Clarinda was enjoying the quiet time at home with her three girls. She sat, propped up in bed with mounds of pillows behind her, a laptop on her lap and the television remote next to her leg.
A History Channel program filled the room with background noise to keep her company. That and the presence of her three girls: Amber—a Bull Mastiff, Jade—a Weimaraner, and Ruby—a Boxer. They surrounded her in the California-king bed. Amber was sprawled across the foot of the bed at her feet, Jade had wormed her way between Clarinda’s legs, and Ruby had placed herself in Dane’s spot. Dane was her husband.
It was Friday night—poker night with the boys for Dane. She didn’t mind. She actually looked forward to the quiet time alone catching up on her online networking sites and her favorite girlie shows that worked better on Dane than sleeping pills if they watched them together. She felt secure in saying her favorite nighttime dramas bored him.
She reached over to the nightstand for her drink. A few hours ago, she had whipped up a batch of her specialty—strawberry agave lemonade—in order to use up the remaining fruit of the week before it spoiled. She hated to waste food even if she could compost it. So she made her favorite drink, experimenting with sparking water instead of tap to give it some fizz. The carbonated water helped ease her cravings for the soda she had recently given up. She had considered adding a bit of vodka to her glass but hated drinking alone—too depressing.
She took a sip. It was good even without the vodka. She grinned, thinking she needed to have a girls’ night out soon.
To cheer herself up, she took an obnoxiously loud sip of the beverage. “Delicious,” she declared, hoping to get a response from the girls but only one reacted—Ruby—who lifted her head up in hopes that a treat would be involved.
Clarinda laughed and scratched Ruby’s ear. Ruby settled back down and within seconds was snoring along with the other two very spoiled dogs. They were her babies and she was not looking forward to the inevitable—losing the oldest two to old age. Ruby was their oldest at twelve and Amber was only a year younger. Jade was still holding on to puppy status even though she was five. She got into the most trouble and had taken the longest to train. Clarinda had heard Weimaraners were stubborn and now she would be preaching that same word right along with the rest of the Weimmy owners to those interested in the breed. But she wouldn’t trade Jade for the world—wouldn’t trade any of them. Even if they did take up way more room on the bed than Dane.
Clarinda got sucked back into the world wide web of networking after returning her glass to the nightstand and was startled to see that two hours had passed when Amber distracted her by stretching the front half of her body off the bed, nose in the air, sniffing toward the window fan.
“What is it, girl?”
Amber looked from the window to Clarinda, gave a lazy whine and then decided to remove herself fully from the bed and curl up on the dog pillow. That was her usual pattern—hanging out with the pack on the “preferred” bed, until she got too hot, and then dragging her butt off the bed and onto her “alternate” bed on the dog pillow next to Dane’s side of the room.
What she really needed was a horse stable. Clarinda grinned at the thought while scooting herself out from under Jade and out of the bed to hook the laptop up to the television and begin her Friday night movie marathon, beginning with Vampire Diaries. She wormed her way back under the covers and clicked the AV button on the remote. Ah, now this was the life—sad to some but a little slice of heaven to her.
Uncertain what had wakened her, Clarinda looked around the room. The TV was rolling credits from Vampire Diaries, providing her with enough light to see. All three dogs were sleeping—two still on the bed contributing their share of noise to the room. She slid out of bed and looked out the window. The moon was close to full and provided enough light to see a good distance in the yard. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Still, she did a quick check upstairs and down before returning back up to the bedroom, feeling secure.
Wanting to stay up until Dane returned home, Clarinda set up her second show. She wanted to watch Supernatural, but that was a show she preferred watching with Dane. They enjoyed making fun of the crazy story lines together and he could tell her when it was safe to uncover her eyes after the gross parts were over. She didn’t have the stomach for gore but the paranormal theme kept her coming back for more. So she opted for Grey’s Anatomy instead; another show Dane wasn’t interested in, dubbing it another “chick flick”. She praised the internet for the convenience of watching shows on her own time, instead of following the time schedule dictated by the networks. Plus, if she fell asleep, she could always scan back to where she left off.
She resituated herself in the bed and then heard it again, the noise she thought she had heard earlier—the one that woke her up. It was coming from downstairs. She muted the TV and listened more closely. She looked to the dogs for their reactions. The only one interest was Ruby and she was wagging her tail and looking delighted at the possibility of company. “That’s it,” Clarinda said. “I’m trading all three of you in for young, fierce, highly trained Dobermann Pinchers.” Ruby showed her concern by lying her head back down and closing her eyes. The threat was empty and they all knew it.
When she heard what sounded like empty soda cans clattering to the floor downstairs, she jumped out of the bed and slipped into her robe, tying it tightly around her waist. “What the heck,” she said, looking back at the two dogs in the bed. They both looked at her as if to say, “You check it out.”
“You’re useless,” she said, rolling her eyes.
She was hoping the noise was from another confused rodent who had wandered in through the doggie door. The door was reasonably large, because of Amber’s big butt. They replaced the rubber mat originally serving as the door with a wood plank and hinges and then added a slide lock after receiving a visit from a neighborhood squirrel a few months before. But sometimes they forgot to slide the lock over to secure the door. Dane was going to install a new electronic door, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Clarinda searched her mind, looking for the image of locking that damn door for the night, but was unable to find it.
“It’s probably just another squirrel,” she reasoned aloud hoping the logic would calm her. It didn’t.
“Shit,” she said, deciding to get her handgun out of her nightstand drawer. She chambered a round. Even though Dane kept dragging her out to the shooting area he had set up just past the pole barn toward their back fifty acres, guns still made her nervous. She felt better handling firearms when Dane was around. His presence lent her confidence. Silly, she knew. But it was true. She could rattle off stupid questions and he always gave her detailed answered, reassuring her. And she repeated many of those questions over the years but Dane never seemed to lose patience with her. He said being comfortable with guns was important, especially in rural areas like where they lived. Obviously she still had issues with them. They hadn’t been allowed in her parents’ house so she never seemed able to build up that comfort level with them.
Another noise brought Clarinda back to her immediate problem and she grabbed her cell phone and punched in 9-1-1, placing her thumb near the send button before quietly slipping out of the master suite and down the stairs toward the noise. Some of the stairs creaked but it was an old farm house and it was just plain unavoidable. Dane and she always joked that it would be next to impossible for anyone to sneak up on them, unless, of course, they were ninja. It was one of nature’s security systems, which they apparently needed because the three terrifying dogs they owned, still lounging upstairs, simply couldn’t be bothered. “Bitches,” she whispered under her breath as she slid down the remaining two stairs and into the foyer.
The doggie door was located in the mud room, to the right of her, just down the hall. She stood motionless and strained against the silence. She heard it before she could make it out—the clicking of nails against wood. When it came into view, it looked like a wolf. It was huge—about the size of Amber, maybe a bit bigger and Clarinda let out a squeak of surprise before dropping her cell phone and using both hands to steady the 9mm. Her body had gone into fight or flight mode and she needed both hands to control her shaking. The wolf paused before it started toward her. She took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. Once. Twice. Three times before the animal went down onto the polished bamboo floor. It let out a high pitched yelp and she swore it looked at her accusingly before closing its eyes. Perhaps she watched too much Disney growing up.
Was it dead, she wondered, uncertain whether to check. She still had seven rounds left in the gun. She could hear one of the dogs making her way down the stairs toward them. She decided to wait for the company before checking on her unwelcome house guest. It was Amber who joined her and she was glad. The other two dogs were good hunters, but the Mastiff was one very powerful dog, even if she was old.
Without hesitation, Amber walked over to the wolf, gave a couple good sniffs, and then began cleaning one of the wounds. “Eww,” Clarinda said in disgust, hoping the normality of dealing with the dog would calm her. It didn’t. Maybe she should have added that vodka to her drink.
She was still pumped up on adrenaline—her heart still raced and her hands still shook. She took another deep breath, finding the courage to draw closer to the animal. It was like a bad auto accident on the freeway. She couldn’t seem to look away. Then something extraordinary happened. The animal began to move and shift beneath its skin. “What the hell?” Clarinda recoiled. “Amber! Get away from it,” she demanded. Amber ignored her and began to bark, adding to Clarinda’s panic and confusion.
The next thing she knew, Dane was lying on the floor, naked and bleeding. She blinked and went for the light switch. Her eyes stung at the sudden brightness. Uncertain what to do next; she looked for her cell phone on the floor, quickly retrieving it. But again, she was overcome with uncertainty. Who was she supposed to call? What was she supposed to tell people?
Feeling uncomfortable holding the cell phone in one hand and a loaded gun in the other, she slipped the gun in her robe pocket. She still didn’t believe what she had just witnessed. Amber had returned to licking Dane’s right arm where one of the bullets had grazed him. Clarinda knelt down and, with a tentative finger, poked Dane’s left arm before quickly drawing away.
“Shit,” she said in frustration. Trying again, she used her whole hand to touch him. He felt hot and clammy. Maybe she had killed him. But shouldn’t he be getting cold instead of hot? Maybe it was only a matter of time before the inevitable. She killed her husband, she thought, tears forming in her eyes.
to be continued in part two…