Saturday 15 February 2014
1985 – A Working Class Neighbourhood In New Jersey . . .
From across the street, Mike Albright watched the building burn. What had been a run-down, barely habitable apartment block was now razed to the ground. At the peak of the inferno, flames leapt fifteen feet into the air, and fire fighters were forced back to the relative safety of their truck by the intense heat of the fire. For six and a half hours, firemen fought the blaze. They knew it was a losing battle, but endeavoured to stop the fire from incinerating the surrounding apartment blocks. The cheaply made apartment blocks were firetraps, and the inferior building materials that were utilised in their construction burned as easily as paper.
The official count of victims of the fire numbered eighteen. The tragedy of their deaths stayed on the front page of the newspapers until the event no longer consumed the appetites of the media and public. A few months after the inferno, no one even remembered that it had occurred. No one except those who knew the victims. The media moved on to other stories, the fire fighters moved on to other blazes, and the public devoured other news stories. This suited Robert Carter perfectly well.
His plans for the redevelopment of the land upon which the apartment block formerly stood could go ahead. His intention, to build a new housing development tailored for those who had a lot of money, had only been hampered by the residents of the previous apartment block. For the better part of a year, they had refused to move from their homes, forcing Carter into a legal battle that brought his company into disrepute for the clear lack of empathy and concern for the struggling working class who had nowhere else to live. Eventually, after a drawn out court case, failed evictions, and a public relations disaster of epic proportions, Robert Carter decided to force the residents from the building.
Carter had employed Mike Albright for nearly two years, and his job, to this point, had consisted of pressuring people to do what Carter wanted, and that was usually done through acts of blackmail. It had worked wonderfully to this point, but the residents of the apartment block were immune to Albright’s threats.
‘There’s only one thing left, Mike. Torch the place. Burn them from their homes. Take everything from them, and leave them with nothing but the clothes on their backs,’ Carter had instructed him. ‘I don’t care how you do it, just burn that place down.’
* * * * *
Present Day . . .
In 1985, at the time of the first fire, Mike had considered his options. He could walk away from Carter Industries, and more than likely, he would end up dead, or, he could follow through with Carter’s instruction and torch the apartment block. Deciding that he had little scruples left, Mike complied. He waited until the majority of the tenants were out of the building, and ignited the fire in the building’s boiler room. In the event of an investigation into the fire, a point of initial incineration in the boiler room would not be suspicious or out of place.
He didn’t know that the eighteen people who were burned to death would be trapped on the fourth floor. He didn’t know that the cheap construction of the building would cause the collapse of the eight floors above, sealing the fate of the eighteen people who, in fleeing, would be trapped by a locked fire door, and unable to escape the collapsing upper eight floors. It was Albright’s cross to bear.
Over the years, Albright had hardened to the tasks that he was employed to do. He had never married, didn’t have kids, or friends, and when his mother finally passed away of natural causes, Mike Albright was alone in the world. It was the price he had to pay for being Robert Carter’s dirty job man. With everything that he had done, Mike was sure that there was a special place in Hell reserved especially for him.
Now, lying in his bed, Mike closed his eyes and prayed for a dreamless sleep, but knew, as usual, that his night would be filled with the sights and sounds of that very first job.
. . . To be continued . . .