Dog Days of Ragnarok (Bonus Scene)

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This bonus scene takes place a few days after the conclusion of Drop Dead (Book 1). It’s about 1900 words (~8m read).

Hope you enjoy it!

THE BROILING SUMMER SUN pounds down from the cloudless teal sky, baking the dog park’s grass to a fine yellow crisp. Ella’s jet-black paws kick up clouds of dust as she sprints after the bouncing tennis ball. She lunges forward, snatching it off the ground with her snout.

Then she squeezes it between her strong jaws for a couple seconds before turning to stare at me.

“Come on, bring it back!” I call from the other end of the park, about fifty yards away. “Over here.”

She wags her thick tail, drops the ball at her feet, and unleashes a throaty howl. Then she just stands there panting, waiting for me to retrieve the ball as her pink tongue dangles from the side of her mouth.

I brought her here to play fetch.

Instead of fetch, this has been the game for the last five minutes.

Throw the tennis ball.

Have Ella chase it and then make said ball extra slobbery, so its felt coating feels slimier than a week-old fish.

Watch her drop it on the ground to give it that nice and gritty dirt finish.

And finally, wait for her to howl at me until I retrieve the ball so we can repeat the process all over again.

Sweat streams down my back, soaking my tank top through as I jog across the dog park. This place is only a few blocks from my apartment, right in the heart of Ragnarok’s downtown residential area. But despite it being a nice afternoon, we’re somehow the only ones here.

Ella leaps into the air as I approach. When she lands, she ducks her front torso into a playful bow.

Just as I’m about to grab the ball, she dives in with her jaws and picks it up.

Chomp.

Chomp.

Then she drops the soggy thing between my boots and beams.

Wouldn’t want this thing to get dry or anything. That would ruin the whole game.

“For me?” I wrinkle my nose as I crouch into the wispy grass and eye the gooey ball. “You shouldn’t have.”

Ella barks, eager for me to toss it across the park again.

“Do you remember what we talked about before the last throw?”

She cocks her head and nuzzles my face.

Yes, Tessie.

“You’re going to bring the ball back this time,” I say. “To me. The game is called fetch.”

I understand!

I pat the husky on the head. “Repeat the steps.”

I run after the ball and then I bring it back to you.

“Good.” I cock my arm back and then hurl it forward.

She tears across the park. Then she stops midway, head on a swivel, searching for the ball.

“Where is it, girl?”

Ella jams her snout into the grass for a moment. Then her emerald eyes narrow at me in extreme suspicion, her tail stiffening straight in the air like a radio antenna.

I pull the ball out from behind my back and wave it at her.

“Got you.”

Ella barks and curls her lip.

My conscience is clear. I mean, this has been a recurring theme over the past couple days.

She promises to bring the ball back.

Then does not bring it back.

I know she’s lying.

She knows she’s lying.

So I’ll play along. But I’ve gotta sneak a victory of my own in every now and then.

I point with my free hand over toward the park’s lone tree, a towering oak that covers half the area in shade. Then I fling the tennis ball into the corner.

This time, she doesn’t start running until the ball actually hits the grass. A faster learner than me, apparently. Once she has confirmation that I’ve actually thrown it, she bounds over and circles around the thick trunk, disappearing behind the knotty wood.

“Pretty dog.” A man walks up beside me. I glance over. Dirty blonde hair, broad shoulders, stubble, shades covering his eyes. A deep tan and strong forearms both suggest he works with his hands. “Husky?”

“Yup.”

I haven’t seen him at the park before.

Then again, Ella’s not my dog. I’m just watching her while Toby is away on vacation. So I’m not really a regular down here.

A yellow lab sprints past, beelining to the tree.

“Bold move,” I say pointing at the man’s sandaled feet. “Liable to get stomped on.”

“I’m mentally prepared,” he says. “Years of training.”

“You’ll need every second of it. You’re in the arena now.” I watch as the yellow lab darts out from behind the tree, Ella in hot pursuit. The lab is a little gangly, like he hasn’t grown into his full frame yet. Clutched between his grinning jaws is the tennis ball. Saliva streams from his lips as he hunkers low in the sunburnt grass.

“Don’t I know it,” the man says as Ella barks behind the lab. “Hey, Storm! Drop the ball!”

The dog totally ignores him, quite possibly even picking up speed instead.

His owner glances over at me and says with a shrug, “Sorry. He’s still kind of a puppy.”

“How old?” I ask.

“Almost two,” he says. “So maybe not.”

“No problem with living up to your name and creating a little chaos.” Storm spins around to face off with Ella nose-to-nose. She lets out a playful growl. He head fakes left, sending her diving into empty grass, then skates past to the right with his tail primly waving in the air, like he’s an athlete showboating after a big play.

He gloats too long, though, because Ella scrambles back to her feet and accelerates, quickly pulling even with him. Then she throws all her weight at the lab’s flank like a linebacker tackling a wide receiver. She’s got about a forty-pound size advantage.

It’s a clean hit. Storm tumbles into the trampled grass and drops the ball with a little yelp.

Ella swoops in and snatches the tennis ball away, then triumphantly sprints over and drops it at my feet.

I pat her on the head as the lab gingerly stands up and dusts himself off, shoulders drooped in embarrassment.

I retrieved it, Tessie.

“Yes, you did,” I reply with a laugh.

“What were you saying?” the man asks, turning to me.

“Sorry, just talking to Ella here.”

“Ah,” he says with a knowing smile. “Sometimes I swear they even talk back.”

“More than you’ll ever know,” I say, scratching beneath Ella’s jowls. Her chest heaves in and out as she pants heavily.

Storm shakes off his fumble and trots over to us. He cranes his neck, searching for a way to regain possession of the ball.

Ella stops panting for a moment and gives him the side-eye. He flicks his ears back, retreating to the safety of his owner’s side.

“I think she’s getting a little hot,” I say. “Gotta get back to it.”

The man adjusts his sunglasses and says, “And what is it, exactly?”

“I’m a private investigator.” I pull a card out from my jeans and hand it to him. “Actually, I kind of saved the town recently.”

Not the most modest thing I’ve ever said aloud. In fact, it sounds downright douchey.

I blame it on the heat. It’s like an inferno out here.

“Impressive work.” He glances at the card, then back at me. His eyebrow is raised, but not in disbelief or mockery. Just curiosity.

“Yeah, sorry, that was a dumb thing to say.” I reach down to pick up the ball and brush against Ella’s leg.

You are acting funny, Tessie.

“No I’m not.”

“Not what?” he says.

“Nothing.” My cheeks flush. Time to get out of here before this guy calls the padded room brigade for having a public conversation with a dog. Needless to say, I’m still acclimating to this newly manifested Soulwalker ability.

“For the record, I didn’t think it was stupid.” Then he points at my bandaged shoulder and says, “Occupational hazard?”

“I got shot.”

“Saving the town?”

“Saving the town,” I say.

“I’m intrigued.” He smiles as he clips a leash to Storm’s collar. “Maybe I’ll give you a call sometime.”

“You have a case that needs solving?”

“I didn’t know it needed to be official business,” he says.

Ella presses her head against my thigh. I think he is flirting with you.

I almost reply with very perceptive, but manage to hold my tongue. Instead, I return his smile and say, “So is that the game? Picking up chicks at dog parks?”

“Only the ones who talk to their dogs way more than normal.” Then he shrugs casually. “I have extremely high standards, you see.”

I laugh. “Okay. Maybe.”

He checks to make sure Storm’s leash is secure. “But I might have a case for you, too.”

“Let it be known that I don’t take all cases. I have extremely high standards, too.” Extremely high standards that have left me with zero current clients on retainer.

But he doesn’t need to know that.

“Good. Life’s short. No point working with anyone but the best.”

“Town savior, at your service,” I say with a sheepish, exaggerated bow.

“Perfect.” He flicks my business card with his index finger. “I’ll be seeing you around, then, Tess Skye.”

“You sound pretty confident about that,” I say.

“Oh, it’s a very good case,” he says with a mischievous grin as he turns to leave. “I’m Victor, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Victor waves as he unlatches the dog park’s metal gate. Then he and Storm disappear up the street.

Ella headbutts my leg.

“What?”

Can you call Victor so we see him again soon?

“That’s not how this works, El.” I lead her out of the park and close the gate behind us. The nice thing about being able to talk with the dog is I can walk her off-leash without any problems. She hot foots it across the sunny pavement until we cross to the tree-lined side of the street. “The guy has to call you.”

Ella growls.

I hold my hands up. “Hey, I didn’t make the rules.”

I swear she nods her head in disappointment.

“Besides, it’s never good to look desperate in business.”

She sits down on the sidewalk and I bump into her. But what if you wait forever and I do not see Storm again?

I go to step around her, then burst out laughing. “Oh, does someone have a little crush?”

Ella gooses me with her wet nose. No. I just liked playing.

“Uh huh, sure.” I wag my finger at her. “I’m on to you, El.”

The husky responds with a sharp bark and races ahead, done with the conversation.

What I know about this world and she doesn’t, of course, is that clients come and go. The best part about a dog is its loyalty. People tend to be far more mercurial creatures, making claims that never come to fruition.

So today might lead somewhere. Or we might never see Vincent and Storm again.

But, after a long year, no matter what happens with Vincent and his case, I can say one thing for certain as we head home.

It was a good day.

So all I can do is enjoy the moment. And not worry about whatever comes next.

THE END

If you do want to know what comes next, though, be sure to check out Book 2, Smoke Show, now available on Amazon. Vincent and Storm will appear in Hot Water (Book 4), arriving Fall 2021.