Chapter 34: Watchdog
Leo sat in his chair, fuming. On the monitor, his captives were still and silent. The woman was drugged to stop the screaming. The Haskell boy was broken. He had seen it before. Thompson’s last twist of the knife had at last gotten the truth out of him.
But now his people couldn’t find the stupid gadget. One or two of them would need to become examples for the others. They should have found it the first time! Supposedly, it was on the dash in plain sight.
Thompson had taken the old Chevy over to a chop shop for a thorough examination. No bolt would be left in place by the time they got through with the old car. They had to find the device. If the chop shop mechanics came up empty, it would be time to start disassembling the Galvez brothers.
Could Thompson be working against me? He had been faithful for years, but he had made a number of mistakes in this fiasco. Exile must be weighing on him as well.
Was he under the delusion Angelo would move him into my place if I fail?
It was something to think about.
Ruben growled. Leo looked up at the security monitors.
People had tried to convince him that dogs couldn’t understand what was on the TV screens, but he knew better.
Standing on his front lawn was a Latina girl.
“Who is that?” he asked.
The security guard said, “Probably someone’s maid. I’ve seen her walk by earlier today. She’s probably lost.”
Probably! I hate that word!
The dog was immediately alert. The guard let him out the door an instant later.
On the monitor, Leo watched with glee as the girl reacted with fright to the Rottweiler exploding out of the gate toward her.
She froze for several seconds, then turned and began to run, but Ruben was much too fast for her. His jaws latched onto her arm and they tumbled across the grass.
Leo keyed the microphone and blew the dog whistle.
Ruben released the girl and ran back toward the house.
Leo had a treat for him as he came back into the room.
“Save that tape,” he ordered. “I want it as evidence she was a trespasser.” Just in case she was stupid and complained to the police.
Deena walked down into the gully behind the house, out of sight of their security cameras. She was still shaking from reaction to the dog’s attack.
It was the hardest thing she had done to let it catch her.
I can think fast when I have too! Sometimes.
Now she had to wait to find out if the nanobots had reacted equally fast.
There was a low tree. She sat down and closed her eyes. How long would it take?
Ruben was basking in the approval of his master, his mouth still savoring the meat treat he had been given, when the urge to roam came over him.
It was perfectly normal. The master’s territory was his to defend. He walked to the door and one of the lesser humans opened it for him.
Out in the yard, the scent of the intruder was still present—only something was different about that smell.
He trotted the perimeter of the yard, locating where the scent was strongest, and then dashed to his gate.
Quickly, he located her. Something was very different this time.
The bitch was a pack-leader, he could feel it now. Like several others in the master’s territory, she was one the master approved. She was in the pack.
Ruben didn’t spend a second worrying why she was an intruder moments ago, and now a pack-leader. Things change. He knew that.
He approached and he suddenly scented something else
Treat! Treat! He nuzzled up close, and stuck his face into her pocket. The scent of jerky was strong.
She laughed and gave him one. She chewed on another as he worked away on his.
When it was done, she stuck her hand into his mouth. He licked. There was something on her hand. He licked it clean.
Nanobots swarmed in through the dog’s system, adding their numbers to the few already in place. The new ones were already programmed for their tasks. Like a wave through water, little machines were weaving through the canine brain, making their connections. Pulsers were taking up positions along the spinal column. Assemblers and storage organelles were tapping into the kidneys.
Deena felt Ruben’s connection grow by the second. She could see changes in his eyes. She was more than human to him. She was a bitch-leader, one of his pack. He would defend her with his life, just like the master.
She felt his love.
“Here, boy. Take this.”
Ruben took the plastic thing gently into his jaws.
There were things he needed to do. Important things to defend the master’s territory. He turned back to the buildings.
It was pleasant to have a new pack mate.
Luther winced as the dog scratched on the door outside. His heartbeat began pounding when the guard opened the door for him.
The black dog had bitten him once, but nothing as bad as the job it had done on Katy’s arm.
Anyone who would give free rein to a vicious dog deserved to be killed.
But he wouldn’t be the one to do it. Once Leo Drye made his boss happy, Katy and he would be just lumps of meat to be buried.
The dog has something in his mouth. A cell phone?
It looked like one. Why did the dog have a cell phone? It looked like his. Did Leo give it to the dog as a chew toy?
It was dropped at Luther’s feet. But bound as he was, hands and feet, there was nothing he could do.
At least the animal wasn’t fierce and growling, like ever other time. But what was it doing?
Black hair rubbed up against him, and he felt hot breath on his hands. Luther tried to keep his fingers tightly together—make them less tempting as something to chew.
There was a tug, but the teeth didn’t close on his flesh. As the wet jaws struggled, Luther realized what was happening. The dog was tearing at the duct tape.
He had strained for hours, trying to burst free by brute strength, but now he tried again.
The fabric ripped. He could feel it. Cautiously, he pulled again, and his hands came free.
Very conscious of the video camera that was watching his every move, he didn’t wave his arms.
But he was free, and for the first time, there was hope.
The dog walked back toward the door, and looked back at him.
Did he do that by accident? Was he trained for it? Luther couldn’t imagine any reason Leo would train his attack dog to release a prisoner.
With his arms free, Luther had a little more freedom of motion. He leaned forward just enough to see the cell phone.
It is mine. But there’s no battery. Just like he had left it in the car.
But scratched into the plastic were some crude letters. “TRUST THE DOG -D”
Luther looked at the dog again, bewildered. Trust the dog? Why would Drye send him that message? Leo was evil, but he’d never heard that he played this kind of mind game on his victims.
Trust the dog. Signed D.
Luther whispered, “Deena?”
The dog barked. Then scratched the door. The guard opened it, giving only a quick glance inside before locking it again.
Deena? Alive! Had she turned into a dog?
What is going on here?
Ruben made his rounds, stopping at the master’s chair in front of the monitors. The humans were quiet as usual. The master was working with papers as he frequently did.
There were other tasks to do.
Ruben went out again. This time he went throughout all the buildings, marking his territory. He raised his leg at every corner. Part of him was very pleased that his bladder had not gone dry.
He annointed a few doorframes, then, scratching his hind legs on the dirt, he went back to wait by his master.
Leo looked up as Thompson entered the room.
“The limo is ready.”
“What about the old Chevy? Any luck with the car at the chop shop?”
Leo noticed Ruben leaving the room, but he had been roaming around all day.
“Take a driver, Boyer, the boy, and any additional muscle you need. When you get to Vegas, you’re going to need to convince the boy to show you where he found the first trunk. I’ll be talking to the Galvez brothers about the gadget here, so if I have any luck, I’ll call you.
“You haven’t warned them, have you?”
“No. They’re in the kitchen.”
The security guard who manned the monitors spoke. “Sir. I think you need to look at this!”
Thompson and Drye focussed on the indicated monitor.
The Latina girl was running toward the house. She was running very, very fast.
Leo yelled, “Get a gun out there.” He didn’t know what was happening, but he had his instincts.
Thompson tugged on the door. He pulled again, with his great strength. Nothing moved. He kicked it.
Thompson peered closely at the door.
“Someone has welded the hinges and the lock. We can’t get out this way.”