It is a stormy night. Heat lightening is sending streaks of bright light across the sky in waves and thunder growls like a rabid animal far off in the distance. Teagan can feel a static charge in her fingertips. The hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. She’s standing in the doorway that leads from the kitchen to the tiny but well manicured lawn behind her home. She flips on a spot light and quickly shuts it off. She can see better with the light off. Her eyes not adjusting quick enough to the bright beam of light.
Teagan is worried for the safety of her dog who ran out to relieve himself before the storm hit but hasn’t yet returned home. Thunder scares him and it’s not like him to be gone this long. He’s more human that pooch. Pampered and worshipped like a deity instead of a doggie. Not that that is a bad thing, it’s what comes natural to Teagan. Either way you slice it, he’s not back yet and she’s trying desperately not to freak out.
“Artemis!” She cries. “Artemis Come!” she commands. The rain is coming around again, and everything beyond the door is illuminated for a moment each time another ripple of electricity bursts through the night. The grass shimmers beneath a pink and yellow sky before fading in to thick black. An orchestra of raindrops builds a crescendo.
Southern California is in desperate need of a soaking like this but Teagan prays the storm away. “Oh my god Artemis ! Come on !! Come! ARTEMIS?!” Teagan wretches open the door to a coat closet down the hall from the kitchen, yanks a hooded sweatshirt off a hanger and darts out her back door while slipping it on over her head.
“Artemis!” she calls as she slides between bushes and peeks behind the dark studio building at the back of her lot. She glances up and down the length of her wildlife fence. It seems untraversed. No digging in the mud. No bent back links. The thunder claps and Teagan jumps. She flips the hood up on her sweatshirt and slinks around the back building to the side yard. She looks under bushes, beneath her car, under the outside furniture that sits atop a stamped concrete patio. There’s no trace of Artemis and the storm is getting worse.
She scoots quickly back to the kitchen and slides her cellphone out of her pocket. She sends a text to her neighborhood watch captain that reads:
T: Drew, it’s Teagan Ryan at 8983. My dog Artemis has gone missing and I’m freaking out!
D: Oh no! What happened?
T: He went out to do his business and never came back!
D: off leash?
T: yes ! 😦
D: Oh Teagan…you shouldn’t do that.
Drew is a weasel of a man. Broad and stocky but barely five feet tall. Teagan is not sure why in the world she chose to text him of all people. She supposed it had something to do with the bolstering he did in her very own living room a few nights ago. Something inspirational and rather motivational regarding the safety and security of a well connected community or some crap like that.
A party of nine had gathered at her house for a HOA kickstarter meeting. Nine people showed out of the 36 homes that were invited. 9 people including Drew and his wife. Frank Farraday and his wife. Gloria Maynard and her wife. Victor Plum. Jennifer Olsen. Just a few curious residents. No one with an axe to grind. Teagan spent the majority of the meeting running her hand up and down the length of her dog Artemis. Maybe she should have reached out to Victor Plum instead. He was the most manly of the bunch.
T: But what do I do now? Should I go door to door?
D: Don’t worry. He probably found a safe place to hide and has burrowed in until the storm passes. Turn the lights on and maybe put his bowl on the porch? He’ll be home soon. Don’t fret.
T: I can’t just do nothing.
D: You’re going to have to. The rain is really coming down out there.
D: If he’s not back by morning, I’ll help you look but I’m sure he’ll be back any minute. Try not to worry.
T: Thanks Drew 😦
Pussy. Teagan thought to herself. She’s not sure entirely what she expected Drew to do but she thought maybe an offer to help her look at the very least. She turned on the outside lights and peeked out the front windows. The rain dropped the temperature dramatically. She didn’t like the idea of her precious outside all alone but it was so goddamn dark out there. She was kind of spooked by the idea of canvasing the ‘hood by herself. Her neighbors are very private people. She’d be on her own. By herself in the dark.
In the five years Teagan has lived high up on Wonderland, she has maybe seen each of her neighbors but a handful of times. She learned some of their names from misdelivered mail but thats about the extent of contact she had with anyone before she offered to host the HOA gathering. Regardless, the crew from the HOA meeting are scattered far and wide up and down their hill. She knows who lives in 8935 by name because he’s famous. Other than that, it’s a hill full of mysteries and one very famous mass murder.
Teagan watched a car pass on the street down below. It splashed through a few puddles as it continued up the hill. I can’t leave him out there in this! Teagan thought. She pictured her shaggy side kick drenched and shivering. The mental picture tugged at her heartstrings. She decided to put her fears aside for the sake of her beloved and go out in to the storm. A little rain wont hurt and it’s heat lightening for fuck’s sake.
Teagan rummaged through her coat closet again, looking for an umbrella. A small black fold up that she’s had since the 90s was lodged beneath a half dozen shoes. She shook it out and popped it up the moment she stepped out the front door with it.
She called out his name over and over again. “Artemis!” A few cars drove past her and she was forced to dodge the spray from their tires. She was nearly soaked through and through herself as she peered up and down and all around every single nook she was able to explore. His name ever present on her lips. A flashlight beam coming from her right hand.
“Come on Artemis! Come on!” she cried.
A car slowed next to Teagan as she was on her second pass down the hill.
“You ok?” a soft male voice asked from behind a cracked window.
“Yes.” Teagan said bruskly as she shined her flashlight into the interior of the car. She put a little extra pep in her step. The car crept along at the same speed.
“Yes I’m sure!” Teagan said more forcefully.
“What are you looking for?.”
The man pressed the brakes and stopped his car in the middle of the road. Thunder boomed from above. “He get loose?”
Teagan stopped walking. “Yes! I’ve been looking for hours.” she whined.
“I’ll park and help you look.” the man said and only when he began to drive away did Teagan realize whose house she was standing in front of. Great. Just what she needs – a random and pathetic encounter with the most famous of her unknown neighbors.