Run, Robby, Run
by Kenneth James
I had passed
sort-of pleasant two weeks. Fuzzy had his own yard and I had Alice Ann, my new,
government-provided, live-in girlfriend. It was the easiest way for them to
keep track of me and I didn’t mind at all. Some of Alice’s kinky tricks made
the initial episode in the Texas motel with the beer bottle seem pretty tame.
came to the conclusion that they couldn’t duplicate whatever it was that made
me able to converse with animals and they gave up. It wasn’t long, though,
before they began sending me out on assignments. They gave me credentials and
everything. I had a badge and an ID card that said “Provisional Special Agent”
they sent me on was a no-brainer. Fuzzy and I were put on a plane and sent to
Casper, Wyoming. A rather prominent business guy had been killed in a home
invasion. His dog was there and saw it all, or at least they figured it had.
Alice and Fuzzy and I were assigned the task of questioning the dog, an Irish
Setter named Jimbo.
miles from the small airport to the ranch the businessman owned, and we took
off in two cars right from the airport. I was ready for some lunch and Fuzzy
said he was going to die any minute if he didn’t get a cheeseburger, but it
actual working ranch, with cowhands and cattle, horses and manure, corrals and
fences scattered around. The house was pretty elaborate, but then, the man
didn’t have to subsist on what the ranch made. He had his hands in real estate,
banking, stocks and bonds and he even owned a chunk of the airport we flew
As we arrived,
saw the Irish Setter. He got up off the porch and came out to meet the cars. He
didn’t bark, which I took to be unusual and it seemed his spirit was broken. He
and Fuzzy walked around each other, chuffing and smelling and doing what dogs
do, but still, there was no barking. Tail wagging was at a minimum.
to the lady of the house. She was maybe fifty, but I was immediately taken with
her. Yes, her hair was graying; yes, there were character lines in her face.
But her posture and figure were still those of a much younger woman. Her eyes
were somber, but I could easily imagine a sparkle there. Her husband had been a
until we had been fed. She put on an impressive lunch and she made sure Fuzzy
was fed, too. The local sheriff was in attendance, as it was actually his case.
We avoided discussing any of the circumstances, because if I knew anything
about it, it might tend to shade whatever I learned from the dog.
asked everyone else to stay in the house and Fuzzy and I went outside and sat
on the porch with Jimbo. I parked in an old, creaky glider that needed to be
sandblasted and repainted. Fuzzy sat beside the glider on the floor. Jimbo was
curled up next to the steps, watching us.
and his eyes were filled with intelligence and curiosity. “Yeah, I like it
fine. It’s my name. Always been my name.”
know. Are you
know I am.
The Man is gone. They say he’s gone forever. Dead. Like cows sometimes. They
die and then in the spring, we find them and they stink and the men bury them
in the ground.”
you stand to
tell me what happened out here?”
men came and
kicked in the door. Man was here and I was here. I barked and warned the Man
and he was getting a gun and they shot him. I ran and hid. I was scared. I
should have been brave, but they had guns. I hate guns.”
“You’re not alone there, friend.”
“What’s your name?”
I made up
my own name.” Jimbo got up and came over and sat in front of me. I reached down
and scratched his ears and said, “Who were the bad men? Did you know them?”
I knew and
the other I didn’t. One was the Man’s friend who comes here all the time for
meetings. His name is Jack. The other man was real tall and he smelled like
beer and Jack called him Junior.”
Jack’s last name?”
name? No, I
just know Jack.”
here a lot? Many times?”
since I was
little. I don’t know why they wanted to hurt Man.”
down with a sigh and placed his head on his paws. He said, “Blake. He won’t be
I know it
hurts, but it will get better. Thanks for talking with me.”
talk all the
time, but nobody understands. You’re the first.”
in, the sheriff had his glasses on his nose and his notebook in hand. I sat
down and the lady poured me another cup of coffee.
learn? Anything helpful?” The sheriff was looking at me over his glasses.
that I haven’t been told anything about this case or about the victim, okay?”
. . .”
his master’s name was Blake and that two men came and kicked in the door. One
was a man who has come here for years, named Jack.” Out of the corner of my
eye, I saw the lady of the house put her hand to her mouth and then to her
breast, as if she might faint. “The man with him, Jack called Junior. Jimbo is
sorry he wasn’t more brave. But it only would have gotten him killed. As time
goes by, he’ll get better, but you need to understand just how much he really
understands. Let him know what a good dog he is and what a good witness. And
when you make your arrest, you need to let him know. Closure would be a good
at me and then said, “Well, I can’t prosecute on the word of a guy who says he
can talk to dogs. . . .”
that, Sheriff,” Alice said, “but what this actually does is allow you to
concentrate your efforts on two suspects and not have to spend a lot of time
spinning your wheels looking at everyone else. And you can be assured that
Robby here can actually do what he says he can. It’s been proven over and over
under laboratory conditions and if we didn’t have absolute faith in his
abilities, we wouldn’t have burned the jet fuel to come out here and help.”
I’d best get to work. Thank you for your help.” He touched his Stetson in
cowboy fashion and stalked out to his car.
way out, I
stopped once more and petted and talked to Jimbo. “Not sure the sheriff
believed me, but he’s gonna work on it. He’ll catch them soon, and you helped a
lot. Glad we got to meet you, buddy.”
the way to the car and clear out of sight. Alice said, “While you were talking
with Jimbo, I got another call. How are you with horses?”
They’re almost as intelligent as dogs and in their own world, they definitely
rule. Where we goin?”
It’s out by the state line with New Mexico. Got an arson case out there where
somebody burned down a barn with the horses inside. One managed somehow to get
out. The rest perished in the fire. We figure the horse probably knows who set
about as far west as one can get in the Lone Star state. Again, we met with a
county sheriff and also a Texas Ranger. The Ranger was a tall guy, with a dark
complexion, and high, prominent cheekbones showing Indian blood. In contrast,
his name was O’Reilly. Must have been an Irishman in the woodpile. The sheriff
was a good ol’ boy named Benson, who probably got elected because he’d been
there all his life and knew everybody and their kids and dogs. He didn’t seem
to know a lot about police work.
car, an older generic blue Crown Vic, from the nearest FBI office and followed
the Ranger’s big silver Dodge pickup out to a holding facility for abandoned
and abused animals about forty miles south. The horse was still under
veterinary care, due to some burns he’d received in the stable fire. The
sheriff rode with us and filled me in on the case.
four-year-old gelding named Pancho. He’s all black, with three white socks and,
of course, burn marks now. Ever since the fire, he won’t go inside a building.
He’s pretty hard to approach, and he’s bitten and tried to kick a couple
people. You know much about horses?”
a hell of a
lot,” I said, “but I can probably talk to him. We’ll just hafta see when we get
ya wanna be
careful. Stay away from his back end and watch his head. They have to rope him
and snub him down to give him antibiotics and stuff. He’s not trustin’ anybody
drive at the facility and were met with barking from about thirty dogs, all
raising hell in their kennels. We let the dust settle before we opened our
doors and then got out into the dry heat. O’Reilly settled his Stetson on his
head and pointed across to a corral adjacent to a large metal barn.
and saw Pancho. Saw the piebald patches where his hair was burned away. Saw
some areas that were still carrying scabs and were shiny with ointment. The
horse’s head was down and he looked defeated. I turned to Fuzzy and said, “You
might wanna hang back some. Don’t wanna upset him. . . .”
tongue out and said, “Nope. He wants to see me. He needs ta talk. Maybe you
better hang back.” Fuzzy headed for
the corral, his tail wagging madly, like he’d just found his long-lost brother.
back,” O’Reilly said, “he’s apt ta get killed in there.” Fuzzy was just
slipping under the lowest bar of the corral.
forward and Fuzzy reached up. They smelled each other and Pancho raised his head
and blew, then whinnied and dropped his head back down to nuzzle the dog.
Together, they set off for a walk around the corral. I knew they were
conversing, but I wasn’t catching much of it.
his Stetson back on his head and I heard him mutter, “. . . be god-damned. . .
work some dog-on-horse magic for about thirty minutes, before I finally
approached Pancho. It even got down to them playing tag and working up a sweat,
dodging back and forth. Finally, Fuzzy remembered what we were there for and he
came over to me and Pancho came with him. The big horse shoved his head over
the fence and smelled me and I could almost see the wheels turning as he
smelled Fuzzy on me and associated the two of us together.
big guy,” I
said, stroking his cheek, “you doin’ okay now?”
rumbled in his throat, nodding his head, then. “Does the dog have a name?”
Fuzzy. He likes you.”
like him, too.
He’s good dog. Good friend, too.”
other friends, Pancho?”
any more. I
had a person friend. Julie. But not now. She’s gone away.”
Burn, burn, burn. Burned the barn. Burned the horses. All but me.”
It’s very sad. You see her make the fire?”
did,” he said,
the head nodding again. “She put some tractor stuff on the straw and lit it.”
Tractor gas? Stinky stuff they put in tractors?”
again. “Bad stuff.”
did you get
stall. The door busted open. I ran out and she closed the door.”
was she? She
Pete was the
owner. She worked there. Clean and brush. Take care of horses.”
was there a
long time. She went crazy. Bad in the head.”
be back in a
minute, Pancho. You keep Fuzzy company, okay?”
to Benson and O’Reilly. “Pancho says a stable girl named Julie did it. Used
tractor gas and put it on the straw and lit it off.”
Stetson off and wiped the band with a handkerchief, then set it back on his
head again and said, “She was top of the suspect list. And right now, we can’t
touch her. She cut her wrists later that night and now she’s up in the state
mental hospital. We might never be able to prosecute her.”
yer dog, then, and we’ll get goin’,” Benson said.
all, he’s not my dog. . . .”
flew to San Antonio and collected my truck. Alice, Fuzzy and I were allowed to
drive to Washington D.C. with only one car following with two other agents. We
enjoyed the trip and managed to stretch it out to three days and two nights,
which we enjoyed immensely.
time to talk along the way and I was settling into my new life-with-government
as well as could be expected. Somewhere in Kentucky, I asked, “How long do you
think Uncle Sam is gonna require my services?”
thoughtful and didn’t answer right away. Finally, she said, “I guess you still
haven’t figured this all out, huh, Robby?”
life-time deal, here. They’re never gonna just turn you loose. They can’t.”
area a mile ahead and I didn’t say anything until I had the truck stopped and
Fuzzy was out doing his business. Then I said, “The fuck you mean, lifetime?
They can’t keep me for the
rest of my life if I don’t wanna play anymore.”
have no idea,
Robby. Here’s the thing. At any given time there are spies from about
twenty-four countries that we know of
under surveillance by our agency. We use deep-cover people who will do
absolutely anything necessary to
protect this country and its people. I know of one agent who is legally married
to the subject she had been assigned to cover. And if the shit hits the fan,
she will kill him and disappear without a thought. You’re not dealing with
pussies here, Robby.”
my rights have
no bearing. . . .”
make me laugh. You will always be under surveillance and protection, and your
income and safety and comfort are guaranteed for the rest of your life.”
can talk to animals. . . .”
you are the only person alive that we
know of who can do what you do. Think about it, Robby. Take a city like New
York City. Eight million people and at least that many rats. Rats go everywhere.
They have stealth and they are hardy and disease-resistant. They come out
mostly at night and they see and hear just about everything. That’s over 8
million operatives that you, and only
you, can debrief. If an enemy of our country knew about you, one of two things
would happen. They’d capture you for themselves, or if they couldn’t carry that
off, they’d kill you. Period. End of story. You cannot afford to go
unprotected. Ever. You are too great an asset.”
Fort Meade, we were told that two arrests had been made in Wyoming and the
sheriff had obtained a confession from Junior. He would plead to accessory to
murder in exchange for a lighter sentence. Jack was still holding out and would
most likely be charged with first-degree. He was looking at life in prison.
Texas, the stable girl, Julie, had been through a sanity hearing and had been
temporarily adjudicated as mentally incompetent to stand trial. . . .
later, Alice left Fuzzy and me alone in our house. She had paperwork to catch
up on, back at her office. Outside, an unmarked car with two agents kept watch.
Fuzzy was parked, lying down in the center of what had become his bed. I
stepped over and flopped down beside him and said, “You and I need to talk,
on his side
and he didn’t even bother to move. “Yeah? What about?”
need to know
what you think about our new lifestyle. Are you happy? Do you think you can get
along with all this traveling and living in a house and being taken care of by
these secret agent-types?”
thinking about running away again.”
off and leave me like that?”
before, when everything got to be too much. I could do it again. I liked it a
lot better when there was just the two of us and every day was a challenge to
survive and we weren’t so damn . . . comfortable. Does that make any sense?”
gonna hafta excuse me, but I’m gonna hug you, whether you like it or not.”
to be hugged, except by little kids, but he put up with it. Even licked my ear
began to make our plans. It would take time to disentangle ourselves from the
government. We would have to convince them, very gradually, that I had lost my
ability to talk with animals. Fuzzy would have to help, by becoming aloof and
even disobedient and uncommunicative.
would ever get away was for me to become worthless to the federal government.
We couldn’t start too soon, as that would be obvious to Alice, after just
having talked with her about my role in their plans and never being able to
Next: Part four—Robby’s escape…
Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle
He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard
has since written four more novels,
several novellas and a butt-load of short
publications have been
seen in Bewildering
A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New
Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and
Bones, Twisted Sister and
he had three stories
accepted by John Thompson at Hardboiled, for two anthologies that
in April of 2014, The
War and Hardboiled,
He also has
up in Kindle format, for sale
of Mirages, The
Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for
his latest zombie fiction. One of his novellas,
by Anne Stickel at Black Petals.
73 last June, he
still rides his big Harley
day that weather permits
and is now completely
retired. He volunteers as a
services driver for the
American Red Cross and he
is also a member of the American
Legion Riders and the Kansas Patriot Guard.