Dog Walker II – Chapter Six.

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Detectives Bolland and Martinez waited outside a Catholic school gymnasium. It was Sunday afternoon. The last of the parishioners stood outside the church across the street, chatting up the priest. He had his keys out, ready to lock the doors the moment these old folks finally went home.

“All these stupid missions…” Jake bounced a stray dodgeball off the brick wall. “It took me eight years to make detective. All I ever wanted to do when I was a kid, you know? Solve crimes, bust crooks, keep the streets safe.”

“Me too.” Sarah said, half listening while deleting emails on her phone.

“This is a waste of our time. I became a detective to do detective work.”

“We’re helping people.”

“Are we? Martinez, look…” Jake caught the ball and walked over to Sarah. “You’re a good cop. You’re my partner. Our dads worked together back in the day. I try to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Sarah looked up from her phone. “What’re you getting at?”

Jake frowned, trying to think of the right way to put it. “Every time you bring in your friend to fight invisible demons with his magic dog, I respect your judgement a little less.”

A moped buzzed across the school parking lot, wobbling unsteadily around parked cars. Ben waved to the cops. Sarah waved back.

“They’re only invisible to you, Jake.” she said.

A white van came around the corner, following Ben. There was a large mural was painted on the side depicting three wolves — two black, one white — running across the snow by moonlight. Sarah sighed.

Ben rolled up to the curb and kicked out his kickstand. The van parked behind him. Marcus stepped out, duster blowing in the wind. He nodded to the cops, smiling smugly. He strutted to the back of the van and popped the rear door open. Three wolves — identical to the ones painted on the van — jumped out and lined up along the sidewalk.

“This is different.” Jake said.

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Dog Walker II – Chapter Five.

Dog Walker II – Chapter Five.

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Waves lapped the shore next to the beachfront restaurant patio where Ben and Kaylee sat. Theirs was the only occupied table. Kaylee was talking, but Ben wasn’t really listening. He tugged at the collar of his shirt. He didn’t wear shirts with collars that often, didn’t need to, and it was rubbing his freshly-shaved neck something awful. He was deeply uncomfortable, partially because he was on a date for the first time in (years? decades?) months, but mostly because of the three-story chicken carcass rotting half-submerged in the lake behind him.

A hunk of spoiled meat the size of a small horse peeled away from a rib bone and plunged into the sea. Ben winced as water, invisible to Kaylee, splashed him in the back and ran down his shirt.

“Are you ok?” Kaylee said. She’d ditched her dog walking gear and gotten dressed up too — short floral-print dress, makeup. She looked good.

“Yeah, I uhh….” Ben coughed. “Sorry. I’m sorry. You were talking about stand up?”

The smell of the giant chicken carcass stretched three or four miles past its actual location, blanketing most of the Northeast side of the city — and parts of Evanston — in a distinct funk. Sarah called it the “Poultry Zone”. Ben usually tried to stay out of it, but when Kaylee had suggested this restaurant, twenty feet from ground zero, he had struggled to come up with rational excuses. So, he got there early, acclimated himself as best he could, and threw up into the lake a couple times before Kaylee arrived.

“The stand up scene in Chicago isn’t what I thought it would be. It’s an improv town, you know?” Kaylee paused. Ben nodded. “You can only do the same few open mics so many times before it starts to feel like you’re spinning your wheels. I’m thinking of moving to LA. I have a friend who has his own theater. They put out a podcast every week. I should get in on that.”

“I always wanted to do that.” Ben took a quick, filtered breath through his shirt and forced himself to act normal for thirty goddamn seconds. “Move to LA.”

“Yeah, you’re like a screenwriter, right?”

“No.” Ben said. “Not really. I don’t know. I haven’t written anything since college, and everything I wrote then was just combinations of things I liked. Space cowboys, robot dinosaurs, monkeys with jetpacks. You know. Nerd shit.”

Kaylee shrugged. “I like monkeys.”

“I didn’t really have anything to say. And when I sat down to write after graduation I just…blanked. Nothing. For years. I think maybe I liked the idea of being ‘a writer’ more than I liked writing.” Another smaller piece of meat splashed down into the water. Ben frowned. “Anyway, I’m busy.”

“Well,” Kaylee unconsciously wiped water off the table with her hand. “It sounds to me like you came up with a bunch of excuses after the fact for why you were totally justified in giving up on your dreams.”

Ben looked at her, forgetting for the first time about the rotting chicken.

“Because your dreams are hard.” She smiled. She had a terrific smile. He’d never noticed until now.

“This is a great first date.” Ben said. Kaylee laughed. “You wanna get together next weekend, really dig into my physical flaws?”

“Your nose is a little crooked,” she said.

“I get hit in the face a lot.”

“I’m not surprised. What do you do at night?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you said you’re not writing,” Kaylee leaned in closer to Ben, “And every time we meet up to exchange keys, you’re all tired and surly, and it turns out you get hit in the face a lot? Which we haven’t really gone into yet.”

Ben wasn’t sure how much Sarah wanted him telling people. Their work was mostly off the record. Also, I kill invisible demons was more of a third date revelation.

“Wait, so you think I’m kind of a jerk…”

“That’s accurate.” Kaylee said, nodding.

“…but you asked me out.”

She thought about that for a moment. “I guess I like jerks? That doesn’t bode well for the future.”

Ben laughed. “This is going in your stand up set, isn’t it?”

“I barely have to change anything. Have we ordered drinks?”

“I’m not even sure this place is open.” Ben leaned back to peer into the window. It was dark inside the restaurant. “Are you super into seafood?”

“It just seemed like a date place. I’m gonna go investigate the situation and also pee. Try not to get hit in the face while I’m gone.”

She winked as she left. Ben sighed, unbuttoning the top button on his shirt. Kaylee was very nice, and he was totally blowing this. Not that it was 100% his fault. He glanced up at the gargantuan pile of decomposing meat and bones half-drowned in Lake Michigan…

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‘Dog Walker: The Audiobook’ is now available

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Dog Walker is out in audio! Finally, you can read this story as it was meant to be read: with your ears while walking a dog, since that’s how I read most books while I was writing it. Consumed a whole lot of Stephen King (Stephen Weber’s so good he almost made that child orgy at the end of It palatable) and the entirety of Harry Potter that way. Listen, we all like Emma Watson, but she just doesn’t say “Harry…” with the right elderly-British-man cadence that I’m used to.

But yeah. I think this turned out pretty great? Travis Baldree killed it on the narration. I listened to it just to proof for mistakes, and I kept getting caught up in the narrative and having to go back and focus on proofing. Which is impressive, considering I read this book like 700 times. There are jokes and bits of dialogue in here that I think actually play better out loud than they did in the print book. I recommend it!

I have a few Audible promo codes to pass out in exchange for honest reviews. If you’re interested, hit me up in the comments. 🙂

AUDIBLE AMAZON

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