Pastor and fireman Nick Foster found the body in the inferno engulfing his church. From the bullet wound in the head, it's clear this is no ordinary fire victim. The quiet community of Newpointe, reeling from the shock of the dead man's identity, struggles with the agonizing question: who did it--and why?
Paramedic Issie Mattreaux is no icon of virtue, but she cares enough about her teenage nephew, Jake, to track him down when he turns up missing. Only, what she finds is far more than a harmless bonfire on the outskirts of town.
After a chilling attempt on Issie's life, Nick takes on the role of protector even as he struggles with the tragedy that has struck his church. Whoever is behind the fire is far from finished. Unknown to Nick, that person's twisted agenda now threatens to consume everything he loves most.
Trial by Fire is book four in the Newpointe 911 series by award-winning novelist Terri Blackstock. Newpointe 911 offers taut, superbly crafted novels of faith, fear, and close-knit small-town relationships, seasoned with romance and tempered by insights into the nature of relationships, redemption, and the human heart. Look also for Private Justice, Line of Duty, Shadow of Doubt, and Word of Honor.
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September 30, 2000
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Excerpt from Trial by Fire by Terri Blackstock
Chapter OneThe fire alarm blaring at four a.m. jerked Nick Foster from a sound sleep. He swam through his groggy stupor and sat up, slipping his feet into the turnout pants and boots scrunched together next to his bunk. Mark Branning and Dan Nichols stumbled into their own gear and raced out of the room.Adrenaline snapped Nick to attention, and his heart rate, which had gone from sleep to sprint in a matter of seconds, brought him fully awake. He grabbed the radio mike. "Midtown to Simone," he said to the dispatcher who sat in an upstairs room at the police station next door. "It''s Nick.""Nick, the church is on fire. Sounds bad.""What church?""Your church, man! Calvary Bible Church."Nick froze as the words filtered through his consciousness, then settled hard in the pit of his stomach. He forced himself to think clearly and grabbed his helmet from its hook. Pulling it on, he bolted out to the truck bay."Where to?" Mark yelled from the driver''s seat of the pumper."The church." Nick grabbed his turnout coat and helmet and leaped onto the truck. "My church is on fire!"Mark didn''t comment that it was his church too, and Dan''s as well. He turned on the siren, chasing away any remnants of sleep that might have dulled their senses, and drove into the warm October night as fast as reason would allow. A faint yellow glow lit up the night sky in the distance, and Nick could see the smoke billowing through the air as the fire truck approached Calvary Bible Church."Faster!" Nick shouted, but he knew Mark was driving as fast as he could. Maybe it was just in the rec hall, he thought. Maybe they could save the sanctuary.But as they reached the street, he saw that the building was fully engulfed. Every wall was in flames, and the roof was a stage on which the fire did its wicked dance. The truck stopped and Nick leaped out, pulled on his tanks, and snapped on his mask. As he unwound the hose from the truck, he broke into warrior mode.He heard the other fire truck from across town coming up Jacquard Boulevard, and behind their truck, the rescue unit screeched to a halt. The hose opened, blasting the way in front of him. As he entered the building and saw how thoroughly the fire had taken hold, he forced himself to think like a firefighter and not a preacher.The fire had already consumed the west side of the building where all the children''s Sunday school classes were held just yesterday, and the north side where they had fellowship and ate dinner together on Wednesday nights. He sprayed his way into the sanctuary, searching for the origin of the flames. The sanctuary was engulfed as well, and the air billowed with black smoke. It was tangible evil, blinding him to the source of the fire. But he would not give up. He was David facing down Goliath. His hose was like a few small stones, but if he aimed it well, he could knock Goliath to the ground. God would help him.The gates of hell would not prevail against this church!Stan Shepherd Newpointe''s only police detective arrived on the scene just as the firemen began fighting the flames. As if he were watching his own home being consumed, he sat paralyzed behind the wheel. How had this happened?Not so long ago, he and Celia had made the decision to lower their lifestyle so they could donate money for the building now going up in flames. All that money wasted all those hours of work sanding and scraping and painting.Stan tried to shake off his shock and got out of the car. A crowd of people was gathering in the street."Back up," he told them. "All the way across the street." Slowly, they did as he said."Stan, are they gonna save the building?" Mildred Buford asked.He didn''t want to pronounce the building dead, but it didn''t look good. "I don''t know, Mildred. Now get back.""But I had some fish and a hamster in my Sunday school room. The kids''ll never get over it if they can''t save ''em! If I could just run in and get ''em.""You can''t go in there. Now, come on, Mildred. I need you to get across the str