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"Excuse me, sir. Are you supposed to be in here?"
The fireman turned. Quinn's eyes widened. Even with soot covering a good portion of the face, he could tell it was a woman from the brilliant smile she tossed at him. "It's miss, and I reckon I am if you wanna know the cause of this fire."
"You're with the State Fire Marshal's Office?" he guessed. Emerald Point's Fire Chief had told Quinn earlier that he suspected arson.
She stuck her clipboard underneath her arm, reached for the badge pinned to her turnout coat and flipped it around for him to view. "Sadie McGregor, Fire Investigator."
Interesting. She shared the same last name as the Fire Chief. That couldn't be a coincidence. "I had an officer posted here. Do you know where he went?"
"I sent him on an errand. Hope you don't mind." She stepped forward. Underneath her helmet, short strands of caramel colored hair framed a pretty face with freckles marching across both her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Haunting emerald eyes held his gaze as she offered her hand.
"Guess not." He shook the small latex covered hand, surprised by the strength of her grip. "Sorry for mistaking you for a guy."
She chuckled, turned, and walked into a room off to the right.
He followed. "I thought you were awfully small for a firefighter. I'm Police Chief Quinn Harrington by the way."
"I gathered that from your badge," she said with a smile. "Joe said you were on the scene during suppression, did anyone videotape it by chance? Or take pictures?"
"There were reporters on the scene so footage is probably available. Are you kin to Joe?"
"I'm his niece." She knelt along the baseboard. It was several seconds before she moved anything other than her head, which tilted from side to side as if in deep concentration. A few minutes later she balanced the clipboard on one knee, reached down and picked up what looked to be a framed photograph. "Must be her parents," she said, holding the frame up for his viewing.
"Mike and Donna Ingram. Larissa was their only child."
"Too bad. What do we know about her?"
"She was a senior over at the college, good kid, has never been in any trouble that I know of. The parents are away on vacation, so we think she was house sitting for them."
"Did you know her?"
"Not well. I've only been on the job a few months."
She laid the photograph on the buffet table, scribbled something on her clipboard and continued her examination of the room.
"I believe the point of origin is her bedroom, upstairs, first door on your right," Quinn volunteered.
"I've already been there," she said before exiting the room.
He followed her down the hall, into the kitchen. "How long have you been here?"
Just about the time he'd gone home to get a couple hours of much needed sleep.
Sadie pried opened the door of the soot-covered refrigerator and surveyed the contents. "Looks like our girl had herself a party."
"What makes you think that?"
"The refrigerator is almost empty and there are two barrels on the back porch with enough beer cans to pay for both our lunches."
"Preliminary findings of the coroner suggest she died from smoke inhalation."
"She also had a skull fracture."
"You've seen the body?" he asked.
"Well she could have received the head injury when she woke up disoriented. She was found next to the bed. She could have tripped and struck her head on the corner post."
"That's one possibility."