Once You're Mine(10)

By: Barbara Freethy

"So you went after him?"

"I wanted to see where he was going. I just can't believe he's dead now. I keep seeing that body bag come out of the building…"

He still felt bad for not having been able to save the man, whoever he was. "You have to try to stop thinking about that."

"Tell me how to do that," she said with a sigh.

He wished he could. "Try to focus on something else. You have Scott's wedding coming up."

"That's true," she said, but then quickly returned to the subject that was on her mind. "I really wish I could talk to your investigator tonight."

"Even if you could, he's not going to tell you anything about an ongoing investigation. In fact, you might find yourself under suspicion for being so interested in the fire. It's not uncommon for arsonists to get too close to their own fires or to stick around and follow the investigation."

"You don't seriously think I started the fire?"

"Of course not. I'm just stating the facts."

"I can see your point," she said. "What if you spoke to the investigator and shared whatever information you could with me? Then I could stay out of it, which I'm sure would make my brother happy."

Against his better judgment, he found himself agreeing. "I'll talk to the investigator tomorrow and get back to you."

"Can we meet after work? Will you be at the firehouse?"

"No, I'm off shift tomorrow morning." He thought for a moment, thinking he was probably about to make a big mistake, but he couldn't think of a good reason not to see her. "I'll meet you tomorrow night at Brady's Bar and Grill."

"I haven't heard that name in a while. Brady's is still going strong?"

"Yes, it is," he said. Owned by a former firefighter, the bar had long been a hangout for firefighters and cops. "How about six thirty?"

"That's perfect. And you don't need to alert Scott to anything else, Dylan. He has enough stress getting through all the pre-wedding events. I don't need him worrying about me."

"Then don't give him anything to worry about. See you tomorrow, Tori."

As he went back into the firehouse, he didn't feel remotely guilty for having told Scott about Tori almost getting caught up in a fire. He had three younger sisters, and he'd want to know if one of them were in trouble. But he did appreciate the fact that Scott had a lot going on, so he'd be a good friend and look out for Tori himself. Hopefully, he could keep her out of any more trouble.

That thought made him smile. Tori had always been a force of nature. He had a feeling that hadn't changed.


Gary Kruger, an investigator with the San Francisco Fire Department, showed up at Tori's office a little after four on Thursday afternoon, after having set an appointment with her earlier in the day. Upon his arrival, she took him into the conference room for a little more privacy.

Gary was an attractive man with short brown hair and shrewd brown eyes, who appeared to be in his early thirties. "Thank you for seeing me," he said politely.

"Of course. I'm happy to help with your investigation." She was hoping that in addition to providing Gary with her information, she might get some answers of her own.

"So, I understand that you were in the lobby of the building when the fire started. Is that correct?"

"Yes. I was actually on my way out."

"Why were you there? The building was supposed to be empty."

"I'm reporting on the homeless population. I thought there might be squatters in the building."

"Did you see anyone?"

"I saw a man. He had on a lot of clothes, like someone who lived outside. I think he was in his fifties or sixties. I wasn't close enough to get a good look, although I did see an ID recovered by one of the firefighters."

"Yes, I have that ID for Mr. Neil Hawkins. That was the man you saw in the building?"

"Yes, it was." She drew in a breath and let it out. "I can't believe he's dead. Everything happened so fast. Do you know how the fire started?"

"It's an ongoing investigation."

"But there was a blast. It was deliberate, wasn't it? It's not like a heater blew up or something, right?"

"As I said, we're looking into all possibilities."