Chaos

by Tracy Sharp


A ‘hello’ and a smile. That was all it had taken.

When Tristan O’Mally had gotten up that morning there was no way she could have known that by saying ‘hello’ and offering a smile her life would turn into a living hell.

That morning had started just like any other. Tristan awoke to the eighties station blaring out a nostalgic tune. She lay in bed for fifteen minutes stroking her cat Frank, squeezing her eyes together and stretching, trying to rid herself of the grogginess that greeted her each morning. Finally, she planted her bare feet on the thick carpet, padded to the shower, and stood under the spray for ten minutes.

The ride to work had been uneventful. The coffee at work tasted exactly the same as it had any other day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to warn her of what lie only a half hour away from happening to her. If only she’d known. If only there had been some kind of warning. But there hadn’t been. She wasn’t even supposed to be the one who accepted the package that came that day.

It was a fluke that she was walking passed the front desk at the same moment that the receptionist was in the kitchen, topping off her morning coffee. It had been a simple error that someone had left a box on her desk that was meant for a woman who happened to work in an office down the hall. Getting to Erica’s office required Tristan to walk through the lobby. A few seconds later and she’d have been in Erica’s office, safe and sound. Just a few seconds later.

But just as Tristan was passing the receptionist’s desk, rounding it so that her back was to the front door, a whoosh sounded as the door opened and she looked over her shoulder, stopping in mid-stride. The courier was looking down at his clipboard, heading toward the front desk, when he looked up and noticed that nobody was sitting there.

“ Can I help you?” Tristan asked the man.

He lifted his head and his eyes seemed to light up. A smile spread across his ordinary face and he nodded, heading toward her. “Would you sign for this?”

“ Sure.” She scribbled her signature and handed the clipboard back to the courier.

“ Oh, it asks that you print your last name in the space beside the signature.” He handed the clipboard back to her.

“ Oh, I’m sorry.” She printed ‘O’Mally’ in the space provided.

“ Thanks.” He nodded once, his smile broad. “Have a good one.”

“ You, too.” Tristan offered him a polite smile. She felt sorry for him. He seemed so shy.

Before he turned his back to go Tristan had already continued on her way to Erica’s office, her heels tapping smartly on shining tile.

She didn’t see him standing with his hand on the door, watching her leave.

Tristan didn’t think about the courier again until lunchtime, when Annie the receptionist buzzed her. She was just about to make her way into the kitchen to heat up a one of her low fat frozen dinners when the call had come in.

“ Tristan, it’s a guy who just says his name is Doug.”

Tristan frowned. “Doug? That’s it?”

“ He wouldn’t say what company he’s with. He said it’s a surprise and that he’s a friend of yours.”

She paused, searching her memory for a ‘Doug’ from high school or college. Perhaps at the company where she’d done had her first graphic design job. She shook her head, unable to retrieve a face from her memory bank to match the name. She sighed. “What line is he on?”

“ Line 4.”

“ Okay. I’ll take it.”

She punched line four. “This is Tristan O’Mally.”

“ O’Mally? How does a Chinese girl get a name like O’Mally?”

Tristan rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time she’d been asked that question in her lifetime. She’d been adopted as a baby, but she wasn’t about to divulge that information to a stranger. “Who is this, please?”

“ It’s Doug.”

Pausing, she tried to place the voice. Something about the fluctuation sounded familiar. Again, nothing. “I’m sorry, I don’t recall who you are, Sir.”

There was a snicker at the other end of line. “That’s okay. You probably didn’t have time to read my name tag while I was there.”

“ Name tag?”

“ I’m the courier from this morning. You signed for a package I brought.”

Suddenly the courier’s face popped in her head. “Oh, yes. How can I help you, Sir?”

Another snicker. “Doug is fine.”

Tristan was becoming irritated. She didn’t want to become friendly with the courier. She just wanted to know what the hell he wanted so that she could go and eat her lunch. “Is there a problem?”

“ No. No problem at all. I just wondered if you were free for lunch?”

Tristan was taken aback. Was this man really asking her on a date? “No, thank you.” Realizing how snotty she sounded, she tried to soften the blow. “I’ve brought my lunch. But thanks.”

“ Oh, okay. Maybe another time, then?”

“ Uh, no.” She really didn’t want to say this man’s name. “I’m seeing someone.”

“ Ah. Of course you are. Well, you can’t have too many friends, though, huh?”

“ Look, Doug,” she winced, the name sitting like a bad taste on her tongue. “I really have to hang up now. Bye bye.” She hung up the phone, staring at it for a moment, arms crossed over her chest. Anxiety crept over her. “That was definitely weird.”

“ What was weird?” Erica was standing in the doorway.

“ I signed for a package this morning and the courier who delivered it just called me and asked me to lunch.”

Erica scrunched up her face. “Oh, you’re kidding. I’ve seen that guy, he’s creepy.”

“ I felt sorry for him. He just seemed so, odd. You know? Like the kid nobody talks to in school but all grown up.”

“ Oh, God. You were nice to him, weren’t you?”

“ All I did was smile and wish him a good day. That is all.” Her palms were held out as if to ward off any blame.

“ Well, with some guys, that’s all it takes. Come on, let’s go eat. I’m about to faint.”

“ As I just told Doug, I brought my lunch.”

“ Doug? He wants you to call him Doug?”

“ Yeah.”

“ Yuck. Well, I want a greasy cheeseburger. You in or not?”

Tristan grinned. “Hell, yeah.”

***

Tristan was soaking in a bubble bath when the shrill ring made her jump, almost making her drop her book into the water. Dripping water and bubbles onto the floor, she groped for her cell phone which was lying next to the tub on the floor mat.

“ Hello?” she asked, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice.

“ Hi, beautiful.”

A chill raced through her. “Who is this?” She knew who the caller was, but wanted to throw immediate barriers between herself and him.

A low snicker. She was getting used to that sound. “It’s Doug, silly.”

“ Look, don’t ever call me again, at work or at home. Got it?”

“ I just wanted to see what you were up to. You’ve been a bad girl, Tristan. You told me that you brought your lunch, but then you went out with your friend. Has anyone ever told you that you have the most gorgeous black hair? It’s so shiny. I bet it’s really soft, too.”

Tristan pushed herself up in the tub, gripping the phone tightly to keep herself from whipping it across the room. “Were you watching me? You’d better listen, buddy, and listen good. I don’t know you, and I don’t want to know you. Do not call me again.”

“ Ooooh, I hear splashy sounds. Are you in the tub?”

Tristan hung up. She turned the ringer off. Bringing her knees up, she sat with her arms wrapped around her shins until the water became too cold to be comfortable in. She sensed movement out of the corner of her eye. When she looked up she saw Frank sitting on the counter beside the sink, washing himself. He glanced up at her with his huge yellow eyes, then went back to licking an orange paw. This was a ritual. When she had a bath, he decided that he needed one, too.

“ Hi, Frank,” she sighed. “Jesus, I’m jumpy.” She pulled the plug, stepped out of the tub and grabbed her big, fluffy yellow towel from the hook. What was she going to do? This guy had actually hid outside somewhere and watched to see if she went out for lunch. He definitely wasn’t right in the head, and it didn’t sound as if he was planning on leaving her alone. She wished she had a boyfriend. A really big one. No, scratch that. The last relationship had ended so badly that she really didn’t want another man around for a while. No. She wished she had a dog. A really big one.

That was a wish she could work on. Tomorrow was Friday. If he tried to contact her again, she’d make a call to his boss and put in a complaint, then she’d go to one of the local shelters and get a really mean dog. At least a mean looking dog. She wondered how late the shelters were open.

After pulling on an old pair of loose fitting jeans and a sweat shirt, she headed to her office. She heard Frank jump down from the counter, apparently done with his bath as well, and pad to her office, jumping up on her computer desk. He sat regally watching her as she did a search on the local shelters.

Within minutes she had located a website which listed links to each of the shelters in the area. Clicking on the shelter closest to where she lived, she hit the link for ‘available dogs’ and waited for the pictures to load. Apparently there were several pictures, because even with her cable modem the page took about thirty seconds to load. Finally, she began scrolling down the photographs of homeless dogs.

“ Aaaw.” Each picture tugged a Tristan’s heart. She saw a mature poodle whose owner had died, a terrified looking lab who’d been rescued from an abusive home cowering in the corner of his cage, a mixed breed of some sort who was a stray, a happy looking fluffy dog, and countless others. She wished she could take them all home with her.

She stopped scrolling when she came to a picture of a male Rottweiler, head lowered suspiciously at the camera. Tristan smiled as she observed his stout frame, muscles bunching defensively. “My, my. Aren’t you the fierce one?” The blurb next to his picture stated that he’d been rescued from a man who had used him as a fighting dog. He required a home with no other dogs, and a fenced in yard. He was never to be left unattended outside when not fenced in.

Her yard was fenced in. Her ranch sat on ten acres of land which was once the playground to two children, three horses, two dogs and four cats. The owners had moved and Tristan thought it was perfect for her. The place was roomy and away from the traffic and craziness of the city. She hadn’t known what she was going to do with all that space, but she’d figure it out.

Now the place seemed way too big and far too isolated. There were too many places for an intruder to hide, and nobody around to hear her scream.

Tristan gazed at the picture of the Rottweiler. “Oh, yeah. You’ll do just fine,” she said, printing out the map and directions provided on the website. “We’ll see how enthusiastic that freak is about me when he sees you.”

***

At eight-thirty the next morning a knock on office her door made Tristan jump, spilling her coffee on her skirt. “Jesus!”

Annie’s face looked stricken. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“ Ah, it’s okay. It’s black.”

“ Tristan, the courier wants to see you.”

“ You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Annie shook her head ‘no’.

“ Tell him to go to hell.”

The receptionist’s already large blue eyes widened. “Really?”

“ Yes. And while you’re at it, tell him that right after I call security, I’m calling his boss.”

Annie hesitated.

Tristan picked up the phone. “Tell him,” she said, dialing.

After talking to Albert, the company security guard, Tristan stood at her office window, arms folded across her chest. She watched as Albert escorted the disgruntled courier to his truck. After he was sure the courier had driven away, Albert walked back to the building.

Tristan found the number for the courier company ‘Doug’ worked for and lodged a complaint with his direct supervisor.

“ We’ll have this taken care of, Ms. O’Mally. You won’t have any more problems with Doug. He won’t be working here anymore. We apologize.”

Albert was already in her office when she hung up. “Hey, Tristan. You okay?” He stood in front of her desk, his enormous body blocking her view of pretty much anything else.

“ I’m okay. Thanks, Albert.”

“ What a nut case that guy was. Kept sayin’ that you really like him, and you’re just playing hard to get.”

“ Yeah, really hard to get. Like impossible.”

“ Well, I don’t think he’ll be coming back.”

Suddenly a scream erupted from the lobby.

Albert was big, but he moved as quick as a rattlesnake when the situation called for it. He was through the doorway before Tristan could blink. She moved to follow him but stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the courier struggling to get free from Albert.

“ Don’t make me break your arms, asshole, ‘cuz I’d be delighted to,” he grunted.

Doug was tossing his head wildly, but stopped when he caught sight of Tristan. “Hi, baby!”

Call the police, Annie,” Tristan said, her voice was calm but her heart was knocking against her chest.

Annie stood frozen, looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

“ Now!”

That got her moving. She ran to her desk and snatched up the receiver, dialing 911.

Unable to stand the strange, adoring gaze of the courier any longer, Tristan retreated back into her office.

“ Hey, sweetheart! Don’t go!”

Tristan closed the door on the courier’s pleas, trying not to slam it. She didn’t want him to see how shaken she was. Standing in the middle of her office, she watched out of her window for the arrival of the police, and wondered how a kind word and a smile had gotten her into the worst mess she’d been in for years. She knew one thing for sure. She was leaving work early today.

She was going to the shelter to get that dog.

***

After a couple of wrong turns and doubling back, Tristan finally found the shelter. She parked, got out of her S.U.V, and stood looking around for a moment. She’d been close to panic just before she’d spotted the shelter. It had seemed that the longer she’d driven, the further into nothingness she seemed to be heading. The spaces had become wider and more open, with only miles and miles of meadows and fields stretching as far as the eye could see.

The place was way out in the middle of nowhere, and the only life around appeared to be a decrepit garage which also served as a self serve gas station and convenience store across the street. She peered over the fields at an old farmhouse in the distance, sitting beside a sunken barn. What looked from afar like an ancient pick-up truck sat in the drive way. So there was life around, it was just kind of scattered. This didn’t seem like the kind of town where people were neighborly. It was more the kind where people minded their own business, and turned the other way if they saw something bad happening.

“ It’s all in your over active imagination,” Tristan said to herself. Still, on the way over she’d glanced in her mirror every few minutes to make sure she wasn’t being followed. If Mr. Freak decided to come after her, she didn’t feel as if there would be a whole lot of help around.

Making her way to the small, concrete building, she looked at her watch. It read one o’clock. She had lots of time. She clenched the front of her red cardigan closed against the wind. The buttons only reached her chest, and the mid-October air was becoming chilled. The sun went down earlier this time of year, and Tristan wanted to find her way back to familiar ground before the darkness fell.

The kid behind the counter couldn’t have been more than eighteen. He looked like a local, falling right into what the cliché for someone in such a town might look like, right up to the long greasy hair and missing front teeth. “Can I help you, m’am?”

“ Yes. I’m interested in the Rottweiler you have here.”

“ Ah, you mean Chaos. Yeah, he’s been here a while. This is his last day,” he said, coming around the counter and leading her down the hall. “Right this way.” The space between his teeth provided him with a rather thick lisp.

“ Last day? Has someone adopted him?”

“ Uh, no. If he don’t get adopted today, he’s history.”

“ You mean, you’ll euthanize him?”

“ Yep. There are other dogs that need the space, and he’s been here takin’ up space for weeks.” He pushed open a door and held it for her. “Last cage all the way to the left, m’am.”

A chorus of barks greeted her as she made her way down the hall. Dogs of all shapes and size watched her go by, some with pleading eyes, some scared and shaking in corners. Others all but threw themselves at the cage, trying to get at her. “Are any of these dogs vicious?”

“ None of ‘em ever killed anybody, if that’s what you mean,” he said with a grin.

Tristan came to the cage she was looking for. The Rottweiler stood watching her with steady eyes, his head lowered as it had been in the photograph. “What’s he like? Will he bite me if I try to bring him home?”

“ Well, Chaos is a smart guy. He seems to sense who’s up to no good. A couple ‘o guys came in interested in him, and tried to take him out for a little walk. But he wouldn’t go with ‘em. He just stood there in his cage snarling and showing his teeth. I think if one of ‘em woulda tried to touch him he woulda come out with a bloody stump.”

“ Ah. Well, do you mind if I just stand here a little and try to get to know him?”

“ He’s all yours, m’am. Let me know if you wanna take him out.” With that he was gone, leaving her alone with Chaos.

Tristan crouched down to the dog’s level looked at his face. The dog was obviously mistrustful of people. Having been treated with abuse all of his life, it was no wonder.

“ Hi, big fella. I’m Tristan. How ya doing in there?”

The dog watched her in silence, but both ears lifted just slightly.

“ You don’t really want to stay in here, do you? It’s not a nice place to be. I’ve got a really big house with a nice, big yard. You’d have lots of space to run around in.”

Chaos tilted his huge head, listening to her voice.

Tristan observed the ribs sticking out of the dog’s sides. Her hand flew up to her mouth when she noticed that his spine was clearly outlined, and that his hip bones jutted out sharply. The dog was almost skeletal. “Oh, God. That’s horrible,” she said, her voice cracking. It was amazing that the dog hadn’t already dropped dead in his cage. “We’ve gotta get you out of here, bud. I promise I’ll be nice to you. I’ve got this freak after me, and I could really use a friend like you.”

The enormous dog finally sat down, his head raised in curiosity.

“ So what do you say, huh? You wanna come home with me?”

The dog’s head tilted again at the tone of her voice rising in question. He stood, walked toward Tristan and sniffed, his black nosed poking through the bars. There were several scars on his face where he’d been bitten, one jagged mark snaked down toward his nose.

A lump rose in Tristan’s throat and she slowly lifted her hand, holding her fingers near his nose. Chaos licked her fingers, slow and gentle.

“ Aw, you’re not such a bad fella, are you? You poor thing.”

Chaos nuzzled her fingers.

The door down the hall opened and Tristan looked over her shoulder to see the kid walking toward her.

“ Don’t you people feed the animals in this place?”

“ Well, yeah, but the shelter relies on donations, and folks around here aren’t exactly brimming with generosity. We have to buy the cheapest stuff and stretch it as far as we can. It mostly goes right through ‘em,” he said, picking at a pimple on his chin. “Wow. That dog likes you. Looks you you’ve got a new friend.”

“ Yup, let’s get him out of here. I’m taking him home.”

***

On the ride home, Chaos sat in the back seat watching the world go by. He was quiet but alert, seeming to be always ready for danger.

“ You must be hungry, huh? Bet the food isn’t all that great at that shelter.”

Chaos regarded her with curiosity.

“ I don’t have anything dog appropriate at the house, so that means we’ve gotta make a stop at the pet store. There’s one on the way home. We’ll get you all set up, chum.”

This time Chaos grunted. He might not understand what she was saying, but he wanted to put in his two cents anyway. Tristan giggled. “Is that right?”

She was met with a two-part grunt this time.

Tristan laughed. “You’re a better conversationalist than most people out there, you now that? I think I’ll enjoy having you around.”

She pulled into the parking lot of the pet store, choosing a spot as far away from other cars as she could find. She didn’t want Chaos scaring the life out of fellow customers if he decided to bark at passersby. Although the air was cool, Tristan opened the back windows a few inches so that Chaos would have fresh air while she was in the store. “Be right back, bud. Be a good boy, okay?”

Chaos looked anxious that Tristan was leaving him, a worried, pleading expression came upon his face.

“ Aw, don’t worry. I’m gonna be right back, okay? I’m not leaving you for long.” She reached out and scratched the top of his massive head. She thought about locking the door but decided that nobody would be silly enough to attempt to steal a car with a Rottweiler in the back seat.

The wind had picked up, whipping her shoulder length hair wildly around her head. Tristan ran the remaining steps to the store. Inside, she breathed a sigh of relief and began searching the isles for dog food. When she found the isle she needed, she took a moment to peruse the various types, then settled upon the more expensive brand of food.

Chaos had probably been subjected to substandard food his entire life, and although his frame was huge, his body was skinny. She needed to fatten him up a bit. She also bought raw hide bones, food and water dishes, a large dog bed, four large hard rubber balls, and a new collar because the old rusted chain one was coming off as soon as she got him home. She also bought a book all about the Rottweiler breed. ‘The Gentle Guard’, the title read.

“ New dog?” The cashier asked her

“ Yeah. I just got a rottie at the shelter,” Tristan said with the pride of a new parent. “A big male named Chaos.”

“ You’ll love him. Rottweilers are great dogs. Fierce guard dogs, though, so be careful with him around strangers.”

She was counting on it. “Oh, I will. Thanks.”

***

As Tristan pulled up to her house she realized that she’d completely forgotten about Frank, her cat. She was certain that Frank wouldn’t be thrilled with the new situation, him having been the main man in her life for so long. Boyfriends came and went, but Frank had always stuck around. She sat in the truck for a while, nervous about how Chaos would react to Frank.

She turned to Chaos. “You okay with cats?”

Chaos lifted his ears, his dark, almond eyes regarding her with interest. Apparently he was getting used to her conversation, perhaps even being amused by it.

“’ Cuz I got a cat in there, and I know he isn’t going to be thrilled with you at first, so give him a bit of a break, okay?”

Chaos pushed his head toward her and licked her face.

“ Okay, bud, lets go introduce you. If worse comes to worst, I’ll have to put Frank in the guest room until I get a baby gate or something.” Tristan climbed out of the truck and held the door open for Chaos. “Come on, bud. Let’s go.”

Chaos carefully stepped over the seats and jumped to the ground. Tristan was impressed by how well he walked on a leash, staying close to her side and not tugging at all. He seemed like a pretty easygoing dog.

She peered through the window of the back door, which she usually used to enter and leave. Frank had heard the truck pull up and was seated on the floor about five feet away from the door. Tristan took a deep breath and unlocked the door, carefully guiding Chaos into the hallway.

Frank took one look at Chaos and beat feet, hair standing on end and complaining loudly.

“ Sorry Frank! New roommate!”

Chaos simply lifted his head and watched Frank run down the hall toward the stairs, the tan spots above his eyes lifted in puzzlement.

“ Wow. You’re a good dog. Used to cats, huh?”

After drinking about a gallon of water and enjoying his first good meal in what Tristan guessed was ages, Chaos sat and watched Tristan for a signal. “Go on and check the place out, chum. This is your new digs. Go on.”

With that, Chaos began exploring his new home, being careful to make large circles around Frank, who was far from impressed with the new addition to the family.

***

“ Nice dog,” he sounded amused.

“ Glad you like him. He’s watching out for you, freak.”

“ He’s almost bigger than you, Tristan. Sure you can handle him?”

“ Oh, I handle him just fine.”

“ Thanks for getting me fired, by the way. Now I can dedicate all my time to watching you. I’ve got nothing left to lose.”

“ Except your freedom when they throw your ass in the clink.”

A snicker. The one she’d come to know. The one that sounded as if he knew something she didn’t. “Ah, they gotta catch me first, sweetheart.”

“ Well, if you come near me, my dog will catch you, and I don’t know how to make him let go. So stay away from me and find another hobby.” She slammed the phone down. Her hand was shaking. Although she felt safer with the dog, she was still so afraid.

Her mind locked on a memory she’d been trying to avoid. Her last boyfriend had given her a handgun for Christmas the previous year. She’d been less than impressed. Tristan hated guns. She had no desire to ever own a gun. Craig was a cop, and loved guns. He loved guns a little too much. He’d sleepwalk in the middle of the night with a loaded gun, acting out his dreams. The last straw had been when Tristan had called out to him one night during one of his episodes. He’d spun around, shooting in her direction and blew a hole in the wall next to her head.

But she still had the gun. She’d been too afraid to touch it in order to get rid of it. Craig had loaded it for her. It sat in the drawer in her bedside table.

“ Stop it,” Tristan said to herself. “It’ll never get to that point. It won’t go that far.”

Chaos, who was lying on the rug at her feet, lifted his head at the sound of her voice.

“ Right, bud? You’re perfect.” She nuzzled his head. “A lean, mean fighting machine. A little too lean, but not for long.” She patted his ribs. “We don’t need no stinking gun, right?” She mimicked the old movie phrase, the word ‘stinking’ coming out as ‘steenking’. “All I need is you.”

She hoped that she was right.

***

A growl, deep and low. Tristan pulled herself out of sleep and sat straight up in bed. She looked down at the floor, in the corner where she’d set up a bed for Chaos. He wasn’t there. Her heart began beating double time, thumping madly in her chest.

“ Chaos?” The uncertainty in her voice angered her, made her feel weak.

Another low growl, then a bark.

Tristan grabbed for the bedside table, pulling open the drawer with trembling fingers and groping for the gun. The weight of the metal was cool in her hands. Although it was chilly in the house, sweat dribbled down her back. Numbly, she crept to the landing and peered down the stairway. The glow from a nightlight at the bottom of the stairs threw shadows against the wall, but she could see nothing moving.

The sound of whispering reached Tristan’s ears and her breath caught in her throat. She was unable to move.

Thwack!

A yelp sounded from downstairs.

Thwack!

A high-pitched whine.

Chaos!

Tristan ran downstairs, gun held out before her. “Hey! Whoever you are, you’d better get the fuck out of my house!”

“ Come on out, sweetheart.” He was in the kitchen.

“ What have you done to my dog, you bastard?”

“ Why don’t you come and see?”

Tristan’s face grew hot. She gripped the gun, finger twitching on the trigger. She stood in the doorway between the living room and kitchen.

Click!

Light flooded the kitchen. The courier stood leaning against the kitchen counter, swinging a large piece of wood lazily in his hand. Chaos lay on the floor, unmoving.

“ Chaos?” Her heart was in her throat. “Chaos?”

“ It wasn’t hard getting him to come to me. He remembered me. He doesn’t like me, but he did remember me. Damndest thing about dogs. You can treat ‘em like shit and they still love you.” He giggled.

Tristan stared at the courier, realization dawning on her. “It was you who did all that to him? You made him fight?”

“ Yeah. Kicked him around a good bit, too. You have to make a dog mean. They aren’t born that way.”

Tristan raised the gun, feeling a sudden calm washing over her.

“ Oh come on, Tristan. We can make this work. You don’t want to shoot me. Probably end up shooting yourself.” He took a step toward her.

Chaos lifted his head, and slowly brought himself to his feet.

The courier took another step toward her.

Chaos growled, baring his teeth. Blood dribbled from a large gash in his head. He limped forward.

The courier looked back at the dog, grinning and raising the piece of wood.

Tristan pulled the trigger.

***

“ Good thing you had that gun, Ms. O’Mally. Looks like he did a job on your dog.” The cop nodded toward Chaos, who was quietly allowing Tristan to dab a warm, damp cloth on the wound on his head.

“ I don’t think anything is broken, but he’s going to the emergency vet just as soon as we’re done here,” Tristan replied.

They had taken the courier away. She’d shot him in the neck. They didn’t know if he’d make it. She didn’t care.

“ Usually a dog like that serves as a good deterrent,” the officer said. “But not for that guy.” He shook his head.

Tristan didn’t have the energy to tell them that the courier had been Chaos’ owner before he was rescued and taken to the shelter.

“ A woman has to protect herself. Many women don’t want to have a gun around. I’m not saying that everyone should run out and buy a gun. But let me tell you, Ms. O’Mally, I’ve seen what some of these guys do to women who are alone and can’t protect themselves. But many women just refuse to even touch a gun.”

“ So did I. The gun was given to me. I never touched it until tonight. I thought I could just scare him with it. I never intended to use it.”

The cop looked at her, confusion animating his face. “You just got scared enough to use it tonight?”

Tristan shook her head. “No. He hurt my dog.”

The cop barked out a short, harsh laugh, shaking his head. “Animal lovers.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tracy Sharp’s bio appears with her other story in this issue, Intuition, and more information can be found in her interview with Sandra Ruttan.

Tracy Sharp is one of the newest additions to the Spinetingler staff. She will be serving as an editor, evaluating story submissions we receive.


Return to Spring 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved