Prologue Jacobs did not know what type of dog the woman owned, whether it was male or female

. When he saw it, he thought it must be a mutt, but decided that was a stupid conclusion. If the canine type creature is not a pedigree something or other, he lectured himself, why the hell would I be collecting $15,000.00 to take it from the woman and deliver it to my employer? He stared at the palm of his left-hand as if reading the lines directing his future. His lips moved while he read something only Jacobs could see and understand. The woman walked the dog twice a day, in the morning before work, at night after returning home and, he assumed, the two of them dog, and its mistress, had eaten dinner before their evening walks. He had been watching them for two weeks to learn their habits, which varied only by minutes if it was altered at all, and too, so the woman would grow accustomed to seeing him in the area. Even on weekends the pair appeared as if on cue, and strolled up the slightly inclined street and entered Mill Race Park, walked around its perimeter, pausing when the dog squatted to urinate or leave a soft brown pile that the woman would bend straight legged to scoop up into an old Acme Supermarket plastic bag. She would then deposit the first bag into a second one, occasionally a Wal-Mart sack, tie it neatly closed, and drop the mess into the nearest trash receptacle as they strolled past it. Jacobs didn’t know, and didn’t really give a damn, if the town of Mount Holly, New Jersey had its per capita share of homeless vagrants. He suspected it did, and was greatly amused as he wondered what they might think if one of them rifled through the trash can and tore into the neatly double wrapped Acme bag looking for a bite to eat. Recalling something his grandfather had once said, although he could not imagine why he thought of the man just then, he let the old man’s

words rattle through his mind with perfect tonal inflections. “Why it’s a bag of shit!” “But it’s a really nice bag of shit, Mrs. Jones,” and then Jacobs chuckled laughter that sounded like a low-grade smoker's cough, which was a true imitation of his grandfather's mirth. However, Jacobs imagined the vagrant’s exclamation would be a little different, a little more self-explanatory, if not more descriptive and expletive. That made him smile genuinely. Late that same afternoon, he leaned on the low brick wall, knowing it was time. Time for the woman and her dog to reenter his day, time for him to finish the job and get out of Mount Holly, a village with only one downtown party nightspot. A town he would be pleased to depart forever. He kept his left-hand close to his face, as if reading an invisible paperback. His lips moved until he stopped and raised his hand up to his nose so he could smell it. The front door of the old two-family house where she lived swung open, hinges squealing, right on time. Jacobs moved his lips and nodded, dropped his hand, and sat back on his haunches to lower his profile. Although he felt certain she was no longer even aware of his existence, not that she ever had been, he thought as he admired her outfit, her welltoned leg muscles. He adjusted his estimate of her age downward, from thirty-five to thirty. She walked with confidence, but the youthful spring in her steps hadn’t been all that tempered by the slow and steady approach of middle age. He found her to be very attractive, but perhaps a little too average. She’d easily get lost in a typical Manhattan midday crowd. Her light blonde hair had a nice, what seemed to be natural curl that brought the front edges of the Bob cut under and around to the front of both ears. The part was a neat straight line that evenly split her hairline down the center. Her hair seemed to draw attention away from her large, startlingly bright sapphire eyes.

The very first time Jacobs saw her eyes in person, he found the experience to be almost religious. He’d spent several minutes struggling to pull his gaze from her face before she noticed him staring. Her nose, when he finally focused on it, was pert, with a slight lift at the end. Her lips were full and sensuous; the kind of mouth Jacobs dreamed of fastening onto until he drew blood. However, injuries to the woman had been forbidden. He was to take the dog, and not cause her any physical distress beyond a little time out and perhaps some embarrassment, too. He hoped he’d be allowed to return one day and spend some quality time with her...his kind of quality time, not hers. The rest of her complimented her features. Her skin, in his opinion, was flawless, her neck long and narrow, her torso trim, her breasts, he guessed, about a thirty-four "B", her long legs seemed muscular without appearing heavy. Jacobs didn’t guess the rest of her measurements, because he felt about that, the same way he felt about guessing someone’s height. I’ll never be right, he mouthed as he glanced at his palm. He did know the woman was not even close to his own six two, not by at least six or seven inches. He’d spent a lot the last two weeks speculating about her, how she would react to him, to certain types of sexual and pain stimulus. But in the end, Jacobs reminded himself repeatedly that he wasn’t in the hamlet of Mount Holly to possess the woman. He was there to steal her dog and then leave immediately afterwards. He knew the dog couldn’t weigh more than ten pounds, but wouldn’t commit himself since the creature had long hair that draped its entire body, even its legs and face. Jacobs was into shorthaired cats, no fuss, and no muss. As the pair, dog and mistress, casually walked past where he sat, he reached inside the light-weight nylon warm-up jacket he wore and

caressed the handle of the pocket-sized tranquilizer gun he had loaded before leaving his run down apartment a block from the woman’s home. He had stuck the gun in the waistband of his Levi 501’s and felt its pressure against the flesh of his abdomen. As always, he saw, the woman had clipped a cell phone to her waistband but rarely did he see her use it. His human prey was wearing Spandex shorts that hugged the flesh beneath so closely that, since her midriff and legs were bare, Jacobs had no trouble filling in the blanks that baggy shorts would have presented to him. He had a second reason for waiting two weeks before taking the dog. His employer had informed him that the park was scheduled to be closed several days for badly needed renovations. Before the present day, the park had been closed for two days, and the people normally wandering through it in the early evening, had stopped after the first day. That she might go somewhere else with the dog had been his greatest concern. However, the woman lived up to the information he had received. She resisted following rules that interfered with the comfort of her established routines. Jacobs would’ve been willing to bet that she’d re-evaluate that personal trait after he was finished with her, and the dog. Following her up the road, he jammed his left-hand into his pocket, watched from a distance as she glanced once over her shoulder looking in both directions and then stepped over the blockade that was intended to bar entrance to the park. The tiny dog trotted around the barricade's end. Once inside the park, she moved quickly, almost jogging, and went straight for the only treed area close to the center of the park. The first night he saw her do that, Jacobs had thought it was too good to be true. He gave her a full three minutes, and then entered the park behind her. He caught sight of them two minutes later. She was standing and

waiting patiently while the small dog sniffed and pawed last autumn’s leaves that still littered the ground. Moving with stealth, he got to within twenty-five feet of them. He lifted the gun out of his waistband, aimed as the dog finally squatted, and shot the woman in the center of her left buttock. He felt proud that the dart hit exactly where he had meant for it to land. The woman's left-hand reflexively reached behind, bumped the dart, and she fumbled to pull it out. The large muscle didn’t relinquish its grasp before she sighed and sank slowly to her knees and then dropped onto her side. Jacobs put the gun back in his waistband and casually strolled to the prostrate woman and dog as if he was a good friend come to visit. He congratulated himself for guessing her weight accurately enough that the dart dropped her quickly, and thought, perhaps I’m better at that kind of thing than I had realized. He let the dog sniff his left-hand, and then scratched playfully behind its ears the way he'd seen the woman do many times. The dog licked him as if he was an old friend. Gently, he lifted the woman and propped her against the nearest tree after removing his dart and slipping it into the jacket’s pocket. He removed a small brown plastic pill bottle, and opened it, after struggling briefly to line up the safety arrows. Jacobs clucked to the dog the same way he’d heard the woman do, and watched the idiot animal wag its tail. He considered that maybe the animal couldn’t see him since hair covered its eyes, as he pinched out a rag soaked in chloroform, bent and covered its small muzzle. He waited patiently until the dog collapsed next the woman, then removed the rag and jammed it back into the bottle, closed the top and put the bottle in his jeans pocket. He wanted to tie the woman to the tree, but had not thought to bring rope and there was nothing but the short leash at hand. Jacobs knew he

might need it when the dog came to. Squatting next to her, he extended his left hand and read his invisible book for several seconds. Then, he reached out and lifted her right eyelid, peered into the rich blue beneath, leaned close and kissed the corner of her mouth. Her lips felt warm and soft, but yielded the way he thought a fresh corpse’s might. He shrugged, lowered his head and pressed an ear to her breast, felt its warmth and firmness, heard her heart beating steadily. It sounded normal to him, and he decided that if he were allowed to return to her, he’d discover how her heart sounded after the two of them had some serious fun. Jacobs thought about what he could do to keep the woman from searching for him and the dog, or shouting for help if she awoke too soon and nodded as he and his left palm made a decision. Gently, he pulled her away from the tree, cradled her in one arm and using his free hand, stripped off her t-shirt and bra. He brushed his palms across her breasts, and smiled when her nipples reacted. He leaned her back against the trunk, stood, and straddled her legs. Deftly, he removed her running shoes and socks, pulled off her Spandex shorts. Her underwear slid down to her knees before he could untangle them from her shorts. Jacobs didn’t considered himself to be a sexual pervert, but couldn’t help himself from stopping long enough to examine her carefully. He grinned and tugged her underwear off, took a disposable digital camera from his jacket pocket, the kind that shot doublewide images, and snapped her picture several times. He liked to keep records of his work and activities as well as the people he met while doing a job. Then, feeling a little weird and slightly guilty, but not really understanding why, he violently shook his left-hand, pulled her underwear on and up to her waist, covering her. He stuck the rest of her clothing and shoes inside his jacket along with her cell phone and the

camera. Certain that when she awoke her immediate concern would be her near nakedness, Jacobs picked up the limp dog, tucked it under his arm with its little head resting on his wrist so it seemed to be awake, and left the park. He walked directly to his six-year-old Nissan, unlocked it and put the dog on the back seat. He went into his apartment and collected his packed suitcase and toiletry bag, left the front door key on the dresser with an extra month’s rent, locked up after himself and returned to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was on I-295 driving north to exit seven of the Turnpike. He knew that in an hour he’d be paid, free of the dog and able to return home finally. Jacob’s started whistling a Hip-Hop song he enjoyed as he lifted the woman’s cell phone and dialed 911. He reported that he’d seen a woman acting strangely in Mill Race Park on the other side of Mount Holly, and broke the connection before the dispatcher might question him and his motives. He smiled when he pictured her confusion and embarrassment when the cops arrived. As he exited 295, he glanced in the rearview mirror, saw he was alone on the ramp, and pulled off to the side. After rolling the passenger side window down, he wiped the cell phone clean and threw it hard into the trees well beyond the pavement. He watched it flip through the air, tumbling like some old commercial he barely recalled. He heard the cell phone thump against the ground, and spoke softly as his left hand lifted before his face like an apparition, “It’s finished. We can’t have her now.” His left-hand vibrated badly as he depressed the window button, watched it close, and drove off. "Maybe later," he added as if to appease the apparition, living in his palm.

Copyright January 2010: Larry Schliessmann all rights reserved. This story is not to be copied. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold by you or given away by you in whole or in part, that is an infringement of U.S. copyright laws. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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