Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

Sam got out of her car anyway. She couldn’t just not go in. Poor Pavel was in there somewhere and Marco still hadn’t returned any of the messages she’d left him on the way over, even though this was technically one of the neighborhoods he was supposed to be serving. She’d also put in a call to the local police department, but they hadn’t seemed all that excited about the prospect of coming out to one of Indianapolis’ worst neighborhoods based on a phone call she’d gotten from a kid she’d just met at a party.

No, she had to go in there herself. But Sam wasn’t a complete idiot. She wouldn’t go in without Back Up.

She came around the car to the sidewalk and whistled, “Hey, Back Up! Come with me, girl!”

Her dark, grey Staffordshire Bull Terrier immediately leapt through the open passenger window of Sam’s Prius. She bent down to scratch behind her ears. “Good girl,” she said. “But try to look a little more menacing, okay?”

Back Up just smiled up her, tongue lolling out, not realizing she was giving Sam the exact opposite of what she’d asked for. Thanks to a lot of misinformation and idiot breeders, rescue dogs that looked like Back Up had a bad reputation as far as the media and the general populace was concerned. But after being impregnated several times as an incubator dog for a dog fighting ring, then left out on the street still bleeding from her last pregnancy—thank God a rescue org had found her—Back Up now seemed way more interested in meeting new friends she could lick than tearing anyone limb from limb. If she had any blood thirst in her whatsoever, she was doing a good job of hiding it behind a perma-grin and an eager-to-please attitude.

But with her wide, square face, she looked mean enough from far away which meant she got the intimidation job done in a pinch. Sam led her to the house’s front door, hoping if anyone was inside, they’d run as soon as they saw Back Up.

“Hello? Is anybody home?” she said as she came through the door. “This is Sam McKinley from the Indiana Police Department and I have a very dangerous, completely rabid dog with me—”

Sam stopped short. There was a blue-eyed white man with blond hair and a long-sleeved Indiana Polar t-shirt, sitting on the couch—no, strike that—there was a body sitting on the couch in an Indiana Polar t-shirt. Slightly slumped over to the side with a hole in its head.

Bad teeth, crazy hair, hollow eyes. Meth was written all over the scene. An addict and possibly a dealer, judging from the professional holes in his body. There were two of them, she realized upon closer inspection, one in his head and one in his chest, right above the image of a mean-looking polar bear with a hockey stick.

A rap lyric about never getting high on your own supply floated through Sam’s head, even as her stomach flipped over on itself.

She might have stayed there, rooted to the spot in horror, if Back Up hadn’t chosen that moment to rush past her, nose down, probably searching the house for any incriminating food she might get into. She did have her priorities.

And Sam was grateful for the distraction as she turned her face from the scene, wishing like heck she could just run out of there like any sane person would upon getting hit with the sight of a dead body. This scene was triggering all sorts of bad memories for her. But she’d told Pavel she would come for him. Sam shook off a major case of the willies. Pavel had sounded so scared on the phone. She couldn’t let him down.

But where was he?

As if in answer, a whimpering sound came from the kitchen. Sam could see Back Up sniffing around a set of cabinets, below what would have been the kitchen sink before someone pulled it out completely. But the cabinets still remained, and Back Up had obviously caught the scent of something… or someone.

Someone small enough to fit inside a cabinet.

Sam knew she wouldn’t be able to keep her composure if Pavel was dead, his small body stuffed inside the cabinet underneath the sink, but she headed towards where Back Up was sniffing anyway.

She took a deep breath and bent down to open the cabinet door… then let out a huge sigh of relief when she found Pavel inside, staring at her wide eyed, a burner phone clutched tightly in his small hands.

“Pavel! Thank God!”

This time when she reached for him, Pavel seemed more than eager to come to her. But then Back Up ruined the moment by charging straight at the little boy, her mouth open wide.

Pavel shrank back into the confines of the cabinet, his eyes squeezing shut with fear. “Don’t let it eat me!”

“Sit, girl,” Sam commanded, pointing to a spot behind her.

Back Up whimpered piteously, but did as commanded.

“Good girl,” Sam told her, before turning back to Pavel. “Sorry about that. I love her, but she’s never met a person she didn’t want to lick. I’m always like, ‘Calm down, girl, let a person get to know you first!’”

Pavel peeped over Sam’s shoulder, suspicion in his eyes, which she could now see were blue, like those of the man on the couch. Clearly it was his mother who was black.

“She just wants to lick me? Not eat me?” Pavel asked.

Sam let out a wry chuckle, despite the situation.