5,474
26.12.2018

I said, “Wait. Did you hear what the dog said just now?”

“Said? She barked . . .”

“Ah. Okay. And when you look at the dog right now, she’s . . .”

“Floatin’ a few feet off the floor.”

You’d think the fact that other people could witness the weirdness would have comforted me. It didn’t. It meant the rules had changed already.

“John and I need to have a word about this. We’ll, uh, be right back.”

On the way back to my car, I said, “We’re driving away as fast as we can. Right to the bakery counter at the grocery store.”

“Dave, those guys could see her. All the cops. They saw her floatin’ around and doing supernatural shit. That’s new.”

“That’s new? Why is she floating at all, John?”

“Gotta be the sauce, right? She got more of it than any of us. I was always amazed she survived. Maybe, you know, they got to her finally.”

“After all this time? None of this makes sense.”

“Did you hear what she said?”

“She said, ‘I serve none but Korrok.’”

Speaking that meaningless word made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, though I couldn’t pin down why. My mind almost made a connection, then abruptly steered clear of it nearly hard enough to make the train of thought go flying out of my ear.

“You sure?” said John. “I thought she said, ‘I serve none but to rock.’ I was about to agree with her.”

“Whatever, John.”

“So who’s Korrok?”

“Don’t know.”

And keeping it that way is making my brain’s denial gland work overtime.

“You still got the mints in your car?”

“I don’t know. I think so.”

John dug around in the glove compartment and pulled out a little roll of candies somebody had mailed to me a while back. Crazy people mail me things. Most of it I throw on a shelf in my toolshed and forget.

We went back to the front door of the house, and I shook one of the candies out into my palm. I very slowly turned the knob and pushed the door in, just enough to lean my head and my right arm through.

Molly the Hoverdog was about ten feet away, behind the couch and her incredibly hot new owner. I held out the candy, which immediately caught Molly’s attention.

I tossed the candy on the floor and quickly ducked back out. Molly floated over to it, tilted in midair until her snout was just over the white morsel. She lapped it up.

For a moment, nothing. John was about to supply the “it’s not working” when, with a wet, tearing KERRRAAAAACTCH sound, Molly exploded like a meat piñata at a birthday party for very strong, invisible children.

A couple of cops behind us cheered. Drake walked up. “What the hell was that?”

John answered for me. “It was a TestaMint. Little candies with Bible verses printed on them. You can get them at your local Christian bookstore. We were sort of hoping it would just drive the evil out of her, but . . .” John shrugged, businesslike. These things happen sometimes.

Drake said, “Fine. Now let’s get one thing clear. I don’t want to hear any more about this after tonight. This gets written up as a dog attack. Somebody’ll be here later to clean up the scene and there’ll be a funeral and all of these here men will go home to their wives and try to act like the world ain’t gone crazy.”

I said, “Yeah that’s probably for the best—”

Drake’s head snapped toward me.

“Shut up. I ain’t done.”

Back to John he said, “Between you and me, I need to know some things. That was your dog, right?”

“Well, Dave’s dog. But she’s belonged to several people . . .”

“Hey. Look in there. He’s dead. You understand me? Now, you and I both know, things . . . happen around here. In this town. Always have. My daddy wore this uniform before me, he told me stories. But I ain’t never seen anything like that.”

John put up his hands defensively and said, “Neither have we.”

“But the last time things got weird, you were there. With the party and all those kids that died, the detective that left and never came back. Don’t be playin’ games with me. If you know somethin’, tell me. Tell me so I can prepare for it.”

John said, “We don’t know the situation. Not yet.”

On the word “yet” I had the urge to punch John in the kidneys.

“But let us take a shot at the girl.” We all glanced toward Krissy, still frozen on the sofa. “Before the psychiatrist gets here or whoever you bring in to reboot people like her.”

Drake stared John down, then decided to roll the dice. “You got two minutes.”

“Great.” John ducked through the front door. Drake reached out and grabbed his elbow.

“Hey.”

“Yeah.”

“This the end of the world?”

He said it in the earnest, stiff-jawed manner of a middle-aged man asking the doc if it’s cancer. It scared the fuck out of me.

John said, “We’ll give you a call if we find out.”

John went to the couch, but I couldn’t resist stopping by the red, six-foot circle of dog mush.

I found Molly’s collar near her head. The bloodstained tag:

I’m Molly.

Please return me to . . .

“Good-bye, Molly,” I muttered. “Of all the dogs I’ve known in my life, I’ve never seen a better driver.”

Just before I turned away, I noticed something else. Out of the pile of dog salsa stuck one of the paws, straight up into the air. On the foot, on the pad where the palm would be on a human hand, was a marking, like a tattoo.

It was a little black symbol, something like the mathematical symbol for pi. I pointed this out to John, who suggested I take the severed paw home for further study. I decided it wasn’t that important. Maybe something the breeder put on there, I didn’t know. I hadn’t noticed it before but how often do you look at a dog’s feet?

Krissy Lovelace wouldn’t make eye contact with us and she wouldn’t respond to our voices, but we did get her to her feet and led her outside. We took her to the backyard, saying generic, soothing words to her the whole way.

Once we were out of sight of the cops, John put his hands on Krissy’s shoulders and turned her to face him. He held up his smoldering cigarette.

“Miss? You see this? You start talkin’ or I’m gonna burn you with it.”

No response.

“Ma’am,” I offered. “I’d do what he says. I’m a good guy, a reasonable guy, but my friend here? He’s a wild man. And once he gets goin’ I can’t stop him. Now wouldn’t you rather talk to me?”

Nothing.

John jammed the lit cigarette into the back of her hand with a pssssst sound.

She yelped and yanked her hand back, shaking it madly. “What the heck are you doing?” she screeched.

“Ma’am, we got a serious situation here,” John said, in a voice devoid of sympathy. “We got a dead guy and maybe a lot worse on the horizon if you can’t help us. Now I’m real sorry you saw what you saw but we ain’t got time for you to curl up into some psychological shell. Help us and you can just repress the memory later.”

She looked around for a moment, bewildered. Then:

“Molly!” she gasped. “Molly attacked Ken!”

“Yes, we know,” I said. “But we don’t get why—”

“And you say he died?”

“It’s—yes, he died. It’s a strange thing and we need you to tell us—”

“I’m gonna puke.” She leaned over. “Can I go to jail for this? Because it was my dog? Can they charge me with murder?”

“No. I—look, I don’t know. But we need to—”

“Miss,” John interrupted. “We have reason to believe your dog was possessed by some kind of Hell demon. Has Molly ever spoken to you before?”

Pause.

“Who are you guys?”

“Just answer the question. Please,” John said. “Has there ever been any levitation?”

“What? No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Ma’am,” I said, “if your dog was dabbling in the occult while you had her it’s best you tell us now. We’re experts.”

“What? No, no. I’ve only had her for a few weeks, she showed up at my house and I went to return her to the address on her tag but the owner was this weird girl and she told me to keep her. I was just walking her and we ran into Danny Wexler.”

She said that name like we should know it, like it was a mutual friend or something. She saw the look of nonrecognition on our faces and said, “The Channel Five sports guy. I . . . know him. He goes to my church. He pulled up alongside the road, like he was gonna stop at Ken Phillipe’s house because, you know, they work together. He gets out and he pets Molly and then he drives off. Just like that.”

I glanced at John, then turned to her.

“Ma’am—”

“Please stop calling me that. You sound like a cop when you do it. Call me Krissy.”

“Krissy,” I said, “tell me exactly what Wexler said to you. Word for word.”

“I don’t think he said much of anything. Just, ‘pretty dog you got there.’ Then he drove away. A second later Molly went nuts.”

“After he touched her?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Just to pet her, though.”

I flashed back to the beer truck, John touching Molly and waking up with a jolt, his soul jumping from her to him like a spark of static electricity.

“And he didn’t say anything else?” I asked. “Didn’t use the word ‘Korrok’ or anything like that?”

“Um, no, I’m pretty sure he didn’t.”

“Okay.” I turned to walk away.