She probably should have eaten before she left for the vet, but she wasn’t actually sure how long the dog would last without medical attention. Also, making a West Highland Terrier watch while she ate his owner seemed like it would be adding insult to considerable injury.
Rainy days meant an easy lunch, because the road near her house was poorly maintained and no one in this state knew how to drive. By now it was a Pavlovian response. The slow drum of fat raindrops on her roof tiles began, and she salivated. It may have been morbid, but there were worse ways to get a meal. The squeal of tires and the crush of metal, and the hard part was done.
Liu Yang had always been a little squeamish.
The woman slumped over the steering wheel wasn’t a problem. That was exactly what she’d expected. What she’d wanted. Once upon a time she’d have felt bad about it, the way a child feels bad when learning their bacon was a pig.
Lunch had a haircut that suggested she’d recently been the kind of person that cut in line at Starbucks, and then complained about the wait. It had been a very nice car. Liu Yang did not feel bad.
The dog, though.
There’d never been a dog before. Or maybe there had been dogs left carelessly in the backseat, dogs free to be thrown from the window or to escape in the aftermath. Regardless, this time there was a carrier, a beige thing with a door made of wire designed for owner convenience rather than animal safety.
Liu Yang was hungry. The smell of metal and meat made her stomach constrict with desire. It could wait, couldn’t it? Just for a minute?
The dog whimpered.
They trailed water and blood in small puddles along the yellow linoleum of the vet’s office. It was meant to be open 24-hours for emergencies, but no one was apparent. In the corner, a small television played the news without sound. Black bars of closed-captioning were littered with late-night typos. She considered the bell on the counter for a long moment before reaching out, tapping it with the point of one long fingernail.
“Oh, Jesus,” was the first thing the teenager said, nearly recoiling back out of the lobby as soon as he’d emerged. “What happened?” he asked, recovering with aplomb as he approached his dripping customers.
“I don’t know,” Liu Yang lied. “I found him like this.” She handed one helpless animal to the other for a careful examination.
“He doesn’t… seem to be bleeding…” he said slowly, looking to the bright red staining her blouse.
“I hit a deer.”
“… with your car?”
The dog whimpered again, distracting the teen detective from his line of inquiry.
“I’m sorry, little guy,” he said to the terrier. “You got a name, buddy?” He searched through wet fur for its collar. “Did someone put a ring on his collar?”
“I don’t know.”
“Trevor? His name is Trevor?”
“I don’t know,” Liu Yang repeated, this time with less patience. He looked again to the blood on her blouse.
“Sorry,” he said. “I know it’s not your dog, but you’re going to have to fill out some paperwork and stuff for, like… legal reasons, or whatever.”
She could have just left. That felt suspiciously like abandoning the dog to the cruel winds of fate, and the medical capabilities of someone with more acne than experience. Signing her name brought with it a strange sense of responsibility that she could not quite place.
Glancing up at the television, her eyes narrowed at the text scrolling beneath the reporter. The stretch of road in the background looked disconcertingly familiar.
…Trevor Wilson last seen geting in the car with his wife…
With a detached sense of dread, Liu Yang set the paperwork aside. She turned in her seat until she could look out the window, to the perfect circle of a moon in the sky.
“All I wanted,” she said to no one, distraught, “was something to eat.”
Her stomach growled.