Human Phoenix
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2012 by Refusenik

Monday, August 11th, 2008

In the six months since the shutdown of Broken Creek, life had been a series of ups and downs. Scott found that he missed Mr. Piotrowski more the longer he was gone. There were friends he could talk to, but none of them had the same ability to look to the heart of a problem and ferret out the right bit of wisdom. He'd come to something of a crossroads, and he had a big decision to make about the future.

Honour looked at Scott over her notepad and frowned at him. Family Services had been persistent in their desire to talk Scott about his unorthodox removal from the foster care system. A call to the Justice Department had finally put a stop to that line of inquiry.

"So, you're off the hook on that count," Honour said.

"Good, they've got more things to worry about these days," Scott replied.

"Do you think the new residential facility is going to get any more anonymous donations?" Honour asked.

"If they need it. Mr. Wahl tells me the only holdup is getting the final occupancy issues resolved on the expansion. For some reason the state is being a real stickler when it comes to agency regulations."

Honour snorted. After the Rewcastles had committed fraud under the state's watch for over a decade, a bonanza of agencies were suddenly very attentive to foster care issues in Pecos County. The shutdown of Broken Creek had caused quite a stir, and the whole mess was headed to court.

The new facility in Fort Stockton opened in late-spring. The residential compound, a renovated house, was at full occupancy from the start. Scott kicked in a bit more money, and the second anonymous denotation triggered an unexpected flood of community support. A neighboring house was purchased to expand the program.

"Let's go see what that husband of mine is up to, and what he has to say about this other matter."

Honour struggled to get up. Her due date was two weeks away but she insisted on coming to the law office a few days each week, despite being ordered to take it easy by her doctor. Scott followed her to the conference room and kept his peace. Honour had been very vocal about how she expected to be treated during her pregnancy.

The conference room had been turned into a temporary command center. Joseph was the general-in-charge guiding a massive renovation of a home that the couple had purchased on several acres of land. Honour wanted a larger home where they could raise their children, and Joseph was giving it to her. Scott had driven by the week before, and it looked like they were nearly finished. The contractors were on a deadline to finish before the baby arrived.

"How's the project going?" Scott asked.

"Painters are behind schedule," Joseph muttered as he concentrated on a timeline he had pinned to the wall.

Joseph finally noticed his wife and made a big fuss about having her sit down. Honour tolerated it, but waved him off when he started hovering.

"What's the story on Scott testifying?" Honour asked.

Joseph motioned for Scott to take a seat, "I don't think they're going to call him."

The 'they' in question were the lawyers for the parents of Andrea Jones. The civil case against the Lewis clan was starting next week in El Paso after the Lewis lawyers had successfully argued for a change of venue.

Joseph was taking a more active role in Scott's legal affairs because Honour had announced that she was only going to return on a part time basis after the baby was born. She's assured him that she'd be available for any serious legal work he needed, as long as he stayed out of trouble.

"I don't know what they think I can tell them if they did call me," Scott groused. "I didn't work for the family for very long."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Joseph said. "This kind of thing is routine. I'm sure they're just covering their bases. They've got your deposition, but I can't see how it advances their case. I hope to know for certain before Friday. If they think they might call you, you'll have to be waiting on standby in El Paso."

Scott grumbled, "Yeah that sounds like fun."

"Like I said, I don't think they're going to bother," Joseph said.

"I feel like I'm forgetting something," Honour complained as she tried to get comfortable in her seat.

"Luisa Delgado," prompted Joseph.

"That's right," Honour said, brightening, "she's been a godsend. Thank you for suggesting her."

Scott had been more than happy to bring the two women together. Honour needed someone she could trust to help her out after the baby was born. Scott couldn't think of anyone better with children, or more trustworthy, than Mrs. Delgado.

He left feeling hopeful that he wouldn't be called to testify. Scott drove over to the farm supply store and picked up a new bag of dog food before heading back to the apartment. He parked by the garage, and hefted the big bag over a shoulder.

"Scott, can you come over and look at something for me?" called Mrs. Monroe from the side door of the house.

"Of course, what do you need?"

"Some of the outlets in the house are dead."

"I'll be right over."

Scott dumped the bag in the garage. He knocked on the door and went inside. Mrs. Monroe showed him where a lamp was plugged in to an outlet, but wouldn't come on.

"I've checked the bulb. It's only a few outlets here, and in the other room, as far as I can tell," Mrs. Monroe explained.

"Have you checked upstairs?" he asked.

"No I haven't, but I'll go take a look."

The top floor was occupied by the renters. The front half of the bottom floor was common space split between the living room, and the dining and kitchen area. The back half of the ground floor was Mrs. Monroe's private domain.

Scott waited until she was on the stairs before putting his hand over the outlet. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He thought of this skill as type of system diagnostics. It seemed to work with animate and some inanimate objects. It worked really well with electrical systems.

"I couldn't find anything wrong upstairs," she announced as she reentered the room.

"Can I see your bathroom?" he asked.

Adele led him to her bathroom, and he spotted the problem, "When they did all the work on the house they updated the wiring. These ground fault interrupt circuits are a great idea, but sometimes they trip."

He pointed to the little red breaker sticking out from the outlet.

"Push that back in and I think you'll solve the problem."

"Well I'll be," Adele said as she pushed the breaker in. "What caused it do you think?"

Scott looked around, "Did you vacuum today?"

"How did you know?"

"Just a guess. If you remember what outlet you used, try to avoid using it for the vacuum next time. If the circuit keeps tripping we'll have the electrician come out. The GFI may be going bad or it's too sensitive."

"I'll have to remember to give you a discount on your rent this month," Mrs. Monroe joked.

"I can always be bribed with food."

Inside his apartment Scott powered up the stereo system. Mr. Wahl had sent him another batch of records. Guitarists were the theme. The set included albums by Wes Montgomery, which he really enjoyed, and in a surprise nod to Scott's love for old country, a double album by Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed.

He turned on his laptop and checked to see if he had any new notes from his classmates. He'd maxed out on the number of college hours he could take this summer by taking three classes for each semester, and finals for the last summer session were this week. Each class had their own discussion group. It was a great way of seeing what the class consensus was, but Scott tried to keep his own counsel on what material was most important. He read a few comments and started to edit the essay final for his literature class.

Scott's head was bobbing along to Mr. Atkins guitar when Jobe poked his head through the pet door.

"And where have you been?" Scott asked.

Jobe ignored the question and went to investigate his food dish.

"All that roaming around is going to get you tossed in the pound."

Jobe meandered over and wedged himself in between Scott's legs and the desk. With a sigh he sat down. Scott worked on his essay for another half hour before printing a final copy and closing the laptop.

He retrieved a brush and went to work on Jobe's coat. This was the only grooming he really had to do with Jobe. He checked the dog's ears and teeth regularly, but somehow the dog was remarkably clean and healthy.

Jobe stood up and looked toward the door.

"Somebody coming?"

Jobe went to the door and stood in anticipation. There was a knock at the door and Jobe turned in a circle waiting on the slow human to answer.

"Mrs. Monroe," Scott said in surprise as he opened the door.

"If you don't call me Adele I'll be tempted to take these cookies back to the house and offer them to our renters," Mrs. Monroe said.

"Adele, I'm sorry. Won't you come in?"

"No time, but I wanted to get these over to you. They're peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven. The men folk always liked these with a cold glass of milk," she said handing him a warm, foil covered plate.

"Thanks," he called as Mrs. Monroe walked back down the stairs.

He took the plate into the kitchen and nibbled on a warm cookie. He'd never had a peanut butter cookie before, and they were a nice treat. He took mercy and tossed a piece to Jobe.

Scott survived his finals. He'd knocked out sixteen hours of college credits over the summer. Registration for the fall semester closed in a little over a week. He still hadn't made up his mind about what classes to take, but it was going to be an interesting semester. He would only have three high school classes in the morning and two college classes in the afternoon.

It was Thursday afternoon and Scott put thoughts of school out of his mind as he rode the elevator to the top floor of the Western Group's offices. He'd spent a number of weekends in Midland over the last half year learning how to be wealthy. He was already rich, but wealth was something that took careful management. The details were left to Mr. Wahl and his team, but it was important for Scott to understand what they were doing and why.

Today was something different because Mr. Wahl had suggested a series of portfolio review meetings. For the first, Mr. Wahl had a team of employees on hand. They spent two hours going over every one of his investments showing Scott exactly where his money was, and how he could verify the facts for himself. It was fascinating, but he didn't think he could take another round of charts about projected earnings. He waited for the team to gather their things and leave the room.

"That was a heck of a presentation, but what was behind show and tell today?" Scott asked.

Mr. Wahl took a seat beside him, "The economy is in turmoil. Compounded with a volatile election, things may get much worse. I wanted you to understand where the money is and what the risks are."

"I appreciate that, but this still felt like something a little different," Scott replied.

"You're right," Mr. Wahl agreed. "Private banking is in a strange place these days. There are some people flying very close to the sun and I'm afraid they're going to come crashing back down to earth."

Scott tried to puzzle out what the banker was saying.

"Let's just say that some investors are in for a rude shock. We won't let it happen here and we've shown you why. We've got a few minutes before our next meeting, what's new in music?" asked Mr. Wahl changing topics.

"I'm really enjoying the Art Blakey album you sent," Scott replied. "And you were right about Dave Brubeck. I can see why it's a classic. I'm still working my way through the last batch. Thank you for the Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed by the way; it's a lot of fun."

"So have you found anything interesting?" Mr. Wahl inquired. Scott had managed to turn him on to Alison Krauss and the modern blue grass resurgence.

"I found something I really don't like, experimental jazz violin. Awful, cats mating awful."

Mr. Wahl laughed. Scott explained that it was something he found online, but it was too avant-garde for his tastes. Mr. Wahl told him his theory about how it was only other fringe artists who appreciated some of what he called the 'how weird can we make it' jazz.

The next meeting was starting. One of the men who worked for Wayne Property Development came into the room with an eager look on his face.

"I thought the deal was nearly completed?" Scott asked.

Several serious offers had been made on the remainder of Mr. Piotrowski's property. There was some talk of trying to turn the land into a state park. Scott didn't think there was much chance that the area would become a tourist destination, but he had agreed in principle to the offer made by the state. He had no idea how they were going to integrate the county's portion which held the key find, but it wasn't really his problem.

"It's the California property, there's been an offer we think you should consider," the man said. "Fourteen-five."

The million wasn't needed in these conversations, but Scott liked to add it in his head. It didn't make the unreal numbers any more real, but he tried.

"That's a significant bump over the last offer," Scott said as he tried to figure out why.

Property prices were down all over, but especially in California's depressed market. The property group had gotten him to back off his demand that they unload the property no matter the price. He'd reluctantly agreed that it wasn't a good decision on his part. The last offer they wanted to sit on was for a little over nine million. The house itself was only worth four million. The rest of the value came from where the property was located.

"It is a healthy increase," the property guy agreed. "The offer came from the prior owners, the Carson family."

This was not something he had been expecting to hear. Scott looked over at Mr. Wahl who was studying him closely. It took all of the theoretical investment and business decision making concepts they'd been talking about for months and made it very real.

"What do you think, Scott?" asked Mr. Wahl.

"This feels like a final exam question," he replied. He wondered what Honour's reaction would be. "Go back to them and ask for fifteen even. If they'll go for it, take it. How does that sound?"

Mr. Wahl and the property guy both nodded. They discussed a few more details about the transaction and the property guy left them.

"Your instincts were right on target. They'll meet the price and I imagine we'll have final paperwork in hand before the end of the month," Mr. Wahl explained.

"I thought you'd say I let it go too cheap considering what they offered."

"In another deal, perhaps," Mr. Wahl acknowledged. "However, their offer was well over where the market is. Your modest increase says you're willing to deal, and that you're not going to be punitive. It's a good resolution."

They went over the provisions of Scott's will since he'd asked for several changes. Honour was handling the will, but since the majority of it dealt with financial issues, Mr. Wahl and the Western Group were contributing most of the language. It seemed crazy to be sixteen and need a will, but as Mr. Wahl pointed out, if something happened to him, his money would end up in the state's hands unless he said otherwise. They also talked about the two scholarships he was endowing. One was for foster kids and the other was a general scholarship for Fort Stockton High School graduates. The awards could be put toward college expenses, or any type of accredited vocational training.

Scott was also going to see to it that the Mendoza and Mason families had scholarships. Joseph Black would visit the families after the winter holidays and explain that the estate of an anonymous benefactor was providing the money. If they believed it was at Mr. Piotrowski's hand, then so much the better. It had the benefit of being true, at least as to the source of the money, although his friend had left no specific instructions in those regards. The money would be distributed through the law firm, and Mr. Wahl confirmed that the necessary funds would be transferred after the New Year per Scott's instructions.

He had a lot of time to think on the drive back to Fort Stockton. His affairs were in order, and he was one step closer. The best news of the day came when he received a text message from Joseph informing him that he wasn't going to be called to testify in the civil case. It also meant that he could enjoy the last week of summer vacation.

Friday night was movie night. The entire gang was getting together and meeting at Ed's house. Molly and Ed were still a couple. Rene was there, but she and Bo had broken up yet again. Fortunately they were still friendly. Both Mendoza sisters were excited to be included in the outing. The teens congregated in the kitchen waiting for Bo to arrive.

"Scott, stand right there and don't move," Mrs. Mendoza instructed him.

She dragged Ed over to him and made them stand back to back, "I thought so. Scott, you're a hair taller than Ed now."

That put him a little over five feet, eleven inches. Ed had an amazing growth spurt the summer before their freshman year. He hadn't grown any taller since, but had filled out. Scott was finally catching up.

Bo eventually arrived. He'd purchased an old Chevy pickup in April and the guys had put a lot of hours in on it ever since. They'd replaced everything under the hood except for the engine, as various parts broke over the summer months. Now the truck was running reliably, although it looked a little rough. It was originally black, but now it sported one blue door, a rust red hood, and a primer grey tailgate. The truck body was a series of primer blotches showing all the areas they had worked on.

"Where are you going after the movies?" Mrs. Mendoza inquired.

"We'll probably get pizza," replied Ed.

"Do you have enough money for your sisters?" she asked.

"Mom!" Ed complained.

"I'll treat," Scott insisted.

"Dating sisters is usually frowned upon, especially at the same time," Mrs. Mendoza teased.

"Mother," the girls chimed simultaneously.

Ed and Molly went with Bo, while the Mendoza girls rode with Scott. The girls gave him a hard time about his dating life, and he accepted it with good humor. The pizza place was packed after the movie. With a week left before school started, Fort Stockton's youth were trying to fit every last minute of freedom in. It was a raucous atmosphere and you almost had to shout to be heard. Tables only quieted down when fresh pizzas were delivered.

"There's Lacey," Rene said poking Scott in the ribs.

He turned to look and gave her a little wave when she spotted him.

Lacey was dating a senior on the basketball team. Scott has been sorely tempted to go over to her house and ask her out on the day she turned sixteen, just to see the look on her mother's face. He stopped caring about it, or so he told himself, but it took effort not to think unkind thoughts about the girl. He returned his attention to the pizza.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A low roar filled the gymnasium. It was the first day of school and the student body was busy catching up on a summer's worth of gossip. Principal Reynolds walked to the podium and the crowd slowly quieted down. He gave his standard greeting and welcomed the new freshman. Scott was sitting with his friends and the rest of the junior class. It was going to be a fun semester. For a change from last year he was going to share two of his three classes with friends.

"So I worked out a deal with that auto body place," Bo was saying as they walked toward their first period class.

"That's great," Ed replied.

"There's only one problem," Bo said. "I have to sand and prep the truck first. All they're going to do is spray it."

"When are you planning this sanding party?" Scott asked.

Bo grinned, "I was hoping Saturday would work for you guys?"

They gave Bo a little grief, but both friends agreed they'd be there on Saturday to get the truck ready for paint.

Scott had to run by the front office to get his pass to leave campus. Principal Reynolds spotted him and signaled that he wanted a word.

"Scott, how was your summer?"

"Excellent, sir. Thank you for asking."

"What are you taking this semester from Midland College?"

"I decided on History of the Cold War, and Introduction to Psychology."

"Sounds good," Principal Reynolds said. "Let me know if I can do anything for you."

Getting back into the rhythm of class wasn't a big adjustment. If anything, the high school classes were a bit of a break, and he got to spend time with his friends.

Scott got an odd text from Joseph on Wednesday. He drove over to the office. The receptionist shook her head, no baby yet. She buzzed Joseph and told Scott to go on back.

"Have you been following the trial?" Joseph asked before Scott could even sit down.

"No, they haven't changed their minds about calling me as a witness have they?"

"That's not going to happen," Joseph assured him. "It's gotten crazy in El Paso. My sources tell me that in court they're saying Buck Lewis couldn't have buried Andrea Jones. They dug up some old medical report about Buck being on crutches at the time because of a badly sprained knee from some misadventure."

"How did they find that out?" Scott frowned remembering a conversation he'd had with Mr. Piotrowski. "And if Buck didn't bury her, who did?"

"The family hired private investigators and I guess they've been earning their money," Joseph replied. "As to who, it has to be one of the sons I would think. Either Albert or Bernard, but suspicion will be pointing toward Bernard since he was Junior's father."

"What can they do about it?"

It was Joseph's turn to frown, "I don't think a criminal prosecutor will touch it. With Junior dead the best they could charge would be something related to mishandling a corpse, even if they could figure which one of the brothers was responsible. There's no reason for either one of them to confess now. Since it's a civil trial the burden of proof is less than in a criminal trial, so I think the Joneses are going to prevail. It may end up like OJ. He got away with it in the criminal trial, but was found guilty in the civil trial. They never recovered much money since he was ruined financially."

"OJ?" Scott asked.

"OJ Simpson?" Joseph prompted. "Football great, killed his wife and her friend. Got away with it, but was found guilty by the civil trial? Trial of the century, '94 or '95?"

"Oh that guy. I would have been two or three years old at the time."

Joseph mumbled something about getting old.

"Speaking of kids, where's yours?"

Joseph held up his phone, "I'm on standby."

There was still no baby news when Scott went to pick up Ed Saturday morning. The three boys sanded every inch of Bo's truck. They were at it from early in the morning until mid afternoon. It was a productive day, but they were filthy when they were done.

Scott borrowed a couple of trash bags to line the seats of the truck before he dropped Ed back at his house.

At the apartment Scott climbed tiredly from the truck, and stood in the driveway trying to knock some of the dust from his clothes before he went upstairs. Jobe ran over and sniffed him closely. The dog sneezed which made Scott laugh.

"Is that your dog?" called a familiar voice.

Scott turned to see Charlie and her older sister, Lacey, walking down the street.

"It is. Do you like dogs?" he asked politely.

"Yes. What's your dog's name?"

"Jobe, would you like to meet him?"

Charlie nodded eagerly. The girls walked over to the driveway and Scott introduced Jobe.

"His nose is cold," Charlie said. "How come you're so dirty?"

"I've been helping a friend."

Charlie and Jobe played games while Scott and Lacey talked quietly. It was a strained but civil exchange.

Scott looked up when he heard the squeal of tires. An old red pickup truck was screaming toward them swerving almost out of control, black exhaust belched from the tail pipes as the driver accelerated. Scott was frozen in horror as he saw that Charley was directly in the path of the speeding truck.

At the last possible second Jobe flashed by and knocked Charlie out of the way. There was a terrible thump as Jobe was thrown by the impact. Charlie was down in the street crying, and Jobe's body lay crumpled a short distance away. The truck was nearly out of sight as Scott ran into the street.

Lacey ran to her sister, while Scott ran to Jobe's side. The damage was terrible. Scott could see glistening bone and intestines. Jobe wasn't moving. Tears filled his eyes as he turned to check on Lacey.

"Is she hurt?" he shouted.

"Scared, but okay," Lacey shouted back.

Scott turned and started to prepare his energies. Nothing was going to stop him from trying to bring Jobe back. Before he could begin he got the shock of his life. The damage was repairing itself. Fur rippled and bones were slipping back under skin.

"How?" he whispered looking at his hands.

Lacey shouted, "Is Jobe okay?"

Jobe lifted his head and took Scott's wrist gently in his mouth. He could see blood streaming from the dog's mouth and nose as bone and organs shifted under his fur. The noise in Scott's head and the pounding of his heart faded away. He had a flash of large eyes watching him before everything faded to black.

"Scott, what about Jobe?" Lacey shouted again.

Scott blinked. What just happened?

Lacey and Charley were both shouting.

He shook himself and looked down at the dog. "He's cut real bad, and I think there's something wrong with his leg," Scott managed to reply. It was a miracle that Jobe hadn't been more seriously injured.

Mrs. Monroe came out of the house, "What's going on out here!"

Lacey explained about the speeding truck while Mrs. Monroe rushed to check on the little girl, satisfied that she was okay she moved to Scott's side.

"How can I help?" she asked.

"Open the passenger side door on my truck," Scott replied. "I'm going to take him to the animal clinic. Can you see that the girls get home?"

"I'm going to call the police too," Mrs. Monroe shouted as she ran to Scott's truck. "What kind of maniac speeds down a quiet street like that?"

"Sorry, boy, this is going to hurt," Scott gathered the big dog in his arms and lifted. Scott carried Jobe to the truck and placed him gently down on the garbage bag that still lined the passenger seat. Mrs. Monroe came rushing back and handed him a towel she had grabbed from the garage. He pressed it down over the wound in Jobe's side.

Scott ran to the driver's side and jumped in. He made sure the girls were clear, and then backed out and turned onto the street, tires squealing. He steered with one hand and looked for the veterinarian's number on his phone with the other.

"Animal clinic," the voice at the other end of the phone answered.

"This is Scott MacIntyre, I'm bringing my dog, Jobe, in. He was hit by a truck. I'm about five minutes away," he practically shouted the words.

"Okay. Dog hit by a truck. Please drive safely, we'll be waiting."

Scott had glanced at the speedometer and backed his speed down. He reached over and put a hand on Jobe's flank. He tried to push some of his healing into Jobe, but the energy kept bouncing back to him.

"It'll be okay, boy," Scott said more to himself than to Jobe. "The vet will know what to do."

Scott brought the truck to a screeching halt in the clinic's parking lot. The vet's assistant held the door while Scott carried Jobe through. The veterinarian was holding the exam room door open and pointed toward the table. Scott set Jobe down as gently as possible while he explained to the vet what had happened.

The vet looked at Scott and told him to wait outside. Scott realized he was still covered in dust and filth from working on Bo's truck. He paced back and forth in the waiting room. A woman with a little toy dog complained about her appointment being delayed. The receptionist calmly explained that the vet was dealing with an emergency.

Finally the vet came out and asked to speak with him.

"I was able to stop the bleeding and sew up the laceration. There's nothing broken, so he's very fortunate in that respect. Unfortunately, x-rays showed that the femur was completely dislocated. I anesthetized him, and reseated the femur head into the hip socket. We have the hip tightly wrapped to keep the ball joint in place. If we are very lucky, it will heal on its own and he won't need surgery."

Scott thanked the vet profusely, "When I can take him home?"

"I'd like to keep him overnight for observation. He's going to be very sore, and you can expect some significant swelling and bruising to develop over the next twenty-four hours. You'll need to keep him penned for at least a couple of weeks so he doesn't reinjure himself. I'll need to see him again in a week to do another set of x-rays. Go home, take a shower, and I'll see you tomorrow at ... let's say nine?"

"Can I see him?"

"Tomorrow, he's still not conscious from the anesthesia."

Scott stopped at the receptionist's desk to take care of the bill. It was going to be big, but it was one bill he would happily pay. The closer he got to his apartment the angrier he got. He was going to find the driver of that red truck.

Mrs. Monroe was outside when he pulled into the driveway.

"He's alive, but banged up. The vet's keeping him overnight," Scott explained. "We're not going to be running any marathons anytime soon."

"I called the police," Mrs. Monroe said. "The person I talked to said there wasn't anything they could do since the little girl wasn't hurt. Jobe doesn't count under the law, if you can believe that. I took the girls home, and their mother actually tried to blame you!"

"It figures, she's not my biggest fan. Thanks Adele, for everything, I'm going to go grab a shower."

Scott stood under the shower for a long time. He got dressed slowly and grabbed his keys. He didn't know what he was going to do if he found the truck and its driver, but he'd figure it out as he went. Fort Stockton wasn't very big, but he spent two hours driving around without spotting the red truck. He called Bo and Ed and told them what had happened. He described the truck, and both guys promised to keep an eye out for it.

He was early to the animal clinic Sunday morning. At nine the vet unlocked the front door and told him to come on in. Jobe was ready to go home and his tail was thumping loudly as Scott rubbed the big dog's head. Jobe's side had been shaved around the laceration for the stitches. A big bandage and sling were wrapped around the hip joint. The vet gave Scott a bottle of pain pills and a series of aftercare instructions. Scott carried Jobe to the truck and took him home.

Jobe walked around the garage stiffly and nosed at his food bowl, but didn't eat. Scott had moved his favorite bed down to the garage and put out fresh water and food. Climbing the stairs was out of the picture for some time.

Mrs. Monroe came over and fussed over Jobe before leaving. Scott set up a folding chair and retrieved his laptop from the apartment. He worked on homework while keeping an eye on Jobe. The dog seemed content to sleep.

Bo came over with his dad a little after noon. They brought a length of nylon construction fencing and helped Scott build a pen around the garage side door. It would give Jobe enough room to take care of his business, but not so much that he'd be tempted to run around and do more damage to his hip.

They stood around outside the garage and talked about the mystery truck.

"It could have come from anywhere," Scott said.

"I don't know about that," Mr. Mason replied. "This isn't a street somebody from the interstate is likely to end up on. I'd bet it was somebody local."

"You said you thought the driver might have been drunk?" Bo mentioned.


"I wonder where he was trying to get to?"

"I'll be sure and ask when I catch up to him."

Mr. Mason cautioned him against doing anything stupid. Scott tried to assure him that he wouldn't.

Later that afternoon Jobe got up and managed to water some grass. He moved stiffly, but wasn't acting like he was in pain. He sniffed the fencing and Scott told him that it was only temporary.

Scott found his sleeping bag and decided he was going to camp out in the garage with Jobe for the night. It was hot, but he eventually fell asleep. He woke up stiff and sore. The concrete floor had not been comfortable. He stretched carefully and loosened up with some quick calisthenics while Jobe watched sleepily from his bed. The dog started to get up, but Scott told him to stay put. He changed into his running shorts and went hunting.

He returned an hour later. He'd covered a lot of ground, but found no sign of the truck. Scott managed to get Jobe to take a pain pill hidden in a treat and went to take a shower.

Lacey was waiting with Scott's friends near the parking lot when he arrived at school that morning. She rushed over as soon as he opened the truck door.

"How's Jobe?" she asked.

"Sore, but alive," Scott replied as he locked the truck with his key fob.

"Thank god. Charlie's been driving my mother crazy asking about him. She's calling him her hero. I still can't believe what he did."

"Charlie's okay?" Scott asked.

"She's fine," Lacey assured him. "Jobe knocking her out of the way scared her more than the truck did. She forced my mother to promise to bring her by so she can see him. Would it be okay?"

Scott blew a breath out, "Sure. Let's give him a few more days to heal up first?"

Lacey agreed and then hurried off to her first period class.

Scott friends gathered around him and peppered him with questions.

"Did Jobe really save her sister's life?" Ed asked.

"I guess you can say he did," Scott replied as he watched Lacey disappear into a crowd of students. "The truck would have hit her for sure."

"He deserves a medal," Molly said.

"Bo saw him and can tell you how banged up he was if you really want to know."

Scott drove back to the apartment after his last morning class. Jobe was waiting in the fenced in area for him. Scott checked the stitches and the wrapping on his hip. He carefully brushed the rest of his coat removing bits of dirt. Jobe complained when Scott went upstairs to fix his lunch. He brought a paper plate down to the garage and ate sitting in the lawn chair.

He tossed a bit of his sandwich to Jobe. Jobe shuffled over and mouthed his treat before flopping down in his bed with a sigh.

"I've got to get to class. You behave yourself," Scott told the dog.

He enjoyed the college classes he was taking this semester. Both professors made the material interesting. The Introduction to Psychology class was straightforward like any survey course. The history class was more challenging and there was a lot of extra reading material.

Sheriff King's truck was parked in front of Scott's garage when he returned. The sheriff was talking with Mrs. Monroe over by the construction fence.

"Scott, why is it that I have to hear about this through the grapevine. You couldn't call me?"

"It's been a little crazy around here. How did you hear about it?" Scott asked

"The little Gregory girl told her entire fourth grade class about Jobe the hero dog, a class which happens to be taught by the wife of one of my deputies. You know how Fort Stockton is. Word travels fast, and a great story travels even faster."

Scott pulled the fencing back and let Jobe greet the sheriff.

"He's moving better than I thought he would be. What did the vet say?"

"That he's damn lucky. Dislocated leg is the worst injury. The wrap is supposed to keep the joint intact. I don't think he'd be moving as good if it wasn't holding. We go back for more x-rays Friday."

The sheriff grunted as he took a close look at the long row of stitches, "What can you tell me about the truck?"

Scott shrugged, "I've looked for it. It was old, maybe '89 or '90 Chevy two-door short bed. It was painted red. Had dual exhausts and smoked when the driver was on the gas."

"Scott," the Sheriff said.


"For some of us 1990 wasn't so long ago. Maybe you can take it easy on us old timers?"

Mrs. Monroe cackled.

The sheriff said he'd have his people keep an eye out for a truck matching the description. Law enforcement was sure to run across the driver again.

"The sheriff is a nice man," Mrs. Monroe observed as he drove away.

"Yes, he is."

"You sure have some interesting friends," she added.

Scott woke up with a furry dog pressed up against him. He had slept in his bed after deciding that another night on the concrete floor of the garage wasn't doing him any favors.

"How did you get up here? You're not supposed to be climbing stairs."

Jobe licked his face.

Scott climbed out of the bed and looked at Jobe. The dog was doing his best to look innocent. Scott scooped him up and set him down on the floor. He kept a careful eye on the dog as he walked to the kitchen. Jobe seemed to be moving better, but the complicated sling wrapped around his hip slowed him down.

He poured himself a glass of water and put fresh water and food in Jobe's bowls. It was a little after 4:00 a.m. He went and changed into his running gear. Jobe was stretched out on the rug in the living room trying to clean himself, but looked hopefully toward the door when he spotted Scott's running clothes.

"You can stay in the apartment until I go to school, and then I'm taking you downstairs."

Jobe ignored him and tried to follow him to the door. Scott moved Jobe back to the rug and told him to stay.

"No running for you until the vet says it's okay."

His morning run turned up nothing. After a shower, he decided to expand his search pattern and went for a long drive before school. He was on the opposite side of town when he realized that he'd better head for campus. He pulled into an abandoned gas station and turned around. This side of town was a bit of a wasteland with empty lots and a few closed businesses. He glanced down a side street and spotted the red truck. It was parked at an angle in the middle of the road with the driver's side door wide open.

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