Murf Murphy, 40s, is a former Special Forces soldier, who is now in charge of the town’s emergency preparedness. He struggles to gain support for his plan to build an emergency shelter, Fort Apache, while trying to help his 14-year old daughter, who is suffering from the abusive care of her mother Louise and her drug-addled boyfriend, Vince.
Dani, is Murf’s 14-year old daughter, who has been a good student, but is suspended from school, she struggles because of mistreatment by her alcoholic mother and her boyfriend, who is involved with drugs. She ends up dancing at a local bar due to the machinations of her mother’s boyfriend who hopes to recruit her as a prostitute.
Vince, the predatory boyfriend: Vince is a low life who uses Louise for food and drink, but whose main interest is in victimizing Dani when she is suspended from school. He gets her a repulsive job as a cleaning lady at a motel because he knows that this will make her desperate enough to become a dancer at a nearby bar. Vince and the bar’s owner, Sam, agree upon a timeline for putting Dani out as a prostitute.
Doc, the battlefield medic turned hanger on at a criminal gang’s club: Doc has turned out to be a favorite character among my readers. Doc feels great guilt over some civilians he killed in a war in the Middle East. He was dead on the operating table for 2 minutes and experienced the darkness of Hell. He spends the rest of his life in terror that he will someday return there. He hangs out with the club gang because he feels that is where he belongs. Later, he dies trying to save Dani from being raped and killed. We see only that Doc does not end up in darkness. He goes toward a brighter reward. (No music and no details. It would be too maudlin.) It seems that a lot of readers are wondering what will become of Doc.
Louise, Dani’s mom: Louise has never been a great person. We wonder how Murf came to marry her. He must have been young and lonely. Louise is encouraged by Vince to sink deeper into alcoholism and, eventually, Vince murders her with a hot shot of heroin.
Tina, Murf’s love interest: She is a young thirties waitress at one of Murf’s usual spots. She flirts with him, but he is too shy to respond. Eventually, the reader realizes that Louise must have beaten the all the self-confidence out of Murf. Miriam, Bruce Davidson’s wife, takes pity on Murf and sets up a dinner party where Murf and Tina are the only guests. This is all it takes. The night of the attack, Murf finds out that she has no family and moves her out of her urban rental and into his more secure home near Fort Apache, the Sheriff’s Department substation/fortress.