years, seeing each and every one as family, although she was closer to some than others.
Franky Doyle was her second in command, a lively, confident, dark haired woman who was full of bravado, covered in ink and loved to charm the ladies. Usually successfully. They had clashed when Bea first arrived at Wentworth nine years ago, almost coming to blows on a few occasions. Over time they had grown close, Bea finding Franky to be fiercely loyal and protective of anyone she saw as her family. They had established a good friendship over the years, Franky affectionately nicknaming her ‘Red’, in reference to Bea’s flame coloured hair.
Then there was Maxine Conway, she was Bea’s confidant, the person who, other than Franky, she trusted most at the station. Max had been a loyal friend to Bea since the tall brunette arrived at Wentworth two years ago, she was strong yet undeniably gentle, the redhead often pairing up with her when they ran head on into a burning building.
Linda Miles, or ‘Smiles’ as she was affectionately known amongst the crew due to her constant frown was the newest member of the team, having only been at Wentworth twelve months. Smiles loved a flutter on the horses, the dogs, or anything she could bet on really. She was full of sarcasm and always the first to suggest a trip to the bar after shift.
Vera Bennett was the timid one of the crew, and it had surprised Bea when she first arrived that Vera had actually chosen firefighting as a career. The change had come in the quiet woman when Matt ‘Fletch’ Fletcher had transferred from Walford four years ago. They had struck up a close friendship and Vera had become consistently more confident with every shout they were called to. She was good at her job, but needed to work on her self-confidence, something the redhead herself knew all about.
Bea was an exceptionally good firefighter, and was very confident in all aspects of her work. The issues started the minute she stepped out of the uniform, and into the world. Her ex-husband had destroyed any ounce of self-belief she had, having suffered years of abuse at his hands, both physical and mental.
It had all come to a head four years ago when he had torched their family home, with Bea and their daughter Debbie still inside. They had both escaped with smoke inhalation and minor injuries, the redhead’s knowledge and experience in the spread of flames saving both of their lives. Harry had been sentenced to ten years behind bars for attempted murder, Bea filing for divorce as soon as he was sentenced. Since then she had shut down that part of her life, not letting anyone come close enough to hurt them again. She had her family and friends, she didn’t need anything else, or at least that’s what she kept telling herself.
And then there was Will Jackson, the Senior Station Manager and Bea’s direct boss. They had hit it off instantly. Will was an imposing figure, spending many an hour in the gym, but was a gentle giant really. Bea had been quite taken with him when she first arrived. They had quickly developed a strong friendship, and he had been a great source of support to her when everything went to shit with Harry.
There had been rumours about the two of them, but that’s all they were. He had become like a brother to her over the nine years they had worked together, not that some people believed that. Kaz Proctor, the station manager for red watch, had started the rumours after witnessing Bea in Will’s office late one night after her shift had ended. They had been sat side by side behind his desk and he was helping her fill out the papers for her divorce when Kaz burst in, accusing him of playing favourites. Kaz had taken an instant dislike to Bea from the minute she had arrived at Wentworth, her former station having closed down as a result of government budget cuts.
Teal watch were currently on a night shift, it screwed your body clock up no end but Bea preferred these shifts to days. Evenings were when she felt it the most, Debbie had left for university two weeks ago and the house had never felt emptier. It had been a quiet shift so far but they weren't due to finish until 08:00, there’s still plenty of time for something to come in she thought to herself, looking at the clock which read 02:36. Ten minutes later a call came in alerting them to a large fire in a vacant building a few blocks away, they were currently kitting up as the truck raced towards the burning building.
Allie was tired. Her last client had been less than friendly, taking everything she had offered him plus plenty more as well. To make matters worse the bastard hadn’t even paid her, and her stomach hurt from where his fist has made contact. She had often wondered, especially after clients of his calibre, if somehow punishing her alleviated the guilt he felt from going with a prostitute. She had seen the wedding ring on his finger.
Wandering the streets she ignored the cat calls from a group of guys in a passing car, another perk of the job she thought to herself as she continued on her journey. She had been struggling for a while, this had meant to have been a temporary measure, a means to an end so she could save enough cash to rent a bedsit. That had been the plan at least, three years ago when she found herself homeless for the second time in her life. Three years of sleeping in doorways and screwing men for money.
She had started using eighteen months ago after a particularly hard night. She’d been beaten pretty badly by some arsehole, one of the other girls had given her some pills. It helped, took the edge off, and for a few hours she had forgotten how shit her life really was. It had all been downhill from there, checking out had become a regular thing for the blonde, from pills to heroin to coke. She had never injected, a phobia of needles stopping her from heading down that slippery slope.
The trouble was is was starting to lose it’s magic, she had been overdoing it recently so maybe her body was becoming accustomed to it. Whatever the reason it didn’t provide her with the same level of escapism it once did. She had gotten some new gear from her supplier in the hope that it could take her away from her miserable existence, even it was just for a few hours, and right now she would take anything she could get.
She had stumbled across this place a couple of nights ago. It was cold and dirty but it was a roof over her head. It was safer than lying in a shop doorway, and right now she was in no position to be picky. Settling herself down in the far corner of the ground floor, she winced at the hard concrete, harsh against her tired body. Grabbing the gear she had scored earlier she emptied the contents of one bag onto a leaflet she had picked up from a takeaway as she passed, pocketing the others for later. Leaning forward she divided the powder into two equal lines before snorting it up. Sitting back she tried to get herself as comfortable as possible on the cold, dirty floor, waiting for the high to hit.
Allie was laying on a beach, the sun beating down on her. She couldn’t ever remember feeling this relaxed before, the sound of the waves lapping against the shore drawing her towards a peaceful slumber. She could feel sleep claiming her, the sun getting hotter against her skin, burning, no longer a good feeling. Her chest was tight and breathing was becoming difficult. A mist had set in over the beach, clouding her vision. Gasping for breath, her lungs burning in protest then everything went black.
The building was well alight by the time they arrived on scene. Getting into their BA kit Bea and Maxine ran in to start a sweep of the ground floor, Vera and Fletch taking the first floor and Franky and Smiles heading up to the second. The building was an old warehouse, the ground floor footprint more than twice the size of the upper two floors. Bea and Max were two thirds of the way in when a call came in over the radio, Franky’s voice blaring out
“Second floor structure's unsafe, we’re heading back down. Fletch, Vera, be careful this floor could give way at any minute”
“Thanks Doyle, first floor clear, we’re heading down. Smith, Conway, you guys ok down there?” Fletch said through the radio
“All good, we’re almost done, a few more minutes” the redhead replied
Scanning the floor with her thermal imaging camera Bea spotted a heat source in the far corner of the room, moving as quickly as she could she headed across the warehouse. As she got closer she saw what looked like an arm, the visibility was poor and the smoke thick.
“Smith, Conway, pull back, smoke’s gone black, I want you out of there now” Will’s commanding voice blared through the radio
“Two more minutes boss, there’s someone in here” the redhead replied
“Now Smith, that’s an order”
She was so close, she couldn’t just leave them there to burn. Ignoring the command she took another step forward, hearing a loud cracking noise overhead before part of the floor above came crashing down behind her, trapping her and the victim in the corner.
Climbing over the rubble she stood beside the lifeless figure, a large piece of wood pinning them down. Removing one of her gloves Bea knelt down, placing her fingers on the woman’s neck, relief washing over her when she felt a pulse. Putting her glove back on, she set about lifting the wood from the woman. Once she was free the redhead’s eyes scanned the area, looking to her right she spotted an escape door. Checking it, she discovered that it was locked. Finding a metal bar near her feet she grabbed it and set about the door, the wood eventually giving way under her assault.
Scooping the woman up into her arms she carried her out of the building, and into the fresh air. They couldn’t have been more than a few meters away when there was an explosion inside the building, shattering the windows and knocking Bea off her feet. She hit the ground hard, trying to protect the unconscious woman in her arms the best she could. Scrambling back to her feet she reached down to lift the woman back up, noticing something on the floor beside her she grabbed it, stuffing it into the pocket of her over trousers before lifting her back into her arms and carrying her towards the waiting ambulance.
The paramedics ran towards them with a gurney, laying her down Bea ripped her mask from her face, getting a proper look at the woman she had just rescued for the first time. She was younger than Bea, early to mid-twenties maybe, with long blonde hair. Her clothes had holes in and they looked dirty, probably so even before the fire, and the redhead expected she had been sleeping rough. As the adrenalin wore off Bea felt a sharp pain in her left arm, pulling at the sleeve of her jacket she saw a piece of glass sticking out. Must have been when the windows blew out she thought to herself.
“Smith, what the fuck was that? I told you to pull back, you could have been killed!” Will shouted as he approached her
“She was right in front of me, didn’t know the bloody ceiling was going to land on me did I!” she threw back
“Go get yourself checked out, we’ll discuss this later” he said, walking back to the rest of the crew. Smith was the best firefighter he had ever worked with, if only he could stop her being so stubborn and hot-headed he thought to himself.
Jumping into the back of the ambulance they headed for the hospital, Bea’s eyes never leaving the unconscious blonde in front of her.
Walking in with the paramedics, they sent Bea to get checked before wheeling the gurney away in the opposite direction. Three pieces of glass and eleven stitches later and she was as good as new and heading back in the direction she last saw the paramedics to check in on the patient. After finding out where they had taken the blonde she headed up onto the ward, spotting a friendly face as she rounded the corner.
“Hey Smith, what brings you here?”
“A woman was brought in about an hour and a half ago, she was unconscious when we got here. I just wanted to check on her, see how she’s doing before I head back to the station” the redhead replied
“Ah yes, smoke inhalation and fresh bruising to the ribs, presumably from the fire. We did find high levels of narcotics in her system through, so the chances are she was either unconscious or fairly out of it by the time the fire started. We’ve put her on a ventilator to help clear her lungs, but she should make a full recovery. Do you want to see her?”
“I’d like that, thanks Bridget” Bea said, not sure where this pull towards the blonde was coming from.
“I see you’re in the wars again” Bridget said, indicating to the bandage on Bea’s arm, as she led them towards the patient.
“Nothing serious, just a scratch. One of the many perks of the job” the redhead replied with a smile. She liked Bridget, and had a lot of time for the small blonde woman. She would always go out of her way to help them when they brought a patient in following a shout.
Bridget had been working here just over twelve months now. They met on her second shift at the hospital, teal watch had responded to a particularly bad fire at a children’s home, which had resulted in multiple casualties as well as three fatalities. The short blonde had been so calm and collected in the midst of all the chaos, directing staff with ease, all while trying to treat several children at once. Bea had been impressed with the fiery blonde, she wasn’t sure she could have kept her cool like that, especially under those circumstances.
“She’s in here, I’ve just got to check on a patient down the corridor then I’ll pop back” Bridget said, indicating to a room on their left before walking away.
The blonde had been cleaned up, there was a bruise forming around the cut above her eye and she had a few small cuts on her left arm, the redhead suspecting they were from the glass when the windows blew out. Her dirty blonde mane was spread across the pillow and she had dark circles under her closed eyes, but Bea couldn’t help thinking how beautiful the woman was, even in her current state. Bridget stepping into the room broke Bea from her train of thought, tearing her eyes away from the sleeping woman she turned to face the doctor. “What’s her name?”
“Haven’t a clue, she had no ID on her and she hasn’t come too fully yet. I did find these on her though, I’m guessing this is what knocked her out in the first place” Bridget said, holding up several small bags, all containing white powder.
“What are you going to do with those?”
“I have to call it in, you know the process when drugs are found”
“Does anyone else know about it?”
“No, just me”
“Then let me get rid of it, the poor girl’s been through enough tonight without having the cops on her back as well” the redhead replied, her eyes pleading with the doctor.
“Ok, but this stays between us, and it’s the first and last time. I mean it Smith, this will not happen again” Bridget said, her voice firm as she handed the bags over to the redhead. “And get rid of it before you get back to the station” she added, walking out of the room and leaving Bea alone with the sleeping woman.
“Thanks Doc” Bea called back at Bridget’s retreating form.
Looking around the room she spotted a small sink on the far wall, rushing over to it she emptied the contents of the bags, turned on the tap and washed the drugs away. Pocketing the empty bags she turned and headed towards the bed, taking the blonde’s hand in hers she ran her thumb gently over the younger woman’s skin, her breath catching at the jolt of electricity that shot through her arm. Dropping the hand quickly she stepped back, taking one last look at the sleeping woman before heading out.
Allie was drifting in and out of consciousness. She could hear voices, two women were talking nearby, but she couldn’t open her eyes. One of the voices she had heard before, they must work here she thought to herself, but the other one was new. She focussed on the raspy tones of the stranger, the low rumble in her voice causing the butterflies in Allie’s stomach to have a full on rave. As the fog in her brain started to disperse she could make out what was being said. Shit, the nurse, or maybe she was a doctor, had found her gear. “Fuck”, the blonde thought, not only is the gear gone but she was probably going to get arrested given what she was carrying. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she almost missed it, those raspy tones pleading with her not to call the cops. Trying, unsuccessfully to open her eyes she focussed on the conversation again.
“Ok, but this stays between us. And it’s the first and last time, I mean it Smith…” Smith, that must be her name the blonde thought
“And get rid of it before you get back to the station…” Station? She couldn’t be a cop otherwise she would have busted her there and then for the drugs.
She heard footsteps again, one set fading and the other still nearby. She could hear running water, and the crinkle of plastic bags. That was her escapism fucked for the foreseeable future she thought to herself, pretty sure that it was her supply being washed away. The tap had been turned off and she could hear footsteps getting closer before coming to a stop beside her. A strong smell of smoke filling her lungs, not the kind you got from cigarettes, it smelt more like a bonfire than cigarette smoke. When the woman held her hand Allie thought her heart was going to stop, the butterflies that had set up camp in her stomach decided to take a trip lower. Then all too soon it was over, her hand was back on the bed sheet and the woman was gone.
Allie was confused. What had happened last night, how had she ended up in the hospital, and who was this mystery woman that had most definitely saved her from being locked up, and sent her body into a tailspin. She can’t remember ever having a reaction like that just from hearing someone’s voice, and when she touched her, holy fuck! She had no idea who this Smith was but one thing was for sure, she had to find her, had to thank her for what she had done for her. And more importantly she needed to hear that raspy voice again, preferably as she moaned Allie’s name.