The scream dies leaving an intense silence. The dog has lunged forward but not to attack, instead he is planting puppy kisses all over Conor.
“What is it?” I ask.
The mutt is large, easily the size of a Rottweiler but he is covered in a thick mat of hair. His tail is a bushy creation and he seems to have a mane. He is mostly black and tan but there is a flash of white under his chin and on his chest. He is beautiful but very big.
“Some sort of large dog,” Max says.
He steps toward Conor and the dog gives a low growl. He stops.
“Conor, does he have a collar?” I ask.
“I’ll look,” comes the reply and I can hear the smile in his voice.
Max walks up to me and whispers in my ear. “Guess we have found a dog…”
“Yeah,” I say with little enthusiasm.
“It says his name is Duke.” The dog’s ears come forward as Conor says his name.
“Duke?” I call, and I hope that the owners trained him. “Heel!”
Without even pausing the dog immediately comes over and sits on my left hand side. He is trained. I lower my hand tentatively and pat him on his head. He easily reaches my waist. “Good boy, Duke.”
Max holds his hand to the dog. “Duke.”
The dog sniffs and then gives a quick lick. Okay, so we have a dog…
“Conor, is the car okay?”
He looks inside and then turns to me with his nose wrinkled. “No, he has made a mess.” I’m not surprised if the poor guy has been in there since the beginning… Except that if he has, how is he still alive? Max seems to think the same because he moves forward to have a look.
“They left food and water,” he says, peering in the windows.
I reach down and rub a hand along the dog’s side. I can feel ribs, he seems a little thin.
“Okay, so I guess that car is not one we will be choosing.”
Max shakes his head.
“Let’s split up and search. Conor, stay with me or Max.”
Then we are weaving in and out of the cars, lorries and trucks trying to find something to use. About five minutes later I spot a large camper… and stop.
I look around and see Max and Conor on the other side of the carriage way.
“Max, Conor?” I call out. They stop and I point at the camper.
They make their way over. “What?” Max asks.
“I thought we could have a look.”
“Why?” Conor asks.
“Well,” I say, “it should have food. If you look at it, the van is blocked in. I bet they had to abandon it.”
I don’t say that they probably never made it. I don’t think I have to. Max is already moving toward it and Conor is at his side. I look around for Duke and realise he is sitting next to me.
“You can help too,” I say, and he bounds up to the camper. I shake my head and follow. For a moment I see Colin’s face and the good mood leaves me.
“What?” Max asks.
I just shake my head. “Nothing.”
He frowns, but goes back to peering in the windows.
“Anything,” I ask.
“It seems fine,” he says.
“The door’s open,” Conor says and I turn in time to see Duke disappearing inside. I follow the dog.
The inside smells musty but fine. Max follows and Conor brings up the rear. We open every door that we can see and there are no more dogs or any gone. Not that I expected any. The gone smell.
I move into the small kitchen as Max and Conor take a seat. I shake my head. The end of the world as we know it, yet the female is still expected to cook. Opening cupboards and drawers I quickly realise that the place is stocked with mostly dry and canned food. I ignore the dried food. The water is probably stale and I’m not sure I trust it with Conor. Instead I open three cans.
“Do you think we can risk the hob?” I ask Max.
He nods. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
Part of me finds this all too convenient but the rest of me is too hungry to care. I turn on the gas and the rings ignite with a quiet puff. Finding three saucepans I start to heat up the canned soup, potatoes and green beans. As soon as they are bubbling I serve them on plates.
“Can’t find any bottled water,” I say.
“We’ll find some later,” Max says around a large spoonful of food.
I’m about to sit down when Duke gives a whine. I look at Max but he just continues to eat. Sighing I get up and tip a can of beef stew into a dish and place it under Dukes nose. It’s gone in seconds.
Finally I sit down and eat the food. It’s not great but it is fuel. I notice that both Max and Conor have finished theirs.
“We need to leave,” Max says.
“It’s too convenient,” I say.
He nods. Together we rise to leave and at the same time someone knocks on the door.