The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 19 - Burning? The Bank's Burning?

"Maybe later. Let's see what we can do with the basics first." I had to admit the likelihood of money laundering and offshore accounts being involved in a low-tech kidnapping were remote.

I listened a little more and then broke down and topped all the coffee in my stomach with a ham sandwich of my own. I wondered what Jones was having for lunch as I slathered a whole-wheat hoagie roll with mayonnaise and mustard. I didn't add lettuce or tomato to ruin the ham.

I stood off to the side debating with myself whether to go for sandwich number two. The meeting had begun to get on my nerves. Having arrived at a plan of sorts, the men now had their chairs pushed back, discussing where the fishing was good, the best places to find shotgun parts and hunting supplies, the kind of guy-talk I despised.

Johnson wasn't taking part in that small talk and looked as antsy as I was feeling. I walked over, gave him a nod and he raised his eyebrows.

"Why don't we head on over to the bank?" I said in a quiet voice. He rose, told the others where we were going and we left together.

"Not a hunter?" I asked politely.

"Not for food on the hoof, anyway," he replied. "Just deals on finances, that sort of thing." A man after my own heart, it seemed. We didn't have to go far so we took the back door, walked down the driveway to the street and turned toward the bank. The sunshine felt good, the clear sky promising a warm afternoon.

"Oh, oh." Johnson suddenly speeded up, crossing the paved street in a trot and leaving me behind.

"What's the matter?" I called as I tried to catch up. Then I realized what was the matter. The bank building was smoking. Wisps of white smoke were curling above the building and from half a block away I could hear the fire alarm bell ringing. A siren sounded from up the street and by the time I arrived at the bank a fire truck was pulling up. Johnson was pounding on the door, yelling at the top of his voice as he fumbled for his keys.

Where was Alice? Where was the bank guard? The front door was locked but the bank should have been open for business.

"Hey, Tom, give me those," the fire chief was there in person, fully dressed in fire garb himself. He yanked the keys away from Johnson's hand. "You'll make it worse if you open that door." Of course he was right. A fresh infusion of air and the whole building might explode.

"Alice is in there! And Jack! We've got to get them out!" Johnson was frantic, but two firemen were hooking up their hoses while the chief pulled Johnson's arm to get him away from the building.

"We'll take care of it, stay back, both of you." He left Johnson standing next to me and ran toward the back of the brick building. The worst of the smoke seemed to be coming from the rear. I didn't see any flames through the window but where there's smoke...

I had to hold tight to Johnson's arm to keep him from surging forward again. He was understandably worried. The bank staff weren't just employees, they were friends and they should have been on duty. Were they unconscious from the smoke or was something even worse wrong? I had an unpleasant feeling about the situation.

With the clang of the fire alarm going full blast I could barely hear the firemen yelling to each other as they covered the exterior walls and roof with water. A moment or two later the chief reappeared from around the far side and called to Johnson. We sloshed around the truck and fire hoses to join him on the street. By this time a crowd from nearby stores was milling around, craning their necks trying to see what was happening.

By now the council members had made their way down the sidewalk from the saloon and gathered around Johnson and me, jostling each other for position.

"What on earth, chief!" Jones exclaimed.

"Oh my, oh my, oh my," muttered Silver, his eyes following the movement of the fire hoses playing against the bank building. The screech of the alarm died away as the chief began to speak in Johnson's ear.

"The back door was ajar. The smoke was coming from that rear office - that's your private office, isn't it?" His eyes asked and Johnson nodded yes.

"Well, we've got it under control, it wasn't much of a fire, just papers piled up in the middle of the floor. Where's your people? There's nobody inside."

Nobody inside?

It seemed that the front door was locked but the back door was open. The fire had been designed to cause a lot of smoke, not to destroy the building. Alice Gold was gone and so was Jack McKenzie, the bank guard. We had another kidnapping on our hands.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 |