“It’s so smoky in here,” Valerie Pickering said, holding a hand to her throat. “It’s so hard to breathe.”
“There’s no smoke in here, Aunty Val.” Joanne Evans stood over her aunty’s hospital bed, confused.
“There will be smoke soon,” Valerie coughed. “Not everyone will survive.”
Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.
Melody Walker pulls herself up from the bitumen. Her hands and knees are badly grazed from where she was forced to the ground. She reaches for her forearm as it sends a shooting pain up her entire arm. She had fallen hard on it and wouldn’t be surprised if it had been fractured.
Melody looks to the building behind her. Large flames still billow from the blown-out windows. Black smoke surges intensely. She can hear the sound of cracking and exploding glass. The sound of the vast array of alcohol continues to erupt inside the building.
Melody wants to smile. She wants to be happy with what she had achieved. She had sought revenge on those people inside the building, particularly Mark Gilmore and his bitch of a wife, Cathy Gilmore. They had paid the ultimate price for destroying her. Melody couldn’t smile though, as the one person that she had fallen in love with was still in the building. He was supposed to have exited the building before the time was up, however she hadn’t seen him before the building ignited.
“Joel.” Melody begins to tear up. “What have I done to my dear Joel?”
“What are you talking about, Aunty Val?” Joanne asked. “Who won’t survive?”
“The explosion,” Valerie Pickering continued to cough. “Not everyone can survive the explosion.”
“What explosion?” Joanne asked, becoming impatient. “You’re scaring me, Aunty Val. Please tell me what’s going on.”
Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.
It’s heavy. But she manages to push it off of her. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed onto Joanne Evans but she had been somehow protected when she heard the explosion come from the rear of The Grand Hotel and ducked under the nearest table.
Through the heavy black smoke, Joanne can make out the silhouette of somebody lying next to her. She pushes at the body, trying to stir them but they remain still and silent.
She looks around her, but finds it too hard to see through the smoke. She can hear the crackle of fire around her and the sound of glass still exploding from the nearby bar. There are others around her, for she can also hear constant coughing and moaning. The sounds are quickly drowned out by the fire alarm which pierces suddenly, followed by the sprinkler system drenching her with a downpour of water.
“Joanne?” she can hear a voice. “Are you okay?” Joanne looks above her to see her best friend, Cathy Gilmore.
“I think so,” Joanne manages to say. “Help me over here.” Joanne motions to the still body next to her.
Cathy leans down next to Joanne and they work together to turn over their patient.
“It’s not going to end well,” Valerie continued to cough, before closing her eyes and sinking back into the hospital bed.
“Aunty Val! Stop it!” Joanne screamed.
Valerie opened her eyes and noticed Joanne standing above her, baby Ricky clutched to her chest.
“Jo, baby?” Valerie smiled. “What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean?” Joanne was unnerved. “You were just talking to me.”
“Was I?” Valerie asked, a little confused. “I don’t remember. It must be these drugs I’m on.”
Joanne steps back towards the door. “I must get going. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Off so soon?”
Joanne Evans opened the door of the hospital room and exited. As she did so, she spotted Doctor Joel Prasad talking with Sergeant Michael Anders.
“Doctor Prasad,” Joanne called out to the doctor as she pushed the stroller over to the men.
“Hi Joanne,” Joel said. “How’s your aunty?”
“I think she needs some help,” Joanne explained. “She seems to be hallucinating.”
Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.
Joanne and Cathy roll Father Bolton over onto his back. They reel back in horror at the sight of the huge gash across his forehead.
“Is he breathing?” Joanne asks.
The nurse in Cathy kicks in and she begins her emergency response procedures. “He’s got a faint pulse and he’s still breathing,” she says to Joanne. “We need to try and get him out of here.”
From above them, the water from the sprinkler system continues to pour. The smoke slowly dissipates as the fire is extinguished. Joanne looks around her at the carnage. She sees some familiar faces pulling themselves up from the floor. She looks towards the front door and notices that is blocked by part of a collapsed ceiling and other debris.
Suddenly, a booming voice cuts through the hiss of the sprinklers. “Come on, everybody! This way!” Sergeant Michael Anders is directing the townspeople towards the back of The Grand Hotel, through a door that Joanne knows leads to Aunty Val’s office.
Joanne and Cathy hook their arms under Father Bolton’s and begin to drag him to the office door. They are soon helped by others and they make their way into the office.
Doctor Joel Prasad entered Valerie Pickering’s hospital room.
“Hello, doctor,” Valerie greeted Joel.
“Valerie,” he said, moving up next to the bed. “Joanne seems to be concerned about you.”
“Concerned?” Valerie asked. “She ran out of here like I’m some monster!”
“You’ve been hallucinating. Sometimes the pain medication can cause some strange side effects.”
Without warning, Valerie suddenly pushed her whole body back down onto the bed and she started shaking, convulsing all over.
“Valerie?” Joel said, concerned. “Stay with me.”
Joanne lays Father Bolton down on the office floor while Sergeant Anders attempts to open the rear door. “This door leads to the back alley,” he tells the group. “It seems to be jammed, though. I’ll need to break it down.”
“I’ll give you a hand,” Senior Constable Kyle Cook says. They both pick up a table and start ramming it into the door.
Joanne looks around her at the familiar faces in the small room.
Father Bolton remains motionless, almost lifeless, on the floor.
Cathy Gilmore kneels over him providing him the best care that she can.
Kelly Driver, the local ranger, also kneels over Father Bolton. Joanne sees tears falling down her cheeks as she motions the sign of the cross.
Geraldine Jenkins, Cathy’s mother, sits on a chair holding a wound to her leg. She is being treated by another nurse, Constance Helling.
The sound of the explosion erupts through Joanne’s mind every time she hears Sergeant Anders and her lover, Kyle Cook, bashing into the jammed exit door.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Another booming sound echoes through the small office and Joanne realises the sound has not been made from the two men. Loud cracking sounds erupt above her. The building begins to shake and she notices the horror on everyone’s faces.
The weakened building starts to fall apart and the second level collapses onto the office under immense pressure.
“Valerie?” Joel asked.
Suddenly she opened her eyes and gasped loudly.
“Are you okay?” Joel asked again.
“They will be trapped,” Valerie puffed. “Everyone will be trapped and they won’t all survive.”
Next Episode – Monday October 10