Bubbling through a glass coil, the greenish blue liquid dripped drop by drop into a crystal vial. The bald man with pale yellow skin, and a sharp nose with low wire rim glasses was wearing a lab coat, and mumbling to himself as he carefully measured out ingredients.
He hurried over to a stainless steel table, and crushed some herbs haphazardly in a mortar and pestle. A beep came from a metal machine that stopped whirring, and began spitting. Just in time to catch the effervescent flow, the scientist shoved a glass beaker under the fizzy liquid.
The green-blue vile was shakily emptied into the foaming beaker, the scientist leaning down to eye level to observe the bonding of the two substances which whirled together in a shimmering dance, becoming one.
“Now I add the herbs,” he said to himself under his breath, “And one stir, don’t want to upset the carbonation, and one cube of dihydrogen-monoxide in its solid state and… voila!”
He observed the mixture, eyes squinting like he was admiring a beautiful painting. Then with smooth and swift jerk of his wrist, the scientist drank a big gulp of his creation.
“Ahh,” he sighed, and burped. He chuckled a bit as he pressed a button that opened his lab door with a hiss, and walked out into the basement dwelling which was in stark contrast to his pristine, well lit laboratory.
Two of his dogs sat up as he entered the room and plopped himself on his green chair, raising a cloud of dust.
“In another life,” he said to the wolf-like dog that got up, and walked towards him, “In another life, I would have been a mixologist. The greatest mixologist this world has ever seen. I would have drinks named after me,” he laughed. His laugh was hearty, and just a bit wheezy, and he sipped again.
Dara was the name of his favorite dog. She had a pure white coat, and eyes blue like the Caribbean that looked up at the scientist as she laid her head on his lap.
“In another life…” the scientist repeated slowly, his smile fading as his eyes squinted not in admiration, but in bitterness. His teeth clenched and his hand shook.
The beaker shattered his in hand from his grip, but he hardly seemed to notice as he yelled out in pained frustration, and broke down into tears, his eyes staring off, beyond the stone wall, onto years long passed. His cries were a stormy ocean of anger and anguish that chopped up, and crashed down every which way.
Dara whined and lurched up to lick his face, which brought him back to the present.
“Yes,” he said tenderly, through his sobs, “Yes, I still have you Dara. And you, Ceril,” the scientist added, to another mutt with a pit-bull face who approached timidly, to offer his own licks of comfort to his aggrieved master. Five other canines looked on from their resting spots about the room. He glanced them all over lovingly, through his tears, and sighed.
“Tonight, we hunt again.”
The evening broadcast had ended. Rob and Stacia were packing up their things to go home for the night. It had been a slow news day, with nothing too exciting happening.
“You know…” Rob said slyly, “I heard a bit more through the grapevine about what happened to Director Hendrix. A source of mine at the police station said they had security footage from his house, and that it was a pack of dogs that did the job.”
Stacia’s gasp didn’t hide her interested amusement, “A whole pack? How on earth did they get in his house?”
“That’s just it,” said Rob, clearly enjoying his insider knowledge. “Hendrix was found–well, what was left of Hendrix was found in his car, with the windows down, and garage door open.”
“But why wouldn’t he have just driven away? Or raised his windows, or lowered the door!” Stacia asked rhetorically, looking away from Rob into the distance, biting her lip.
“And that is why the tech detectives are looking into his case. But if you as me they should get an animal-whisperer to explain the peculiar behavior of the dogs.”
“Oh this is getting juicier!” Stacia’s eyebrows danced and her smile widened. “We may well have been right about the revenge theory!”
“I thought we discussed this last week,” a librarian type voice cut in. It was their station regulator, Ms. Trent. “Rumors have no place in the news room, especially those which would cause instability!”
“Oh we weren’t talking about reporting it!” Stacia explained. “Just gossip,” she laughed and shrugged.
“You may think it is harmless gossip but it pervades the mind and causes leaks and slips. If I hear you two speaking of Mr. Hendrix’s death again, I am afraid I will have to recommend legal action.”
“It won’t happen again!” Rob shot out, adding a friendly smile after.
Stacia was annoyed however, and the type of smile she now broadcast said so. Shaking her head she said to Ms. Trent, “It was just a private conversation! You can’t tell us what we can and can’t say on our own time!” Stacia looked at Rob for support but found him staring down trying to act like he was really suddenly super interested in his cuff links.
“I most certainly can tell you what you can and cannot say Stacia,” Ms. Trent said with more authority, though still what she imagined to be a friendly tone. “And I can assure you, the next time I hear you suggest a government official was taken revenge upon, you will find yourself in a prison cell!”
As Ms. Trent walked away, Stacia blushed.
“Thanks for the help back there!” she said sarcastically to Rob.
“Oh Stacia!” Rob started condescendingly, but caught himself and added some sympathy, “You’ve got to learn to stay clear of the bureaucrats! Tell you what. Let me make it up to you with dinner tonight.”
Stacia tried to stay mad for about five more seconds, before she smiled big, and giggled: “I suppose I could let you try to make it up to me.”
Ms. Trent walked home from the studio. It was only a short walk; as a relatively high level government employee she had preferred housing. Her heels clicked on the uneven pavement as she walked quickly, with perfect posture.
The night was brisk and bright, illuminated by the full moon. Ms. Trent turned a corner and was alone on the final stretch to her apartment. A delivery truck drove slowly down the street periodically revving the engine. It was like he was looking for an address, and sped up every time he did not see it.
Ms. Trent noticed how slow the truck was going as is slid past her, so she nodded to the driver in acknowledgement, and he waved back in a friendly manner. When the truck turned the corner, and its low burr was out of earshot, only a few distant yells of some bar-goers could be heard.
But then Ms. Trent heard a bark somewhere beyond the bar and then another. This sent a chill down her spine, but she didn’t really consider why the distant barks twinged her nerves.
Never-the-less she picked up her pace a bit, and the click-clack or her heels echoed the speed. After a few steps, the distant barks returned, but not so distant this time. There was also a larger variety of barks from different dogs, and in higher frequency.
“Sounds like a fox hunt,” Ms. Trent said to herself, then gasped suddenly, stopping in her tracks to listen when she remembered what happened to Director Hendrix. Ms. Trent had more knowledge of the situation than most, having clearance for that information. She drew her coat in closer with her hands, as if this would protect her from her thoughts as much as from the cold air of the autumn night. She again increased her cadence, but would not permit herself to lose posture.
The dogs were getting closer though, and her mouth was drying out. The click-clack-click-clack of her heels increased until until the clicklack-cicklack’s matched the tempo of the baying dogs–hounds on a hunt.
Ms. Trent could see her apartment, but the dogs sounded like they were only one street away. Had they split up? Now the barks seemed to come from nowhere in particular. She ran towards her apartment, finally dropping all pose. She only had another thirty paces when a a dark, low figure crept around the corner. She stopped short, skidding to a halt, out of breath, hair disheveled.
With it’s head lowered, the figure on four legs slinked towards Ms. Trent but it was only a silhouette, illuminated from behind by a streetlight. The full moon shone off it’s coat however, which was pricked up on it’s back. With teeth bared, the beast looked more wolf than dog. Each step was a challenge, a low growl emitting with the fog of the dog’s breath. It was Dara.
Ms. Trent backed up a few paces not wanting to turn her back on the canine, but wanting desperately to flee. She only whipped around startled when she heard a soft click-click-click of claws on the pavement behind her. Three dogs were trotting menacingly towards her. Ceril leading, eerily silent compared to their earlier chorus of barks, and bays.
By the time she looked back, three more dogs had rounded the corner in front of her, and were creeping behind their wolf-like leader. Ms. Trent had to move, so she sprang towards her apartment, hoping, praying, that she would reach the doors before the dogs.
Dara and her companions leapt into action. Tears streamed down Ms. Trent’s crazed, hysterical face as she cried out just steps before reaching her final destination, because she knew Dara had her beat. Dara was in fact, already in the air, her powerful back legs thrusting her five feet high, propelling her a length of at least fifteen feet.
Time stopped for a moment to allow full observation of the horror developing, only moments from fruition. Dara was stretched out like superman in the air, her front claws just eighteen inches from Ms. Trent’s face, which was crinkled and turning sideways, eyes closed, mouth contorted into a scream. Dara’s lips were pulled all the way back, and her massive fangs glistened in the moonlight, orbited by bits of foam.
Dara’s ears were back, and head was tilting sideways. She was probably meaning to get Ms. Trent right in the jugular, but it was obvious she was going to miss and chomp down square on Ms. Trent’s face.
One of the three mutts behind Dara was crouched in downward dog, pushing his back legs down ready to pounce. Another pup from behind Ms. Trent was fully in the air, front and back legs crossed due to the high speed at which she was sprinting forward focused intently on the kill. The rest of the pack was frozen in various positions ready to attack. The small dopey looking energetic pup had her tongue trailing out the side of her mouth practically behind her. The rest looked purely malicious.
Time returned to regular speed with a fury bent on catching back up, which is why hardly a millisecond passed before Dara’s full weight slammed jaw first into Ms. Trent’s face with an impact that did not slow until the back of her head thudded into the pavement.
The pack was on her, and plenty of snarling and gnashing ensued, but she was not quite torn to shreds. Instead Dara turned her attention to whipping the rest of the pack into line, with a couple of whimpers from the energetic little one who had to be put in her place when she didn’t follow orders so well from the alpha-bitch.
The six other dogs held Ms. Trent down, one with jaw clenched on each limb, the biggest mutt with his paws on her shoulders, and another jumping around to aid wherever the wriggling of Ms. Trent needed constraining. Dara stood over Ms. Trent, drool dropping in puddles onto her plain, now dirt and blood stained blouse.
A catchy energetic jingle cut into the night. It played through once in high pitched beeps, and then started again. One of Ms. Trent’s arms was released, and she looked terrified from dog to un-moving dog. Dara, teeth still showing, nudged the phone inside Ms. Trent’s coat pocket which was ringing.
Ms. Trent cried silently, hardly understanding what had just happened, and indeed what the hell was still going on. When Dara snarl-barked at her, losing patience, Ms. Trent jerked her hand into her pocket and answered her phone, but did not, could not, say anything.
“Hello Ms. Trent,” A cold calm voice cracked from the other end. “You got your training on my case just over a decade ago, didn’t you?”
Ms. Trent’s eyes widened and her lip twitched as she recognized the distinct voice on the other end. Her breathing was convulsions.
“You had a choice back then, and what you chose led directly to the exact position you find yourself in right now. Now you have another choice: slow or quick. Tell me, what came of Martin Brigham?”
Ms. Trent choked on her answer and closed her eyes, unable to speak. Dara growled.
“Where is he?!” the scientist asked, flames building behind his voice.
“He…” Ms. Trent was shaking with sobs, “he… he changed…”
“What?!” the scientist growled, “Tell me!” he roared, “Spit it out!”
“He changed his name!” She cried, breaking down, “He changed his name!” she choppily and softly repeated.
“Tell me his name,” the mad scientist was collected again.
“Marshal Pullman,” she spat out quickly, “but please, don’t-” he had already hung up and she heard the click of the disconnect like a lethal injection.
Dara proceeded in one fluid motion to use her jaw to grab Ms. Trent by the throat and shake her to death like a rag doll. She dropped her body with a thud on the pavement, and trotted away into the moonlit night, followed by her subordinates.