Good morning. Happy Fourth of July to all of those celebrating today. Welcome to this week’s Midweek Tease, made possible by Angelica Dawson. As I prepare to take a couple of weeks off, I leave you with the rest of the opening scene from Fire Angel, Book Two of the Vengeance Is Mine Series.
All of the books in the series are now available from all Amazon stores.
Cracking open a third bottle of beer, he sipped it, alternating with drags on the cigarette, letting the smoke fill his lungs and the nicotine and alcohol add to the calming effects of the drug he’d taken. His two-pack a day habit was becoming problematic, especially with all the laws against smoking in public places. Hell, soon a man would have nowhere to smoke … not even in his own damn house. The worst taste in the universe—even worse than his mother’s cooking—had to be that nicotine gum he was forced to chew at work to keep his cravings in check.
As the fire burned, the tension within him slowly seeped away. Exhausted, he finished his beer and placed the empty in the back seat with the other two. Taking one last look at what was left of the cabin, he noted the fire beginning to shrink in on itself now that there was nothing new to consume. It would burn a while longer, but he was sated. Drops of rain splattered on the hood of the van. Right on time.
“Soon, darling, soon,” he spoke to the dying flames. “I’ll let you out to play again.”
Putting on his rubber gloves once more, he pulled the cellphone he’d used to set up the buy out of his jacket pocket along with Bandit’s, tossed them on the floor of the jerk’s van, then got in and started the engine. The smoke hung like fog in the darkness. It clung to his hair and to his clothes. He would dump the vehicle, go home, shave, shower, and do a load of laundry. He had to be at work early tomorrow.
* * *
Jake McKenzie dropped onto the sofa. Having the opportunity to prove to himself and others that he was as good as he’d ever been might be rewarding, but it was exhausting, too. After three weeks in a hotel, he was glad to be home, even if home was an apartment attached to an inn.
The flight from Regina to Toronto had been a long one, but the roughest part had been the commuter plane from Toronto to North Bay. The alternative, a flight to Ottawa, wasn’t practical since his sister-in-law would insist on picking him up. Making her drive the more than six hours to the city and back again was a bad idea, especially at this time of the year when the deer and moose were more active. Thank goodness his niece was spending the night at her friend’s house. He couldn’t deal with an exuberant five-year-old right now. The phone rang disturbing the silence of the room.
“Jake,” Minette called from the kitchen. “It’s for you.”
Picking up the receiver on the end table, he frowned. He’d barely been home an hour. Who could possibly be calling on a Thursday night at this time? It was almost nine.
“Hello?” he asked, leaning back on the sofa and propping his leg on the ottoman.
“Jake, it’s Ev Lewis. Sorry to intrude so soon after your arrival. How was Regina?”
Everett Lewis was Paradise’s Chief of Police. He’d been after him for months now to consider doing some freelance profiling for them.
“It was good. With my help, the RCMP arrested a man and closed three files. There are still far too many First Nation’s women missing, and that barely touched the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a start. They offered me a job. I turned them down. Maybe after David gets home and can take care of his family, I’ll consider it, but for now, I’m staying put.”
“That’s good. Listen, I know we’ve been down this road before, and you keep telling me it’s not something you can handle right now, but I really need your help. How much do you know about pyromania and arson?”
He frowned. “As much as any profiler, maybe a little more since arson often goes hand in hand with terrorist attacks.” He’d seen a few examples of that in Afghanistan.
“I think we’ve got one on our hands here, and he’s escalating. There’ve been six fires in a little over a year. The first three could just be coincidence, but my gut says the last three aren’t. Of those, the first one took place June third and the last one between August twenty-third and September fifth. Jake, I’ve tried to keep the wraps on this but there was a body found at that one.”
Damn. That could mean anything from an accidental death to premeditated murder.
“How did you keep Lynette from spreading that little tidbit?” he asked. The feisty redheaded dynamo who ruled the detachment with an iron fist and boxes of homemade cookies kept everyone on their toes, especially the chief. If there was something you wanted to know, all you had to do was ask Lynette. The only thing she couldn’t do was keep a secret, so if you wanted everyone to know something, you told her, and she would take care of the rest. She would’ve made one hell of a town crier.
“She was in Florida visiting her parents when it happened, and I’ve kept most of the information quiet, but others are privy to the news now. Did you see Willard’s article in yesterday’s In the Know?”
Ralph Willard was a self-proclaimed editor whose newspaper was devoted to what he claimed was exposing the truth.
“No. I don’t usually read that crap.” Min probably had one somewhere. Willard made sure to send a few copies to the inn whenever he published a new edition. “Save me the trouble. What’s he got to say this time?”
“He claims these fires are the work of the devil. Not blaming witches and warlocks exactly, and he’s careful not to name names, but he might as well. Apparently, the night of the fire, August thirty-first according to him, there was a rare celestial event—a blue moon. When I asked him where he got his info, he claimed it was an anonymous source, and went on and on about freedom of the press. Jake, the coroner couldn’t be that specific about the date, how could he?”
“Relax, Ev. You don’t know he’s right, do you?” Jake asked, trying to calm the man whose blood pressure had to be way up there. “What difference does knowing the exact date make? It doesn’t change the facts any. There was a fire and a man is dead.”
“I suppose, but you know Willard. Every damn thing he prints has a kernel of truth in it. Other than the son of a bitch who set the fire, who could be his source?”
“I don’t know,” Jake admitted, puzzled by the idea. “Maybe some Good Samaritan saw the fire, but doesn’t want to get personally involved. Think about it. Why would the arsonist want everyone to know the exact date? What’s the point?”
“To prove how dangerous he is? To create fear? Panic? You choose. I checked the calendar. If we accept he’s right and that fire occurred on the thirty-first, then two of the previous ones were on the night of the full moon, too,” Ev continued. “If you have an out-of-the-way place, you could be the next target. I sure as hell don’t believe witches and warlocks are involved, but if the moon means something in all this, then we’ve got just over a week to stop him. He’s got everyone in the department on tenterhooks. I don’t want to find another corpse next weekend when the moon shines bright. I need to know who I’m looking for, and I need to know yesterday.”
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