This passage from Open Your Eyes :
He might be a full-grown Rottie with the spirit of a Spartan warrior and a brutal background that pretty much defined the concept of evil put to human form until Bobby rolled along and stole him to salvation; but he was a big fucking baby, too. He spent at least as much time sprawled on his back on Bobby’s couch as he did patrolling the yard outside, threatening strangers with a good eat-down if they dared cross the line between his and he-doesn’t-care.
pretty much made it inevitable that I would eventually write this story.
Author: Dodger Winslow
Word Count: 3,900
Disclaimer: I'm don't own the boys, I'm just stalking them for a while.
Summary: Bobby approached the dog slow and easy, lowering himself to a crouch just outside quick snap range. Up close, the smell was worse than he’d imagined. The shit had drawn flies to its wounds, made more of a mess of the poor thing than it already was.
The dog was almost dead, it had been that badly beaten.
Leaning against the counter, Bobby watched it breathe in the yard outside; every short, shallow gasp a rebellion; every agonized slow exhale a testament to enduring. It was lying on its side, black coat matted with sweat and blood and its own shit. So weak it couldn’t pull itself out of what passed through its digestive tract to foul the dust and dirt around it to spatterings of deep, brackish black-red; it suffered in silence, too proud or too far gone to seek help, to ask for mercy.
The salvage yard’s owner was in the back, digging through piles of parts stacked on rows of metal shelving. He was making quite a clatter, searching for the carburetor on Bobby’s list.
Listening to his progress, Bobby watched the dog struggle to live with every breath it took.
The day was almost over. It had been a hot one. Dry. Punishing. There was a water dish in the yard, but it was outside the reach of the massive chain wrapped around the animal’s neck. There was blood on that chain. Tufts of hair and hide in the rusted links told what it had been used for, why the dog sprawled in the dying day’s swelter didn’t care the water was just beyond any effort it might make to seek relief.
When the yard owner found the carburetor, he came back to the counter, dropped it in a box with the rest of Bobby’s order and began to tally up the damage. The parts would come in handy. That carburetor, in particular, was one Bobby had been looking to get his hands on for a while now.
A black fly buzzed in through the open door from the yard outside. It circled the yard owner, opted for Bobby instead. He waved it off, flicked it out of mid-air with a snap of two fingers when it wouldn’t go.
"Whose dog?" he asked, lifting his chin slightly to indicate the battered body left to rot in the sun like it wasn’t worth the effort to bury.
The man glanced out the door, snorted his disdain. "Likely God’s or the devil’s by morning," he said, going back to the invoice he was filling out in blue ink and grease stains.
"He a bad one?" Bobby asked.
"Stupid," the man answered without looking up. "Dumber than any animal I’ve ever met. And stubborn as an ox. Be a blessing to be shed of him, I’ll tell you that much."
Bobby nodded. "Sometimes they aren’t even worth the price of a bullet to the brain." His voice was level, his eyes calm as he studied the man standing on the other side of the counter.
"You’ve got that right," the yard owner grunted. "Raised him from his mama’s tit, and the son of a bitch goes and bites the hand that feeds him." He looked up, smiled at Bobby as he said, "Won’t likely do that again."
Bobby let his gaze return to the dog, watched it struggle its way through the effort of drawing another breath. "Right as rain you are on that one, my friend," he said.
It was probably just as well the yard owner was a shape-shifter by night. If he’d been a less supernaturally evil sort, Bobby might have had a little harder time justifying the kill to anyone who wasn’t a dog lover by nature. As it was though, killing him was something Bobby came here planning to do. The only difference the dog made was in how long he took to do the job and how much satisfaction he took in the end result.
The sun was going down as he slid the box of parts onto the passenger-side floor of his pickup. The heat was still oppressive, heavy like a burden carried too far for too long; but it was easing up now, giving a man some relief as the worst of it faded into memory and dusk overtook the landscape to muted greys and purples and blues. Slamming the door shut, he went back inside to set the place to a slow burn. It would take a while to catch. He saw to that before putting a match to the yard owner’s salted body. He’d kicked clear anything that might go up quick, put a slow wick in the man rather than igniting the flash and burn of applied kerosene. Some things deserved the drama of big fire burning bright. As far as Bobby was concerned, this son of a bitch wasn’t one of them.
He closed the office door behind him when he left. There were still a couple of details to attend; he wanted to limit the amount of draft that could get in and stir things before he was ready to have them stirred. He’d dressed the stage to read like a man smoking himself into an early grave the hard way to the locals. One of the advantages to hunting in the middle of nowhere was the disgraceful lack of arson investigators working this end of where the buffalo roam. There was one in Sioux Falls — a drunk fuck who wouldn’t know which end of a matchstick to worry about if someone went to strike it on his ass — and another in Rapid City; but neither would make the trip here. Not for this.
Because dusk was on the way out and night was coming on, he felt walking the yard in plain view was a minimal risk he could afford, so he left the parts building by the side door to open the yard gate from the inside. He backed his old, battered pickup in close and left it running when he got out to lower the tailgate and make his approach.
There wasn’t much traffic out here, but one stray car wandering too far off the beaten path was all it took. He had no desire to get himself uprooted from his business and his home, be sent packing on penalty of being slapped in the pokey for performing a public service in the damn under-appreciative public’s best interests. Though he could (and would) move if it came to that, a little due caution was a wise man’s policy against such an unnecessary circumstance proving inevitable.
He’d taken to the road when he was young, traveled enough to wear shoe leather down to the soul, and he was tired of the nomad life. That was John Winchester’s game these days, but no longer his. He’d sunk roots in this place, grown accustomed to the elbow room the Dakotas offered. It was an old land, with plenty to hunt and plenty of room to hunt it. It was also a hard land, a place that required a man want to live here to make a go of it, and he liked that as well. It kept the neighbors down to a number he could manage by pulling out a couple of chairs when the whole lot of them got together to discuss matters of common interest, like roads and whatnot.
Or livestock disappearing, along with an occasional teenager from the surrounding areas.
Damn fools got it in their heads they had a big cat problem. Pretty much anything that went missing in these parts got blamed on a rogue cougar, like there were that many cougars — rogue or otherwise — in the whole country. But that was their easy answer, so Bobby let them keep it. No doubt they slept better at night dreaming of an animal they could outsmart than they would have knowing it was a man put to evil who would keep eating their children until someone got around to doing something about it.
Bobby approached the dog slow and easy, lowering himself to a crouch just outside quick snap range. Up close, the smell was worse than he’d imagined. The shit had drawn flies to its wounds, made more of a mess of the poor thing than it already was.
He’d thought it was a Rott but hadn’t been able to verify that for sure until now. A mix by the look of it, standard markings and body type, but with the extra heft of a mastiff to the shoulders and flanks, if Bobby was any judge.
And he was.
It was male, massive. He weighed in at a good hundred and twenty, maybe a little more. All muscle and teeth, not an ounce of indulgence on him. Young one, too — a couple years old at best. But even so, the battered, muscular body had lived a lifetime of hell, scarred and broken in places long healed before these wounds were inflicted, before this round of living had beaten him to the state he was in.
It made Bobby want to kill the yard owner all over again; only slower this time, and without quite the care to be efficient in how the dispatch of things progressed.
He studied the motionless animal for several minutes in the gathering dark, making mental note of the worst wounds he’d need to avoid … places where the twist of the dog’s body indicated breaks, where the lash of heavy gauge metal had laid flesh open to the bone. One leg was near tore clean off at the joint, and the chain looked to have come within a frog’s breath of taking out one of his eyes. The bone trauma both above and below the socket was deep enough the wounds had caked the eye over blind, but it didn’t look to be punctured, or to have taken on an infection yet, so there was at least some chance it could still be saved.
If the dog himself could be saved, of course. Only God knew if that card was still in the deck, Him being the only one privy to what shape the battered soul might be in below what could be seen by a studied eye.
Bobby was pretty sure the dog knew he was there, but because it hadn’t responded to as much yet, he introduced himself, speaking quietly, keeping his tone flat and level, as soothing as he knew how to manage. Best to give a wounded animal the chance to become familiar with the sound of a stranger, with the smell of a stranger, before it was asked to tolerate the touch of a stranger. He didn’t respond to Bobby’s voice any more than he had to Bobby’s proximity, as poor a sign as there was for a breed defined by their sense of duty. A yard dog’s duty was keeping strangers at bay; his willingness to allow a stranger to walk his territory without challenge was more worrisome than the more visible aspects of his piss-poor condition.
Bobby kept talking as he moved in a little closer, put a hand to a body that shivered with pain at a mere touch. This time, the Rott growled. His barrel chest spasmed a little with the effort it took to warn Bobby off.
Bobby nodded his approval. That he was still alive at this stage of the game proved the dog tough. That he was willing to continue to struggle through the draw of every breath proved him either strong or stupid, depending on a man’s view. But this response — this rebuff of an unsolicited touch — proved the dog proud. He wanted it known he was only beat near dead in the flesh, not in the spirit.
Guard dog’s purview was his territory first, and then the autonomy of his own body. Encroaching on either without specific invitation to do so was to presume upon the very nature of the dog himself. Even in this state, were the dog beyond objecting to such a presumption, he was like as not already dead anywhere that living really mattered.
"I know you’ve had a hard one so far, son," Bobby said as he ran his fingers along the dog’s neck, careful to avoid fresh wounds baked to a dry agony by the day’s heat. The stroke served dual purpose, verifying there was no break in the spine — something that would mean the best to hope for was mercy dealt quick from a .45 — and seeking to impart some small measure of comfort, if comfort could still be had by this animal at the hand of any man it might take as being of similar stripe to the one who put him to this condition. "And you’ve like as not have been charged with the job of holding all comers away at cost of flesh and bone should you fail. But even so, and knowing you’ve got no reason to trust me but for my asking as much, I’d still ask you to grant me some small measure of credit here to buy my way into earning more."
The Rott growled again, a low rumble of reverberation that choked to a small whine before it trickled to silence.
"If it buys me anything in the saying or just buys you a moment’s peace of mind, I’d have you know I did for you when it comes to that rat bastard who took to you this way," Bobby went on gently as he continued his exam, checking the dog’s spine clear to his tail before he could breathe easy that a bullet was not the only option the yard owner left him. "Wouldn’t have been right of me to treat him as poorly as he treated you, but I will tell you I took more pleasure in the bleeding of him than I should have, and I didn’t let him go to his final reward as quick as I otherwise might. Probably be a tally in the strike column on my day of final reckoning, but I can’t say as I regret it one iota, nor can I see my way clear to thinking I ever might."
The dog’s leg twitched a little, one massive paw dangling useless where the broke ends of bone showed through a bloody tear of muscle. He whined again, something he like as not meant to be a growl if he’d had it in him, which he didn’t. The dog was watching Bobby now, his eye dull with pain but focussed. Aware. There was a sense of resignation in how he waited to see what Bobby would do, an understanding that whatever happened now was beyond his control.
Bobby sighed. Running one hand over his mouth, he glanced at the pickup, then over at the salvage yard’s main building. Smoke was starting to gather, seeping from windows already black on the inside with soot. There was already enough put to the dusky air to drive off the flies tormenting the dog’s wounds to the intent of laying their eggs in the fester, and that was all it took to draw witnesses to a blaze in hopes of roasting weenies over a tragedy. He couldn’t afford to stick around much longer unless he wanted to be held to a legal accounting for something he’d have done for the justice of it, had he not done it for the need.
"I hate to move in on you like this, son," Bobby said, shifting closer to the dog’s filthy body, bracing one knee into the blood-black dust for leverage. "But I don’t see a whole lot of choice in how we go from here. So fair warning offered that I’ll as gentle as I can be, but there’s no way this is easy for the either of us, so if you feel like expressing your displeasure with my tactics, I’d ask you to give mind to my intentions here, but also encourage you to express yourself if, in the expressing, it buys you some small measure of relief."
Bobby slipped his hands under the Rott’s body, one near the shoulders, one near the hips. The dog tensed with something that might have been either panic or protest. Or perhaps it was just a simple bracing for whatever might be coming.
"This’ll like be the worst of it," Bobby told him.
There was no mistaking the sick grate of bone shifting against bone as he lifted the massive animal off the ground; no missing the deep resonance of agony rumbling though the Rott’s body as Bobby pushed to a slow stand, mindful of the injuries he could see, haunted by the knowing there were so many more he couldn’t. The dog’s body began to tremble in his arms. It wasn’t fear, it was pain; a status quo of endured suffering stirred back to its full range of acute sensation. Sounds so low they were barely audible passed through blood-flecked jowls. Bobby took them as prayers the ilk of which would come from a man driven beyond his ability to believe in the God to whom he prayed.
"I’m sorry as I can be to do this to you our first time meeting," Bobby said, carrying the dog to the truck, "but I don’t see any other way to go, so if you do, you be sure and let me know." He slid the dog into the bed of his pickup, settling him on a small nest of blankets put there for that purpose. The dog whined a low objection as Bobby adjusted his position to keep him from rolling when the truck moved, to keep his body from shifting in a way that would bring weight to bear on the twist of that boneless paw hanging limp so it made a man sick just in the seeing of it.
"There we go now," Bobby soothed. "Nothing but the fat lady’s serenade between the two of us and being shed of this place forever." He went to retrieve his bolt cutter from the cab of the truck. When he returned, the dog’s eye was closed, its breathing shallow and strained. Bobby put the scissors blade of the cutter to one link of the chain wrapped tight and dug in deep around the dog’s neck. It took some measure of strength and effort to sever metal without catching skin, but he managed it, and the chain fell away, rattling against the truck as it went.
Whether it was the sound of the chain or simply the proximity of his hand to the dog’s face, the Rott mustered the sand to snap. He caught Bobby unprepared, sinking teeth into flesh and digging in to the end of shedding blood.
Bobby cursed, jerked his hand clear of jaws that lacked the strength to hold him. The bite was deep and dirty, half a dozen more scars in the making. Had the dog been something less than a whisper short of dead, it might have taken his hand off all together.
The wounds wept blood onto the truck bed as Bobby examined it, judged it worthy of the curses he’d uttered. The dog watched, expecting retaliation for a bite delivered less in self defense than as the last resort of an animal beyond what it was willing to continue to endure. Bobby looked up, met the single dark eye, wet with pain and unblinking. "Respectable," he said. "Given your condition."
The Rott curled a lip in defiance. The snarl he managed was little more than a whisper, but it was respectable, given his condition. Bobby nodded. "I hear that," he agreed. Stepping back, he slammed the tailgate shut.
It took longer than he would have liked to make it back to his place, the majority of the trip over roads less adequately paved than Bobby would have hoped. He didn’t really expect the dog to be alive when he pulled into the lot of his salvage yard, but it was.
Not by much, but by enough.
The defiance that sustained him during the drive had bled dry. He didn’t whine when Bobby picked him up this time, didn’t make a sound at all as Bobby carried him inside, laid him on the floor near the bed. He was still as death and twice as quiet while Bobby cleaned the wounds he felt would benefit and left those that wouldn’t for later. He dosed the animal with antibiotics, then hung a bag of ringers he kept on hand for other purposes but that would do for this one, too. When he’d done as much as he could, he let the dog be, left him to the dark and the quiet, knowing he’d either survive or he wouldn’t and only time would tell which would come to pass.
He was still alive when Bobby came back six hours later, changed the IV, administered some morphine to help with the worst of his pain. The dog took the shot without flinching. He didn’t growl when Bobby touched him, didn’t do anything at all but watch Bobby’s every move.
It was almost a week before he could take water without it being poured down his throat by way of a turkey baster. It was significantly longer before he could sit up, drink on his own, accept food in some form other than intravenous nourishment the like meant more for humans than for dogs. Though Bobby’d been near sure the leg was beyond his skills to salvage, once he got it splinted proper, it began to knit on its own. It healed at an unnatural angle but was whole enough, strong enough, to take its full measure of weight once the Rott decided to test the boundaries of what he could and could not do.
The first time the dog stood on his own, Bobby felt a bit like crying from the pure joy of seeing such a thing come to pass. The first time he took a shit at some remove from where he slept, Bobby knew the corner had been turned; knew an animal forced to walk the fires of hell had found his way clear of heat and brimstone no animal could ever rightfully earn.
He named the dog Rumsfeld for reasons far too perverse to dwell on, and gave him a place to sleep on the far side of the bed when he was strong enough to get there on his own. Rumsfeld took to the yard when he was ready, staking the place his own with a limp and a hide full of scars he wore proudly, a silent testimony to enemies conquered, survival hard won. He took to sitting on the couch with Bobby at night; took to rolling over on his back there, sleeping with three feet flopped lax and one sticking straight up, snoring so loud Bobby had to turn the idiot box up just to hear the idiots over the ruckus.
It was three months and more gone from the day Bobby first saw Rumsfeld lying in the sun, left there to rot by an evil that deserved putting down as much as any evil ever has, that the massive animal shifted beside him on the couch, slow in the way only a dog still half broke from pure spite could be slow, to lick the twisted, white scars he’d bitten into the hand that brought him home.
Author's Note: And yes, I meant "soul" not "sole" ;-)