I watch the building burn to the ground. The fire department responded in sufficient force and early enough to save the building, yet somehow all of their efforts to put the fire out were ineffective. I heard the fire inspector talking to the engine company chief about accelerants, the unnatural heat of this fire, a probable arson case.
And I remained quietly in the crowd, invisible in plain sight. Until it became clear the battle was lost on this particular night. And I walked away with amidst a crowd of other departing spectators, my natural camouflage.
The fire inspector was correct about one thing—this fire had been unnaturally persistent and too hot to extinguish. But he’d never find any accelerant. It’s my business making sure he doesn’t.
You might call me an insurance adjuster. But working on the opposite side of the equation from the fire department and the insurance companies. I am paid to be certain a building fire is successful, the buildings perish in the flames. You would probably call me an arsonist, but my methods are more foolproof and also much harder to detect.
Something was left behind in this fire, something precious for which I would have to return. But only when the coast was clear.
The next afternoon, after the Inspector’s forensic crew had come and gone without discovering any trace evidence or accelerants, I lurked around the corner from the site.
My accelerant can actively avoid detection, you see. He’s been well trained to burrow and hide in the ashes and debris left behind by any fire. Some minutes later, I stooped and picked up my partner as he scuttled from the alley’s shadow. Bert the Salamander warmed my palm for a moment before I slipped him into my overcoat pocket and whistled as I ambled away.
Remember this prompt, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?