And the Arsonist Burned

I wanted to tell him how I, Marlowe Black, felt, but he was dead. Standing outside his small wood frame house, watching smoke and flames eating its structure, felt insufficient. Rage demands an outlet. The sonofabitch was an arsonist. He burned one hundred twenty-seven buildings, killed thirty-three innocents, and then lit himself doused with gasoline sitting on the fuel soaked sofa in his own home.

I listened to the sirens approaching, knowing their efforts would prove futile, their arrival too late. Their spiraling sounds echoed along the street bouncing off the walls of the buildings still standing. The noise reminded me of some day in the past, or maybe just a moment. Right then I was too damn mad to give a good Goddamn about the past.

Chasing him through the Bronx felt right even though I wondered why in hell I was dealing with a criminal in the one part of the city I least cared for. For the last year and a half, it seemed I spent more time there than in Brooklyn where I lived.

As he drove recklessly across the bridge tires squealing, he cut off three drivers. One of them spun out and nearly careened with the front bumper of my 49 Olds.

After slamming on the brakes, spinning a one eighty, I stopped and got out. The other driver was gone by then and I knew it was a setup. I’d lost more than five minutes and that was all the time the bastard needed to beat me to his death.

Stuffing the Colt 45 in its holster, I turned and watched New York Firemen arrive followed by two or three prowl cars. New York’s finest was a step ahead or two behind me on most days. This time, I was a mile ahead of the cops.

No one paid me any attention as I lit a Camel off my Zippo and strolled back to my car parked around the block.

Onlookers had gathered, now pushed back by the cops. I wanted to tell them to allow the spectacle to be observed, but maybe the dead bastard didn’t even deserve that much.

A glance over my shoulder told me the house was a total. Already, I could see the skeleton framework silhouetted by orange flames that licked across beams and studding. The stench of it wavered over the street, tainted with the smell of charred flesh

“Bastard,” I muttered, crushed the cigarette under my heel and left the scene with my hands in my pockets.

Once around the block, the cold November air ran down my back. I lifted up my collar, buttoned the overcoat, felt warm but not, thought about Stella and Stacey Morgan huddled together before a fireplace in a beach front cottage about seventy miles east of the city. I needed to feel the touch of gentle hands, the caress of a loving person, and faced another cold reality. I was alone and I had failed.

Yet the boy lived.

Copyright 2018 Gabriel FW Koch all rights reserved

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