The fire had been burning for a few hours. Dan hated building fires, but he was very good at keeping them lit. It was shown to him when he was a child. His father taught him how to build the perfect fire. His father was a carpenter, which was ironic in Dan’s eyes, because his Father loved his profession. It seemed funny that a man who loves something could easily watch it burn. That became apparent the day Dan watched his childhood home burn down.
Dan was nine years old at the time. His Father’s house was eleven years old. His parents were married three years before he was born, and their home was built during their first year as husband and wife. His Father, being a carpenter, built the home himself and made it a custom fit. It was their dream house. The only problem was that dream houses are usually reserved for fairy tales, and this was real life. And more often than not there weren’t happy endings.
“Wake up,” his Father whispered, “Daniel, listen to me carefully. You need to go to the McGregor’s house. Head on over there and I will be there as soon as I can, okay?” Dan looked at his Father, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t awake and could barely open his eyes. Normally his Father would have patience with him, especially if it was something as abrupt as this, but his Father wasn’t himself. His Father wasn’t normal. “Daniel, do as I say. Now!” He had never seen his Father like this. He was frightened and couldn’t move, and that made his Father even more frustrated. Still in bed; his Father’s calloused hands grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out of bed. He took a knee and put his hands on Dan’s shoulders, and then he looked up at his son with a tear running down his face. Dan had never seen his Father cry, and that frightened him more than the yelling. “What’s wrong, pop?” Dan asked, sounding shaken. His Father didn’t reply, but still looked up at him. “What’s wrong?” Dan repeated, and still nothing. He didn’t know how to comfort his Father. It is hard for a nine year old to sympathize with adults, but nevertheless, a child can always tell when something is wrong. Now feeling confused and defeated, Dan turned to walk away and to the McGregor’s house, but stopped when his Father spoke.
“You know I love you, right?” His Father asked. “Yes, pop,” he replied. “Really, Daniel. I love you, and I need to know that you understand this,” his Father said through his congested nose.
“Of course, pop. I love you too.”
“Okay, do you trust me?
“Do you trust me, Daniel?”
“Yes, pop. What’s going on?”
“Just listen to me right now, Daniel. I can’t explain much right now, but I do need you to head to the McGregor’s house. Go right this minute, and I will meet you there shortly.”
“Daniel, this isn’t up for discussion. You need to go now.”
“Okay, how long will you be?”
“I’ll be there as soon as I’m finished here. Now go.”
Dan walked out of his bedroom and out of his Father’s house. He was not one to disobey rules, but he knew something was wrong. He couldn’t sit and wait for his Father. And how would he be able to explain anything to the McGregors. He didn’t know why he was supposed to go there, but he was sure they would find it odd to have a late night house guest. So instead he walked to the end of the gravel driveway and decided to wait. He would rather wait for his Father outside than be questioned and not be able to supply answers. Questions are easy to throw around, but answers are a bit tricky. And all he had now were many questions and not a single answer. This would become a problem when the police arrived, because like Dan, they also had many questions.