The burning of the lab turned out to be arson, one of a dozen that had occurred on The Hook within a month or two period. But that’s only part of the story, a story with a tragic end.
We had heard there were a few small fires on The Hook. A burning trash bin leaning up against one of the old military residences scorched the outside wall. A small fire in a back room filled with old files is put out quickly by the Hook’s fire department. A slightly larger fire damages an abandoned building. Nothing too suspicious at first, but after several weeks it was clear to everyone that something was amiss. Then the conflagration.
I was away. After many months of essentially nonstop work in the lab it was time for a well-deserved week off. This was back in the days before cell phones so I was essentially out of touch for a week. Once home I found a voice message. A co-worker had called to let me know there had been a fire; she didn’t want me to be shocked to see the still-smoking remains of what had been my place of work. I then read about it in the newspaper. The building was charred rubble.
For several weeks after the fire us fisheries employees took turns riding along with the park service rangers on 24-hour patrol. It quickly became clear that they suspected an inside job because the Hook is cut off from public access at night and a few additional minor fires still occurred.
One day my ranger partner and I stopped into the park service firehouse on a break. I was introduced to another ranger, a fireman on the site. He seemed nice enough.
A few days later he was dead.
The investigators had confronted him and he admitted he was the arsonist. His gun and badge were taken from him, but he broke into a fellow ranger’s locker, took that ranger’s gun, walked outside, and ended his own life.
Although tragic, a weight was removed from the Hook. However, there was more to the story, and that more hit even closer to home.
[to be continued]
Note: A preview, of sorts, was written as “My Life in a Brick.”
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.