Saturday 5 – Thursday 17 March 2011
Jeremy Anderton woke to the sound of fire engine sirens. He yawned and stretched the cramps out of his limbs.
‘Dumb ass. When will you learn not to listen to your stupid brother?’ he said to himself.
‘You often talk to yourself first thing in the morning?’ the woman’s voice startled Jeremy. ‘You had no idea I was here, did you?’
He laughed and shook his head. Had he consumed that much liquor last night that he had no recollection of what happened afterwards? And who was this woman? As if on cue, she rolled to face him. The bar tender. He’d brought the bar tender home.
‘Oh good Lord, you didn’t even remember it was me? That’s harsh,’ she laughed. ‘Perhaps you’d have recognised me if I’d bared my ass to you.’
‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘that might have helped.’
‘What is that? Are they fire sirens again?’ she looked towards the window, almost expecting to see the vehicles pass by.
Jeremy nodded, ‘Third time in four weeks.’
‘You seem to know a bit about this.’
He nodded again, ‘My brother is a fire fighter. I hear a lot from him when he’s trying to show off about how he plays hero every day.’
The hot water from the showerhead was turning Toby’s skin red. He’d scrubbed away the dirty feeling he had after setting a fire. This was the first fire where lives had been lost. He didn’t really feel anything for the victims. They were nobodies, and he was a god amongst men. He controlled the fates of people. The adrenaline rush after the fire outweighed the dirtiness and shame he felt for committing such an act. Toby wondered if he’d ever get used to the feelings that came after one of his little side ventures, and decided he’d like to keep the adrenaline rush, but remove the shame.
He stood under the shower for ten minutes, making sure to wash away all residue, all evidence that put him at the scene of the fire. His clothes were on a heavy wash cycle, and his shoes, an old pair of runners, ended up in a fire of their own. By now, they’d be nothing but ash themselves. There was no way, unless someone had witnessed him setting the fire, that Toby could be placed at the scene of the crime.
The images of the burning building occupied his thoughts. It was so beautiful. The flames danced, and leapt, and ate the building. The changing colours of the fire were beyond description, and the heat it exuded was comforting to Toby. It was his greatest creation. And then those damned people had to go and spoil everything.
Their screams, at first, he could hear over the growing rage of the fire. But then, nothing. Nothing but the flames. Either he’d blocked them out, or the sound of the flames had grown louder, stronger, more powerful. Toby thought they might have died, maybe from smoke inhalation, maybe from burning. He didn’t care, as long as they were gone and no longer tarnished his creation of sweeping, consuming flames.
And now he was hungry – ravenous, in fact. He stepped from the shower, dried and dressed himself, and slowly walked to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, he removed a greasy, cardboard pizza box and threw it on the kitchen bench. He then grabbed a Pepsi Max, unscrewed the bottle top, and swigged a mouthful of the cola.
‘Cold pizza, and Pepsi Max. The breakfast of champions,’ he said as he shoved a large piece of pizza in his mouth.
With a greasy, pizza covered hand, he hunted around in his back pocket for his wallet. When he found it, he flipped it open, revealing a tattered photo, under plastic, of Brooke. Toby removed it from his wallet, and examined it closely for the last time. When he was done, he moved across to the stove, lit a burner, and held the photo over the flames. He held it until he was at risk of burning his fingers.
‘Ha ha ha, picture’s gone much the same way as the woman.’
. . . To be continued . . .