I stood in this empty guest room in tears. I had lost my phone and I didn’t have anything but a few old clothes that I had managed to salvage from the fire. The apartment building where I stayed had burned to a crispy wood pile of ashes and luckily everyone got out unharmed. There were so many questions I had asked myself repeatedly: "What had happened that night? Who had started the fire and why? Who was the mysterious tall man with the black cape that I saw running out of the apartment complex that night? Did he start the fire?"
As I stood in this empty guest room I was still in shock from the fire. I walked over to the window in the room and looked out across the dark sky thinking about that night and searching for answers in my mind that I didn’t have and that the police didn’t have either. I was worried sick and not because I had lost everything but because I had withheld valuable evidence and had not told the police everything I knew. As I paced the floor in the empty guest room, my mind wondered back to the fire that night.
It was on a Tuesday evening and I had gotten off work early that day. I worked at the elementary school in town as a teacher’s assistant. Normally, I would stay after school and help with tutoring, but that day I came home an hour early because I wanted to take a nap. I was exhausted; the night before some friends and I had hung out, late, at the pub down the street from my apartment complex. I needed some rest so that evening around 5ish I took a shower and throwed on some old pj’s and fell fast asleep on my sofa. I was awakened by a loud fume and a loud noise that sounded like a bomb had gone off. I grabbed my cell phone and frantically ran to my window and I saw smoke and a man wearing a black cape running. I snapped a picture of him before he exited in some nearby trees close to the apartment complex. But my attention was drawn to the smoke and some women screaming and talking loudly standing outside of the apartment complex and to the banging on the door. It was my apartment manager, Doc, that’s what all the tenants called him and that was all I had ever known. Some of the tenants say he wanted to become a doctor but he became an apartment owner instead and that’s how he got the name Doc. Doc was a good guy. He cared about people and he was making sure everyone got out of the building.
Doc was banging on my door screaming, “Get out, get out, the building is on fire.”
I grabbed a suitcase and started throwing clothes in and ‘Doc’ pulled me out of my apartment and said, “Come on, you don’t have time to do that, get out of here!”
I was running and so were others that lived in the complex with me. I could barely see anything but thick black smoke and the smell was awful. I covered my face with my blouse as I ran out of the building with a few other people as fast as I could. I heard sirens. The place was surrounded with fire fighters and police officers. The fire was blazing out of control and all of us, tenants, stood there for what seems like a year watching everything that we own burn to a crispy wood pile of ashes. It took hours and hours before they got the fire under control.
I stood there in shock holding my cell phone and my suitcase trying to make some sense of all this. I was crying because I had no money and nowhere to go. I didn’t have anyone to call. I had only been living in this area a little over a year and had no family here. My friends had insisted that I come with them, but they would be staying with their family members, and I could not just barge in like that. I guess the other tenants had places to go also because everyone had scrambled except Doc, the fire fighters, two police officers, and me. Doc walked over to me and asked if I would be okay. I nodded my head saying yes to him. Also, one of the cops asked if he could take me somewhere and I said, “no thanks,” because I had no where to go. I started walking with my cell phone and my suitcase. After walking for about an hour, a car pulled up beside me. It was Mr. Hall, the janitor, from school. The kids always called him ‘Mr. Fly’ because Mr. Hall loved planes and he always made-up stories about being a pilot and at recess he would tell the students stories about flying planes. The kids and everyone seemed to like him. I didn’t know that much about him except that he never missed a day off work, and he always did his job well. He kept the school very clean on the inside and outside. He was a quiet man and he seemed nice.
Mr. Hall got out the car and walked around to the passenger side where I was standing and he asked if everything was alright? I explained to him about my apartment and the fire. He asked if he could give me a ride somewhere and I told him I had nowhere to go. He told me he knew a place I could stay for the night and I agreed to it. I got in the car and he shut the door and walked back to the other side and he got in. We drove for what seemed like hours and I had fallen asleep. I didn’t know where we were but I knew that it took a while for us to get there. We came to a small wooden house sitting way back off the road and surrounded by some tall trees. It was dark and eerie. I sat quietly in the car and I turned to look at Mr. Hall as he pulled the car up to the driveway. He was looking ahead and had a hideous look on his face, one that I had never seen from him before, until it frightened me.
He finally stopped the car and turned the ignition off.
Then he turned and looked at me and said, “I’ll get the door and your suitcase for you.”
I politely said, “Okay, Mr. Hall, thank you.”
He led the way and I followed behind him. We entered the house and it was dark. I noticed Mr. Hall did not turn on the lights but kept walking down a long hallway until we came to a room. He turned on a lamp light inside the room and I looked around the room. He said it was an empty guess room and this is where I would be sleeping for the night. My eyes met his and I saw that hideous look again like a “Dr. Jekyll” look when he became “Mr. Hyde.” I was beginning to be really frightened. The room was empty and it was old and smelled musty like no one had lived in it for a long time. I noticed there was no light switch beside the door. I was cold.
Shivering and afraid, I said, “Mr. Hall where are we?”
He said nothing but turned and walked away, and I heard a key turn in the door. I ran to the door and tried to open it but it was locked.
I was thinking, “Why had he locked the door?”
I was pacing the floor in this empty guest room and all sorts of frightening things were going through my mind. I tried to stay calm. I tried to tell myself that everything would be okay. I realized I didn’t have my phone. I was thinking to myself, “Where is my phone? Had I dropped it in the car?” I could call someone and get help if I had my phone but I wouldn’t know where to tell them to come because I had fallen asleep on the way here and didn’t see where we were going.
I stood in this empty guest room all alone but I just knew I had to get out. I walked back over to the door and I kept tugging on the doorknob as hard as I could. I tugged and tugged at the doorknob until it finally came loose a little. I managed to get the door open, and I walked out of the empty room and down the hallway. The light from the empty room made it possible for me to see down the hallway. There were four doors on one side and three doors on the other side. I tried to open the four doors on one side of the hallway but they were all locked and I tried to open two of the doors on the other side and they were locked also. I had one more door to go. I walked up to the last door and turned the knob and the door opened. I quietly entered the room and it was dark, musty, and cold like the empty guest room. I walked slowly and maneuvered my way across the room until I found a lamp. I turned on the light and I noticed a picture setting on the nightstand beside the lamp. I picked it up and looked at it. There were two young boys, a young lady, and a man standing together. One of the boys was holding a toy airplane in his hand and the other boy was holding a fire truck. I figured the two boys were brothers and that was their mom and dad on the picture with them. The two boys looked so familiar. I turned the picture over and there was writing on the backside. It said, “To John and Bill, from mom and dad with love.” Two names were listed at the bottom of the picture: “John Hall” and “Bill Hall.” It was Mr. Hall on the picture as a young boy and his brother. I figured it was Mr. Hall holding the toy airplane and he looked to be the oldest. I placed the picture back on the table and walked around in the room searching for more information. I pondered so many questions in my mind. “Why had Mr. Hall brought me here? Why were all these doors locked? Why was the guest room empty? “Why did the other young boy in the picture look so familiar? Who was Mr. Hall’s brother? What had happened to their parents?”
I continued to search the room for more clues. I walked over to the bed and it was neatly made with white sheets on it and a black throw was placed across it. I just knew the room had to belong to Mr. Hall because it was clean. I walked over to the closet and I opened the door and there were no clothes inside but only one thing and when I saw it I couldn’t believe my eyes. I slammed the closet door shut. I just knew I had to get out of this house. I was running so fast that I could hardly catch my breath. I made it to the front door and nervously reached for the doorknob but Mr. Hall stepped in and I stepped back.
I started screaming saying, “Please don’t hurt me, please let me go!”
He said, “No, it’s not what you think; I didn’t do it!”
He grabbed me and started pulling me down the hall. I knew he was going to lock me back up in the empty guest room. I was screaming and kicking and trying to get away, but I couldn’t he was too strong.
He pulled me back in the empty guest room and he was saying to me, “Please, be quiet, I can explain.”
I shouted at him, “I saw it, I know what you did!”
He said, “It’s not what you think.”
But I had seen it and I had seen him that night.
I told him, “I saw you that night running from the apartment complex.”
He argued, “It wasn’t me; it was my brother.”
I asked, “Who is your brother? I saw the two of you on the picture with your parents.”
He grabbed me and put his hand over my mouth and pulled me behind the door in the empty guest room.
He whispered to me, “Be very quiet!”
There was someone at the door. The knob was turning and I heard keys rattling. Whoever it was locked us in the empty guest room.
Mr. Hall was shouting, “Don’t do this! Why are you doing this? You will never get away with this.”
Then he ran over to the window in the empty guest room and looked out and he was hitting on the window shouting, “Let us out of here! Don’t do this Bill. I’m your brother, why?”
I walked over to the window and looked out and I saw this tall man walking away from the house wearing the black cape I had seen hanging in the closet and the same black cape I saw the tall man wearing the night of the fire at the apartment complex where I lived. He had a gasoline can and some matches in his hand. He stopped and looked back. I screamed and put my hand over my mouth in disbelief. It all made sense now. The young boy in the picture, holding the fire truck, was him.
He had set the house on fire. I could smell the smoke and I saw the smoke coming in through the vents in the empty guest room. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why had he done it? He started the fire at the apartment complex too.
It was him. It was Doc!