He stood on the wet green lawn of his ex-neighbor’s ex-house and watched the crew roll up the last hose. The smell of damp burned wood filled the air. A short woman with a sassy haircut, wearing a fire marshal’s jacket, passed the yellow tape and approached him.
“Ryan Murphy?” She stuck out her hand. He took it automatically; it was warm and soft.
“I’m Inspector O’Hanrahan. I understand that you were first on scene.”
“Pleased to meet you. Yes, I live next door. I spotted the fire, called 911, and turned my garden hose on the house.”
“You didn’t go in?”
He shook his head. “The station’s only a mile away. I knew they’d be there soon – otherwise what’s the use in all those drills they make us do? Besides, no one is there. They Singers moved out about a month ago.”
She smiled briefly, but the smile didn’t make it to her amber colored eyes. Her brown hair, in its short bob – was it a bob? – cut, swung with her head movement. Her ears were pierced but she wasn’t wearing earrings. She didn’t seem to have make-up on. In fact, it looked like she didn’t have much on under her jacket.
“How did you notice the fire?”
She had on blue jeans and her tennis shoes were untied. He concluded that she had been awakened to come out and start the investigation.
“The clean up crew is going to be a while. Let’s go to my house and I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”
At her okay, he led her next door to his mother’s house.
“You live with your mother?” Inspector O’Hanrahan asked after they’d been introduced and Angela, his mother, had returned to her studio. He could hear Coldplay on her stereo.
“Well yeah. At the moment. I used to have an apartment on 5th, but things happened.”
He poured her a cup of coffee from the pot that was continually filling and offered her a seat at the kitchen table.
Aunt Bea blew in just then.
“Some excitement, eh Oreo?” She said as she poured herself a cup. Then she noticed the Inspector.
He introduced them, and Bea said, “I’ll leave you two alone. Jack will want an update.” She wandered out with her cell phone in her hand.
“Did she just call you…”
“Oreo, yes. My mother’s nickname for me. I guess I liked Oreo cookies a lot when I was a kid.”
“Who didn’t?” A genuine smile from the Inspector this time.
“But then I grew older and got into high school and it became a slur on my possible heritage.”
The Inspector didn’t follow, so he explained.
“My mother never told me who my father was, so some of the kids thought that perhaps he was African American. So, Oreo, ya know. Black and white.” He shrugged. “I don’t care, but my high school friends used to tease me about it. I asked my mother, but she refuses, to this day, to tell me who my father was. She says he was a fairy and that she’s grateful to have me.”
“Yep. My middle name is Alphonse, so I thought perhaps I had an Italian father, but no. It turns out that my middle name came from a cartoon character.”
“Ryan Alphonse Murphy.”
She looked at him blankly.
“My name is Orion, not Ryan. Although I’ve thought about changing it to Ryan. Most people call me Ryan because Orion is just too weird. But that’s my mom for ya.”
“And Murphy? Was your father an Irish fairy?”
“Nah, that’s my mother’s name. That’s about as Irish as I get.”
“I’m Mary Katherine O’Hanrahan, and I’m all Irish.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Like wise. Well, Orion, how did you spot the fire?”