“How is this happening so fast? He’s already been declared dangerous and ordered to be euthanized?” Penelope’s voice was louder than usual. “That doesn’t make any sense! They haven’t even seen the dog!”
“I have twenty-four hours to surrender the ‘rabid dog’ voluntarily. Failure to surrender will result in a fine and a warrant will be issued to forcibly remove the animal from the premises,” Sam read from Animal Control’s notice as she rubbed her dog’s one floppy ear.
“Like, when Squeegee, you know Squeegee, right? He’s the beautiful, golden brown Pomeranian that Granny Givens carries around in her pocket sometimes? Super tiny, one-eyed, shrieks at just the right pitch to make you want to pierce your own eardrums? Granny Givens told me that she has to turn off one of her hearing aides when she’s near him. His little head just pokes out whenever—”
“Yes, Pips, I know who Squeegee is.”
“Right, okay, well, I don’t know if you know this, but Squeegee bit Granny Givens last year. So, get this, all that happened to Squeegee was that he was declared aggressive and ordered to wear a muzzle in public. That’s it. It happened, like, a week or so after he had been rescued. The funny thing was that they couldn’t even find a muzzle small enough to fit him so I ended up making the cutest little one for him. It had a little nose at the tip and whiskers on both sides and I added mouse ears on the top. And then there was this whole second part that attached to a harness so he’d have a long tail to complete the outfit. I was going to add the cutest little bow tie underneath too, but then—”
“And the point of the story is that he’s a good dog now and everyone loves him,” Penelope spat out quickly.
“I mean, he bit Granny Givens, but he went through a ton of training and he’s no longer labeled as a dangerous dog. And thank goodness he wasn’t euthanized because he’s now the mascot at the Glacier Village Senior Centre. Look at how much joy Squeegee brings to all the seniors in town.”
“It’s a blindly-issued death sentence. Instant capital punishment. Who gets to decide? Where’s the justice in that?” Sam stroked her dog’s neck. He was still pink and scabby, but he no longer stunk quite as bad. “I can’t just give him up without a fair evaluation. He saved my life. He saved Ben’s life too! Do you think they’ll take that into consideration?”
“I don’t know about that. Some people in town think you kidnapped Ben and Wesley is on record saying that he thinks you should be in jail.”
A knot formed in Sam’s stomach.
“Oh, and what do you know. Shocker.” Penelope had pulled her phone out and was studying the screen. “Another headline from the Times —‘Samantha Shepherd, Person of Interest in Black Kidnapping, Allegedly Harboring Rabid Dog.’ The tagline is ‘Wesley Black speaks out in hopes of saving residents of Glacier Village.’ And what is Wesley doing in this photo holding a huge sword on his rooftop deck? Oh my goodness, is he pointing it towards your house?” She flashed her phone at Sam.
“Anyway, Sam, if they really think a dog has rabies, they’re not going to mess around. I mean, that’s a serious health and safety issue. But I don’t see how they can possibly believe that. It’s like they aren’t taking into consideration what anyone else has to say. I mean, the Blacks have a lot of sway in Glacier Village, but this is just….” Penelope let out an exasperated sigh. “Let’s look it up, see what the laws on dangerous dogs are.” Penelope hunched over her phone, quickly tapping and scrolling as she frowned at the screen. After finding a few websites on the subject, she told Sam that if her dog ever bit someone again, she could get criminally charged with assault and imprisoned to up to five years, or worse, she could get charged with criminal negligence and face ten years in jail. Penelope’s eyes widened as she told Sam that life imprisonment could also be on the table should someone die from an attack.
“Then he’s getting a muzzle. No problem. He could even go into quarantine, for, like, however long they need to keep him to assess his health. He doesn’t need to die. But Animal Control isn’t even offering that option. If they won’t accept evidence that this dog has saved lives, then the only option is to provide evidence that he hasn’t bitten anyone.”
“They have two pieces of evidence against you. Wesley’s injury and his testimony. It’s Wesley’s word against your dog’s and he can’t speak,” Penelope said, looking up from the belly rub she was giving Sam’s dog.
“That’s exactly why we need to speak for him. I wonder if Wesley submitted medical records. If we could see whether his injuries were consistent with a dog bite—”
“Or completely inconsistent!” Penelope interrupted.
“Exactly.” Sam smiled as she picked up her beeping phone and read a text message from her dad saying that he had received their images from the Challenge. She watched her screen, waiting for another message to explain where the new discovery would take their investigation or how they had done a good job in finding the evidence. But nothing came. She scrolled through her older texts with her dad, hoping that her phone had just glitched and another text would pop up.
“You know Sam, you need to name your dog. How is it possible that he can be named in an order to be destroyed when he doesn’t even have a name?”
“I have a name for him. It’s what’s going to save him from being killed. Look at this, Pips,” Sam said, holding her phone up for Penelope. On the screen was the image Sam had tried to send to her dad when she had first found her dog. That text message had failed to get delivered, but the attached image could still be viewed. “His name is Trax.”
Drew had taken his stakeout responsibilities very seriously. He had kept his eyes glued to the window at Glacier Surge, scanning every person who walked past, only taking his focus off the job to speak to Cara, and only when absolutely required for basic essential nourishment. He had downed three hot chocolates and five espressos since Sam and Penelope had left.
Drew threw his head back, swallowed the last drops of his sixth espresso and stood up to visit the restroom, but just as he took a step, his heart jumped. He backstepped quickly and plopped back down into his chair. He had just spotted his targets.
Two men crossed the Ice Bridge from the shops on the other side. They were wearing jackets that looked to Drew like they hadn’t been washed for decades. They had scruffy beards and wore jeans that were blackened from the knees down.
Drew slumped down in his chair, trying to hide from the view of everyone outside so he could continue watching his targets without attracting their attention. He could feel his ab muscles working hard as he crouched in his awkward position, like he was doing crunches for one of his workouts. As the minutes ticked by, he felt the tension build. Usually, he liked the feel of his muscles burning during his workouts, knowing that they were growing stronger from the strain, but this time, the pressure from his stomach migrated to his bladder, making it feel full and uncomfortable.
Drew’s heartbeat had just returned to normal when he realized that the men were winding their way to Glacier Surge’s front door. As they walked into the cafe and stood at the counter placing their orders, he sat back up, took out his phone and texted Sam, “They are HERE!!! Come ASAP.” He hoped that sitting upright would relieve the pressure he had just put on his bladder, but it didn’t. He now felt a slight pinch in his lower stomach.
One man had ordered a simple drink that was handed to him almost instantly and he stood at the door waiting for his friend. The other man stayed at the counter, watching Cara as she scrambled to fill his order.
Drew squeezed his legs together and texted Sam again, “HURRY! They are leaving soon.”
With one finger, he tapped on the table anxiously, feeling the caffeine zip through his system and ping off of his nerves as the rapid throb of his pulse skipped along. He looked at his phone. No response. He tapped on the table faster using all four fingers and tried not to think about the dull ache in his bladder.
Should he dash into the restroom, he wondered, or should he wait until he saw which direction they were headed? If he went now, he could follow them if he finished quickly. But if he lost visual contact with them, he could also lose them for good. The whole point of the stakeout was to find and identify them, not spot them and drop the ball.
Drew’s phone beeped. A reply from Sam. “Tied up. Get clear pics of faces,” it read. The ache in his bladder had escalated into a sharp, stabbing pain. He was desperate to visit the restroom now.
Raising his phone, he took a photo of the man at the door who was standing just a few feet away. His phone made a loud camera shutter sound and he dropped it nervously. It hit the table like a cannon booming throughout the quiet cafe. He looked up, saw the man at the door staring at him and quickly averted his eyes. A wave of perspiration flushed through his body. Feeling as though his bladder was going to burst, he crossed his legs and squeezed them together as tightly as he could.
Drew muted his phone and tried again, this time pointing his camera at the other man at the counter. He waited, his camera showing a crisp image of the man’s back. The man looked over his shoulder to say something to his friend, but Drew missed the shot. Sweat trickled down his temples. It seemed like the man was going to continue the conversation, so Drew readied himself, watching him closely for the perfect profile shot. The man turned his head and Drew snapped the photo.
Drew’s bladder was now screaming in pain. He stood up and darted into the restroom, unable to hold it in any longer. He hoped that it would be a quick visit and that he might be able to catch the men before they left. But it wasn’t quick at all. Despite his overfull bladder, his stream came out as an agonizingly slow drip.
At least he had gotten photos to show Sam, he thought, and, if they were lucky, their next stakeout would be more fruitful. Finally, after what seemed like forever, his bladder was empty. As Drew stepped out of the restroom, he almost collided with someone standing outside the door.
A low, breathy voice whispered above him, “Why are you taking pictures of us?” The man by the door was now looming over Drew.
There was a lineup at Animal Control when Sam and Penelope arrived, but by the time it was Sam’s turn, they were in the building alone with the officer at the front desk. Sam recognized him immediately. It was Dennis, the officer who had been on patrol with Officer Unfriendly.
“Hey, it’s you again,” Dennis said, smiling at Penelope. “So, uh, I was looking through your videos again and I just saw the one where William jumps on top of Harry and starts barking like mad to save him from bathtime and—”
“Sorry, I don’t want to be rude and interrupt, but my friend just texted me for help, so I’m in a bit of a rush. I found this on my door,” Sam said, handing the notice to Dennis.
“Huh? Oh, okay. What’s this?” Dennis studied the note. “Oh. Okay. So you’re surrendering your rabid dog? Where is it?”
“Actually, I’m not. And he doesn’t have rabies. I’d also like to present some evidence to prove that my dog did not bite anyone.”
“Oh. Um. Okay.”
“These photos were taken at the scene of the alleged incident,” Sam explained, holding her phone on the counter in front of Dennis. She put on her best impression of her dad when he had, on occasion, explained evidence from his cases to her. “As you can see, the dog is here by the tree. And way over here is the pool of blood from Wesley Black’s injury. But as you’ll notice, the pool of blood is quite a distance from the dog and the only tracks leading to the blood are human.”
“Uh huh, look at that, now.”
“You can see that there are no blood spots whatsoever in the vicinity of the dog and that the snow looks largely untouched, except for — here, near his back, which has the same set of footprints that lead to the pool of blood — and here, these are my tracks, as you can see from my backpack and proximity to the dog. This indicates that Wesley Black’s injury could not have been caused by the dog, as the tracks do not support the injured person being near the dog’s mouth, nor do they support any possibility that the dog moved from his position beside the tree trunk and bit the injured person at any other location.”
“Oh, wow. Well, how about that.”
“Furthermore, when you zoom in on this photo of the pool of blood, you can see that the crust of ice in this area was broken. Impacted. If we zoom in further, you can see little fragments of ice crust are vertical or diagonal, see here and here? This further supports the theory that the ice surface was impacted, causing the blood to pool, rather than it having melted. If it had melted you would not see that ice fragmentation event occur.”
“Wow. Yeah, okay. That makes sense.”
“These photos prove that my dog did not bite Wesley and cause the claimed injury. And, I’m willing to bet that the medical evidence supports this theory. Do you have the medical records for this case on file?”
“Well, um. Let me go check on that.” Dennis smiled and turned away from the counter, walking into another room. After fifteen minutes, he returned, but the smile on his face had disappeared. “All right, so, I don’t know anything about medical records. Or at least, I don’t have access to that information. And all I can tell you is that the order stands. I’m sorry. You’ve got to surrender your dog.”
Sam felt a flash of heat. “What? That’s it? You’re just dismissing all of this evidence? Where’s the evidence from the person filing the complaint?”
“Well, apparently, the complaint shows a clear injury. People don’t usually make up lies about being bitten by a dog, so we usually believe everyone who files a report.”
“But why has he been deemed dangerous and ordered to be destroyed without any due process? How can it be that someone can just say something and twenty-four hours later you kill a healthy, living being?” Sam’s heart was pounding.
“Report here says the animal has rabies, aside from the fact he bit someone. And your own images show that the dog is quite sick. In the end, it might just be the most humane thing to do. In fact, the rule is that if an animal that hasn’t been vaccinated against rabies comes in contact with a rabid animal, the unvaccinated animal is subject to immediate euthanasia. Standard protocol. We don’t play around when it comes to rabies.”
“He doesn’t have rabies though. And where in the complaint does it say that this dog came in contact with a rabid animal? I don’t understand where that story came from. This dog saved Ben Black’s life.”
“Oh, well, now. Did he? Who’s telling stories now?”
“It’s the truth. You can ask Ben himself.”
“Okay, listen. It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s just that there isn’t anything I can do about it. I just started working here a month ago. They tell me what to do and I do it. I don’t make the rules. And your photos? They’re interesting, but, I’m sorry, they just don’t prove anything. They could have been taken anytime. This morning for example.”
“They weren’t! They’re all digitally stamped. If you look at the report that was filed, it will match the time these photos were taken. I was there, at the scene, within minutes after I heard Wesley scream.”
“Okay. But you were still there afterwards. What’s missing from these photos is the person who was bitten. Without him, these aren’t proof that what he said happened, didn’t happen.”
“He wasn’t bitten.”
“Well, your photos don’t prove that he wasn’t. I’m sorry, but the order stands and there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing you can do about it either. You’ll have to surrender your dog by 2pm tomorrow. You should say your goodbyes and hand him over. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
Sam knew she had lost her fight with Dennis, but she wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Trax just yet. She had until the next afternoon to figure out a plan. The problem with that was that Drew needed her help right now, so whatever she was going to do to save Trax would have to wait.
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