Book of Days: December 24, Bernard Slauson

The story was, the fire had been started for the insurance money. Caused a bit of a stir, that, people pushing to reject the insurance system entirely and the companies struggling to fix the nightmare perception this caused. Their appeal that most people wouldn’t go around starting fires to get a bit of money didn’t land well, most especially not in the village where someone apparently had, and a family was killed.

Jame hadn’t known the family well, being a child at the time, but everyone in the village knew of them now. To hear people tell it, they were the kindest and most virtuous family there ever was, and while he was old enough now to be cynical about that, he didn’t really begrudge them this posthumous respectability. Not when it seemed they had been killed just as the rumours said, and the one who started the fire fled with the money.

There were those, of mostly ill repute, who claimed the identity of the one who stood to gain from the fire should have been withheld as a matter of professional honour, but honour very rarely lasted in the face of self-preservation and the insurance brokers were facing the loss of their entire industry. The name was not given directly, no, but it was given all the same. It might, perhaps, have saved them, for they survived the scandal where they might not have done if a new target for the people’s grief and anger had not been presented.

Bernard Slauson was, according to the rumours, a ne’er-do-well everyone had always known would amount to no good, but Jame doubted that in much the same way he doubted the family killed had been so very virtuous. Granted, he had by all appearances murdered people for money so there was something to his character that was darker than most, but Jame suspected he was not quite the personification of evil the stories said.

Whether he knew the name was to be given, a possibility if the insurance brokers did not want their clients to think a payout would result in a mob at their door, or whether he simply saw the way the wind was blowing, Slauson was gone with his spoils before the rest of the village knew who had it, and disappeared into the greater world where no one knew him and he could give them any name at all. It was unlikely anyone would have been able to find him, though there was a half-hearted attempt, even right after he left. To think he could be found now, some fifteen years later, was a delusion of staggering proportions.

But Lenora had asked him to do so for some unknown reason and Jame owed her his life, from a fire no less, and so he was sitting in a bar at the village that would have been nearest to their own fifteen years ago, wondering just how he was expected to get started.

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by | Dec 24, 2021