Monday, May 16, 2016

Ruthless by Cath Staincliffe (Corgi 2014)

Closer to the blaze, the stench of the fire filled the air and she could see fire tenders at the scene, three of them, as she walked up the road. Uniformed officers were keeping the crowd away from the site. The Old Chapel, she realized, now belching clouds of acrid smoke into the air, the inferno roaring. Hoses were spraying water but bright flames were still visible through the holes in the roof and the windows where the shutters had burned away.

Fire always drew a crowd, a spectacle and free at that. It hadn’t been a chapel for ages. Probably closed back in the seventies and she remembered it was a carpet place for a while then that went bust. Rachel had no idea what it was  used for now, if anything. The state of the grounds, neglected and overgrown behind the wire fencing, and the holes in the roof suggested it was derelict. Just begging for some fire-starter to come along and set light to it.

She looked at the crowd. Whole families, mum with a pram and a bunch of kids around. Teenagers, some of them filming with their phones. A few older people too; one man had made it with his Zimmer, determined to be at the party. A lad on a BMX bike, stunt pegs on the rear wheel. Dom had wanted one of them, their dad had played along but they all knew the only way it would happen was if it was robbed. So it never happened. Rachel had found an old racing bike at the tip and dragged it home and Sean had begged new tyres off a cousin and they’d done it up for Dominic. Never had working brakes but Dom was made up.

All we need is an ice cream van, she thought, or toffee apples. A loud cracking sound and the crowd responded, oohing and aahing, as part of the roof collapsed and fell inside the building sending fresh flames and sparks heavenwards. Rachel shivered, damp from her run and not near enough to the heat from the fire.

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