Blinding white light was all that filled Mason’s vision. Faint stringy shapes started emerging as they floated and moved above a much larger darker shape that forming before his eyes like a Rorschach test coming into focus. For a moment, he thought he’d died and was headed to the ever-after when he heard a sound—a sound like a locomotive slowly coming to life; shfff—shfff—shfff.
As the white light faded from his vision, he realized the source for the pain in his back—and for the sound. Good ole’ Engine No. 9 had never left it’s station. The full moon shone its eerie countenance across the yard. He’d been digging a hole—a large hole in the back yard next to Hartley’s dog coop under the Weeping Willow. As if on cue, blisters tweaked a ‘hello-there’ on his palms and he tossed the shovel to the ground. He stood, staring in bewilderment at the hole big enough and deep enough for him to lie down in. Why did he dig this hole?
Shaking his head in confusion, Mason brushed sweat from his brow and winced in pain as he felt a bump on his head as big as a goose egg. How’d that get there?
He turned from the strange hole and headed for the house; armed in hopes of discovering the reason for his nighttime folly. The back door was open wide, like a coyote howling at the moon. He ambled up the steps pulling it closed behind him noticing the kitchen window had been broken; pieces of pane lying on the tiled floor next to Hartley’s bone shaped bowl. A proud piece still holding on for life in the sill, flashed a spark of reckoning as the moonlight hit it as it fell to lay amongst it’s brethren. Did I hear a crash?
Yes. Yes. He’d been in the study, working on the proposal for the new Flosheim building when he’d heard the glass break. He’d skipped the annual fishing trip with the boys so he could make the deadline early. Before he’d had a chance to react, Hartley had padded down the stairs and had headed straight for the kitchen. Good Ole’ Hartley; ever the faithful watch dog. Was it a break-in?
No! No! Remembrance flooded in like a broken dam. He’d read the newspapers—reports of the violent break-ins around the neighborhood. They’d murdered poor Mr. Allen only to make off with his dead wife’s costume jewelry.
He’d scrambled in his desk drawer for the .45 and had run to the kitchen. It had been dark and the intruder was huge, bulky in size. He’d made a dash for the light switch but missed, forgetting about the useless doggie gate that never kept Hartley out. As Mason had toppled to the floor, he’d hit his head on the counter. But before the bulky shape had started to loom over him he’d pulled out two rounds from the .45. Now he remembered everything.
Elena must have taken the redeye back from her Paris trip and lost her keys. She’d been carrying so many packages she’d used her teeth to hold one, so she couldn’t yell out—couldn’t save her self.
With great care Mason lifted the body over his shoulder and carried it to the hole. Moonlight taunted his hard labor with an eerie glow as he gently cradled the body before lowering it down with silent tears. With the last shovel of earth in place, he stared up into the final light of the moon before twilight surged over and reclaimed the day. He said, “Hartely, you were the best Great Dane a man could have ever asked for.”