Dawn. Cold and dreary. Jerry arrived in the same condition. Another wasted morning hunting diamonds in the rough at Pebble. Could be worse, Jerry figured. Could be baby-sitting Betty’s poodle. Then again, his willingness to look after Jacques was probably the only thing keeping him and his trailer from being thrown out of the RV park.
Chopping through the tangled grass with his old Sam Snead 9-iron, Jerry stepped on something, slipped and hit the turf. Mad at himself, he clawed the object out of the ground, wiped the muck off the ball, and rolled it over in his hand. The ball was old, beat-up and unplayable. And embossed with the name, Jerry Newman.
Old. Beat-up. Unplayable. The game does not lie. Jerry had played long enough to learn that. Golf and life. Two four-letter words with a lot in common. The minute you think you’ve got either one figured out, it bites you in the butt, Not so fast, smart-ass!
Hauling himself off the ground, Jerry heaved his old ball into the ocean. Game over.
Jerry climbed the embankment, marched across the 10th fairway and was heading down the maintenance road to the 17-mile Drive when he heard a couple of low yip-barks on his right flank. He turned to find two coyotes eyeing him from the edge of the jungled canyon separating the golf course from Walter Knox’s estate.
The coyotes and Jerry took measure of each other. Nobody moved. One coyote kept an eye on Jerry, his partner zeroing in on something rustling in the canyon underbrush.
And then Jerry heard it, a painful moan from deep in the arroyo.
The coyotes crashed down into the canyon. A terrifying CRY!
Jerry bolted for the canyon, half way there when a small dirty creature exploded from the ravine, coyotes right behind.
Seeing Jerry, Winifred made a mad dash and leapt into his arms.
The coyotes slammed on the brakes. With good reason as Jerry waved his Sam Snead 9-iron at them, daring them to take him on. The coyotes considered it when, from the safety of Jerry’s arms, Winifred let out a brave growl.
Impressed by the little mutt’s spunk, Jerry let out a primeval cry and charged the coyotes, swinging his golf club like the caveman he was only a few million years ago.
The coyotes turned tail and disappeared into the ravine.
Jerry studied the now shivering bundle of matted fur in his arms, twigs and burs stuck in her hair, a dirty mess of a dog. Feeling around her neck, he was surprised to find no collar or tags. He could only wonder as the mutt licked her right paw and moaned. Gently checking the paw, he tried to get a closer look when she squealed in pain.
Jerry looked into her big brown eyes. “It’s okay little one. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
The way Abby looked at the television, everything was decidedly not okay. Would never be okay when it came to the man being interviewed at the bottom of the cliff Walter Knox went over. The tide was out exposing sand and rocks where a young television reporter, Magen, and Sheriff’s Detective, Derek Butler, stood outside the tape marking the area where Knox’s body was found. Butler was being his usual handsome self to the attractive young reporter pushing a microphone in his face.
“At this point we have nothing to suggest the death of Walter Knox is anything but an accident,” Butler said, gently touching Magen’s wrist, pulling the mic down out of his face.
Abby rolled her eyes at Derek’s smooth move. Standing at her kitchen counter, she stuffed a spoonful of cold cereal in her mouth.
“Detective Butler, do you– ”
“Call me Derek.”
Butler and Magen exchanged happy eye contact.
Abby choked on her mouthful of Kashi GoLean Crunch.
“Derek… Do you have any comment regarding speculation from certain reliable sources suggesting that Mr. Knox was going to testify against– ”
“Come on, Magen… Unless those reliable sources happen to have been with Knox at the time of his departure…” Derek offered the camera a benevolent smile.
“Bastard,” Abby said to the old television on the counter of her ranch home kitchen. Murphy raised up, paws on Abby’s hips and watched his woman grind Kashi Crunch into pulp.
“One last question,” Magen said. “Do you have any response to the statement by Knox’s partner, Charles Stanton, suggesting that his friend’s anguish over the accusations against Alpha Dog, may have… pushed him over the edge?”
Derek Butler thought about that.
Abby Purcell didn’t have to. “How about someone who didn’t want him to testify? Now there’s a long shot!”
The waiting room in the veterinary clinic was quiet except for the sound of Jerry padding back and forth. An over-dressed older woman cuddling an equally over-dressed Chihuahua sat in a corner. Jerry stopped pacing, glared at the woman and her dog.
“You know, dogs are actually nudists. They don’t really like to be– ”
“Mr. Newman, your paperwork is ready,” Nancy called from the front desk of the waiting room.
The Woman held her Chihuahua close as Jerry went to the counter.
“We cleaned her up, but her right paw was pretty badly mashed. You’ll need to bring her back next week. We’ll change her bandage and see how she’s healing. And we’re giving you some medication.”
Nancy handed several pages of paperwork to Jerry, at the same time taking full measure of this scruffy man with the pants still sporting muck and grass from the morning adventure.
“We are concerned that she had no collar or tags,” Nancy said. “And… her name was…?”
“Uh… Nancy,” Jerry smiled at the receptionist with the ‘Nancy’ name tag on her blouse.
The receptionist wasn’t having it. “You might want to take her out to the SPCA. They may know something more. Someone may be looking for her.”
“I’ll do that,” Jerry said, then looked at the bottom of the last page of paperwork, and recoiled.
“If you’re a little short, I’m sure we can work something out. A payment schedule…”
Jerry pulled his wallet and flipped Nancy a credit card. A vet tech emerged from a back room carrying Winifred, cleaned up, her right paw heavily bandaged. Handing the little mutt into Jerry’s arms, the tech said, “She’s under fairly heavy sedation. Needs plenty of rest.”
Winifred was also under the heavy scrutiny of the Chihuahua Woman, more than a little curious about this rude unkempt man and the terrier mutt in his arms. Even in her nearly comatose condition, Winifred answered the Woman’s suspicious glare with a low grrrrrrrr… then closed her eyes and floated away to doggie Never, Never-Land.
~ ~ ~