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by Paul D. Brazill

Jack walked across the pub carpark and found Sidney Round’s BMW. His bony hands shook as he took a petrol canister from his backpack. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. Tried to control his breathing. He was dripping with sweat. He emptied the canister’s contents over the car and then took out another petrol can.

He took a Zippo lighter and a rag from his pocket and soaked the rag in petrol. He stuffed it in the petrol canister and lit it before throwing it at the car’s windscreen. The car alarm went off and Jack giggled. He licked his lips. The fear and excitement. The hate and the shame. They were a lethal cocktail. The car caught fire and Jack could feel the flames calling to him. Drawing him towards them. He dragged himself away and walked into the darkness.

***

The twitch grew more pronounced the more agitated Dolly Round became. The more she talked about her step-mother. It was just below her left eye and Jack thought it looked comical. He laughed.

“Do you think I’m funny?” said Dolly.

She looked angry. Her neck was red. She stirred her green tea faster.

“Naw, not at all,” said Jack. “I was just thinking of something funny. Something daft. I do that sometimes. My mind wanders.”

He peeled the label from his bottle of beer.

“I get the same way,” said Dolly. “My mum used to call me Dolly Daydreams. My real mum, that is.”

She smiled but looked sad. Jack patted her hand. He was sweating. The pub was staring to fill up with office drones and he was getting claustrophobic.

“Did you bring the key?” he said.

“Of course,” she said.

She took an envelope from her handbag and gave it to Jack.

“Right then,” he said. He looked at his digital watch. “I’ll be off.”

He kissed her on the cheek and left.

Dolly waited a few minutes, picked up her yoga mat and followed him out of the pub.

***

The house was ablaze and Jack wondered if he really could hear Dolly’s step-mother’s screams or if it was just his imagination. Sidney and Barbara Round were supposed to be out at some swanky party but mistakes could be made. He shivered. Maybe that would be a better result. The idea excited him.

He looked at his watch. Dolly would be finishing her yoga class soon. The plan was that he would burn down the house and Dolly would get the insurance, since her late mother had signed everything over to her. But the burning mansion was just too beautiful a sight to tear himself away from. The flames danced, teased. Sirens screamed in the distance, getting closer, but Jack was mesmerised. Fixed to the spot. He surrendered. And then he felt released. As he walked into the burning house, Jack felt consumed by the fire. Devoured by the flames. He felt alive.


Paul D. Brazill’s books include A Case of NoirGuns of Brixton, Too Many CrooksThe Last Laugh, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.

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