Elaine was still running the phone conversation around in her head as she walked to the park near Gold Pine Apartments where he lived. Her gut said this was a bad idea but the $50 left in her bank account pushed her along as she shivered against the icy wind. In the distance she could see the park, a small spot in the middle of this side of town with park benches, a frozen fountain, trees and grassy areas for picnics that were now covered in a thin layer of snow. Sitting on a bench was a small figure bundled in a blue puffy coat, black mittens and a dark blue wooly hat complete with a tassel ball on top.
“Tommy I presume.” Elaine looked down upon the small face of a boy around 5 or 6 with coffee colored eyes and dark chocolate colored hair peeping out of his hat. His eyes brightened upon seeing her and he jumped up.
“You came!” he chattered.
“Yes and you look half frozen. Let’s go across the street to that café and I will get you a hot chocolate.”
After sitting in a booth next to the window and ordering two hot chocolates, Tommy’s had extra marshmallows; Elaine removed her scarf and leather gloves and folded her hands in front of her. Tommy fidgeted under her gaze, his cheeks rosy from the cold wind. He remained quiet, looking uncomfortable in his outerwear. Elaine sighed and removed her notebook and pen from her bag.
“Ok, let’s get started. Please explain to me what the problem is and what you need my help with?” She looked at him intently.
Tommy fidgeted and rubbed his hands together. “Well it started the other day. My puppy usually walks me to school every morning and night cuz I save my breakfast and lunch and feed him. He’s awful hungry all the time. Mommy and Daddy won’t let me keep him so I have to sneak him stuff. But that day he didn’t show. I looked everywhere and can’t find him. I don’t know what happened to him.”
“How long has this puppy walked with you to school?”
“Since school started.”
Elaine jotted in her notebook. “Do you have a picture of him? Can you describe what he looks like?”
“I have a picture!” he exclaimed digging into his coat pocket and producing a folded piece of notebook paper. Opening it Elaine found a colored drawing of a dog. She groaned inwardly as she flattened the drawing on the table.
“Tommy, I’m going to call some shelters to see if they have a puppy that matches this description. Sit tight ok?” Elaine removed her phone from her purse and began googling nearby shelters, systematically calling them one by one. Thirty minutes later she still had not located the dog. “Tommy, no one has seen him but I have an idea. Why don’t you take me to the place you last saw him?”
After paying for the hot chocolates they set out to the place Tommy had last seen the dog. He led her down several blocks until they reached a large brick apartment building across the street from a local deli. Tommy stopped and pointed across the street to the alley that ran alongside the deli.
“I usually saw him there and he would come meet me here.” Elaine looked around to where Tommy pointed. A black van was parked in the alley where several men stood around talking loudly and gesturing animatedly. As Elaine tried to understand what the men were saying they were interrupted by a loud bark as a black dog bounded into view.
“Sonny!” Tommy cried and shot off across the street.
“Wait Tommy!” Elaine threw her hand out to stop him but Tommy was too quick and raced up to the dog. Elaine ran out after him when suddenly the air was filled with loud pops. They were caught in the middle of a gun fight.
To Be Continued…