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Millie sat at the kitchen table, enjoying her morning coffee. Her mood changed the moment she heard the truck, with its heavy metal music blasting from the cab, pull into the driveway. Wringing her hands, she took a deep breath. She was going to give him one more chance to leave.
Leaping out of the old red Toyota pickup, Kyle tossed his cigarette butt on the driveway. Friday was a party, but now he was out of money. He didn’t have anything left to fence, and pawning his guitar was out of the question. He wiped his hands on his black cut off T-shirt and then ran his fingers through his hair. He would just have to charm a few more dollars out of Aunt Millie.
He strolled into the kitchen. “Morning, Auntie. Me and the guys were rehearsing all night. Sorry I didn’t call,” he said, opening the fridge and grabbing a carton of orange juice.
Millie smiled and said, “That’s okay. Listen, I know you just got in, but a policeman came here last night.”
“What he want?”
“He asked lot of questions about the robbery next door.”
He sat across from her and took a swig from the carton. “Did you say anything?”
She swallowed. “I told him you were here watching TV with me the night it happened.”
“Good,” he said, slamming the carton on the table. “I don’t need them all up in my business.”
“Of course,” she said, looking down at the table. “I thought maybe it might be time for you to move. I mean, you don’t want them coming around here suspecting you just because you got out of prison four months ago.”
He stood up, leaning over the table toward her, and said, “Who said anything about moving? Besides, the band isn’t up and running yet, and you can’t live here alone. You could have an accident or something, and nobody would know.”
She looked up into his unshaven face, his dark eyes glaring at her. She swallowed. “I don’t want you to move; I just don’t want them bothering you.”
He sat down and took another swig from the carton. She may have been his mother’s oldest sister, but she was just as weak. He now had to get her to loosen the purse strings. “You know I look after you and don’t want anyone thinking they could come here and rob you ‘cause you’re an old lady living by yourself.”
“I’ve been thinking about that too. I spoke to a dog rescue, and I have an appointment to adopt a dog. It can be my protection when you’re out playing with the band.”
“Not another dog. You moped around here for so long when you found Cinnamon dead in the street,” he said, laughing to himself. He had caught the dog chewing on his shoes and tossed it in the street to teach it a lesson.
“I know,” she pleaded. “But this wouldn’t be a Pomeranian. It would be bigger, and it wouldn’t get out through the fence. Look, Regina was going to take me to the agency, why don’t you come instead? I could stop at the bank after and maybe give you a few dollars for driving me.”
Smiling, he said, “Sure auntie, but I’ll need at least $200 for my time.”
“No problem, dear.”
The dull, gray, two-story industrial building had no parking lot and was surrounded by scrub. Blue letters on the white door read, Entrance to Second-Chance Hounds. Kyle parked on the street and walked up to the door. He turned around, waiting for Millie .
“Let’s get this over with,” he said, opening the door.
A bell above the door announced their arrival. The lobby’s pale-peach walls with white crown molding were a cheerful contrast to the stark exterior.
Near the white reception counter, a black plastic sign with white letters displayed the words “Welcome Millie.”
“Oh look, how sweet,” Millie said.
“Whatever. Where is everybody?”
A black phone on the empty reception desk began to ring, and Kyle noticed a silent red phone on the opposite corner.
The door behind the receptionist desk opened, and Kyle stopped breathing when he saw her glide into the room.
She wore the tightest pair of jeans he had ever seen. Her blue floral print top, a cross between a halter and a bustier, clung to her body. She looked like a Vogue model, not a dog rescuer, with her shoulder-length dark hair, red lips that caressed perfectly white teeth and blue eyes so dark they verged on being violet .
“I’m Sandoval Monteque . It’s a pleasure to meet you in person, Millie,” she said, extending her hand and ignoring the ringing black phone.
Kyle watched as Millie shook hands.
Millie smiled and said, “Nice to meet you. This is my nephew, Kyle.”
Sandoval turned to Kyle and extended her hand.
Kyle took her hand and immediately felt the rush of desire. She held his hand and stared into his eyes. He felt that if he could see his music, it would look like her.
“Hi,” he said, giving her his best sex machine smile.
“Hmm…” she said as she released his hand.
“Come this way, I’ll take you to our meet and greet area,” she said, opening the door behind the reception desk.
They entered a larger room with a few metal chairs against the wall. The room was pale blue with pictures of Winnie the Pooh and Bambi hanging on the walls.
“I’ll go get the dog I’ve selected for you. Please have a seat.”
Kyle sat down, trying to ignore his lust. Once seated, Sandoval left the room.
“Where did you find this place?” Kyle asked.
“Regina referred me,” Millie whispered.
“How come it’s so quiet? Why aren’t there any dogs barking?”
Before Millie could respond, Sandoval entered the room, holding a leash with a dog at the end of it.
Kyle let out a laugh. “Are you kidding? What an awful-looking bag of fleas.”
The thirty-pound black-and-grey spotted dog with the long thin tail had short hair like a Doberman. The large floppy ears on the top of its large black head seemed out of proportion to the short muzzle filled with small white teeth.
Smiling, Sandoval said, “You’re looking at it with your eyes and not your heart. If you looked at it with your heart, you would see this dog’s heart is pure despite its unfortunate background. Now, Millie, did you bring treats as I instructed?”
Mille pulled a bag from her purse. “I brought some turkey slices and cheese.”
Sandoval unhooked the leash from the dog. “Now, Millie, don’t pet him until I say so. Just call him; his name is Max.”
“Come here, Max,” Millie said, holding the turkey slices in her hand.
The dog sat down and yawned.
Kyle snorted, stood up and started pacing like a restless cat. “We don’t want this one, we want another one. What else you got?” he said, pulling out a cigarette.
He put the cigarette in his mouth as Sandoval walked over to him. She pulled the cigarette from his mouth and angled her body so her back was to Millie. She tucked the cigarette between her breasts, the filter just peeking above her bustier. She looked at Kyle and whispered, “There’s no smoking in here, and give Max a minute.”
Kyle’s mouth went dry .
The dog stood up, and Sandoval turned her head away.
Kyle licked his lips. She was so close. He could reach for the cigarette and give her a quick brush with his hand. He reached for the cigarette.
Without turning her head, Sandoval moved as fast as a striking snake, grabbing his hand and squeezing. Kyle thought he heard his bones crunching.
“Why don’t you sit back down and wait?” she said, squeezing his hand tighter as she turned to look at him.
Kyle looked into her eyes and saw something cold and sinister staring back. He tried to pull away, but her grip was like a bear trap.
The dog shook its head, its collar tinkling. Sandoval turned her attention to the dog and, still holding Kyle, walked him back to his seat.
Who is this chick? he thought as he dropped into his chair, still caught in the vice-like grip.
The dog walked over to Millie and took the turkey slices. Millie looked in the dog’s eyes and saw the sadness, the loneliness and longing. She also saw strength. “Poor thing,” she whispered.
The dog put its paw on her lap.
“We have a match,” Sandoval said, releasing Kyle’s hand. “Go ahead, Millie, pet him. He likes it when you rub his ears.”
Rubbing his ears, Millie said, “You won’t ever be lonely again. I’ll take good care of you. ”
“You want that ugly thing? That’s not a watchdog. It’s useless; guess you two have something in common. If you’re going to take it, let’s hurry up and get out of here,” Kyle said, flexing his hand. “We have to get to the bank.”
Sandoval smiled, handing Millie the leash. “Now Millie, our dogs are working dogs, and they haven’t had a lot of love. I guarantee you, if you just show him a little bit of affection, he’ll be yours forever, and I do mean forever. He’ll take a bullet for you and keep on going, and I mean that as well. His love and loyalty are uncompromising.”
Millie smiled. “I think he’s beautiful, and I promise, I’ll always look after him.”
“Good, clip the leash on him, and let’s go do the paperwork,” she said, opening the door to the lobby.
The black phone rang and Sandoval ignored it. She pulled some papers from the desk and looked at Millie.
“Kyle, why don’t you get the car ready while I do the paperwork? That way, we can get to the bank faster,” Millie said.
“Yeah, right,” he said. He gave Sandoval a dirty look.
“Goodbye, Kyle,” Sandoval said, smiling as she pulled the cigarette from her shirt and tossed it in the trash.
Once he left the room, Sandoval looked at Millie and said, “I see your problem. Your finger, please. “
Millie gave her finger to Sandoval.
Sandoval pricked it with a pin. “This is the adoption agreement. Page one states you understand that you are adopting a Hellhound, and in order to secure its freedom from Hell it must bring one soul back in its place. You agree to help the dog secure the soul, and you agree to secure the soul within six months. After securing the soul, the dog is yours forever. When you leave this world and go to the next, the dog will come with you, and you will walk into the light together. I’m sure Cinnamon will not mind that. Please put your finger here, indicating you understand.”
Millie put her finger to the page, the blood leaving its mark.
She continued, “Page two states that when you see your hound digging, you understand that it is carrying out its duty or duties relative to sending a soul or souls to hell. You agree to allow the dog to dig, knowing that after twenty-four hours the hole will disappear. Your dog sometimes packs with other local Hellhounds for the purposes of carrying out their duties relative to souls and Hell, and you agree to allow such behavior. You and the dog are required to secure only one soul; any additional souls the dog secures become the property of this adoption agency. “
“His girlfriend, Linda, is quite a bother also,” Millie said.
Sandoval continued. “Prior to referring anyone to this agency, you agree to discuss such referral with this agency. Do you understand these terms and conditions?”
“Please mark page two.”
Millie put her finger on the page.
The red phone rang, and Sandoval answered, “Hellhound Rescue Agency.” She listened for a moment and then said, “I’ll be there shortly. I’m just finishing up an adoption.” She hung the phone up.
Sandoval filed the agreement in the desk. “We use target training here,” she said, pulling out a red ball with markings on it. “To secure your soul, leave this at the house, car, office or place your soul frequents; the dog will know what to do from there. It speeds up the process if you can get the intended to hold the ball.”
Millie took the ball. “Thank you.”
Sandoval smiled and said, “Thank you, Millie, for giving a hound a second chance.”
Millie nodded. “It isn’t just hounds you rescue, is it, Ms. Monteque?”
“You know, Millie, he’s wrong. You’re not useless; in fact, quite the opposite. I think you’d be a natural at this kind of work. Our little rescue is very selective about its volunteers, so keep us in mind if you would like to help with our efforts.”
Millie smiled as she walked out the door with Max trotting beside her.
Kyle was leaning on the car, smoking a cigarette when Millie walked up. “Here, dear,” she said, tossing the ball to him. “Hold onto that for a moment while I get him in the car.
Looking at the markings on the ball, Kyle asked, “What is this?”
“It’s just a toy, Kyle,” she said, opening the door for the dog.
The dog leaped into the backseat, and she slammed the door. She got in the Explorer and put her seatbelt on. “We’ll take care of each other,” she said to the dog. Max pawed her and thumped his tail on the seat.
Kyle jumped in the car and started the ignition. He glanced in the rearview mirror. “What the…?”
In the mirror, he saw it, a big black thing, red eyes, large jaws and razor-sharp teeth. Kyle whirled around.
Max, the ugly, runty dog, looked at him and yawned.
Too much partying, Kyle thought, turning back around. “Let’s go to the bank.”
Millie smiled. “Yes, dear.”
If you are looking to give a cat or dog a second chance, please go to your local shelter or click on one of the links below: