Jessie

Jessie

A Story by Casper Cross
"

Dogs are man's best friend... Sometimes though they need to be a little bit more

"

I am the proud owner of Jessie III, though we all call him Tripp. His father, Deuce or Jessie II, still lives on the Iowa farm where I raised him. I fear Old Deuce will have seen his last day before I return home. When that day comes, they will lay him to rest next to his father’s grave.  

It is a spot I know well. It sits behind the barn, where wildflowers grow in the spring. A whitewashed cross, fashioned from old fence posts, marks the grave. I carved out his name with a pocket knife.

Jessie the First? Jessie the Elder? No. Just Jessie.

The story of how Jessie joined the family, remains a local legend where I grew up. I'm about telling that story here because writing it down adds some permanence to it. I want the story to live on long after I am gone.

I grew up on a corn farm in Iowa on land my great grandfather bought just before the stock market crashed in ‘29.  Family legend has it that he won the property playing a game of cards. I'm not sure how much of that is true, but it made for a great story.

The house stands two stories tall with milk white walls, blue shutters, and a peaked roof. From a distance, it didn’t look half bad, but up close, there are obvious effects caused by age. Deep gouges gnarl the wood, and the paint flakes off. Momma to this day, still sweeps it off the porch once a month.

I spent my summers outside. I started the day feeding the chickens and hauling pales of slop out to the pigs. We even kept a couple of turkeys penned up year around. They always wound up on Momma’s table for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

After chores, I climbed. My cousin in Georgia, had a three hundred year old oak tree growing in his backyard. There aren’t that many trees in Iowa and even fewer that are large enough to climb. I had to get creative.

I used to climb to the top of the barn, but after Momma caught me running across the tin roof, she whooped me good. I never climbed the barn again, so I instead learned how to climb the storm drain that ran up the house’s western wall.

I climbed up, found a comfortable spot against the chimney, and daydreamed. What I wanted more than anything in the world was a dog, a real dog. The kind of dog that weighed as much as I did. One I could take swimming in the creek, or hunt down pesky vermin roaming around in our corn crib.

On an early June morning, of my tenth year on this planet we call earth, I finally got what I wanted.

As usual I woke up early and headed out to do my chores. Then went off to play. I hurried up the storm drain and took my customary spot beside the red brick chimney. I put my hands under my head and watched the clouds slide across the sky. Then I heard it.

It was a single bark. A deep baritone voice that rose up from the throat, regal, and loud. It wasn’t the yippy kind of bark you hear from smaller dogs but the kind that resembled a sergeant calling his troops to attention. It made you stand up and take notice.

I looked around. Between the sea of corn stalks to my left and right at the end of our double rutted driveway, sat a l German Shepard, with hindquarters the size of momma's Christmas hams.

I scurried down the storm drain and when I got within five feet of the animal the sheer enormity of it came into plain view. Other than my one trip to the zoo, this might be the largest animal I ever had put my eyes on. It reminded me my favorite comic book hero. The New Jersey Wolf Man, it was called. This dog could have crawled right out of its pages. Had it felt so inclined, it jowls could have cleaved my head clean off my shoulders.

The dog settled down on its back end. Dark eyes watched me as I watched them. He seemed more afraid of me than I was of him.

Palm side up I extended my hand and crept forward. "Easy boy," I said. "Easy. I won't hurt you." My fingers slipped around behind his ear and gave him a deep scratch.

He wore a red leather collar around his neck. Hanging from the latched end was an oval-shaped medallion engraved with his name, "Jessie".

His tongue found my face. Instead of chewing it off my skull, he instead showered me with warm canine kisses. Laughing, I fell to my back. Jessie stood over me, tickling my face with a slathering spit bath. That is not what my mother thought she saw when she spied the two of us from the living room window. She hurtled her one hundred and thirty pounds through the screen door.    

"Jeremy!"   She screamed. I could feel the earth vibrating as she ran. "Get off of my son, you vicious animal!"

I rolled over and looked at her. She held a broom in both hands, swinging it around like a samurai sword. "Shoo! Scram! Get out of here!" She took several swings at Jessie but he just backed away, side stepping every latent blow.

Jessie tilted his head to the right then back to the left. He wasn’t afraid, just baffled by the crazed woman swinging the broom around in the air.  His dark eyes seemed to say, “I know you are a nice lady. You won’t hit me with that stick.”

Momma didn’t, but she wanted to. "Shoo! Get out of her you mangy mongrel!”

She jabbed at him with the bristles but Jessie’s big grin never faded. He turned and trotted back down the driveway toward the main road, his tail swinging side to side like a maestro's baton. When he reached the road, he stopped turned, and took a seat in the grass right beside the mailbox. Panting in the early morning heat, his lolling tongue bounced to the rhythm of his pulsing lungs.

Momma seized my wrist and dragged me back into the house. The moment after closing the door she looked me up and down. “Are you ok? Did he bite you?” She turned me around and around searching for scratches and bloody splotches on my clothes.

“No, momma,” I said. “I don’t think he meant to hurt me.”

“How many times do I have to tell you?” She asked. That’s how she always started this argument. “I don’t want animals living in this house! That’s the end of this discussion, Jeremy. I'm tired of it! Do you hear me? You have worn me out for years with this. Now please, stop it!"

That, according to my momma was the final word and she meant it. Defeated, I used the last weapon I had in my arsenal. I crossed my arms, stormed off to my room, and slammed the door behind me. I threw my ten-year-old body across the bed, sprawling arms and legs across the mattress and my face buried in my pillow. I remained in my room the rest of the day until momma came in carrying my dinner tray.

She sat down on the bed and patted the mattress next to her. "Come over here and talk to me for a bit. I want to explain something." I spun around and came closer, but I maintained my distance. I wanted her to know that I wasn't ready to forgive her. I would some day, just not yet.

"I want to show you something." She took the hem of her shirt and pulled it up till it was just beneath the underwire of her satin bra.

Running the length of her side, starting at her hip bone and creeping across her rib cage, and wrapping around the middle of her back was a long thin pink scar. It looked like a thick line of bubble gum.

With a sudden jolt of impulsiveness I reached out to touch it, then stopped halfway there, withdrew my hand and looked up to find her eyes.

“It’s ok.” She said. "You can touch it. It doesn't hurt anymore."

"What happened Momma?" I asked.

She let the hem of her shirt fall back to her waist. "When I was your age, I wanted a dog too. Your grandpa surprised me when he showed up here carrying the cutest little cur dog I had ever seen. He had one brown eye and one blue eye and a tongue the color of an egg plant. I named him Baxter, shortened it to Bax, and we became inseparable. Living this far outside of town, I had a few friends but saw them only at school. Bax was my closest companion and playmate." She inhaled readying herself for a journey down this path of her history.

"Daddy didn't know that Baxter's previous owner had raised him as a fighting dog. The people at the pound should have told him that, but they didn't say anything." Here my mom stopped and her eyes took on a glassy sheen. She wiped at the tears with the backend of her hand and continued.  "I don't know what I or said to set him off, but he attacked me. All I remember was the pain, the screaming, the thrashing and the blood. Oh! So much blood! When daddy heard me screaming he came running out. Baxter had shredded my clothes to the point that I was just one big bloody naked mess. He shouted at Baxter and that shook him from his trance. He let me go, running away to hide, ashamed of what he had done.

“There was so much blood covering every inch of my body that it made it impossible to recognize the extent of the damage. Daddy scooped me up and raced me to the hospital. Took more than five hundred stitches to put me back together.  I had to go as Frankenstein’s bride that Halloween.” She chuckled, but her eyes held that glassy stare.

"What happened to Baxter?"

“Grandpa spent the night at the hospital. In the morning, still covered in my blood, he drove back here to the farm, took  his rifle from the closet, and hunted Baxter down in the barn."

"He killed your dog?" I asked, failing to comprehend all that my mother told me.

"My dog tried to kill me." She said, looking down with that stern stare I knew so well.

Momma sighed. She leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. "I know you don’t understand Jeremy, but I’m doing the best I can. Kids don't come with instruction manuals. As parents, we do the best we can with what we have."

"So you think that what happened to you, could happen to me?"

Momma shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m not ready to take the risk." Standing, she turned, and left the room.

I ate my dinner and set the tray just outside my door, closed it and went back in. I laid down on my bed and drifted off to sleep. I awoke in the early hours of the morning with something scratching near my window. It resembled claws digging into wood, as though something powerful and even dangerous wanted inside.

There are tales in Iowa about a fierce birdlike creature called the Corn Goblin. It stand around seven feet tall, with leathery wings stretching twenty-four feet in length, large red glowing eyes, and a crooked jutting appendage in the center of its face, a cross between a bird's beak and a human nose.

The Goblin hides deep in the corn fields feeding on children who venture too far from their homes. A childhood friend named, Chandler, I believe, became a Corn Goblin victim.

Playing hide and seek with some our classmates, Chandler ducked into the cornfields.  We searched for him for an hour calling out to him. Hearing our frantic voices his parents came out and joined the search. Police search the corn rows with bloodhounds.  They located a torn part of his shirt, but there was never any sign of Chandler. Twenty years later, his disappearance remains my hometown's most mysterious unsolved case.

I pushed aside the curtains expecting to find a glowing pair of red eyes staring back at me.

WHAM!!  Something strong and large jumped at the window.

I retreated and tumbled onto my backside. Looking up I thought for sure I would see the great winged monster clawing at my window, bits of human flesh dripping from needle sharp fangs.

"Over here little boy." I thought I heard it say. "Let me in, oh, let me in. Let me taste your tender meat. Just a nibble, only a bite. Just open the window and let me in."

A lump lodged in my throat. The palms of my hands ran with sweat. My eyes though closed, imagined the creature with its crooked nose and leathered face. It's breath pulsating in hot foggy blasts on the pane of glass. Its needle-sharp claws, from a bone thin finger, tapped and scraped across the wooden window frame.

With my eyes still closed, I sprang off the floor, dove across the mattress and buried my head beneath the sheets. The monster beyond my window snarled at me.  I was a low guttural growl bubbling up from deep in its throat. It sounded hungry. It sounded…

Like a dog.

Like a dog?

My own thought surprised me.

I eased out from beneath the covers until only my eyes shown above the folded hem of the sheets. My eyes darted left and right as I listened for any sound emanating from the window.

Then I heard it again. A high-pitched whimper followed by more scratching of claws across the glass. I returned to the window, pulled back the curtains, and stared not into the face of a hideous boy-eating monster, but the goofy smile of a large German Shepard.

“Jessie! You scared me to death!” I whispered. Jessie stood on his rear haunches with both forepaws resting on the window sill.

I unlatched the top rail and raised the sash from the apron. “Now be quiet. If you wake up momma, she will skin us both!”

Jessie understood. He climbed over the window apron and entered my bedroom with the stealth of a skilled cat burglar.

He walked over to the bed, his claws ticking across the wood floor. He spun four or five times, then eased his furry mass into a curled position at the base of my bed.

I climbed back in bed and offered him half of the mattress. “Come on boy! You can sleep with me.”

As I burrowed down beneath the covers, I expected Jessie to scale the mattress and slip beneath the covers next to me, but he never moved. He never even showed as much as the triangular point of his ear above my mattress.

I continued to prod him.  “Come on Jessie. You don’t have to sleep on the floor.”

My hand reached over the side of the bed and scratched behind his left ear. His tongue lashed out at my hand and bathed in wet oogie kisses.

In that simple gesture, he seemed to thank me for my offer, say in his canine way Because of your generous hospitality kind master, I will not sleep on the cold ground tonight but warm beside you. This is good enough. It will always be good enough.

My head sank into my pillow. I slid as close to the edge as I could, and let my hand just dangle off the side, my fingers sinking into tufts of thick brown fur. The steady cadence of his breathing calmed me. Within minutes, I drifted off into a deep and encompassing sleep.

When I awoke in the early hours of the morning, my hand remained where I placed it the night before. Only, there was no Jessie. I panicked and shot straight up in bed. There was no sign of him. Had it all been a dream?

Turning to the window, I saw the curtains catch a gust of morning breeze.  It hadn't been a dream after all. I jumped from my bed and hurried to the window. Thrusting my head through the opening, I searched the yard. I looked right and left but found no sign of him in either direction.

Had he ducked out in the earlier hours of the morning? It seemed the most logical conclusion. Right?

Perhaps it is true that we lie to ourselves first. This wasn't the most logical conclusion and it wasn’t the only one. Just what I wanted to believe. There another possibility, but this one frightened me more than the belief that a corn goblin awaited me outside my window.

Momma.

She always slept later in the mornings. But what if today was different? What if today, just this one time, she awoke earlier and found Jessie?

If so, what would she do to him? Drag him out back and shoot him the way grandad did Baxter?

I turned from the window and padded out to the hall, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and yawning. I looked to my right and saw momma's closed bedroom door.

Ok. That's a good sign. Maybe she's still asleep. If so, I was probably in the clear. Stretching my arms and shoulders, I moved on down the hall.

When my feet touched the chilly cold vinyl floor of our kitchen, my heart spun, jumped, and did everything it could to break out of my chest and go off running towards my bedroom. Momma sat at the table, legs crossed, a spoon in her hand diving into a bowl of corn flakes.

Jessie, who sat curled up at her feet, lifted his head when he saw me. His long bushy tail danced in a circular motion, and his goofy grin appeared on his black and brown face, the tip of his pink tongue lapping at the lower end of his jaw.

I stopped in mid-stride. A curse word formed in my mind. That fudge word, the worst ever in the history of language according to my momma. I’ve learned few colorful ones since then might make her change her mind.

An icy glare settled on me. Cold daggers pricked my skin and gooseflesh bubbled up and down my arms from my neck to my wrists. I had just cannonballed into the deep end of the s**t pool without my nose plugs and floaties.

“Good morning Jeremy, have a seat. It’s time you and I had a little chat.”

As I made my way over to the table, Jessie rose and met me halfway. He began to lather my hand with kisses. “Ok!” I whispered, making a scowling face at him. “Stop it! You aren't helping.”

Jessie returned to his spot on the floor and curled up again at my momma’s feet. Momma dabbed at her lips with a napkin. She didn't seem to notice him.

As my butt sank into my chair, my head fell to my chest. I thought it best to lay low and say nothing. That was always the best defensive strategy. Let her do all the talking.

“I want to talk about last night.” She began. “You know what you did was wrong right?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I nodded but didn’t look up.

“You know I don’t tolerate disobedience. Right?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I nodded again.

“Jeremy my rules, like them or not, are the rules. When you have a home, a job, and a family of your own, you can make the rules.  As long as you live under my roof, you will obey my rules. Is that clear?”

I nodded but said nothing.

“Look at me!”

I looked at her with tears blurring my vision.

“Is that clear?”

“Yes momma.”

She balled her napkin and placed it on the table. Leaning back in her chair, she sighed. “Now with that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s discuss this mongrel here." Momma scratched Jessie’s rear flanks. "First, he doesn’t belong to us. I'm sure whoever owns this animal loves him and wants him back. So tomorrow you, me, and Jessie here, will ride into town and drop him off at the Animal control center.”

“No momma!” I started.

Her finger came up to her lips. I stopped talking and lowered my eyes again. “Did I give you permission to speak? Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. So that gives you today to spend with Jessie.  Any day now, Old Man Ferguson’s collie will have puppies. If you’re a good boy, listen to your momma, and show her the respect she’s due, I might let you have your pick of the litter.”

“Really? You mean that?”

She nodded. “After our talk last night, I did some thinking. It scares me, but a lot in life scares me as it concerns you. I can’t protect you from everything, so, I’ll allow a dog under these conditions. First, your chores don’t change. You will feed and water the hogs, just like you do now. The chickens too. Second, the dog will be your responsibility. If you forget to feed and water it, that will be on you. Don't expect me to go behind you to make sure it gets done.”

I nodded with tempered excitement, unenamored with the possibility of owning a collie dog. As I saw it, I had a dog. I didn't need a new one.

True to form, Momma saw right through my forced expression. "Now Jeremy," she said. "We have to return Jessie cause he don't belong to us. I don't want no fussing, or carrying on. You hear?”

The animal control center was no place for an animal like him.  I didn’t understand it then, but there was something special about Jessie. Neither one of us saw it, but we sensed it. Momma though was as stubborn as a stud mule, but the events of the coming night would permanently change her best-laid plans.

It began in the early pre-dawn hours. I sat upright in bed. Dim moonlight spilled across the floor in a single bolt of white light. I blinked my eyes open and squinted as I read the digital readout on the alarm clock by the bed. It was a few minutes past two in the morning. Why was I awake? I looked down at the floor expecting to find Jessie curled up by the bed, but he wasn’t there.

“Jessie!” I called for him in a whispered voice.

I saw him for a brief moment as he crossed in front of the thin ribbon of moonlight.  He melded into the darkness, turned, and then reappeared in between the curtains. Every hair on the back of his neck and around his tail stood at attention.

As he paced, he lifted his snout into the air, breathing in quick and rapid pulses of a scent only he could sense. His lips curled up and away from his whiskers revealing elongated canine fangs and a low growl rolled from his throat.

“What is it, boy?” I asked climbing down from my bed and padding over toward the window.

Was it an Opossum? Or a Raccoon? A Skunk, maybe?

Coyotes were known to roam the area and they were always after the chickens. It wasn’t any of these things. Jessie didn't want to chase prey. He was on guard against a threat to his new family.

I stepped to the window and looked out between the curtains. The corn fields stopped about twenty yards from my window. From this vantage point, I stood about three feet over the stalks and four to five rows in, I started noticing movement. Something large was walking through the corn stalks. I could see them swaying at the tops as though something was pushing them aside.

I opened my mouth to breath, my flaring nostrils unable to move air fast enough into my lungs. My heart drummed in my chest. I could hear it pounding in my ears. I faded back into the recessed shadows of my room. I wanted to see it but didn't want it to see me.

Emerging from between the last set of corn stalks was a man rising almost seven feet from the tufts of zoysiagrass. Dressed in denim overalls and leather work boots, this stranger reminded me of a bear wearing human skin a size too tight. Thick tufts of black hair ran the length of both arms and across the shoulders. Without wearing an undershirt, I could see bubbling slabs of hairy man tits folded behind the bibs of his overalls.

Greasy strands of hair wringing wet with sweat hung like wire chords in front of his face. A jagged pink knife scar ran from cheek to cheek below a pair of colorless eyes. A meaty right hand clutched the handle of a twelve-inch machete. A bullet of moonlight ricocheted off the sharpened band metal.

Jessie lurched at the window when the giant stranger appeared. A hammering chorus of baritone barks challenged the nocturnal visitor.   It took every ounce of my strength to keep the dog away from the window. I held him next to me, trying to conceal the two of us within the room's deep shadows.

Then the man's face appeared in my window, those colorless eyes shrouded by a brim of darkness concealing the top half of his face. At this same moment in time, Momma pushed through my bedroom door.

"Jeremy what on earth?"

At the sight of the man at the window, her hands flew to her mouth to staunch the petrified scream. She folded at the waist and trumpeted a blast loud enough to vibrate the floor.

I had never heard such a scream. The man's head snapped up and at the sight of my momma a smile crossed his lips. A gaping toothless lascivious grin!

Momma belted another scream! My hands flew to my ears to stifle the noise.

Momma's screaming! Jessie's barking! It was such a clamor! I feared the deceased would crawl free from their eternal resting place to again walk the earth empowered by our creator to bring this uproar to a swift and permanent end.

I felt Momma's hand on my wrist, pulling me off the floor.  I rose, followed, and we ran. Snapping my head around, I saw the man duck away from the window. Jessie remained right on my heels. He wasn't about to let us out of his sight.

Crossing in view of the back door, I saw the knob turning. It seized on the lock, caught, and then jiggled violently for only a second or two. It seemed to last an hour or more.

The pounding started next. Deep bass thuds sounded and resounded on the wooden frame. Momma didn't allow guns in the house. All she had to protect us was a kitchen knife, but what good would that do against a psycho wielding a machete?

She went to the kitchen, fumbled through the drawers, crying and cursing as she returned to my side, her entire body trembling. My eyes fell on the knife in her hand and knew this would be our last night on this earth.

I hugged Jessie around his middle, feeling every muscle in his body coiling, as he readied to strike at anything that dared appear in the barred doorway. Then the pounding stopped. The proceeding silence that followed frightened me more than the incessant drumming on the door.

Jessie sniffed at the air and a low gurgling growl rumbled from deep in his throat. He could still smell him lurking just outside the...

WHAM!!!!

The man crashed into the door.

Momma screamed and jumping to her feet she ran for the phone.

Too late Momma, I thought. The police could not make it to us in time.

The impact had snapped the top hinge and buckled the second. The door frame fractured into a rutted fault line running the entire length of the white painted wood.

With a panicked voice, I could hear Momma talking to the 911 dispatcher on the kitchen phone."Please! Send the police! Someone is trying to break into my house!"

WHAM!

Another collision splintered more wood, snapped the second hinge, and buckled the third. I could now see the man as he peeked around the edge of the door. A meaty left hand reaching around to twist the knob.

Jessie broke from my hold and jumped at the man's exposed hand. Jaws parted and snapped closed on the fleshy paw.

"Argh!" The man screamed and jerked his hand back outside.

"I'm gonna f**k you up for that!"

I ran over to Jessie and putting him in a bear hug I pulled him away from the door. Momma was giving the 911 dispatcher our address in the background.

"Go away Mister! I won't let my dog hurt you if you just go away!" I still don't know how I remained so calm.

"Boy! Better back away from the door! Daddy's come home to f**k yo' momma!"

WHAM!

The third attempt brought the door off its final hinge. It crashed down.

Through the dust and flying debris, I found him. Right hand raised, machete blade pointed high, he stomped through the crumbled rubble.

Over the noise, I heard Momma screaming into the phone. "He's broken through the door! He's in my house! He's in my house!"

Jessie broke from my embrace but didn't go straight at the intruder. He instead came from the flank.

Left or right?

I don't recall which. I just remember a flying brown furry mass that landed on the back of the man's neck and sank his teeth into his flesh all the way down to the spine.

Screaming followed. I remember that. Lots of screaming! Some from the man, some from Momma. It was swirling around me like a hurricane's breeze. Feeling something heavy in my hand, I looked down and saw that I was carrying the machete.

I don't remember how it got there and there was a decision to make. Could I kill this man? I had never thought of committing murder and killing, even in self-defense is murder in the eyes of God. Right?

I almost let it go. My grip relaxed and I felt the rubber handle starting to slip from my moistened palm.

I looked up and saw the gathering tears in my eyes. I didn't want to kill this man. Him nor anyone else. I didn't hunt with my uncles because I knew I could never kill an animal. Except for those rats in the barn, but they weren't animals they were varmints.

Through the blur of tears, I saw a frisbee sized hand reach up and ensnare the scruff of Jessie's neck. I heard my dog whelp! I heard my dog cry out in pain and something inside of me came alive. Something I never knew was there.

I blinked and then the next thing I knew, I was staring into those colorless eyes.  They were wide as quarters and shaking.

Looking at my hands, I found them wet and thick as kerosene. My hands looked like crimson gloves, wet and waxy, oozing over my palms and down to my wrists.  He coughed and spat a blot of bloody snot on my night shirt.

Momma ran in from the kitchen with the phone to her ear. "Oh my God!" She screamed and dropped the phone.

She ran to me and fell to her knees. I could hear the 911 dispatcher's voice bleeding through the speaker. "Ma'am? Hello? Ma'am?"

"I'm ok Momma," I said as she looked me over, spinning me around and pulling up my night shirt searching for the nonexistent wound.

"I killed him, Momma. I'm sorry, but I had to."

Momma pulled me into an embrace and started to cry. Jessie hobbled over and poured affection on me too. She kissed him on top of the head and scratched behind his ears. "Thank you. You old mangy mongrel." She wiped her tears into his fur. "Thank you for saving our lives."

The following morning, Sheriff Fogerty drove out for a visit. I met him on the front steps, certain he would lock me in handcuffs and drag me off to jail.

"Are you here to arrest me, Sheriff? I won't resist." Still tinged in the color of blood, my hands went up the way criminals do it in the movies. It would take weeks to scrub it all off.

Fogerty removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Now why on earth would I want to do a thing like that?"

"Because I killed that man."

Sheriff Fogerty dropped a strong hand on my shoulder. "You are a brave young man. I don't think, when I was your age, I could have been half as brave as you."

I doubted his sincerity but appreciated the sentiment. I felt ten pounds lighter now that I knew I wasn't going to prison.

"Let's go inside and talk with your momma." He said and then guided me through my front door. That is when I noticed the folder in his right hand.

"What's that for?" I asked him nodding my head at the folder.

"This is why I drove out here. I wanted you and your Momma to know who you helped bring down last night."

Momma came out of the kitchen, with swollen eyes and ruddy cheeks. She looked a mess, with her hair all balled up with stray tassels hanging down around the sides of her face. At least she had stopped crying.

Jessie remained curled up on a bed Momma fashioned for him out of blankets and an old comforter. He raised his eyes at the Sheriff but offered nothing resembling his customary greeting.

"Can I get you anything Sheriff?" Momma asked.

"Just water Ma'am. I thank you."

He sat down on the sofa and opened the folder, spreading its contents on the coffee table in front of him. When Momma returned from the kitchen with a glass of ice water, he accepted it with a nod and turned it back. He emptied half of the glass. "Ah!" He said and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. With the ice tinkling against the glass, he said, "Been a hot one today," and tossed back the second half of the water. He set the glass down on the coffee table between the scattered pages.

Sheriff Fogerty then noticed Jessie for the first time. "That your dog?" He directed his question to me.

I didn't wait for Momma and answered immediately. "Yes, sir. His name is Jessie."

Fogerty seemed to chew on that for a moment. He nodded then asked. "How long you had him?"

"Only a couple of days," I answered.

"Interesting." That was all he said and then returned his attention to the papers scattered across the table.

He directed his attention to Momma and got started. "Turns out this unwanted visitor last night was quite the character." Momma hugged herself as she listened. Sheriff Fogerty continued without a pause.

"His name was Curtis Wayne Lawler. He was born in California where he did a stint in a juvenile detention facility at the age of fourteen. He dropped out of high school at sixteen and joined the Marines at eighteen. Remained in the corps only two years before they dishonorably discharged him for assaulting an officer. Did a two-year stint in a federal pen for that one."

He picked up a stack of stapled pages and thumbed through them. "He did time for theft, assault, battery, you name it, this guy was all over the map. Ten years ago, his crimes took a more violent turn. He picked remote locations and scouted them for a couple of days. Learned about the family then broke in. He killed the men first, then raped, tortured, and killed the women. You are fortunate to be alive." His eyes went to Momma first and then drifted to me. "Both of you. We've been hunting this guy for months."

"It was Jessie who saved us," I said, and at the mention of his name, the triangular ears turned towards our conversation. He made no effort to stand up.

Fogerty shifted his attention to the German Shepherd. "How long did you say you've had him?" He asked.

I answered. "A couple of days."

Momma expanded on it a little bit. "Jessie doesn't belong to us. He showed up on our doorstep from out of nowhere. I had planned to take him to the animal shelter in town, but after last night..." Momma's voice broke off.

Fogerty nodded. "I understand." He started to gather up the papers, returning them to the folds of the file. He rose from the sofa and walked over to Jessie and knelt by him on the floor. He nodded his head. "Yep," He started. "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it." He scratched Jessie on the back of his neck. "You wise ole devil you!" Fogerty laughed. Jessie gave him a smile as if the two of them shared a joke.

Placing a hand on Momma's shoulder, Sheriff Fogerty said, "I don't think you need to take the dog to the shelter. His owners won't be coming to look for him."

"I don't understand. How do you know this?"

Fogerty hitched up his trousers and answered, "If my instincts are correct, and they usually are, that there German Shepard belongs to the Rose Family. They had a German Shepherd named Jessie too. The resemblance is striking."

Momma asked. "The Rose family? What happened to them?"

Sheriff Fogerty reached up and scratched his head. "I don't want to upset you any more than you already are, ma'am."

"It's ok, Sheriff. I want to know."

"There were two twin boys about your son's age, the mother, Rebecca Rose, and a teenage sister named Lily. About a week ago, someone walked onto their property and butchered the entire family. The killer murdered the two boys first. Then tied the mother and daughter to the bed. He assaulted them for over two days before strangling both of them."

Momma looked away.

Sheriff Fogerty apologized. "I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't mean to upset you.”

Momma put her hand to her throat. "It's ok, Sheriff. I needed to hear it."

"Men like Lawler, they don't stop killing. They can't. It's in their bones. It's a part of who they are. You saved this community an awful lot of heartache, you and your son. No way to know how many he might have killed before we caught him. Five? Ten? A dozen, maybe?" Sheriff Fogerty shook his head and turned his eyes on me. "Thanks to you. We don't have to worry about that."

Momma started to cry, overwhelmed by the realization of how close her life came to ending. All are born with an innate sense of immortality. When life strips that away and forces us to stare death in the face, the experience leaves us exposed and vulnerable. We are left feeling raw and tender.

Jessie finally stood and walked over to Momma. He put his head in her lap after she sat down on the couch. Sheriff Fogerty nodded a quick farewell and backed out of the house. I stayed close on his heels.

"Can I ask you a question, Sheriff?"

He reached his car and opened the door. "Sure kid." He crawled into the cabin, placing his hat on the dashboard and the folder on the seat next to his.

"Do you believe Jessie followed that man here?"

Fogerty seemed to think on my question. After only a moment he nodded his head. "I do. If you promise not to tell your momma any of this, I'll tell you why."

I nodded and swore never to tell anyone. A promise I kept until now.

"You are a brave young man, Jeremy and you deserve a special dog. You got that in spades kid."

He then shared the rest of the story with me.

When police arrived at the Rose family home, the dog pen door was swinging open with a busted lock and no dog anywhere insight. Detectives believed that the Rose family killer opened the cage door, to get at the dog, but it bolted, squirmed by him, and escaped.

Police found the twin boys lying prone on the living room floor, swimming in a pool of blood. In the bedroom, they discovered the bodies of Lily and Rebecca Rose tied to the headboard with nylon rope. The mouths gagged with fabric torn from the sheets. They were both naked, bruised, and bloodied by a post-mortem knife wound to the throat. Police found semen inside both women that positively identified Lawler as the killer.

“They had pictures of that dog all over the house. It has to be him. I'm sure of it." He started the engine, closed the door and rolled down the window. Before he set the car in reverse, he leaned out and looking at me concluded his story.

“There were bloody paw prints in the pool of blood all around the boys, more bloody prints running up stairs, and all around the bed. Then a final set that ran out through the open back door."

"I can't explain it. You had to see the inside of that place to know what I’m talking about. It was like he was pacing back and forth between the bodies, mourning to be sure, but I something was going on. I think that dog was getting righteously pissed off and decided to get him some payback."

"Is this for real?" I asked. I had a sense that Sheriff Fogerty was jerking me around by the bridle bit.

Sheriff Fogerty threw the car in reverse. " Of course I do. Not the only one either. Couple guys back at the station would tell you the same thing. It doesn’t matter though. You need to decide if you believe it. If you do, then what else is there?"

© 2017 Casper Cross


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Added on December 20, 2017
Last Updated on December 20, 2017
Tags: German Shepard, dogs, family, horror, intruder

Author

Casper Cross
Casper Cross

Nashville, TN



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