Being a policeman in crime-ridden Lorain and having a black belt in Chinese Kung Fu can make a man a little paranoid. That’s why Rick Martin casually held his pruning shears by his side as he watched a strange man in tan slacks and a black dress shirt approach him. “Good morning,” the man called.
Rick wiped his sweaty face on his dirty t-shirt. “Good morning,” he replied. “Can I help you with something…” Rick’s eyes fell on the handgun resting in a leather holster at the man’s side and he quickly added, “…sir?”
“Are you Richard Martin?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m Detective Roy Adams from the Avon police department.” He held out his badge for proof as he continued, “I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you can spare the time.”
“Sure. You wanna come inside?”
“That would be fine.”
Rick led Roy Adams into the kitchen. He gestured to the small table next to the window and the detective sat. After washing up at the sink, Rick asked, “You want anything to drink? My wife made fresh lemonade yesterday.”
Roy nodded. “Yes, thank-you.”
Rick fixed two glasses of lemonade, making a point to keep his hands visible to the detective at all times. “So, what’d you need to talk to me about, sir?”
Roy Adams took a small sip of the cool, sweet lemonade before he replied, “I understand that you witnessed the fire at 117 Abbey Way a couple days ago.” He pulled out his notebook again. “June 16, to be exact.” He snapped it shut and carefully arranged it before him on the table. “Please, tell me how you became involved.”
Rick shrugged. “Ok, sure.” Taking a sip of his lemonade, he reiterated the situation for what seemed like the hundredth time. “I work night shift at the Lorain Police Department so when I get off at six, I come home and go to bed. I sleep for a couple hours and generally wake up about lunchtime, but sometimes later, ‘cuz Lorain has a lot of crime and nights can get really busy. Once, I had this case that—”
Detective Adams tapped his notebook. “Mr. Martin, can we stay on topic, please?”
“Oh…right. Well, anyways, I woke up around noon that day. Actually, it was the smell that woke me up. There was this really heavy nasty, acrid smell. So I went downstairs, nothing burning there. Poked my head out the back door, but everything was fine there.
“So, I opened the front door and looked outside. Black smoke was just pouring outta Mrs. Garb’s house. And she’s just standing there, real close to the fire, shaking like a leaf. So I take off down the street, yelling at her to get away. She turns and looks at me, kinda surprised and insists that somebody’s gotta save her cat. So I start yelling at the top of my lungs ‘Here kitty, kitty, kitty’ like a total idiot. The cat runs outta the garage, which wasn’t on fire yet. Then I run up to her neighbors’ house and tell the woman at home—I think her name was Marie—”
“—You tell Marie Arnold to call 911. Then you start spraying down her house to keep it from catching fire, when the fire department showed up.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Tell me Mr. Martin. How well do you know Mrs. Amelia Garb?”
Rick scratched his head, wondering where this interrogation was going. “Well, not too well. I know she moved here about five months ago, after her husband died. Her daughter lives right down the street, but that’s about it.”
The detective nodded as he scribbled something into his notebook. “And you have no idea what started the fire?”
“Nope.” Rick shrugged. “Mrs. Garb is kinda up there in years, I figured that she probably left the stove on or something.”
“I see.” Roy Adams stood up and shook Rick’s hand. “Thank-you for your time, sir. See, we believe the fire was a result of arson and we’re holding Mrs. Garb accountable. Our investigation isn’t quite finished, but I think we have enough evidence to convict her.”
“Wow…I would’ve never guessed…” Rick was astounded.
“She doesn’t quite fit the description of your average arsonist, does she?” Detective Roy Adams allowed a small smile to play about his lips. “I like your t-shirt.” He read it aloud, “ ‘God created police officers, so firemen could have heroes.’ A little ironic though, wouldn’t you say?”
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