As Dog Is My Witness

By: Jeffrey Cohen

To Evie, my favorite girl, who more

than anyone I know, deserves to

have a book dedicated to her





PROLOGUE


Damn, it was cold!

If this was what December felt like, Michael Huston was not happily looking forward to February. Still, he thought, zipping up his coat just a little higher, there were worse things than walking your dog, even on a freezing night like this one.

The dog, a Dalmatian named (appropriately enough) Dalma, was taking her sweet time doing what walks are for, so Michael steered her toward what was her favorite spot, in front of the house that belonged to Tom Molinari, North Brunswick, New Jersey’s mayor. Through Thinsulate gloves, Michael fingered the plastic bag he’d bought at Shop Rite for pooper-scooper use.

Michael hadn’t wanted a dog, but now he found he liked the quiet time spent every evening with Dalma—it not only led to some inspired thinking, but heightened his senses. Noticing a strange sound coming from the green house on the corner, winter and summer, he tried to determine what it might be (it turned out to be the motor for a fish tank aerator). He enjoyed making up stories about the strangers who walked by with their own dogs, and wondering how close he might be to the truth. He even liked the act of cleaning up after Dalma because it made him feel like a responsible citizen: there’s some poop that won’t be left on the street!

Tonight, however, he was in a hurry, and it wasn’t just because of the cold. His wife, Karen, had made a point of kissing him twice before he left with the dog tonight, and he knew what that meant. It would be good to get home quickly.

In seven years of marriage, Karen and Michael (and he always gave her top billing) had established a very strong unspoken understanding—they knew each other so well they didn’t finish each other’s sentences so much as each other’s thoughts—and two kisses placed on the lower lip clearly meant “come back soon—I’ll be waiting for you.”

Come on, dog!

Michael, anticipating a night most men only dream about, thought a lot about his marriage—something most men rarely do. The majority of married couples, he believed, were on autopilot after the first year. They stayed married because it never occurred to them not to stay married, but they certainly didn’t put the time and thought into the relationship that couples like Karen & Michael (he also thought of them with an ampersand between their names, like a corporation’s logo) clearly did, and that was what put them in the rarefied company of People Whose Marriages Were Still Love Affairs.

Dalma took her sweet time (she knew that once she was done, it would be a quick sprint back to the house, and her crate for the night), but eventually, the lure of Mayor Molinari’s lawn, with all its fond memories and aromas, was too much to resist, and she assumed the position.

Michael felt for the plastic bag in his pocket, and took it out, inverting it so the Shop Rite logo would be on the outside when he was done with his task. Most people didn’t care about such details, but he did. He wasn’t sure why.

Having completed the clean-up, Michael steered the dog back in the direction of home. Because his marriage was the central point in his life, the thing around which everything else revolved, the upcoming night of passion with a woman he’d known—and slept with—for nine years was an all-consuming thought. He barely noticed the patch of ice in front of Mr. Indik’s house, but managed to avoid slipping on it at the last second. Come on, Dalma, we’re only two blocks away!

He was so lost in the reverie of anticipation that he hardly noticed the man in the brown parka approaching him. Otherwise, Michael would have seen the big, hooded, fur-lined coat like the one Elliot Gould wore in the movie M*A*S*H. In other circumstances, he would have seen the hood obscuring the man’s face.

And in all likelihood, Michael would have seen the strange-looking antique pistol in the man’s right hand. Not that it would have done him much good.

Michael’s last thought was: “How can that guy go out on a night like tonight without gloves?”





Contents


Part One — Friends

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Part Two — Family

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

EPILOGUE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS





Part One





FRIENDS





Chapter One




“Does it have to be New Jersey?” Glenn Waterman, tan, tall, flaxen-haired, and handsome—damn him!—was leaning back in his leather chair, resisting the impulse to put his feet up on his enormous modern desk, the one with the state-of-the-art flat screen computer monitor on it. For the sake of our conversation, he had removed the telemarketer-style headset from his ear, but he kept glancing at it, like a dog commanded to stay with a piece of red meat just barely out of reach.