A neighbor’s dog keeps barking in the middle of the night, always at the same hour and for the same amount of time. Your character decides to investigate what has the dog agitated in such precise, repeated pattern.
Lack of curiosity is the best medicine
By Richard Zowie
Did you ever see that movie Amityville Horror? Each morning, George Lutz would wake up at 3:15 a.m. It had something to do with the house he and his new wife and her kids lived in. George is now dead, but the debate continues as to whether or not the house really was haunted or simply made up over a few bottles of wine.
I have a similar problem, although my house isn’t haunted. A few nights per month, around 2:30 a.m., a dog in my neighborhood starts barking. It’s the dog across the street in a brick, two-story house. An accountant and his high school principal wife, and their four kids. I’ve had only a handful of conversations with them. Polite, but I can tell they guard their privacy. Once, because my wife wanted to make a house-warming dessert for them, they declined to tell me their favorite type of dessert. I have no idea where they’re from. My kids don’t socialize with their kids, because their kids often seem involved in various clubs when not completing school projects.
“Maybe they’re in the witness protection program,” my wife said, chortling. She always loves to joke around, whereas I’m more serious by nature. As a structural engineer, there’s no time for jokes because if you miss something when drawing up plans, a building can collapse. Lawsuits can ensue.
And now, the dog is barking again. It would be a waste of time for me to put on my blue cloth bathrobe, put on my blue slippers, grab a flashlight and walk across the street. But, that’s intrusive and their backyard brown wooden fence is about seven feet tall. I’m 5’10”, so I can’t see over it.
I’m not in a good mood, since I can’t get back to sleep when the stupid mutt barks, so I called the police and asked them to investigate.
Somehow, I slept.
My cell phone rang an hour later. “Mr. Stoltz, I’m Officer Wendell and I’m at your front door. May we talk?”
A few moments later, I opened the door and let him inside and closed the door. Noting there were no flashing lights from multiple police cars outside, I assumed nothing was wrong.
“Mr. Stoltz, this doesn’t leave this house, ok?”
“Yes, officer,” I said.
“Your neighbor apologizes for waking you up. He does not believe in using banks, so sometimes at nighttime, he will dig up a spot in his back hard where he keeps a safe that has an unspecified amount of money into it.”
“Ok, and why does he not like banks?” I asked, certain Officer Wendell would politely tell me it wasn’t my business.
The officer, wearing a shiny silver badge and black uniform that probably made him look invisible when he went outside, smiled and looked off to the side. His eyes were almost black, and his military-style black hair cut didn’t conceal that he was halfway to being bald. He looked like the type who, after shaving, would have five o’clock shadow three hours later.
“Let’s just say they had to relocate here from somewhere else,” Wendell said. “They don’t use banks out of fear they’ll be found out, even though they have different names. If you see them again, stick to small talk. Do not ask them any questions about themselves.”
“Noted, officer. Would you like me to make you some coffee before you leave?”
“No, thank you, sir. I appreciate the offer, but I have two other calls to respond to. Have a nice day, and please call me if you have any further questions.”
He produced a white business card and gave it to me, shook my hand, and left.
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