Fire is that substance that clears and purifies, giving room to new beginnings; it scorches and alters, refreshing all things ; it changes and brings life and spirit; it heats up and excites, it’s brilliant and bright …
So why aren’t you on fire?…
* * *
Sometimes in business, you have to be mean. Bullish. Savage. Ruthless, if you must. A small leak can sink a great ship. The crippled will be better off when you are rich and powerful; rich enough to pay their hospital bills, and powerful enough to thwart the law. So cripple them if you must.
This was the sub-theme crowning Mr Coolidge’s philosophy of creating a business empire. He had bought acres of property across the country, and Paterson Avenue was soon to be another.
The only problem was this family called the Madisons. Not that they were formidable or unique. No. He’d dealt with royals and he’d dealt with politicians. Mr Madison was a mere salesman, and Mrs Madison, a petty jeweller. And then there was their son, Jason, a teenager.
Mr Coolidge had paid off all the property owners in the area, but the Madisons simply could not be bought. He’d offered them everything, at their level, and, for eight years, all they said was no. Work on the mall he’d planned to put up was soon to begin . His latest masterpiece. His Sisteen Chapel. Oddly, that piece of land the Madisons occupied, remained central to his dream.
So he took the heat a notch higher. He built a nightclub behind their house, and a filling station at the front: The noise, routine fights, perpetual honking, and exhaust were surely going to smoke them out. He had also blocked water supply to the area, with the concocted excuse of extensive construction works. If this didn’t work, then intimidation, torture and perhaps even extermination would follow, in that order. Better shed the blood of a few for the fulfilment of many. He smirked.
In addition he had sent an investigator to dig up dirt on the family. Blackmail was never off limits. He didn’t make the rules, he played the game!
The report was ready, lying on his table. He loved to do most of his reading at night; either reading, or yielding to temptations. He flipped through the material with brows raised…what a scoop this turned out to be…
Mrs Madison had severe asthma. Sweet. With the kind of pollution welling up at her front porch, she would want to move out soon enough. Mr Madison, after years of working as a salesman, was still the lowest paid at his spot. Probably qualification issues. He’d been sacked twice, but always begged his way back in. So he really was a hustler. Why didn’t he take the offer?
This was easy. He could sabotage him – bring him begging to take the leanest ejection package. Mr Coolidge smiled.
But it wasn’t the couple who left him intrigued. No, it was Jason, their son.
Jason had a problem. He had an unrepentant fascination for fire. A thirst for flames. He was always found at one point or another with a matchbox or a lighter. Even as early as five years old. At the age of six, he was accused of burning down a ranch near his nursery school. In one photo taken at the time, his innocent face was half-tucked behind his cute mother, as the barn owner raved in clear outrage.
A few years later, three robbers were electrocuted, while attempting to break into the Madisons’ at night. They were completely roasted by morning. Toast! …all three died. The security agency swore the device was meant to set off an alarm, not work like a taser. The investigator suspected foul play, but by who? Afterall, Jason was just nine, right?
His parents enrolled him in a boarding school to help trim this wild desire for fire.
They took him out of the school in one term…
He had encountered some bullies, who wrung him dry of his money and goodies on day one. On the last day of the term, there was a loud explosion behind the main laterine : one of the three bullies had his mouth basically blown away, leaving his teeth without housing, while the other two were badly injured. Apparently they had been smoking. Everyone thought they were trying something stupidly adventurous. Jason’s parents knew better.
Jason started therapy soon after that. He spent less time with fire and more with books: reading comics and novels involving fireballs and fire-shields, feats of engineering and fire festivals around the world. The therapy, perhaps, made him smarter, and more discreet.
Mr Coolidge grinned. He could hire this chap to do some dirty work for him one of these days. But first things first. He needed the land.
Mr Coolidge leaned back in his swivel chair and assured himself that this was a minor obstacle. He sipped noisily on his red wine, adjusted the music, and lighted his cigar.
But a few seconds later his bodyguard rushed in, breathless…
“Master, the nightclub is on fire…”
Before he could open his mouth another worker stormed in.
“Master, on TV… ” he said, panting, as he switched on the set, “The fuel station has exploded…”
Live on TV, a thumping explosion splintered the pillars that remained, as a car somersaulted sky-high, with the inferno ballooning to compete with the brilliant moonlight. The camera shook.
“It could only be that boy… Jas…” Mr Coolidge stumbled, as he pulled his drawer to reach for his car keys. It was then that he noticed a red LED device blinking beneath his desk. It was boldly labeled – R. I. P. MR COOLIDGE – as a timer attached ticked…
’11…10… 9… 8…7…’
Mr Coolidge shoved his escort aside as he raced for the exit…
– Murphy’s Law 101: A Futile Implosion
– A Case of Pyromania
– Inspired by a true story.