I threw everything into the back of my truck, the soft crate, my chair and bag of leashes, collars, combs, and dog food, then told Logan to jump into his metal crate. As I ran to the driver’s seat, I noted in dismay that it had been snowing for the last few hours. There was no guarantee that I could even get out of Denver. Would my old Toyota’s tires keep me safe?
Finally, after driving carefully on the slippery roads, I reached the Eisenhower tunnel and was safely cocooned under the mountain and away from the inclement weather. I kept looking in the rear view mirror for Kent’s car. Was it possible that he had not seen me?
Eventually I reached the west end of the tunnel. The beautiful scenery greeted me as I drove out of the 1.7 mile tunnel into a panorama of evergreen trees, and a long range of mountains amid vast valleys. There were a few clouds but no snow, which was left behind in Denver. I could relax and continue driving toward Steamboat Springs where Jimmie agreed to meet me that evening. The well-traveled highway spiraled down toward the ski town, but it would still take me an hour to finally reach Jimmie. Just as the road straightened out for a long last drop into Steamboat my truck’s red engine light came on. Groaning in frustration, I pulled over by a dirt road that appeared to go off into the woods. Now what? I had no cell phone, no way of calling anyone. The steep grade of the highway was not conducive for anyone to stop and help a woman or anyone with car trouble. The eighteen-wheelers zoomed by my truck, causing it to shudder with the sudden backdraft from the trucks. I put my head down on the steering wheel to think.
The truck’s door was pulled open harshly, causing me to almost fall out.
“Perfect! I’m surprised your beater truck lasted this long.” There stood Kent. “Get out.” He commanded.
I refused to leave the safety of my truck, the safety of the nearby traffic or my dog. He grabbed my arm and pulled me face first onto the dirt road. I heard Logan barking furiously in the back of the truck.
“We’re going for a hike.” I looked back at the vehicle he had driven, a new expensive car. Kent saw my surprise and said, “Yeah, I stole it, so what? Move.” He pulled me off the ground and pushed me toward the road and the woods.
The dirt road did go back into the forest and looked abandoned. There were no tire tracks and the tree’s branches swept over the trail almost to the ground. It seemed like we walked for over an hour. It was mid-afternoon, I guessed. Eventually we reached the top of a ski lift, which had a three sided wooden structure covering a short concrete ramp. Kent pushed me to the back of the wooden building.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment. You should have died in that fire. At least your damn dog is dead.”
“So it was you who started it. You left behind your ID though. That wasn’t too smart.“ I dared to stand up to him for once.
“I saw the janitor was caught in the stairwell and knew he wouldn’t make it out alive. So I threw in my driver’s license so people could think I died in the fire. I’m not stupid, you know.”
“But how did you find me in Denver?”
“It turns out someone hates you more than me, that stuck up, rich dog lady, Suzy. She was only too happy to tell me where you were showing on the condition that I killed your dog, of course, and you. She even paid me. Ya gotta love rich bitches.” He grinned.
He was standing on the concrete pad with his back to the valley below. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a gun and pointed it at me.
“Kent. No. Don’t be stupid. Don’t do it!” He raised his hand and aimed the gun at my head while I tried to reason with him.
He enjoyed watching me squirm, as usual, thus delaying my inevitable death. At that moment he was knocked to the ground. I saw my beloved Golden Retriever, Logan, on top of Kent but two police officers quickly pulled my dog off and reached for Kent’s gun. Fearing for Logan’s safety, I called him to me. He was wearing his tracking harness and long line. Jimmie came around the corner of the structure and pulled me off the ground and away from Kent.
With one hand on Logan’s collar, I reached up and hugged Jimmie. “How did you find me?”
“I just got into Steamboat when Chris called. She told me about Kent. The police escorted me north back towards Denver, looking for you. We saw your truck but when I found Logan I knew you would never leave him behind. I also found his tracking gear in your truck. It only made sense to use him to search for you. The other car behind your truck came back as stolen. I told the deputies about Kent and,” His phone rang, of course, interrupting us. But he smiled. It’s Chris,” He put her call on the speakerphone.
“Betty, are you okay? You won Novice! Tripper got second in Open. Both of Suzi’s dogs flunked, even her Obedience Champion, and she did something bizarre. She came up to me and threw the dog leashes with her two dogs and said, “For your idiot friend if she’s alive. These mutts are dead to me, losers. “
“Betty, I’m standing here with two Border Collies. What am I going to do with two Border Collies? You DO want them, right? My husband would not understand. What did she mean, if you are still alive?”
I looked at Jimmie but answered Chris. “Can you drive over to Steamboat Springs? Yes, I’m alive and yes, I want them. They deserve a better life.”
“Chris, is Suzy still there?”
“The last time I saw her she was talking to a Golden Retriever breeder. I think I saw her RV outside. Why?”
“She paid Kent to kill Logan and then to kill me.”
Jimmie took the phone out of my hands. “See you soon, Chris.” He rudely hung up the phone and ran over to one of the deputies. Suzy wouldn’t be showing dogs for a long time, I reasoned. Kent was on his phone arranging her arrest.
Jimmie called me over to him at the same time the handcuffed Kent and one deputy walked near me toward Jimmie. Kent looked at me and pleaded, “Honey, you know I wouldn’t kill you. I love you.”
“You don’t know about love. You can rot in jail. Don’t forget you confessed to me about the fire.” Kent grit his teeth angrily but was pulled away back down the road to the police car.
Jimmie saw my hurt and anger. We walked over to the edge of the concrete ski lift, sat down and looked at the setting sun as its rays fell over the horizon.
“So now I’ll have three dogs,” I warned him. “Can you accept a woman who loves dogs?”
“Can you accept a man who loves his job?”
“Five seconds, five hours or five decades. I love you,” I confessed.
“This is one fire I don’t want to put out.” He reached over and kissed me. But we were interrupted by Logan who put his big golden nose between us, woofed and licked Jimmie’s face and then mine, as if we had forgotten him.
“We both love you too, Logan!”
In memory of my Golden Retriever Trevor. In the 1980’s we competed at the Gaines Regional Competition in Sacramento, California and then the Gaines Classic in Denver, Colorado. He took me to a higher level of dog training and is responsible for my love for all things canine to this day.