Meet the Characters of The Cartel: The Callahan Brothers

From Chapter 4:

The Callahan boys roared into Lake Bluff Station 45 in their pickup trucks. By the time they jogged into the station, the adrenaline of a middle-of-the-night call helping them to shake off the sleep, Ryan Schmidt was already in front of his gear rack, pulling up his bunker pants. In less than a minute, they were all dressed and loaded into 4519, a 2007 Pierce Saber that was Lake Bluff’s primary first-in engine. Before they even rounded the corner a block away from 205 East Scranton Avenue, the young Lake Bluff firefighters in Engine 4519 could smell smoke in the air. It only made their hearts race faster.

The Cartel“Dispatch, 4519 on scene at 205 East Scranton,” Tim Callahan, the acting officer, said into the radio as they pulled up in front of the house. “We’ve got a two-story, single-family home with heavy smoke showing from the garage in back. We’ll be out investigating. Advise incoming units to stage at the corner of Scranton and Evanston and the Knollwood engine to establish a water supply. 4519 will be in command.”

“Roger 4519.”

As the four Lake Bluff firefighters stepped off of Engine 4519, no one had to say anything; they all knew exactly what to do. Although the Callahan brothers often fought like brothers will, on the fire ground they were all business. Tim was the officer in charge until one of the older chiefs arrived. As the engineer, Matt Callahan set the brake, put the engine in neutral, shifted the transmission from road to pump, shifted back into drive and checked the tachometer to make sure that the two green lights were lit up, telling him that the fire engine’s transmission had successfully engaged the pump and he could now flow water to any of the pre-connected hoses. Russell Callahan and Ryan Schmidt pulled one of the 1 ¾-inch attack lines off the fire engine and were flaking it out in the driveway while Tim spoke to the homeowner, who’d met him at the end of the driveway.

“Everyone out of the house?” Tim asked.

“Yes, we’re all here,” the man said.

“Russell…Ryan….let’s see what we got,” Tim said.

“Matt, you ready to give us water if we need it?” Tim asked into his radio.

“Copy that.”

In addition to bringing the attack line up the driveway with them, Tim carried a set of irons – what firefighters call a Halligan bar and a flathead axe. Ryan Schmidt had the Thermal Imaging Camera, or TIC, slung over his shoulder. The TIC allows firefighters to see through the thick, black smoke of a fire and locate victims by their heat signature. Because it has a temperature gradient on the side of the screen that goes from coldest to hottest, it also helps them locate the seed of the fire. Russell Callahan, who would be on the nozzle, had a six-foot-long metal pike pole that had a claw on the end for ripping away dry wall. Once they had the primary fire extinguished, they’d rip open the walls to see if the fire had spread.

When the three Lake Bluff firefighters got to the back of the driveway, pungent gray smoke was billowing out from under the garage door and had coated the windows with a thin film of black soot. Aiming his flashlight, Tim could see that there was a padlock on the garage door.

“OK, guys, let’s pack up,” Tim said. “I’m going to knock the lock off with the axe and lift the door.”

“Matt, charge the line,” Tim said over his portable radio.


Matt pulled levers and adjusted the throttle on the pump panel of Lake Bluff Engine 4519, making sure that he was giving the attack crew enough water to extinguish whatever fire they might find inside the garage, but not so much that the pressure threw them off the line. Outside the garage, all three firefighters dropped to their padded knees, took off their helmets, donned their face masks, turned on their air bottles, and hooked up their regulators to the front of their masks. Next, they pulled their Nomex hoods over their heads, making sure to cover up all of their exposed skin and the edge of their face piece, just like they’d been taught to do in the fire academy. Once on air, they put their helmets back on, hooked the chin straps underneath their face piece so their helmet didn’t fall off, pulled on their gloves, and gave each other the thumbs up, signaling that they had air and were ready to go.

Tim Callahan broke off the cheap Master lock with one swing of the blunt end of the flathead axe. Using the Halligan bar, he hooked the bottom edge of the garage door, lifted it up and felt the smoke and heat wash over him. While he took a door chock out of the side pocket of his bunker pants to make sure the garage door stayed open, Russell Callahan and Ryan Schmidt advanced the 1 ¾-inch attack line and started spraying water into the garage using a straight stream. With Russell Callahan on the nozzle and Ryan Schmidt backing him up, Ryan used his free hand to raise the TIC and sweep the garage.

About Mark Yost
Mark Yost is the author of the Rick Crane Noir series, published by Stay Thirsty Press. Rick Crane is the classic, anti-hero private eye in the spirit of Sam Spade and Jim Rockford. He works in the unmistakably noirish underworld of Upstate New York, running errands and fixing problems for Jimmy Ricchiati Sr., one of Upstate New York's most notorious crime bosses. But readers quickly learn that deep down, Rick Crane is one of the good guys. "Cooper's Daughter," the first book in the widely acclaimed series, is a fast-moving tale in which a heartbroken father comes to Rick and asks him to find out what really happened to his daughter, who was murdered and the details buried in the Unsolved Crimes File of the local police department. The second book in the series is "Jimmy's Nephew," which begins with the death of Joey "Boom Boom" Bonadeo, an up-and-coming boxer and the nephew of Rick's underworld boss. What starts out as a routine investigation turns into a case that will test Rick's faith -- in the Catholic Church and his fellow man. Book No. 3 in the series, "Mary's Fate" is due out in August 2015. Mark Yost also writes for The Wall Street Journal Arts in Review page, as well as the Book Review section. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America -- Midwest Chapter, International Thriller Writers, and a number of other author groups. He is also a member of the Amazon Author's Program. Mark lives in the Loyola neighborhood of Chicago, but he and his son, George, call the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn "home."

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