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Santa Rosa, California…
Tina led the way out, several steps ahead of Caco, and finally Bette. When she entered the hallway, she choked on the thick smoke that had filled the room. The crackling and snapping sounds of burning wood and vegetation stopped her in her tracks. “Shit.”
Seconds later, Bette realized the wildfire had reached the other end of the house and saw smoke was billowing from the master bedroom. They had stayed too long. She held onto Caco’s hands and maneuvered him to the front door. It was too late. The driveway was cut off by flames, and the SUV they had thrown one of the guards into was engulfed. They were trapped.
“Out the back.” Bette pushed Caco toward the windows that lined the far wall of the great room and led to the backyard.
Once outside, they were hit by a fierce wind that was whipping the flames into a frenzy. The heat was becoming unbearable. There wasn’t much time. Every avenue of escape appeared to be cut off. They had nowhere to go. The only possible refuge was the large swimming pool several yards away.
“The pool,” Bette yelled. She scanned the area and saw a cabana stocked with swim towels. “Tina, grab a bunch of towels. We can use them for cover.”
Tina holstered her weapon and gathered the towels
Bette pushed Caco along and toward the steps leading into the pool.
“We can beat the flames. I know a way,” Caco said.
Was this a ploy? Some trick? Bette couldn’t be sure. She looked around again but couldn’t see a safe route.
“On the other side of the palm trees there’s a garage made of cinder block, it should be safe. I have a truck there,” said Caco. “We can escape.”
Bette wasn’t sure what to do. She didn’t think they could outrun the wind-whipped flames now overtaking the house. She looked at Tina. “What do you think?”
The flames were growing stronger, the heat was rising. There was no time to debate. Tina replied, “If there’s a way out, we should try.”
Bette pulled out her Sig Sauer as a show of force. “No funny business, Caco. Show us.”
Caco turned and pointed. “It’s past the pool. Come.” He then took off at a jog with Bette and Tina right behind. When he reached the far corner at the deep end of the pool, he suddenly stopped, turned and put out both arms, pushing Bette into the water. Tina, who still had her firearm holstered, reacted first to Bette, not Caco, and reached out to her. In that instant, Caco took off running in the direction of the palm trees with his hands still cuffed behind his back.