Flash: C is for Cute Meet

The beagle came out of nowhere, and the driver couldn’t serve in time. Even slamming on the brakes on the high-end Mercedes wasn’t enough; the weight and speed of the car versus the weight and the speed of the dog played out in a tale as old as inertia. The black and brown hound tumbled several feet, but the driver was out of the car and running toward the bitch before she came to a stop. He rolled over the female dog, who snapped at him weakly.

“What the fuck, man?” The passenger yelled after he stepped just out of the silver car and leaned on his open door. “We’re on a schedule!”

“She’s still alive!” The driver shouted back. He risked another bite to see the tag on the tacky sparkly pink collar. The front named the dog Princess, and the back gave an address. The driver looked around and the nearest house number matched. He lifted the twenty pound dog easily and started jogging, gently, to the building with a fenced backyard.

“Robert. Robert!” The passenger yelled, slammed the door, and started running after him. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to save her.” Robert said, ringing the doorbell.

The other man said from the bottom of the steps.”But the job–”

“Can wait.”

“No, it can’t.” The other man shuddered when Robert turned his black eyes on him. “I mean, the boss…” The words trailed off when the door opened.

Inside the door was a slip of a woman, five two in her pink sparkly crocs, a wife-beater shirt hanging half-way to her knees showing the nipples of her small breasts which needed no bra for support, and pink camo legging. Her curly black hair was pulled back in a ponytail high on the back of her head, and her heart-shaped face lacked any makeup. She blinked seeing two huge six foot plus men, in black and gray suits displaying broad shoulders and muscled chests well, with close-cropped hair cuts, at her doorstep. The latino one held a dog. Her dog.

“Princess!”. The woman opened the door instantly.

The man carefully moved the dog so the woman had more access to the dog’s face. “I’m so sorry. I … she just came out of nowhere.”

“She was in the back.” The woman shook her head, her ponytail swinging. “Nowhere near the road.”

“Do you have a vet?” Robert asked.

“Yes … no.” The woman caressed the dog carefully. “I … after the divorce. Well, I’m behind on the bills.”

“Princess needs to go now if you are going to save her.” The man said, walking toward the twenty-year old junker of a pickup truck in her gravel driveway. She trailed behind him and opened the passenger side. The incredibly tall, strong man laid her badly injured dog on the seat. Then he pulled out his wallet, fingered through a few cards, and handed her a gift card. “This still has about two thousand on it. That should get you started.” Next he handed her a white business card with his name, Robert Smith, a phone number, and an email. No company name or other details, about as bare bones as a business card could be. “Call me when you get there, and let me know how it goes. I will pay for everything.”

“Thank…thank you.” She looked up, her brown eyes meeting his black eyes. “I…I need to get my keys.” She ran inside.

Robert secured the dog as much as possible, and then walked around the car to open the driver’s side while waiting for her to return.

His companion continued to fume on the lawn, staying close to the action but apart from it. “Tick tock, we are missing our window.”

“One more word and I will end you,” Robert dead stare backed his words and his opposite shut up. “We will get there. We will get the job done. But this is first.”

The woman ran out of the house, slamming doors behind her, a big padded pink purse slung over her shoulder and keys in her hand. She climbed in the truck, stroked her pet once before turning to close the door, but Robert was in the opening.

“Promise you will call.” He stared at her, willing her to answer in the affirmative.

“I will,” she promised.

“I may not respond immediately.” Robert stepped out of the opening, “I got a meeting this morning, and it might run into the afternoon.”

“It better not.” The other huge man muttered.

Robert sent the larger, even taller, white man a dirty look, who stepped back in what looked like fright to the female, then the guy turned back to the her and talked to her in a gentle, earnest baritone with a very light southern accent. “But I will respond. Whatever you need. All bills. I got it. Okay?”

She nodded. And he closed the door, retreating as she pulled out of the gravel onto the paved highway.

“Really, man, don’t kill me, but what the fuck was that about?” The other man followed his companion as they returned to their car.

Robert shook his head in frustration. “I don’t kill by accident.”


The southern sun had warmed the late spring morning chill into a simmering humid boil by the time Robert and his backup had completed their task and switched out the stolen car at the chop shop their employer had a contract with, for a less noticeable, but equally powerful car.

Robert turned the phone off airplane mode, texted the boss the job was done, then flipped to view messages, of which there were precisely none. “She promised,” he said, shaking his head. “No news is good news, right?” He looked up at his companion. “Or do you think she lost my card, John?”

“I doubt that.” John smirked. “That woman needs a sugar daddy, if only to help with the dog.”

“I don’t think she is the sugar daddy type.” Robert said walking over to modified sedan. “Not that I wouldn’t mind her sugar, but she looked rugged.”

“Girl was ninety pounds, when she carried her purse.” The other man chuckled. “Rugged is not a word I would have used.”

“And that is why the boss hires me, not you for these things.” Robert turned out of the parking lot and drove back toward their home city along state highway they used before.

John rolled his eyes, but shifted to face his companion. At the end of the day, Robert was better at this particular aspect of their job and any and all hints actually did help. “Teach me, oh wise one.”

Robert looked at the slightly older man, their ages only three years apart, making sure the sarcasm was respectful, and then answered. “One, she didn’t break down crying. Two, she first looked out the window before opening the door and the screen door was locked until she opened the door.”

“Wait, she hadn’t locked the pickup truck.”

Robert frowned, considering. “Good job picking up on that.”

“I’m learning.” John said. Nearly twenty-five in a business where one didn’t get old, but one got dead really fast without learning.

“It turned over easily, but all the seats were split, likely a new engine.” A mile passed, trees stood shoulder-to-shoulder raning from new buds, to bright green leaves, to deep green of the early bloomers well into their summer leaves beside the winding paved road. “Maybe the lock is broke?” Robert gripped and released the wheel “I’ll need to ask. Always good to find out reasons for things, because other people might have the same reason and you can use that to your advantage.”

“Anything else for the rugged woman who a stiff breeze might blow away?”

“She defined her challenges without making excuses. Accepted help – that is never easy. And reacted to the plan, adding her own steps, to get the outcome needed.” Robert then smiled. “Her nails were painted, but chipped. Her arms showed leaned muscles. Her outfit …”

“The mix of pink and masculine.” John supplied as the younger man trailed off.

“Yeah,” Robert growled a bit, “it was hot.”

John eyes whipped hard from where they had drifted to the road to study Robert’s face as he drove. Hot was not a word he would have chosen for that overly girly-pretending to be hunter camouflage, but to each their own.

“Oh, and she had a concealed carry in the purse, a rifle rack on the back of the pickup, and a gun box under the seats.”

Now John nodded. He could see how that would get Robert perked, especially if he liked pink camo leeching onto skinny legs. He preferred his women more bountiful and less deadly. “I didn’t get close enough to see everything in the vehicle, but I should have noticed the gun rack.”

“Yes, you should have.”

“Do you think it is the ex?”

“No, the spacing was for a smaller rifle, one more suited to a woman’s strength and shoulders,” Robert said. “That, and it had little pink deer heads on the medallions junctures.”

John blinked. “They sell gendered rifle mounts?”

“They sell gendered everything, including desk accessories to hold filing folders.” Robert replied, “At least rifle kickback, shoulder structure, and arm length make sense. Filing folders and ink pens is just pushing it a step too far in my opinion – selling ‘male’ pens as sturdy and ‘girl’ pens as cute – asinine.”

A laugh broke from the passenger. “Yeah, I’m with you on that one.”

Robert’s phone rung. He had four standard rings; nothing anyone would pick up as unusual, but this one was for unknown callers. Quickly he picked it up and swiped up and put in his ear piece, “Hello.”

“Hi,” a woman’s voice said with a quiet sob caught in the throat. “I’m trying to reach Robert Smith.”

“Smith here.” Robert shook his head. “Robert. Is everything okay?”

“No, … no.” Her voice got smaller. “The surgery didn’t work. They gave her … gave Princess something to help with the pain and I got to hold her until … until…”

“I’m so sorry.” Robert murmured.

“It’s not … well, I guess it kind of is … but you didn’t mean to … and you did everything … you didn’t even have to tell me … could have driven… I’m mean.”

“Lady, it’s okay.”

“Jennie, Jennifer actually, Jennifer Tate, no, Jen Kirk – I changed back to my maiden name last month.” The voice continued to break. “I’m still at the office. The vets. They say I have to pay to get the body, or cremate it, or I … I don’t know…”

“Jennifer, where is the vet?” Robert looked over at John, who squirmed in his seat. A detour was in order.

(words 1,801, first published 4/3/2023)

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