2007-02-22: Like A Daffodil


Lee_icon.gif Tamara_icon.gif DL_icon.gif


A mysterious fire is set at a local junior high, shaking Lee out of a dead-end afternoon and prompting Tamara and D.L. to intervene.

Date It Happened: February 22nd, 2007

Like A Daffodil

John Philip Sousa Junior High School, #142

Lee sits at his desk. The blackboard behind him says 'FRAME OF REFERENCE' in big block letters, directly over his head. Underneath that is written things like "Civil Rights" and "Unions" and "Lobbyists". He is looking at the class, which is boredly looking back at him, or at each other, notes they're writing. They could care less about what he's saying, he could care less that they care less, and everyone in the room can easily sense each others boredom with one another. It's a beautiful afternoon, but the windows of the crumbling old, rambling building that is the central feature of John Philip Sousa Junior High School #142 have bars on them and haven't been properly cleaned in years.

Tamara hasn't set foot on the grounds of a junior high school in a couple of years, but she's slight enough to pass as a student. You know, those young people who're sitting listening /attentively/ to one teacher or another right now and not wandering around the halls. …Well, she's wandering around the halls. Apparently the hall monitors haven't spotted her yet - but then, she only came in the door just a bit ago. And Tamara doesn't want to be seen by them, anyway. Fingertips of one hand brushing along a row of lockers, the girl hums softly under her breath, just walking down the corridor.

Rental Car. D.L. spent the last of his money on it. Why? Because he needed to go on a road trip across the country to find his wife who ran off. Again. She does that a lot lately. At the present moment, the quaint rental car is parked across the street from JPSJHS #142. Curled up in the back seat and covered by a blanket? Micah Sanders. He's fast asleep. But where's his father? Up at the corner, on the pay phone. "Listen. I'll be back as soon as I can. It's a family…" He rolls his eyes and punches at the wall. "You're firing me?! You're… hello?! Son of a —" D.L. slams the phone down and shoves himself away from the pay phone. He sighs and turns around, leaning back against the wall to look at the school across the street. "Dammit, Niki…"

A thickset, balding man passes Tamara in the hall without a second glance at her.

The fire alarm goes off a few moments later, and kids and teachers come into the halls with bored and desultory looks, and begin to stream outwards, through the metal detectors which add their buzz to the beeping sound of the alarm. Laughing and joshing around, the occasional scuffle, the normal roar of 13 year olds, no sense of urgency. At first. But then someone sees smoke and things start to move a lot faster.

Blue eyes track the man as he passes by; Tamara's humming stops, and she turns to watch him go. But because he's going, she turns away again. Her hand falls away from the lockers, and the girl's head lifts slightly, tipping to one side as she looks into the distance of the now-crowded hall. After a moment, she seems to reach a decision and starts threading her way through the throng with comparative ease; finding the possibility that takes her from point A to point B with the fewest traffic jams. Wherever point B is… it doesn't seem to be outside, where everyone else is fleeing to.

D.L. is busy with the sulking. He shakes his head a little bit and starts back towards the vehicle. He tosses his hands into his pockets and steps around something or other. He's taking his sweet time, for he has to figure out how in the world to break this news to Micah. He finally gets back to his car and looks inside. Micah's still sleeping. He sighs and has a strange spider-sense style tingling type deal involving the school behind him. Turning around, he raises an eyebrow and just tries to figure out why kids are filing out of the building like so.

Lee stands outside his classroom, getting the students into line and saying, "That way, that way, just follow the line…" Smoke begins to be visible in the hall near him, at the ceiling, and it thickens quickly, the kids starting to run instead of walking in an orderly fashion. "Jose, put your phone away, now's not the time to be shooting video, and… Maria! No, the other way, the other way!" Lee says. It's a bit of a cul-de-sac of rooms and a staircase where the smoke is thickest and the kids are thinnest. Smoke is visible at the windows, and even the orange flicker of smoke in one room. The sprinklers kick on with a gurgle…but only in a few areas. Bad maintenance strikes again.

Walking into the cul-de-sac without, apparently, much regard for the gathering smoke, Tamara steers one wayward student back into line and points them towards the way out. Her gaze is focused on Lee, pupils dilated far enough that their blue color is little more than a token ring. "Slow." Whether that's a direction or a warning isn't quite made clear. "Sand's running." Marginally clearer.

D.L. is watching the fire thing happen, but he's not sure if he's needed. He checks through the window to make sure Micah's still asleep, which is all well and good. He keeps looking over shoulder to see that everything's taken care of, but without any fire trucks in the vicinity… well, that's not going to be a good thing at all. He sighs to himself and runs across the street, pushing past whomever's already gathered outside. "Is anybody still in there?" he tosses the question at random people that may or may not be listening. Sometimes he wishes he has something like X-Ray Vision.

"Mr. Jones went after Maria!" says a wide-eyed black youth wearing gang colors, pointing into the building. The adults are busy corralling the kids across on the other side of the basketball court.

Lee is lifting his soaked coat collar to cover his mouth. "What?" he says to Tamara, eyes confused and wide. "What?" A CRASH of something collapsing comes from up the hall and a burst of flame and smoke gouts inwards, spreading rapidly. "Maria!" yells Lee. "Maria, this way!"

Tamara looks over her shoulder, back down the hall. Then she leans forward and grabs Lee's arm; it's not exactly a /strong/ grip, what with her build and all, but it's quite firm. "Wait," she instructs him, tugging back a bit. Turning her face away from the burst of fire, Tamara lifts her fingers to her lips, casting a piercing whistle into the smoke-filled corridors. It might carry far enough; it might not, but she deems it worth a try.

That isn't good. Not at all. D.L. looks from the building that's burning back to the car that has his son in it. Nothing to say, since he's not exactly sure of what's going on or who Mr. Jones is, but he's pretty sure that means that they could be in some sort of trouble. He breaks through the small crowd and makes a bum rush towards the wall. Caring not if anyone sees him, he runs right on through it like there's nothing there. No brick, no anything. Once on the inside, he can hear the loud whistling and looks towards the sound. "Anybody in here?! Hey!" Smoke and flames kind of make it hard to see. Okay, a lot hard to see.

Lee was just about to charge forward recklessly when Tamara pulls him back, which prevents a small slide of bricks and timber from smashing into his head as the roof, sagging, half-collapses, water and steam pouring off as a busted pipe spews upwards. "Is there someone in there? Look, look for Maria!" yells Lee. "Yellow hair!" He breaks down coughing, returning his coat to his mouth. The fire is burning hot, but in a limited area so far. The sound of sirens begins to become audible.

"Here!" Tamara calls for D.L.'s benefit. She starts walking backwards, attempting to pull Lee along with her. "Away," she says, now speaking to Lee. "Come away." Her intonation is peculiar - not really very concerned at all. Or only in a distant sort of manner. The teen looks down the hall. "Can you find her?" she asks, despite D.L. still being around the bend and out of view. He's /almost/ here, and that's close enough for her.

"Get out if you can! I'll find her!" D.L. calls through the fire and the flames. He narrows his eyes, trying to see if he can see through whatever smoke has filled the hall that he's on. "Maria! Maria!" This is him calling out to some girl with yellow hair. He's hoping it's actually yellow and not like blonde or something. These ghetto schools tend to have both, if you really want to stop and think about it. He turns and slides himself through another wall, peeking his head around to see if and where there's a girl. He doesn't have much time, he's assuming, before the fire spreads. Which would be a bad thing. "Where are you…" This is said more to himself than actually as a searching yell.

The yellow haired girl - and the hair really is yellow, yellow like a daffodil - has fallen beneath the layer of smoke, which is good for her chances, if she can get out. "No, through…" Lee calls out, confused about how DL's yelling voice got from here to there, but there's too much confusion. "Through there…she went into 118! 118…back towards us! Come towards us!" He turns to face Tamara for the first time. "Go that way." he says, indicating the exit, leaning down to talk at her level so he doesn't have to cough again. "Whose room are you in? They're looking for you probably." He does move with her a bit away from the fire, but he still has a student unaccounted for.

The girl's free hand, she uses to pat Lee's shoulder gently, acknowledging his concern. "He got her. Farther," Tamara directs, tugging a little harder on his arm. After a moment, she wraps both hands around his arm and starts to /pull/, glancing briefly to the thicker smoke and the flickers of fire. "She was fine. /You/…" Her voice trails off, and, if anything, Tamara drags harder at his arm.

D.L. blinks. "Oh now they tell me." Sliding out of the wall to look at the door to his room, he figures that he's not at the right one. 118 is what he's looking for and that means he's going to have to go through fire. Since he's not a superhero or anything, he turns and proceeds to pull some majorly awesome special effects out of the woodwork as he literally passes through the flames to step into corridor where he can find the right room. "Gotcha'." Whether or not the door to 118 is on fire matters not to the likes of D.L and he passes through it with ease. "Maria? Maria, you in here?" He spots the yellow hair amidst the smoke and he's doing that crouching negro, hidden hero thing to offer her his hand.

Lee says, "Whose /room/ are you in? I…" insists Lee, but he's walking Tamara back towards the door. Maria reaches out weakly, she's still conscious, barely, overcome by the smoke but not badly burned. Sirens are wailing as they near the place.

With Lee now following, Tamara eases up on the pulling, but she doesn't stop. She seems to think he still needs direction, the better to get them down and out. "Over there," she says, in some attempt to be helpful. But without the pointing which would give the phrase any sort of practical significance. "Time to go," the girl adds, a note of cheer now under her voice which is entirely at odds with the tense situation.

"I got you, don't worry. I got you." D.L.'s all trying to sound like he's the man with the plan, but he actually isn't planning anything. He grabs Maria up into his arms, holding her close and immediately gets to phasing both him and her. So the smoke can flow through their bodies of course. "I got her!" is yelled into the burning building, but he doubts if they can hear him. Still, look, there's a wall. And a wall on this side of a building usually leads to a corridor. Corridors lead to outside. Taking Maria through the wall with him, he comes out somewhere a little less burn-y and proceeds to head for the wall that will lead them outside.

Smoke. Smoke. Fire. Smoke. Wall. Sunlight. The beautiful afternoon, Lee and Tamara exit one way, DL and Maria another. "Whose room are you in?" he asks Tamara one more time. He keeps looking behind himself - he totally misses DL's dramatic exit with his student. "Did you see who that guy yelling was?"

"Yes. No." Now that they're outside, she releases Lee, twisting back to look over her shoulder at the building even as she continues walking away from it. Tamara's lips press into a thin line; then the teen offers Lee a wan smile. "Sorry about your room." She gives the gaggle of students a look, then shakes her head a bit; pressing one hand against her temple, Tamara moves off on a tangent to the group, rather than going to join them.

D.L. is not one for being a hero. Well, he is, but he doesn't really need to stick around for all the theatrics afterwards. He sets Maria down, making sure that she's still capable of walking. And breathing, since there's no smoke outside. "There you go. Your friends…" He points off in the random direction of what can only be the crowd of people around the corner of the building. Not even waiting for her to leave, he turns to make his exodus off in the general direction of his rental car. "Micah…" He's remembered that his son is still asleep in the car! Along with, well, whatever's in the trunk.

Lee sees D.L. withdrawing one way and Tamara withdrawing the other way. "But…" he says, protesting weakly, "The door…I…hey!" He heads towards D.L.'s back, and Maria. He reaches the girl first, and she needs help, so he stays with her. "…hey?" he finally says again, left behind, and unsure what just happened why.

The thickset man emerges unnoticed from the administration building with files under his arm and disappears, the only one that knows.

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