My phone rings at 4:20 a.m.
Whenever I get a call that early it usually involves a hiker in the Colorado high country who hasn’t returned when expected. I push through my sleep-fog and begin to mentally review the contents of the Search and Rescue ready-pack that sits in my mudroom—which is only a technique to get my brain cells functioning because my ready-packs are always, well. . . ready. Socrates, my S&R dog, will be excited. He loves finding lost people.
“Hey, Jamie. Sorry to wake you. We have a suspicious fire with a death.” The dispatcher rattles off an address near The Coffee Pod, one of my favorite hangouts.
Not Socrates then. Damn. A victim. This will be a hard one. It will be up to Kaji and me to either point to the possibility of arson or make it doubtful. The sad truth is we’ve helped uncover more than one murder where fire was employed as a cover-up.
“Has the scene been cleared?”
“Wake up, Jamie. I wouldn’t have called you unless that was the case. How soon can you get here?”
“On our way.”
Kaji is my accelerant detection dog. His name is Japanese for fire. It fits, right? I sometimes call him an arson dog because a) people are used to that description; and b) it sounds a lot sexier than accelerant detection dog. The truth is, Kaji can find signs of accelerant in a flash (so to speak), but it’s up to the investigators to tie that accelerant to arson.
My first priority is coffee. The Pod won’t be open by the time I get there and I can use some juice, caffeine-style. I pad into the kitchen and hit the button on the Cuisinart.
Ten minutes later I have a travel mug, my arson ready-pack, and Kaji, all settled into my Jeep.
“Let’s do this.”
Two Katie Malua tunes later and we’re at the fireground. While Kaji is ready to take on whatever he finds, I need a moment to mentally prepare. Arson fires are one thing. Arson fires that include human remains are something else entirely. There’s always an odor and a special horror unlike any other scene. Whether life is taken by fire or something beforehand, it’s irrelevant to me. I always smell the flesh, I always sense the person, and I always feel a heavy loss.
Human beings can really suck. I learned that a while ago when my mom was kidnapped and buried alive by some bastard who wanted to get even with my dad. What makes me able to breathe after doing what me and my dogs do today is knowing that in some small way we help put things right. Okay, not right, but righter. Without us, the bad guys could win. With us, the good guys have a chance.
You can read more about Jamie in Red Tide, the first book in the “Aspen Falls” thriller series, published by Bark Publishing. The second book in the series is The Missings.
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Meet the author
A Colorado native, Peg Brantley lives with her husband southeast of Denver. At this very minute she’s busy turning her standalone books into two separate series because that’s what her readers want.
Peg’s third book, The Sacrifice, was a finalist for two 2014 Colorado literary awards, and will become the first book in the Mex and Cade series (yet to be named).
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