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“A Murder in the Dog Park” by Jill Yesko

It was the kind of a day only a dog could love. Cold, wet and muddy.

My bull terrier dragged me down the sidewalk until we reached the dog park. No one came to the dog park at 5:30 am in November. And that was fine with me. I’m a confirmed misanthrope. I hate people but love dogs.

“Go,” I ordered, unhooking Archie from his leash. He beelined to the trees at the edge of the sodden dog park. The rain soaked me to the bone. I pulled my dark blue hoodie tighter around my head in a futile effort to keep the cold out. The wet grass had already soaked my Converse high tops.

Archie barked in the distance. I walked toward the edge of the field where the bare trees met the tall weeds. Archie crouched and pawed at the ground. The hair on his back stuck up like hair brush. He had something in his mouth.

“Drop it,” I shouted, thinking it was a dead squirrel or a moldy McDonald’s bag. I grabbed Archie by his massive jowls to shake whatever he had out of is mouth.

It wasn’t an animal.

It was a blood-soaked sneaker.

I held my breath and turned away. Blood + anything = trouble.

 Archie whined and ran around in frantic circles. “There better not be a dead body,” I said to myself. This was enough drama for one morning.

And then I saw it. The boy lay on his belly, his legs and arms at right angles with each other. His face was pressed into the ground. He couldn’t have been more than 10 years-old. There was dried blood on the back of his head and a quarter-sized wound by his left ear.

Even for a woman who hated people, I knew a dead body deserved respect. I called 911 on my cell phone. The police dispatcher told me to wait by the body until the cops came.

I sat on the wet bench and tried to make sense of the situation. This was a dog park in the suburbs. Why would anyone murder this boy? And why dump the body here?

A Chihuahua bounded across the park trailed by a woman. The dog’s high-pitched yipping broke my concentration. Archie trotted over and the two began sniffing each other in the universal doggie greeting. The dog’s owner, a blonde in pink neon pants and full make up walked over and sat next to me.

“Is everything OK?”

“Not really. There’s a dead body and the cops are coming. I think you and your purse dog should beat it.”

“A dead body in my dog park?” she screeched, pulling a pink iPhone out of her designer handbag and frantically punching away at the keyboard.

“Don’t you have a Pilates class to get to?” I huffed. “And what do you mean it’s your dog park?”

I heard a rumble in the distance. A police cruiser pulled up to the edge of the dog park. A tall, well-built cop got out of the car and ambled over.to the bench. Good looking guys in uniform were my one of my few weak spots. But after my last ex-boyfriend dumped me for a fellow firefighter, I’d sworn off men. I was a novelist, not a masochist.

“It’s horrible, officer,” the woman wailed, cradling her dog. “This kind of thing never happens here. This is a civilized place.”

The cop rolled his eyes.

“What about you?” the cop said, turning toward me and flashing his steely blue eyes. “Did you find the body?”

I couldn’t lie, even though I knew telling the true was going to drag me into a situation I wanted no part of.

“Yeah, I found him,” I said flatly. “Actually, my dog found him. So maybe you should talk to him.”

“Funny, maybe I will,” he said with a half-smile. “But first you and your dog are going to have to write a statement… seeing as how you’re both witnesses.”

The cop escorted me to the police cruiser and put me in the back seat. The cop wouldn’t let Archie in the car with me. Archie scratched at the window and smeared his muzzle on the glass.

An ambulance and more police cars pulled into the dog park. By now it was getting light. A scrum of dogs and their curious owners gathered around the yellow police tape training their necks to see what was happening.

All I wanted to do was go home. I wrote as fast as I could then signed the statement. “Here,” I said,” shoving the paper at the cop who was sitting in the front seat talking into his radio.

“You and your dog are free to go,” he said, flashing me a million-watt smile. “But don’t leave town. I’m going to need to contact you.”

The cop handed me his card. “You can call me anytime,” he said earnestly. “Even if you don’t want to talk about the murder.”

Was this cop coming on to me? My brain was completely scrambled. I shoved the card into my pocket and slammed the police car door. Archie immediately jumped on me with his muddy paws and licked my face.

As the cop pulled away, he rolled down his window. “Have a nice day Miss Ronson,” he said. “And do me a favor. Stay out of the dog park until we get this murder cleared up.”

As much of a pain in the neck as cops could be, you never know when a good-looking one is going to come in handy. I pulled the card out of my pocket. It read: Officer Don Williams, Sutton Police Department. Maybe I’d better not lose the card.

A murder in the dog park and a cute cop. I’d just found the subject for my next novel.

© Jill Yesko

About the Author: Jill Yesko is a writer and documentary film director in Baltimore.

Her film Tainted Blood: The Untold Story of the 1984 Olympic Blood Doping Scandal is available on Amazon. Visit Jill at murderinthedogpark.com. Watch the trailer for Jill's latest book Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwF0RCzYX-4

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