Moments later, all their friends were downstairs, trying to get into the kitchen all at once. Clayton tried to use the phone, but the line was dead. It proved unnecessary. Police cars and a fire engine pulled up minutes later. From the kitchen windows, they could see flames and rubble where the torreón had been.
“I’m going out,” Craig said. “They may need help.” He jogged upstairs to dress.
The boys decided to go with him. Since Clayton and Daniel were still fully clothed, they ran outside. The others dashed after Craig, to dress. The torreón was gone. Instead, a blackened pit full of charred debris greeted them. Over all the noise, they heard a voice calling faintly.
“You hear that?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah. Where’s it coming from?”
They ran over to a pile of adobe bricks and wooden beams. They saw someone trapped under it. A lock of pale silver hair peeped out of the ruins.
“Oh, my God! I think it’s Claire!” Daniel yelled. “Hey! Hey! Over here!” He ran toward the rescue workers, waving his arms.
The emergency workers rushed over. Claire was silent.
“Oh, Christ! I think she’s dead!” Daniel fell to his knees. “Claire? Can you hear me?”
A faint whimper sounded.
“Thank God! Claire, we have some men here. We’re going to try to move this stuff, okay?”
“Help,” she cried weakly. “Please, help us.”
“Us? There’s someone else there?”
Clayton ran back to the kitchen. “Claire’s trapped,” he told Craig. “She says someone else is with her.”
“Head count,” Craig ordered.
The teenagers lined up by the table. Jane was also missing. Beverly raised her hand, wincing when all eyes fell on her.
“I think I might know something.”
Craig whirled on her, ready to pounce. Polly stopped him.
“What do you know?” Polly asked calmly.
“Claire got a note from Gabe. He said to meet at the torreón at eleven. He had a surprise for her. She was excited. She has kind of a crush, you know? But she was scared to go alone, so she made Jane go with her. Are they okay?” Her voice rose in pitch like a little girl’s.
“She was alive when I came in,” Clayton reported. “I’m going back out to see if I can help.”
“I’m coming too,” Craig said. “The rest of you stay here. No one goes anywhere. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” they chorused.
Clayton followed Craig outside. They stopped on the porch while Polly bolted the door.