The morning couldn’t come fast enough. I tried to sleep the rest of the night in the bench seat of my truck with the doors locked, but couldn’t sleep a wink.
I didn’t even want to step back into my home, but there was one reason I had to. My beagle Jake was probably waking up in the mud room right about now and expecting breakfast.
I walked to the back of my house in the cold of the morning and unlocked the back door into the mudroom. I heard Jake frantically scratching at the door and barking before I even got the key in the lock.
“Alright, alright, alright.”
The fat little beagle jumping into my arms as soon as I opened the door gave me some comfort for the first time in hours. I held him tight as he whined and squealed for a few moments.
“Alright, let’s get you some food.”
I pulled Jake off of me and headed over to his dish and giant bag of dog food. He sprinted over to the bowl as soon as he heard the dry dog food cascade down into the bowl. He started wolfing it down before I even finished pouring.
The event almost made me forget about the horror of the night before. Until I noticed a strange paw print stamped in mud next to Jake’s foot. Smaller, rounder and more delicate than Jake’s clumsy tramples, the print looked like it belonged to a cat.
The first print I saw was not alone. The little pitter patters of tiny paws led towards the door which went from the mud room and into the kitchen. The door was wide open. The paw prints left the mud room and trickled onto the linoleum of my kitchen floor.
I bit down upon my lip and followed the tracks into the kitchen and then back into the living room where I left the heart on the floor in the middle of the night.