Cold Heat

Cold Heat

by

Phillip McCollum

“You really think this is a smart idea?”

There was nothing left to do but ask questions. Holed up in an unfurnished Manhattan apartment, tied to an uncomfortable folding chair, sitting in front of some sort of jerry-rigged track-and-rail system wasn’t exactly a position Marquis expected to be in when he’d opened the Bureau’s trouble ticket email that morning.

Two hours and a few bruises later, things were getting intense.

“Smart idea? It’s the best damned idea anyone’s ever had.”

Marquis just knew the bastard was smirking behind the balaclava even though it covered everything but the punk’s bulging eyes.

“Smart idea…” the man trailed off with a derisive tone. He took a step toward his similarly-dressed partner holding an M16 dialed in on Marquis’s forehead. “This guy acts like we were born yesterday.” M16-man just harrumphed.

“Just sayin’, Bala-man–you mind if I call you Bala-man?–just sayin’, you must really think you’re gonna get what you want if you put on something like this.”

Bala-man walked over, met Marquis’s eyes for a fleeting moment, and then thrust a gloved fist into the hostage’s stomach. Marquis gasped for air. He wanted to double over, but the ropes binding him to the chair were pulled tight.

“Some superhero,” Bala-man said, laughing, but rubbing at the exposed knuckles beneath his now-singed glove. “Do yourself a favor. Don’t you worry about me.”

Even as he struggled to breathe, Marquis couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that these clowns had subdued him. If there was no other indication, the fact that they had come up with some kind of material that was resistant to Fire Carrier magic was a testament to them having done their homework. He’d tried a number of times to focus his mind and burn through the rope, but the bonds refuse to ignite.

Bala-man hummed a tuneless melody as he walked around Marquis and tended the fireplace just behind the chair. Marquis’s ears picked up everything the criminal did–the iron poker pushing the burning logs around. The man’s breath blowing into the orange embers, trying to rekindle the flames. Bits of ash flying into the still air.

Bala-man stopped humming and coughed through his nylon mask.

“Let’s get this over with,” M16-man said. “It feels like Hell’s kitchen in here.”

“Cool your jets,” Bala-man replied. “The more heat, the more power this idiot generates. The more power, the more seriously they’ll take us.”

Marquis assumed he was the idiot. To be captured by this bunch of losers, he thought. What did they know about fire?

Now, Marquis? He knew fire. Man, did he know fire. Its winding shape. Its subtle hiss. Its warm fragrance. And we’re not talking the smell of oak or cedar or whatever lumpy piece of wood Bala-man happened to be poking at. We’re talking about the fire itself. It had an odor and Marquis was as intimate with it like any fifteen-year-old wannabe rockstar was with the notes flying of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

He was about to crack a stupid joke about Bala-man being like a virgin with clumsy hands when there were three rapid knocks on the apartment door followed by two longer knocks.

Despite the rekindled fire, Marquis felt the temperature around him drop several degrees.

If you’d like to finish reading this story, along with many others, I’d be ecstatic if you’d consider purchasing one of my books.

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