By J.S. Kierland

“Dogs are better than human beings,
they know but do not tell.”
Emily Dickinson

Cassidy jumped from the car and headed for the breakwater to piss on the rocks. He shook off the early morning dampness and looked back at me with his slit-eyed bull terrier stare. I yelled to him but my voice faded in the wind. He knew what I wanted but it wasn’t until I waved the leash that he stopped and waited. His quick backward glance told me he didn’t want to be leashed. “Just one more time,” I yelled over the sudden gust of wind coming off the ocean, and took the shortcut between the huge rocks at the end of the breakers. The tourists had deserted the beach after Labor Day and it’d been empty for several weeks. Another season had run its course,leaving the squawking seagulls, the breakers, and a few locals to fend off the incoming tides.

The hole I’d dug between the rocks was still open with the sand neatly piled up next to it. I tied Cassidy between the rocks like we’d rehearsed, took off my leather jacket, and said,“I want you to guard this...just like before.” He managed a little whine of acceptance and I shoved a large Milk Bone between his teeth. “Good dog,” I said, checked my watch, and ran back to the car in my t-shirt.

I drove down the old beach road where the scattered rental houses stood dark and empty like gray ghosts among the thin patches of late summer grass. Pulling into the driveway, I used the back door to the kitchen and slipped into the old navy blue sweatshirt I’d left on the counter, and pulled its large hood up over my head. The odd leather glove was still in the front pocket and I flexed it on to my right hand. I opened the cutlery drawer and reached back behind the knives and forks to where I’d hidden the gun, pulling it out with my gloved hand.

I peeked out the window to see if my neighbor had started for the beach yet. The long stretch of sand looked empty, clear out to the rocks where I’d tied Cassidy. I checked the time, opened the back door, and stepped out into the wind to start my slow run around the end of the house. The early morning sun bounced over my left shoulder, giving me a clear view of the narrowing beach and the breakwater beyond.

A figure stepped out of the house on the hill and started his run for the beach. He was right on schedule in his usual rolled up white pants, bright blue windbreaker and gold braided captain’s hat. I slowed my pace to let him reach the shoreline ahead of me, and anticipated his turn toward the dunes. I gripped the gun in my pocket as he cut across the beach at the high tide line. Then to my utter amazement, he suddenly spun around and sprinted away from me toward the breakwater. I jerked the gun out of my pocket with my gloved hand even though I knew it’d be foolish to try and shoot him at that distance.

He kept pulling away from me and I finally slowed to a walk, and felt the beginnings of a sharp cramp in my side. Shoving the gun back into my pocketI bent over to ease the pain and watched as the waves poured in across the empty beach. Weeks of planning the perfect murder had been destroyed in a simple turn.

Cassidy whined a greeting when he saw me and I flipped him another Milk Bone. Slipping off the hooded sweatshirt, I threw it into the hole with the gun and glove still in it just like we’d planned.I put my leather jacket back on and Cassidy began whining for me to untie him. That’s when I saw the bare feet sticking up in the sand. The rest of him was wedged between the rocks.I bent over to get a closer look and saw the wet streak of bright, fresh blood smeared across the huge rock behind him. Somehow he had lost his balance,fallen backwards,and hit his head on one of the sharp rocks.He had a surprised look on his face, a thousand-mile stare, and the sand under him was soaked with blood.I nudged him with my foot. He didn’t move.

I looked back up the empty beach trying to figure out what had happened after he turned and ran away from me. There were tracks in the sand where he had taken the shortcut between the rocks. His jacket had been torn and there were marks along the front of it where something had hit him. I brushed some of the sand away and saw the wet paw prints on his jacket. Cassidy must have jumped up at him, caught him by surprise, and pushed him backwards against the rocks where he hit his head. If we were lucky the prints would dry before anyone else noticed them.I stuck to the old plan and shoved the sand back into the hole, burying the sweatshirt with the gun still in it.
Everything looked smooth again and the high tide would hit within minutes. Cassidy and I continued down the beach away from the squawking seagulls that were beginning to circle the breakers.A few locals were out swimming on the other side and their isolated towels dotted the beach. I sat down to watch the swimmers and Cassidy came over and snuggled in next to me to get out of the wind.

“The rest should be easy,” I said. He looked up with that quizzical, narrow eyed Bull Terrier stare. “So what if the body is in another spot? We can adjust to that and just reverse everything. I’ll be the accessory instead of you,” I said with a laugh, waving at one of the swimmers who I knew would make a wonderful witness.

We sat a lot longer than usual,watching the tide creep up the beach. It had all turned into an incredible bit of good luck and I owed it all to Cassidy. He’d done a much better job of it than I could have ever done with the gun. It was simpler this way. Cleaner. A man had fallen, hit his head, and died. Instead of a perfect murder, it had turned into a perfect accident.

We sat on the other side of the rocks for so long that Cassidy had gotten bored with his walk and began pulling on his leash, so we started back. Just past the rocks the Sheriff’s jeep rolled in along the shoreline and pulled up to where the body was wedged among the breakers at the high tide line.Ithrew a stick up the beach for Cassidy to chase. He brought it back and I threw it the other way so he could fetch it out of the high tide. He looked back at me like I’d gone crazy, so I gave up and said, “All right, let’s just head home,” and we started up the beach into the sun.By this time the Sheriff was taking pictures of the body that was now half in and half out of the water.

A waving overweight Cynthia Nelson saw us and started down the beach. Her skin seemed to glow in the morning sun and she pulled her housecoat up around her neck against the cool wind. Cassidy ran to meet her, looking for a treat, and I trudged through the sand after him. “Oh Tyler, it’s awful,” she yelled, stumbling past Cassidy like he wasn’t even there. “It’s Mr. Randazzo. I think he’s dead!”

“Mr. who?” I shouted, hoping the Sheriff could hear me over the wind.

“The man who lives in the big white house on the hill.I think something happened to him in the breakers.” Cassidy ran back past us and headed for the body. He came up on its other side, took a smell, and raised his leg. The Sheriff tried to stop him but it was too late. “Put a leash on that dog, Mr. Crocker,” he yelled. I nodded and ran up the beach after Cassidy.

When I caught up with him, I clipped the leash back on his leather collar, and whispered, “It’s all going just as we planned. Even better. Just don’t piss on him, it’s in bad taste.”
We trudged back to where Cynthia and the Sheriff stood over the body. The Sheriff was on the phone, and he pulled a small red plaid blanket out of the jeep and threw it over Randazzo’s bloodied stare. Cynthia cringed.

“Did you actually see him get killed?” I asked, and she nodded in a quick excited way.“It must’ve happened after I walked by with Cassidy,” I said.

“Oh, it did. Long after that,” she said. “I was looking out the window like I always do and saw Mr. Randazzo come out of his house.”

“You look scared,” I said, giving her a hug.

The Sheriff had finished his phone conversation and was shaking his head. We walked over to where the large man stood next to the partially covered body and I pulled Cassidy in close just in case he decided to piss again.

“Anything else you can think of?” the Sheriff asked.

“I don’t think so,” Cynthia said.

“So all you saw was Mr. Crocker here go by with his dog and then Mr. Randazzo went by, fell back against the rocks and you called 911.” She nodded and he looked over at me. “Did you see anything?” he asked.

“Just the usual morning swimmers on the Hampton side,” I told him. “Cassidy and I do that every morning.”

He gave me an odd look and I thought he was going to cry. “You didn’t happen to see a vehicle around those breakers this morning, did you?” he asked. “Looks like there are footprints there.

“No, I didn’t see anything,” I said, adding a shrug.

He grunted his understanding, and said, “I’m having a rough morning...sorry I got testy about the leash.”

Cassidy growled when he heard him say,“leash.”

“He doesn’t like that word,” I said.

“Hell of a smart dog,”the Sheriff said, and I waited for him to continue. “There’s going to be a crowd here pretty soon. Detectives, medical examiners, reporters and cameras...the whole lot. If you’ve got anything more to tell me than do it now while you’ve got the chance.”

“There are probably lots of people who wanted to see Mr. Randazzo dead,” Cynthia chirped. The Sheriff stared at her from under his faded blue baseball cap. “I mean he stole millions out of that brokerage firm he headed...and lots of people lost their money when it went belly up, even though he kept saying it was doing great. That was pure fraud on his part and must’ve cost the stockholders millions. He probably took the money and hid it in the Caymans like they all do.” The Sheriff just watched from under his hat, waiting for her to go on. “Now that he’s dead those investors will probably get back a lot more than they expected,” she said. Sheriff Knowles nodded, than looked over at me.
I gave him another shrug, and said, “I guess that’s why he kept to himself so much. He must’ve been hated by a lot of people. It was inevitable.We looked down at the rolled up white pants and the calloused feet stuck in the blood-soaked sand.

“Well, if you think of anything else, give a call,” the Sheriff said. “Right now you seem to be the only witness, Cynthia, so you better hang around awhile.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

“I figured,” he mumbled, and walked back to the jeep.

She leaned forward when she thought the Sheriff was far enough away, and said, “Randazzo had loads of enemies, and what I saw this morning was more than just an accident. There could’ve easily been some local hiding in those rocks that got him.”
“If you’re the only witness it might be better if you left the locals out of it, Cynthia.”
She gave me an odd look, and said, “I suppose you’re right, but what I just said is true. All of it.”

“You look scared,” I said.

“I didn’t ask to be the only witness to the murder of a millionaire CEO.”

“I thought it was just an accident,” I said, and she gave me a funny look. “Why don’t we drive out to Montauk for some breakfast and get away from this mess for awhile?” I added, just as the town ambulance drove on to the beach, heading for the Sheriff’s jeep.

“I don’tfeel much like eating,” she muttered.

“Well, if you change your mind just give a call,” I said, and let Cassidy pull me past the seagulls. He barked at the birds but they didn’t move, and he kept pulling on the leash until we were back at the house again.When we were inside I slipped off his collar and he stared back at me through those slanted eyes. There was still another Milk Bone in my pocket and he knew it.

“That Sheriff likes you,” I said.

“He’s nothing but a stupid fat fuck,” he sneered, heading for the blue water bowl with his name on it.

“He thinks you’re smart. He said so.”

“I heard him,” he snarled, lapping the water. “He didn’t believe a word you said. “I guess that’s why he kept to himself so much.” Are you kidding? You’re just another rich local with a trust fund who clips coupons.He hates you for it.That’s inevitable.”

“But all of our adjustments went fine,” I said. “I didn’t have to explain anything to anybody, especially after Cynthia told him that we had gone by earlier.”

“Your story’s full of holes, Dummy.”


“The glove and the gun for instance,” he snarled.

“I buried them,” I said. “Besides, they could belong to anyone.”

“They complicate things because they’re unnecessary. You didn’t fire the gun so you didn’t have to bury it. He died because he fell against the rocks, Dummy. It was an accident.”There was an uneasy silence and I busied myself pouring what was left of the coffee and slipping another piece of bread into the toaster.“And how could Cynthia see us walk by if we didn’t?” he asked.

“Habit,” I snapped. “She saw the usual...even if it didn’t happen. I counted on that in my original plan.”

“You also counted on Randizzi’s habit to run right at you, but he ran the other way,” he said with a snicker.“That bitch saw everything that happened and she’ll be calling you any minute for that breakfast you offered her. It’s inevitable.”

“But she said she didn’t want—“

“And she’ll tell you exactly how Randizzigot popped.”



“Then why didn’t she tell the Sheriff what she saw when she had the chance?” I asked, taking the bread out of the toaster and the strawberry jam from the fridge.

“Because she broke up with Randizzi weeks ago.”

“You don’t really know that.”

“Hey, I’m the one that heard the grunting in there on those hot August nights. They weren’t playing monopoly.”He stared up at me, his eyes slits. “Now she’s figuring on grabbing some of that money from the stockholder’s law suit through you.”

I shook my head, and said, “Maybe Cynthia did have a summer fling, and maybe she didn’t. That doesn’t make her a blackmailer. She’s not the type.” He made a quick circle, and dropped on a sunny spot near the stove for his morning nap. “She’s just upset,” I said.

“She didn’t sound too upset when she told that dumb Sheriff why a lot of people wanted Randizzi dead. And you could tell by the dumb expression on Fatso’s face that he didn’t have a clue to who or what Randizziwas until she told him. She only mentioned the locals to get your reaction...and she did.”

“You heard that?” He stared at me. Expressionless. I bent down and gave him a piece of the crust off the toast. “What do you think we should do?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said. “But if sheasks for money, pay her in cash. If she asks for more...kill her.”

“She doesn’t even know I own that stock.”

“She found out about your family, didn’t she?” Cassidy raised his head toward what was left of the toast just as the phone began to ring on the wall. We stared up at it, hoping it would stop, but it kept ringing.

“Hello,” I said.

“I’m feeling better,” Cynthia said on the other end. “I’ll take you up on breakfast if you still want to go.”

“Sure,” I mumbled. “Be right over.”

Cassidy rolled on his side and looked up at me. “Keep your head, big guy. Don’t embarrass the family tree. Even if it is was only some dumb defunct California bank.”

“That was a hostile take over.”

“At least look like you know what you’re doing. We’re moving into the next phase here,” he said.

“I won’t be long,” I said.

“Yeah...right,” he muttered.

“Would you like to come along?”

“She smells like cat piss,” he said, and rolled over.

I went out the back way, took a deep breath, started for the car, and decided to go back and get Cassidy whether he wanted to go or not.

The restaurant was nearly empty. We sat at a table in front where I could watch the car. Cassidy had climbed out of the back seat and his paws were up on the dashboard, watching us through the windshield.

The eggs Benedict and crab cakes came and even before the waitress finished filling our coffee mugs, Cynthia said, “I’m so sorry about what happened this morning. When the news gets out about Mr. Randazzo it’s going to make the beach houses harder to rent next year.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “People love notoriety. It’ll probably jump the rents ten percent, if not more.”

“I hope you’re right because I have to rent my house and this was the one thing I didn’t expect. I rented my house a few years ago and ended up sorry for it. They left the place a wreck.I hate giving it over to just anyone but I have no choice,” she said.

“I’ll ask around,” I said. “I know some reputable people who might take it for a month, or so.”

“Thanks,” she mumbled, looking out the window. “Does he always stare like that?”

I looked out the window. Cassidy was watching us through the windshield. “He’s upset over what happened this morning,” I said.


Cassidy was staring at our lips and I had to be careful. “He’s actually quite sensitive,” I mumbled.

“I don’t think he likes me...or my cats,” Cynthia said. “They’re just strays but he doesn’t-”

“You know how dogs are about things like that.”

“I suppose,“ she said, and took a bite of the crab cake. Cassidy leaned forward on the dashboard, watching us. “I was wondering if we might come to some kind of an arrangement,” she said in a rush, piercing one of her poached eggs and watching the heavy yellow yoke spill across her plate.

“An arrangement?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “It confused me at first, but when I saw you and Cassidy out on the beach this morning it all began to make sense.” I looked blankly back at her.“I know that you lost a lot of money in that Corporation Gino headed...I mean, Mr. Randazzo. Believe me, he knew you owned a great deal of stock in his company. That’s why he was moving away at the end of the month. He was afraid of you and now I know why.” She looked out at Cassidy through the window. “I saw everything, Tyler,” she said. I stared back at her. “You ran up the beach after him in that sweatshirt and pulled out a gun. That was the whole plan. You knew there was someone in those breakers waiting to kill him.”

“I wasn’t wearing any sweatshirt, Cynthia, and I don’t own a gun. Cassidy had run off again and you must’ve seen me running after him earlier with his leash. There was no one else on the beach except some swimmers over on the Hampton side. They even waved at us.”

She glanced over at Cassidy again, staring at us through the windshield. “Someone was waiting for Mr. Randazzo in those breakers. I saw him take the shortcut. That’s why the Sheriff asked if you saw a car there this morning.”

“Did you tell him that?”

“All I told him was that I didn’t see Mr. Randazzo come out on the other side of the breakers,” she said. “Other than that, he doesn’t know anything and I have no intention of telling him any more than that. It’ll just be our little secret,” she said, and kept eating.

“What will be our little secret?” I asked.

“That you were on our side of the breakers when Mr. Randazzo was killed. That would make you an accessory.”

“But I was on the other side of the breakers when Randizzi was killed.”


“You’re mixing me up with someone else, Cynthia.”

“It’s not important, Tyler,” she said. “The only important thing is that I have somewhere to stay while I rent my house.” I gave her the best quizzical look I could muster. “And what could possibly be a better place than your guest room, or that flat above the garage you never use? That way I can keep an eye on my house after I rent it. It’d be perfect for that and I could save some money.”

We stared out the window at Cassidy leaning forward on the dashboard. He stared back at us for a moment, shook his head, and than disappeared into the back seat.I took a deep breath, and smiled. “Why didn’t you just say that was what you wanted in the first place?” I asked.

“I know Cassidy doesn’t like cats and-”

“That’s a dog thing,” I said, dismissing it. “We can work all that out. Besides, he’s got a girlfriend down the beach that he visits all the time anyway.”

“You mean the Cocker Spaniel?”

“Exactly,” I mumbled.

“Oh, they left after Labor Day and aren’t coming back. It’s California for them.”

The ride back felt strained. I could tell Cassidy was pretending to sleep in the back seat because he wasn’t snoring, and Cynthia kept talking about the new houses, beach erosion, and how much she should charge for rent. Then she completely changed the subject, and said, “It’s sweet of you to let me stay at your place for the season.”

“Well, you’re certainly welcome to stay over the garage,” I said. “We’ll just clean it up and get an AC.”

Cassidy growled in the back seat.

“I suppose it gets terribly hot up there. What about your guest room?” she asked, and Cassidy growled again.

“That’s been promised,” I lied. “I have relatives coming in from San Francisco.”

“Oh, how nice,” she said as we arrived. “Well, I’ll just have to get one of those futons they rent in town, but we can work all that out when the time comes. Thanks for breakfast and the garage, an all. Now that I know you’re helping me I’ll put my house up for rent immediately,” she said, and when she turned to get out Cassidy made a leap for the open door and flew past her.

“That dog’s faster than a cat,” she said in a rush.

“He doesn’t like cars either,” I said.

She gave out a funny little laugh, and said, “Well, I’m sure you both need a rest after such a busy morning. I’ll see you later.”

I drove around the dune, parked the car in the usual spot, and went in the back way. The beach looked empty. They’d hauled off Randazzo’s body and nothing moved except the waddling seagulls near the breakers. I checked Cassidy’s blue water bowl and his bed, but he wasn’t there. He didn’t come even when I shook the Milk Bone box.
About an hour later I heard him snoring. It sounded distant so I checked under the bed but he wasn’t there. The next spot was the cool tiles in the bathroom, but he wasn’t there either. The snoring sounded louder in the living room and I finally realized the sound was coming from under the house. I rushed to the front door and looked under the porch steps. “CASSIDY?” I called. The snoring stopped and I saw his white head look up at me from theshadows. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Where is she?” he growled.

“Back in her house, I guess.”

“She’s dangerous,” he said angrily.

“I had to tell her she could stay over the garage when she rents her place.”

“That’s just the beginning,” he said. “She wants the whole enchilada.”

“The what?”

“She’s not going away,” he said impatiently. “Not ever...and you’ve got to do something about it.”

“What do you mean?”

There was a knock at the back door and Cynthia called, “Tyler! Tyler! Are you in there?”
I looked over at Cassidy and he rolled to a quick standing position with a low growl. “You better get out of sight before she sees you,” he whispered, and I got down on my belly and crawled under the house next to him.

“What do you think she wants?” I asked.

“Everything,” he said.

“Tyler!” she called again,and her heavy footsteps moved across the living room. “Tyler,” she called again, opened the door and started down the front steps. “Where could they have gone?” she laughed, and her swollen feet turned toward the empty beach as she sat down on the steps.

Cassidy moved further into the shadows beneath the house and came back dragging a dark wet lump. I looked back to see if Cynthia had heard him but she just sat on the steps, waiting. Cassidy pulled the lump closer and his snout disappeared down into it. At first I thought it was something he’d caught in the tide, but then he pulled the gun out of it like it wasa newborn. He had dug up my hooded sweatshirt and dragged it back down the beach. I leaned over to help him and he placed the gun down next to me and stared over at where Cynthia was plopped on the staircase. He was right, of course. It was inevitable.