Thursday, July 23, 2020

TREETOP INFERNO blog post #399
Courtesy of Pikist
First, a bit of news. Dreamspinner Press notified me today that they are accepting my seventh BJ Vinson novel called The Cutie-Pie Murders.

Readership last week was mediocre, but the story got several comments on my private email. And yes, it was quite a change of pace for me. As is today’s offering.


          “Told you I didn’t want to come up here this weekend, anyway.” Lou’s chin trembled as she eyed the smoke rising just beyond the hill.
          “Don’t get your nylons twisted,” Fred said, a cigarette dangling from his lips. “You always like the mountains, and this cabin is one of the best.” He gave a dry cough. “Whoops, it just crested the top. Would you look at those flames?”
          Lou wailed and dropped her purse. “We’ve got to get out of here. Everyone else has already left the area.”
          Fred tore a little skin from his lip as he removed the butt and waved it across the small meadow. “It won’t cross the creek. We’re okay.”
          “Are you crazy? I can jump that creek… with my panties down around my ankles.” Her voice was muffled as she scurried around on the floor collecting the contents of the spilled bag.
          “That, I’d like to see.”
          “Figure of speech. Come on, Fred, we’ve got to get moving.”
          “Don’t go giving me orders, bitch. We’ll leave when I say so.”
          “Give me the keys to the Bronco, and I’ll leave. You can stay here and fry if you want.”
          Fred patted his pants pocket. “They’re right here, and that’s where they’re gonna stay. Think of it, we’ll be able to say we rode out a forest fire.”
          “Roasted out, is more like it. Seriously, Fred, let’s go! Please.”
          “You’re such a mama’s girl. Scared of your shadow. Look, if it doesn’t stop at the creek, it’ll have to cross the meadow. There’ll be plenty of time to get out.”
          Lou grabbed an old-fashioned hand fan from the table and waved it frantically in front of her face. “It’s getting hot, Fred.”
          “It’s been hot… and dry.”
          “No, I mean I can feel the heat from the fire. Please, let’s get in the car and go.”
          “In a minute. Fix me a glass of sweet tea. Get one for yourself. That’ll cool us off.”
          “Fred, I can’t breathe.”
          “Imagination. Just your imagination.
          Fred couldn’t believe the speed of the wildfire as it raced down the side of the hill. Rollins Mountain, the locals called it. Wasn’t big enough to be a mountain. Smoke roiling in front of the flames indicated the wind was in this direction, but most of the stuff—including fiery sparks were going straight up. He watched as a tongue of flame twisted around like a waterspout. Lou clutched his arm. Her tremors of fright irked him. “Where’s that tea?”
          “Get it yourself. All gone, anyway.” She squealed as the flames reached a small grassy patch of ground and raced to the far bank of Pullinan’s Creek. As Fred had predicted, the flames died in the damp earth.
          He pointed with his ever-present cigarette. “See. Stopped.”
          Wide-eyed, Lou pointed to the right. “What about there?”
          Fred’s chin dropped as he shifted his gaze. The relentless flames fought their way through the trees to the north, sounding like a freight train. It was true. Everyone said “like a freight train,” and that’s exactly what it sounded like. Entranced, he stared, unable to move as orange fingers reached across the creek and touched dried boughs faded to a tannish green, and two spruce ignited instantly.
          “Fred!” Lou shrieked. “Let’s go before it’s too late.” She released him and tore off the porch of the log cabin, heading for the brown Bronco parked in front. Startled out of his lethargy, Fred tossed aside the cigarette and bounded down the steps.
          Gas! He shoulda got gas in town before starting up the mountain. How much did he have? Fumes. The tank was full of fumes. Fumes exploded, didn’t they. Not the gas, it just burned, but the fumes…
          He reached the side of the vehicle and fumbled with the gas cap.
          “What are you doing?” Lou screamed. “Unlock the door. Let me in the car.”
          The cap came away in his hand as she screamed again. He turned to look behind him.
          The flames had reached the meadow and rolled across the grass like water rushing downhill. He barely had time to comprehend before they licked at his boots. Superheated air made breathing almost impossible. A shower of sparks fell like scorching rain.
          The blast threw him against the side of the porch. A sharp pain told him something was broken. An elbow, maybe. Through the haze, he looked at the car. Part of the rear panel was torn away.  The Bronco was useless.
           The meadow flames had worn themselves out, so he was able to hobble around the car to find Lou sprawled in the dirt, bawling loudly but seemingly unhurt. He grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet.
          “We’ll make a run for it,” he panted, finding it difficult to draw a breath, even though the flames were racing to the north of them, hungrily devouring every tree in their path. The wildfire was a living thing. An army on the march. Breaching the enemy’s lines, finding pathways through poorly fueled spots and racing on inexorably.
          As he started down the dirt road, hauling a helpless Lou along with him, the stand of trees to the north exploded—much like the Bronco’s gas tank—sending tongues of flame racing to cut them off.
          Lou gave a high-pitched scream and pulled away from him, racing across the burned-out meadow. He swallowed his reprimand as he understood what she was doing. The creek water. Their savior!
          He lurched after her, limping from an injury he hadn’t noticed before. The fire moved to envelop them before they reached the creek, but Lou made it, flopping face-down in the creek, now almost black from ash and half-burned material.
          Fred fell into the water a moment later, but it wasn’t the relief he anticipated. The surface water was hot but got cooler in the depths. The problem was the little creek was only three to four feet deep. He flopped over on his back and gasped for air. It was hard to come by. He could hear the angry roar of the flames even with his ears submerged.
          “Lou!” he called.
          No answer.
          “Lou!” he yelled again. Then he concentrated on trying to breathe, something becoming difficult to do.

           The Thursday Morning Bluetown Weekly special edition reported on the Wild Pig Valley fire, claiming it was ninety percent contained after consuming almost 25,000 acres. The above-the-fold headline story revealed that dry lightning had been the source of the conflagration. While destruction had been widespread, Forest Service authorities had been able to give enough warning to avoid heavy casualties among the valley’s dozen or so inhabitants, mostly summer cabin owners. The article concluded with the following:

Two bodies were recovered from Pullinan’s Creek in front of a cabin owned by Gilbert Findlay. The two deceased, identified as Lewis Wilber and Fredricka Mossman, were well known to the area’s authorities for their habit of breaking into uninhabited cabins and living off food supply stocks for a few days before moving on. Identification of the victims was possible as they were not badly burned. They suffocated after taking refuge in the creek. Wildfires are notorious for stripping oxygen from the atmosphere.

Oddly, the male, Wilber, was dressed in women’s clothing, while the female, Mossman, was in men’s attire. Locals who have known the two for years expressed surprise and indicated they had no idea of the subterfuge.


If anyone can figure out why I wrote this little story, I wish they’d explain it to me. I sat down to write this week’s blog, and when I got up, this was what was there. Hope you enjoyed it.

The following are buy links for my last BJ Vinson mystery The Voxlightner Scandal.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:

See you next week.


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