The city streets were quiet. It was approaching 1 a.m. and most residents were fast asleep waiting for the next day to begin. The sleeping neighborhoods were completely unaware of who and what roamed the streets in the middle of the night.
Everyone had a story to tell and those people out in the middle of the night were no different. What made it unlike any other night was that there was a serial killer on the loose and it didn’t seem like the police were close to catching him anytime soon. The erratic murders didn’t seem to have any type of connection except for the victims it left behind.
The sidewalks, along with a few parked cars, were wet from a mild rain from a couple of hours ago. Large droplets of water on the road reflected the approaching headlights of a police cruiser.
The car idled as it slowed near quick flashes of light. In the shadows, transients were lighting up their scrounged cigarette butts in between quick swigs of cheap booze disguised in brown paper bags.
The cruiser paused for just a moment, then slowly moved on.
Deputy Jack Davis surveyed the streets with intense, dark blue eyes, casually running his fingers through his dark military haircut, looking for anything suspicious or out of place. His well-seasoned cop instincts from the past ten years rarely failed him.
Jack had many things weighing heavy on his mind. One of those things he was going to have out right now.
He vented to his partner, “You’re such an adrenaline junkie. The end doesn’t justify the means.” He sighed and continued, “I can’t even look at you right now. You have to start following procedures otherwise Sarge is going to have both our asses on suspension.”
It remained quiet inside the cruiser.
Jack finally spoke again. “Just because you sleep with me doesn’t make this any easier. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
A muscular one-hundred-pound black Labrador Retriever stared at his partner from the back seat. His large square head tilted slightly to one side, his black eyes fixed at attention as he watched his handler with building curiosity.
Jack demanded. “Say something. Anything.”
The dog barked twice and stood up, pushing his wet canine nose toward Jack and giving him a sloppy kiss on the side of his face, not forgetting the inside of his ear.
Jack smiled. For a brief moment, his tension melted away. “Like I can stay mad at you.”
Jack roughly scratched the big dog’s ears. He was rewarded with snorts and happy low-pitched whines.
The police cruiser took a turn down an alley between two closed businesses, their interiors lit only by low emergency lighting illuminating a shadowy glow from the display shelves.
Jack cut the engine but kept the car lights shining so he could see down the long alley. There were several dumpsters behind the electronics store and deli. The light bounced peculiar shadows and distorted views from the sides of the buildings and off barred security windows.
Jack’s military boots hit the pavement as he got out of the car with purpose. He walked around the cruiser to the trunk, popped it open, and pulled out three gray blankets. He slammed the trunk closed, tucked the blankets under his right arm, and walked around the car.
With eyes focused and ears perked up, his four-legged partner never missed a single step or movement that Jack made. The dog’s black eyes gave the canine an almost demonic appearance.
A sign posted on the side of the back window of the police car read boldly: CAUTION POLICE DOG—KENO. Monterey County Sheriff was printed down the side of the front doors.
Jack’s squeaky gun belt echoed in unison with his footsteps while he walked down the alley as a few suspicious eyes peered out at him from the deep shadows.
Trash and flattened cardboard boxes littered the ground next to broken bottles that had been neatly swept against the side of the building. Some care had been taken to keep the glass from causing any injury to those who had to sleep there.
Upon closer inspection, Jack could see several homeless people hidden beneath the city’s refuse cloaked in several layers of clothing with a few precious personal belongings clutched at their sides.
A young woman barely in her twenties with short blonde hair and a five-year-old child huddled together in their filthy clothing, shivering slightly from the damp evening. The local homeless shelter had only a few beds even for women and children. When they were already occupied, there was nothing else that they could do but find the safest place to hide out for the night. For them, this was the next safest place to be―away from the usual areas of downtown and under the bridge. It was cold, but they would be safe for another night.
Jack slowed his pace and with careful discretion he unfolded the blankets and gently wrapped them around the woman and little girl. They didn’t say a word to him, but their eyes conveyed gratitude. It was difficult for Jack to just leave the homeless behind to shiver in the night, but he turned and kept his focus on the cruiser as he walked back.
Jack didn’t raise his eyes to look through the windshield until he was seated back inside his warm cruiser. Several sets of eyes reflected from the harsh headlights, but they seemed to be more curious than wary of his presence. Some nameless faces had seen him before, especially on extreme cold nights and holidays. He resembled a dark knight coming to the aid of his homeless kingdom.
The cruiser slowly backed up and then disappeared into the night. The lights flashed like ghostly shadows for two seconds and then vanished as quickly as they had appeared. Once again, the alley was dark, quiet, and cold.