Abby’s backyard was a dog’s Promised Land – plenty of plants and trees to sniff, paths meandering around birdbaths, a redwood deck with lounge chairs for sunbathing and a long stretch of cool lawn to run and chase balls.
Abby was on her belly, head propped between the palms of her hands as she studied Winifred stretched out ten feet away. Nothing happening for either one of them. Abby took buffalo treats from a pouch and made her peace offering. After a couple of obligatory sniffs, Winifred turned away, more interested in watching a crow taking a dip in a birdbath.
Abby pulled herself up from the lawn, picked up her drawing pad and tramped over to her deck and hot tub where Murphy was catching some rays on a chaise lounge. Under Murphy’s soulful gaze Abby plopped on the chaise beside him, grabbed a coffee mug off a table and fixed the man in her life with a sad smile of defeat.
“What do you think, Murph? I can’t get anywhere… Any ideas?”
Murphy rolled off the chaise and hauled his tired old body across the backyard stretching out on the grass a few feet from Winifred. Basking in the warmth of the afternoon sun, Murphy closed his eyes for a snooze. Watching him, Winifred could hardly keep her eyes open. Resistance gone, she shot Abby a quick look-see across the yard, then crept towards Murphy, snuggled up beside his big protective body, released a deep sigh and closed her eyes.
Charles Stanton paced his library, cold eyes looking at something on page three of the Carmel Pine Cone weekly in his hands.
A knock at the door. Stanton was ready, moved to a long table covered with newspapers and magazines from around the world. He spread the open Pine Cone paper across the international periodicals and walked to his French doors.
His guest entered and closed the door behind.
Gazing outside to his garden, Stanton said, “Have you looked at this week’s Pine Cone?” Stanton pointed to the table behind him.
His guest approached hesitantly and looked down at the paper opened to page three with the headline:
Victim’s Dog Recovering at FHARP
Under the headline was a picture of Abby holding Winifred, bandaged paw front and center.
“Appears your account of Winifred’s demise was… shall we say, exaggerated.”
“But I– ”
“No. You didn’t.”
“But I saw her go over–”
“Then perhaps she had wings! As you can see, Walter’s mutt is alive and relatively well. That woman in the paper, Abby… I saw her on TV. Interesting woman. Says she can communicate with animals.”
Stanton’s guest shrugged.
“You left a witness.”
“You don’t believe—”
“Of course not.” Stanton let that percolate, strolling to his wall of books. “On the other hand… She did make a convincing case. If she’s right… that would make me very unhappy. I’ll be in New York for a couple of days. This mess will be cleaned up before I return.”
“I’ve come too far to be destroyed by a dog who… talks. Or some woman who listens to it.”
Stanton lovingly stroked his Honduras rosewood ladder.
“Finish the job. Both of them.”
Stanton slammed his fist against the ladder, the casters eliciting a nails-on-blackboard SCREEEECH!
“And somebody fix my God-damned ladder!”
~ ~ ~