Jason Gum, who goes by the nickname "Gum" or "Juicy Fruit" is a Seattle firefighter assigned to Engine 29. At the outset of the story, he misses a call to a fire because he's having sex in the firehouse basement with an older woman, Iola Pederan. Belatedly, he rushes in his own car to the fire where he is able to join his crew, who covered for his absence. Gum rescues a woman from the fire and then dashes in to get a man who is pronounced dead at the scene from smoke inhalation. Gum is touted as a hero. But the firefighter is burdened with guilt. He knows that if he had ridden the rig to the fire, the few minutes difference in timing might have saved the man's life.
Gum has to deal with living with the lie and his guilt. He isn't a hero. He was derelict in his duty. While Gum wants to confess the truth to his lieutenant, which will get him fired, Gum's need to remain a firefighter is stronger. He stays silent.
It seems that Gum's crew mates Ted Tronstad and Robert Johnson are covering for the younger firefighter because Tronstad had found several bags of "bearer bonds" while searching the burning house. Tronstad took them out of the house and stashed them in Gum's car, the one the young firefighter had driven to the scene because he'd missed riding on the rig. Gum is now a kind of accomplice to Tronstad's theft. If Gum reports that the bonds are in his car, it obviously shows that he didn't go in the rig to the fire. Gum hides the booty from Tronstad, while he tries to figure out what to do.
Tronstad, however, is determined to go to any length, including murder, to get the bonds back.
This report prepared by Patricia Harrington