Thanks to the hip and knee doctor for editing assistance.
I always heard the expression, 'nobody is perfect.' If that is true, then I am normal. What I mean is that I am not perfect. My biggest fault, which I have under control, is the most serious one. I love to start fires. When I was younger, it was a real problem and that is how I got my nickname: Pyro Petey. My name isn't Pete or Peter, it is Robert Smith. It is one of the most common names in America, which can be a blessing or a curse. However, let's go back to my nickname. My brother, William, christened me when I was twelve. The name stuck for a long while, but as I got better at controlling my urges, the Pyro part was dropped, but everyone kept calling me Petey. Sometimes it was awkward when I had to explain that my name was actually Robert. My second problem is my having an unusual reaction to beer. If I have more than one beer, then I fall asleep. If I am able to put down two or more, I am completely out of it for ten to twelve hours. It was a lot easier to live with the beer problem than the pyromania one. I didn't give up drinking altogether, but I have learned when, where, and how much I can handle.
When I was fourteen, I spent the summer experimenting with my fire-starting skills. Several garages and outbuildings in the neighborhood became victims of my experiments. Of course, I quickly learned that this was not something that you share with your friends or family. Fortunately, I was young and sloppy, and I was quickly caught and run through the legal and psychological wringer. However, I never lost my interest in starting fires. I spent a lot of time researching and experimenting, but always without risking exposure or embarrassment.
Other than the usual problems, growing up was not easy. My older brother, William, was always the favorite and always the overachiever. I had to struggle to keep my head above water and he became the academic genius, sports hero and a lady killer. Being his little brother did nothing for my ego. The happiest day in my life was when he left for college: with a full scholarship of course.
As inept as I was, I did manage to finish high school and get a job as a roofer. I actually liked my work. I think I had some sort of attention deficit disorder, because I had a hard time sticking to any job longer than a few days. My choice of vocation helped me avoid this problem somewhat. I was always starting new jobs and finishing them before I lost interest. It was a pretty good match.
As time went on, I was able to keep my affliction under control. It was ten years after high school until I was able to meet a girl and develop a relationship. It took another year until I was able to pop the question. Sarah was pretty much perfect as far as girls are concerned. I wasn't that particular, but I really couldn't find any faults with her. She had pretty brown hair, a nice complexion, and a cute body. As soon as we were able to save enough money, we bought a small house, so we could start a family.
Things were perfect until my brother William decided to come home to visit.
William finished college and got a job as an electrical engineer. He worked for one of the big chemical companies down in North Carolina. I hadn't seen him in almost ten years and I wasn't anxious to see him now.
We all got together at mom and dad's place for a mini-family reunion. William had just come home from the Pocono's where he had bought a cabin on ten acres of wooded land. From the pictures, it looked more like a lodge. He was going to have an open house over the Labor Day weekend and he gave us detailed directions on how to get there.
William's wife, Rachel, was in North Carolina with their two children. He was anxious for us to meet her and the kids at the cabin later that summer. Things were going better than I expected, until I noticed that Sarah and William were getting quite friendly.
Now I expected my wife to be congenial, but the interaction with William was not normal. She was flirting and he was enabling her. All of a sudden, I was remembering the reasons why I hated my brother. He was leaving the next day, so I didn't want to make a fuss. I forced myself to spend more time with my dad than I wanted to, just so I could avoid seeing Sarah and William together. It was approaching time for us to go home when Sarah dropped the bomb on me. She had invited William to stay overnight in our guest bedroom. I could have killed her right then and there. It got worse when she told me that she was going to ride back to the house with William, because she had never been in a Mercedes. I knew that was a lie, but it didn't seem to matter anymore.
I tried my best to not let my rage show. This was something I never expected from Sarah, but she had never met William. He was good looking and he could sweet talk anybody out of anything. Sarah spent way too much time showing him the house and telling him how she was going to be decorating each of the rooms. We finally got to sit down and relax when Sarah brought a couple of beers out. Normally I drink two or three beers a month and only when I am going to be staying home and going straight to bed. William looked over and smiled as he started to drink up. Sarah had a glass of wine that she was nursing.
"Hey, we have a can of those fancy mixed nuts in the pantry. Hold on a minute and I'll get them." The nice thing about Heinie's is that you can't tell what is in the green bottle. The beer went down the sink. I came back with a can of nuts and a bottle of tap water. Up until this point, I still had to give Sarah the benefit of the doubt. We chatted for about twenty minutes and she appeared with two more Heinie's. Now I knew that William and Sarah were up to no good. Both of them were aware of my beer problem and both of them seemed to be using it to their advantage. I don't know what William did or said to Sarah, and I don't even know when he did it. Maybe they planned everything in the short car ride back to the house. It really didn't matter.
I excused myself to go take a leak. The beer went down the toilet with the piss and I returned with another full bottle of water. I noticed the smirk on William's face as I took a big gulp. That just ticked me off, but when I saw Sarah smile, I became enraged. Normally, after two bottles of beer I am done for the night. It was easy to act sleepy and I even put on a show of trying to stay awake. I finished the water in the second bottle and walked slowly into the kitchen. I made a production out of throwing the empty away and opening the refrigerator to get out a fresh one. When I returned with the third bottle, William was grinning from ear to ear and Sarah was blushing.
I finished the water in the last bottle quickly, closed my eyes, and starting breathing heavily, as if I was sleeping. My wife and my brother were whispering quietly as they turned out the living room lights and went down the hallway to the bedroom. Both of them knew that I would be out for the night: dead to the world.
I waited for about twenty minutes and then walked down to the bedroom. The door opened with no problem. The moonlight coming through the bedroom window made it easy to see my brother and my wife screwing on our bed. They had no idea that I was there watching. The night was still young and I had a three hour drive ahead of me.
I will say this, that William drew a good map. I had no problem finding his cabin in the woods. It was a beautiful place and it had to have cost him well over a quarter million dollars. Thirty minutes later, I was on my way home, and the cabin was a large orange ball in my rear view mirror.
I was sitting down the street from the house, out of sight, just as the sun was coming up. All of a sudden, Sarah appeared at the front door. She looked around and when she saw that my truck was gone, she hurried back into the house. Ten minutes later William came rushing out, got into his precious Mercedes, and sped up the street. It was still early, so I went to the IHOP for breakfast.
Sarah started work at eight. At ten after eight our precious home and our life savings went up in smoke. I stood by the truck, just for a moment to make sure that it started properly, and then started downtown to close out our accounts. I was only able to get a couple thousand dollars together. We weren't rich and buying the house took all of our money. When I returned to the house, the police and fire trucks were still all over the place. Sarah was there, talking to the police. I walked over to her Focus and slid one of my special packages under the passenger's side. It was a mixture of gasoline and styrofoam with a small igniter which made from a remote controlled car. I am not sure, but I think Sarah saw me driving away as her precious little Ford burst into flames. My work here was done. Time to move on.
I had never been to North Carolina before. It was pretty, but I wouldn't want to live there. It took me two days to find where William lived. Damn, his house was nicer than the cabin. It must have been about 6000 square feet with a three car garage. I had to park several blocks away to watch the house. My old truck in that neighborhood would have aroused suspicion. I never saw William, but his wife, Rachel, brought their two kids out to catch the school bus. A short while later, she backed out of the garage driving a Subaru Outback. It had a tag advertising a local real estate company on the front.
I had no trouble getting into the house. You would have thought that they would have a security system, but they didn't. No one would dare rob William. William wasn't home, but his Mercedes was in the garage along with a nice little Harley Davidson. Actually, it was a big Harley. I made a quick sweep through the house to make sure it was empty, and found that it wasn't. There was a kitty litter box in the laundry room, but no kitty. I spent several minutes looking and then decided to use the can opener. Ten seconds later, Tabby showed up looking for din-din. A few minutes after that he was comfortable in the cat carrier that I had found in the garage.
Old North realtors wasn't hard to find. I only had to ask directions once. I walked into the front door and asked for Rachel Smith. A short while later she came out and I handed her the cat cage. She looked at the cat and then at me, just for a moment.
"Oh no. Petey you didn't. Please say you didn't."
We had never met, but she instantly knew who I was. " I am sorry. It had to be done. I didn't want to hurt your cat."
"Why Petey, Why? What is so bad that you would burn your own brother's house down?"
"You'll have to ask him. I'll call you in a week. If he hasn't told you by then, I will tell you."
We were interrupted by an excited man rushing in the door. "Call the fire department. There is a car burning in the parking lot. Hurry."
Rachel looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders and turned away. I heard the office secretary telling my sister-in-law that the fire department was at her house, as I walked out.
At this point, I had satisfied my rage. I was still mad, but no longer felt the desire to burn anything else. I headed West for a while and then South. I spent a few days in Northern Alabama. There was a lot of roofing activity which I found out was the result of several severe hail storms in the area. The big problem was that all of the roofers seemed to be Mexican. They were working in teams, and the quality of the work was excellent. My hopes of getting some work seemed dim, until I noticed an ad in the local paper for insurance roofing inspectors. I tried to clean up the best that I could with the few clothes that I had with me. Apparently, it was enough, because I got the job right away. They paid to send me to Mobile for two weeks training and then I was a fully qualified insurance adjuster for one of the major companies. They had so many claims pending that I had enough work to keep me busy for at least six months. I used my own name and my own social security number with no problems. I am sure that several law enforcement agencies were looking for me, but not in Alabama.
I got a small apartment and then sold my old truck. The insurance agency provided me with a vehicle along with extra money for gas and maintenance. I did my job and I did it well. Everybody was happy. I kept my nose clean and stayed out of trouble.
Shortly after I got settled in, I called my brother's wife. She said that William claimed to have no idea what drove me to go on my arson spree. I had promised that I would tell her what happened if William refused to, but I decided to change my mind. I told her that since he refused to be honest with her, I would have to return at a later date. She sounded worried when I hung up.