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Rated: E · Fiction · Drama · #2246008
Alarm protection comes in many forms
“Mama, the neighbor’s dog is making that funny noise again.”

Jenna moved to the window where her 6 year old daughter was peering into the night. Twitching the curtain further aside she, too, looked out and – sure enough – the neighbors Redbone Coonhound, Scout, had his head thrown back, giving full voice to a cross between a bark and a howl. She didn’t know why but it was both eerie yet oddly comforting.

The ground outside was covered in a powdery snow and there was more coming down. She’d have thought the old dog would be cold but he continued his bark/bay/howl undeterred. Even with his owner standing on their back porch. Jenna grinned to see the woman who was clearly scolding her dog and urging him inside.

“Why does he do that, Mama?” Meredith asked, face pressed to the cold glass.

“I guess he’s telling the falling snow who’s boss, sweetie. At least he’s a well-behaved dog most of the time.”

Her daughter, known as Merry to family and friends, giggled. “I like him. He’s a silly dog and he plays chase with me through the fence.”

Jenna had seen her daughter and Scout running up and down the yard on either side of the fence, Merry giggling with excitement. Sadly, they were unable to have a dog of their own because they rented this house and the landlord didn’t allow pets. But their neighbors were very nice people with a small child of their own and welcomed Merry over for play dates with son and dog.

“Yes, he is. I’m glad he and Jason are your friends.”

Jenna ruffled her daughter’s hair as they both peered outside. The snow was falling a little heavier and she was worried about Ken getting home. He worked the late shift and usually got home around 9 or 10 o’clock at night. Hopefully the roads wouldn’t be too bad and he’d stay safe.

Suddenly a strange chill went down Jenna’s spine just as Scout began to do his strange howl/bark again. Frowning, Jenna tugged on Merry’s hand.

“C’mon, sugar, let’s start getting you ready for bed.”

Merry made a face. “Do I haf’ta? It’s not that late, Mama.”

Jenna managed a smile even as she fought the nerves she felt. “Sorry, but the answer’s yes, you “haf’ta.” Tomorrow’s a school day and you need to get your sleep. Go brush your teeth, please, then get into your jammies.

Merry grumbled her way down the hall and to the bathroom and Jenna had to grin for real. For all her sunny disposition, getting ready for – and going to – bed was Merry’s least favorite thing. As her daughter entered the bathroom some mother’s instinct had Jenna going to her room and opening the closet.

Reaching onto the shelf over her husband’s work shirts she pulled down the 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun her husband kept there for home security. Putting a few shells in her pocket she made sure the gun was loaded the way Ken had shown her and, keeping it pointed at the floor and her finger away from the trigger, walked it to the end of the hall near the front room. That put it away from Merry but still where Jenna could get to it quickly if needed.

“Doing okay in there, Merry?” She called through the half-closed bathroom door.

“Fine, Mama.” Came her daughter’s exasperated reply. She was getting into the “I’m-a-big-girl-Mom” stage and it made Jenna both proud and sad.

Her daughter was growing up.

“Just making sure. I’m going to check all the locks and I’ll be right back, okay?”

Merry’s bright little hazel eyes suddenly peered through the crack. She looked at her mother with entirely too much understanding for a six year old. “Okay, Mama. Make sure to get that little window by the kitchen, too. And I’ll lock the door if you tell me to.”

“Good girl. Back in a minute.”

Moving to the front room, and feeling Merry’s eyes on her the whole way, Jenna picked up the shotgun and cradled it in her arms in such a way she could aim and fire it quickly but it wasn’t a threat to anyone it shouldn’t be.

Outside, Scout began his bark/howl again and she could hear Erin call him, trying once more to get her crazy dog in out of the cold. Jenna could only shake her head with a smile as she made sure the locks were secure and curtains all closed. She made double sure to check the little window Merry had mentioned just so she could reassure her daughter she had.

Merry was concerned about that window because, even though it was too small for an adult to use to get in the house, it was big enough for *her* and that was enough. So it was always checked.

Once reassured Jenna headed back to her daughter. This time she paused to set the shotgun just inside the door to her and Ken’s bedroom. Merry still stood at the bathroom door, waiting, face solemn.

“It’s all okay, Mama?”

“It absolutely is, baby. Even the little window near the kitchen. I double checked it and it’s locked tighter ‘n a tick on a hound’s belly.” She reassured.

Merry cracked a grin. “Yuck, Mama!”

“Yeah, yeah. Go brush your teeth and finish getting ready for bed, little miss.” Jenna ordered mock severely.

Outside, Scout howled again.

**********************************************************

When Ken got home that night he took a moment to walk around his house, checking that all was secure. Relieved that all the doors and windows were tight he headed back to the garage to close up and enter his home.

He was met by the business end of the shotgun his wife held and froze. Jenna tensed for a second then let out an explosive sigh.

“You scared me to death, Ken!” She hissed, not wanting to wake Merry. “I heard someone – I assume you – moving around the outside. What were you doing?”

Shaking his head her husband gently removed the gun from her hands and laid it on the counter before pulling her close. Jenna relaxed in his embrace until his badge pressed into her cheek.

“Ow. Sorry.” She rubbed her face, then his. “What is it, babe? Something’s bothering you.”

Ken shook his head as he removed his gun belt and carefully stowed it where his daughter couldn’t get to it. He took the time to finish his “I’m-home-and-my-family-is-safe” ritual before he answered both of Jenna’s questions.

“Just checking things outside, baby. That’s all. We caught a man several blocks over from here tonight. He was peeping into windows, casing houses, looking for an unsecured house to rob.”

Jenna frowned. “I got a weird chill earlier tonight and that’s why I got your gun.” Ken glanced at where he’d set it on the counter as she continued. “I checked the house, made sure it was locked tight, but I didn’t see anything outside.” She reassured. “I knew you’d be home soon and I had both the shotgun and my phone at the ready but no one was there.”

Ken’s dark gaze met his wife’s somberly. “He was there, Jen. At some point. When the guys cuffed him he kept talking about a house with just a woman and kid that would have been the perfect target but the only reason he’d left was because of the, as he put it, “dratted neighbor dog that wouldn’t shut up”.”

Jenna swallowed, face going pale as she stared back. Then she moved into her husband’s tight embrace. “Guess we owe Scout a huge cow bone for his part in our security.” She murmured.

“I’ll buy it myself.” Ken assured her.
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