'The dogs weren't barking, so he's got to be out with them,' said Joe, leading us around the corner.

We went over to the Lucky Seven tavern, which at five in the afternoon was filled with regulars sipping draft beers and rye and gingers and watching the Red Sox. A man behind the bar was adjusting a rack of potato chip bags. He had a damp bar rag slung over his shoulder. Nobody had seen Johnny, so we walked back to the house.

'There's his car,' said Joe, pointing to a new Olds Cutlass. 'He can't be far.'

'Where do we try next, the laundromat?'

'Dunno. He'll be back shortly. Listen, Doc, I just know that if Johnny did pick up that dental work for you, it's sitting right on his coffee table. Tell you what. You two wait here. Sit down on the front steps while I go get the groceries. Be back in twenty minutes.'

So we sat there until he came back. Still no Johnny. Now Joe rubbed his beard stubble and looked a bit worried.

'When was he supposed to deliver the stuff to you?'


'And he didn't call or anything?'


Joe went back to his car, opened the trunk, and returned carrying a metal toolbox.

'Follow me,' he said. And we did.

At the top of the small side stairway, just outside Robinson's door, Joe set the toolbox down and opened it. It was dark up on the landing but we could see that the box was packed with tools, most of which were strange to me. The most familiar things were two gigantic rings of keys.

'Johnny's not going to like this particularly, but it's not like him to default on a delivery and not telephone. Hmmmm. Medeco D-Eleven deadbolt… piece of cake. Baldwin pin tumbler mortise lock… Big lock's unfastened- he's been home…'

He hummed a little ditty while he burgled the door, and before very long we stepped inside the dim apartment. 'Good thing I'm an honest man,' he said, turning on the lights. The living room opened right off the door. The window shades were half up and the sunlight looked bluish in contrast to the yellow-gold glow of the sun passing through them. Faded gingham curtains wafted in and out with the slight breeze from one window which was wide open. There was a love seat against the wall and two old stuffed chairs that had seen better days. Much better days. A TV sat on a small table facing the couch. Above the couch on the wall were boxing photos of Robinson in his prime; with his almost shaven head, he looked a bit like another Massachusetts fighter: Marvin Hagler of Brockton. There were some big posters too, publicizing upcoming fights.

'Oh Christ,' said Joe in a weary voice. I followed his gaze down the short hallway and saw Robinson sprawled on the floor. He had that frozen spastic look, that almost comical appearance of the silent-movie pratfall, an embarrassing frumpy look of a pile of old clothes with a person inside.

He was dead.

Joe stayed where he was and held up his hand as a sign for us not to move.

'Tommy! Here Tommy!' he called. 'Susie! Susie? Here girl!'

Silence and stillness. Mary started for the man on the floor, but her brother held her in check.

'Hold it, Mare. If Johnny's here he's got a hundred and eighty pounds of fur and fangs with him. And they can tear hell out of a Tyrannosaurus Rex when they're mad. Here Tommy! Here Susie!'

I started down the hallway.

'Tommy and Susie are either gone or indisposed,' I said, 'or they'd have been on us like lightning when we first came in.'

I knelt down on the worn carpet runner and looked at the late john Robinson. Handsome. Smooth, nut-brown skin that was tight and unwrinkled. A kind face with large and expressive eyes. Short salt-and-pepper hair, like mine except curly. His eyes were open a fraction. He still wore his Windbreaker jacket. His clothes were the ones he wore when working: blue gabardine uniform well tailored, almost dapper on his fine body. There wasn't a mark on him. I could see no blood anywhere. Heart attack? Sudden cerebral hemorrhage?

Joe knelt down beside me and let out a slow sigh.

'This was one nice guy, Doc. A good man who never made a crooked buck and who always helped people who needed it, even if it meant sticking his own neck out. This makes me sick.'

'Could have been accidental. Look, the body's cold but not stiff. Then he's been dead for over twelve hours. He's still got his coat on; he'd probably just come home. Maybe he was walking toward the kitchen and just collapsed. An autopsy will tell us.'

'Where are the doggies then? Tommy! Susie?'

I looked up at the old black wooden door at the far end of if the short hallway. The doorknob side was cracked and splintered along its length, as if the door had been smashed open. I opened it and looked inside at the tiny bedroom. Mary stood behind me, looking over my shoulder.

'Here they are, Joe. In here. Looks like it wasn't accidental after a1l.'

One dog was just inside the door, lying on its back and twisted through the body as if it had died in pain. It was a female shepherd, the one Joe had called Susie. The bigger, darker one- Tommy- was frozen in front of a window that was open all the way. He was lying on his stomach, his head on his outstretched paws. His mouth was partly open and his lips curled in a frozen snarl. Both dogs were unmarked.

'How the hell were they all killed? Doc, see any signs of bludgeoning?'

'No. But that doesn't mean there wasn't any.'

Joe went back to Robinson and knelt down again, pointing at the holster on his belt.

'Look here,' he said to us. 'Smith and Wesson model ten, a standard-issue thirty-eight. Never taken out of the holster.'

'But look,' said Mary, 'this strap is unfastened. Don't people carry it snapped?'

'Good eye, honey; yes they do. So Robinson came home, shut the door behind him, and began walking down the hall with his jacket still on. Then something happened. Somebody jumped him and the dogs… or something. But whatever it was, it was fast. He saw it or heard it, but only had time to flick off his carrying strap.'

'And he had the reflexes of a boxer, Doc. He was very fast for an older guy, and tough too. I wonder…'

Joe pulled up Robinson's right pantleg. There, was a small holster strapped to his leg with a tiny snub-nosed revolver in place.

'His belly gun. Smith and Wesson Bodyguard Airweight. Untouched. Let's try the other leg.'

Up went the left pantleg. Fastened to the left calf was a bone-handled stiletto. Finally, on his belt up under the Windbreaker was a spray canister of Mace.

'He was a walking Sherman tank,' I said. 'Too bad it didn't do him any good.'

'This is real nasty, Doc,' said Joe, glancing around nervously, 'and it looks like a pro job too. Looks like some of Johnny's old enemies finally caught up with him.'

'But what killed him?' asked Mary.

'A good question. No marks are visible on him or the dogs. No blood either, except in the bedroom, where Tommy tore into someone. So john Robinson, lighter, armed to the teeth and with two big attack dogs, comes home from work Friday afternoon. Now they're all dead. Doc, how would you handle a heavily armed boxer with two dogs?'



I dropped to my hands and knees and looked around.

''There's no odor remaining,' I said, 'but that's to be expected. It was yesterday and windows are open. Thing is, how was it dispersed? It had to be fast-'

'To your right,' said Joe. 'There, next to your knee-'

I reached over and retrieved a pair of glasses with gold frames and tinted lenses. Attached to the top of the frames were two small convex mirrors, one on each side. They were the type worn by bicyclists for seeing backward. With these two mirrors out on both sides Robinson could see directly behind himself, in the manner of horses and deer. The mirrors were most useful when he walked up dark narrow alleys and stairwells, where hiding places and thieves abound.

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