(Last week: Chartan and his family are in their apartment when an earthquake strikes.)

When a major earthquake hits California, some people scream, few remain calm to the point of leading others to safety. Chartan was one of the few.

With Jake pressed to his chest with his right arm, he pulled Gina until all three were under the kitchen table. “We’ll stay here until the shaking stops.”

Chartan stood up. The drywall was splintered from ceiling to floor. The overhead kitchen light was hanging by wires. He led his family out of the apartment building and to safety in the parking lot away from the trees. He spotted flames coming from the second floor unit directly under their apartment.

“Gina, take Jake and don’t move—I want to see if anyone is hurt inside.”

His wife begged him to stay, but he was already in the building by the time she stopped pleading.

The second floor unit door was ajar. He opened it slowly–heat from a gas-fed fire blasted him in the face. He saw the body of a woman face down a few feet away. He grabbed her around the waist, holding his breath to fend off hot air from entering his lungs.

When he reached the building entrance, Gina with Jake in his arms was waiting for him just as a hook and ladder pulled up behind them.

“That’s Mrs. Jacobs,” said Gina. “She lives alone—we talk sometimes.”

Two firemen took the woman from Chartan.

Later that night in a motel a block from the limo company, Chartan and his family watched TV footage of the apartment fire, including shots of Chartan carrying the woman to safety. The reporter’s voice filled the room: “The man who stopped the car window bandit and a gun shooting at a local café has saved another life.” There was no mention that he was also and the reluctant limo driver with three dead passengers.

Their apartment had been temporarily condemned  for occupancy. While Gina was pleased by the free room, Chartan knew it was another gift compelling him to keep working for Sloan who also owned the motel.

 To be continued next Sunday…

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