“The burn is good. The burn is good,” Billy muttered over and over. He was crouched in some bushes, staring at a house, a gas can on the ground beside him. Unable to be still, he rocked back and forth, hands rubbing over his knees. Naturally small and wiry, he was skinny to the point of emaciation. His eyes appeared large in the tightly drawn flesh of his head, causing some of his tweaker buddies to call him Gollum.
The back porch light came on and the door opened, a small dog running out over the deck to the lawn. “Hurry up, Cupcake,” the woman standing in the doorway called to the dog. “We want to make it back before the commercials are over.”
Billy crouched as low as he could, trying to push into the dirt. Prayed the yappy little mutt would piss off the deck and run back inside. He fought the urge to move, to scratch, to rock. The hunger was strong, his body crying out for more. Just go back inside, lady, let him pull off this job and he’d have enough to feed his need for quite a long time. The dog paused, head cocked as it eyed the bushes where Billy was hidden. He stared at the dog, trying to will it not to smell him. “Come back, Cupcake.”
The dog took a few steps off the deck, staring right through the bushes. “Cupcake, I said come back here. Don’t be chasing after smelly old things in the dark.” She stomped across the deck and scooped up the dog, gaze sweeping along the hedge and bushes. “There’s nothing there, sweetie.” Turning she went back inside, door shutting behind her and the light above it turning off.
Billy let out a deep breath he hadn’t even known he was holding. Picked up the gas can and crept further along the back of the properties. He needed the house two more down. Didn’t know why but someone was offering him good money to light the place up. How could he pass that up? Half the time people were yelling at him to not burn things. No more fucking dogs, he thought. The gas sloshed around in the can, his hand shaking as he moved as quietly as he could along the fence rows. Maybe he’d be able to get some supply on credit, enough to take the edge off.
Ah, this is the house, the one with the split rail fence. He sat the gas can on the other side and slithered through the rails. There were no lights on outside, even the inside of the house was dark. Grabbing the can, Billy ran as quickly as he could to the back of the house. There was only a small deck, almost at ground level. Billy opened the can, pouring out gas on it then throwing it against the wall of the house.
“The burn is good, the burn is good,” he chanted, flicking open a stainless steel lighter. He took a few steps back, the smell of gasoline strong in the clear night air. He flicks the lighter, the small flame dancing above it. He stares down at it, captivated as always by the fire. “The burn is good.” Billy holds his hand over the lighter, eyes gleaming as he lets it heat up his skin. He didn’t hear the footsteps behind him or the blackjack that crashed into his head.
Lights from the fire trucks and police cruisers spun in circles, illuminating the neighbourhood. Some of the residents stood on their porches or on the sidewalk, still in pajama’s and wrapped in robes. Detective John Kincaid stepped out of his car, approached the police tape. “Brockton, what do we got,” he asked the patrol sergeant currently in charge of the scene.
“Hey, Kincaid. Well, as you can see, one burned down house. And two fucking bodies.”
“Any chance of an ID yet?
“The one in the house was still in bed. Assuming it’s the homeowner, it’s Caleb Tyler. No idea about the crispy critter in the back. First look, he tried torching the house and got caught in it.”
“Tyler? The fucking judge?”
“Yep. Hanging Judge Tyler. Stiffest sentences in the city.”
“Great,” Kincaid said. “Press will be all over this one. Wait, he’s been presiding over that big mob case, right?”
Kincaid sighed, eyeing the burnt shell of a house. “Fuck.”