The next three buildings went much the same; apparently the gangs of Chicago were on a rampage. After the Sixth Street Hotel, Value Lock and Storage, AmpLift Incorporated, and The Edge Realty had all burned to the ground, I only had one target left. It happened to be the one Trystix wanted most; Blanco Chemical and Adhesive. It also happened to be enormous. Blanco C&A was also owned by outside investors from Boston. Thus it became a problem selling insurance to them as they were out of the city and all contact was done via phone calls or email.
As I predicted, Trystix had a way around the small issue of location. He decided he would fan the flames of gang violence and put a reward out to ‘obtain emotional closure’ for his new benefactors around the area if someone were to bring the culprits to justice. This put more and more police in the area, as well as the everyday window-watchers and their Polaroid cameras. At first thought, I was annoyed. He just seemed to be determined to make my job harder. He said that the inactivity would lull everyone in to thinking the violence was over. He assured me it would work out to benefit me in the end. I rolled my eyes and called him an amateur.
But, as time went on, I realized he was right. Like I predicted, everyone wanted to find the phantom insurance agent. The agent was somehow the bridge to Trystix, and people wanted his blood. Lucky me. Fortunately, he was dead and…well, burnt. This gave me the opportunity to become someone new. Trystix simply smiled when I told him I was ready for that makeover. I hated every moment in the stylist’s chair, but cutting off five inches of hair, dying it blonde, and a trip to a tanning bed really seemed to transform me. The waxing was unpleasant. Liv said it made me look ‘more professional.’ I told her to gag me with a fork.
My new look called for a new profession; something snappy. I became Noah Smith to everyone but Olivia and Trystix. Noah Smith was a small-time real estate lawyer. I hated pretending that I cared about all the ‘business’ Trystix drummed up for me. I spent most of the time drawing pictures on the small notebook meant for taking, well, notes. I said ‘uh-huh…’ and ‘interesting’ more times in ten minutes than I took breaths. Trystix told me I had to look legitimate, and to try and be nice. I would listen to various disputes over land, and then refer them to various people in Trystix’s company to handle the ‘big problems.’ I conveniently forgot to mention that the ‘big problem’ people worked for Trystix. Oops.
The means to an end…Kind of. I would have been happy to drop a nuke on the world after that first month or two. I was getting bored, which is not a good thing for the civilized population. I became short-tempered and impatient. I caught Trystix in an elevator after a particularly bad meeting with the former owners of the Sixth Street Hotel. They were furious that Trystix had ended up owning their property because of some punk in a suit selling them up the river. They wanted to know what they could do to get their property back, or if I‘d heard if they caught the snake in a pink tie. I told them I’d ‘have to consult the literature’ and that I’d get back to them. By the end of that meeting, I had plenty of pent-up rage for Trystix and his new tactics.
“So, how was your meeting with Sixth Street?” he asked.
“How do you think it was? The same as the rest except they weren’t even smart enough to know who was right in front of them!”
“Haha I bet that was fun! You can be anyone, Jared! Anyone!”
“Right now I just want to be out of this damn suit!”
“Ah, come on now! You look dashing!”
“I look ridiculous. I look like I should be on American Idol.”
“We both know you can’t sing, J. That would be ridiculous.”
“Thanks for your support. I’m sick of this Trystix! When can I finish this?”
“Finish what? We’ve just started, my boy.”
“What do you mean?”
“The timing has to be perfect. Do they think you are competent enough to fix this for them?”
“Hardly. They don’t think at all. They whine a lot though.”
“Jared, you have to make them think you truly care about them. Where did you leave it?”
“I told them that I had to consult the literature.” Trystix just laughed at that.
“You were paying attention to my lessons then!” He got nothing more than an eyebrow raise from me on that one.
“Jared, please. Hold on just a little longer. You’ve worked so hard for this. Don’t spoil it for yourself. This will be your Mona Lisa. The juice will be worth the squeeze. Give it time.”
The elevator came to a stop on the accounting floor. Trystix gave me a shoulder squeeze and exited. Needless to say, I was not impressed, amused, or in any mood to be patient. A friend from my past, the one who didn’t care for authority, paid my mind a visit. The devil on my shoulder asked for permission. I granted it. This night, the city would sleep in flames.
I made my way through the rest of my day, trying to contain my own excitement. Trystix didn’t understand the need he was stifling in me. My addiction, my drug, my demon, desperately needed to come out and play. Chaos is why I lived; destruction was the very essence of my soul. I was tired of playing by someone else’s rules. It was time to bathe in the ashes of Trystix’s rules.
As soon as I finished my day at the office, I decided to walk past the building on my way home to Tryst Tower. Call it reconnaissance. I surveyed every streetlight, every intersection, every detail. This was not my first rodeo. The people on the streets surrounding Blanco all seemed friendly, smiling at me often. As I mentally told them what I thought of them, I returned the smiles. As I approached the main entrance of Blanco, I noticed something peculiar. There was a bank foreclosure notice on the door. A few windows were broken a floor or two up, which was also different from the other bonfires. This was going to be easy. My hands began to shake.
As soon as I returned home, I instantly went to my closet for something comfortably black to change in to. The door was slightly askew due to something caught between the door and the framework. I opened my closet and an envelope dropped down. I opened it and read:
I know things are hard for you right now, but we are getting close…Very close. Hopefully this will hope tide you over.
Wasn’t that cute…Trystix was worried about me. How little he truly knew about me. I opened the closet a bit more and saw a beautiful leather bomber jacket with white trim. It definitely looked expensive. I took it down, tried it on, and looked in the mirror. This was definitely better than a pink tie…I grabbed a black t-shirt and jeans and opened the secret door in the back of my closet.
I reached in to gather the tools of my trade, my real profession, and couldn’t stop a smile on my face. I reached in and grabbed my lighter with the skull and crossbones, some black electrical tape, wire cutters, a bottle or two just in case, and a flask filled with lighter fluid. I grabbed a screwdriver just in case, and a flashlight for obvious reasons. I moved some things aside and grabbed a small black laptop bag, one that would go unnoticed in the business section. Except mine wouldn’t be holding any computers. I threw my tools inside and zipped it shut.
Trystix had meetings most nights, and, being a Monday, he wouldn’t be done until late. Perhaps that was where he belonged. That man could spend eternity in his office for all I cared. Liv wouldn’t be going anywhere. She was about ready to pop as it was; she was due in a week.
Waiting for nightfall is the most obnoxious part of arson. It just doesn’t seem as pretty in the day. I laid down on my bed to try and sleep the time away. Sleep was not in the mood to help me out. I turned on the television, hoping for something interesting. I stumbled on an interview with the police chief saying they believed the gang war had ended. They said the lack of action in recent memory encouraged that belief. Oh, the timing the police always have. I laughed a while due to the irony of what he had just said. Almost time. Time to play.
I lay there for an hour or two, until night fell on the Second City. This was going to be fun. I made my way through the parking lot to the street below. It was a little bit of a walk, so I took the opportunity to run most of it. Blanco C&A was waiting silently in the distance.
When I got there, I noticed a new broken window just to the left of the entrance. Interestingly enough it looked like someone had just thrown a rock through it. Either way, I didn’t really care. It was time for a barbecue, and I like mine extra crispy.
I made my way around the building to the back entrance. It had a rather large lock on it. That was fine with me. I found a fire escape on the building across the alley that served my purpose well enough. I climbed high enough to where I could lean over and break out a new window. I climbed in, careful to avoid any sharp edges. Police didn’t need my DNA popping up. I turned on my flashlight and started looking for my objective; a circuit breaker. It couldn’t be just a single floor breaker; it had to be one that provided power to most of the building. A floor or two above my entrance, I found one. As I poured some lighter fluid on the area surrounding, I decided to try something new this time. I poured some lighter fluid into a bottle, grabbed a rag for a fuse, stepped back a few steps, lit the rag, and threw the bottled inferno on to the breaker. The fluid ignited on the wires, causing the biggest spark I’d ever seen as it splashed onto the walls and fluid on the floor. The room erupted into flames. This was going to be beautiful; I was right in the middle of the building, so it would spread in all directions. There was still quite a bit of chemical residue around, so I assumed it wouldn’t be long until my little barbecue kicked off in a big way. I took the same stairs down that led me to this floor. I heard the initial whoosh flame catching flammable liquids. I laughed almost the whole way down to the main floor, passing the office section and turning away from the break area. Smoke was already seeping through the walls as wires and wooden pillars soaked in chemicals ignited. It was incredible! I was so intoxicated by the smell of smoke and the rush of the burn that I didn’t notice the wheelchair blocking the stairs on the second floor.
I hit the chair at the wrong angle, that was for sure. It launched me headfirst down the stairs. When I hit the landing, I felt something snap in my wrist. I swore as I pushed myself up to my feet. It was then that I noticed a bundle of rags in a corner. The bundle moved. There was someone living here! A man pushed a makeshift blanket aside and peered up at me with blue eyes. He had to be the ugliest, dirtiest man I’d ever seen. Despite the man’s lack of hygiene, I reached out and shook him.
“Hey! Wake up, man! Get up! You need to get out of here!”
“Mmm…go away…my…spot…” the man was largely unresponsive. He didn’t even seem to realize where he was.
“Listen, this place is burning down!”
“Go away…where’s my chair? Oh man you broke it!” he pointed to the chair I had just kicked as he yelled. Just then, the light fixtures overhead sparked and sputtered. Apparently my plan was working.
“Sorry…it was in the way…wait…come on man get up!”
“How do you want me to do that? I need my chair!” he pointed towards his feet. It was then that I noticed he had no legs from the knees down. I swore again silently. The building started creaking and I heard snapping from above. The offices were above this area, which meant there were desks up there…heavy ones.
I tried to pick the man up and move him, but he fought the whole way. He still didn’t seem to grasp that the building was about to burn to the ground. After a few hundred efforts, he started coughing up blood. I didn’t think I’d hurt him, but blood came out anyway. He still had enough gusto to keep pushing me away. Plaster and wood were splintering; the floors above were burning smashingly.
“Come on! Let me get you out of here!”
“Why….why won’t you leave…me…alone. I need a drink.” he mustered between coughs. It was then that I noticed all the bottles of alcohol, strewn about the man. He’d been drinking, and he’d been drinking a lot…Alcohol also burns well…this wasn’t going the way I planned.
“You’re going to die here!” he laughed and rolled over. He couldn’t care less about the flames, the heat, the smoke.
I, for one, was starting to choke on it. But I couldn’t let the man die. I looked around for a sheet or something I could tie him up in and lower him out a window. I couldn’t see anything in the area, so I turned to go down the stairs. I took no more than ten steps when I heard a terrible creaking and a loud snap. I whirled around and saw a desk fall through the ceiling directly on to my visitor. The concussion was deafening. Sparks flew everywhere, igniting the bottles of booze and consuming everything in the area. I scrambled back, looking for any signs of life from the man. All I could see was the flames and a pool of blood seeping across the floor.
I cried out in fury, punching the wall as I did. The wall broke immediately, and I was showered with sparks from the interior contents of the wall. The embers landed on my face and arms, burning my skin. I tried to brush them off as fast as I could, trying not to pay attention to the smell of burning flesh. I barely felt it then, but I knew I would later. I had to find a window, or another fire escape, or something. I found my destination fairly quickly; two stories down. I kicked out a window and climbed down on to a dumpster. I walked quickly around the building and back down a side street. The smoke in the area was horrific. The damage already done to the building in only a few minutes left me thunderstruck.
Sirens filled the air, adding to my sense of urgency. Policemen came from all directions toward Blanco. I kept walking, hands in my pockets, and tried to hide from any watchful eyes. Tears streamed down my face for the first time in nearly a decade. I looked back at my work, and watched the roof cave in. The flames were epic, but I found it hard to enjoy. I had just broken my own code. Though I tried to stop it, my actions had killed someone. This wasn’t about my addiction anymore; this was a definite problem. I had said I lost my soul, my emotions, long before this day. But now, I had blood on my hands. Not just blood; innocent blood. The familiar flame of passion for my work was gone. I was buried to my neck in the ashes of my sins.