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The 25th Hourby David Benioff
THEY FOUND THE black dog sleeping on the shoulder of the West Side Highway, dreaming dog dreams. A crippled castoff, left ear chewed to mince, hide scored with dozens of cigarette burns-a fighting dog abandoned to the mercy of river rats. Traffic rumbled past: vans with padlocked rear doors, white limousines with tinted glass and New Jersey plates, yellow cabs, blue police cruisers.
Monty parked his Corvette on the shoulder and shut off the engine. He stepped from the car and walked over to the dog, followed by Kostya Novotny, who shook his head impatiently. Kostya was a big man. His thick white hands hung from the sleeves of his overcoat. His face had begun to blur with fat; his broad cheeks were red from the cold. He was thirty-five and looked older; Monty was twenty-three and looked younger.
"See?" said Monty. "He's alive."
"This dog, how do you call it?"
"Pit bull. Must have lost somebody some money."
"Ah, pit bull. In Ukraine my stepfather has such dog. Very bad dog, very bad. You have seen dogfights at Uncle Blue's?"
Flies crawled across the dog's fur, drawn by the scent of blood and shit. "What do we do, Monty, we watch him rot?"
"I was thinking of shooting him."
Awake now, the dog stared impassively into the distance, his face lit by passing headlights. The pavement by his paws was littered with broken glass, scraps of twisted metal, black rubber from blown tires. A concrete barricade behind the dog, separating north- and southbound traffic, bore the tag SANE SMITH in spray-painted letters three feet high.
"Shooting him? Are you sick in the head?"
"They just left him here to die," said Monty. "They threw him out the window and kept driving."
"Come, my friend, it is cold." A ship's horn sounded from the Hudson. "Come, people wait for us."
"They're used to waiting," said Monty. He squatted down beside the dog, inspecting the battered body, trying to determine if the left hip was broken. Monty was pale-skinned in the flickering light, his black hair combed straight back from a pronounced widow's peak. A small silver crucifix hung from a silver chain around his neck; silver rings adorned the fingers of his right hand. He leaned a little closer and the dog scrambled upright, lunged for the man's face, came close enough that Monty, stumbling frantically backward, could smell the dog's foul breath. The effort left the pit bull panting, his compact, muscular frame quivering with each rasped breath. But he remained in his crouch, watching the two men, his ears, the mangled and the good, drawn back against his skull.
"Christ," said Monty, sitting on the pavement. "He's got some bite left."
"I think he does not want to play with you. Come, you want police to pull over? You want police looking through our car?"
"Look what they did to him, Kostya. Used him for a fucking ashtray."
A passing Cadillac sped by them, honking twice, and the two men stared after it until its taillights disappeared around a bend.
Monty rose to his feet and dusted his palms on the seat of his pants. "Let's get him in the trunk."
"There's a vet emergency room on the East Side. I like this guy."
"You like him? He tries to bite your face off. Look at him, he is meat. You want some dog, I buy you nice puppy tomorrow."
Monty was not listening. He walked back toward his car, opened the trunk, pulled out a soiled green army blanket. Kostya stared at him, holding up his hands. "Wait one second, please. Please stop one minute? I do not go near pit bull. Monty? I do not go near pit bull."
Monty shrugged. "This is a good dog. I can see it in his eyes. He's a tough little bastard."
"Yes, he is tough. He grew up in bad neighborhood. That is why I stay away from him."
The light shining down from above cast deep shadows beneath Monty's cheekbones. "Then I'll do it myself," he said.
By now the dog had slumped back to the pavement, still struggling to keep his head up, to keep his glazing eyes focused on the two men.
"Look at him," said Monty. "We wait much longer, he'll be dead."
"One minute ago you want to shoot him."
"That was a mercy thing. But he's not ready to go yet."
"Yes? He told you this? You know when he is ready to go?"
Monty carefully circled behind the dog, holding the army blanket as a matador holds his cape. "It's like a baby, they hate getting shots from the doctor. They're screaming and crying as soon as they see the needle. But in the long run, it's good for them. Here, distract him."
Kostya shook his head with the air of one who had long suffered his friend's lunacies, then kicked a soda can. The dog's eyes pivoted to follow the movement. Monty hurled the blanket over the dog and sprang forward, wrapping his arms around the dog's midsection. The dog growled and wrestled with the wool, sinking his teeth into the fabric and shaking it violently, trying to break the blanket's neck. Monty managed to stand, struggling to maintain his bear hug, but the dog, slick with blood, slithered madly in his grasp like a monstrous newborn. Monty lurched toward the Corvette as the pit bull released the blanket and turned his head, snapping viciously, his jaws inches from Monty's throat. He clawed at Monty's arms until Monty hurled him into the trunk, the dog still biting as he fell into the hollow of the spare tire, trying unsteadily to regain his footing as the lid slammed shut.
Monty picked up the army blanket and returned to the driver's seat. Kostya stared at the sky for a moment and then joined his friend in the Corvette. The entire encounter had lasted five minutes.
"What goes on in your little head?" asked Kostya, after Monty had tossed the blanket into the well behind his seat and started the car. "That was very stupid thing you did. Most stupid thing you ever did. No, I take that back. Lydia Eumanian was most stupid thing you ever did."
"I got him, didn't I?" said Monty, grinning. "A little of the tricks, a little of the quicks, boom! Nabbed." He checked his mirrors and pulled onto the highway, heading uptown again.
"Yes. The quicks. Meanwhile, you are bleeding. You get bit."
"No, that's the dog's blood."
Kostya raised his eyebrows. "Yes? Because you have hole in your neck and blood is coming out."
Monty lifted his hand to his neck, felt the warm dribble of blood. "Just a scratch."
"A scratch, oh. Meanwhile, you bleed to death. And you need rabies shot."
"They'll stitch it up at the vet's." Behind them the dog thrashed around in the trunk, his bellows muted by the traffic.
"What? The vet? You bleed all over car, you die, your father yells at me. Oh, boo-hoo, boo-hoo, you let Monty die. No, please. Go to Seventh Avenue, there is Saint Something, a real hospital."
"We're going to the vet." The blood ran down Monty's arm, soaking his shirtsleeve, puddling at the elbow.
"Rule number one," said Kostya, "don't grab half-dead pit bulls. We have people waiting for us, people with money, and you play cowboy-no, dogboy-in middle of highway. You're bad luck; you put bad luck on me. Always everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Doyle's Law. It is not just you and me when we go out, no, no, it is Monty, Kostya, and Mister Doyle of Doyle's Law."
"Doyle? You mean Murphy."
"Who's Doyle? Murphy's Law," said Monty. "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong."
"Yes," said Kostya. "Him."
From that day on the dog was Doyle.
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