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Ferdie's Christmas-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Dead Meat-Fiction by Morgan Boyd
Twisted Love-Fiction by Mandi Rose
Run, Robby, Run, Part 4-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
All I Want for Christmas-Fiction by Carly Zee
Arterial Spray-Fiction by J. Brook
Murder Boots-Fiction by Jim Farren
The Blueberry Muffin Girl-Fiction by Michael Bauman
Standoff-Fiction by Lester L. Weil
Guns 'N Money-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Fester-Fiction by Mark Renney
The Start of a Bitchin' Year-Fiction by Luke Walters
Reprisal_Fiction by John W. Dennehy
Elevator-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Jamie, with the Blue Eyes-Fiction by Betty J. Sayles
All for the Love of a Good Burger-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Multiple Choice-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
Karma-Flash Fiction by Dr. I. M. Irascible
That Poe Story-Flash Fiction by Chris McGinley
Nome-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Underestimated-Poem by Marci McKim
The Stream of Life-Poem by Aiki Mann
Christmas Tale-Poem by Joe Balaz
In Loving Memory Of-Poem by Michael Marrotti
The Tattooed Man-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
You Got a Friend-Poem by Jerry Vilhotti
70,000 Birds-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Migrations #1-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
at the crest-Poem by Meg Baird
Gottingen Street 1998-Poem by Meg Baird
a subtle karate pose-Poem by Mark Young
The chains coil up into helical structures-Poem by Mark Young
Dream I'd Like to Forget-Poem by Alan Britt
Near Dawn-Poem by Alan Britt
Mischievous Ghosts-Poem by Alan Britt
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

robby4kduncan.jpg
Art by Kevin Duncan 2017

Run, Robby, Run

 

Part 4-The Conclusion

 

By Kenneth James Crist

 

 

To say that the work was not interesting would be an outright lie. And being squired around in federal cars and airplanes and fed for free and living in a free house wasn’t a bad deal, either.

 

Fuzzy and I solved crimes, or pointed agents in the right direction, so that their efforts weren’t wasted. We streamlined investigations by talking with rats, squirrels, birds, snakes, dogs, cats, and horses. Sometimes we had a lot of slack and Alice Ann and I did what we could to fill that time and not get too bored. A constant supply of nookie was a pretty good deal.

 

But at the same time, Fuzzy and I both chafed under government ownership. We made our plans at night, when we were alone, always aware that when we were in the house, we were most likely under surveillance. When Alice and I were alone in our bedroom, they turned the cameras off. At least that was what they said. I wondered often if it was the truth. Alice was enough of an exhibitionist that I figured she might go for having the cameras on when we were banging each other’s brains out.

 

Fuzzy and I only talked when we went out for walks. The agents were always there, a short distance away in their car, but we were good at talking to each other without anyone being aware. Much of what we said was non-verbal, a look, a glance, a sniff, a tail held just so, a finger scratching an ear.

 

Three months after we made our decision to get out, we botched our first case. We did it intentionally and made it look like an inability to perform. We were flown to St. Louis, Missouri on a missing child case. The child’s body had already been recovered and the suspect was in custody. Local police had only the family’s cat as a witness. The NSA volunteered our services.

 

We were met at the airport by the St. Louis P.D. Homicide Commander and a Lieutenant and whisked away in an unmarked car. Alice and I sat in the rear, with Fuzzy between us. He curled up and parked his head on my knee. I wasn’t sure how much help he’d be this time around, as cats weren’t his favorite people.

 

We drove for forty minutes, chatting with the homicide guys and finally arrived at a gray and white, two-bedroom bungalow on the south side. I walked Fuzzy for a few minutes, while he marked his way around the area and set off every pit bull in the neighborhood.

 

Finally, Commander Riley brought us to the door and introduced us to Calvin and Margery Laughlin, the parents of the girl. We were welcomed into their home and eventually, the cat came wandering in from wherever she’d been hiding when we arrived. I had asked that, after we met her, each of the other humans gradually get up and ease out of the room. Surprisingly, Fuzzy and Thomasina got along great. Another hurdle conquered.

 

Talking with cats is never the same twice. Some cats tend to be reticent, others aloof. This fucking tabby would not shut up. She was so distraught over the loss of the girl she’d grown up with, she told us the whole story, not once but many times. It kept getting better. At some point, I began to realize she wanted so badly to see this maniac who stole her mistress punished, she was embellishing the story.

 

We gave her a while to run down, long enough that we knew the cops had the right guy, beyond any doubt. Then I went back to the homicide guys and had them step outside with me.

 

Riley looked me up and down while Fuzzy was off, checking the privacy fence again, just to see if he might have missed a spot.

 

“Okay, what’d the cat have to say?” He had about half a smirk on his face and I really wanted to wipe it away so badly, but instead, I just said, “Nothin’. Not a goddamn thing.”

 

“What? I thought you were some kinda big whiz-kid at talkin’ to animals. . . .”

 

“Yeah, I know. I don’t know what it is. I just couldn’t get a thing outta that cat. I’m sorry, Commander Riley. This really doesn’t happen very often.”

The smirk was back, big-time, but he was gracious. He drove us back to the airport and put us back on our Gulfstream and we flew back to Virginia. It sucked having to write the after-action report and make up a bunch of shit about our abject failure to perform at getting information out of a kitty.

 

Fuzzy and I got a decent night’s sleep and in the morning, I was called on the carpet.

 

 

 

Clyde Jensen, the project manager, was not a happy man. I was pretty sure he had visions of failure of the project and of that in turn, damaging his career.

 

The overhead fluorescents shone on his bald head and there was sweat there. His complexion was red and he looked like a heart attack waiting to happen. There were sweat marks under the arms of the white shirt. He got right to the point.

 

“What happened, Mr. Metcalf?”

 

“Robby.”

 

“Robby, then. What happened?”

 

“No idea, Sir. I found a cat I couldn’t talk to. Or, maybe it just wasn’t in the mood. . . .”

 

“Look, don’t fuck with me, Metcalf. . . .”

 

“Robby.”

 

“No, goddamn it. We’re not on a first-name basis here. Not until you get your shit together and start performing again.”

 

“So, as long as I put out for you, I’m fine, but if I can’t, I’m fucked.”

 

“No, Metcalf, un-fucked would be more like it. Agent Ackerman has been reassigned, temporarily. At least, we hope it’ll be temporary. If you get my drift.”

 

“Oh, yeah, I got it.”

 

“You need to think about your position here. You were hired to do one job and one job only. . . .”

 

“I wasn’t fucking hired, Dude.”

 

“What?”

 

“I was kidnapped by my country and forced into servitude. I wasn’t given a choice.”

 

“Robby, we have tried to make things as comfortable for you as possible. . . .”

 

“But I’m still a prisoner of sorts.”

 

“Nothing I can do about that. I’m sure you understand.”

 

“Yeah, I get it. So, no talkee, no pussy. That about it?”

 

“Get outta here, Metcalf.”

 

I was dismissed and taken back to my house by a burly male agent I’d never met before. When I got back, I flopped down on the sofa and thought about the situation.

 

It was a good thing, I reflected, that I wasn’t in love with Alice. It would have been easy to allow that to happen, but when it was all said and done, she was still a government agent. I remembered her telling me about the agent who was married to her surveillance target and how Alice said the agent would kill him in a heartbeat if it became necessary. How do you fall in love with someone that ruthless, when you know exactly what she is? I’m not that big a fool. I got up and grabbed Fuzzy’s leash and said, “Let’s go out and walk, Big Guy.”

 

When we were clear of the house, I said, “We did good, Buddy.”

 

“How much trouble are ya in now?”

 

“Well, they’re not happy. They’re not gonna let Alice come visit for a while, until I shape up.”

 

“Shape up? What’s that mean?”

 

“Get my act together. Start performing again. Start being their pet animal talker.”

 

Fuzzy’s shoulders slumped a little and his tail drooped. “So, I guess we’re not goin’ home, huh?”

 

“Wrong, ol’ Buddy. We’ll be goin’ home soon. I’ll just have to get worse and worse at my job. Until they no longer feel it’s economically feasible to keep me.”

 

“What’s that mean?”

 

“Until they get tired of payin’ me for doing nothing.”

 

He sighed and said, “I hope that’s soon, Boss. I miss our special place. I almost miss that snake. . . .”

 

 

 

A week later, I had Fuzzy commit what for him was almost a felony. I told him to take a dump in the hallway when we were headed out for a mission. This kind of thing never happened ordinarily, and I knew it would get someone’s attention.

 

The thing that made it priceless was when one of the agents stepped in the mess and almost slipped and fell.

 

“Jesus Christ! Can’t you control your goddamn dog?” He was pissed. His Italian loafers were gonna need a clean and polish.

 

“Well, for starters, he’s not my dog. . . .”

 

“Yeah, yeah, shit! Heard that before. . . . I’m not too impressed with your communication with him, if yer gonna let him shit all over the place.”

 

I chastised Fuzzy sternly, just as I had told him would happen. “Fuzzy, dammit, you know better than that!”

 

Fuzzy just wagged his tail and grinned at me like we shared a secret, which we did and like he was the dumbest dog on the planet. It was hard not to burst out laughing, he did such a good job. I started looking around for something to clean it up with, but the agent said, “Leave it. We’re gonna be late for our plane.”

 

Just to top things off, when we got to the plane, Fuzzy casually walked over to the main landing gear and pissed on one of the tires. The pilot was fuming by the time we took off. I hadn’t told Fuzzy to do that last part. He dreamed that one up all on his own.

 

When the agent went back to clean up his shoes in the lavatory, I leaned over to Fuzzy and said, “Nice job, Big Guy. I think the message is coming through.”

 

Alice was already on the plane, and her demeanor was cool and somewhat aloof. That was okay with me and more than okay with Fuzzy. We were headed to Florida, specifically to Key West, to talk to a dog that happened to be in a bank with its owner when a robbery went down. The robbers had killed four people before the shit was over and they left with their measly $46,000. Among the dead was Morton’s owner. Morton was a beagle. In my opinion, beagles are the most scatter-brained of all dogs, and I didn’t figure it would be too hard to pull a bad performance out of this one. I was wrong.

 

Morton was being kept at a shelter, and the plan was to adopt him out, once we had gathered as much information as we could. When we landed, it was the usual drill, a ride in an unmarked Ford Explorer Interceptor to the animal shelter, and a quick briefing from agents working the case.

 

FBI Special Agent Muncie was the team leader and he was okay. His partner was named Williams and he was a bit of an ass. I could tell he would rather have been anywhere else in the world than doing this doggie bullshit. To his credit, though, he took a liking to Fuzzy right away. Apparently, he’d been a K-9 handler somewhere in his career. We decided not to even go inside the shelter. The introduction of a new dog would only stir things up. Morton was brought out to us, and Muncie and Fuzzy and Morton and I all took a walk around the neighborhood.

 

Fuzzy and Morton got acquainted and soon, Fuzzy said, “Boss, this good dog here is a pretty sad guy. He lived with his man and there was just the two of them. Now, he’s gotta go to a new family.”

 

“Yeah, I know. And that’s if he’s lucky.”

 

“Lucky?” Now Fuzzy and Morton were both sitting, looking up at me.

 

“Yeah. If somebody doesn’t take him, well . . . it won’t be good. . . .”

 

“They’ll kill him, right?” Fuzzy dropped his head as soon as he said it, and I wished he hadn’t.

 

“Well, that could happen. So, the better job we do here, the more valuable he will be.”

 

I handed Fuzzy’s leash to Muncie and told him, “I’m gonna have Agent Muncie walk ya for a while, Fuzz. I need to talk to Morton alone.”

 

“Kay, Boss.”

 

I took Morton and we moved off by ourselves and soon we were down close to the water. “Tell me about the thing that happened at the bank, Morton.”

 

“My man got shot. Bad guys came in with guns and people got shot. I don’t know why.”

 

“Money is why, Morton. It’s all about money. What can ya tell me about these guys?”

 

“Well, there were two black guys and two white ones. The one white guy did most of the shooting.”

 

“Okay, what else?”

 

“One of the white guys worked there at the bank.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“His smell was all over the place, before he even came inside. As soon as he came in, I knew him. He’s helped my man before.”

 

“Helped him with what, Morton?”

 

“Something he had to sit at a desk for. And write on some papers.”

 

“Did he shoot anybody?”

 

“No. He kept tellin’ the other guy to stop. But he didn’t stop. That other guy just wanted to kill people.”

 

When we returned to the shelter, I pulled out all the cash I had and left it to feed and house Morton as long as it would last. I briefed the detectives on what Morton had to say, and they were very interested in the idea that it was an inside job. They would check to see what transactions Morton’s owner might have had to take care of and that should give them a line on which employee was involved. We got back on our plane and headed home.

 

I could tell Fuzzy was worried about Morton. I told him it would be okay, but I wasn’t sure he was buying it. It helped when I told him about the donation I’d made to keep Morton as long as they could.

 

He settled in for the plane ride, again being sullen and uncommunicative, as was the plan. We couldn’t just suddenly stop doing what we did. It would look too suspicious. We needed to do this gradually, over a period of months. But Fuzzy’s lack of patience and normal doggie attention span would make it difficult.

 

 

~     ~     ~

 

As it turned out, it took another three months before the NSA project failed, and my “lack of perceived communications skill with animals” became so sporadic and undependable that the government opted to stop wasting money on “an experimental project with no redeeming factors” and the powers-that-be finally pulled the plug.

 

I was called in to the director’s office on a Monday morning and asked what I wanted to do. Rather than being fired, I would be retired with a stipend paid monthly into my bank account. I asked for a ride home and was met with questioning looks. Clyde Jensen’s eyebrows travelled clear up to where his hairline should have been. “Home? You mean . . . back to where we found you? Under a fucking bridge?”

 

“Yessir, I believe so, if it’s all the same to you. Fuzzy and I lived there for several years before you guys got interested. We’d like to go back.”

 

By Wednesday evening, we were outfitted with a new sleeping bag and some camping gear and dropped off with a quick handshake from an agent I had never met before. We curled up and slept the night in peace, and for the first time in almost a year, Fuzzy was happy.

 

In the morning, as the sun was coming up over the bridge, Fuzzy moved around a bit and said, “Boss, that damned snake is back. . . .”

 

I reached down inside the bag and felt the smooth dry scales of my friend, Lucille.

 

“Good morning, Lucille.”

 

“Good morning, Lover. Where you been?”

 

Fuzzy snorted in disgust. “Been workin’ at a job I hated and now we’re back.”

 

“Are you back to stay?”

 

“That’s the plan.”

 

She snuggled down lower, toward my feet and said, “That’s good. Really missed you.”

 

I heard the crunch of tires on gravel and Fuzzy was suddenly up and on alert, his hackles raised, and his tail blown out. He was in fight-or-flight mode, until I calmed him. A federal car was pulling in under the bridge and I thought, Well, here we go again. Fuck!

 

It parked and when the car door opened, Alice Ann Ackerman stepped out. She was dressed in a navy skirt and low heels, light blue blouse and her Glock .40. She looked good.

 

“Morning, Mister. Back to your old haunts, huh?”

 

“This is not a haunt, Lady, this is home. So, what’s up?”

 

“Well, I knew they took their cell phone back and I didn’t know if you had a new one. And I wouldn’t have the number anyway. . . .”

 

“So ya drove half the night just to come see me?”

 

“Well, I didn’t like the way things ended with us, so yeah. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at three and lit out.”

 

“You didn’t like the way things ended? You were my control. You were agent in charge. And we did a lotta boinkin’, but we never got around to using the “L” word, so . . .”

 

“I’m sorry, Robby, but you can’t do all that we did and not have some feelings for the person you’re involved with. Am I right?”

 

I found myself looking down at the ground, and just then, Lucille slid out and made her way toward her den up under the bridge.

 

“Holy shit! Did that come outta your sleeping bag?” Alice was wide-eyed, not with fear, but with amazement.

 

“She’s a friend. Her name’s Lucille. . . .”

 

“So I’m playin’ second fiddle to a snake? Is that how it is?” I could hear amusement in her voice and when I looked up, that old mischievous sparkle was back.

“No, but I don’t imagine you’re the kinda girl who would wanna crawl into a sleepin’ bag on the ground and go for it.”

 

“No, but I might be the kind who would come up on her days off and get a nice room somewhere to spend time with you.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.”

 

“Okay. I wouldn’t mind that at all.”

 

“Gimme your cell phone number. I gotta get rollin’. I’m on duty later today.”

 

I gave her the number and then took her in my arms and kissed her. It was good, but it didn’t last nearly long enough. As she got in her car, she said, “Oh, hey. I almost forgot. Morton got adopted. You’ll never guess who took him home.”

 

“No, probably not. . . .”

 

“Agent Muncie. His kids fell in love with that dumb dog. . . .”

 

“Got news for ya. That dog’s a canine crime fighter.”

 

She snapped on her seat belt, shut the door, and dropped the window. I leaned in and got another smooch and then she rolled out, headed back to the grind and all the bad juju that goes with government service.

 

Fuzzy bumped against my knee and said, “Are we up for the day, Boss?”

 

“Shit, no. I’m goin’ back ta bed for a while.”

 

As I settled back into the sleeping bag, he curled up against me and sighed. It sounded like he said, “Perfect.”



Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories, Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, and Kudzu Monthly, to name a few. Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at Dead Guns Press on Amazon.com                                   


He also has four books up in Kindle format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.


Having turned 73 last June, he still rides his big Harley every day that weather permits and is now officially “retired”. He also operates Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama.



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017