Burning Desire

By: Kayla Perrin

Chapter 1

 The flames raged out of control, consuming Jodi’s Steakhouse, a popular new restaurant in Ocean City’s downtown core. The sparks flickered in the night, illuminating the dark sky in a dance that was both magical and menacing.

 Mason Foley, captain at Station Two of the Ocean City Fire Department, led the charge, doing what he did best—battling the fire. In many ways, he was like a gladiator stepping into a coliseum, knowing that with each battle it was kill or be killed.

 And he would do everything in his power to emerge the victor.

 At least there was no one inside the building, something that had been determined from the initial 911 call. And when Mason and his team had first gone into the building, they had used their thermal cameras to determine that indeed, there were no bodies inside. Given that it was nearly four in the morning, it hadn’t been likely that they would find anyone in the restaurant, but you could never be too sure.

 But despite the early hour, there was chaos around him on the downtown streets. People who were up at this time had converged on the scene to watch the firefighters battle the blaze. Others observed from the windows of the condominium across the street.

 While some captains did more overseeing and doling out of responsibilities at a fire scene, Mason believed in getting his hands dirty. After giving his team directions, he and Omar Duncan, a friend as well as a colleague, held a hose on the dying flames licking the inside of the building. Firefighters from the ladder truck had vented the roof, and then proceeded to attack the fire with hoses from the aerial ladder.

 An hour and a half later, the fire was out. The battle was won. And most importantly, the men and women of Station Two had kept the fire from spreading to the neighboring restaurants.

 Mason’s body was filled with adrenaline, and though he should be tired, he didn’t feel any exhaustion. He pulled his oxygen mask from his face as he exited the building. He walked to the middle of the street and surveyed the damage. Smoke still billowed into the sky, and the once upscale restaurant was now a burned-out shell.

 Tyler, one of his best friends and the engineer in charge of the pump truck, approached him and gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Good job, man.”

 “You, too.”

 Tyler followed Mason’s line of sight to the burned structure, then faced him again. “I know that look. What are you thinking?”

 “Second restaurant fire in a week? Same hour of night? I’m wondering if we’ve got a serial arsonist on our hands.”

 “The same thought crossed my mind,” Tyler said.

 Mason walked back toward the building, passing firefighters who were drinking water and opening their heavy jackets to cool down. He headed straight for the restaurant’s back door to see if his hunch was right. Amid the debris he found what he had at the other scene, five days earlier. Signs that the back door had been pried open, as well as a discarded gasoline can in the back alley.

 “Great,” he uttered, exhaling in aggravation. “Definitely arson.”

 “You think the M.O.’s the same as the last restaurant?”

 Mason turned around to find Tyler standing a few feet behind him. “Gas can in the alley.” He pointed. “From the scraping and indentation on the door, you can tell that it’s been pried open, probably with a crow bar.”

 “Exactly like the first time,” Tyler commented wryly. “What happened—this guy get food poisoning or something and now he’s taking it out on the city?”

 The police were already trying to find the person behind the first arson, with no luck thus far. Hopefully, he had made a mistake with this one and left some sort of clue behind. If he had burned himself, he would likely end up at one of the area hospitals or even one outside the city limits.

 “We need to track this guy down before he strikes again,” Mason said.

 “Or her,” Tyler corrected.

 “Or her,” Mason agreed. Two years ago, a female arsonist had started three fires before getting caught and prosecuted. So while uncommon, it couldn’t be ruled out.

 “If this second fire is any indication, we’re going to be real busy until this person is caught.” Tyler made a face. “You know as well as I do, arsonists become braver with each fire. It’s like they get a high and can’t stop.”

 “Tell me about it,” Mason said.

 The owners of the restaurant that had been burned down earlier that week claimed that they had gotten threatening letters before the fire. Three letters over a span of the four weeks since they had opened that had warned them to close down and leave. The owners hadn’t heeded the warnings, not after having invested their life’s savings into the business. Then the restaurant had been burned to the ground, leaving the owners devastated.

Also By Kayla Perrin

Last Updated

Hot Read


Top Books