Name: James Brooke
Age: 51 years old
Description: James is tall, with a lean but strong build. He has dark brown hair, almost black, that’s now peppered with silver and green eyes.
Short Bio: James Brooke is the older son of Robert and Carol Brooke. He has one younger brother, Zachary, born almost a year after him. They were always very close, and James lost count of the number of times he pulled his brother out of a dangerous situation, even before they both became firefighters.
He met Sarah Rafferty shortly after he started at the Crystal Lake Fire Department. She was out with her friend, Teresa Caridi, and he was with Zachary, and their friend, Lawrence. He noted Teresa, but it was Sarah that drew his attention. It was always Sarah.
They were married shortly after that, and he was ecstatic when Sarah told him she was pregnant. His brother married shortly before James’ son, Kieran, was born. And about a year later, his niece, Kayla came along. He thought his life was pretty much perfect.
And then it wasn’t. James and Sarah had a fight one morning before he had to leave for his shift at the fire department. They left each other with hard words. And later, that was all he could remember. After one of the fellow firefighters had to hold him back, after his brother had to carry James’ wife out of the burning house, after he’d buried his wife and son.
He didn’t deal well with the loss. He put all of their things away, in the back of the closet and the back of his mind. All he kept out was his wife’s wedding ring that he took to wearing on his right pinky. He didn’t talk about them, asked everyone else not to talk about them. He didn’t date, hardly had the heart for firefighting any longer.
When the position of fire investigator became available, it was a relief. Going into burning buildings left him shaky anymore. But, his mind could handle working out how they’d started after the fire was already put out. Watching his niece, and then his nephew, grow up eased some of his loneliness.
And then he noticed Kayla seemed to have the same analytical mind he’d always prized in himself. And he wanted her as an investigator. But, he had to wait until she was ready to leave the firefighting side of the service. He trained her and brought her over to his side, even after she almost got herself killed trying to stop a deranged arsonist.
Now things are settled down, and he’s glad to have her working with him. The rest of his life doesn’t feel so settled, though. Then, Teresa Caridi, now Takoda, walks back into it.
James Brooke glanced up at the heavy knock on his door. The man who stood there certainly wasn’t his niece, and newest investigator, or any of his other investigators. The man wore the uniform of one of the fire department’s battalion chiefs. “Brian, what are you doing here?” he asked. “Don’t you have a shift to run?”
“Sent ‘em all home ‘bout an hour ago,” he said, moving to one of the chairs on the other side of James’ desk. “Chief Booth is on now.”
James nodded his head slightly. “What do you need?”
“I can’t come visit one of my oldest friends?”
James simply folded his hands on his desk and watched that old friend until the other man sighed and dropped into the chair. “I came to ask a favor,” Brian told him.
“What can I do for you?”
The other man leaned back in the chair, lacing his hands together behind his head. “You asked me for a favor earlier this year, and I granted it.”
James grunted. “I remember. I also remember you were rather hesitant about it.”
“And you did take away one of my best firefighters, like I said you would,” he reminded James, dropping a hand to point one finger at James.
“She’s a pretty damn good investigator, too. Like I said she would be.”
Brian nodded, as if giving him that one. James waited another minute before saying, “You’re worrying me, Bri. You don’t need a kidney or anything, do you? I think that goes a bit beyond what I owe you for letting me train Kayla full time for a couple weeks.”
“Even though I lost her to you?”
A half smile sat on his friend’s face, but it didn’t match what he saw in the man’s eyes. Leaning forward, he narrowed his own eyes and said, “Seriously, Brian, what’s going on? If it’s something important, you know I’ll do what I can. I know you wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”
He’d known Brian Wilson for more than thirty years. They’d gone to the Fire Academy together. Had worked together for ten more years in the department putting out fires. Brian had been the one to carry Sarah out of their burning house all those years ago. James couldn’t even remember who had held him back from running in himself. It had still been too late for her.
He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to push away those thoughts. It had been easier when he’d kept all the memories of his family buried deep. But, at least they didn’t jump up and try to strangle him as much.
“You okay?” Brian asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, though his voice sounded rough. “Fine. Anyway, what do you need from me?”
“First, to hear me out all the way through. Don’t shut me out until I finish, okay?”
“Since when have I shut you out, Brian?”
Brian’s eyes were serious now. “You shut everyone out for thirty years, James.”