“Look, I don’t think anything was taken, just some damage done, so can I go now?” I pleaded with Deputy Smithson. He was a young guy for a deputy, at least I thought so. He had dark brown eyes and hair and looked like he spent too much time in the sun for a cop. That’s the impression I would have got if hadn’t known him as “Little Jason”, the youngest Smithson with five older sisters. It was just weird to see him in this authoritative position. “I have to look for my dogs.”
“Just a couple more things. You said you were on your way here with one Tom Booker, on your way to look at some property…”
“Oh, my gosh! We’ve already been over this-“
“Yes, but why were you stopping by your house?”
He must have noticed my blush the first time I explained it. I was thinking about the second reason Tom and I had for coming here. The first being that I needed my snow boots for slogging around Tom’s newly purchased property, the second reason being… well, a good reason for blushing, anyway.
“I was wearing the wrong shoes for showing the outside property in the snow.” I lifted my foot to show him my backless kitten heels. He looked down at them with raised eyebrows as if to question their practicality, but then again, he did have five sisters.
“Right,” he said. “Okay, I think I’m done here. If you notice anything missing or out of place just give me a call.”
“I will. Thanks, Jason.”
I noticed Tom standing over by Jack’s truck. Talking to him through the driver’s window. I jogged over to him and said, “I going in to grab the leashes and my other shoes.”
“Are you sure they won’t just come back?” Jack asked. “I mean, you walk them the same route everyday, right?”
“Well, that’s what I’m going to try first, but Dingy always wants to run away. Thanks for coming by, Jack. Really everything’s ok. It’s probably someone just looking for cash or something. Don’t worry.”
I turned and ran back to the house. I made note that Ernesto and Sylvie were still in there and I sat down to change into my boots. While I was tying the laces Sylvie rubbed up against my back and made a little sound between a purr and a meow. She was such a social little being. She probably did the same thing to the person who broke in. Traitor. I felt that little sting of panic in my chest that I had been holding back for the last couple of hours. I pushed it back down. I had to keep it together long enough to find my dogs, then I could curl up in a ball and cry it out.
I wondered what they were looking for. My desk had been ransacked and the wastebasket beneath had been dumped and little ripped papers and notes were everywhere. My computer was still in place along with all it’s equipment. The dresser and nightstand in my bedroom had been rummaged through, also. But no prints had been left behind. The only evidence at all was the mess and the shredded door jam. I don’t keep anything in my trash that has any kind of personal information that someone could use for identity theft. I shred everything at the office.
“Wait!” I shouted out the front door hoping to catch Jason before he left.
Now he was standing by Tom talking to Jack through the truck window. He turned at the yell and started walking up to me. I met him in the street halfway.
“Did you notice something else?” he asked.
“No, but I had a bunch of personal information and bank records that I took to work today to shred, but I left them in my desk. Do you think someone is trying to steel my identity? Can you check out the realty office?”
“Are you sure you locked it up?”
I nodded and said, “Positive.”
“I’ll check it out, but my bet is that it’s fine. We would have had a call already, being that’s it’s right in the center of town.”
“Ok, thanks a lot. Well, I’m off to find my dogs,” and started jogging to the park. I pulled out my cell phone to call Parker at the same time. I used to run to the vets office to visit Parker on occasion. There was no answer. I will just have to run there after the park. That would be a total of four miles. I could do it, but I am going to be sore. I got a little ways down the road when I heard Jack’s truck pull up beside me.
“You wanna ride?” Jack asked through the passenger window.
“Can’t,” I replied, losing my breath. I’ve never been good at running and talking at the same time. “If I… don’t follow… the same path… then I… might… miss ’em,” I panted.
“Honey, you’re gonna kill yourself. They’re just dogs.”
I stopped in my tracks to look at him wordlessly. Tom sat in the passenger seat, silent. At least he knew when to keep his mouth shut about my dogs. And I’ve only known him for a few days.
He continued, “Well, what I mean is that they’ll come back right? And if they don’t, well, everybody in town has seen you with them. If someone finds them they’ll bring them to you. Don’t ya think? It’s pretty cold out for running…”
“Shut up, Jack,” I said and started running again. My anger was feeding me raw energy now. Jack was right about one thing. It was pretty cold out. Nomad is getting pretty old and Dingy has only three legs and one eye for goodness sake. How would they fair over night with only each other for warmth instead of my soft warm bed. They would think I abandoned them. What if Dingy completely loses his way and runs clear back to New Orleans? We’ve all seen the movie ,”Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” right? Nomad is totally Shadow, that old Golden Retriever, and Dingy could so have the voice of Michael J. Fox. If only they had Ernesto or Sylvie with them…
Jack pulled ahead of me and stopped. Tom got out and closed the door, Jack pulled away. Tom waited for me to catch up with him. I didn’t stop. If I stopped again there would be no way for me to get my momentum back up. To my surprise Tom easily fell into step beside me.
“What are… you doin’?” I asked.
“I thought you could use another set of eyes,” he said easily.
Show off, I thought. But he was being really sweet so I said, “Thanks.”
When we got to the park we ran along the usual path, the twists and turns following the small creek that cut through town. It was blacktopped so the city would plow it with a riding mower when the rest of the town was already dug out. We were silent except for our breathing; mine was a little faster than his. Then again, I probably ran about a half mile more than he did. Not one to be out done by anyone, I probably ran a little faster than usual. I was really going to be sore tomorrow. He had a long stride and seemed to move like fluid, his muscular arms pumping easily with his stride. I felt awkward and lanky next to him. I was so engrossed by his physique that I almost missed the turn to get to our little tree.
“Here,” I said, and pointed to our left. Along the split a little ways I saw Nomad sitting in his usual spot by our old tree. He got up and loped over to us with his big dumb lab face and tongue rolled out to the side as if to say, It’s about time you got here!
I couldn’t help but mother him all over. “Hi, baby! Oh, my goodness, what a good boy! Look at you, my big man!” I grabbed his ears and big head and rubbed him down making sure he wasn’t hurt by whoever broke in to my house. Knowing Nomad, he probably didn’t give a damn so the robber let him go.
I looked around waiting to see if Dingy was around, but there was no barking or little toenails clicking on the pavement from his insistent hopping. He would have come running if he had been in the vicinity of the sound of my voice. I sat down as I snapped the leash to Nomad’s collar. I was hot and sweaty and needed to catch my breath. Nomad sat next to me, laying his head on my feet.
I looked up at Tom; he wasn’t out of breath at all, just looking at the old tree, all cool and calm, probably wondering why anyone would pour cement over the roots.
“You know, you didn’t have to come,” I started, “but thanks anyway.” A lump started to form in my throat. I wondered if my chin was quivering; I could never feel it, but people always told me it did. He must have noticed the change in my voice because he turned around and looked at me.
He gave me a worried look, but he said, “I just wanted to be sure you found your dogs.”
“Thanks,” I croaked out. Nomad started licking my hand as if to say, Come on, let’s find Dingy. I was starting to get cold and achy now that the sweat had left my clothes a little wet around the neck. This still was not the time to cry so I swallowed the lump and said, “Well, I was going to run to the vets office if I didn’t find them here. It’s about a mile from here. Are you up for it?”
He didn’t even hesitate. “Of course,” he said and reached down to help me up.
We started back to the main path and turned left toward the vets office. We had to run at a more steady pace now that Nomad was with us. It was a little easier to talk now that we weren’t pushing so hard. I asked him about running and he said he had to learn when he was training to become a fireman. He tried to run in at least two charity runs in Columbus every year. I told him I sort of did the same, only I just run in the Race for the Cure in Columbus. In our town a lot of people run in the fundraiser for the cross country team every Fall and the Fourth of July Race the Lutheran church sponsors. I told him I used to run in high school, but now I just do it to burn energy and stay healthy. He talked about playing football in high school and the going to college to study construction management and then work for his father. He got most of the way through his degree when he decided he didn’t want to do that any more.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, you know. Things change. People change. I didn’t want to be put into something just because someone wanted me to.” I could tell he was hiding something, and I knew what that something was.
We were on the sidewalk along the narrow street that led to the vets office just on the edge of town.
“Is that why you moved away, too?”
“Part of it. I just needed to get away from…. things.”
“Oh,” I said. I guess he wasn’t ready to tell me. Well, I would just wait for him to open up. That’s when I saw footprints in the snow beside the sidewalk. They hadto be Dingy’s! “Look!”
I stopped and pointed at the prints. Nomad sniffed and got an excited wag to his tail. “It has to be Dingy. We’re almost there. It’s that white building on the right.”
We picked up our speed, almost a sprint now. By the time we got to the front door I heard Dingy’s frantic barks. I burst in and saw Parker holding a very wiggly, very ugly, Jack Russell terrier. It was Dingy. I burst into tears.