Man’s Best Friend, Zombie’s Worst Enemy Part 28

Princess shied away behind the dumpster as Stacy approached, but when Stacy backed up, she crept out again, whining in loud, urgent sobs. “Princess, it’s ok. Come here.” Princess looked to the left and the right and crouched down. Blas padded forward and sniffed at her, and she accepted his attention, which he followed up with a small lick and then a long one. Stacy approached as he applied his ministrations and gently lifted her collar tag. “Princess Penelope Blackwater Stowe,” with Ethan’s address printed beneath.

Stacy kept her Uber door open for several minutes before they were able to cajole Princess inside. She was tempted to mention to Mr. Stowe the cost she incurred rescuing his son’s dog, but that would not be classy, she was certain. Why did it still matter to her so much what Ethan’s mother thought of her now that they were broken up and Ethan was no longer welcome in polite society? What must have happened to the famous good dog in that Safety Patrol facility to make her so mistrustful? Stacy hoped she would recover quickly, although it wasn’t clear what she would be even if she did now that Ethan was out of the picture.

What happened to Ethan, Stacy wondered on the way to the Stowe house. Stacy knew that the test involved a stomach pump to look for enzymes that aided in the consumption of raw flesh. She shuddered. It was supposed to be excruciating, like having a vacuum cleaner hose shoved down your throat.

Stacy found herself at the tall Stowe residence once again, and when he answered the door, Mr. Stowe had a duster in his hand. Stacy made a note to one day find a husband like this, then realized the most likely candidate was Ethan himself and scratched that note. “Stacy, what brings you back so soon?”

Mr. Stowe looked down and saw Princess, her shoulders hunched forward and her eyes wide in puppy misery, and he stiffened. With a glance to either side, he gestured for them to come in and closed and locked the door behind them.

“Ethan called me, Stacy. He tested positive.”

Stacy stared.

“There’s more. Did you ever see Ethan attack anyone? There’s some basketball varsity player who used to go to Romero high. Michael Borden?”

This came out of left field. “What?” Stacy demanded, “Yeah, he was the zombie we saw get knocked down by the bear.”

Now Mr. Stowe stared. This made Stacy angrier than if he had asked the same question again.

“No, he didn’t attack Michael Borden! The bear did!”

Mr. Stowe nodded and went back to dusting one of Mary Carson’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Stacy waited for a moment, and realized that no one was wondering if Ethan killed the zombie Michael Borden.

“I don’t know how Michael got zombieism, but there’s no evidence that Ethan-“

Mr. Stowe hunched over a bookshelf, and his voice almost quavered when he interrupted her. “They say they have evidence. The Borden family found a video somehow, and they’re pressing charges.”

Stacy lifted her arms. At least this explained how Safety Patrol felt so comfortable snatching a rich white kid off the street. That was brazen even by their standards. “Do we get to see this video?”

Mr. Stowe kept his focus on the bookshelf. “Mary will handle it. She has a small team of lawyers on the case, and their first order of business is to demand access to the video. They have it under control.”

Princess whined and Blas licked her. Stacy put a hand on her head, and Mr. Stowe turned around. “Princess attacked the Patrol. Mary thinks if we find her, she may be another bargaining chip to win Ethan’s freedom.”

Stacy instinctively stood in front of Princess, and Blas, sensing her stress, stood in front of her. Flanked by her two dogs, Stacy glared up at Mr. Stowe. “You want to turn her in so they can put her down.”

“I want to save whatever’s left of my son’s life that I can, but if I can be honest, I don’t think they really care that much about capturing Princess, especially since, as Ethan tells it, she mostly just barked and jumped around. I heard the tone in Ethan’s voice when he told me the lengths he went to to save her, and I don’t know if he’ll forgive us if we send her right back to be slaughtered.”

Stacy stared, trying to parse Mr. Stowe’s words.

“I figure the best outcome would be if someone else found her,” Mr. Stowe spoke slowly, measuring his words.

“Someone else did find her,” said Stacy, “that’s why I brought her here, but now it seems like that was a mistake.

Mr. Stowe turned back to the bookshelves. “If someone else found her, they might adopt her and give her a new name. No one would know the difference. That would be the best outcome.”

Stacy was starting to understand. “I don’t know, Mr. Stowe, I don’t think my family has enough money to take care of another dog.”

Mr. Stowe gave the bookshelf another couple swipes and walked away, leaving Stacy to stand there with her two dogs. Princess whined to see him leave and Blas went around Stacy to lay down next to her. He came back with an enormous red cake tin.

“This is our money for emergencies and to pay people like the gardener. I know for a fact that Mary doesn’t keep track of it.”

He handed it to Stacy, who pried off the top to see the rolls of cash inside. “That ought to cover a few years of dogsitting. Just come back if you ever need more.”

Gray Paw Print Clip Art at Clker.com - vector clip art online, royalty free  & public domain

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By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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