2 -Extra Credit

Previous Chapter

I pushed the key into the lock and twisted it. The door opened unceremoniously. I stepped into my home, and shut the door behind me. Work was over. It was time to unwind and relax. I laughed. What a ridiculous thought. Relaxation was for the weak who couldn’t simply hold themselves together long enough to live for a while. I moved downstairs to my personal computer and decided it was time to study.

I chose a house in the slums specifically for this reason, so that I can afford a computer and internet along with it. On the other hand, I probably spent a bit more money on locks than the average slum member- or most other people- would. It was also a slight hassle finding a slum home with a basement, but this computer is a very important asset.

I turned on the tower, then the screen. I was greeted with the operating system logo, and then my password screen. Password, that was funny too. One word and a couple numbers are incredibly insecure. I had an entire sentence set up to protect my information. There was no way I was going to let anyone break into my only important possession.

Speaking of keeping my computer private, my router also used only wired connection. A wireless connection would let anyone with a phone realise that I was much better off down here than I should’ve been. This was a secret of utter importance.

I typed in my passphrase, then hit the enter key. The lock screen faded out, and my home screen faded in. It was routine. I opened my browser, and starting to log in to my Commander’s account on the official government site. He was an incredible dunce to keep his login information on a sticky note in his locker- which also didn’t always lock properly, allowing someone like myself entry to it after he leaves.

I looked through his latest reports on the arsonry. He didn’t remark anything important in this report. In fact, he might as well have copied and pasted his previous reports, they were so similar. Great. That made my job easier.

I didn’t want the police to solve this crime. I was going to get to this myself. I needed to personally congratulate this pyro. They made my life more interesting. I could also make their life more interesting, but only if I could find them.

I logged into my account and made my own personal report. It didn’t matter much, though. He didn’t read through mine, because I didn’t do anything to help solve the case. I just shut up people who wouldn’t keep quiet. I wrote about a paragraph then concluded. This was a formality, really. Just there so that if a Superior looked through Commander’s records, they would see that I do put in my own reports.

I logged out of both accounts, then turned off my computer. It was time to do some hands-on research. I got out of my chair, and applied all seven of my locks. One was the door knob, two were deadbolts, and the other four were various combination locks. It seemed a bit suspicious, but there was no way to see what I actually had hidden in my basement. To the average viewer, I was another police rookie trying to get out of the slums. I smirked at my own genius.

It would take me about twenty minutes walking to get the burn site. Thirty-five if I tried to hide from people who might try to watch. However, I didn’t need to hide. I was a man with a uniform. I could go wherever I pleased in this town. All I needed to do was act like I was still on duty. If I encountered anyone, I only needed to ask them a couple questions, maybe hand out a punishment. It wasn’t a very hard disguise to keep up.

Luckily for me, I didn’t brush past anyone. I heard some rustling in an empty lot, but acted oblivious. It wasn’t my problem. I had reached my goal without a hitch.

I stepped underneath the police tape, and briskly examined the burnt lot. There hadn’t been a lot of investigating done today, as Commander likes to keep his Officers studying in a better lighting. It was a terrible standard of investigating. It’s how I knew the Superiors didn’t care about our station very much, otherwise they would have dismissed Commander from his position, be it by demotion or death. Personally, I was glad he was so dumb. It made it easier for me to do whatever I pleased.

I pulled out my flashlight and looked through the ashen field more thoroughly. There was a possibility that the arson left some subtle clue I could test, or even show up here a second time. That was an odd behavior in criminals. I understood it, though. As an artist admires her painting, a criminal like this admires their own handiwork.

I inspected everything as carefully as possible. I didn’t have work tomorrow, so I could stay here all night if I needed. Time was on my side this time.

It turns out I didn’t need very much time, however. After about twenty minutes of investigating, I found a matchbook. It was mostly empty, but there were four left. The pack initially came with twenty. That meant one of two things: The arson had either used five or six matches per fire, or they used sixteen on this one house. That didn’t include the idea of our arson smoking. I doubted they did, anyway.

The matchbook wasn’t a very big clue, but it did reaffirm the fact that the arson lit more than one fire. What was a big clue, however, was finding another three matchbooks barely underneath the ash. They all also had four matches left. Four matchbooks with four matches left in each.

This was a more important find. It meant that not only was the arsonist trying to send a subtle message to whoever stumbled on the matchbooks, but that the arsonist was was actually the arsonists.

Multiple people lit this fire, and each of them left a protected matchbook. I wasn’t sure what the significance of four was, but I knew that these criminals held it close to their heart. I might’ve called these matchbooks a calling card, but they hadn’t appeared at any other crime scene. Thus, I concluded that they had to have been a message.

That opened up a brand new question: What were they trying to say? What were they trying to achieve? These people wanted something, but they didn’t tell any of us what it was. That was another human trait I never understood. Why did they want to seem enigmatic, yet want to be recognised by others? I stared at the matchbooks in my hands.

It was time to go home and do a little extra reading up on this subject, then perhaps tomorrow I could go search around town for shops that sell this particular brand of matches.

I pocketed the matchbooks, and covered up the spots where I found the other books. It wasn’t a very good idea for the police to leave a crime scene unattended, but it wasn’t my problem. I finally gave myself another goal to keep me entertained. It was time to pursue it.

I hurriedly paced back to my house. I had a wealth of knowledge sitting in my basement, I was going to use it.

For a second time, I had no people pass me as I made my way back to my house. This was going excellently. I might be able solve this mystery before the night was done.

I opened my home quickly and rushed downstairs after properly locking my door. I unlocked all seven locks in ascending order, then powered my computer on. I was online within a couple minutes.

I spent about three hours studying the number four. The fourth dimension was the dimension which holds time. There are four noble truths in Buddhism. There are four old elements: fire, wind, water, and air. There are four islamic sacred months. There are four terrestrial planets in our solar system. There are four main components to our DNA. There are four states of matter. Music typically has four beats to a measure. Leap years occur every four years. There were four rivers in the Garden of Eden.

Those topics weren’t relevant. Well, except perhaps the Buddhist bit. No, what mattered were the themes of death using the number four. Four is a homophone for death in Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Moreover, there are Four Horsemen of the apocalypse. That figures. Our country’s motto is In god we trust. It only makes sense that these arsonists would want to juxtapose that.

I set the matchbooks on my desk. Four horsemen of the apocalypse. That means there were probably four people lighting fires in the house. They must have only created that theme after burning a few buildings. I laughed. They burnt two houses before deciding they wanted to have some sort calling card. I laughed even harder.

These serial pyros just tossed out a calling card at the third offense. I stifled my laughing fit. These idiots weren’t trying to send a message; they were just trying to have fun, or maybe just rock the boat. I tossed the matchbooks aside. They didn’t matter anymore.

That being said, I decided I would continue to tamper with evidence until Commander was expunged and someone else took his place. This was going to be a lot of fun to watch. I’ll solve the crime on my own time, and constantly throw the police’s actual investigation out the window. It was comical, and I found it fitting.

These “Horsemen of the Apocalypse” were only burning down the homes of the rich, which meant I was safe. It also meant that all of the upper class was going to be on their toes. And any moment they aren’t home, the rugs beneath their feet could literally be incinerated. It was the most entertaining thing to happen around here in years.

This meant I didn’t need to distract myself with another goal. I was getting a bit concerned, as my computer was last my major goal, and everything in between that and now were just stepping stones to this great new continent.

I leaned back in my chair. This just goes to show you what a little bit of effort can achieve.

3 – Warm Welcome

Author: Kay Walker

I write short stories, and post them to my site justmynarratives.com

4 thoughts on “2 -Extra Credit”

  1. When did the main character switch to male? Or was the intro and the start of the story not the same characters? A name would be helpful to distinguish these people or physical descriptions if saving the name reveal for later. Few typos and grammar mistakes. ” I seemed a bit suspicious….” wrong word or change ending of sentence to suspicious of … neighbors, government, etc. or use; Cautious. Paranoid. Why is the artist a her? If relevant keep it. Other wise use general artist and not assign a gender. It makes it feel like it might be an important detail later on. If not keep it neutral to not draw attention to it. Does it matter it took longer to power up and log on? Someone hacked his line? Computer bogged down by too much info? Late in the evening and it’s harder to connect? Like the research of the number four and your specific examples of each. Note if matchbook has a name of place on the cover, if it’s blank, or burned off. Most say something unless intentionally blank or burned off/ crossed off/ covered over, etc. this is starting to get a mystery feel to it now and not so sci-fi. If the main character is so smart and above everyone else, what is their quirk? Perfectionist? Perfect appearance? Ability to blend in with the “normal” people? Will also need an Achilles heel eventually that will lead to their downfall. It can be both things or different things.


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