“Oh my god!” Stacia said. Her eyes were wide, mouth aghast. “That bitch in makeup made me look like a zombie!” Stacia put down her mirror and shifted her attention. “Hey who is that?”
“That?” Rob asked nodding towards the slightly overweight dark man with glasses talking to the producer. “That is the new station regulator.”
“What happened to Ms. Trent,” Stacia asked, “She didn’t say anything about leaving.”
“Well,” Rob cleared his throat, “I am interested to see what they tell us…”
“Don’t be cryptic!” Stacia said, “You already know, don’t you? From your police sources? What did they say?”
“She’s dead. Murdered last night in the street on her way home from the studio.”
Stacia’s mouth fell agape. “What was it a mugging gone wrong? A drive-by shooting?”
Rob wasn’t making eye contact. “Better,” he said without thinking, then closed his eyes and shook his head, “I mean, no, worse. Creepier. Makes you think maybe there might be some sort of serial killer…”
The producer got everyone in the studio’s attention to tell them in about the death the night before of Ms. Trent. Hit by a car. Stacia glanced over at Rob, who felt her eyes but ignored her stare.
The new regulator was introduced. His name was Tristan Beatty.
“I’m sorry to meet you all under such circumstances,” Tristan said, “but I am never-the-less pleased to be working with all of you. Please call me Trist; I think you will find that I am approachable and open-minded.
“What happened?!” Stacia hissed at rob Rob under her breath after the broadcast, as they cleaned up.
“Let’s talk over dinner,” Rob winked.
They talked over wine while their food was prepared.
Rob explained, “It happened again with Ms. Trent. Attacked by wild animals of some sort.”
“I knew it!” Stacia exclaimed with a triumphant smile. “Did they learn anything new?”
“Well I only got a bit out of the cops before the chief came over and told them to shut it. I don’t think I’m getting any more out of them,” Rob said disappointed.
Stacia thought for a moment biting her lip, “We need to pursue the story then!”
Rob scoffed, “And do what with it? They’ll never allow us to do a report on the news. I was digging out of pure curiosity.”
“A book!” Stacia said, her eyes bursting with excitement. “We’ll write an investigative journalism book! It will put us on the map!”
“It will put us in jail. Remember what Ms. Trent said?”
“Pff and look at her now,” Stacia laughed, but then stopped short when Rob gave her a judgy look. “Well she’s the only one who told us not to talk about it!”
“No one would publish it,” Rob said dismissively. “It wouldn’t get past the regulators.”
“We’ll just pay them off,” Stacia said just as dismissively, “and by the time it is out in the public what can they do? They wouldn’t openly punish us for reporting the truth. And why would they care so much anyway?”
Rob scoffed, “Because people might say they got what they deserved. And they like to pretend they can control everything.”
Stacia looked disappointed. Rob noticed and fidgeted in his chair.
“Look, out of sheer curiosity,” he said, “Why don’t we look into it a little further?”
Stacia’s eyes lit up again and she smiled, and it infected Rob as well.
“But don’t get your hopes up for doing anything with the information!” He added sternly, and winked.
The scientist was in front of his screens, flipping through cameras all throughout the city. There was a panel for text on the side, where he typed and hit enter, and this told him things he needed to know about which camera to check next. He spoke to himself all the while. When he noticed himself he directed his speech to the dogs.
“Oh this one, this one, maybe here, maybe… No! Dammit. Well, we’ll try the corner of… ahh what the hell… it wasn’t that one either Dara.”
Dara cocked her head because she thought he was crazy.
The scientist sighed and slouched; he kept absentmindedly flicking through cameras until he was startled by the silhouette of a man on the screen. He drew his head in closer to the screen for a timid better look. His eyebrows were bent in concern, and he reached out to touch the face of the man on the screen, and the man on the screen reached out to touch a screen of his own.
This was the wolfy dog Dara’s view. The scientist was viewing himself through the cameras in her eyes.
“I’m so old,” he muttered, still entranced by his monitor. “Eleven years shouldn’t age a man like that.”
He turned away and looked at the floor defeated. Dara couldn’t stand to see her master in such a state, and she walked over to nudge him. Ceril whined and smacked his jowls in the background.
The scientist raised his eyes to look at his favorite pups, and managed a meager smile. He bent down onto one knee to hug Dara, and Ceril came over to join the embrace.
“Is there any bit of you still in there?” The scientist murmured.
Dara growled at the screen. One monitor had highlighted a camera view, and filled the screen with it. A red notification flashed. The scientist stood and leaned in over his work bench filled with computers and screens.
His eyes lit up. They looked like thin cracking ice over a pond, illuminated from beneath. His smile turned maniacal, and curled at the corners of his lips.
The man on the screen had just left a massive granite government building with columns. He whisked himself seamlessly down the stone steps, and onto the street, unaware he was being watched.
All seven dogs stood at attention.
“Go,” the scientist said, and the dogs leapt into action.
Marshall Pullman’s heels clicked as he walked down the street, and the few passers by averted their gazes. He actually looked them each in the face with a look of disgust and lord help any who made eye contact.
They knew who he was, and the ones who didn’t knew what he was. He was a government boss, a Commissioner, and there was no crossing one of him.
There wasn’t a uniform that made him stand out in the typical sense, but it was the uniform of status. It was how comfortable he felt in his perfectly ironed three piece suit. It was the look of derision that infected every glance he shot at strangers. It was not the length of the overcoat, and not just the material that spoke of power, it was the breeze that flitted it back perfectly as he walked, like he and the wind had conspired to show just how powerful he was.
Nothing could touch Marshall Pullman, Federal Commissioner of the City of Hillsboro and outlying townships; no one would dare. No human that is. But when he heard the echoes of howls, he subconsciously ushered them into the deplorable category, and he scorned the sound with disdain.
He approached the park near his home which cast shadows on the surrounding streets, contrasting them from the bright illumination of the streets at the city center, from where he walked.
Only a sliver was missing from the moon, which shone through the bare limbs of oak trees in the park he passed which filled a city block. The Commissioner never much noticed the park. He lived in a stone townhouse on the north side of the park. He could have cut through, but preferred to stay on the clean stone walkways against which his heels clicked with authority.
Today he noticed something moving in the park, and stopped abruptly. He turned to look, and caught the glimpse of a white tail vanishing behind a bent old oak. His eyes narrowed, and he continued to walk past the park.
A few more steps and rustling in the leaves made him turn again to the park, but he didn’t stop this time. He glanced in disgust at the sound in the bushes, and made a short tsst sound at the eyes glowing from the hedges, which disappeared into the darkness.
When Commissioner Pullman turned the corner onto his street lined with immaculate three story stone buildings, standing at attention in a neat row, he saw at the end of the street a mutt of some sort, sitting under a street lamp. He sighed in annoyance, and shook his head, making a mental note to lambaste his Director of Wildlife.
As he continued walking he heard a light click-click behind him, and slowed his own cadence to glance behind. Two dogs followed him at some distance, but they stopped, with low stooped heads, and stared.
The Commissioner ground his teeth and pulled out his phone, but then in a moment of frustration thrust it back into his pocket and kept walking, “God dammit I don’t feel like dealing with this shit tonight,” he said.
Only when he was almost to his steps did he notice yet another hound stalking him from across the street, next to the park. then he did become a bit perturbed. He had never seen any dogs in this area on his walk home before.
The commissioner looked up and was mildly startled to find the mutt at the end of the road had moved closer, and now sat under the streetlamp just two houses down from his own.
As he approached his steps it bared its teeth and growled, but he ignored it, quickly scaled the six steps to his door, and was inside with the door closed and bolted in one fluid motion. Once inside, he forgot all about the dogs as his wife greeted him.
The littlest pup with the long trailing tongue hopped onto the steps, bounded onto the windowsill, and peered into the front dining room of the stately townhouse.
From the safety of his basement lair, the scientist watched his screen with heavy breaths; the same view that the pup had of the dining room. His clenched knuckles turned white as he watched Commissioner Pullman fix himself a drink.
Sitting at the table eating were the two daughters of the Commissioner. They had sandy blonde hair, and looked almost identical, except for their ages. They must have been about twelve and fourteen years old.
The scientist’s pack of dogs trotted back into the park to regroup, and watch for Dara’s commanding move. They all started back in a gallop towards the direction of their hidden den.
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