“We weren’t really close enough to see anything,” Caleb said as he turned off the main freeway and into the downtown district of the city towards the precinct.
“I was close enough,” Bandit said while looking stoically out the window. “I saw it and it was no man. Its skin was hard as concrete and gritty, and he smelled like a hot day with construction tearing up the sidewalks. There’s no mistaking it.”
“But how could that be possible?” Caleb said, a point he had kept returning to during their discussion. “So, you’re saying that there’s a concrete man wandering around our city?”
Bandit turned and looked at his partner dead in the eyes and said nonchalantly, but pointedly, “That’s exactly what the talking dog is saying.” Caleb looked away and then sighed.
“Good point,” he conceded, “but I can’t tell the Chief or anybody else. I’ll look like a madman, and I feel like I have plenty of that coming up later anyways. We’ll just work the case like normal, and hopefully minimize the damage.”
“I’d rather prevent it.”
“Me too, and we’ll try.”
They were silent for the rest of the ride, both deep in thought. It was a new experience for Bandit, who was used to being on the non-thinking side of the case. He was used to just being dragged along from location to location and following simple commands like Find, or Hold, or Help. He wasn’t used to being intellectually privy to any of the other aspects of the case like Caleb was, like unraveling who the perp could be, motivation, and how to safely bring them into custody. He could never have guessed how complicated it could be outside of his own limited canine grasp before his transformation, and he missed that feeble veil that had been irreparably shattered.
More than that, he now understood the danger involved, and he couldn’t help but think, which officer would get hurt in the crossfire or during an altercation with the perp? Could it be Caleb? Could he stop it? Although they had just met, Bandit felt a familiar draw to him that came from the heart of all canine kind, and that Caleb was his human now, for better or for worse. They were partners, and Bandit knew instinctively that he would do as any loving canine would, and he would take the bullet for Caleb if he had to; that part of the deal was nonnegotiable. At least that part of his former qualities had been preserved. Perhaps it was too deep to have been altered, too much a part of himself and his domesticated ancestors that stood by man for millennia, he reasoned.
When they arrived at the precinct, Caleb quickly checked in and caught up on the case. They knew nothing more about the man or his whereabouts, but there were patrols and units on the street while others at the precinct were trying to track him via electronic means – credit card transactions or traffic cams. Despite having the man’s identity now, there was no luck either way, and Caleb told one of his colleagues to keep him informed. He grabbed a snack from the break room and then headed to the dog unit area and gave Bandit some food and water, although the canine reported he wasn’t hungry or thirsty.
“But it’s been a long day, how can you not be?” Caleb asked confusedly.
“I’m not sure,” Bandit said as he picked at his food. “It still smells appetizing. I just feel satisfied. I’ll eat a little bit anyways, just in case. I might get hungry soon.”
“If you say so,” Caleb said warily, and after the canine managed to swallow a few mouthfuls, the pair made their way back to the office to be greeted with a few suspicious eyes. They were quickly approached by a senior officer with her gray-streaked hair tucked into a bun, and she addressed Caleb with a stern look.
“What is the status of your K-9 partner? We were all under the assumption that he was going to be rehabilitated,” she said before lowering her eyes to Bandit, who Caleb could feel tense against his knee. He put out a calming hand to his partner and addressed the woman with a similarly steely look in his eye.
“His status is on-the-job rehabilitation. He is fully fit to work. I’d stake my job on it.”
“You just did,” she said as she briskly walked away with one eagle eye looking back at his impertinence. Bandit could smell the salt of Caleb’s fresh sweat and hear the pounding of his heart. When they were out of earshot and by themselves in a hallway of the precinct, Bandit stopped and looked up at Caleb with a scared look in his eye.
“What did you just do?” Bandit asked while trying to keep the rising panic out of his voice. This was not how he would be changing his image around the office. Caleb only managed to say one thing as the horror of his rudeness against a senior officer dawned on him.
“I don’t know.”
He truly didn’t.