Sarah lobbed a tennis ball to the opposite end of the dog park. A cluster of smaller dogs scattered as Sarah’s boxer, Magnum, charged after the ball.
“You went on a date in the Poultry Zone?!” she said. “Are you insane?”
““I didn’t know what to tell her!” Ben watched as Toby worked the perimeter along the chain-link fence, peeing at strategic locations only when he knew no one was looking. Ben brought the inugami here to socialize so that he wouldn’t, say, eat any regular dogs he might encounter on their adventures, but Toby never really mingled. Admittedly, he was like a hundred times as old as these dogs.
“What am I gonna say? ‘Hey, can you pick a different restaurant? That one’s got an invisible chicken carcass the size of a house rotting behind it.’ I didn’t want to spook her. She thinks I’m kinda sketchy as it is.”
“She’s not wrong.” Sarah said. “Did you throw up in front of her?”
“No I, uhh, got that out of my system before she got there.” Ben shrugged. “I thought you’d be impressed. It was like twenty feet from me, and I held it together enough that we’ve gone out since then. Actually, do you want to go to her open mic tonight? I’m supposed to invite people. The comedy is free, but there’s a two-drink minimum.”
“Hmm. Do I want to watch your co-worker do standup at an open mic…?” Magnum brought the ball back, wet with slobber. Sarah wiped her hand on her pants as she threw the ball again.
“Well, when you say it like that.” The ball was headed towards Toby, who acknowledged it grimly. Cool it, Ben thought in Toby’s direction. “She’s not just my co-worker.”
Sarah grinned and smacked Ben in the arm. “You really like this girl.”
“Yeah,” Ben looked away. “It’s nice to have someone outside of all of our paranormal shit. We talk about movies and make out and stuff. Nobody gets the limbs cut off. Nobody dies.”
Magnum nudged the ball into Sarah’s hand. She tossed it. “Well sure, that’s like, what ‘dating’ is but do you–”
The tennis ball bounced and hit Toby in the leg. He spun suddenly, eyes red, fangs bared, shadow wolf encasing his body. Magnum dropped onto her belly and then scampered away, whimpering, tail down. The three or four other dogs near them also scattered, much to the confusion of their owners.
“Hey! Toby!” Ben shouted. He thought calming thoughts in Toby’s direction, but they were muddled, mixed with fear and embarrassment. The inugami growled, then went back to sullenly circling the park. It was impossible to tell if Ben’s thoughts had gotten though.
“Sorry.” Ben said. “He’s been acting weird lately. Even for him. Marcus says it’s cause I’m not the alpha dog.”
“Yeah, he would, wouldn’t he.” Sarah muttered. Magnum was leaning against her legs demanding comforting pets.
“He’s staying with the old lady who lives a few doors down from me. She gives him bacon and sausages five times a day, and lets him come and go as he pleases. We still have the kakawari, but I think I’m losing him on a personal level. I just take him out to eat demons. We have a Charlie Brown and Snoopy relationship. I’m just the bald kid that brings his supper.”
“Uh-huh,” Sarah said, having no idea what he meant by that. “Hey, before you spend forty dollars on amateur stand-up, can you come look at a crime scene with me?”
“Sure,” Ben said.
“No wolf guy. No Jake. This is, uhh…just don’t tell anybody.”
“Ok.” Ben said. “I trust you.”
Sarah looked at him. She threw the tennis ball. “Just like that?”
“Yeah,” Ben nodded. “Just like that.”
A shadow tentacle whipped through the air and sliced the tennis ball in half. Two tennis balls slices landed on either side of Magnum’s head. The dog sniffed one, nudged it with its paw, then barked at it.