Fire

Surviving the Fall

by Rebecca Inch-Partridge

 

CHAPTER 1

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10TH

 

 

  Irene knew she had to stop the two gunmen before they reached the high school quad. The two teens slung their rifles over their shoulders and started across the parking lot like they had all the time in the world. One glanced her direction. She ducked down in her car. She grabbed her purse off the passenger seat and fumbled through it for her cellphone.

  But there wasn’t time to call 911.

  “What the hell?” A young man’s voice asked.

  A short burst of automatic gunfire erupted. Someone screamed.

  Irene sat back up and put her car in gear, knowing what she must do even as the gunmen fired at the few students who’d been lingering around the quad entrance. She stomped on the gas, aiming her late model mustang at her former students, Billy Miller and Todd Davis. Billy swung around. Irene scrunched down, peeking through the steering wheel, but forced herself to watch where she was going. She didn’t want to hit any innocent bystanders.

  Billy tried to run backwards, while aiming his rifle and firing at her. Bullets pierced the windshield. Part of her registered the right side of her face being torn open, but she didn’t feel the pain of it. Frozen in place, knuckles clenched on the wheel, she slammed her car into him.  

  Irene fought the urge to lift her foot off the gas peddle as she struck him. Until now, the whole incident had felt surreal. But as the history teacher saw the shocked face of the troubled teen, guilt and sorrow pierced her emotional block. She released a cry of anguish as Billy slid up the hood and slammed into the windshield. He tumbled off the car, and Irene let off the gas and brought her Mustang to the left to stop Todd before she shot anyone else.

  Bile came up and threatened to gag her. Irene swallowed it back. Todd shouted his friend’s name in horror. She expected him to concentrate his fire on her, which meant he at least wouldn’t be shooting any more students. Instead, he turned and made a run for the quad.

  Thankfully quad was practically empty. But Irene knew the quad wasn’t his goal—not with hundreds of students and faculty gathered in the gym for a rally. She’d had nightmares about the carnage that would ensue if a shooting happened during such an event. Her nightmare was about to come true unless she got Todd first.

  Despite blood dripping down her forehead, she floored the gas, driving up and over the curb after Todd. She tore through the front flower bed and swerved around the large planter boxes that decorated the school. Meanwhile, Todd ran in long desperate strides straight for the gym, spraying gunfire wildly from side to side as he went.     

  As she slowed to avoid fleeing students, she realized she wasn’t going to reach Todd in time. She watched Alex Kevins, hurl his laptop bag at Todd then throw himself behind one of the many huge, concrete planter-boxes that lined the quad. The tall, lanky teen turned and fired at the science teacher. Irene could only hope her friend was okay as Todd sent a burst of fire in her direction before swinging back toward the gym and releasing a volley that seemed to go on forever.

  Bullets that didn’t hit students or staff stuck the two-story tile mural showing a colleague of athletes engaged in various sports. Title shrapnel flew into the crowd. To Irene, it looked like the mural had exploded. Alex stood up and chucked a large textbook at Todd, hitting him in the head. It was a hell of a throw, and Irene thanked the universe that Alex had once been a quarterback. Todd stopped and swung back around.      

  It was all the time Irene needed. She slammed her car into the dark-haired teen, pushing him several yards and pinning him against the gymnasium wall. Her head smacked into the steering wheel and darkness took her.