Blackened brick and charred wood covered in a thick ice stood in contrast to the pure white powder. He had to be extra cautious on entering with his heavy backpack of tools. His cane steadied each step.
A stench filled the air that smelled partly of cold campfire mixed with melted plastic and burnt hair. His small crowbar pulled out electrical covers and base boards with no clues. Cushions form the furniture were hardened bricks of synthetics on the floor. This eliminated the likelihood of a cigarette dropped from a sleepers hand.
On the wall a short and wide patch of fresh wall paper remained. A picture frame had once hung there. Surveying the room there were no remains of picture frames on that side of the wall. He searched the rest of the house with no results.
Thirty minutes later he rolled open the beige garage door with a loud clatter of metal. It was a mess of wet boxes and old belongings. Hanging on the back wall, easily spotted, was a painting of the last supper that was the same shape as the patch of fresh wall paper. Stepping through the remains of a stored life he noticed that all of the disciples and Jesus had black lines drawn over their eyes – with the exception of Judas. His eye had been circled. Duke removed the painting with his gloved hands and inspected the back. In simple block hand writing was one name “Grigori.” He turned to his right mumbling “where is Judas looking?” There, pinned behind a wall stud, was a snap shot of Laura and the boys making a snowman last week in the backyard.
Duke could feel the cold of the winter wind blow up his back, “who is Grigori?”
Fire Chief Hutton looked over the materials Duke had brought to the lab that day shaking his head in disbelief “I don’t know what this could should mean Duke. Why would this ‘Grigori’ go to this house to start a fire? It was abandoned over three years ago.”
“He knew I would look into. That’s why he left the picture of my wife and kids.” Duke said holding his temper just below the surface. “I looked him up, Grigori is a biblical name for a group of lost angels. They were sent to earth to look over mankind, but fell in lust with women. The off spring were half breeds called Nephilim.”
“The reason for Noah’s flood, to wipe out all of the half breeds - You think this person has a grudge for you? He is watching you?”
Duke wasn’t sure if he should tell Chief Hutton but gave in “I could not have gotten out of that building with a shattered leg Chief.”
“Lets not continue this devil story Duke” Chief Hutton interrupted, “you are a good fireman who knows full well-”
Duke stopped him before he could finish “I’m not saying it was the devil. What if it were a nut job fire starter who dressed up like the devil? Who thinks he is Grigori, a watcher.” Duke was frustrated with the conversation “Now he’s fixated on me after walking into that Devils night blaze.”
“It could be just that,” the Chief shrugged, “we’ve seen our share of crazies in Detroit.”
“My family is a target. Please, let me see this investigation all the way through.” Duke sounded as sincere as one man could.
“Okay. You and Kozlowski are going to see this one through” he sounded uncomfortable with the idea “but I need you to keep me up to speed on this, and no press on the devil crap. We don’t need to build up this ones ego.”
Danny by day finished his final set of reps watching the local news cover a rash of fires that had happened over the last three weeks. All were abandoned houses. Never a word on who started them or the investigation. But always one familiar face in the crowd of yellow helmets – Duke.
His grin rolled in on the edges when he saw the face of Duke. Eyes glazed in joy, Grigori allowed himself to come out before nightfall when Duke was on the television. Minutes later Danny would find himself doing the most peculiar things, never remembering how he got there.
There wasn’t another job for Danny after the fire. Somehow he always found enough cash in his pockets and drawers to pay the rent. If things got tight he could always pawn the jewelry that was left to him. There seemed to be more of it than he remembered, but it was never something he kept close track of.
Laura did not recognize Duke when she finally saw him come in that morning. He had taken up smoking, as she knew all fireman did eventually. Kozlowski had not been a good partner leading him to the bar after a late shift. There must have been three days of growth on that face. “It was a hard time for him” she thought “he’ll get past it soon enough.”
Duke had been drinking to forget. It only forced him to think of that night more intensely. After fourteen fires, each with a picture, clipping or artifact from a life he was desperately trying to save but no longer lived, Duke still did not have a clue as to who Grigori was. He knew only this:
- Grigori was a male
- He struck abandon houses and building (which were in abundant supply in Detroit)
- Fires followed a pattern of the moons cycle
- Grigori could get to Laura and the boys at any moment
But this left Duke to believe that it wasn’t his family Grigori was after. He could have done that several times over and never did. What drove the creature of the night? Was it as simple as ego, as the Chief had implied. Is he just another crazy as his partner said at each new incident? As Duke started another smoke sitting in his truck it came to him – it was the chase. Grigori focused on Duke to test him, see if he would follow him into the darkness.
Chief Hutton was surprised at the request from Duke for the leave. Kozlowski would be fine on his own, probably have it solved in a week. “Get back to you family” he said shaking Dukes hand “but remember to come back when you’re ready.
When Duke heard about the brutal death of Kozlowski from the phone call that morning he rushed to the scene in minutes. Police had described it as a “junkie’s revenge,” something saved for those who owed dealers a great amount. His charred remains dangled from the wire hanger wrapped around the metal coat hook in the closet of the house. Hands tied behind his back, the fire was obviously induced by lighter fluid to the trained eye.
Two hours later the corner discovered a wade of duct tape in Kozlowski’s mouth. At the center of this semi-melted goo was the photo of Dukes family that once sat on the mantel place. This time all of the eyes were scratched off, including Duke’s.
The house door flew open as an out of breath Duke rushed in calling for Laura. After a room by room search he found no one home. Only a folded note in an empty picture frame above the fireplace where the favorite family photo of Laura once perched.
Hobbling to the truck at his best speed Duke opened the note to find an address he knew well.