I smell smoke. Chap lifted his nose to the air, then climbed out of his bed next to Chessie’s to open the french doors into the conservatory in the middle of the farmhouse.

Stars twinkled in the night-time sky, seeming unaware of the curl of smoke rising from the trees to the west of the farmhouse.

“Woof!” Chap returned to Chessie’s bed and nudged her awake. I smell smoke and it’s close. Too close!

The sleepiness instantly cleared from Chessie’s brain. She shoved her feet into the shoes that constantly waited beside her bed since she and Chap had started their angel assignments, then rushed out into the conservatory.

“Omigosh! Wake the others and let’s get the sprinklers going to soak down the buildings.”

As the others stumbled from their beds, RT shouted, “Go to the barns, Chessie, and talk to the animals to calm them. I’ll turn on the pump in the creek to start the sprinklers.”

Peter joined Chessie as she ran toward the barn. “I can see flames. This fire is moving fast.”

“Let’s get the animals to the stargate. We can escape through there.”
Peter turned in a slow circle. “It’s all around us. This is no accident.”

Chessie followed his gaze and realized Peter was right. “Bring the animals to the pool. I’m going see how the merkaba commands water.”

When Chessie touched her necklace, she instantly materialized in the middle of the pool, envisioning the waters splitting to flow around the farm and extinguish the flames.

Soon, Peter and Kiki and the dogs appeared, shepherding the animals from the barns toward the water. The animals milled around, uneasy as the fire closed in around them.

RT splashed alongside the creek to help, coughing from the smoke now settling over the meadow. “The water’s rising in the creek, but we need more. The flames are still coming closer.”

“Chap, what can you do with angelic connections?”

Calling on them now.

I’m here too. Grandfather Alston appeared among the flames. Why didn’t you call me earlier?

“Knew you’d want to come in at the last minute and play the hero.”

“Maybe we can add some rain to go with the waters of the creek,” Peter said.

When Peter took Chessie’s hand, fat raindrops began falling around them.

“Did you feel that surge of energy?” Chessie touched Chap and the rain increased. “Kiki, put your hand on Chap’s head. RT, Grandfather–”

On it. Alston’s image shimmered between Kiki and Peter, forming a human and angelic chain between the advancing fire and the animals.

“The creek’s rising again and spreading out.” RT yelled as the rains fell harder and harder.

The roaring beast of fire hissed as the waters of the creek challenged its advance, and the rains pounded the flames from above. With the roar of the flames muffled by the water, the reassuring sound of sirens became audible in the distance.

Before the group could catch a breath of relief, human screams erupted as a strange man ran across the meadow grass toward them.

No, not a stranger.

“I’ve seen that man before,” Chessie said.

The arsonist we saw in the park planning to frame someone else for a fire he started. He’s also the man we saw by the fire near Gio the Cat’s house. Chap stood protectively between Chessie and the man now close enough to see the fury etched on his face.

“You cannot take this victory away from me!” He threw the contents of a red can toward the group then flicked a lighter. The shield of the merkaba activated instantly, forming a clear, glass-like container that trapped the arsonist inside with the gasoline and the flames.

Close behind him, Deputy Doug Burkhart drove across the bumpy ground in a sheriff’s SUV. He screeched to a stop and flung open the door, staring at the sight in front of him. “What the–”

The arsonist stood encased in a clear shield. Flames still burned, though all that remained of the man was the expression of impotent fury on his face.
Doug slowly approached and walked around the crystalline flame sculpture, then lifted his phone to snap a photo of the arsonist. “I guess Brant Aagney truly went out in a blaze of infamy.”

Only the first media cameras to reach the scene recorded the mysterious face in the flame. By morning’s light when law enforcement wrapped up their investigation, no sign of what used to be a human remained. Only a beautiful crystalline sculpture in the shape of a flame.


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