As Tom rounded the bend in the street on his way home from work, his house came into view.
What's that flashing blue light? There's two cop-cars in front of the house. Oh my God! If something's happened to Judy I'll go shoot Grubbs myself. I don't care if I do go to jail for it. He's got to be stopped, and the cops won't do it.
Then another thought hit him. Are they waiting to arrest me? Do they know about the Justice Cooperative? He hit the brakes. Maybe I better run while I can.
He shook his head and took his foot off the brake. No, I better go home. Running at the sight of cops is going to make me look guilty of something. And what if it is Judy? Oh God, please let her be okay.
He whipped his car around one of the police cars and into the driveway. He ran across the lawn and through the opened doorway.
“Judy! Judy! Where are you?”
He got no answer. He ran through the house, calling her name. Still no answer. He ran out the open patio door. In the back yard he saw Judith standing with Lieutenant Callahan and a uniformed policeman. It was obvious she had been crying.
“Judy! Are you OK? What's happened?”
Mutely, she pointed to the ground at Callahan's feet.
“King! What happened to him?”
Callahan spoke. “He appears to have been poisoned. We have the police veterinarian on the way. He may give us a more definite diagnosis.”
Judy flung herself into Tom's arms. Holding back the sobs, she spoke. “When I came home, I took a fresh dish of water out for him, like I always do. He didn't come when I called him. I thought maybe he'd found a way to get out of the yard, so I started looking around. Then I saw him lying there. I went up to him, but he didn't move. Then I saw his legs were all stiff and his lips were pulled back from his teeth. He looked just like one of our barn dogs that had gotten into some of Daddy's rat poison. Oh, poor King.”
Tom yelled, “This has got to be Grubbs's doing. Are you ever going to take this seriously? Does it have to be one of us dead before you do something?”
Callahan spoke calmly. “Mr. Borden, we are taking it seriously. Ordinarily, we'd treat a dog poisoning as vandalism. Unless the animal was a valuable show dog, the charge would be something like criminal damaging. We'd ask around the neighborhood to see if any strangers had been through, and that would be it. Because of the past threats to you, though, we're making a more thorough investigation.”
At that point a uniformed officer came through the gate into the back yard.
Callahan continued, “Here's Sergeant Henry, the veterinarian who takes care of our K-9 dogs. He may want to take the carcass back to his lab for a more thorough examination.” He turned to the officer beside him. “Sergeant, would you give Doc Henry any help he needs, while I talk to Mr. and Mrs. Borden inside the house?”
He motioned them through the patio door. Tom took Judith's arm and led her to a sofa in the living room. He sat down beside her. Callahan pulled up a chair to face them.
“Have you seen any sign of Mr. Grubbs since you last talked to me?”
Tom answered. “No. None at all.” He turned to Judith. “Anything you haven't told me?”
She choked back a sob and spoke. “No. I haven't seen him.”
“We don't have much to go on. Doc Henry's examination should tell us what your dog died of. If he was poisoned, Doc should be able to identify the poison. If it's a common poison, though, we probably won't be able to trace it.
“We'll also ask the neighbors if they saw anything out of the ordinary. Anybody who doesn't belong in the neighborhood, any strange cars, or anything like that.
“For that matter, how do you get along with your neighbors? Are there any of them who are upset with you? Any who resent your dog's barking? Does your dog ever get out and mess up your neighbors' yards?”
“No,” Tom replied. “King has never gotten out. He never barks without good reason. The Scotts have always been friendly.”
Judith broke in. “And old Mrs. Tompkins, on the other side, told me one day that she felt safer having King outside during the day. No, we've never had trouble with our neighbors over King.”
“Okay, so we can assume it wasn't one of the neighbors. That still doesn't mean it was Grubbs. Any incidents of vandalism or rowdyism in the neighborhood? Did any kids ever come by and tease your dog?”
“Not that I know of,” Tom answered. “We didn't have him yet when the kids were going to school. If any kids did tease him, it would've been during the day when neither of us was home.”
“Okay, that's one possibility we can't yet rule out. Some juvenile delinquents might have poisoned your dog out of some perverted notion of fun.
“Now, have you ever noticed any rats in your yard? Might your dog have eaten a rat one of your neighbors poisoned? Or for that matter, have you set out any poisoned rat bait in your house?”
Judith responded, “We haven't seen any sign of rats in the house. I suppose a rat could crawl through the opening at the gate, or burrow under the fence, but we've never seen any.”
The veterinarian called from the back of the house. “Lieutenant Callahan?”
“In here, Doc. Find anything?”
The veterinarian was wiping his hands on a towel as he entered. “I did a hasty autopsy. There was a piece of partly-digested fresh meat in the dog's stomach.” He turned to Tom and Judith. “What did you feed him today?”
“Dried dog ration, like I always do. He doesn't get fresh meat, not even table scraps.”
“I'll take the carcass and the meat back to the lab and check it, but right now I'd say it's a safe bet that someone fed your dog some poisoned meat.” He turned to leave.
“Let me know what you find out,” Callahan called after him.
“I'll have something for you in an hour or so,” came the reply.
“Thanks, Doc. Let me know if I can do something for you.”
Callahan turned to Tom and Judith. “Assuming Doc is right, somebody came by and threw your dog some poisoned meat. Unless we can find witnesses, though, we'll never be able to identify who did it.”
“What do you mean!” Tom burst out. “This has to be Harry Grubbs's work. He's been taunting us, driving us crazy with worry. Now he's getting ready to close in. He knocked out one of our lines of defense. We won't get any warning until he actually breaks in and sets off the burglar alarm. By then it'll be too late. I already know how fast he can move once he gets inside. You've got to do something.”
“What do you suggest I do, Mr. Borden? Arrest Mr. Grubbs? On what evidence? He'd sue for false arrest, and win. His lawyer would probably tell the jury you poisoned the dog yourself, to cast suspicion on Grubbs. Do you want a civil suit on your hands?”
“Lieutenant, you always seem to have lots of reasons why you can't do anything to help us. What are you waiting for? A couple of dead bodies? What does it take to get you to do something?”
Callahan responded in a tired voice. “This isn't a police state, Mr. Borden. We can't go jailing people because we think they might have committed a crime, or because we think they're likely to commit a crime, or just because they're politically unpopular. Getting a warrant to arrest someone requires that I convince a judge there's probable cause to believe someone has actually committed a crime, or that two people are conspiring to commit a crime. Without evidence, without testimony of a witness, without anything to go on, I'd never be able to convince a judge to issue a warrant.”
“Well, can't you keep an eye on him?”
“We don't begin to have enough police to keep an eye on every potential criminal. Moreover, the courts have held that you don't have a right to police protection. You're responsible for your own protection. We can come into the picture only after something actually happens.”
“Something has happened,” Tom said, bitterness evident in his voice. “My dog was poisoned.”
“And we're doing everything we can about that. Even more than we'd do in most cases.” He stood up to leave. “I'll let you know what Doc Henry finds out.”
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