The Barnyard shopping village actually looked like a barnyard with its high peaked roof, wood sided buildings. Landscaped gardens on cascading levels featured meandering paths to art galleries, boutique fashion shops, restaurants and cafes.
Abby and Winifred, close beside on leash, climbed to an upper level of the Barnyard and entered an art supply shop. Winifred immediately made friends with the shopkeeper who just happened to have a stash of dog biscuits handy.
Outside the shop, Edmund peered in the window, watched Abby pick out a new drawing pad and join Winifred at the counter.
Shopping bag in hand, Abby and Winifred left the shop and headed down a path.
Edmund followed, a safe distance behind.
A pair of hiking boots in a window caught Abby’s eye and she stopped to look. Behind her Edmund stopped and browsed a window display of high end cutlery in a kitchen accessories shop.
On the patio of a Barnyard coffee bistro, an old Cocker Spaniel sat at the feet of a distinguished Gentleman sipping tea. The dog spied across the patio to a table where a man was obscured behind a book cover: The 7 Steps to Communication with Animals.
“Be with the animal is a peaceful place. Invite the animal to get quiet with you…” Jerry read, lowered the book, and looked across the patio where the old dog leaned forward and met Jerry’s gaze.
Abby and Edmund turned away from their window shopping at the same moment. Abby smiled at the man in Clark Kent glasses and porkpie cap.
Edmund nervously smiled back. No harm. No foul.
And that would have ended it were it not for Winifred’s nose. It began to twitch, nostrils exhaling deeply, all the better to inhale the full scent of a man too close for Winifred’s comfort. Ears tucked flat against her head, tail straight back, Winifred’s nose confirmed the identity of Walter Knox’s killer.
The growl from Winifred’s gut was enough for Edmund. Nosed by the only eye-witness, he bolted.
Winifred ripped the leather leash out of Abby’s hand and charged after the assassin running down a path dodging shoppers. Howling like a banshee, Winifred charged through the human obstacles, leash dragging behind.
Hearing Abby calling after the dog, several shoppers tried to grab the little mutt or step on the leash, to no avail. Winifred was a terrier possessed. No one was stopping this wild woman from nailing her prey.
Back on the bistro patio, Jerry got deeper into the core of the text:
“Open the doors of your heart to the animal…” Jerry read, looked up and offered his most heart-felt look of benevolence to the Cocker across the patio.
Winifred chased Edmund through a corridor. Coming out behind the shops, she turned a corner and found herself in a delivery hall. Slowly padding down the hall, she turned a corner and… empty, save for several doors into the back of shops. Winifred turned and headed back when Edmund stepped into the hall blocking the exit.
Edmund removed the 154CM stainless steel Black Class knife from a pocket and opened the blade.
Winifred crouched low, pulled her lips back exposing a full snout of small sharp teeth.
“Imagine a beam of light is connecting you with his heart and soul…” Jerry read softly, then looked over the book at the Cocker, who suddenly raised up.
“All the impressions you receive will be aspects of this animal. You will be tuning in to his core essence.” Jerry put the book down focusing all his attention and energy on the old dog.
Connection made, the Cocker backed up behind his master’s legs and growled.
In the delivery hall, Winifred growled at Edmund, moving in, knife poised for the kill.
Winifred backed up until she was against the last door at the end of the hall.
Edmund stopped, pleased with himself. The mutt was his. Nowhere to run. No escape. His nano-second of satisfaction was all Winifred needed…
And she launched herself straight at Edmund… shot between his legs, Black Class knife slicing air behind her tail… stabbing the end of her leather leash trailing behind… the momentum of her getaway ripping the knife, stuck in the leash, out of Edmund’s grasp.
Frantically looking around the Barnyard, Abby saw Winifred fly out a corridor between shops, knife stuck in the end of the leash chasing after her. Two seconds later, Edmund charged past.
Tossing her shopping bag aside, Abby took off after them.
The Gentleman on the patio held his Cocker close, giving Jerry a nasty look when Winifred flew past behind them. Jerry was still processing the vision when Edmund flashed past. Enough for Jerry who bolted from his chair, never saw Abby a second behind, sideswiped her, sending her sprawling.
Outside the shopping village, Winifred charged between decorative boulders and foliage. The end of her leash snagged a bush, Edmund’s knife yanking free.
Edmund was on it, grabbed the knife… saw Jerry… juggled… dropped the blade… and took off into the parking lot.
Jerry picked up the knife, started after Edmund when he saw Winifred sprinting across the parking lot toward traffic. Screw Edmund! And Jerry took off after the dog.
The over-dressed woman from the veterinary clinic got out of her car with her over-dressed Chihuahua and watched Jerry, Black Class knife in hand, chase the little terrier across the parking lot. Screaming in horror, she fainted back into the front seat of her car.
Abby also saw Jerry and went the other way after Edmund who got to his VW, scrambling inside. Abby beat her fists on the door as the VW popped, sputtered, and pulled away, Abby running after it.
The Beetle picked up speed, Edmund taking dead aim on Winifred across the parking lot.
Jerry got there first, hurled his body onto the VW’s front hood, HOWLING and pounding fists and the butt of the knife against the windshield.
Howling back at the smashed nose and face plastered against the glass, Edmund whipped the wheel over hurling Jerry into space, arms, legs and ass making a three-point landing in a decorative island of boulders and rose bushes.
Enough for Edmund who sped off down an alley behind the Barnyard.
Abby was also in full flight, ran past Jerry’s body, more concerned with Winifred, still crazed and at the edge of traffic. Realizing she’d never catch up, Abby stopped, began flailing her arms, screaming hysterically. “HELP!!! WINIFRED!!! SAVE ME, WINNIE!!! HELLLLLLLLP!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
Winifred turned, saw Abby collapse on the pavement in agony. Her own trauma forgotten, Winifred did a one-eighty, put paws in gear and flew back licking, kissing and making sure Abby was okay.
Not so lucky was Jerry, splayed across rocks and rose bushes. He was painfully extricating himself from the landscaping when Abby and Winifred got there.
“I don’t know. You?”
Jerry looked surprised.
“Oh. That. Emergency recall. When all else fails, have a hissy fit. Go bonkers. Let your dog save you. Instinct.”
Jerry grimaced, raised his hand from the ground where the tip of Edmund’s knife was stuck in his left palm. Jerry pulled out the knife, yelped.
Blood oozed from Jerry’s palm. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped his hand while Abby and Winifred stared at the bloody Black Class knife.
Edmund stood guard in front of his Bonsai. “I don’t care what you do to me. But you’re not touching—”
Just inside the greenhouse door, Stanton held up his hands in a gesture of peace and forgiveness. “I’m not a monster, Edmond. Besides, you’d hate me forever. I need you. My garden needs you. Actually, I came to apologize.”
Stanton took a step toward his chef/gardener.
Stanton stepped back. “I should never have put you in such an awkward position. My fault entirely. But since I have no intention of spending the rest of my life in a small unattractive room playing cards with Bernie Madoff, I have already given the job to a… younger associate. So… Please, don’t give it another thought. It will all be over by tonight.”
~ ~ ~