Friendly Fires

May 26, 2000

Sara Mclintock sat in the window frame of the one window in her house that she loved. It was set in an alcove that was just large enough for a person to sit comfortably. From the window she could see out into the streets of Ucluelet. Inside the apartment she could easily see into the bedroom where Josh Blackburn lay in uneasy sleep. She sighed. What a night. The kidnapping of Judge Blanchard, the talk with Hammer and then… She took a deep breath and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

The Colour of the Winds Gallery had been vandalized. The Gallery in which Josh and her had placed their money, time and love in. The police had been close-mouthed, and the only witness was a bum and a drunk who talked more about Vietnam then anything useful. The only thing of use that he had said was that a spirit from the heavens fell to the earth screaming his name – Geronimo.

However, when she had got to the building where this "spirit" came down, the police had taped it off and wouldn't let her cross. And then, the worst had been coming home. Sitting with Josh as he made the calls to his artists, telling them what had happened. At the end of the last call he had thrown the phone across the room and then buried his head in her arms. The damage to the gallery was extensive and would take weeks to repair. Thank God for the insurance. Josh had finally taken a couple of sleeping pills and gone to bed.

Sara, on the other hand, had spent the night looking for some clue as to who had done this deed. An exhaustive search of database had yielded no clues as to who or what Geronimo was. No references to the spray painted 'Wagonburner' except a footnote in one book on natives. The footnote indicated that natives used to be called that or those who were thought be going 'native'.

Six a.m. in the morning and nothing to show for it but a headache, eye strain and a sore back. Suddenly the fireman radio that had been her father's and Sara for some reason had kept all these years, rang 4 times from where it rested on the table beside her. Josh had threatened to toss it out a window if it wasn't taken from the bedroom. A four alarm fire!

"1034, Friendship Centre on 5th and Van Gough."

Sara stared at the radio. The Salish Friendship Centre. First a gallery devoted to native art and now this. She could be there in under 10 minutes!

Sara grabbed the notepad by the phone and began to write.

"No luck with research. 4 alarm fire at Friendship Centre. Linked? Gone to help and find out. LOVE YOU!!!! S."

She put the pad on the kitchen table, and left as fast as she could, grabbing her purse and quickly checking to see if the camera and extra film were still inside. Starting the car, she wove in and out of traffic. It wasn't long before she could see the fire.

She brought the car to halt half a block down and got slowly out of the car. The whole building was in flames—if anyone was in there, they were already dead. The fire moved about the building, caressing it like a lover. Sara could imagine how it reached out toward the other buildings with a hunger that was terrifying. How it reached for the firefighters that battled it.

Even this early in the morning a small crowd had gathered to watch the blaze, held behind a police line. Mostly people in various states of dress, obviously from nearby homes. A few commuters and a few natives. Some of the crowd was muttering, angry or awed at the fire. The natives stood together quietly, faces expressionless.

Sara quickly grabbed her camera and began making a living. First the fire and the firefighters and then a few a pictures of the crowd as she slowly walked toward them. That done she walked over to the natives and began talking. The natives just watched her, letting her talk. They exchanged looks when she told them about the gallery and one broke away and pulled a cellular phone off his belt.

OOPS! Sara thought to herself, Forgot to ask if they had seen anything, or had any ideas as to why someone would want to burn down the Centre, or if any of them knew of any threats against the Center. Sara turned back but the trio was gone.

Sara then walked over to the fire truck, showing her press pass a few times. Grabbing the nearest fireman, she was pointed to the chief. The fire chief, Doug Mann, was leaning on his car talking into a car phone.

While she waited she looked around, wondering if Sam Carr were here as well but she didn't see her fellow photojournalist around.

Sara waited until the fire chief is finished talking. She then extended her hand. "Morning, Chief Mann. Can I ask you a couple of quick questions?"

The fire chief looked up at her with a grimace. "I was wondering which one of you would get here first. You and Carr almost worse than the reporters."

"Well, everyone's got to make a living," Sara replied with a wry smile. "Do you know what time the fire started?"

"About an hour ago is my best guess, we'll know more when the investigators can get inside." Chief Mann chewed on his moustache.

"Do you suspect arson?" Sara asked.

"Arson. Huh, well the investigation into the other one isn't quite finished yet but if things here are the same, yep, I'd say that would be a good bet." The fire chief leaned against the car and looked out into the street, "It must be hard for you, Sara, covering fires…"

"It can be, especially if I know there's a fighter inside. You know, I still have some of Dad's things, even after all these years. Mom wanted to throw them out, but I couldn't. It's all that I have of him," Sara replied, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "I have nightmares about that fire. Funny, huh." She took a deep breath. "You said there was another fire. Which one are you talking about?"

"The one in Hamiliton. Went up the other night. Same thing, early morning, no witnesses."

"Has anyone seen anything suspicious? Anyone running from the Centre just before the fire started?" Sara asked, feeling her news instinct go on full alert.

"Nope, no one saw anything. Both fires have been in the wee hours of the morn, no witnesses."

"Figures," Sara grunted pulling out the small notebook and pencil she kept in her purse and jotted down a few notes. "Off the record, do you have any idea as to who may be behind the fires? Anyone claiming responsibility?" Sara paused for a moment. "Did someone call the fire in, or was it the fire alarm system in the building that rang the warning?"

"Tip. No name. Good thing to or we could have lost the whole block," Chief Mann replied grimly.

"Yeah, it was." Sara shook her head. "I can't understand why someone would torch the Centre. I hope this isn't the start of a larger problem," she muttered, more to herself than to the chief. "You'll call me and let me know what the investigators find out about both fires?"

Chief Mann nodded as a fireman came running up.

"Thanks a lot, Chief." Sara said, and shook the man's hand. She snapped a couple more pictures of the crowd, then moved off, walking as far around the building as she could. Sara took photos of the burning building, and the area around it, hoping to spot something – or someone – unusual. But to no avail.

On the way back to her car, Sara took photos of anyone who was still hanging around the fire, then turned to look at the blazing building one last time. I hope no one was inside, Sara shuddered, as she snapped a few last photographs of the building. She slide into her car, tossed her purse on the passenger seat, then began the short drive home.

Sara opened the door to her apartment and placed her equipment inside the darkroom door. She then paused in bedroom doorway. Josh lay where she had left him. Smiling to herself, she kissed him softly on the forehead. He stirred briefly and she ducked into the bath room for a quick shower.

A few minutes later, she emerged towelling her hair dry. She then snuggled up to Josh for a few hours sleep.

7:00 pm

Sara awoke to the smell of coffee brewing. Glancing up from mid the covers, she spied Josh sitting in the alcove, sipping a cup of coffee. All he wore was a pair of Nike shorts.

"You left the computer on," he observed with a smile.

"I was waiting for some searches to finish when I kind of got called away," Sara replied, holding out her arms toward Josh. She looked at him with a flirtatious pout. "No 'nice to see you're awake' kiss?" Sara sniffed in mock sadness, jutting out her lower lip to emphasize the pout.

Josh smiled and slipped off the window sill, placing the mug on the sill, he stretched. He then sauntered over.

As soon as Josh was in arms reach, Sara grabbed him and pulled him down onto the bed next to her and proceeded to kiss him thoroughly. After a few minutes, she pulled back her head, and smiled sultrily at Josh, her eyes twinkling.

"Now, aren't you glad you decided to kiss me?" Sara moved her head slightly so that her long hair wasn't in Josh's face. She turned her head and grimaced. "No wonder I felt a draft," Sara said with a laugh. The old New London Totems shirt she wore to bed had ridden up and exposed her rear end.

"How did things go today?" Sara asked, as she reached down to adjust the bottom of her shirt.

Josh reached up and smoothed away a strand of hair. His fingers trailed lightly down her jaw line.

"It's been a very long time since I watched you sleep," he observed softly, watching his fingers, "I used to do it all the time, now you are either gone when I get up or crawling into bed."

His fingers continued their light exploration from her chin down her throat, "I would watch you and think how beautiful you were. And I would feel safe and yet protective. So vulnerable you looked. I would feel as if I were guarding your sleep. So peaceful."

He sighed, his fingers strayed lightly over a breast and he finally looked into her eyes, "When I stood in the gallery I felt lost, empty as if I had lost part of myself. As I sat here watching you, a revaluation came to me, a sense of wholeness. The gallery, the art, it's what I do, and I do love it. But you, us is what I am, I have lost nothing because you are here," he touched his chest, "as long as that is true, I can recover anything."

"Oh Josh," Sara sighed, her eyes bright with unshed tears. She ran a trembling finger over his lips. "I don't know what to say."

"I'm truly sorry if it feels to you that I'm leaving you behind, shutting you out because of what I do as Diamond. It's just," Sara paused as a tear started to slowly roll down her cheek. "I don't know what I'd do if I lost you. You're what keeps me going. Whenever I think about what I'm up against, that I'm fighting a battle that I can't win, I think of you. It reminds me just why I'm out at night, why I became Diamond. To help and protect you, and people like you."

"When I read that letter from my father, at first it was only the words, the ideal. The desire to follow in my father's footsteps and make him proud of me. But since I found you, it's become more. I want New London to be a safer place for the people I love," Sara said softly as she took Josh's hand and laid it gently against her breast. "And for our children when we have them."

"You are the other half of my soul, Joshua Blackburn. And nothing, NOTHING," she swore with soft conviction, "is going to change that."

Part 2 contains some 'adult' content. Those wishing to skip such content can proceed immediately to Part 3.