Home > Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2)(12)

Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2)(12)
Author: Robyn Carr

Sierra bolted off the hammock and ran to the campsite where her worst fears were realized. Petersen held the dog by the chain collar and smacked her on the head again and again.

“Stop!” Sierra screamed. “Stop that!”

“Mind your own goddamn business,” he said, hitting the dog again.

It took a second to comprehend that he’d behave so, yell so, when he was literally living outside among a large group of campers. “Stop! I swear to God if you strike that animal again...”

He hit her again. Molly cowered and whimpered.

Sierra lost it. She threw herself at the man’s back, launched on him with her arms around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist. “You’re the animal!”

“What the hell...?”

“Treating a defenseless animal so cruelly, how do you like it?” she said, tightening her arms around his neck.

The man shook her violently, but she hung on. He tried prying her arms from around his neck, but there was no give in her. “Beast,” she muttered. “Animal!”

“Sierra! Let loose of that man!”

At Sully’s command, Sierra let go and fell clumsily to the ground, landing on her ass. The fall jolted her for a moment, and then she regained her wits and saw that Anne and her daughter stood in the open door of the camper while Sully stood a few feet away, one hand leaning on a baseball bat.

Petersen huffed a bit to catch his breath. “Good thing you warned her,” he said. “I was close to forgetting she was a girl and give her what for.”

Sully hefted his bat. “You forget that was a defenseless animal, too?”

“It’s my animal!”

“More’s the pity. We got some pretty strict cruelty laws in this county and that was plumb cruel. I called the police.”

“Well, good for you,” he grumbled.

“If you don’t want that dog, I got a home for her,” Sully said.

“Bugger off, old man.”

“Police chief might take her. He’s got four goldens already but he’s mighty fond of ’em and might fancy another. They sleep with him.”

“Take her,” Petersen said. “It’ll save me the trouble of drowning her.”

Sierra got to her feet slowly, brushing off her rear end. The very first thing she noticed was Molly sitting docilely beside her miniature kennel, her head cocked to one side with what looked like a satisfied expression on her face. Sierra quickly went to the dog, took her collar in hand and led her out of the campsite.

Petersen went into his camper, out of sight.

“Come along,” Sully said, heading off for his house, not the store, leaving Sierra and Molly to follow. “I bet you were a lot of trouble to raise.”

“I was hardly noticeable,” Sierra replied.

“There’s a lot of bullshit if I ever heard any,” he said.

He didn’t go inside, but rather to the front porch of his house. He took a seat in one of the rocking chairs, resting the bat on the ground beside him.

“What are we doing?” she asked, standing there.

“Have a seat,” he said. “Just keep a hand on the dog till she decides it’s okay to lay down and relax.”

“Where’s Beau?” she asked, because Beau was usually close to Sully.

“I penned him in the bedroom for now. Molly doesn’t need the distraction.”

Sierra sat down next to Sully. They rocked in the dark and she kept a hand on Molly, gently stroking her. When she’d stop, Molly put her head on Sierra’s lap. She was docile as a lamb. “Why are we sitting here?” she finally asked.

“I’m awake,” Sully said. “Might as well sit up awhile longer and see if there’s anything to see.”

“See? See what?”

He sighed. “Just give it a few minutes. Patience, Sierra.”

After a few minutes, she quietly asked, “Do you think the police chief will take the dog?”

“I doubt it,” he said.

“But you said—”

“Girl, I say a lot of things.”

Sierra just fell silent, Molly’s head in her lap while she scratched behind the pretty girl’s silky ears. She couldn’t imagine what they were doing just sitting there but she took comfort in the fact that Molly wouldn’t be back in Petersen’s care. Then in about fifteen minutes it all began to make sense. Chad Petersen started his big, extended cab truck, backed it up to the fifth wheel, threw the lawn chairs inside the trailer and his family into the truck, disconnected his hookup, reeled in the canopy, attached the trailer to the truck hitch and pulled out.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“Round about ten,” Sully said.

“Hey, you knew he’d do that! Didn’t you?”

“I had an idea.”

“You heard the noise when he was hitting her and it woke you?”

“Sierra, I’m over seventy. I sleep in my drawers. You really think I’m spry enough to get my clothes and my boots on and run on over to the campsite in under five minutes? I knew what was gonna happen and just like you, I waited on it.”

“Just like me?”

“Didn’t you take up watch from the hammock?”

“Well...yes! You knew that?”

He nodded in the dark. “Didn’t really surprise me.”

“You think the police will come now?”

“I didn’t call ’em,” he said. “Didn’t want to waste Stan’s time. I knew once I called Petersen on it he’d just pull out.”

“What does it mean? Does it mean you won’t get paid?”

“I wouldn’t care, if it came to that, but as it happens I took a nice deposit from his credit card. What it means, I reckon, is you now got yourself a dog.”

Sierra was elated for a moment, until she started thinking about how she didn’t know quite what to do with a dog. She knew what not to do. She’d never hurt an animal. But she was no expert in training one. It wasn’t until Sully stood up to go to bed, finally, that she asked. “Can I borrow some dog food?”

“Just take a bowl with you to your cabin for water and Molly can have breakfast with Beau in the morning. Time she got on a decent schedule.”

“Are you going to help me a little bit?”

“If I don’t, that dog will starve or run off,” he said. “Good night, Sierra.”

* * *

It should have come as no surprise, Molly had not had a proper grooming in a while. She slept with Sierra, snuggled up close, quiet and content and...smelly. Fortunately, Sierra had the whole day to herself on Sunday and could not only make sure Molly had a thorough shampoo but that the linens in her little cabin were also laundered. “We’ll just start over,” she confided to her new best friend.

Molly had to learn some manners for dining with Beau at breakfast—she wanted whatever he was eating, even though it was the same food. It looked like manners could take a while. But Sully coached her to show Molly what to do, then praise her, then praise her again, then let her perform again. “Someone should have tried that approach with me,” she muttered. But Molly, for her part, acted as though she knew who had rescued her. She sat still, wagged and smiled up at Sierra in a way that threatened to melt her heart.

Next it was spa day for Molly and she was prettified. Sully had an extra collar and leash and Sierra employed both to try to show her how to walk beside her, and that was going to take forever. Instead, Sully suggested they show her how to come when called. Molly sat beside Beau, Sully hanging on to both dogs while Sierra told them to sit and stay. Then she walked away, turned back, said their names and the command, “Come.” Molly very likely did what Beau did, but she did it. And both dogs got a small cookie.

“I have to go to work tomorrow,” she said. “How will you manage?”

“Lots of hands around during the day, Sierra. We’ll manage. And if you change your mind, there’s a great shelter not far from here. They’d treat her right until a home can be found.”

“I fought for her,” she said. “Let me try. But if it gets too much for you, do you promise to tell me?”

“Not a lot seems like too much anymore,” he said. “We all deserve a second chance. And I reckon Beau will help train Molly.”

Sierra came home from work with a few new toys for Sierra. She made sure her cabin was puppy safe—nothing left out to get into trouble with. She first walked her, worked with her a little bit, then put her in the cabin with water and two new toys, and left her for only twenty minutes. Then she rewarded her with lots of affection, paid attention to her for twenty minutes, and left her again. That went perfectly well three times.

Then Molly chewed off the handle of her circular brush, which had been sitting atop the bureau. Out of reach.

“Whose reach?” Sully asked.

“Oh God, this is going to take forever!”

“Takes a lot longer to raise a human. Be patient.”

The next day she brought home a new brush and two rawhide chews. The brush went in the drawer and the rawhide came out only when she left the cabin for a while, then it was put away again.

When she came home from work on Thursday afternoon, Frank was sitting on the porch with Molly. Sierra parked behind the cabin and walked over to the store. When she came around the corner Frank told Molly, “There she is, girl.” Molly burst out at a dead run and nearly tackled Sierra, jumping on her, licking her face, half barking, half crying as if Sierra had just returned from war. It brought Sierra to her knees. She crooned to the dog, “I’m home, I’m home, I love you, too.” And then she let Molly lick her face until she was covered with slobber.

“She scratch you or something?” Frank asked when she came up on the porch.

“No,” she said, wiping her wet face. “No one’s ever been that happy to see me.”

* * *

Tom Canaday was seen around Timberlake all the time since he lived in the neighborhood. He was as involved in the kids’ school activities as much as his schedule would allow and all the local businesses knew him even if he did travel a bit farther for most of his building supplies to get the best prices. He stopped in the diner now and then, maybe for a cup of coffee or slice of pie. Really, he was a very sociable guy without a lot of time on his hands to be social.

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