Zach stared out the window and absently played with the coin around his neck. He watched the birds hop around and peck at the grass.

A wet nose shocked him out of his daydream. He looked down to see Kit, his 120 pound rottweiler.

“Hey bud, what’s up?” Zach scratched his dog’s ear with his good hand.

Kit whined and nosed at his leg.

“Alright, alright,” Zach stood and stretched. “Take me to whatever has you all riled up.”

Kit bounded out of the room and out his doggy door. He waited patiently for Zach to open the door and follow.

He trotted to the side gate and pawed at the wood.

“What has gotten into you, Kit?” Zach shoved the dog out of the way and opened the gate. He quickly snuck out and shut the gate behind him. Kit barked and whined on the other side of the fence.

Zach rounded the corner of the garage and scanned the treeline. He moved to the country a year ago and his house sat on the far corner of a ten acre plot, surrounded on all sides by forest. The only way to the house was on the deer trails he walked Kit on or his long gravel driveway.

He couldn’t see anything beyond the trees. Frowning he thumbed the coin again.

Kit could still be heard barking and slamming his large body against the wooden fence.

“Kit! Enough there’s nothing here!” Zach shoved his dog away and locked the gate. He crouched down and scratched his shoulders, “There’s nothing here buddy.”

He grabbed his dog’s collar and dragged him into the house, locking the doggy door. Kit stayed at Zach’s side and looked around the room.

Zach sat back down at his floor-to-ceiling windows and reached for his binoculars. His hand touched an empty table. His heart started racing and his hand shot to the coin.

Kit stared at the office door and grumbled lowly.

Zach stood so fast his chair landed on it’s back. He tripped and stumbled into the doorframe. He slammed the door and locked it.

Kit nosed at his spasming hand, whining loudly.

Zach slid down the door and sat against it, hyperventilating. He was shaking violently, which caused his already unstable hand to shake harder. He squeezed his eyes shut and brought his knees to his chest.

He barely registered the phone falling to the ground and the three beeps after.

The world was black around the edges and suddenly everything was too loud. He buried his face in his knees and sobbed.

Kit barked and whined, leaning heavily against Zach’s side.

Zach hugged his dog tightly and evened out his breathing. He buried his face in the soft, black fur and tried to stop shaking.

Kit stood still, letting Zach squeeze him.

A sharp rap at the door startled Zach, causing him to shout and jump away from the door.

“Police! Are you alright? We’ve been shouting for five minutes,” A cool female voice sounded on the other side of the door. “EMTs are on their way.”

Zach stood on shaky legs and carefully opened the door. Two uniformed officers, one male and the other female, stood in the hall.

“Sir, are you alright?” The man stepped forward.

Zach pulled away, casing himself to fall and hit his head on the upturned chair.

“Sir!” Both officers rushed forward to help him up.

“W-who called you?” Zach stared around the room with wide eyes.

“Dispatch said that all they could hear was a loud barking and crying,” The man frowned.

“Kit,” Zach smiled down at the dog sitting proudly by his leg.

“Your dog…called 911?” The woman glanced disbelievingly at the large dog.

“He’s my service dog,” Zach crossed his arms, in hopes of keeping his spasming hand still.

“Smart dog,” The man chuckled. “Let’s get you outside so EMTs can check you over.”

“Yeah,” Zach nodded and let the cops escort him through the house, Kit stayed right beside him.

Once they were outside the cops sat Zach in the back seat of the cruiser. The female crouched in front of him and spoke softly, “What happened sir?”

“Uh,” Zach scowled. “Kit lead me outside. I looked around and didn’t see anyone.”

Kit pushed past the officer and jumped into the car next to Zach, who dropped a heavy hand on his bulky head.

“When I got back in, my bird binoculars were gone,” Zach cleared his throat. “I guess I had a panic attack. Bad enough for Kit to call for help anyway.”

“You panicked over binoculars?” The male officer scoffed and shook his head.

“They were there when I left the office. I know they were,” Zach snapped.

“Alright, it’s okay,” The female assured. “We searched the house, there was no one but you.”

“I know-” Zach’s hand spasmed painfully and be squeezed his eyes shut.

“What’s wrong with your hand?” She asked gently and nodded at his left hand.  

“Nerve damage,” Zach ground out through clenched teeth.

“Old injury then?” She cocked her head.

“Yeah,” Zach’s hand relaxed. “I know who did it.”

“Okay, any information can help,” She smiled.

Sirens grew louder as an ambulance appeared down the driveway.

“I’ll go talk to them,” The man was frowning as he walked away.

“My ex-boyfriend, Kain Allens,” Zach said shakily.

“I know that name,” She frowned.

“The Phantom, yeah,” Zach smiled bitterly. “No cameras ever caught him. He never left any prints. All he ever left behind was a brutally mangled body.”

“He did that to your hand?” She gasped.

“I was working with a detective, he was trying to prove it was Kain,” Zach took a deep breath, “and I was trying to prove it wasn’t. But when Kain found out he snapped, tied me to a chair and started talking about how much he loved me. He heated a knife on the stove and started cutting. Starting at my hand.” He raised the heavily scarred hand. “I almost lost it. It took me two years of PT before I got to even fifty percent functionality. Then I moved out here, got a service dog, and cut myself off from the world.”

“I remember,” She nodded. “He was caught in your attic, hiding. Detective Green was coming to talk to you when he heard you screaming. He called for backup and kicked in the door. Kain was shot in the face trying to run, didn’t kill him though.”

“All I remember is him cutting into my flesh, hearing the searing, smelling my skin,” Zach grimaced. “Then I passed out and woke up in the back of an ambulance. Green visited me in the hospital to tell me that Kain escaped custody and that he was placing me in witness protection. But I told him no, that I wouldn’t hide.”

“That was brave,” She smiled. “I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

“Yeah, but now I’m paranoid,” Zach shook his head. “I shouldn’t have stayed.”

“Sir?” An older male EMT approached them.

“Yeah, I’m coming,” Zach stood and followed the EMT to the ambulance. Kit trotting after them.

“Service dog?” Another younger male EMT nodded to the large dog.

“Yeah,” Zach nodded.

“Alright,” He stood aside and let the dog leap into the back of the rig.

“Sir how are you feeling?” The older EMT shined a bright little flashlight into his eyes.

“It was just a panic attack,” Zach shrugged. “Nothing unusual.”

They all looked up at the sound of a car speeding down the driveway and coming to a sharp halt behind the ambulance.

Detective Robert Green jumped from the driver’s side and ran over to them, “Zach, was it him?”

“Hello to you too,” Zach smiled. “Yes.”

“Did you see him?” Green scratched Kit’s ear.

“No,” Zach frowned and thumbed the coin.

“But you’re sure? You’re sure it’s him?” Green prodded.

“I’d bet my life on it,” Zach met Green’s hard eyes.

“You’re going to a safe house,” Green said and nodded. “No arguing this time.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Zach hopped down, patting his thigh for Kit to follow.

“Sir, we haven’t cleared you,” The younger EMT jogged after him.

“I’m denying treatment,” Zach shrugged. “You can’t make me go.”

“Alright, well then we are done here,” The older EMT shut the back of the rig and climbed into the driver’s seat.

Zach ushered Kit into the backseat of Green’s car then rounded to the passenger seat.

“You can sleep on my couch, you aren’t going anywhere he can get to you,” Green turned around on the grass and sped back down the driveway.

Zach just stared out the car window and thumbed the coin. He watched the world speed by in silence.

When they came to a stop in Green’s parking spot behind his apartment he looked over, “Still with that stupid good luck charm?”

“Yeah,” Zach smiled.

“I don’t know if they will be too happy about Kit, but that’s too bad,” Green led them into the building, all the way to the top floor.

“Thanks,” Zach said and sat on the couch, drawing his knees up to his chest.

“We’re gonna catch this bastard this time,” Green assured him. “Let me run down the hall, Mrs. Marsh’s dog just died, she should have some food.”

“Okay,” Zach smiled over at the dog curled up beside him.  

Green shut the door heavily, leaving Zach alone with his thoughts. He glanced over at the window and froze.

A man, in all black stood in the street light, looking up at the apartment. At him.

His hand wrapped around the coin and stared back. The man lowered the binoculars and Zach could barely make out Kain’s scarred face.   

Green came back with half a bag of dog food, “Alright she had a lab but I don’t think it matters.” He set the bag on the table. “What’s up?”

“Kain,” Zach whispered.

“What?” Green looked out the window and bolted out of the apartment.

Zach watched Kain look at the front door, smile, and run into an ally. Seconds later Green was running to the same spot, scanning the streets, gun out. He looked back up at the apartment and shrugged.

Zach hugged Kit close to him and buried his face in the fur.

“I didn’t see him,” Green locked the door. “I’ll sleep out here, you two sleep in back, in my room.”

“Green-” Zach stood up.

“No,” Green held up a hand. “I am going to be the first line of defense.”

“Alright,” Zach said, tired and defeated. “I just want to sleep.”

“Go on, get some rest,” Green rested his hand on Zach’s shoulder.

Zach followed Kit to the bedroom and closed the door. He curled up on the large bed and hugged his dog to his chest.

He barely slept, drifting in and out but always facing the window, and always holding onto his dog. He dreamt of the night Kain took him to Spain. When they found a small silver coin on the sidewalk. Kain gave it to him and whispered something in Spanish, he never found out what it meant.  He put it on a leather string and has worn it ever since.

Then his dream shifted to a dark kitchen, the only light coming from the moon and a stove’s flame. Ropes digging into his arms and throat, burning the skin. Cold words of love and a hot knife.

He shot up, covered in sweat and shaking. The sunlight lit the room and the smell of breakfast convinced him to get out of bed.

“Green?” Zach rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around in horror.

Blood smeared the walls, and two mangled corpses sat on the couch. One human the other a dog.

He turned slowly to look in the kitchen, so see Kain making eggs and bacon.

“Oh good, you’re up,” Kain smiled darkly.

Zach ran for the door but Kain was faster. He pinned him to the door and hissed into his ear.

“Oh don’t run, don’t hurt me like that baby,” Kain pressed a knife to Zach’s throat and guided him to the kitchen table. He pushed him into a chair and quickly tied him up. “Don’t scream now baby. I have to finish breakfast.”

Zach sat stiff as a board and stared straight ahead at the wall.

Kain hummed happily as he made the food. He brought two plates over and set them on the table. He beamed at Zach, “Hope you enjoy.”

“I’d love to, but I’m a little tied up right now,” Zach deadpanned.

“Oh! Sorry baby,” Kain dragged the chair over to right in front of him and brought the fork to Zach’s mouth. “Here ya go baby.”

Zach stared him down as he took the mouthful of hot food.

“Good good-” Kain was cut off when Zach spat the food on his face. Kain slammed his fist on the table, and snarled, “You. You need to stop being so rude. I made you breakfast and you spit it in my face?!”

Zach just stared ahead.

“You still have the coin,” Kain was instantly calmer. “Penny para la eternidad?”

Kain ran his fingers across Zach’s chest, following the string.

He picked up the small coin, “Do you know what it means? It means ‘Penny for eternity’.”

Zach clenched his teeth and didn’t meet the lunatic’s eyes.

“Would you,” Kain grabbed his throat tightly, “look at me when I am talking to you?!”

Zach gasped and pulled against his bindings.

“You know I love you,” Kain went back into the kitchen and continued shouting. “You know that I would die for you baby.” He came back with the same red-hot knife. “I have killed for you baby.”

“Kain, please,” Zach felt the panic rising in his chest.

“Hush baby,” Kain pressed his lips to Zach’s and stabbed the searing knife into his chest.

Zach screamed and trashed.

“Shh, baby, shh, it’ll all be over soon,” Zach heard a gun click and Kain say happily. “Now we can be together forever.”

The last thing Zach heard was a loud gunshot, and a thud. Then it was all black.


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