Blind Trust

By: Laura Scott

ONE


Eva Kendall slowed her pace as she approached the single-story building housing the modest training facility where she worked training guide dogs. Lifting her face to the sky, she basked in the sun warming her skin. June in the Forest Hills area of Queens, New York, could be incredibly hot and humid, but today was the perfect summer day.

Using her key, she entered the training center, thinking about the male chocolate Lab named Cocoa that she would work with this morning. Cocoa was a ten-week-old puppy born to Stella, who was a gift from the Czech Republic to the NYC K-9 Command Unit located in Queens. Most of Stella’s pups were being trained as police dogs, but not Cocoa. In less than a month after basic puppy training, Cocoa would be able to go home with Eva to be fostered during his first year of training to become a full-fledged guide dog. Once that year passed, guide dogs like Cocoa would return to the center to train with their new owners.

A few steps into the building, Eva frowned at the loud thumps interspersed with a cacophony of barking. The raucous noise from the various canines contained a level of panic and fear rather than excitement.

Concerned, she moved quickly through the dimly lit training center to the back hallway, where the kennels were located. Normally she was the first one in every morning, but maybe one of the other trainers had got an early start.

“Hello? Kim, is that you?” Rounding the corner, she paused in the doorway when she saw a tall, heavyset stranger scooping Cocoa out of his kennel, a tire iron lying on the floor beside it. Panic squeezed her chest. “Hey! What are you doing?”

The ferocious barking increased in volume, echoing off the walls and ceiling. The stranger must have heard her. He turned to look at her, then roughly tucked Cocoa under his arm like a football.

“No! Stop!” Panicked, Eva charged toward the man, desperately wishing she had a weapon of some sort.

“Get out of my way,” he said in a guttural voice.

“No. Put that puppy down right now!” Eva stopped and stood her ground, attempting to block his ability to get through the doorway.

“Last chance,” he taunted, coming closer.

Fear was bitter on her tongue. She twisted the key ring in her hand, forcing the jagged edges of the keys between her trembling fingers. As he approached, she braced herself, hoping to find a way to stop him. He punched her with his right arm, roughly hitting her shoulder. Pain reverberated down her arm and into her hand, but that didn’t stop her from lashing out with the keys, scratching him down the length of his forearm as she tumbled to the ground.

He called her a vile name as he went by, but she didn’t care. Ignoring the pain, she surged to her feet and took off after the assailant. Roughly five feet from the doorway leading outside, she lunged, grabbing ahold of the waistband of his black cargo pants and pulling back on it with all her might.

“Stop! Help! Please help! He’s stealing a puppy!” She raised her voice, hoping someone outside might overhear.

“Let go!”

No! She couldn’t let him get away with Cocoa!

The big and strong assailant dragged her along for a couple of feet before he abruptly turned on her. His meaty forearm, lined with three long, bleeding scratches from her keys, lashed out again, and this time he struck her across the face.

Her head snapped back, sharp pain blooming in her cheek, bringing tears to her eyes and blurring her already diminished vision. The sheer force of the blow knocked her off her feet, and she fell against the wall with a hard thud. Unable to hang on, she released him and slid down along the wall, collapsing on the floor in a crumpled heap. The sound of the puppy’s panicked yipping tore at her heart.

“Cocoa,” she managed in a choked voice. It was too late. The heavy door leading outside opened and slammed shut with a loud bang.

The assailant was gone, taking her precious puppy—the one she’d hoped to use one day as her own Seeing Eye dog—with him.

Eva forced herself upright. She rushed back to the main reception desk and picked up the phone.

If only she’d got a better look at the guy, she thought, as she dialed the number for the NYC K-9 Command Unit. Her retinitis pigmentosa was already impacting her ability to see clearly. Especially in areas that weren’t well lit. The dim interior of the kennels along with his baseball cap had shadowed his face.

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