Celine Caldron exited Silver’s gym. She paused to stare at the full moon riding large and luminous in an indigo sky, the dread of another lonely night and an empty house weighting her stomach. Her focus shifted to the old State Bank across the street.
The massive front columns and floor to ceiling windows reflected eerily under the street lamp. A shiver raced up her spine. She dug inside her gym bag, retrieved the electronic key pod and hit the button. The locks clicked, and she hurriedly opened the door to her silver Prelude, her attention skittering back to the building.
“What the hell?” she muttered, and narrowed her eyes.
A man materialized from the shadows near a side entrance to the bank. On instinct, and certain he was up to no good, she crouched behind her car. Seconds later, a gas can glinted in the stranger’s hand. Gas fumes wafted through the air, and Celine’s heart lurched. She scrambled for her cell phone.
Before she could dial 911, the man moved a few feet away. He stooped next to a dark heaped in the grass, raised what looked to be an arm and let it drop.
Petrified, and her eyes glued on the scene, she bit back a scream as the man doused the body with fuel and flicked a lighter. Flames leap skyward, shadows danced. Trance-like, the man looked on for long moments then tromped back toward building. Sparks flickered again, and in an explosion of orange, the seasoned framework of the ancient side door ignited. Black smoked spiraled upward, the acrid stench of burning flesh filling her lungs.
Celine gagged, bile rising in her throat. She stumbling to her feet. The man turned, his indiscernible eyes meeting hers. The roar in her head intensified. Knees buckling, the ground rose to meet her.
Ryan Landry arrived on scene. Blue lights flashed, and sirens wailed around him. He pulled to the curb and stepped out of his vehicle. An inferno raged in old town Decatur. “Son of a…”
The roof of the historical State Bank caved inward. Black smoke, thick and heavy, obscured the moon. He raked a hand through his hair, the intense heat baking his face. Firemen battled the blaze, giving it all they had. They’d soon have the fire under control, unless the wind shifted. If it did, the whole town would be ablaze.Scanning the area, he spotted the fire chief manning one of the many hoses. Landry shook his head. A fire this large would take a while to burn out. Tomorrow would be the earliest he could attempt to sift through the rubble. But he’d bet money it was arson.
"Bout time you got here," Jenkins yelled, handing his hose off to one of the crew. He walked over to Ryan, pulled off his helmet and wiped sweat from his eyes. “This one’s a doozie. Damn shame too. There won’t be much left of the old landmark once the fire’s been extinguished.”
Disgusted, Josh stared at Jenkins. “The bank’s been here since the civil war. Who’d have anything to gain by burning it to the ground?”
The captain shrugged. “Don’t rightly know, but you can bet it’s a set fire. That’s why I called you.”
Ryan shoved his hands into his pockets. “Anyone from the Arson Investigation Unit arrive yet?”
“Just you.” Jenkins laughed. “Sorry to drag you out so late. But, you being top dog and all, I figured you’d get here long before anyone else did. Looks like I was right.”
“Yeah. “Ryan pressed a thumb and forefinger against his tired eyes. “I’ll take a look around, let you get back to work.”
“Need anything, yell.” The captain shoved his fire helmet firmly into place, and tightening the strap beneath his chin, strode back into Hades.
Preoccupied, Ryan ambled across the street. It’d be hours before he could be of any use. Pausing in front of Silver’s gym, he glanced at his watch. 11:44 pm. Almost the witching hour. Why did a full moon and midnight send the wacko’s into overdrive?
He breathed deep; acrid smoke filling his nostrils. A lone silver Honda glistened under the street light in the gym’s parking lot. A soft moan prickled the hair on the back of his neck. He cocked his head, listened intently in an attempt to pinpoint the sound. It came again, unmistakably human. Adrenaline surged through his system. He raced around the car to find a woman unconscious on the pavement next to the driver’s door. Dropping to his knees, he gently lifted her head, resting it on his thigh.
Her lids fluttered open. “Where am I? What happened?”
For brief seconds, Ryan lost himself in the whiskey colored depths of her eyes. He brushed wispy, dark strands of hair from her face, took note of the dried blood at the edge of her hairline.
To be continued...