Eloy stood on his porch and watched the helicopter come from the nearby desert. Captain barked at the engine’s whine and whoop of the blades that grew louder as it flew over Rubicon Ranch. The copter had no markings and Eloy wondered if it was a Medevac or from a search and rescue mission of some sort.
First an ambulance’s siren had split the silent neighborhood with its wail, now a helicopter. Eloy couldn’t even imagine what was going on.
He thought about venturing out that direction, to see if there was anything he could do, but feared he or his companion would make another grisly discovery. He figured it best to stay put.
Eloy gave Captain’s leash a tug and rounded him toward the front door. “Come on, boy. We’ve had enough excitement to last us a while.”
Yesterday, Eloy had scrubbed and scrubbed Captain’s muzzle, ears, front paws then chest with a wet washrag. Again and again he had dunked the washrag in the glass bowl, turning the water rusty crimson, his stomach lurching as the stench of spoil and copper found his nose. Decomposition and blood. A scent Eloy knew all too well from battles fought on foreign lands. He thought those times were long over.
A day later and he still couldn’t seem to get smell completely off the pup so he took up a fresh rag and this time added a bit of Old Spice to the bowl of water.
The dog enjoyed the attention and merely laid on the kitchen tile, panting, eyelids drooping while Eloy talked in a soothing voice.
“You have to be more careful, soldier. Restraint is a virtue. I can’t have you running off on your own. Exploring unknown terrain is how a man . . . or beast gets lost. You can’t possibly know what is beyond the next rise. We’re a team now. You’ve got to be patient and wait for my commands. That’s an order. Do you hear me, soldier?”
Captain swept the floor with his tail, yipped, scooted on his belly closer to his master.
And he would have to be more careful too, Eloy reminded himself. No more rushing from his porch, picking up his pace when he thought no one was watching. Someone was always watching. He figured the sheriff must have caught on by now. Realized his afflictions weren’t real the way he hurried to lead the authorities to the body parts after he and Captain had rushed home to call in the find.
He scrubbed the dog’s snout and said, “Oh yes, you’re smelling much better now. Seems as though others’ deaths will never leave me be. Figured my skin and bones would be the only ones you’d find one day. Wonder whose they were, huh boy?”
Captain cocked his head and perked his ears.
“Were they tasty, or foul?”
Captain let out a single bark. A burst of hot stinky breath hit Eloy and he pushed aside the probability that the pup had eaten a bit of the putrefying flesh. He winced, drew his forearm up to cover his nose and mouth, let out an amused chuckle.
“Whew! Definitely foul. Maybe they did belong to Morris.”
Morris Sinclair had been a constant reminder that bad truly existed. Cruel, crass, no filter of words or actions. A true sociopath. And then Morris had disappeared and pieces of someone—Eloy could only hope they belonged to Morris—began to infect the calm of Rubicon Ranch. Unfortunately Captain had discovered the hastily buried necropieces, shining an accusatory light on his owner.
Then again, thought Eloy, his neighborhood had rarely been free from some sort of drama lately. A volley of questions would come his way if any evidence put the old man in question about the body parts Captain had unearthed, but surely he wouldn’t be the only suspect. The death of little Riley and all of the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded her demise still pained Eloy. The soldier in him threatened to be unleashed numerous times during the ordeal, but he’d kept his need to right wrongs reined in, constantly reminding himself that his time as a hero had long passed.
If only he had a better relationship with the sheriff and his deputies. He could be helpful with all he had seen from his porch and upstairs windows. Being invisible had its virtues. But as with every law enforcer Eloy had encountered, they were unwilling to listen to an old man accused of vile acts against children. He figured his days for forgiveness were over. Even if there was any way possible to prove he never did anything wrong, would never hurt or prey on a child, minds had been made up and there would be no going back.
All he could do to help anyone was to continue keeping watch. And act if necessary. Eloy’s gaze went to the saber on the table next to him, handle pointing to him, within easy reach at a moments notice.
“We’ll need to be extra vigilant, Captain.” He stroked Captain’s damp ear with one hand as the other rested on the saber’s cold steel blade.