She had gone to bed flat out tired. She managed a late night shower before turning in but tumbled into bed quickly after that, not bothering with a nightgown tonight, since it was warm; this was a panties only in bed night.
Kate had worked long into the night on some new menu ideas and wanted to make sure that they were all set and properly backed up on her laptop. She was pleased with the work that she'd done, and by bed time was simply exhausted.
Her dreams were strange and disturbed. She was in the kitchen, directing traffic as usual but someone had spilled something on one of the ranges and was causing a stink.
Then the dream morphed to something more ominous that was all sounds and strangeness; it was the kind of dream that comes to get you during the night, leaving little or no explanation and little or no sense but only a vague feeling of unease in the morning, when it is remembered, if it is remembered at all.
Lately, Kate Willman had been spending more and more time working evenings like this on ideas for the menu. She was the owner and executive chef of Morton's, a successful and popular local upscale eatery, and took all of it seriously.
At 32 she was all energy and great ideas. She blessed her grandma and grandpa for the money that they left to her, that allowed her to realize her dream, Morton's, at such a young age. She even named it for them, Grandma and Grandpa Morton.
She experimented with sauces and recipes on herself and a few good friends, who as often as not urged her to 'get a life'. Kate's immediate and usual response was that she indeed had a life and the one that she favored, thank you very much!
The dream continued to be weird and suddenly in a strange and unaccountable way, piercing. It was then that Kate woke. She woke to the brash, startling sound of the smoke alarm somewhere in the house, outside of the bedroom door, she thought in a clear second.
Then the realization came full upon her that the house was filled with smoke. At least her bedroom was filled with smoke. She heard from somewhere outside a great deal of clatter and realized that it was the sound of fire engines. Someone had apparently seen the smoke and had reported it.
She decided instantaneously on two things. She grabbed her laptop from the desk in the bedroom corner, and then it was a robe she wanted--natural but foolish decisions. Taking time in a room, a house filled with smoke to get any 'extras' before crawling your way out was against any advice that was ever given.
Kate had the laptop in her grasp, when she collapsed, the smoke getting to her and beginning to take its toll. For a bit then, she remembered nothing. She lay on the bedroom floor, rolled kind of into a little ball, clutching the laptop. The robe was nowhere in sight.
She didn't see him come in; she didn't hear him come in. He was only suddenly there, speaking loudly into the built in mic at his helmet he called out:
"I've found the occupant and she's down."
He took a second only to take the air from his own mask and put it over Kate's face.
Kate began to cough. It was the sign that he wanted. Then his professional instincts took over. He scooped her up, along with her laptop and began to carry her to the doorway. In the process he continued to share with her the air mask.
Kate simply clung to him, with her arms around his neck.
As he was struggling down the stairs with her, coughing as he went, and sharing his air with her, she spoke up to tell him something.
Mike didn't right away understand what she was saying and then she repeated herself and he realized that she was saying:
"I'm sorry that I'm not dressed!"
He just grinned at her then, certain male instincts taking over.
"Ms," he said, heading for the door, "You look just gorgeous the way you are."
He got a muttered 'thank you' for his gallantry and she lay her head on his shoulder. She was speaking again, as he reached the door. This time it was:
"Thank you for getting my laptop. It's important."
He smiled at her then only, as soon as he got her through the door, he had help from all sides. They had a blanket for her and took her to the waiting ambulance, where she was loaded, covered with a sheet and whisked off to the hospital.
The fire was an electrical one that had been discovered and extinguished but the smoke and water damage was considerable.
They gave her oxygen immediately in the ambulance. She was woozy from having taken so much smoke. The attendant, a lovely young woman, stroked Kate's face and told her how lucky she was.
"But his name; the fireman's name; I don't even know his name."
She began to cry then, all of the tension of what had just happened finally crashing in on her.
"They'll know at the station," the attendant, whose name tag said that she was 'Gail Robbins', said.
"They will?" Kate asked between sobs.
"They will," Gail assured her.
By that time, the firemen were wrapping up their efforts at Kate's house. There was some good natured banter going on among them, as usual.
"Hey, Schantz," someone said, "How did you get so lucky? She was a babe!"
The comments were directed at fireman Mike Schantz, who was the one who'd brought Kate out of the building. He was a sturdy 5'11" and 190 lbs. He'd been a fireman for fifteen years, since coming out of the marines.
His response to the comment was to give them all al huge grin!
"Well," he said, "The pretty ones just know quality, when they see it!"
"When they see it!" someone scoffed, "She was out cold and didn't see quality or anything else."
They all laughed at that. It was then that the assistant chief came along and they stopped their raillery.
"Good rescue, Mike!" he said, clapping Mike on the shoulder. Then he too remarked: "A pretty one too!"
Mike grinned at him and nodded. They went about the business then of cleaning up and getting ready to go back to the fire house, where, as might be expected the kidding started again.
"So, tell me, Mike," one of the lieutenants asked, "Was she already undressed or did you take her clothes off first?"
There was general laughter.
Mike good naturedly answered: "Lieutenant, I brought her out the way that I found her."
"Hey, Schantz," another voice joined the fray, "How do you get to be so lucky? I never get to rescue a babe like that!"
"It's good living," Mike said and went himself into a kind of coughing fit, while there was a general amount of hooting and such noises then.
At the hospital, Kate was being looked over and had a rest. They told her that she could go home. She began to cry at that point:
"I don't have any clothes," she wailed.
The doctor in attendance was a surgeon named Jackie and asked Kate softly if she could call anyone for her. Kate gave her the name of a friend, Dee Dee, who also lived in the city. She told Dr. Jackie that she'd make the call, if she could have the use of a phone.
Deedee answered after the second ring.
"Hello," a sleepy voice said.
"Dee Dee," Kate began, "It's Kate."
Dee Dee could tell right away that something was wrong. She spoke quickly:
"Kate, honey, what's wrong?"
Kate began to cry again at that point, and finally calmed down enough to get the news out
"Dee, I've had a fire at my house and..." she paused then with her crying. "I had ... had to be rescued and would have died but for the fireman."
"Oh, honey," Dee Dee said. "Where are you?"
"He got me out and all I got out of the house was my laptop and..." she broke off again and cried until she was ready to go on again:
"All that I have to wear is the panties that I was wearing to bed..."
At that point Kate broke down altogether, and one of the nurses picked up the phone.
She explained to Dee Dee that Kate'd had a fire at her house and only was wearing her panties, when she was brought out of the burning, smoke filled house by a fireman, who'd rescued her.
Dee Dee woke totally immediately and said to the nurse that she'd be right there with some clothes for Kate. It relieved Kate's mind tremendously.
Dee Dee was as good as her word; she was there in a very short time and had a set of running clothes for Kate to wear.
They had Kate in a side room at the E R and had given her a hospital gown to wear. She fairly threw herself into Dee Dee's arms, when her friend came into the room.
"Dee Dee!" Kate said, sobbing in her friend's arms.
"It's okay, honey," Dee Dee cooed to her, holding her.
It was then that the nurse came into the room. She smiled at the two of them and said:
"Yes," Kate said.
"I, uh, just wanted to tell you that we have a fireman here; he had had a little too much smoke. His name is Schantz, and I believe that he's the one that brought you out of the house. It seems that sharing his oxygen with you got him into a little bit of breathing trouble."
"Ohhhh," Kate wailed then, "Can I see him?"
"Well, yes," the nurse said, "He's in #8. Why don't you get dressed and then I'll take you over there."
Dee Dee had brought a tee shirt and some running pants, plus underwear for Kate, since they were both pretty much the same size.
Kate and Dee Dee went eagerly with the nurse down the hall way. They could hear the occupant of #8 telling the attendants that he was fine and the spell was just a fluke.
"Well, Mr Schantz," the doctor was saying, "We just want to look you over a bit; you took a bit of smoke in that one. It's only a routine kind of thing."
.... There is more of this story ...