This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Parker Sheaffer, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
Simon was awakened in the night by sirens. Fire trucks raced by on a street a few blocks away, their horns blaring and shattering the dreams he had been having. Even from this distance they sounded loud. Sleepily, he wondered where they were going. The noise began to fade as the trucks grew farther and farther away. Soon he drifted back to sleep, hoping he would again find that lake he had been sailing on.
There was a substitute teacher in his English class the next day. Someone asked, "Where's Mrs. Coleman?"
"I'm afraid Mrs. Coleman has some problems at home and can't be here today. She may be out for the rest of the week."
"Well, it will be on the news, I'm sure, so I guess there is no harm in telling you that her house burned last night. She and her husband are fine; they escaped unhurt, but I hear the house was destroyed."
"I heard the sirens," Simon whispered to Alex and Bill.
Since it was a teacher he liked, Simon listened to the news that night with his parents. The newsman said that they suspected arson was to blame for the fire. It was similar to another suspicious fire that had occurred a couple of weeks before.
"Poor Mrs. Coleman", said Simon's mother. "I'll talk to my Sunday school class and see if we can do something to help."
Her class took up a collection and raised a few hundred dollars. Someone suggested that they have a bake sale at the local grocery store and give the proceeds to the Colemans. Simon, Alex and Bill volunteered to help man the tables and sell the baked goods the following Saturday. It turned out to be fun for them. They met a lot of people who bought lots of cakes, pies, brownies and cupcakes.
"I never knew that people could be so friendly", Bill remarked.
Alex whispered to Simon, "It helps to have a wizard with us."
Simon just smiled. The fact was that all three boys were charming and attractive and that goes a long way when you're making sales.
One of the young bag boys at the store arrived for work and as he walked in Simon saw him sneer and smirk at their sign. He wondered if the boy didn't like Mrs. Coleman for some reason. It didn't register as particularly significant, though.
In the middle of the next week there was another fire and this one was closer to Simon's home. The news reported on it the next day and they showed footage of the firemen putting out the blaze while several bystanders looked on from the street. Simon recognized a face, the bag boy. This time an internal alarm went off and he knew that it was just possible that this was the arsonist.
It didn't take much effort, just a visit to the grocery store, to discover that the name of the boy was Percy Martin. He was a low-level trouble maker who had been held back a couple of times in school and finally dropped out of High school. Mrs. Coleman returned to class and Simon expressed his sympathy for all her troubles.
"By the way, Mrs. Coleman. Do you happen to know someone named Percy Martin?"
"Percy Martin? Yes, but it's been a while. I had him in my English class a couple of years ago. He failed, I'm afraid. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason. I heard his name mentioned, that's all. Well, see you later."
He left her looking puzzled.
Simon felt certain that the surly teenager was behind the recent spate of crimes, but it was going to take some sort of proof to convince anyone else. The trouble was, how could he find such evidence? He wondered if he should shadow the boy. That could take a lot of time, though. He would have to give it some thought.
The next Tuesday evening Simon was riding his bicycle home from his friend Bill's house. They had been studying math together. Math was one of Simon's weaker subjects and Bill had a way of explaining things that made things seem clearer to him.
Suddenly, Simon felt that familiar tug inside his mind, something that told him to turn left, so he did. The sun had set and there was no moon out. The street lights illuminated the sidewalks and at the same time they caused the shadows of the hedges and trees to seem even darker. Having ridden for a couple of blocks Simon slowed down. A furtive bit of movement caught his attention at the back of a small, wooden house. Simon stopped and let his senses extend. He could tell that there were two adults in the house as well as three children. Two of the kids were asleep in their beds while the other was awake.
A sense of great danger washed over Simon. He whispered, "Nostilisium" and disappeared. Laying his bike down under a tree, Simon quietly walked to the back of the house. There in the shadows he saw Percy Martin with a can of gasoline. Percy was pouring the liquid around the back door where it would block anyone from escaping if they tried.
Before he could go too far Simon spoke to him.
"Put down that gas can, Percy Marin."
With a squeal, Percy jumped into the air and dropped the can. It landed in the grass and began to leak its contents onto the ground.
"Who's there? Show yourself!" Percy demanded.
Still unseen, Simon said, "Shame on you. There are people in this house; adults and children. You could have killed innocent kids. You're just lucky that no one has been hurt or killed before now. Don't you know what it would feel like to burn to death?"
"You sound like a kid. Screw you. You don't know nothing. They all deserve this. I hate every damn one of them."
"I don't care what your reasons are, they're not good enough. I'm Captain Justice and I have to teach you a lesson now."
"Captain Just..." Percy began when suddenly his hands burst into flames.
Bright yellow fire lit the night and the boy's screams echoed through the air as Percy frantically waved his arms in horror, trying to extinguish the blaze and stop the pain and the burning. He could feel his skin turning crisp and could see his flesh blackening. The agony was overwhelming. Percy tried rolling on the ground and smothering the fire with his body, but it didn't help at all.
In only a few seconds the lights came on in the kitchen and the back door flew open. The man and woman stood there, alarmed by the noise, trying to see what was wrong.
All that they saw was a hysterical boy rolling around on the ground, screaming and crying so they rushed out to help him. They rolled him over and couldn't see anything wrong with him. "What is it? What's wrong? Talk to us," they urged him. After a few moments he stopped his crying and extended his hands out into the light. To his amazement they were unharmed. The skin was pink and soft and unbroken. The pain stopped but he would keep the memory of it for a long time.
Somehow it had been a very realistic illusion. He was still shaken badly but managed to get to his feet.
By this time the wife had spotted the gasoline can in the grass and saw the wetness around her door. She pointed it out to her husband who held onto the trembling teenager while she called 911.
The lead story on the news the next evening was about the capture of the serial arsonist and how he had been caught trying to burn down the home of his former foster parents. He wasn't saying much but the police believed that he held a grudge because they had rejected him when he was eight. Percy was due for some psychological counseling while in jail.