Authors: Glen Cook
Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General
There was a disconnect in reality for a moment, like there was a one-half-second fade to black that might, in truth, have lasted a thousand years or an entire cycle of the universe. When it was over I had another dog in my lap, an ancient black-and-white female who had to have set a record for life span in dog years. All the strays pushed in around me, sniffing, whimpering, and giving her face good-bye licks.
At that moment I decided I would honor Mikey’s love by laying Hagekagome down beside my own love. She would have a fine funeral, too.
We were entering a season of funerals. We had to see off Kyoga’s son, Orchidia’s twins, and the marvelous Mashego. And maybe Vicious Min as well. We hadn’t heard anything more there.
John Stretch would report.
I had a more immediate concern.
Strafa clung to my back as fiercely as Hagekagome had clung to my arm, shaking. “Tara Chayne, Orchidia, I don’t think I can survive losing her again.”
Moonblight responded, “You can handle this. You’re a grown man. A war veteran. You’re just tired and feeling sorry for yourself. Hike up your big boy britches and get on with it.”
There she went, kicking me into the land of what the hell is going on? again.
Orchidia suggested, “Time is less friendly than we thought only an hour ago. The dog girl reverted sooner and faster than I expected.”
So Little Strafa’s time might come sooner, too.
Singe asked, “What can we expect?”
“More of that.” Orchidia indicated Hagekagome. The old dog looked sad in the moonlight. Strays looked at me like they thought I should do something.
Looking at Brownie, Number Two, and the others I saw something I’d missed till now. These were Hagekagome’s children. Well, more remote descendants than that, probably. But she was their beloved and honored matriarch and they had shown her to her heart’s desire before she’d had to leave them.
I levered my stiff old bones upright. I needed help. It had been a long day, yet there remained more day to be lived.
I lifted Hagekagome. She was heavier than I expected. I headed downhill. The Algarda Mausoleum lay just over a hundred yards distant. Moonlight painted the graveyard crisply spooky. Everybody, dogs and all, came along.
Little Strafa crowded me as tightly as Hagekagome had earlier, grimly aware that she was running out of time.
She was not comfortable with it, the way Hagekagome had been. For a time there had seemed to be a chance of living to grow up and become the wife . . . But that hope had gone. She wanted to kick and scream and fight, but there was no throat to wrap her little fingers round.
We were halfway to the mausoleum when Tara Chayne delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Oh, shit!” while looking back upslope.
The big guy stood where we had sat watching fireworks. Where Hagekagome had left us. He spotted Little Strafa, boomed a question loudly enough to waken babies a mile away.
That would bring the sextons out.
I told Strafa, “You’re the only one who can handle this.”
She stopped to wait while the parade moved on. A minute later I found myself developing a grudge. The mausoleum remained as we had left it earlier, open to anyone daring enough to disturb the dead during All-Souls.
I passed Hagekagome to Orchidia, eased inside, found the lamps, fired them up, then went back for Hagekagome.
Jiffy stood calmly and respectfully out of the way, Little Strafa holding his hand. She was calmer now.
I swapped a lamp for Hagekagome, carried her inside. Orchidia lighted my way. Tara Chayne followed. Brownie came, too, the only mutt with courage enough to enter. Singe and Penny chose to stay outside.
I placed Hagekagome on the available plinth. I was teary again. Orchidia drifted to the doorway, bellowed at Little Strafa to get her butt in here; her presence was required.
Strafa did not comply.
I couldn’t help myself. I swept dust off the glass between me and my wife, raised my lamp for a final sorrow-filled look . . .
Trick of the lamplight, Strafa seemed to have gained some color.
An outcry rose outside, Penny and Singe both shouting for me, “Now!”
Little Strafa was having a seizure. Jiffy had her in his massive arms, controlling her, but was at a loss over what else to do. He passed her to me the instant I was close enough; then he just stood there looming with wet cheeks.
The violence of Strafa’s seizure waned to a bad case of the shakes. She opened her eyes for a moment, slammed her arms around my neck, and squeezed till it felt like she might break something.
I settled to the grass and held her. There was nothing else I could do. Nothing I could think to do. Penny and Singe tried to comfort me.
Little Strafa’s shakes weakened. She opened her eyes one last time, forced a sad smile, touched my cheek with the tips of the fingers of her left hand, whispered, “Love you. Forever.”
She stopped shaking. She stopped breathing. Then, a few minutes later, she stopped being.
There was another of those fade-to-black moments, after which we all gawked at my empty lap.
Jiffy went somewhere to be alone with his pain.
I sat there amid family and dogs and wandered off into the lost realm that had been so attractive lately.
Murmuring and shuffling brought me back.
Orchidia and Tara Chayne were easing out of the tomb, a sagging but breathing grown-up Strafa suspended between them, too weak to lift her chin.
I took a quick look eastward before I rushed in.
No. We didn’t get to add dawn light to the drama. Not yet.
was born in 1944 in New York City. He has served in the United States Navy and lived in Columbus, Indiana; Rocklin, California; and Columbia, Missouri, where he went to the state university. He attended the Clarion Writers Workshop in 1970, where he met his wife, Carol. “Unlike most writers, I have not had strange jobs like chicken plucking and swamping out health bars. Only full-time employer I’ve ever had is General Motors.” He is now retired from GM. He’s “still a stamp collector and book collector, but mostly, these days, I hang around the house and write.” He has three sons—an army officer, an architect, and a music major.
In addition to the Garrett, P.I., series, he is also the author of the ever-popular Black Company series.