By Karen Singer
Chapter 43 Part 2 of 2
Her alarm woke her at five in the morning… and the buzzing caused Ben-ben to growl slightly and bark once. “Quiet!” she ordered. She was awake, but she felt like she had barely been asleep. With a sigh, she forced herself out of bed. She decided against a shower. She not only didn’t have time, she was afraid some noise from outside might make Ben-ben bark and wake up anyone in the adjoining rooms. She counted herself lucky that she hadn’t heard any noises before from those rooms that might cause him to bark.
With a quick glance at Ben-ben, who was now on his feet and watching her intently, she worked on getting cleaned up and dressed. A few minutes later, she was making sure that everything was packed away carefully, ready to put back into the car. From the same bag that held all the dog supplies, she pulled out the new leash she had gotten along with the dog collar. She attached it to Ben-ben’s collar. “Stay!” she told the dog. She watched as he sat… somewhat like a dog.
Satisfied, she let the leash drop to the floor and grabbed several of her bags. She opened the door and glanced outside. The parking area was very faintly lit by some lights from several sources. At five thirty in the morning, as she had hoped, nobody was around. There were only a few other cars on that side of the building. None of which were all that close to hers. That explained why she hadn’t heard any noises from other motel guests.
She carried the bags to the car and put them in. It had been a lot easier when Halifax had been able to handle that chore yesterday. He would never be capable of doing such a thing again though. She considered the trade-off worth it. Halifax was better off in the state he was now in… and would remain in for the rest of his life. It was only a little of what he deserved.
When she turned back to the room to start getting the next load, she saw Ben-ben at the doorway, looking out and sniffing the air intently. She hurried back to the room and shooed the dog back toward the bed where he couldn’t be seen. “Stay!” she ordered again. Stupid dog. He should have stayed! She found his toy duck and threw it at him. Hopefully, that would keep him busy.
She grabbed the last of her bags and quickly loaded them in the car, glancing occasionally at the door to make sure Ben-ben was still inside. Fortunately, this time there was no sign of him. When she went back inside, Ben-ben was happily chewing on his duck. She grabbed his leash and started to grab the duck as well. She thought better of the duck though and held it out until the dumb dog took it in his mouth. “Okay, Ben-ben, let’s go.” With that, she led him out to the car and held the back door open for him to climb into. She was glad to see that he managed to get into the car with little difficulty. Throwing the end of the leash in with him, she closed the door. Two minutes later, she was driving out of the motel parking lot on her way to meet Susan.
Since they had met last time in Chattanooga, Susan had suggested they meet there again, although not at the Choo-Choo restaurant… not to turn over someone... or something… like Ben-ben. Susan hadn’t been all that happy about meeting Janice at six in the morning. In fact, Janice had suggested an hour earlier. Six o’clock had been a compromise for both of them. After a bit of discussion, they decided to meet at the Tennessee Welcome Center rest area off of the Interstate. Susan could get to Chattanooga easily and could have a car take her wherever she needed to go, and Janice could get there easily from Atlanta. Plus, with Ben-ben now being a dog, Janice had suggested that the grassy rest area might be a good idea. Surprisingly, Janice found that she wasn’t all that worried about anyone else at the rest area seeing Ben-ben. No doubt, if anyone saw him, they would just consider it one of those dominance submission things that you read about. And the early hour would probably lend itself to that interpretation as well.
It wasn’t a long drive from the motel to the rest area. Less than twenty minutes. Janice was actually there well before six o’clock. It was still mostly dark when she got there, but the sky was brightening rapidly. She noticed quite a number of large trucks parked in the back parking lot. Their drivers either still sleeping or just now preparing to depart. She noticed two trucks leaving the rest area further away near the exit.
Driving slowly and carefully, searching for an out of the way area to meet Susan, she happened to notice the signs pointing to the dog walking area. Perfect! Even if there were other people there, Janice still considered it perfect… although she was relieved to find nobody else around when she got there.
Parking the car, she opened the back door and grabbed Ben-ben’s leash. The dog climbed carefully out of the car and began sniffing the air all around. She pulled on the leash and led him to the grassy area. She started to walk him on the leash, but with nobody else around, she decided to throw caution to the wind. She went back to the car and grabbed his stuffed duck. Then she led him over to a picnic table just to the side of the area. She unclipped Ben-ben’s leash… and threw the duck. “Fetch!” she ordered.
Presented with one of his pre-programmed commands, Ben-ben happily barked and ran off after the duck. A few moments later, he returned with the duck in his mouth. He waited until Janice took the duck from him… and waited until she threw it again. Play times like this were one of the few things he was programmed to enjoy, and Ben-ben was definitely enjoying himself.
Janice was enjoying herself too. It wasn’t often she got to really see the results of her labors. More often, she gave the command to turn someone into something and then left immediately. More than once she had given those commands over the telephone. And once she had pre-programmed the man to simply go into that mode a short time after he had stolen the money and put it where she told him to. So this was a new experience for Janice, and she found that she rather enjoyed playing with Ben-ben this way. But the reason she was enjoying it so much though, was because it was obvious to anyone who looked, that Ben-ben was in reality, nothing more than a stupid man. A stupid man who was completely in her control… and behaving… stupidly. Ben-ben. According to Susan, it meant fool in Chinese. Well, Ben-ben was certainly acting like a fool now!
Another large truck started to leave, traveling along the road at the back of the welcome center that led back out to the interstate highway. But that road also bordered the dog walking area. Janice saw the truck slow… and stop. She saw the driver roll down his window so he could see better. As she threw the duck again and Ben-ben ran off to fetch it, the truck sounded two honks on its loud horn. She saw the driver shake his head before turning back to the road and finally departing. Janice only felt a bit of remorse over the fact that Ben-ben found no humiliation in the situation at all. Maybe that was a mistake. Oh well, too late now.
A few minutes later, a large black limousine pulled up and parked along the curb just past Janice’s SUV. But the limousine was flanked front and rear by two large SUVs. Janice had to grab Ben-ben’s collar as he started barking at the cars that pulled up. She attached his leash as she saw men getting out of both the front and rear cars. The way they went about quickly looking around for any kind of threat scared Janice a bit and she stayed where she was, holding tight to Ben-ben’s leash as he continued to bark occasionally. It wasn’t until the men declared the area to be safe before they let Susan get out of the car.
Susan had seen Ben-ben playing with the duck as her entourage had gotten half-way through the rest area. She had seen the truck in the distance stopped so the driver could see better, and she had heard his horn before he pulled away. She marveled at how callous and open with the situation that Janice seemed to be. Totally unafraid. She continued to study Ben-ben closely as she waited for her men to declare the area safe for her to leave the confines of her car. Once the okay had been given though, she hurried over toward Janice… and Halifax… who was now without a doubt, totally Ben-ben. She couldn’t help but marvel at the way he was behaving. “He’s… amazing!” she declared for lack of anything better to say.
Janice was pleased by Susan’s remark. “I think he did come out pretty good, if I do say myself,” she declared.
Ben-ben, seeing the new tall thing coming at him, and seeming to be very happy to see him, sat and started panting happily up at her with his tongue hanging slightly out of his mouth. He was especially happy when the tall thing bent down and cupped his head in her hands to see him better, then she petted his head a little bit before standing up. He wondered if this new tall thing would play with him. Searching around quickly, he had just enough slack in his leash to get to his duck and pick it up. He turned with it in his mouth toward the new tall thing that seemed to like him so much.
Susan was surprised, “You want to play?” she asked the man-turned-dog. She took the stuffed duck from the “animal” and threw it. Ben-ben started to run after it, but his leash was still attached and he didn’t get far.
“Wait a minute,” Janice exclaimed as she pulled the stupid dog to a stop. A moment later, she unclipped the leash and watched as Ben-ben ran after the duck.
Susan was thrilled as Ben-ben retrieved the stupid dog toy and brought it back to her to throw again… which she did. She couldn’t believe how much like a real dog he was behaving! She got a further shock as after Ben-ben retrieved the duck this time, he paused near a bush, sniffed it, and lifted his leg to relieve himself. “Well, I guess that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about with him for a while,” she said to Janice.
Janice was still very pleased at the way Ben-ben was behaving, especially when he went back to sniff the area he had just peed on. Yuck! But it was also so perfectly dog-like. “That reminds me,” she said as Ben-ben now hurried back toward Susan, I have Joseph Halifax’s passport in the car. Do you need it?”
Susan considered the question. “No, not really, but I’ll take it anyway since you have it. It’s always possible we can find a use for it later.”
Now that Ben-ben was back again with the duck, Janice clipped the leash back onto his collar and handed the leash to Susan. “He’s all yours.”
Susan smiled broadly.