Extract from ‘Valley Road’, copyright © Robin E Jones 2021.

A rim of rose-apple cloud stained the horizon. A wash of yellow-orange fanned out over the crest of the single storey Victorian farmhouse as the flames knifed through the corrugated iron roof. A shaft of flaming hot gas thundered out through the front door. The explosion was impressive, loud too. Flyn was pleased that he had left the car secluded just off a side road and cut through the trees on foot, eventually joining a dirt track that led to Ruby Craggs house. The heat wave would have turned the black Porsches exterior to Corn Flakes.

Observing the house from behind the low boundary wall protected Flyn from the main blast. Flyn knew it was a gas explosion, the stench of burnt sulphur permeated the dense afternoon breeze. Mercaptan is added to odourless propane gas, so when you smell rotten eggs, you know for sure you need to attend to a gas leak.

There was a loud thud off to his left. Flyn pulled himself up and peered over the wall. The business end of a 9kg propane gas cylinder was ripped and buckled, smoke was peeling off the blackened steel carcass that was impaled on the neatly manicured Buffalo grass lawn.

The flaming gas mushroom had pulled back after sucking up the surrounding oxygen and burning off the propane. The back of the house was still shrouded in flame. A plume of smoke above darkened the yard. Flyn jumped over the wall and ran into the house. The pressure from the explosion had blown the front door clean off. The hallway led directly all the way back to the kitchen. The bulk of the explosion had discharged through the corrugated roof as the gas cylinder torpedoed it’s way through the kitchen ceiling, high into the sky. The hallway vented the sideways expansion. The air was thick with heat as Flyn moved into the living room. He saw Ruby keeled over lying motionless. She had a feint pulse and her breath was shallow.

Flyn removed the blanket and lay Ruby on the lawn a good distance from the house and positioned a cushion from a patio chair under her head. Flyn soaked the blanket under the garden tap. He flung it over his shoulders like a cape and made his way back into the house. Flyn ventured into the other two rooms off the hallway. They were both unscathed by the fire that was still ravaging the back part of the house.

Put your hands up… move forward… slowly.

Flyn allowed the blanket to slip off his shoulders. It fell to the floor and he raised both hands.

Keep your hands were we can see em,” he said.

Flyn moved forward through the front doorway to the edge of the patio. He kept his eyes forward and edged slowly down the three steps and onto the lawn.

Down on the ground,” she said, “hands behind your head.”

Flyn complied. Don’t give them an excuse to gun me down, he thought. He kneeled and wove his fingers together behind his head.

The female detective gripped his left arm and twisted, hard, round and back. Flyn slowly lowered his right arm into position. She strapped a heavy duty cable tie taught around his wrists. The older male detective lowered his gun, stepped forward and booted Flyn to the ground.