David turned his head and spat off the front porch. It had been a long day. It was good to be home.
He turned the key, his brain releasing a little squirt of dopamine at the familiar sound of the coming relaxation, and waited on the next of the two sounds he heard every day at 5:30: Scruff banging against the door.
There was no banging, though. No panting, either. Nothing at all to signify to dog even knew he was there. After a decade of driveway-key-door-dog, it was easy to notice the silence. He shouldered the door open, failing to compensate for Scruff’s missing weight, and stumbled over the threshold. More silence.
There was a sound he noticed. He hadn’t seen Linda’s car when he pulled in, but he supposed he could have missed it.
“It’s me,” he said, making his way towards the back of the small house they shared. “How are you?”
“Good.” Linda’s voice made him feel a little better. The missing dog still nagged at him. “Where’s Scruff?”
“Down here,” Linda said. “He followed me downstairs to do the laundry.”
David froze with his hand an inch away from the doorknob. Scruff never went downstairs. Heck, Linda never did either, at least not since—
Not since they moved the washing machine upstairs.
“Linda? Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Her response was quick and sounded unusually defensive.
“Yes, hon.” A little softer this time, but still not right.
David eased his hand toward the doorknob.
“Can you help me?” Her voice sounded clipped again. “I have a lot of cl— stuff to carry, and I can’t get to the door.”
You’re being stupid, Davey.
The voice in his head was full of contempt, but he couldn’t shake his fear. Had she just not noticed what she’d said? What else would she be carrying?
The irritation of having to ask a third time certainly sounded normal. Dave turned the knob and opened the door.
He didn’t have enough time to see exactly what waited on him, but it wasn’t Linda. It...
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