Something wasn't adding up.
Very early that morning Durman had sat in one of the hole-in-the-wall diners the majority of the city had forgotten the existence of, staring at the 14 inch Panasonic television set on the nearby front desk, and while he walked he was even now contemplating what fresh news it had brought. Normally he took no interest in they city's crimes, but this one seemed... different. He had intently watched all the news of the latest exploits by the "Brimstone Burner", as this news channel took such morbid glee in naming the killer. The nickname had developed upon unsubstantiated rumors that every crime scene stank of sulphur, although whether or not the fires had been chemical had yet to be disclosed to the public. Durman had compiled a mental list of relevant facts that he'd absorbed over the span of the investigation that would even rival the police's own records on the case. However they were viewed, though, there was always one piece out of place with every rational theory put forward so far.
There were rumors of gangs and robberies, but none of the residents attacked had been rich by even the most optimistic estimates. Also, gangsters and robbers had no use for abducting small children.
Glancing at Desri, Durman blinked, realizing for the first time how much the victims had in common with his own lifestyle. Granted, he wasn't a single parent - he almost smiled at how preposterous the idea was - but he fit most of the other criteria.
If the killer was a deranged pedophile, or abducted the children for another reason, this still didn't account for the method of starting the fires. Apparently in every case, the fires had not only failed to spread beyond the bed, but indeed had been contained to the person's body entirely. This type of controlled combustion wasn't possible, barring a painstaking laboratory setup which couldn't be achieved in someone's home while they slept. Durman had considered the possibility of the victim being moved, burned at a separate location, and returned. However, the bed was not completely untouched; the evidence suggested the victim had not moved before or during the incineration.
Snapping out of his pondering, Durman noticed the sign across the street. Northwestern Memorial Hospital. So, this was the place. The charitable reputation of the hospital made it an ideal choice for addressing the immediate concern of the day: Desri's disturbing, unnaturally throaty cough. Of course, she had tried not to show any discomfort this past week, but finally he had promised her that her phobia of hospitals would be ignored just this once. Desri wasn't stupid, even by Durman's harsh standards; she knew this was a fib, and that if she fell ill in the future he'd have no compunction about returning her to the frightening building for further treatment. Truly, though, if the cough hadn't gotten worse and shown signs of developing into something life-threatening, Durman wouldn't have forced her into this after all. They couldn't afford to pay expensive medical bills, and in all reality he might face jail time in the future for his inability to pay the hospital for this treatment.
Of course, he wasn't about to tell Desri that.
Either way, Durman had one other reason for taking her to this place in particular; it was the hospital where his own grievous injuries had been treated twenty years ago. He wasn't sure if he would tell her this, now or later or maybe not at all. As fate would have it (and with him it seemed to "have it" often), he had overheard another encouraging piece of news about this hospital at the diner, from a couple whose relief was palpable. Apparently the hospital now had a woman in the children's ward who was especially adept at healing grievous illnesses in the young...