Jack sat up in bed and tried to swallow down the bile of fear that bled out of his nightmares into the morning light.
He knew that sound. It was the gentle but clipped approach of trouble sidling up on him from the other side.
Pillars of shadows reached under the door and stretched across the hardwood. They stopped just inches from the bed.
Jack knew those shadows, too — those legs belonged to Butch, meanest hombre this side of Sundown. Jack reached for the bed stand, grabbed his pocket watch, fumbled with the fob.
It was already half past seven.
Butch had been very clear they were to meet at seven.
Quarter ’til if Jack knew what was good for him.
“I know you’re in there,” Butch growled through the thick maple door separating them. It wouldn’t be thick enough to protect Jack.
He scrambled to his feet, jammed on his specs with shaking hands.
“I’m coming, Butch. I was just, uh … getting ready.” It sounded lame, and Butch just grunted. His shadow compressed, like he was settling on his haunches.
Jack cast a quick glance to the window. Maybe, if he timed his jump just right …
“Hurry up,” Butch commanded.
Jack gritted his teeth and turned toward the door. No, he couldn’t run. This was stickiness of his own making.
He had to face up to it.
Jack took three strides across the floor and flung open the door. He planted his feet wide, bracing for whatever Butch might throw at him.
The dog leapt from the floor landing full-body in Jack’s open arms, licking the man on the cheeks.
“Good morning, boy!” Jack said. “Let’s go eat!”
Jack didn’t have to ask twice.