A cold nose in my neck pushed me above the surface of sleep. A massive paw on my shoulder rocked me awake. The perfect alarm: no annoying buzz, no dangerous snooze button and only an occasional breath issue.
“Poh-leece school dropout,” I croak, too groggy to add to the Grease tune. I roll out and suit up for the two-to-three-mile run before work. I hate it but it’s a hedge against my snack stash of Cheetos and Clark Bars.
Othello needs the exercise, too. Born with a twisted Achilles tendon, it worsened as he grew because of his size. Though not painful, it gave him a swaggery limp and a rejection slip from the academy, even though he’d shown superior talent in drug and bomb detection.
As we stepped off the porch of my duplex, I noticed movement at a window of the small, frame house next door. A young girl in a pale nightgown standing in front of the drape watched us. I’d never seen her outside and waved but she didn’t move. Above her, the curtain in a second floor window twitched but I couldn’t see who was there.
The Cricks had always been strange neighbors, eccentric to say the least. Not that my family fit any standard model of acceptable behavior. I had returned to Ellwood after my job evaporated five months ago to track the identity of my father, something my mother considered a need-to-know subject she decided I didn’t need to know.