Burn For Me (excerpt)
© Dorothy Ewels
A thick cloud of smoke hung low in the early morning light, a backdrop to the sparks dancing in the gentle breeze. The acrid stench of burning masked the vibrant summer scents. The sound of firemen calling to each other jarring in the quiet. Yet another iconic building, harking back to an era gone by, was lost. Nothing more than a pile of ash and dying embers.
Frustration rode Grayson James hard as he stood taking in the destruction before him. He massaged the knot of tension in his neck. It had become a permanent fixture of late. This was the third fire in a month that he’d been called to in the chic suburb of Kloofnek, nestled at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain. Sitting above the bustling central business district of Cape Town, it was a much sought-after area for both work and play. Boasting a thriving business as well as an active residential community, it was the place to see and be seen.
Another beautiful day was dawning over the Mother City, and Gray took a moment to savour it. His crime scene waited for him, but he needed a moment to centre himself as he brooded over the wreckage that had once housed someone’s hopes and dreams.
She put on her best face for tourists, but Cape Town in the summer months was a nightmare for firefighters. The brutal African heat mercilessly dried everything out, turning the famous African fynbos into a fire hazard. The old buildings, built as they were with all their wood, also succumbed easily to the uncaring flames.
The previous two fires, however, had turned out not to be the work of Mother Nature, but rather that of an arsonist. The same person it seemed, since the modus operandi was alike in both instances. And he had a nasty suspicion today’s fire would prove to be the same.
Residents and business owners alike were unhappy with the spate of fires. Gray knew he needed to close this case soon, before unhappiness turned to anger. If that happened, he knew it would only be a matter of time before people started taking matters into their own hands in a bid to protect what was theirs
He knew he was missing something crucial; he just couldn’t seem to put his finger on what it was. He was sure he’d seen something before very similar to the fires that had been plaguing the neighbourhood. For the life of him, though, he couldn’t quite place it.
Blowing out a frustrated breath, Gray surveyed the scene before him, trying to decide where best to start. The team of firefighters that had tended to the fire were in the process of packing up their gear and stowing everything back in the vehicles.
Gray turned towards the sound of his name, catching sight of his colleague and friend, Kyle Stevens, heading over to the nearest truck. He couldn’t help but smile as he noticed the appreciative looks Kyle was getting from the ladies who had, to this point, been watching the goings-on around them.
Tall, well-muscled, and probably too good-looking for his own good, Kyle drew the attention of the ladies wherever he went. They couldn’t keep their eyes off him as he strode purposefully towards his ride. Firefighting was a physically demanding job, and the guys worked hard to stay in shape. They knew it was what made the difference between life and death for them. It had to be said, though, the ladies definitely appreciated the results.
“We’re all done here. Fire’s out, so I’ve handed the building back to the owner. We’re headed back to the station. I’ll let you have my report this afternoon if there’s no more call-outs this morning,” he continued.
Walking over to intercept him, Gray replied, “Thanks Kyle. Anything I need to be aware of here?”
Kyle looked over at the smoking ruin, intense loathing crossing his handsome face. “I hate this Gray.”
“Yeah. I hear you.”
Coming back to Gray’s original question, Kyle added, “Nothing, other than our unsub appears to have been busy again. The signs look familiar.”
Shit! Definitely not what Gray had wanted to hear. All the same, he nodded. “Thanks, Ace, I’ll keep that in mind. Catch you at the station later, maybe.”
Kyle gave a nod of acknowledgment and a quick wave before hopping onto the fire truck. He banged the side to let the driver know everyone was on board. Gray waved back before turning an assessing eye to the gutted building, charred and still smoking from its dousing. Pulling his notepad out of his pants pocket, Grayson took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.
To preserve the integrity of his scene, he donned gloves and overshoes before making his way through the front door to start sifting through the rubble. Carefully bagging evidence as he went, he kept a lookout for the tell-tale signs that would show him not only where the fire had started but how. Kyle didn’t believe this fire was an accident. Gray didn’t either. His gut told him this was the work of his firebug. He just had to follow the clues.
Every fire had its own personality, like a game of chess, waiting to see who won. As he trusted his intuition to uncover the next move, skill and instinct had never steered him wrong. And they had kept him alive in this dangerous profession.