Max was lying in his usual spot for this time of evening. He prided himself on being a creature of good habits, and the fire was so inviting during the cold winter months in Fortune Bay.
As Max looked back on his day, he wondered whether to show Maddie. What would she think? She’d always given him her unconditional love – even when he didn’t really deserve it, but this was different. And he knew it.
Max was only a pup when Maddie brought him home. He could still remember the children’s joyful hoots as she placed him on the kitchen floor. Of course the children were young then too. Teenagers now with little time left for play – which suited Max just fine.
He was quite content to go about his daily business, unhindered by the antics of youth. Although he did miss their energy on those days when the cold kept him inside.
If he’d been gone today, he wouldn’t have seen Mr. Patterson in the bathroom washing all that blood from his shirt. Whose blood was it?
And while Max was delighted to see Mr. Patterson again, he would’ve preferred a different circumstance.
Mr. Patterson had always shown himself to be a kind man, lavishing his wife and children with gifts from his many business trips. He mostly left Max alone, for he was usually too busy with other concerns to fuss with the family pet. He left that to Maddie.
Ah – Maddie. What would she think of her husband’s nefarious activities? Perhaps she already knew. Oh – but not Maddie!
Maddie, who always welcomed him with open arms. Maddie, who spoiled him since that very first day. Maddie, who made sure he was never left out in the rain or snow.
She could never be part of something like this – her nature would never allow such a thing. Of course, he wouldn’t have thought Mr.Patterson capable of hurting anyone either.
Until now, life had been simple. Most days uneventful, but comfortable. Max had no reason to complain – unlike his dear friend whose health was fading. Is that what he could look forward to in a few years?
His troubled thoughts were interrupted by Emma, who’d come to join him in front of the fire.
Max had always been rather fond of Maddie’s youngest child, whose laughter rang throughout the house. Although lately he noticed that Emma no longer laughed, or smiled for that matter. Her face dark with sorrow these days. And despite his best efforts, Max couldn’t figure out why. He didn’t believe in snooping, so he had no choice but to drop the subject.
This evening, Emma appeared in no mood to speak – preferring to sit quietly, as he tried to forget this afternoon. It was of no use though. Was Mr.Patterson really capable of hurting someone – or worse? There’d been so much blood on his shirt. Max scanned the years for a clue, but could find none.
He couldn’t even remember Mr. Patterson raising his voice – let alone anything to explain all that blood. Max did remember Mr. Patterson playing with his children in the garden, and taking him for the occasional walk when time permitted.
“How are you, Max?” Emma finally asked, wrapping her arms around his thick brown coat.
Max could see how sad she was, so he wagged his tail to show that he was doing just fine.
“How long have you been lying here?” Emma’s voice echoed the sadness in her eyes. Max couldn’t understand the words. Although he had long since learned to understand his family’s tone of voice – all but the most recent.
“Would you like some supper, old boy?” Max didn’t really feel like eating, but he knew it would make Emma happy, so he wagged his tail in a yes formation.
As they neared the kitchen, Max could hear Maddie and the other children cleaning up after today’s guests. Max had never seen so many people in the house before, or so much black. He hadn’t recognized most of them.
So Max decided that he preferred some place more quiet. If he’d known that Mr. Patterson would be there in such a bloody state, he would’ve stayed downstairs…
It was Maddie’s turn to hug him now. Max noticed that her eyes were even sadder than Emma’s. And she was using that new tone again. Max couldn’t translate yet, but he knew the sound of pain. The affair with Mr. Patterson would have to wait.
“Lying in front of the fireplace again?” Maddie turned toward Emma, her arms wound tightly around Max.
“Our dear sweet Max, he’s been waiting for days…” Maddie looked around the kitchen, spotting Mr. Patterson’s slippers next to the door.
She couldn’t bear to move them. Mr. Patterson only wore them in the evenings when his feet were exhausted from the day. He’d always worked so hard to provide for his family.
Mr. Patterson possessed little more than determination when she met him. He used it to build his business from scratch – neither of them thinking twice about their sacrifice.
Maddie hadn’t really given the business much thought. There were so many other details in need of her attention. And while the children were old enough to understand, they needed her to be strong.
Maddie was still in shock. But she would need to shake it for their sake. If only Mr.Patterson hadn’t gone out that night, he’d be with them this evening.
The police were no further ahead in their investigation. A senseless act of violence, they called it – stabbed twice in the chest. There’d been so much blood. The newspapers called it “Murder on Birch Street”.
Maddie realized that she was still holding onto Max – who now spent his days next to Mr. Patterson’s favorite chair. How Maddie wished she could make him understand that Mr. Patterson wouldn’t be coming home this time.
©Brenda Baker ~ Caffeinated Ramblings 2017