Passion Ignited

By: Kayla Perrin

Chapter 1

 The somber rendition of “Going Home” filled the air, played as it always was, by the bagpipe and drum band. The rhythmic sound of dress boots hitting the asphalt in unison accompanied the sound of the music. Firefighters from all of Ocean City’s fire departments marched in formation, following the ladder truck that carried Dean Dunbar’s flag-draped coffin.

 Omar Ewing hated the sound of the pipe and drum band. Hated it with a passion. Besides the rare happy occasions—like Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations—this type of music always signified a funeral.

 Firefighters from well beyond Ocean City’s borders in California—even from outside the country—lined the streets for the procession. Police officers and paramedics were among the crowd, too. The case of the Ocean City arsonist had garnered international attention and the turnout to pay final respects to Lt. Dean Dunbar was impressive.

 It was exactly as Lt. Omar Ewing knew it would be. Firefighters and other first responders always supported each other when someone was killed in the line of duty. If it was feasible, they traveled as far as they could to attend the funeral of a fallen brother or sister.

 This was no exception.

 The procession approached the spot where two fire trucks were on opposite sides of the street, their ladders extended on an angle toward each other. Held up by the ladders was a giant American flag. This was a day to remember Dean’s sacrifice. People were proud of his sacrifice. But all Omar could think about was that it shouldn’t have happened.

 He and the rest of his brothers knew the risks of the job they did, of course. But that didn’t make it any easier.

 Cameras flashed, video cameras rolled. This story would be on every news station and in newspapers across the country.

 A huge number of civilians had come out. They stood on both sides of the road, many waving American flags. A good firefighter had fallen. Dean Dunbar had just been doing his job, protecting the citizens of Ocean City by battling a blaze that had threatened an entire neighborhood. The fire at a meat packaging company had been a monster. Several other firefighters had sustained injuries. All because some sicko was out there taking pleasure in wreaking havoc on the city.

 Omar glanced up at the sky. It was bright and sunny, without even a cloud. It seemed illogical that it was such a beautiful day when he and his colleagues were mourning the loss of a fallen brother.

 Dean Dunbar had been a firefighter for twenty-two years. His wife and two teenage boys were absolutely devastated. It was hard to see them so grief stricken. His wife in particular was barely able to contain herself. Her two sons were helping hold her upright.

 He should have been able to retire and enjoy his family after putting in so many years with the fire department.

 But nothing was guaranteed. Not in life, and especially when your job involved putting your life on the line.

 Omar knew the risks, but he would have it no other way. For him, saving a life was the ultimate reward. There was no better feeling than knowing he could save someone. It was the reason that he and his fellow firefighters did this dangerous job.

 The procession arrived at the church. Dunbar’s widow began to sob as the pallbearers took the coffin from the top of the fire truck. The bagpipe and drums continued to play.

 Omar scanned the faces in the crowd. Was the arsonist there? Was he watching with a sense of smug satisfaction?

 Omar could only look around briefly before continuing into the church, where he and all the mourners would pay their final respects to Lt. Dean Dunbar.

 * * *

 Hours later, many of the Ocean City firefighters were packed into a bar. They had come to raise a glass for Dean Dunbar, something they did after every funeral. Omar knew that Dean would want it no other way.

 Omar, Mason and a few more of the men from Fire Station Two were sitting at the far end of the bar. There was faint laughter as people remembered Dean fondly. But there was also a lot of sadness and anger.

 “We have to catch this guy,” Omar said.

 “Absolutely,” Mason agreed. “This has gone on long enough. Now we’ve lost one of our own.”

 Omar took a pull of his beer. “Somebody, somewhere knows who this guy is. A girlfriend, a sibling.”

 “We’ll get him,” Mason said. “We have to.”

 “I have a bad feeling that the arsonist is going to ramp up his game,” Omar commented. “I’ll bet he was in the crowd, watching the procession. Probably got a kick out of seeing the family grieving.”

 “There are a lot of deranged people out there,” Paul, another firefighter from their station, said. “Now that someone has died, hopefully everyone will be vigilant. Anything suspicious, people need to report. Whether that’s on the street, or at home. I don’t want to lose another firefighter. And definitely not a civilian.”

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