Man’s Best Friend – B. Slaven

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“What do you think it means Jack?” The young detective said to Miller. They were standing in middle of a crime scene in what used to be some poor bastard’s living room. Detective Miller had been working homicide for fifteen years and had seen plenty of humanity’s putrid underbelly. He was no longer surprised by the vile, cruel, and monstrous things that people were capable of. This was different though. This was something he had never seen before.

“I don’t know Rick. This is a new one for me,” Miller said to his junior detective Richard Williams.

Rick had arrived before Jack and collected information from the officers at the scene. Rick had been on homicide for only a few months but was sharp and had good instincts. Miller was reluctant to take on such a young partner at first but Rick had proven before long that he had a knack for this kind of work. However, like Detective Miller, Rick was stumped.

“What do we know about this guy, this scene?” Miller asked.

Rick went back through his little brown notebook. Rick always kept exceptional notes when they were on a case, even though he had all of the details in that steel trap of a memory anyway. It was a good habit to keep. “John Bisselmack age 38, unemployed. He spent some time in a mental hospital but was released and up until very recently lived here alone with his service dog Daisy.” Rick recited.

“Service dog? Was he disabled?” Jack asked. Rick turned the page in his notebook.

“No not physically. He had, among other problems, a generalized anxiety disorder that was aided by him having a ‘support animal’ that he adopted from an agency.” Rick said.

Jack crouched down and stared at the body in the middle of the living room floor. The victim was lying on his belly with his arms splayed to the sides. A dried pool of blood spread out and away from his head. He wore what was left of a yellow t-shirt and gray sweatpants. Most of both items of clothing were missing, torn and ripped away. He wore no shoes or socks. Also he was almost entirely eaten.

“Looks like the dog had a field day after he died. Man’s best friend indeed,” Jack said.

Rick stood behind him with his notebook at the ready. “Well he was dead for about two weeks before he was found. Plenty of time for a dog to get to work on him.” Rick shared a trait with Jack in that he wasn’t squeamish around this sort of thing. Why anyone would get into this line of work if they couldn’t handle the sight of blood and death was the ultimate mystery to Jack.

“How did he afford to live here? Did he have some family fortune that someone would have wanted from him?” Jack didn’t want to grasp at straws but this was an odd case.

Rick checked his notes. “No he was on disability. His anxiety disorder made it impossible for him to hold down a job, didn’t really have friends either. Kept to himself, other than his dog,” Rick said.

“Where is his dog anyway?” Jack asked.

“We think he broke the window over there.” Rick gestured to a window to the right of the front door. “At first it was thought that the killer broke in that way but the window was broken from the inside. So the dog must have run out of food and jumped through the window to get out.”

Jack looked back at John lying on the floor. Plenty of meat left on him. He thought to himself. Maybe the dog would rather take his chances outside than eat rotten meat though. His eyes drifted over to the shining metal of the blood stained kitchen knife on the floor two feet from John’s body.

“That’s the murder weapon I presume,” Jack gestured to the knife. Rick nodded and stepped closer.

“No prints. None on the handle or the blade. Doesn’t seem like they were wiped off, but we’d have to have the guys at the lab take a look at it to be sure. Also the dog stepped on it a few times so there’s paw prints on the blade and probably the handle too. Hopefully that hasn’t contaminated it.” Rick adjusted his glasses as he spoke; he had a habit of doing that when he was annoyed. Confusing cases annoyed him.

Jack stood up. “So the killer comes in, finds John sitting in his chair here,” Jack said as he moved over to the floral print armchair a couple feet away from the body. “The killer would have to have come from the kitchen because the chair faces the front door, so he isn’t coming in that way without being seen,” Jack continued.

Rick raised a finger to interject, “Unless the killer came in through the door and hid somewhere when John wasn’t in his chair. That’s always a possibility.” That’s why they worked so well together. Rick filled in Jack’s blind spots and vice versa.

Jack conceded with a slight shrug. “Very possible but seems unlikely. A guy like this doesn’t keep his doors unlocked. He’s anxious all the time. Killer wouldn’t be able to just waltz into his house like that. He’d either have to break in or be someone that John knew and trusted, who he would have let in willingly. His closest family lives two hours away and that’s his elderly mother. His only other family is a sister who lives in England with her husband. He doesn’t have any friends that we know of and none of the neighbors saw anyone come or go. So we have to assume for the time being that the killer broke into the house without John realizing it.” Jack explained.

“Or his dog.” Rick said. “If someone broke in the dog didn’t alert him either. Which brings me back to the idea that it was someone John knew. Someone the dog was familiar with and wouldn’t have barked at.”

Jack looked at Rick and tried to organize his thoughts. Rick was right. The dog had to have been comfortable with whoever else was in the house not to alert John. That’s what a service dog does anyway, they help their owners with day to day things, including protecting the owner. Who would come over often enough that the dog would get used to them. Jack thought. It didn’t make sense. “What about the neighbors on the other side of this duplex? Did they hear anything?” Jack asked.

“Yeah they said that John was always yelling either on his phone or at his dog. Police have a few complaints filed by them against him and the dog. Apparently whenever he would actually leave the house to go down to the corner store he would leave the dog behind and she would go nuts. Howling and barking, sometimes knocking over furniture. On the night in question the neighbors said they heard him yelling at the dog and some banging but that it wasn’t anything unusual for him. He often paced around the house late at night and it was loud enough that they could hear him.” Rick explained.

No help there Jack thought to himself. He needed to focus on what they knew and see where that gets them. “Okay, so let’s table that for a moment. Killer comes in behind him while he’s in his chair with a knife from the kitchen. Slits his throat. John falls forward out of the chair, panicking for his life, falls to the floor and dies. Right?” Jack asked Rick.

“Right. Then the killer drops the knife on the floor, and-” Before he could finish Jack cut him off.

“Look at that.” He pointed into the kitchen on the floor. On the side of the counter on the floor was one empty bowl and another bowl. Full of dog food. “The dog had food,” Jack pointed out.

“Well yeah but if you had a choice between kibble and fresh meat which would you pick? It isn’t weird that the dog would choose a soft meaty body over that stuff,” Rick said.

“Oh I don’t disagree with that for a second.” Jack said. “But if the dog broke the window to escape because he was desperate for food and had run out, then why didn’t he eat the food there?” he asked.

Rick furrowed his eyebrows and stared at the kibble. He looked over at Jack. “What are you thinking then?” he asked.

Jack walked over to the broken window. “What if this is how the killer escaped. For whatever reason this psycho decided to jump through a window onto the porch than to use the perfectly good door right next to it,” Jack said.

“But why?” Rick asked. “It doesn’t make any sense. Also, if that’s the case where is the dog? Why would it run outside when it has everything it needs right here? Do you think the killer took the dog?” Rick was getting frustrated. This was a frustrating case.

Jack pursed his lips and nodded slightly. “Possible I suppose. I mean with the other stuff this sicko did before he left I wouldn’t rule out that he’d steal a dog and jump out a window. I wonder if the dog attacked him or not. I don’t know a lot about service dogs so I don’t know if they are trained to also be guard dogs, ya know? Honestly I don’t think the dog put up a fight. We’d see evidence of that but we don’t. Killer was able to just come into this guy’s home and kill him, without any resistance. The question is: Why? Maybe there is no good reason. Maybe this poor guy was just unlucky. Picked by some wandering psycho to be his next victim. All I know is we need to figure out how he got in and gather clues so we can figure out who he is. Worry about the “why” later.” Jack explained.

“And figure out what this is all about,” Rick said as he gestured to the biggest and most puzzling clue at the scene. A message written in blood from the killer on the living room wall. “I mean, what the fuck? What does this even mean?” Rick asked, exasperated.

Jack and Rick stood together and stared at the wall with its message in dried and crusty blood. “It is really fucking weird.” Jack said as he looked at the message on the wall which read: WOOF WOOF BARK WOOF RUFF RUFF.

Jack and Rick began to make their way to the back door to talk to the officers in the rear of the residence. Before he walked into the kitchen Rick stopped. Below the first “woof” written on the wall was a singular, bloody paw print. A dog’s paw print.

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