TEAR DOWN AND DIE
The first book in the
Second Chances Mystery Series
By Joanna Campbell Slan
~ DEDICATION ~
For Sally Lippert, who believes in second chances.
Late August, St. Louis
As if he were looking out into the future, the light faded in Sven’s brown eyes, and his weight settled in my arms. A sob burst from my chest, as I whispered, “He’s gone, isn’t he?”
The vet, a grizzled man near retirement age who had a habit of clicking his dentures, pressed the stethoscope to my dog’s chest. After what seemed like an eternity, he nodded.
“I killed my dog,” I said to my friend Kiki, as her fingers gripped my shoulder. “I killed him!”
With surprising strength, she grabbed me and turned me so that we faced each other. “You did not kill him. He’s been having seizures for the past eight hours. You released him, Cara Mia. You gave him peace!”
I threw my arms around her neck and cried. I choked and sputtered and moaned and keened and all the sadness of the past six months heaved up inside me and overflowed onto the shoulder of my friend. Kiki Lowenstein simply held me, patting my back, making soothing sounds. The vet wisely left us alone.
When I was nearly cried out, he asked, “Do you want to take your dog with you?”
Kiki’s fiancé, Detective Chad Detweiler made a move to bundle Sven in a blanket, but I said, “No. Please cremate him. I plan to leave the area. I want to take him with me.”
The rest of the visit is a blur. The staff graciously averted their eyes as we climbed into Detweiler’s big police cruiser. Kiki and I sat in the back seats so she could hold me. We’d made quite a fuss on our arrival. Detweiler had used his flashing lights to speed us through the city traffic as I watched Sven convulsing on my lap. Silently, I thanked my lucky stars for having friends who dropped everything and came to my aid at a moment’s notice. Leaving St. Louis would be hard, but I’d had enough. My parents were both gone, my son was off to college, and now this.
“I am never, ever going to own another dog,” I said. “Ever.”
For a long portion of the ride, Kiki said nothing. She stroked my hair and let me cry, leaking tears now rather than sobbing.
When we pulled up to my house, she walked me inside while Detweiler waited for her in his car. I appreciated how he gave us a bit of privacy. After she got me settled on my sofa and made me a cup of chamomile tea, Kiki sank down next to me and said, “Now you listen to me, Cara Mia, and you listen good. Of course you’ll get another dog. Of course you’ll love again. I know you and I know that you believe in second chances. We both do. That’s what makes life worth living. And if you forget how important they are, if you start to doubt that they are worth the heartache, remember this—”
And she pressed my fingertips to her belly so I could feel her baby kick. “Second chances,” she said. “That’s what life’s all about. Don’t you ever doubt it.”
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