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Even from across the room, he could smell the gasoline they were carrying and he knew, without thinking, what they were here for.

"This is my fire," he said petulantly, still backing away. "Why don't you just go and leave me alone?"

Solly Martin knew it was wrong, but he had gotten tired of waiting. And besides, he wanted to know more about this whole arson thing.

He got out of his car and walked through the al-


ley separating his store from the next building. The rear door to his store was open, and he paused, shaking his head. He didn't know anything about arson-for-hire, but it seemed dumb to leave the door open so anyone might notice and call the police. He walked toward the door, then heard voices inside. They were talking too loudly for his liking. He didn't think that was cool. He considered getting the hell out of there, before those two incompetent loonies got him arrested as well as themselves. Screw it, he decided. It was his money. He would just walk in and tell them to knock off the


He paused in the doorway and saw Moscalevitch and Flammio standing only a few feet from him, their backs to him. At the other corner of the store was the young kid.

Before Solly could say anything, Moscalevitch

spoke. "What do you mean, your fire? This is a bought

and paid-for job."

He and Flammio took a step forward.

"I don't want to hurt you," Solly Martin heard the boy say. It was a child's voice, too small and too thin to carry the threat that was in the words.

Flammio laughed.

"That's a gas," he said. "You hurt us? What are we gonna do with this creep, Moe?"

"I think we're gonna have to leave him here," Moscalevitch said.

Martin watched as the two men walked slowly toward the youth. The boy said again, "I'm warning you."

Flammio laughed again.



The boy spread his arms far out to his sides, as if he were planning to fly away.

If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, Solly Martin would never have believed it.

The young boy put his arms out to his side, just as Flammio and Moscalevitch charged toward him.

Then the boy started to shine. Right before Martin's eyes, he started to shine, first giving off a faint blue glimmer as if a gas flame were surrounding his body. The glow grew in intensity, enveloping the thin young body like a spiritual aura. Moscalevitch and Flammio stopped charging. They stood rooted in the middle of the store, and then the boy pointed his arms and fingertips forward at the two men, and the blue aura surrounding him began to change in color. First, it turned violet, and then as the blue vanished, more redness appeared—more and more, brighter and brighter. Then there was an orange glow around the boy, the throbbing color of a poker heated in a coal fire, and it pained Solly's eyes to stare at it. But he continued to stare, and through the orange haze, he could see the boy's face, and the boy's eyes were narrowed and glinting, and his mouth was wide open and his teeth shone in a broad smile of pure joy.

Then, as if the two men were the negative poles of a battery and the boy a giant positive generator, flashes of orange light darted across the room and enveloped the men's bodies. Solly Martin stifled a scream. The men's clothes were burned off their bodies instantly, and the orange flame was consuming them, and before Martin's eyes, they seemed to be melting, sinking slowly toward the floor.


They never screamed, and Martin knew they were dead, and then the can of gasoline Flammio had been carrying exploded and splashed flame all over the store, and instantly papers and PLO banners began to burn.

At the back of the store, young Lester McGurl was still glowing. He spun around and pointed his hands toward the far wall, and flashes of flame jumped forward from his fingers. Where the long sparks of flames hit the wall, the dried old wood began to burn immediately.

The boy looked around. He nodded. The two arsonists' bodies in the middle of the floor were still burning, fat sputtering from their carcasses, and where the splashes touched the wood of the floor, the floor began to burn. The rest of the store was burning, too, and the young boy began to change color slowly, backing from orange to red to purple to blue, and then back to bis normal color, almost as if he were a battery and the last drop of juice had been drained from him.

Lester McGurl ran toward the rear door. Solly Martin made one of those judgments that, later, he would ask himself where he got the courage to


As the youth ran by him, Solly grabbed him around his skinny shoulders and before the startled boy could fight, Solly hissed, "We've got to get out of here. Come on. I'm your friend. I'm not going to hurt you."

He was surprised at the frailty of the boy's bones. It felt as if he had a bird in his hands. The boy offered him no resistance, almost as if he had no energy left. Solly Martin led him quickly down the alley toward his waiting car.


He wanted to get out of there before the police arrived. He knew that, in the crook of his arm, he had the commercial commodity he had always been looking for.

He had never in his life been able to make a dollar selling anything to the general public, but he was going to have a different clientele now. He was going to be selling fires to people who wanted fires, and in Lester McGurl he had the commodity that separated him from anyone else peddling arson in the United States.

Lester McGurl let himself be put into the front seat of the car.

When Solly got in behind the wheel, he saw that Lester was staring at him.

"You going to hit me?" McGurl said.

"No," said Solly. "I'm going to feed you."

The boy shook his head. "You're going to beat me," he insisted.

"No, I'm not," said Solly. 'Tm going to make you rich. And I'm going to give you all the fires you want. How's that sound?"

"I'll believe it when I see it," Lester McGurl said.

"Believe it," said Solly Martin.

They were gone before the fire engines arrived.



His name was Remo, and the sand that landed on his belly was damp and cold.

He opened one eye to look at the three-year-old blonde girl who squatted over a long ditch she was digging in the sand of the beach.

"Why are you throwing sand on my belly?" Remo asked her. He was in a bathing suit, lying on his back on a Mickey Mouse towel in the bright summer heat of Point Pleasant Beach at the New Jersey shore.

"I'm digging a moke," the girl said without looking up. Her little tin shovel—the first Remo had seen in years because he thought only plastic shovels were being made—flashed down into the sand without pause, digging up a small spoon-sized scoop and throwing it past her left shoulder, where most of it landed on Remo's stomach again. Her lips were pressed together tightly as she concentrated on her dazzling feat of earth-moving. "What's a moke?" Remo asked. "It's what you dig around a cassoo," the little girl said. "My big sister Ardaff told me all about it."

"That's not a moke," Remo said. "It's a moat." He wiped the sand from his stomach. "And besides,


where's your castle? Why are you building a moat around a castle when you don't have a castle? I think it's just a trick to throw more sand on my belly."

The girl kept digging. More sand kept landing on Remo's stomach. Some of it, dryer than the rest, landed in his face. "I'm making the moke first 'cause it's easier to make the moke," she said.

"Moat," Remo said.

"Moke," the girl agreed. "Then I'll make the cassoo." She had long blonde pigtails, dotted with fresh wet sand that glistened like diamond chips. Her body was pink, not yet burned by the sun, and it seemed made of ovals—curvy, round, and soft with no discernible muscles.