SHORT STORY: The Firemen

SHORT STORY: The Firemen

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The agency had Monica on the road, looking at footage. Back in the eighties, they worked out that serial killers often start as arsonists. Now they tape the crowds at big fires. It’s nothing fancy, just a quick sweep of the gawkers, hoping to find the next Son of Sam. These were the videos she was watching. She watched them in Seattle, Sacramento, California, fucking Utah, San Diego. An east coast guy — Diangello something — was working his way down the other side of the country, sitting in near identical motel rooms, watching tapes from the same archives. They were meeting up in Kansas to compare notes. She spent so much time with the tapes that the main characters from them came to her in her dreams. In the motel bed, they visited her each night.

She met Astro in a diner. He was a tall kid in a grey Astroboy shirt. He stood back and took photos of the fires. In the dream diner, she sat across from him and between them were the usual plates and cups, except there were also five green plastic balls on the table, like something out of a children’s play set. Astro took the lit cigarette from Monica’s mouth and pushed the ember into one of the balls, making it smoke and melt.

She saw the big man as well, the one the Sacramento guys called The Juggernaut. They had him on an assault charge but had to let him out. He always stood there at the fires and ate candy. In her dreams he appeared quickly. She’d be back in her hometown, by the old pool, and he’d suddenly be there behind the chain-link fence, staring at her like an omen.

Then there was Blake from Jawbreaker, or what looked like him anyway. Germanic, wore a jacket, always composed, hair gelled in place, eyes squinting at the fire like it was some big disaster. But he was at all of them. He had a police scanner, apparently. He travelled. He loved the fires. He called her from a pay phone in her dreams. ‘I wanted to call you,’ he said down the line. ‘I wanted to tell you I’m a fan.’

She had some training with all this, some skill in it. She could look at her hands and take control of the dream story. Each night, she inched closer to these men. She had the flyers she made in another dream. She handed them out and over a few nights she made sure the main three suspects all got one. It was a call to arms, an invitation. They did not resist. In a dreamed-up pool house in Vegas, they all came together. They all stood around the steaming water, watching her say, ‘Okay fellas, let’s not clown around. Which one of you killed Ryan Peters and Marsha Gowd?’


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