Eloy sat in his kitchen, a lukewarm cup of coffee clasped between his hands, eyes locked to the saber on the table. A trio of squeaks broke him from his trance. He looked under the table to see Captain chomping down on a plastic version of a cat. The pup halted his chewing when he caught sight of his master, dropped the sloppy toy to the floor, cocked his ears and swept his tail along the floor.
“Carry on,” Eloy said, and Captain clamped down on his toy again.
The Lt. Colonel returned to the thoughts he had been working over in his mind for the past hour, devising a plan, grasping for a way out of his dilemma.
The sheriff hadn’t told Eloy not to leave town, but he didn’t dare risk one of his deputies coming back with specific instructions. Sweat trickled down the middle of his back as he recalled the feel of handcuffs ratcheting to his wrists. The recollection tore him from his thoughts and he jumped from his chair.
Eloy held the door for Captain and the pup trotted inside the garage. The little guy had never explored this part of the house before and Eloy chuckled at his companion’s wriggling bottom and nose darting from item to item in the tidy space.
“You behave now. I’ll keep the big door closed so you can’t run off. You need to stay out of my way so I don’t trip on you . . . Winding up in the hospital would be an awful capper to his already unfortunate situation,” he muttered.
He shook his head, mourning his next task as he reached the far wall where a stack of flattened cardboard boxes were tucked next to the water heater. He made calculations in his head while he pulled out a few, figuring three boxes, a couple of suitcases and his footlocker would easily fit in his car.
A crash resonated, followed by a yip. Captain sprinted to Eloy and shot between his legs, trembling.
“It’s okay, soldier. No need to be scared. Doesn’t matter a bit what gets broken at this point.”
He picked up the pup and tucked him to his chest, took hold of a few of the boxes and headed back inside.
Sadness enveloped him completely. But he had made his decision and a soldier never backs down or runs away once a mission is formulated. He shifted to Commander Mode, set down Captain and the boxes beside the kitchen table, then went to the front room to take inventory.
He wondered what he should take with him. Nothing of real importance in this room but the short stack of treasured books that always relocated along with him. He reached for one of the larger hardbacks and ran a reverent had over the front cover, sorry that he never had the opportunity to ask Melanie Gray to sign the book. He considered going over to her house, First Edition in hand, but figured it best not to stir up any suspicion.
With regret, he stacked the books in his arms, then carried them back to the kitchen table, Captain nipping at his shoelaces.
“Quit now, I need to snap to. We’ll play in a bit.”
Captain barked, did his best Downward Facing Dog, then bolted to his water bowl and proceeded to make a wet mess on the kitchen floor.
Eloy chuckled, grateful for the levity the pup provided. The good mood lasted all of five seconds. Thoughts of what could have been crept to his mind. He anguished over the thought of leaving Rubicon Ranch, where he’d finally met a few people who didn’t cringe and run from him when he reached out to them. But now he would have to start all over again. Most likely with the same lonely results as when he started out at his latest place.
He hadn’t figured out exactly where he and Captain would go. He’d hoped Rubicon Ranch would be his last and final residence. But this place turned out to merely be a house, a residence, never quite a home.
Suddenly exhausted, he dropped to the nearest chair, rested his forearms on his knees and rubbed his eyes. When he opened them again, Captain was sitting in front of him, tongue lolling, ears up, alert and ready for anything his master asked.
“North, South, East or West? Which direction should we head, boy?”
Captain barked and proceeded to spin round and round.
“You’re no help at all.”
The pup continued to twirl, then came to an abrupt halt, sat, barked four times and all but pointed with his nose.
Eloy reared back. “That looks to be East.”
“Okay, then.” Eloy slapped his thighs and rose from his chair. “Arizona, here we come.”