The daylight brought a new perspective to the events of the night before. The metal door had been sliced in two horizontally to allow the firemen to enter the building and the two halves lay twisted and blackened in the roadway nearby. The inside of the unit was a complete wreck. The racks of clothing had all been thrown against the walls by the water pressure of the the hoses, and everything that had been hung from them lay in twisted sodden tangles in the corners between the walls and the floor. Every single thing in the whole of Nadia's home had either been burned, saturated with water, battered and broken or rendered unusable by the smoke that had filled the full volume of the room.
Nadia gazed blankly around her, the policewoman standing close by, watching her closely. Harry was talking to a plain-clothed investigator outside, relating the incidents of the night.
It was looking like Nadia was going to have virtually nothing to her name except the contents of her bank account since, despite the insurance she'd struggled to pay each year, the assessors' take on the value of the clothing was likely to be a tiny percentage of what she would have hoped to be able to resell them for. Furthermore, the few personal possessions she'd kept with her were all of minimal financial value, having all been 'rescued' from the local dump or bought from auctions and the 'cash for goods' exchange store on the high-street.
After the police, the firemen, the insurance company's investigating officer and a representative from the letting agency had all gone, Harry and Nadia were left alone outside what had formerly been her home. The contents of the building were all a complete write-off but the property itself was still intact, although it was unlikely that it was ever going to feel the same to either of them.
'Just been thinking,' Harry began. 'I know we'd said before that it wasn't fair to the others to invite you to stay with us in our house-share because of the problems with Samedi and Grace...'
Nadia shook her head. 'No. I still couldn't do that to them. Not even for a short time.'
'But what are you going to do? You've no-one else around here!'
Nadia looked at him glumly. 'I suppose I could look for a short-term rental around here but, until the police have cleared me of suspicion for being responsible for the fire, I'd struggle to get anything in this area, even to share. Maybe I could get a room in a bed-and-breakfast in Holkerdale for a while...'
'But that's thirty miles away,' Harry protested. 'You've no transport at all now that your scooter's gone!'
'I know, I wish I'd been able to find somewhere secure to keep it rather than bring it inside along with everything else I owned. We're just lucky that the tank didn't explode while we were in there. It's bad enough that it leaked fuel everywhere, adding to the blaze.'
The two of them looked at each other, neither of them knowing what to say.
Nadia gave Harry a quick hug, giving him a misty-eyed look. 'Harry,' she ventured, 'You mean the world to me, you know? You're the only person that I feel anything for. The only person that cares for me.'
'Nade, what're you saying?'
Nadia pushed him away, wanting to be able to look him in the straight in the face.
'I need to ask you a small favour. Nothing difficult. I just need to be alone for a while. I just need the chance to think things through. Assess the situation, you know.'
Harry shook his head. 'What do you mean?'
'I just need to take a walk. Get some fresh air. Clear my head.' She smiled warmly at him. 'I'll tell you what. I'll come to your apartment when I've done. Let you know what I want to do.' She paused, then continued. 'Now, give me another hug, you great big lummox.'
Harry left her standing outside what used to be her home, and went out to fulfil some of the work orders he'd been intending to put off. Rather than eat his lunch while at work, he returned home, hoping that Nadia would already be there, but the only person there was Dan.
'Hi Dan,' he said, defensively raising his hands. 'Not today, buddy, I'm not in the mood for it.'
Dan shook his head sadly. 'You're gonna be less in the mood soon, I'm afraid. Nadia came round earlier. She told me what'd happened last night. She didn't stay long though. She said she'd got to visit the bank. And she left you a note. Said I was give you some space while you read it.' He pointed to the letter on the table and shrugged. 'I'm going outside for a smoke. Give me a shout if you want me.'
Harry watched Dan go, then picked up the letter.
'Harry,' he read. 'I have felt closer to you than I have ever felt with anyone ever, and I truly believe that we could really have had something so very special. However, I have felt so very anxious for you, getting you mixed up in the troubles with Grace and Samedi, and don't think it fair that you should continually put yourself at risk for me.
We have had such a lot of fun together in these few weeks we've known each other and I think that you deserve someone truly wonderful to share your life with. I'm just sorry that it can't be me.
All my life, I've attracted trouble, and I feel that I've spent more time running away from the consequences of my actions than I have ever spent settling down in a place I could call home. I thought I had that here but, once again, trouble has found me. I found Samedi's cane in the ashes at the unit, and I've got that with me now. Strangely, the flames hadn't touched it, so I'm guessing that it has kept it's powers. I'm hoping that it'll continue to draw Samedi to me, and that both he and Grace will now leave you alone now that I've gone.
While I was looking for the cane, I found Tomas' remains, and I've got those with me, so there'll be no problems on that score too, should he mysteriously resurrect himself again. The only problem will be the police and, now that I've disappeared, I'm hoping that they'll soon lose interest in you.
I also want you to know that I've emptied my bank account, so I'm going to be solvent for at least a while, so you've no need to worry about me. Concentrate on living your own life. I'll keep an eye on the Buslinthwaite Gazette website, so if you do get lucky and find someone special that can be as good for you as you were for me, please post a notice for me and let me know. I'll be looking out for it.
Please forgive me, for not being able to tell you this face to face.
With love, Nadia.'
Harry refolded the letter and put it back in the envelope, not wanting to see the words again.