Read The Beast of Orchard Lane (Part I) before continuing.
I was determined that the Beast would not close down my main running route from the house. But it was also the last day of my stay. “Can you take Skip with you?” asked Shannon. “He’s driving me nuts.”
“Sure,” I said. I knew that Skip spent time with the dogs down Orchard Lane, so I thought he must know the Beast. He strained at his leash as we headed down the drive and onto Orchard Lane, which was littered with dog turds. We passed the Beast’s territory without incident, but Skip whined a little as we ran past the house of another loud dog that I’d faced down successfully a few days before encountering the Beast. He had always whined as we passed this dog’s patch. I wondered whether that meant that he was actually part of the Beast’s pack.
We ran down to Forestville, the neighbourhood dogs barking behind their fences. Skip didn’t respond to any of them, trotting obediently beside me. Then we began the climb up Orchard Lane. We reached the point where the tarmac runs out. The coast was clear.
Then there was yap up to my left and as I ran on I saw a driveway leading up to a house. The yap was from a pathetic little long-haired mutt, but with it was the Beast, its eyeballs practically popping out of its head. The two dogs bounded down the drive towards me. Skip glanced to his left and… completely ignored them. They stopped in their tracks. I was free to run on — I had faced down and tamed yet another dog.
But as Skip and I ran into the cutting there was a crashing in the undergrowth as the Beast ran to catch up with us. It was above head height as it began its dreadful barking. But not one of the Forestville dogs had ever crossed even an unfenced property boundary. And I reasoned that, if Skip hadn’t responded to the Beast, then surely I had nothing to fear.
It burst out of the bushes twenty yards ahead and ran, barking, down the path towards us. Skip trotted on beside me. With four miles under our feet in ninety-degree heat, was he simply too tired to respond? Would there be fur flying, and had I made things worse by bringing him? The Beast made a jump at me but I kept my pace as it sidestepped. “Bad dog!” I shouted. It ran up behind me and jumped again, falling short. I yelled some obscenities and the Beast gave up its chase earlier than last time. But was it because it realised I wasn’t a threat, or because I’d had Skip with me? We ran up the drive to the house. “Thanks for nothing,” I said to Skip, letting him off his leash.
“How’d it go?” asked Shannon.
“The Beast completely ignored Skip, and the little bastard ignored him too. I’m taking a fucking gun next time. Greg’ll lend me his Glock, won’t he?”
“Oh, my God. You’re becoming an American!”