Dog Days

By: Edie Bryant



1





Natalie





As I parked in front of the dilapidated old house, I had to search for the address numbers to make sure I was in the right place. They were hard to make out at first—the blue paint had all but chipped off of the ‘693,’ making the numbers blend into the house. But I was at the right place.

I got out of my squad car, slamming the door behind me loudly. This had been the first call of my shift, and I was still bleary-eyed and attempting to shake off the ache of tiredness. I hated working the late night shift, only to be followed by working an early morning shift.

Normally, this kind of scheduling was avoidable, but I was taking every bit of overtime that was offered to me in an attempt to position myself for a promotion in the near future.

I walked up to the house, carefully sliding the rusty black gate on its hinges. The creaking screeched in my ears as it slid open. I had to admit, the closer I got to the house, the more confused I was about this call.

I had been told the owner of the house had called about a burglary being committed earlier in the day. Apparently, he had been asleep, and only noticed when he awoke that someone had been in the house.

But, for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine a robber sizing up this place as a decent possible target. Surely someone who couldn’t even afford a lawn mower to maintain the foot-long dead grass in their front yard didn’t have many valuables inside.

I stepped up onto the stained cement porch and rang the doorbell. But when I didn’t hear a noise ring out from the other side of the door, I assumed that it was broken and decided knocking would be a better option.

Within a minute, a frantic, gray-haired old man had arrived at the door. His eyes were nearly bulging out of his head.

“Sir?” I asked hesitantly.

“You’re the police,” he stated, as if he were observing the shade of blue that filled the sky today.

“Yes, I am. I’m Officer Natalie Bryant. I’m here to take a report of a burglary. Did you call that in?”

His eyes lit up as if he suddenly remembered.

“Yes!” he nearly shouted. “I did! I called it! Someone has broken into my house! Come see!”

His entire demeanor had changed. He had gone from suspicious and shifty to downright excited. Why someone would be excited about a recent break-in, I couldn’t tell you. But it was immediately clear that something was off here.

Unfortunately, the inside of the house wasn’t much of an improvement on the outside. In fact, I thought it might actually be worse. I was physically stepping on trash as I walked inside the house. Old newspapers, empty cups, paper plates—pretty much any kind of trash you could imagine.

“Follow me!” the old man said as he stepped back into the hallway.

I did, hesitantly, unsure of what other mess I was going to find as I turned the corner.

But it was much of the same. How long had he been living like this? And why wasn’t he even the slightest bit concerned about me seeing his house in this state?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d seen plenty of messy houses in my time on the force. But most mentally stable people seemed extremely embarrassed to need police assistance while their house was in shambles. Most would apologize profusely. But this old man acted as if the mess wasn’t even there. Maybe for him, it wasn’t.

Obviously, I wasn’t dealing with someone who fell into the ‘mentally stable’ category.

He led me to a bathroom and opened up a cabinet under the sink.

“Here!” he stated excitedly. “Look!” He was now on the floor on all fours, his hand pointing into the cabinet.

I crouched down on my legs, my hand leaned up against the bathroom counter. I tried to keep my balance while also attempting to avoid touching anything too disgusting.

I peeked underneath the cabinet and saw a gaping black hole. Someone or something had managed to break open both the back of the cabinet and the wall which led into the next room.

“I see…” I said slowly, trying to piece together his thought process. Was this hole in the wall somehow related to the idea that someone had broken in?

“You do!” he said eagerly. “You do see! This is how they came in.”

No, it absolutely wasn’t. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, I could see that the hole led into the next bedroom. It didn’t lead outside. What possible benefit could this hole provide a burglar?