A salt-rusted gate at the end of the seawall opened and Winifred bounced out onto Carmel Beach, the ocean barely visible in the moon’s final light.
All was at peace, the morning quiet only disturbed by occasional yips and barks from a couple of coyotes deep in the arroyo jungle separating Knox’s estate from the 10th green at Pebble.
Walter Knox closed the gate and followed Winifred up the beach past the arroyo. Every so often Winifred stopped and waited for Knox to catch up. Nearing the end of the beach Knox followed Winifred up the grassy embankment to the 10th fairway. Reaching a flat spot, they turned and watched the moon’s final light glistening against the flat sea, the usual late summer fogbank still asleep a quarter mile off shore. This was their ritual. Whatever else was happening, Walter Knox would not deprive Winifred of their morning walk together.
Strolling side by side up the cart path past the 9th hole tee, Man and Dog watched a course maintenance man rake a bunker at the edge of the cliff beside the 8th green. Knox waved to the man and was surprised when he didn’t wave back. All the dawn patrol knew Knox and Winifred. Probably a new man, he figured.
Winifred got to the high point on the 8th fairway and waited for Knox, moving slower than usual. Up ahead the ghostly form of a fairway mower disappeared over the hill down towards the 8th tee where the fog was just creeping ashore on Pebble’s famous par 3, 7th hole.
Man and Dog crossed the 8th fairway and stood at the edge of a cliff high above rocks and ocean below. Knox picked up his scruffy little girl and gazed south upon Carmel Beach and Pt. Lobos barely visible through the fog coming ashore. Winifred seized the moments reverie to lay a big lick-smooch on Knox’s chin. Wiping the wetness with the back of his hand, Knox caught sight of a maintenance man moving behind him, heavy metal bunker rake in hand. In the mist, Knox wasn’t sure if he recognized the man.
Winifred was sure of something and uttered a warning growl.
Too late as the maintenance man charged, rake handle under his arm poised to run them through. The rake slammed into Knox’s midsection knocking him back towards the cliff. Teetering on the precipice, Knox shared a last look at his beloved Winifred, then flung her to safety before the rake’s final nudge into his chest.
There was no cry of terror as Walter Knox disappeared over the edge, accepting his fate down onto the rocks and sea.
Not so Winifred. Howling the primordial wolf inside, she catapulted onto the assassin who dropped the rake wrestling the ferocious terrier off him. Before he could pick up his weapon, Winifred grabbed a bite of his pant leg, tearing through the fabric above the cuff.
The assassin kicked at the little beast.
Winifred held on, until her jaw loosened and she was flung back toward the precipice. Forepaws clutching grass and dirt at the edge, Winifred’s hind legs churned air over the abyss.
Down the fairway, the mower moved back up the hill, headlights zeroing in on the assassin.
Time to finish the job.
Winifred’s terrified eyes watched the big dirty sole of the assassin’s boot slowly crunch down on the little toes of her right paw clutching the earth. The little mutt cried out, her scream drowned out by the rumble of the mower almost upon them.
The killer lifted his foot, watched as Winifred’s paw slipped over the edge, the little mutt vanishing into the void.
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