The Transylvanian Hound

February 17, 2012

Purgatory, someone had once written next to a dot on the map hundreds of years ago. Maybe it had been a joke, maybe some settler had been hellishly tired of the hard work and taken it out on the settlement that was growing up in the spot represented by that dot, maybe there had been some other reason, by now lost to the ages. Whatever the reason for the name, it had stuck; now new arrivals were all greeted by a roadside sign unironically wishing them “Welcome to Purgatory.” Like the rest of the state, the rest of the country, violent crime was at an all-time high in Purgatory. Murders and assaults, medical examiners noting down exsanguination as cause of death on an ever-surging portion of their autopsy reports. Journalists and politicians were quick to blame the depravity on their pet issues: unemployment, immigration, drugs.

Petri moved into the small town on a Friday. He didn’t bring much with him, arriving with a heavy backpack on his shoulders and a black and tan dog named Ivan, a hound somewhat like a scaled-up, long-legged dachshund in appearance, by his side. He was a thin, quiet man, a trained nurse with pale skin, watery grey eyes and dark hair tied back in a severe, thin ponytail. He found work at the local blood bank a day after his arrival, and within weeks the local police was noticing a marked decrease in the same types of crime that had been increasing nationwide.

There was the odd death still, an unexplained bloodless body, but farming and hunting accidents were making a come-back in the local death statistics and the long strings of violence seemed to have been cut. The biological waste plant that handled the expired products from the blood bank reported an increased number of irregularities, but as that was out of the local police’s jurisdiction, nobody much cared. Even if they had, the disappearance of a few blood bags slated for destruction now and again was a minuscule concern.

The people of Purgatory soon noticed Petri, not because he stood out – he didn’t, far too quiet and mild-mannered to draw attention – but because every day, his dog Ivan would come to the entrance of the building where he worked and wait there to walk him home. The dog never hurt anyone, seeming to only have eyes for his master, and thus the locals soon talked of him with admiration for his excellent training. So thorough was the dog’s training, apparently, that when Petri was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident and found in an alley by a garbage man in the wee hours of the morning, Ivan kept showing up in his usual spot like clockwork.

After five days, Petri’s body, having gone unclaimed, was cremated. People worried when Ivan’s spot on the sidewalk remained empty, five o’clock coming and passing. Someone searched, even going to the small cottage Petri had rented, furnished, for himself and his beast, but found no trace, not even a single black or tan hair. It was as though the dog had gone up in smoke with his master.

Crime never went back to what it had been before Petri first stepped foot in Purgatory; there were assaults, beatings, to nearly the old level, but the strange bleeding deaths were rare.

When they happened, they were always followed by mystery maulings.

No trace was ever found of the animal behind those maulings. No trace but a single pawprint in blood leading away from the scene.

The print of a medium-sized hound dog.

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