“Your turn Bill.”
Bill Masen turned away from the group he was chatting with and grimaced as he faced his wife and son. He thanked God every day for Joey, but as his six month old son bounced innocently on Carmen’s arms as she held him looking around he seemed totally oblivious as to the slight sagging in his nappy.
“The joys of parenting.” He said with a sad smile, reaching out to take his son from his wife. Joey gave a small giggle as he wriggled, settling down into his fathers arms.
“You love it really.” Carmen smirked slightly, leaning forwards and giving him a small kiss on his left cheek. They had been together for eight years, married for five and yet it still sent a feeling of warmth throughout his body every time that she did that.
“What’s he still doing up at this time anyway?” Masen asked. It was eleven thirty, a long time after they’d tuck the baby in for the night. Another hour and he’d usually wake them for feeding time.
Carmen smiled and motioned over to where Andy Burke and his wife Tracy were chatting with a friend of Masen’s from college. “Tracy’s getting all maternal again.”
“What, three kids aren’t enough?” Masen laughed.
“It’s a woman thing. Anyway, it’ll be nice for him to see the midnight fireworks. Now stop stalling!”
Masen had been prepared for this. He looked past Carmen through the door to his kitchen, to where his partner in crime Pete Sanders was standing, immaculate as usual in one of his overpriced Ralph Lauren polo shirts. Sanders nodded with a smirk and bounded over. “I, uh, need Bill on police business for a moment Carmen. Think we can maybe forget about the rota for a moment?”
The look on Carmen’s face was deadlier then either men’s service pistols but she was light hearted about it. “Pete. You really can be an asshole sometimes.” Then she grinned. “Fine but don’t you dare play that card again tonight!” She took the squirming baby off her husband and headed for the stairs, turning her head back once with a smile, that slight flick of her hair that had caught Masen’s attention all those years ago still there. “And before you try it Pete, don’t even think about lighting up in the house!” She said with a laugh.
Sanders paused, his hand guiltily resting on the packet of Marlboros halfway pulled out of his jeans pocket. “Outside?” He gestured to Masen.
The two men stepped outside onto the patio in his back garden. Masen had filled in half their small piece of land for a freshly filled pool, the water almost glowing a light blue from the lights, shimmering ever so lightly. Masen looked around the patio. The Burkes had stepped outside and were taking a walk around the pool. Detectives Ian Brooks and Aaron Tollard were at the other end of the garden, working the barbecue. Scott Hardy, ever the businessman was on his bulky new cell phone. A leading marketing consultant in LA County, he’d foolishly agreed to help consult the mayor’s staff on the celebrations this year. He’d been on the phone all night, his date wasn’t impressed. Still, what did she have to complain about, there were almost fifty people in the house she could meet.
“Thanks Pete.” Masen smiled, slapping his partner lightly on the back. “Couldn’t face a nappy right now.”
“No problem. Cigarette?”
“Not right now, Carmen still thinks I’m cold turkey.”
Sanders smiled, lighting one himself. Masen knew what was on his mind. “It’s been three months Pete. I’m doing a lot better.”
“I know man. It’s good to have you back; I don’t understand why IAD were so worked up. It was open and shut.”
Masen smiled slightly to himself at Sanders and how naïve his was being. He was ten years older then Masen and didn’t need the job quite frankly. His father had been a rich media executive in Boston of all places and had left about ten million to his Detective son about ten years ago – he’d packed up and moved to LA, getting a transfer to the department. He sometimes forgot how it felt to do the hardest thing in his job. “Pete, I killed a man, one of the most high profile killers this city’s seen. It was my first and hopefully last kill, and there were no witnesses. They had to do a thorough job and my nerves needed the time off. I’m not going to pretend I don’t think about it anymore but I feel happier in myself now. It’s good to be back at work.”
Sanders nodded, silent and thoughtful. Masen would never tell his friend but he was touched by how much he cared.
He looked up at the window to Joey’s room. He saw Carmen in the window, at the changing table, looking out and smiling down at Masen, giving Sanders a mock scold at the cigarette in his hands. She laughed, turning her head back to Bill with an ever so slight flick of her hair.
And that was the last he ever saw of her. There was an explosion of light that engulfed the top floor of his house, a thundering sound and a force that pushed Masen and his partner back into the swimming pool.
Masen was stunned, he had no idea what was going on at first. Other people had been blown into the pool; some were even jumping in for some reason. He saw the back of Detective Paul Nelson floating to the bottom and reached down, concerned for his friend.
Nelson turned limply with his touch. His face had all but been blown off.
Masen tried to scream, but no sound came out. The water started to rush down his throat, through his nostrils and there was a burning sensation in his lungs, before he knew it he was panicking, thrashing, drowning.
Then he felt arms on his jacket, pulling him up to the surface, towards the shallow end of the pool and out onto the patio. Breathless, he looked up, panting into the faces of Andy Burke and Pete Sanders and relief started to flow through him as the water had been mere seconds before. Tracy Burke was behind her husband, a shell-shocked look on her face. He didn’t understand that.
“Wha – What the hell – Andy, what’s-”
Burkes face was grim. “Bill, just stay lying down, helps on its way.” The tone of his voice was low.
Then panic started to give way to confusion and then fear as he noticed the panicked people running past him, the orange glow behind where he was lying. He started to get up, Sanders trying to stop him. “Bill, you need-”
He forced Sanders off him and stood up, turning on the spot and almost tripping up due to his panicked state. Then he felt a horrible dead weight in his chest as he saw his house.
The top floor window where his wife had been standing less than a minute before was empty, a mass of flames licking the paintwork both inside and outside the house. It didn’t quite register until he noticed the smell. Burning human flesh.
“Carmen?” He asked quietly, almost to himself. Then he started to bound towards the house more urgently, fear taking over. “Carmen! Joey!” This couldn’t be happening; everything had been just fine minutes before. He didn’t understand. It wasn’t fair!
Burke and Sanders caught up with him before he got close enough to do any physical damage to himself but the emotional damage was done. He fell to his knees, his partner supporting him as he started to sob uncontrollably. Everything he had, everyone he loved, burnt away in the blink of an eye. “No, no! ****! Carmen! Joey! Come on out, come out to daddy. Carmen!” he tried to stand but his friends were there for him and ready this time, they kept him restrained.
“We’ve got to move Andy, this whole place could go up!” Hardy was there now, breathless and worried.
“You’re date get out?” Masen heard Sanders ask and saw his best friend nod back. Hardy then saw the expression on Masen’s face and his eyes went down.
“Oh ****.” Was all that he could manage. “Bill,”
“Come on, there’s no time! Lets go!” Burke interrupted harshly, taking hold of Masen as the three men started to half drag half carry the sobbing detective away from the fire.
You need to be logged in to comment