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Authors: W. Bruce Cameron

Ellie's Story (7 page)

BOOK: Ellie's Story
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I turned and stared at him in bewilderment.
Find? In the truck?

Jakob drove slowly, quickly glancing at me and then returning his eyes to the road. I'd been told to Find, but I didn't know how. I couldn't put my nose to the ground and hunt for the little-girl smell on that soft rabbit. But I could—

I lifted my nose to the window. Smells were rushing past so quickly it was hard to sort them out. “Good girl!” Jakob praised. “Find! Find the girl!”

My nose was still filled with the smell of the girl from the toy. Then a breeze brought me that same smell from outside the window, still entwined with the man's. I looked over at Jakob. “Good girl!” he said, stepping hard on the brakes. Behind us, cars honked. “Got it, girl?” he asked intently. But the smell had gone.

“That's okay; that's okay, Ellie. Good girl,” Jakob said, and let the truck ease forward.

I understood now; we were Working from inside the truck. Instead of my legs moving over the ground, hunting a smell, the truck was doing the moving for me. I put my nose back to the window. Hot asphalt, fumes from the cars, a whiff of something disgusting and delicious from an overflowing trash can, a greasy and salty smell of fried chicken from a restaurant, but none of those was right. I was straining, rejecting any- and everything except the smell from the toy.

I felt the truck tilt as we headed uphill. Disappointment was rising from Jakob; I could feel it.

“I think we've lost her,” he muttered. “Nothing, Ellie?”

At my name, I turned and looked at him. Then I went back to my Work. The smells were changing. A sharp, tangy smell from the pine trees. Warm earth. Dry grass. But no little girl, not the one I was supposed to Find.

“Unit Eight-Kilo-Six, what's your twenty?” the radio squawked.

“Eight-Kilo-Six, we are proceeding up Amalfi.”

“Any luck?”

“We had something on Sunset. Nothing since.”

“Roger that.”

I barked.

I didn't normally bark when I caught a scent. But we were Working from the truck and Jakob was so worried; none of this was normal. When the smell rushed in through Jakob's window, filling up the cab of the truck, I couldn't hold back. My tail thumped against the seat. This was it! I'd Found the smell again, the girl's and the man's together!

The truck slowed. I kept my nose pointed into the smell. Jakob eased to a stop. “Okay, which way, here, Ellie?” he asked.

I climbed across the seat and into his lap, shoving my face out of his window. “Left on Capri!” Jakob shouted, his voice sharp with excitement. A few minutes later the truck started to bump. “We're on the fire road!” Jakob yelled.

I was alert, focused dead ahead, while Jakob wrestled with the truck, trying to keep it on the narrow road. He pushed me back into the other seat, away from the smell. I whined a little in frustration. “Sorry, girl, I have to drive,” Jakob muttered. “Hold on, just hold on.…”

Suddenly the truck thumped to a stop, facing a yellow gate. “Be advised, we need the fire department up here,” Jakob said urgently. “There's a gate.”

“Ten-four,” crackled the voice from the radio.

Jakob pushed his door open hard, and we both jumped out.

A red car was parked to one side of the rough dirt road, and I ran over to it. My ears were up; my nose was straining; everything in me was on alert. Jakob had his gun out. “We've got a red Toyota Camry, empty; Ellie says it belongs to our man,” Jakob said shortly. Then he led me around to the back of the car, watching me closely. “No indication anyone is in the trunk of the car,” he said.

“Roger that,” said the radio voice.

The smell from the car wasn't as strong as what was coming from the breeze. Below us, through the trees, there was a canyon. That was where we should go. That was where the girl was, the girl who needed to be Found.

A steep road on the other side of the yellow gate held the man's smell. His was stronger, smudged into the dust of the road. Hers was more delicate, drifting on the air. He'd carried her.

“Be advised, subject took the road down to the camp,” Jakob said. “He's on foot.”

“Eight-Kilo-Six, hold and wait for backup.”

Jakob didn't seem to be paying any attention to the voice as it came out of his walkie-talkie. “Ellie,” he said to me, putting his gun back on his belt. “Let's go find the girl.”



Jakob was afraid.

I could feel the fear rising off him into the air, and it made me nervous. Jakob had been worried, sometimes, when we were Working. He'd been serious, always. But he'd never been scared before, not like this.

I galloped back to nudge his hand with my nose. I felt better if I could touch him. But I knew I couldn't stay right next to him. I needed to Find, needed to Work. That would make Jakob's fear go away.

The girl's scent, faint but clear, pulled me forward, down the slope of the road. The path curved and I lost sight of Jakob behind me. Ahead of me were a few buildings, scattered across green grass.

One of the buildings had steps leading up to a big porch. Up on the porch, a man had his back to me, working on the door with some kind of long metal tool. A little girl was sitting quietly on the steps, huddled back against the railings as if she were cold. But it wasn't a cold day. The sun was hot on my fur and I was panting.

I slowed down a little, heading across the grass at a trot. The girl's sad face brightened a little as she saw me. She sat up and held out her tiny hand.

The man whirled around, staring at me. My hackles rose when our eyes met, and I felt my lips pulling up to show my teeth. There was something dark inside him, something vicious and wrong. I didn't like the smell of him at all, and I didn't like seeing him so near the little girl.

The man jerked his head up, looking back along the road I'd come from.

I turned and ran back. “Doggy!” the girl called after me.

My claws digging into the dirt, I sprinted back to Jakob, who was jogging steadily down the road after me. “You got her,” he said, after one look at my face. “Good girl, Ellie. Show me!”

He could run nearly as fast as I could. We both tore down the road toward the building. The little girl was still sitting there, looking confused. But the man was nowhere to be seen.

“Eight-Kilo-Six, victim is secured and unharmed,” Jakob panted into his walkie-talkie. “Suspect fled on foot.”

“Stick with the victim, Eight-Kilo-Six.”

“Roger that.”

I could hear in the distance the
of a helicopter blade beating the air and then the sound of footsteps running down the road behind us. Two policemen came around the bend, sweating.

“How are you, Emily?” one of them said, running up to the girl. He was careful not to touch her, and he knelt down, bringing his face closer to hers. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” said the little girl. She picked at a flower on her dress.

“Is she all right? Are you okay, little girl?” A third police officer had come running, slower than the other two. He was panting for breath, and he put his hands on his knees. He was larger than the other two, both taller and heavier. I smelled ice cream on his breath.

“Her name is Emily,” the first policeman said.

Jakob had been standing close to me, watching. The little girl looked up at him, and a shy smile touched her face. “Can I pet the doggy?” she asked.

I felt Jakob's relief, the worst of the fear vanishing in the warm sun. That's how I knew I'd done the Work right, even though it had been strange, trying to Find in the truck. I wagged my tail.

“Yes, sure,” Jakob said kindly to Emily. “Then we've got to go back to work.”

My ears perked up at the word “work.” Emily stroked my head and smiled. She wasn't scared anymore, either. I licked her fingers quickly.

I could still feel a sternness in Jakob, even while he smiled down at Emily. We weren't done. Somehow I knew it.

“Okay, I'll … go with you,” said the big policeman. He was still breathing hard. “John, you guys … remain here with the girl. Watch that he doesn't circle back around.”

“If he were close, Ellie would tell us,” Jakob said. I looked up at him. Were we ready? I was ready. Was it time?

“Find!” Jakob said. I leaped ahead into the bushes.

The brush was thick in spots, the soil underneath sandy and loose. I could track the man easily, though. The trail was fresh. He was headed steadily downhill.

The smell was sharp and strong in a stand of tall grass. I ran back to Jakob. “Show me!” he said, and followed. I took him to the grass and to the iron rod hidden there, coated with the man's unpleasant scent.

Jakob and I had to wait more than a couple of minutes for the other policeman to catch up with us. “I fell … couple times,” he gasped. I could smell his embarrassment and the thick sweat dripping off him.

“Ellie says he was carrying this crowbar,” Jakob reported tensely. “Looks like he dropped his weapon.”

“Okay, now what?”

“Find!” Jakob commanded.

I dashed ahead, leaving the two men to follow. The man's scent was painted on bushes and hanging in the air, and it wasn't long before I could hear him scuffling through the leaves and the rough grass. I ran more quickly. The breeze from ahead grew damp, bringing me his smell more strongly.

I pushed through a thorny bush into a little clearing. The air was moist from a tiny stream, and the trees lifted their limbs high overhead, letting shade fall gently on the ground. He saw me and ducked behind one of those trees, just like Wally used to do. But Wally had never fooled me, and this man with the dark, bitter smell could not fool me, either.

I turned and ran back to Jakob. “Show me!” he said.

I stayed close to Jakob as he pushed his way through brush and saplings back to where I'd left the man. Jakob and I stepped out into the little clearing. I could hear the stream trickling over the stones.

I knew where the man was hiding; I could smell his fear and his hate and his angry scent. I led Jakob toward the tree.

The man stepped out into the sunlight.

I heard Jakob shout, “Police! Freeze!”

The man raised his hand, and there was a noise as sharp as a thunderclap.

Just a gun. I knew about guns; Jakob had shown me. Guns were okay. Noise couldn't hurt me. Noise could not hurt anybody.

But I sensed a flash of pain from Jakob, and he fell to the ground. I smelled blood, warm and salty, and I heard his gun clatter away over roots and rocks.

The man took another step forward, his arm still out, the gun still pointed at Jakob and at me. I sensed the man's pleasure, saw his gloating smile. I didn't know how, but somehow this man had hurt Jakob. He'd used the gun to make that noise, and now Jakob was on the ground.

Behind me, Jakob gasped for breath.

I didn't growl; I just lowered my head and charged. The gun made its terrible noise two more times, and then I had the man's wrist in my mouth. His weapon fell with a soft thump into the dust. It couldn't make that loud sound now, the sound that could hurt people, that had hurt Jakob so badly.

The man screamed at me, and I held on, shaking my head violently, as if he were my prey. My teeth broke his skin and tore into the muscles of his arm. His foot smacked into my ribs, but I did not let my jaw loosen.

“Let go!” he yelled.

“Police! Freeze!” shouted another voice. It was the big policeman, shoving his way out from behind a bush.

“Get the dog off me!”

“Ellie, it's okay. Down, Ellie. Down!” the other policeman commanded. I let go of the man's arm and he fell to his knees. His eyes met mine. I could feel his pain but also his cunning. He was happy in some odd, twisted way, even though he was on the ground with his arm bleeding.

I didn't trust him, and I growled, warning him. He thought he was going to get away with something.

“Ellie, Come,” the policeman ordered.

I had always obeyed Come, ever since Jakob had taught me the words with treats in his pocket. I backed up, my eyes never leaving the bleeding man.

“Dog ripped off my arm!” the man shouted. He waved at something behind and to the left of the policeman. “I'm over here!” he called out.

When the policeman turned quickly to see what was behind him, the man lunged, scooping up his gun and leaping to his feet. I barked, quickly, loudly, and my body tensed to spring.

The man I'd Found fired his gun and the noise made my ears hurt. But the big policeman was already turning. His gun made its own noise twice, and the other man fell to the ground, just as Jakob had done.

“Cannot believe I fell for that one,” the big policeman muttered, pointing his gun at the man while he lay on the ground. The policeman took a few cautious steps forward and kicked the other gun away into a patch of grass.

“Ellie? You okay?” Jakob asked faintly.

“She's okay, Jakob. Where you hit?”


I'd already left the man I'd Found. He wasn't a threat anymore; I could tell. And Jakob needed me. I ran to his side but lay down a foot or so away. Then I crawled forward carefully so I could nudge at his hand with my nose. I sensed I had to be very careful, not to touch him too much.

Jakob's hand didn't lift to scratch my ears, the way it always had. I licked it and whined. I could feel the pain deep inside him, feel it working its way through his body. The smell of the blood was powerful; I could hardly smell anything else.

“Officer down, suspect down. We're…” The policeman looked up at the sky. “We're under some trees down the canyon. Need medivac for the officer.”

“Who is the officer?” came the voice from his walkie-talkie.

“Eight-Kilo-Six. We need some help down here

I didn't know what to do. Jakob had been afraid before, but now he seemed calm. I wasn't, though. I was panting and trembling with fear. I'd done my job; I'd Found the girl, and she was safe. I'd Found the man. That was right, wasn't it? That was what I was supposed to do?

BOOK: Ellie's Story
5.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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