Long Lake was a small town of cabins that people vacationed at; I don’t think there were any permanent residents. The people who worked at the general store and restaurant there commuted from the town about 20 miles away. By this late in the summer, people were scarce, if even there at all. When we arrived at our cabin, the neighbor we’d come to know over the years, an older man named Floyd who’d vacation there with his grandkids, was packing up to leave for the year. Apparently, he’d spent about three weeks up there that year, much longer than his normal week. It turns out his grandkids were feeling as if they were “too old” for the annual cabin trip; I felt kinda bad for Floyd, I knew how much he looked forward to the trip.
After introducing Roscoe to our annual neighbor, we said our goodbye’s to Floyd, who promised to return the following year, even if he did it alone. I had the wife and kids start unloading the car while I went and unlocked the cabin. Before I approached the door, I stood there, looked off into the distance over the lake, and breathed in a big helping of fresh country air. It felt like a weight was off my shoulders being here, and not having to worry every day, wondering if that would be the day I got another one of my daughter’s drawings in the mail. I felt truly at peace, even if only for that moment. That peace would quickly fade, though, when I got to the door of the cabin. It was already unlocked. Now, chances are, it was just left unlocked from us the previous year. I really had no ground to suspect anything other than that, even with everything going on. There was no way that the mystery man could’ve known where our cabin was, much less have gotten there before us. I had kept a keen eye in the rearview on the trip up to make sure we weren’t being followed, just to be safe, and I had no reason to believe we had.
I opened the cabin door, and the air was heavy and moist. There was a thick layer of dust on everything the eye could see, amplified by the rays of sunlight coming in through the windows. Everything was exactly as it was a year prior. I breathed easy, taking solace in the fact that it was more than likely myself a year ago that had made me worry so much presently. I walked to the master bedroom and fumbled with the fuse box until the power came on. My family entered the cabin, my children wide-eyed with excitement. They ran to the other bedroom, which contained bunk beds, and immediately began bickering over who got top bunk. My wife went back outside to get another round of bags and suitcases while I got the water going. Knowing I had to personally get the electricity and water running gave me even more peace of mind; it meant that no one had been using these utilities in at least the past while, as evidenced by the dust.
Things went well for the first day. We got settled, and I put off cutting the grass until the next day. We took a ride on the ATV’s and played board games. The next day, I took my family to a spot across the lake that we’d taken the kids to every year. It had a small playground, and an actual beach. There was a dock a little ways out into the water that my daughter was now big enough to play on with my wife, and my son enjoyed trying to catch fish with his hands at the shore. We grilled out and had a nice meal, and stayed there until almost sundown. My plan was to cut the grass when we returned home, but as we pulled into the small, grassy area we used as a driveway, I noticed that the grass was freshly cut. My heart once again sank into my stomach.
My wife commented that a neighbor must have done us a favor, and went on about her business. I looked around, and every other lawn that I could see were still uncut. I knew who had done this. Well, not exactly who, but I knew. I truly was confused at the motivations of this mysterious stalker. So far, he had given us a dog who had quickly become a member of the family, and next, he cuts the lawn of our cabin for us? A part of me almost considered just accepting what was going on, as it seemed harmless. And that feeling only grew in me when nothing bad happened the next day. But then, the fourth day came.
It was about 7am, and my wife took Roscoe outside so he could run around and use the bathroom. She tied his leash around a post that had been designated specifically for him, and went inside to start cooking breakfast. Roscoe was a quick learner, and in the short time we’d had him, we’d trained him to do a few things. One of these things was to bark when he was ready to come inside. My wife cooked breakfast and I woke up the kids, and we all sat down to eat. It wasn’t until we were nearly finished that Katie asked where Roscoe was. Strange, I thought, that he hadn’t barked when he was ready to come in. I figured he was just having a good time enjoying the openness of nature around him. I told Katie that mommy had put him outside and that I would go get him. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I walked out of that cabin.
Roscoe was on the ground, and his throat had been brutally gouged open, so much so that he was nearly decapitated. Then, from the horizontal throat cut was a vertical cut down to his testicles, and his innards had been removed from his body and placed next to him. His blood pooled in the grass around his small, lifeless body. I felt like I was going to throw up. I ran over to him and looked at his wounds. I could tell that it had been done with a blade of some sort, and was not a random animal attack. Before I did anything else, I ran back to the cabin and told my family to stay inside and not look out the windows. I left before they could question me.
As tears streamed down my face at the horror I was currently taking care of, I dug a hole for Roscoe. I gently placed him in the hole and pet his soft back one last time. I truly had come to care about the dog, no matter where he had come from. I filled the hole with dirt and went to put the shovel back in the shed. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it when I went to retrieve the shovel in the first place, but on the siding of the cabin was a message, written in what I assumed was Roscoe’s blood.
It simply said “GOOD DOGGY”.
I washed the message off before returning inside to my family. The entire time I had been dreading explaining to them what had happened. I sat my kids down and told them that while we were inside, another animal, probably much larger than Roscoe, had gotten into a fight with Roscoe and hurt him to the point where he had to go to doggie heaven. My wife and children cried, and I joined them. None of us could believe that we had just lost the newest member of our family. With this, though, I told everyone to pack up, because it wasn’t safe to stay in the area with such a large animal on the loose. They abided, and we were on the road within the hour.
We stopped at the gas station just outside of Long Lake to get gas, pick up snacks, and use the restroom before we set out on our four hour trip. We all went inside, and thankfully, I was the first to come out. I saw it from the gas station doors: an envelope under my windshield wiper. I sprinted to the car in hopes to get it before my wife saw it. I succeeded, and immediately checked the area around me for someone, anyone. There was no one. No cars driving in either direction, and no one on foot anywhere for as far as the eye could see. I even made a circle both ways around the gas station, and did a check inside the gas station itself, and found no one that hadn’t been there already. I wanted to ask the gas station clerk to see the security camera feed, but a cursory look around the place didn’t reveal any cameras; that, and I didn’t want to alert my wife to the note I’d found.
I waited for my son to get out of the bathroom and told everyone to wait by the door for me. Inside the bathroom, I opened the envelope and took out the folded piece of paper. This drawing was one of our house that Katie had done about a week prior to our road trip. I remember because I had hung it up on our refrigerator when she finished, only for her to take it down to put in her “portfolio”. This one depicted our family in the swimming pool in our backyard. The addition to this scene was the same crudely drawn man standing behind the fence, with a pile of wrapped presents next to him. There was writing on the back of the picture this time too. “We are a hapy famly : )”
I didn’t know what to think of this picture. My family and I had been swimming in our backyard countless times that summer, even after the incident in the midwest, when my guard was 100% up. I was positive no one had been spying on us. My only rational guess was that the man had used the pool in place of the lake we had swam in days prior, and the fence to be the treeline from which he could have spied on us. Whatever the case was, I folded it up, put it in my pocket and got my family and I the hell out of there. I took random backroads and out of the way turns on the somber ride home, much to the confusion of my wife. I told her I was checking something on the car; I was obviously seeing if anyone was following me, and again, I found no evidence of that.
When we returned home, the first thing I did was cover up the pool for the remainder of what was left of the summer, much to the dismay of my family. I made up some bullshit about how the water levels had been affected in our absence; something that didn’t really make sense but got the job I wanted done.
I wanted to tell my wife what was going on. I really did, but at this point, I felt like I had already hidden so much that the focus wouldn’t be on the issue at hand, but rather on my evasiveness. So I resolved to continue the charade. I was the protector of this family, and I was going to do just that. This wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle on my own, I told myself. In retrospect, I could’ve used all the help I could get.