“Hey, Loretta? Chief Mendez here. We got ourselves a situation. Git Chuck Roberts at Public Works on the horn and tell him there’s a gas emergency on Second Avenue, 432 Second Avenue. Broken gas line. Thanks, doll. Over.”
The Chief put the radio handset back in the car. “Little Timmy, I want you to go to the neighbors on both sides of this house and tell them to get out now.”
“Hey, Chief, it can’t be that bad.”
“I hope it ain’t that bad. Just do it.”
Little Timmy took off, bewildered at the strange shape this day had taken.
“Ma’am,” he began to the elderly woman who answered the door. “The chief and I would like you to leave your house immediately. There’s an emergency in the house next door.” He motioned with his head.
“You bet your ass there’s an emergency with the house next door,” said the woman. “But why should I go?”
“Something to do with the gas line.”
“Where am I supposed to go?”
“I don’t know. Away.”
“I don’t know. I guess till we fix it or the whole damned thing explodes.”
“Little Timmy, you were always kind of stupid.”
Something in the woman’s voice awakened a dark memory in Little Timmy’s mind. Ah, his second grade teacher. “Mrs. Sanchez?”
“I’m surprised you remember.”
“How could I forget? In any case, you have to go.”
“Little Timmy!” yelled Chief Mendez. “This is no time for conversation! Tell that woman she has to get out!”
“Chief, it’s Mrs. Sanchez. She won’t go.”
“I can’t go. I got this walker and my husband’s chair bound and on oxygen. You’d just better fix it, Little Timmy.” She slammed the door.
“Tell her at least to turn off her gas.”
Little Timmy pounded on the door.
“Chief says turn off your gas,” he said to a red faced Mrs. Sanchez.
“I heard him.”
“But it doesn’t mean your house won’t blow up.”
“It reduces the risk.”
“If that empty house blows up, your house could blow up, too, or burn down.”
“I’ll take that risk. Now c’mon Little Timmy, take this wrench and go turn off my gas. The turn off is right there, right by the meter. I think you can do that. The guy who reads that meter is no brighter than you.”
“God I hate that woman,” said Little Timmy under his breath, turning the lever to off.
Chief Mendez had better luck with the people in the house on the other side. They stood across the street on a neighbor’s lawn. Pretty soon the service truck from the city utilities showed up.
“Hey Chuck,” said Chief Mendez. “It’s the gas line in that empty house. Little Timmy shot it.”
“Well, I turned off the gas on this end of town. Let’s go see what we got. How did you find the leak?”
“Smelled like skunk. We went down to the basement with two traps and then I heard the hissing and remembered. Natural gas has that skunk stuff in it, right?”
“Well, in a place where we have skunks, you might want to come up with something less common. We’d’ve found it sooner.”
“Well, you found it and that’s the main thing. Let’s get the gas off to this house so’s these other people can cook supper. I think Mrs. Sanchez lives in that house, right?” Chuck pointed at the house next door.
“Yeah, she does.”
“I don’t want Mrs. Sanchez calling me about her gas not being on. I don’t want Mrs. Sanchez calling me at all.”
“You had her too?” asked Little Timmy.
“Is it always like this Chief?” asked Little Timmy as they drove away.
“No. Not usually. Don’t usually have an assistant who almost shoots off his foot and then causes a gas leak. Don’t usually have some kind of damned boa constrictor in the bathroom. Usually it’s just the random car break in, crack house or domestic dispute. But those can go sideways, too.”
“I don’t think I’m cut out for this, Chief. I almost caused a disaster.”
“Little Timmy, you ARE a disaster.” The chief grinned at the boy, but saw Little Timmy was really about to cry. “C’mon, son. We all mess up. The important thing is not to let it get out of hand. You want a cup of coffee? I understand that coffee shop downtown isn’t giving people food poisoning any more.”
Part 3:Tender Reunion
Part 4: Run!!!