Written by Addie Barnett

tw: mentions of animal abuse, murder, and violence

Dog Lost. Answers to the name Bella. If found, please contact (053) 666-9578 and deliver at Sainsbury Road, 48A. Reward: $1000.

A normal person would have looked at the flyer and melted on the spot. Their legs would have turned to mush, their eyes watering, and they would have been a mess for the rest of the day.

What that normal person doesn’t know is that a lot of these flyers are put out by scumbags who only want to make a profit off of these poor doggies. To make it worse, the soul who would bring the dog back would refuse to take any money. Because hey, we don’t need rewards to do good deeds.

I stare at the bruises on Bella’s ribcage and at the flyer in my hand. There is no way in hell I would return this pup to an abuser. If it had been a bigger dog, maybe it would have stood a chance. But what could a chihuahua do against a human? Bella whimpers and cowers in a corner of my apartment as if she was about to meet her maker. Someone had done a number on this tiny thing; I grab a glass of water, drink a little to quell my nerves, but end up throwing it all back in the sink. What kind of psychopath would do this to a tiny dog?

I had watched enough movies to know this is how serial killers start. Animal abuse–hurt those who can’t talk or defend themselves.

“Hey, girl.” I squat down and push the bowl of food closer. “Don’t you want to eat?”

My chest contracts every time I notice one of her bones jutting out. This was wrong, and what made it worse is that no one seemed to want to do a damn thing. How she had managed to escape was beyond me.

Noticing she has no intention of eating while I look at her, I stand up sighing and go to grab her a blanket. Maybe she would stop shivering–not that it was cold in my apartment. For her, everyone on two legs was bad news. I just wish she would realize I meant her no harm.

When I return, Bella is grudgingly eating the leftovers of my lasagne, but cowers back the moment I try to come closer. I throw the blanket her way, knowing she would eventually slither underneath and, hopefully, fall asleep. She is smart; her eyes sparkle like two gemstones, filled with black whirlwinds of terror.

I shake my head, take my keys from the bowl sitting on the coffee table, and shrug myself into a jacket. She would be better off on her own for a couple of hours and I have business to attend to, anyway. 

I park at the yellow house, checking the address the flyer provided. Who puts their address on a flyer, anyway?

Someone who doesn’t care if they are found.

But if this person were indeed violent, they would have never done such a thing. Unless, of course, an idiot like me came with the dog, and started sniffing around. Then, that idiot would probably get killed. I take my gun from the glove compartment, making sure it’s loaded. The safety is on as I hide it in my jacket. I haven’t used it in years, but its presence still comforts me. Preparing for the worst never hurt anyone.

I lock my car and trudge to the door, rapping my knuckles on the wood a few times. Just when I decide to turn back, secretly grateful no one was there, a woman opens the door.

“Hi, how can I help you?” She looks at me with suspicion, so I extend my hand.

“Hi, I’m Jessica. I saw your flyer and wanted to offer my sympathy. I used to have a Pitbull back in the day–the sweetest thing, really. It got out of the house on a summer morning and the pound caught it and euthanized it, the jerks. Pebbles wouldn’t have hurt a soul.” I sniffle and pretend to wipe away a tear.

My little act doesn’t gauge any reaction from her–a bad sign, considering she is supposed to have lost her prized pup and best friend. A bland thank you is all she manages to mutter.

“I did notice something odd.” I pull out the flyer. “She seems to have some bruises on her ribcage in this picture.”

Before I even know what is going on, the woman pulls me into the house, shuts the door, and presses a pistol on my temple.

“Lookie here, Jessica. I don’t like people sniffing around.”

“You know animal abuse is a criminal offense? Not your first, huh?”

Something reeks in this house–it smells of decay and rot. As if something had died. Shit. My brain wants me to think it’s a human, and my heart decides it’s another dog. I don’t like either prospect.

She smiles. “Where’s my dog?”

“No idea.”

Her laugh sends shivers down my spine, but it distracts her enough to not notice me pulling my own gun.

“Like hell-”

She doesn’t get to finish her sentence. Do I regret what I did that day? No, not really. A person who comes equipped with a muffle rarely regrets their actions.

“Is it done?”


“Did she suffer?”

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get that far. She sniffed me out.”

“Check your account. Nice doing business with you.”

“And vice versa.”

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