The first thing Bobby felt was the pressure of a severe migraine, like his head had been bashed into a wall. There was a small ringing in his ears. He moved feeling grass and leaves beneath his hands. Slowly he opened his eyes but they immediately clenched shut as the light made his head swim, nausea raking through him and he did all he could not to be sick. When he thought he had it under control he slowly opened his eyes once more. The pain that went through his head had him shielding his eyes. Moving had his stomach revolting on him and he was able to get on his hands just as he vomited.
Confusion as he wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve once he was through dry heaving. He looked at the remnants of the Chinese take-out that he had for dinner last night. He moved himself up, attempted to stand but when he did his knees buckled. Pain that overruled the one in his head was on his upper left thigh. Thinking it was just a severe leg cramp until his hand felt wet. Leaves were stuck to his pant leg. He pulled his hand back and looked a tad dumbly at the blood on his hand. His blood. He sat and peeled the leaves off to look at his leg.
What he saw was a deep and almost savage looking bite. Like he had been viciously attacked by a dog. But he didn’t recall being bitten by a dog.
Think Bobby. Remember what happened yesterday.
He and Alex had just closed the case on Karen Highs, the teenager who had been murdered. That afternoon her Father confessed to killing her accidentally, but then covered it up. After doing their paperwork Alex had offered to take him out for drinks which he had turned down. He had went to the take-out place near his home then, yes that was right he had come to the park to clear his head.
He looked to try and find some landmark. Why he didn’t hear it before he didn’t know, but he could hear the trickling of water. With some effort he was able to get standing again, looking around with clearer vision he knew where he was. He was at The Ravine.
He searched his pockets and couldn’t find his cell phone. He turned when he heard it ringing. He saw it in the grass and picked it up before it went to voice mail. “Alex,” His tone was gruff, like gravel.
“Were you still asleep? Where are you?” Alex sounded slightly annoyed.
He pulled his cellphone away and knew why she was. It was almost two in the afternoon. He was supposed to be working today. Bobby swallowed. “Eames, I won’t be able to make it in today. Something came up.”
“Do not tell me you are on some self undercover mission.” Her tone getting low and sharp in even more annoyance.
“No.” He tried walking and pain shot up his leg. Bobby had to pulled the phone from his face as he grunted in pain.
“Bobby..” Alex’s voice was more urgent. “Where are you? I am leaving now.”
“The Ravine..” Bobby sat on a log. “I can see Huddlestone Arch, but it’s too far to get to.”
“Are you hurt?”
He could hear the elevator sound off as it stopped in the background. “Yes.. I may have been attacked by a dog.”
“May have? You don’t remember?”
“No..” It was odd that he didn’t remember. He remembered coming to the park to clear his head then nothing. Just a blank space between his walk and waking up.
When he didn’t elaborate, Alex sighed. “Alright. I will be there in twenty. Hang tight.”
The line ended.
Bobby tried to think back but with the migraine and what he assumed was blood loss thinking back on what may have happened was difficult. He listened as he could hear runners and people walk into the arch. He knew his throat was too rough and sore to call out.
“Bobby!” He looked up to hear Alex.
Text: Call phone.
She got his message and his phone began to ring. “Over here.” She called back as she came into his view. She turned and jogged over to him. “Geez Bobby.” She came over and knelt by his side. His leg had bled onto the log he was sitting on. “Paramedics are coming.”
He guessed by her expression that he looked worse than he thought. It’s a good thing he was up to date on all of his vaccinations. He was brought to the hospital where he needed one hundred eighty-two stitches. He would be desk duty only for the next three months. That was going to be fun, he thought sourly. He didn’t like being cooped up at the desk and he surely didn’t want Alex to have another partner but he knew it may happen anyways whether he wanted it or not.
Almost a month at home then he had a cane to walk with at work. Of all the things to nearly take him out was a damn dog bite. It hurt like hell, burned like a son of a bitch. The antibiotics the doctor had given him seemed to keep everything at bay but he still had migraines every couple of days.
Three weeks and he had helped in solving two cases. Desk work only or he would tear his stitches.
Another week and a tall woman with auburn hair was brought in. Not as a suspect but as a witness to a robbery that had taken place a couple days prior. As she walked into the precinct she slowed as she looked around, she seemed to be perplexed as her gaze landed on Bobby. Her head cocking just slightly so to the right before her posture righted itself and she went into the conference room.
Alex stepped out after a couple of minutes and Bobby grabbed a soda from the machine and walked into the conference room. “Miss Wolfe, I am Detective Goren. I got you something to drink while my partner gets back.”
“You can just call me Eva, please.” She put her cell phone away and gave him a smile. She tapped the top of the soda twice before opening it and taking a sip. It was odd in the way that she did it, not lifting her head to drink but the can instead. There was something that was unsettled about her. He couldn’t place his finger on it. “Your partner said there were a few details that you needed about what had happened?”
“Ah, yes we did.” He flipped through his notes on the case. “But just to confirm you had stated the place to reach you was at your work place?”
“Yes, I am usually there for most days.”
“What is it that you do there?”
“I am a designer. I work long hours.”
“Could you be more specific on what it is that you do at the company?” He pushed wanting to test where her line was.
She gave him another smile. “What does this have to do with what I witnessed? Do you plan on coming to my place of work?”
Something about how she spoke reminded him of Nicole. It was watchful and predatory. “It depends if we need a follow up.”
“Okay. What happened to your leg, Detective?” She asked in the same sweet tone.
“Dog bite.” He said flippantly. Dismissively even. He watched as her head cocked just slightly so to the right once more.
“Must have been a big dog if the way you were limping is any indication. Seems like a bite that would’ve need stitches.” Her eyes on the spot of the table where his leg was under it. “How many did you need? I’ll answer your question after you answer mine.”
“Thirty. I needed thirty stitches.” Bobby lied. Her interest in his injury flared something off inside of him.
Her shoulders moved in a ghost of a shrug like she assessed that wasn’t many stitches. “I work for Drefter’s Designs on East hundred and second street. I design the websites. I deal with any of their tech issues.”
“Is there a reason you won’t give your home address?”
“I am at work most days, at any hours of the day. If you miss me at work then you can call me. I do not understand why it is so important. You have a place to reach me.” She let out a sigh. “I would have to discuss letting you have my address with my roommates. They like having their privacy. If they are fine with police dropping in for any more follow up questions after this, even though there shouldn’t be, I will give you my home address.” Her tone holding an air of finality.
Eames came in with a smile. “Sorry for the wait Miss Wolfe. We needed you identify the man you saw in a line up.”
“Of course.” She smiled and stood up, taking the can with her. She was lead into the room where the suspects were lined up.
“Take your time. Look at them and tell us which one you recognize.” Eames instructed at they did with all witnesses.
“Four. That’s the man I saw leaving Henrys with a gun in hand.” She turned when the Captain knocked on the glass four times. “Is that all?”
“An officer will show you out. Thank you Miss Wolfe.” Bobby told her, but there was still a nagging feeling at the back of his mind. Something was off about her.
Bobby shook it off. He was probably just feeling anxious to get back into the field. He finished off his paperwork for the day and headed home.
Couple hours later the man confessed to robbing the store as well as several others as well as some residences, giving up his partners too for a slightly lighter sentence.
In the course of the next three months there were four more dog attacks. One of which the extent of the wounds killed a teenage boy. Bobby didn’t think it was some stray dog or even a string of random rabid dogs.
Finally cleared to be in the field.
Triple homicide. All three victims had been gutted and stabbed repeatedly. It was bloody and overkill. The murderer had used acid to remove fingerprints, making their faces unrecognizable as well pouring into the mouths of the victims, making dental recognition hard.
Deakins wanted all information tight lipped, the last thing they needed was the city thinking there was a serial killer on the loose.
Bobby sat watching security feed from the condos cameras and absolutely no one jumped out at him. There was no tell. No suspicious movements or activity. The cameras weren’t even down, no loop in the feed.
“Bobby,” Eames came into the room and her face was hard, “We have to go.”
Squatting over one of the three newest victims. “No forced entry, it looks like they had dinner with this person. But the question is was it forced or did they enjoy this person’s company? This rage, it is.. uncommon for a woman to have committed.” But with how meticulous the obvious cover up was, it seemed like a woman.
“So they stab them first and while they in shock they gut them. Whichever way they fall is when they stab them more. Roll them over when they are dead and use the acid to mar who they are as a person.” He stood and Eames was standing nearby.
“Nothing is stolen. The shower wasn’t used afterwards so perhaps they brought a spare amount of clothes with them. There is no way one person blitzed these three people on their own.” She shook her head. “Maybe a team?”
There was that nagging feeling again. Something just felt off about all of this. They were missing something. The rage.. This bloodlust. Eames was watching him intently knowing he was trying to piece this all together. But it didn’t make sense! What was their motive? He stepped around the bodies. What was that smell? Vanilla? He walked around into the dining room. Vanilla, a clear hint of it.. with scandal wood? Or amber perhaps..
Eames walked in. “We have to go..”
“There’s been another massacre.” That much was obvious to him. Who ever they were, they were far from done.
Tara was walking back with Duke and Lex when she saw the flashing of blue bouncing off of the trees and the asphalt. She pulled their leashes closer to her as saw the amount of police cars parked a house or two down. She didn’t want to draw attention so she went inside quickly. Setting the alarm and turning the lights off as well locking the doors before going up to bed.
In the morning she woke to her doorbell going off. She all but tripped over Lex and he huffed at her. She went over to the com and pressed the talk button. “Who is it?” She took her finger off the button as she yawned, jaw cracking in the process.
“Detective Eames and Detective Goren. We would like to speak with you for a couple of minutes if that would be alright.” She looked down at Lex who was getting up and stretching.
“Sure,” She said pressing the button again, “I will be down in three minutes.” She made her way into the bathroom, using it, brushing her teeth. Then she put on a tee shirt, leggings and jean shorts, ankle socks. Making her way down to the door she saw the woman and a man. “I won’t open the door until I see your badges.” The woman and the man showed their badges without seemingly any issue. She opened the door. “Sorry, you can never be too sure these days.” The man closed the door behind him. “Would either of you like some coffee?”
“No thank you.” The woman said.
“Yes please.” The man said.
She led them to the kitchen and poured two mugs, his was smaller than hers. She pulled the creamer and sugar out. “Please help yourself.” She poured caramel creamer. “Are you here because of what happened last night?” She took a sip of her coffee. Duke came in and laid next to her feet. She watched the woman looking at Duke.
“He’s a czechoslovakian vlcak, a breed of wolfdog.” He was talking to the woman, a crease forming in her brow.
“I have a permit for him.” Tara stated. “He’s been approved by a vet and several behaviorists.” She took another sip of her coffee. “Most people mistake him for a coyote. Even less people can get his breed right. Have you dealt with them before?” Duke had gotten up and was sniffing the man. Detective Goren she believed as the woman had said her name first. A small tail wag and he sat with him, not uncommon but rare enough that she had to look at the man as he spoke.
“When I was overseas they used the breed for search and rescue as well as part of the K9 force. They have incredible sight and their sense of smell is also more advanced than most breeds.” He reached down and scratched behind Duke’s ear.
“Miss Kirk,” Detective Eames spoke with an annoyed tone, “did you know the Garlens?”
“Did? Past tense. So those cars last night were for them..” Duke came over and sat next to her as she ran her fingernails through his fur. “Yeah I know them. I take their shepard Charlie on my daily walks and he stays a week at the end of every month. They are good people. Were. They were good people.” She could feel Goren watching her.
“Did you hear anything or see anyone suspicious around eleven last night?”
“Eleven? No. I go on my nightly last walk with them around ten. I didn’t get back in until one am.”
“You walk your dogs for three hours at the middle of the night in Central Park?” Detective Goren asked with curiosity.
She caught something off about Detective Goren. “Yes, I take precautions. I use a go pro on the dogs and a body cam. I have a knife I carry . I also have a shine light if I really need it.”
“A shine light?” Detective Eames seemed confused.
She moved and went into a drawer taking out a small circular light that fit in the palm of her hand, giving it to the detective. “Just lightly tap the indentation there. It’s held in the small of your hand and if you think you are being followed or if you are being attacked you just tap it and shine it into the attackers face.”
She turned it on and made a small grunting sound as she pulled it away. “That would blind anyone.”
“That’s sort of the point. My gym gives them out.”
“That’s pretty clever. So women? Or everyone who wants one.” She lifted her shoulders. “Everyone.” Goren came forward quickly and Duke stood, growling, standing between him and her. “Easy.” His hands went up and he took a step back. “I mean no harm.”
“He gets excitable.” Detective Eames smiled then turned back Tara. “Miss Kirk, what else can you tell us about the Garlens? Any enemies they might have? Or do you know if they were having any disagreements with anyone?”
She thought for a moment then shook her head. “No, I mean not that I could see or what I had heard from them. But I only spent time enough with them to take care of Charlie.”
“Tell us about Charlie.” Goren took a sip of the coffee.
“Charlie is a purebred German Shepard, six years old. He had a bit of temperament issues when I first took him in, but took me about a year and I was able to work them out of him. He’s a good dog.” She watched Goren and her expression fell. “He was a good dog.” She licked her lip. “Did they suffer? Charlie was a good dog, he was well groomed, teeth in good condition and they responsibly had him neutered. From I could tell they were good people.”
“From how they treated their dog?”
“You can tell a person’s character by how they treat their animals. If they are well groomed and cared for then their character must be good. Am I right?”
“Usually. I try and see the good.” She scratched behind Duke’s ear.
“Do you train medical dogs?”
She shook her head. “I have a rare allergy. When I go in public I have one or both of them with me, unless I go somewhere where I know I won’t have a reaction.” Lex came into the room with his leash in jaw. She scratched behind his ear.
“If there is anything else we need can we come back and speak with you, Miss Kirk?” Goren asked her and she nodded. They began walking out and Tara walked to gallery to get Duke and Lex’s harnesses on. She got Lex’s on before Goren opened the door again. “No, they didn’t.”
She looked at him confused. “What?”
“The Garlens and Charlie. They didn’t suffer.” He clarified.
“Thank you Detective.” She was relieved to hear that. She got the other harness on then their leashes. She left her home then made her way towards the park.
After a few days things went back to normal, the Garlens home was cleaned out. She figured new neighbors would move in. She hoped they were nice. She went back to work, taking on a new dog after a month. A well behaved pomeranian. She worked five days a week. She got twenty-five dogs a day. Every other Saturday she had six clients.
She was walking half of the dogs for two hours then the others for two hours. She had a half hour break in between the walks, getting her energy up with protein. She got the second round out for their walks.
Getting home at four thirty. A rest period then it was the dogs’ dinner. Then her own dinner. Pick ups for the dogs happened later. Lex and Duke get their own final walks. Shower and bed.
Her week finished off with her high end clients. She finally had time off, she watched movies with the boys and take out.
Two months of her routine. Nothing out of her ordinary happened. New neighbors moved in. A single man. Or divorced since he had a teenager.
Early August and she had a Sunday off so she was meeting up with her second cousin Eva for breakfast.
She was waiting at their regular meet, a hole in the wall diner, that served the best damned pancakes ever.
Her phone chirped repeatedly and seeing it was Eva she picked up. “Hey, where are you?”
“Sorry Tara, cannot make it today. Something has come up at work. I have a major deadline and have not slept. So no date today.” Eva sounded stressed and it sounded like she had been crying.
“Eve.. What’s wrong? Please tell me. Are you okay?” She was about to get up but Eva stopped her.
“Really, Tara I am fine. Just stressed, I promise you.” Eva gave a small laugh then stopped. “Shit boss is in. Call you after my presentation and stuff. Love ya Tara.”
Tara gave a sigh then shook her head.
“What can I get ya Tara?” Kelli asked her.
“Coffee, peach pancakes, full stack. The sweet sausage, not grilled. Scrambles eggs done like an omelet.”
“Peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese?”
“Hold the mushrooms today.”
“Cheddar or jack?”
“Jack only if shredded.”
“Yeah we keep a block around. I’ll getcha that coffee.” She turned then stopped. “No Eva today?”
Tara sighed. “No, but I don’t think it was a deadline.. I think she was dumped..”
“Well she is big girl she will bounce back.” Kelli walked away.
Tara took her phone out and began reading emails, junking most of them. Replied to some texts, paid bills that were due.
“Miss Kirk?” A man’s voice.
Tara looked up as she clicked her phone off and saw Detective Goren. “Detective-”
“Robert. You can call me Robert. Or Bobby.” He was dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, his belt had imprints where he had obviously had his badge placed many time and an indentation for a holster.
“What can I do for you Robert?” She asked politely.
“Do you mind if I join you? Or are you waiting for someone?” He rushed the second question out.
“You know I am not.” She gestured with her hand for him to sit. He gave a nod and smiled at her. He has a handsome smile.
“Hi there Duke.” Duke lifted his ears just a smidgen as acknowledgement. “Right on duty.”
Kelli brought her coffee over, the creamer she liked and sugar. She rose an eyebrow at Tara and she gave a single shoulder shrug. “What he wants.”
“Buying me breakfast are you?”
Another shrug. “My original date didn’t show up so go ahead.”
He ordered a half stack of regular pancakes, eggs scrambled and coffee.
“So you never answered my question Robert, what can I do for you?” She took another sip of her coffee as she waited.
“Well I came here on a recommendation of a friend. Saw you sitting here and thought I could join you.”
“You seem interesting. Doing all the work that you do. All of those walks you do. It’s interesting.” His coffee came and he smiled at Kelli and thanked her.
“I’m a professional dog walker and sitter. Two hours is enough for the dogs.”
“Twenty-seven dogs. That’s quite a load. Must be hard to keep track of.” He was attempting to bait her into something but she didn’t know what yet.
He’d lost weight, he looked just slightly younger. But he didn’t smell of those anti aging agents or hair dying product. “I have the space for them.” It looked like he was itching to ask a question.
He was fishing for information. But the question was why. “Why do I seem interesting?”
Duke growled lowly as a man got too close to the table. “Hey John, I’ll take ya over here. He’s alright. He is having a grumpy day.”
When the man walked away she leaned down and scratched his ear. A reward for doing his job.
Bobby noticed and looked at the man then to Duke then back at Tara. “He was carry that rare thing you are allergic to?”
“Or he sensed something off about him.” She had a bite of her pancakes. “So, Robert, read anything good lately?”
“I am currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo.”
“Never read it. It’s a considered a classic though isn’t it?”
“They also made it into a movie, I believe.” She thought that maybe she would check it out. She think she may have bought it a couple of years ago on sale.
“What about you, read anything good lately?”
“Cujo.” She was almost done with it too.
“That was a good movie.”
She rolled her eyes. “No. I would suggest reading the book.”
“You disagree with how they made the movie? What did you disagree with?”
“If you don't want spoilers I would just read the book.” She took another sip of her coffee and breakfast came. Kelli refilled her cup and brought more creamer over for them. “I know that I deviated from my own question but why is it that I seem interesting to you?”
“You do a hard working and high stress job and you seem to take it all in stride as if it thrills you. You have a couple of higher end clients don't you? Though most of your clients are upper middle class or low high class aren't they.” He took a couple of bites while he waited for her to answer.
“Taking on as many dogs as I do i practical for me as I have the room to keep them and I have the training to do so. If I do then that is sort of mine and their business, isn't it?” She said in almost a defensive manner. “The class of my clients do not matter to me.”
“Fair enough as you do hold their confidences.” He took another bite. “Doesn't it though? You have people apply online for your services and you show an availability status on your website. You have a high rating in the dog walking community and are held to a high standard.”
She let out an internal sigh. She was getting tired of this and how he was talking to her. “Perhaps Mister Goren if you wish to fully interrogate me then you should get in contact with my lawyer.” She had moved for Kelli and her food was taken and she paid. “I do not appreciate how you have turned this.” She went to the counter with Duke and grabbed the to go bag that Kelli set up for her.
“There's something lil extra for your boys.” Kelli smiled. “What about that guy?” Her tone becoming hushed.
“If he wants anything else just add it to my tab next time I come by.” She walked out without giving Robert another look.
But something about him nagged at her. Something about him made her interested and wary. Why the mixture of emotions she didn't know. But if that was how he was going to interact with her then he didn't want to interact with him.
She got home and called her cousin. She got her voicemail. “Eva call me. We need to talk if you are in trouble. Please call me Eva, I am worried about you.”
She dialed her other cousin. “Jack, call me. I am worried over Eva.” She left another voicemail. Jack was probably already at work.
She had to shake off the feeling she was having. So she decided to have a run with the boys.