Star Dog: Earth’s Last Shield 1.12

Caleb rounded the corner of the hallway and Bandit followed closely at his heels as they headed back towards the main area of the precinct. From his sharp sense of smell, Bandit could clearly pick up the trace of fear and unease in his partner’s subtle sweating. He wasn’t sure what he could say to quell his fears as the landscape of human politics and hierarchy were rather out of his reach, but he felt compelled to say something to comfort him. The sable-coated canine looked around to make sure none would overhear, and then he leaned against his partner to get his attention. He looked up and flashed a goofy canine smile at him.

“Everything will be okay. We’ll show them,” Bandit whispered conspiratorially. Caleb dropped a hand to his side and petted him briefly. His touch radiated a warmth that Bandit wasn’t accustomed to feeling in his partners, and Caleb did seem to brighten, if only for Bandit’s sake.

“Of course, we will, buddy,” Caleb whispered as they entered the lobby. Most of the officers were hard at work at their cubicles, with only a few loitering around the coffee counter, or by the copy machine, or walking back and forth to deliver this set of papers or these files. The Chief’s door was tightly closed and the shades were drawn, so Caleb strode boldly past that reinforced glass window to his own cubicle, a hardly used and sparsely decorated unit.

“Since we have some downtime until our friend shows up again, we should try to get to the bottom of this,” Caleb muttered as he loosely looped Bandit’s leash on his chair. He flicked on his slick new desktop monitor and the computer hummed to life. He logged in quickly and started pulling up files. At least now he was included in the precinct’s database access, he noticed. Sometimes, being the new guy was downright inconvenient.

The files already compiled on their supposed cement man were sparse, and lacked the definitive material the man was made of, but it did include the evidence and details of the locations that he was placed at. From what he read as he clicked through the files, there was nothing to the contrary of him being a regular, if not large, man, but the connection between the locations remained a mystery. Caleb highlighted the perp’s name – Raymond Orville – and considered his profile on what they could find about him. He seemed to be an average working Joe with no previous record. What could he have wanted at the jewelry store and at the flower shop? Bandit nudged his knee, and after looking around to see no one near his cubicle, Caleb nodded and gave him the go-ahead for talking, which the canine kept to a whisper.

“Each location has a note for the perp’s exit from the crime scene, but they missed something,” Bandit whispered, his brown, canine eyes practically gleaming with a realization.

“Yeah? What’s that?” Caleb asked, scanning the files again.

“An entry point. There’s no details about him arriving at the scene or the start of the conflict. Did no one notice him arrive? Did he just materialize there out of thin air?” Bandit said.

“Hey, you’re right,” Caleb said, realizing that acute observation for the first time. “That is odd. He’s not exactly inconspicuous. Someone would notice him enter the store. We can check surveillance if it was collected. Let me see here.” Caleb clicked through all the gathered files until he found the surveillance clips in the folder. Luckily, someone had been on the ball while he dealt with Bandit’s issues, and since no one was formally assigned to the case yet, he considered everything in it fair game. He opened the surveillance labeled for the jewelry store and the flower shop, and scrubbed through the frames looking for anything unusual. The flower shop was harder to see in terms of the grey-scale and grainy footage, but the jewelry store had additional files with different angles. Perhaps one was from a store across the street? It had an outside view and an inside view.

The inside view was calm at first, showing a typical day inside a jewelry store. A few well-dressed employees were behind the long, glass display cases with all the valuable necklaces, rings, bracelets, and other expensive trinkets inside, and about half a dozen customers milled about the store with some just browsing and others being addressed by salespeople. The cement man wasn’t remotely among them judging by the silhouettes, but when he squinted Caleb thought he saw a young man wearing flannel and jeans. He was normal-looking though, and of average size. Could that just be coincidence? It had to be, Caleb concluded.

Everything else looked normal, until the camera glitched. Pixelated noise disrupted the screen and the images were indiscernible for what seemed like a brief moment. When the camera adjusted again, the serene picture from before was absolute chaos. Glass was smashed and exploded across the screen, customers were silently screaming and fleeing, and one terrified-looking employee was trapped behind a collapsed display case with the hulking figure almost blocking him from the camera’s view.

Caleb inhaled sharply. It was him; their sought-after perp. His large and rigid frame was undeniable. Bandit’s fur bristled at the sight. There was a moment when the figure just stood there, his unmatched mass doing all his intimidation for him. Then in a flash, he raised his arms like iron beams and smashed the remainder of the display case and showered glass in all directions. One well-placed shard was all it took, and the employee slumped. Bandit looked away from the tape, which went dark in the next instant, with the last frame showing the perp’s retreating shadow. Caleb stomached the view a few more times to commit the blocking to memory, and then he flipped over to the outside view.

It was easy to see within one viewing the police’s arrival and the perp’s escape, and then everything Caleb had lived himself. He scrubbed the beginning of the clip frame by frame, but he never saw the concrete man go into the store. It truly was as if he had just materialized in there and exploded outwards after his frantic vandalism. He flipped back to the window which had Orville’s file on it. His picture didn’t look like a monster. Now that he actually concentrated on it, he thought he might be the same flannel-clad man in the beginning of the interior clip, before the chaos.

“Is this the guy?” Caleb asked while looking at Bandit. The canine furrowed his brows in concentration.

“It looks like it could be, if this guy suddenly turned into a cement monster. The features are basically the same, I think, and it’s easy to see the similarities between this guy and the face I saw. I really think it could be this guy,” Bandit said, but his voice held an undercurrent of uncertainty.

“But are you sure?” Caleb pressed with a raised eyebrow.

“Pretty sure,” Bandit relented. “But all you humans look the same anyways.”

“Now who’s racist?” Caleb muttered while he continued clicking around in the evidence.

* * *

They spent the rest of their shift at the precinct, but eventually it was time to go home without much more excitement. Caleb packed up what he needed, and he drove Bandit to his cramped apartment in the residential area full of high rises in the East Side. As his handler, Caleb was now responsible for all of Bandit’s care, which included taking him home.

“I feel bad about leaving before the case is truly done,” Bandit lamented as he entered the apartment for the first time. He slowly looked around and explored the new area, but the small area kept him close to the conversation with Caleb, who was hanging up his coat and shedding the formal uniform in favor of comfort.

“There’s not much else we could do,” Caleb said as he dug out his pajama bottoms from the hamper. “We’ll get a call if anything happens, but if our friend Orville isn’t showing up, and we can’t find him, we just have to continue living our lives and performing biological functions until we’re needed. We’ll get him, but it doesn’t always happen instantaneously.”

“I realize that,” Bandit said forlornly while sniffing the edges of the sole couch in what could be called the living room in the studio apartment. There was a large room that served as living room, kitchen, and dining room, and a smaller room that was the bedroom, and it led to the bathroom, which was unbelievably cramped, but fully furnished. “I just can’t stop thinking about him being out there, possibly hurting others.” His observations led him to see the overhang of the loft that covered just over a third of the surface area of the floor plan. There wasn’t a lot of vertical room, which he realized when Caleb gave him the tour. An iron spiral staircase that twisted between the bedroom door and the kitchen area was the only claustrophobia-inducing way to ascend into the cramped, sparsely carpeted space, but Caleb insisted it was his office space. All it really had was a lamp, a sleeping bag, and a half-closed laptop.

Bandit was also showed around to what was his, including his new dog bed and bowl since Caleb had prepared in advance for his newly assigned partner, and it was easy to settle in. What would have thrown off an unenlightened dog – a new environment – Bandit took with ease, Caleb noticed. However, the heaviness of the case weighed on his canine mind as much as it did Caleb’s, which he noticed when Bandit restlessly moved in his dog bed throughout the sleepless night.

It was almost a relief when Caleb’s phone went off loudly, with the flashing light signaling a call. He picked it up and leaned over the side of the bed to show the peeking Bandit the caller ID before he answered.

It was the precinct.


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