William Fitzgerald Goes to Ground

The sun had set and it was probably about seven o’clock and he had just started on his night’s drinking. He was waiting for a client, a young man, earnest, fresh-faced, diffident like all the others, unsure about hiring a private detective, but having to know, having to know. He drank out of a crumpled paper cup and waited without interest. The light was burning above the stairwell that led to his office and the light bled under the door into the darkened office. He disliked artificial light.

His window shattered as something flew through it. He finished the scotch and threw the paper cup into the wastebasket. It was a bottle and a rag was burning at the narrow end and he smelled gasoline. He watched the rag burning as he walked to the door. He descended the stairs without hurrying. It was a long rag, it burned slowly, there was no hurry. He walked out the front door and across the street and listened to the crashing of more windows along the building. He watched the fire splash against the walls of his office and spread to the other offices. He hunched into himself as sirens began wailing.