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Free Werepet Short Story

Updated: Feb 7

I've just released my werepet short story, Snowflake and I'm making it completely free. Check below for the download site of your choice, download the PDF, or read it at the bottom of this blog. If you use a kindle, you'll need to download the Mobi version through Smashwords. Links below.

Cover copy

Like most eight-year-olds, Haldon’s entire world is video games, playing with friends, and waiting for school to end.

That is, until he meets a rare albino werepet named Snowflake.

The two become fast friends. But Snowflake’s owner, Mr. Martin, isn’t as kind as he pretends to be. And when owning werepets becomes illegal, Haldon finds himself in a race to save his friend from the authorities and from Mr. Martin himself.

From the author of Tamed comes Douglas R. Brown’s first new werepet story in ten years. Get a taste before the October 2023 release of the explosive sequel to Tamed.

Snowflake final
Download PDF • 1.01MB

And if you just want to read it without downloading, here you go.

Chapter 1- Snowflake

Haldon played his Nintendo Gameboy in the back seat of his parents’ SUV as trees whipped past the windows. The Gameboy was new, a birthday present from when he’d turned eight a couple of weeks earlier, and he couldn’t get enough of it. His dad had turned him on to an old game called Tetris and Haldon had spent the last two weeks trying to beat his high score without success. It turned out his dad was pretty good at games.

Haldon was completely absorbed until he heard a groan from the front seat.

“You talk to him, Elise. He’s not listening to me,” his dad said.

His mom craned her head around. “Did you hear your father?” she asked.

Haldon shook his head.

“He said that whatever it is that the Martins have to show us tonight is Top Secret. We’re not allowed to tell anyone about it. Not even your friends at school. Do you understand?”

Haldon nodded.

Keeping his eyes on the road, his dad asked, “Did you hear your mother?”

Elise put her hand on his arm. “He heard me, Kerry.” Then she reached back and brushed Haldon’s cheek with her knuckle. “I love you, my little squirrel.”

He rolled his eyes. “I know, Mom. You tell me all the time.”

As she turned back to the front, she said, “Put your game away now. We’re almost there.”

Haldon set his Gameboy aside as Kerry drove through the entrance of a swinging wrought-iron gate and continued up a long driveway to a gigantic mansion.

Haldon enjoyed visiting the Martins because they had fun stuff for kids to do, even though they didn’t have any kids of their own. Mr. Martin loved games and his finished basement had a pool table, dart board, and a row of old-fashion arcade games like Pac Man and Galaga. Haldon’s favorite was Dig Dug.

Haldon joined his parents as they headed for the front door. While waiting for the Martins to answer the bell, his mom glanced down at him and snorted. She licked her finger and scrubbed the side of his mouth.

Haldon pulled away. “Stop it.”

“Whatever did you get into?” she asked.

He thought back to the cherry Popsicle he had sneaked before they’d left and tried to look innocent.

She pressed her lips together. “I swear I’m done buying Popsicles if you don’t stay out of them.”

Mr. Martin answered the door. He was a big man with a gentle face. He wore a huge smile, which was nothing new. “Elise. Kerry. So good to see you.” He kissed Elise’s cheek. “Come on in.” Then he stopped and cocked his head at Haldon. “Well now, who’s this young man?”

Haldon giggled. “It’s me, Mr. Martin. Haldon.”

Mr. Martin thrust out his hand. “Well, put ’er there, buddy. You’re growing more and more every time I see you. What are you now? Six-foot-two?”

Haldon snorted as Mr. Martin pumped his hand up and down.

Mrs. Martin was in the kitchen, a plume of steam engulfing her as she dumped a pot of spaghetti into a strainer. She invited them to sit at the table and then asked her husband to put out the silverware.

Mr. Martin gathered place settings and organized them around the table while his wife followed behind him, serving chicken parmesan, spaghetti, and some of the best garlic bread Haldon had ever tasted. Elise had to reel him in after he asked for a third piece.

As the meal wound down, the adults’ small talk made Haldon wish he had brought his Gameboy inside. It wasn’t until the end of the meal that things got interesting.

Kerry put down his napkin and asked what Haldon had been dying to know all evening. “So, Gabe. What’s the big surprise?”

If they were outside, Gabe Martin’s smile could have been seen from the moon. He wiggled his eyebrows and glanced eagerly at Mrs. Martin.

She sighed. “Go ahead. I’ll clean up.”

Gabe bounced from his seat. “Come on,” he said.

Haldon was quick to join him, but Kerry called him back. “Your plate, young man.”

Haldon raced his plate to the sink and then caught up to Gabe as his parents lagged behind. Gabe led them to the basement stairs and flipped on the light. Haldon expected to see a new video game, or maybe the electronic dartboard Gabe had been thinking about buying.

When they reached the bottom, all Haldon saw was the pool table and same old arcade games. There was a new pinball machine in the corner, but he didn’t like pinball. It was the biggest letdown ever.

But Gabe didn’t even glance at the pinball machine. “Wait here,” he said, and went to the door that led to the media room. He opened it and stepped aside.

Haldon strained to see past him.

“Well?” Kerry asked.

Gabe made a kissing sound and said, “Come on, girl.”

Haldon watched intently, ready to meet a new puppy or kitten. That would be far better than an old pinball machine, but still kind of a letdown. A new pet wasn’t exactly Top Secret stuff.

And then something much bigger than a dog or cat moved in the darkness. In fact, it was big enough to be a bear. The creature stepped into the light.

Haldon took a stunned step backward. He couldn’t take his eyes off it. The creature sniffed the air, hesitant to come closer.

“Is that a …?” Kerry asked, eyes also plastered on it.

Gabe nodded. “Um-hm,” he said. “Her name’s Snowflake.”

Snowflake rose to her hind legs. She was taller than Kerry and Gabe and every other man Haldon had seen in person. Her fur was a cloud of white. She had a wolf’s head with a bright pink nose, and at the tips of her fingers she had pale daggers for nails. Her thick chest flowed into a skinny waist and muscular thighs.

Haldon backed into Kerry’s leg. He lifted wide eyes to his dad.

“Holy shit,” Kerry said. “That’s a real-life …” He trailed off again.

Gabe chuckled. “Heh. Yep. It’s a werepet all right. A rare albino female.”

Elise struggled to find words. “I-I thought werepets were illegal now.”

“It’s illegal to buy them. The government’s still trying to decide how to handle people who already own them. That’s why you can’t tell anyone.”

Kerry’s forehead crinkled. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”

“Sure. Up until last month people were buying them everywhere. Now all of a sudden it’s a bad idea? I don’t see why. It’s just a pet.”

“There must be a reason. People are turning in their werepets left and right.”

Gabe brushed off Kerry’s concern with a wave. “Remember when your insurance company told you that you couldn’t have your Doberman anymore because they’d re-categorized them as dangerous?”

“Sure, but—”

“It’s the same thing. People have been owning these things for years now. They’re safe as long as you keep up on ’em.”

“Where did you get her? I thought that company closed down. What was it called again? The Were-something?”

“The WereHouse. I was in the process of buying one when they closed up shop. I think their director got into some trouble. Probably embezzling or something. Anyways, we were super disappointed. But then, a few weeks later, someone contacted us and said they could still get us one from the black market.”

“I bet she cost a fortune.”

“No kiddin’. Let’s just say, I’m not buying a yacht anytime soon. But she’s worth every penny. She’s been awesome. We love having her.”

While Kerry and Haldon stared in awe, Elise found the courage to creep forward.

The magnificent beast ducked under the doorframe as she stepped into the room. She looked to Gabe for direction.

He nodded. “It’s okay,” he assured her.

She lowered herself back to all fours with her ears tucked tight to her head.

Elise glanced back. “May I …?”

Gabe nodded. “Feel free. She’s completely docile.”

Elise touched Snowflake’s forearm and the creature flinched. “She’s beautiful.”

“She’s the only known albino werg in the world,” Mrs. Martin said as she came down the basement stairs.

Haldon inched forward, fascinated. Snowflake lowered her snout and sniffed the air. Haldon offered her the back of his hand the way his dad had taught him for meeting strange dogs.

“I gotta tell you, Gabe,” Kerry said. “She’s awesome and everything, but it seems like a helluva risk. That senator guy who runs the oversight committee is really cracking down on people who own these.”

Gabe scoffed. “Other than you guys, no one else even knows she’s here. Besides, Senator Wooten’s too busy gearing up for his presidential run. Worst case scenario is he finds out and makes me register her. Maybe they’ll fine me or something. As long as he doesn’t know I bought her after the crackdown, we’ll be fine.” He nudged Kerry with his elbow. “I can get you the guy’s name if you wanna look into getting one.”

Haldon’s ears perked.

Kerry threw a wet blanket on the idea. “Nah. We don’t need one. Besides, you can’t take her outside, can ya?”

“I can’t take her in public. But we go jogging in the woods. I used to carry bear spray on my runs, but now I don’t even think I’d need it.”

“You think she’d fight a bear?”

He shrugged. “Probably. She’s loyal. It’d be a helluva fight, too. They’ve been known to take down bears in the past.”

“What’s she eat?”

“A lot of meat. But I’ve got a guy at the Walmart who gives me the expired stuff for cheap. She only has to eat a few times a week. It’s not that bad. I put the rest in a freezer in the garage.”

“Sounds like a hassle.”

“Well worth it, I assure you. She’s like having a dog, only way cooler.”

As the adults talked, Haldon looked into Snowflake’s dark eyes and noticed a hint of green. Though he didn’t understand why, something about her gaze made him sad.

“Hi, Snowflake,” he whispered. He reached for her hand and carefully traced a nail.

“I’ve got a million more questions,” Kerry said as Elise finished petting the werg and joined him.

Gabe chuckled. “I’m sure you do. Come on upstairs. We’ll have some drinks and I’ll tell you all about her.”

Elise called Haldon over, but he hesitated. “Can I stay down here?” he asked. “Pleeeease?”

Elise gave Gabe an unsure look. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I—”

Gabe interrupted, “You can stay with her while we get dinner cleaned up and set up the card table, and then you can bring her upstairs. She’s a bit of a counter grazer still, so you’ll have to watch her. How would that be, Haldie?”

Haldon agreed enthusiastically, but Elise still looked uncertain. “You mind if I stay down here with them until you’re ready?”

Gabe grinned. “You’re welcome to do whatever you’d like, but I assure you Haldie will be safe alone with her. Right, Julia?”

“Safe as a kid in a car seat,” Mrs. Martin confirmed.

Elise smiled. “Just the same …”

Gabe shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He joined Kerry and Julia as they headed upstairs.

With the others gone, Snowflake seemed to loosen up a pinch and meandered around the basement. Elise sat at a bar table while Haldon followed Snowflake around. Snowflake quickly warmed up to him and practically plastered herself to his side.

Haldon taught her how to play a rudimentary game of hide and seek, though he got tired of it pretty quickly. Her sniffer made him lose every time. They switched to playfully wrestling, which was a lot more fun. Even though she could have tossed him across the room, she was very gentle with him. He was giving her a good scratch when his hand brushed over a rough area on her lower back. Taking a closer look made his face turn sour.

“What is it?” Elise asked.

He shrugged. “Come look.”

She walked over and parted Snowflake’s fur where he pointed.

“What is it, Mom?” he asked.

She studied the rough scar that looked like letters. Then her eyes narrowed. “I think it’s a brand.” She continued examining the scar. “It says ‘PET’.”

Haldon swallowed hard. “What do you mean a brand? Like what they do to cows?”

“I think so.”

“Do you think it hurt?”

She nodded slightly. “Probably, bud.”

Haldon’s face crumpled a little. He hugged Snowflake’s neck.

Elise rubbed his back. “She doesn’t seem bothered by it now, buddy. You’re probably more upset about it than she is at this point.”

Julia called down that they were ready for their card game, and Haldon led Snowflake upstairs. While the adults played cards, he requested some treats and used them to teach Snowflake how to play dead. She was a quick learner.

Hours passed. He couldn’t get enough of her.

When Kerry announced it was time to leave, Haldon gave Snowflake the biggest hug possible. He would have moved in with the Martins if he was allowed. He followed his parents to the car, his gaze lingering behind.

Snowflake stood on the porch until Gabe gestured to the car and gave a command. She ran to Haldon’s window.

He lowered the glass and touched the side of her snout. “I’ll come back and play with you again soon. I promise.”

She cocked her head as if she understood.

As Kerry pulled away, Haldon watched through the back window until they reached the gate and he couldn’t see Snowflake anymore. His only thought on the way home was to heck with Bobby Tolliver. He’d just found his new best friend.

Chapter 2- Collar

After meeting Snowflake, Haldon was desperate to get back to the Martins’ house. His next chance came about three weeks later when his parents scheduled another Saturday night of cards.

In the week leading up to the visit, he could barely focus on school, toys, or even his favorite TV show. The hardest part about meeting Snowflake, besides the wait to see her again, had been not telling anyone about her, especially Bobby Tolliver. Bobby would have been so jealous.

When Saturday arrived, Haldon was in the SUV a half-hour before it was time to leave. He didn’t even take his Gameboy along.

“Excited?” Kerry asked with a chuckle when he opened the driver’s door.

Wide-eyed, Haldon bobbed his head.

“You were quite taken by Snowflake, huh?”

Obviously, Kerry hadn’t seen Haldon’s notebook full of werepet sketches.

The long drive over was torturous. At the Martins’ house, Haldon hurried through the pleasantries with his eyes locked on the basement door. Gabe laughed out loud when he asked Haldon how he’d been and, without looking back, Haldon answered, “I’m eight.”

Kerry gave him a light smack on his shoulder to get his attention.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Martin,” Haldon answered. “What’d you say?”

Gabe chuckled. “It’s okay. I completely understand. Will you do me a favor when you go down?”

Haldon would do anything as long as it didn’t take time away from Snowflake. He nodded.

“I didn’t get a chance to take her outside today. You think maybe you could take her out and play? She needs a good run.”

That sounded fantastic. “Yessir.”

“Perfect. She shouldn’t go far, but keep an eye on her. I had to put up an invisible fence and get her a new collar to keep her from wandering off the property. She’s quite curious and has been getting a little loose with her boundaries. She’s already been zapped a couple times and doesn’t like it much. You’ll see the flags. Sound good?”

It sounded perfectly reasonable. That was the same way Kerry had trained their Doberman to stay on their property. It’d be terrible if Snowflake wandered off and got lost. Or hit by a car.

Gabe stopped him before he reached the door. “One more thing,” he said. “Stay away from the forest. I think a bear got into my trash the other day. Snowflake was having a fit downstairs. When I looked outside, I thought I saw one running away.”

Elise looked alarmed. “Maybe he shouldn’t be outside, then.”

Gabe put up a hand. “It’s entirely up to you, but I don’t think there’s any issues. I jog in the woods a lot and haven’t seen any signs of it. It was probably just passing through. I’m more concerned about Snowflake getting overly curious than I am Haldie getting hurt.”

Elise looked to Kerry, who gave her a comforting nod. “It’s the same forest out back of our neighborhood, Elise. He knows to keep close.” Then he turned to Haldon. “Did you hear Mr. Martin, Haldie? Stay away from the woods.”

Haldon nodded.

After being excused, Haldon raced downstairs and opened the door to the media-room-turned-werepet-den.

Snowflake’s eyes brightened when she saw him, and she sniffed the air before coming out. Her new collar had a large, black box nestled in the fur on her throat. A green light flashed intermittently.

Haldon hugged her and scratched the side of her neck. She leaned into his hand. After pulling back, he asked, “You wanna go outside?” Then he opened the sliding door of the walkout basement and stepped onto the brick patio beneath the deck.

She froze at the door.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Then he tapped his thigh. “Come on, girl.” He backed up to give her room.

She didn’t move, crouching with her ears tucked and her head scrunched below her shoulders. She trembled.

Haldon took her hand and gave a slight tug. “It’s okay,” he encouraged.

She pulled away.

He cocked his head. “What’s wrong?”

She lifted her head and touched the collar with her other hand.

And then it hit him. “Oh,” he said. “You’re afraid of getting shocked.” He guessed Mr. Martin probably didn’t know the proper way to train her and she had no idea why she’d been zapped. He gave her a comforting smile. “I won’t let you get hurt again. I promise. Let me show you.” He took her hand again and gave it another tug. This time she followed.

Once outside, she loosened up and investigated around the deck posts, sniffing one more intently than the others.

He gave her another pull. “Come on. I’ll show you how to not get hurt.”

Together, they walked until they could see the first line of white flags. It was the farthest he’d ever been on the Martins’ property. Though there weren’t any neighboring houses within sight, there was one under construction in the distance. Between the flags and the construction site was the end of the Martins’ property line, marked by their wrought-iron fence. He imagined Snowflake could easily jump it, hence the addition of the invisible fence.

Haldon pointed to the flags. “See those?”

Her eyes followed his finger.

“That’s where the zaps happen. Let me show you.” A few feet beyond was a fresh line of dirt where the fence wires had recently been buried. He knew as long as he didn’t let her get close to that, she’d be okay.

He spent the next half-hour or so teaching her that she couldn’t cross the flags. He brought her close enough to the boundary to make her collar give a warning beep, and then he backed her off.

She caught on pretty quickly, but he wanted to make sure she wouldn’t forget. He kept at it even though she was obviously getting bored. When she’d finally had enough, she gave him an ornery look and moved about fifty yards away. He cocked his head as she dropped to all fours and crouched, ready to spring.

“What in the world are you doing?”

Then she exploded into a full sprint heading straight for him. Haldon took a nervous step backward. He knew running away was pointless as she was faster than anything he’d ever seen.

She was closing fast. Haldon cringed and closed his eyes in anticipation of being plowed into the dirt. He barely heard a sound as his hair puffed backward in a rush of air. He opened his eyes. She had barreled past, missing him by inches. He spun to see her as she made a wide turn and charged again.

This time he tried to keep his eyes open, though he still flinched before she veered at the last possible second. Her reflexes were amazing. Then she made another turn and blazed toward him again. It was as if she was playing a game. If he moved an inch, he’d be mush. This time he stood firm. By her fifth pass, he was giggling uncontrollably and she seemed to be having as much fun as he was.

He could have played like that all evening, but she soon tired, panting heavily. He led her back to the house where she went straight for the water dish and drank it dry.

Gabe gave him a five-dollar bill and thanked him for playing with her. If Haldon had brought five dollars of his own, he’d have paid Gabe for the opportunity.

He was already imagining his next play date with Snowflake before he was back in his parents’ SUV.

Chapter 3- Belt

His parents’ occasional card games with the Martins just weren’t enough to give Haldon a proper Snowflake fix, but he was at their mercy and all he could do was wait for the next one. At least their visits started to come more frequently.

Sometimes Haldon and Snowflake would play and run outside, while other times he would just sit and talk to her about eight-year-old life as if she understood. But recently she’d become less playful and didn’t always seem as happy to see him. It had been a month since they’d played the charge and veer game that he loved so much. He wished she could tell him what was bothering her.

Like each visit before, Haldon was the first one to the front door. This time when Gabe answered, he was winded and in a bit of a foul mood. His usual smile was gone.

“Hey, Haldon,” he said brusquely. Gone were the handshakes that exaggerated Haldon’s strength and the “how tall are you getting” jokes.

“Where’s Snowflake?” Haldon asked.

“She’s downstairs,” Gabe replied with a limp wave to the basement door. “She’s been acting a little off lately. Maybe you can figure out what’s gotten into her.”

Haldon crowded past him and raced to the basement. Before he closed the door behind him, he heard Elise ask, “What’s wrong, Gabe?”

Haldon paused to listen.

“Ehhh. Snowflake’s not been obeying very well lately. When I give her a command, sometimes she seems to think about it first instead of just doing it like she’s supposed to. They told me this might happen. They said females are the hardest to keep tame, and she would need to be reeducated on occasion, but the number they gave me to call isn’t working anymore. I guess I should have expected something like this.”

“Oh,” Elise said. “Is it all right for Haldie to be alone with her today?”

Haldon didn’t wait for the answer and rushed downstairs where Snowflake was curled up on an oversized dog bed next to the pool table. Usually when she saw him, she’d stand up tall and give him a playful snarl. But this time she didn’t even get up.

“Snowflake?” he whispered.

She lifted sad and distant eyes to his face.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as he knelt beside her. He petted her back and she flinched away from his touch. “Did that hurt?” he asked.

She looked away.

“What happened?” He inspected her back, gently parting the fur.

She winced again, but since she trusted him, she let him continue. As he carefully examined the skin beneath her fur, he found lines of red welts. He stood up, confused and worried. “Does Mr. Martin know you’re hurt?” he asked. He turned for the stairs. “I’ll get him.”

But Snowflake scrambled to her feet and cut him off. She trembled and refused to look in his eyes.

“Y-You don’t want me to tell him?”

She shook her head so slightly that he wasn’t sure if it was an answer or a coincidence. He cupped her snout in his hands and turned her head toward him. “I don’t understand,” he whispered.

She brushed her snout against his waist, nudging him off balance. He steadied himself and she did it again.

“What?” he asked.

At that moment, his eyes fell on something wadded up in the corner of the room next to the pinball machine. “What’s that?” he asked as he walked over and picked it up. It was a leather strap. It looked like a … His eyes went to his waistband, and then to Snowflake. His stomach turned as the pieces came together.

When he approached her with the strap dangling by his side, she retreated to the back wall, trembling and shielding her face with her arms.

Haldon froze and looked at the belt. “Snowflake? Did Mr. Martin hit you with this?”

She turned away.

Horrified, he threw the belt aside. His knees buckled before he found the strength to run to her. He was crying as he wrapped his arms around her neck.

“Why?” he sobbed. “Why did he do it?”

She gently nudged him with her snout as if he was the one who’d been hurt. The sadness faded from her gaze, replaced by a look of empathy. He plopped beside her with his cheek pressed against her side and struggled to call back the tears. Crying wasn’t helping her. He couldn’t believe Gabe would do such a thing.

Snowflake sat with him while his mind raced. Then he got an idea of how to help her. “Wait here,” he said, and hurried to the basement’s half bath. He wet a towel with cool water and ran back to gently dab at her injuries. She was tense at first, but then melted into his touch. That night they didn’t play games or go outside or do anything they normally did. Instead, he just sat with her and tended to her wounds until Elise called down that it was time to leave.

He didn’t want to go. “I’ll tell my dad what happened,” he whispered. “He’ll help you.”

She stared back, defeated.

He started for the stairs, watching over his shoulder as she crawled to her den and closed the door. He hurried upstairs.

For the first time in his life, he saw Gabe in a sinister light. When he left, he gave Gabe a subtle glare and didn’t say goodbye. He was fully prepared to accept whatever punishment came with his rudeness. His slight went unnoticed.

Haldon was especially quiet on the way home, to a degree that Kerry asked, “What’s up, Haldie? Did you have fun tonight?” He lifted his eyes to the rearview mirror.

Haldon nodded, fighting an internal battle over what he should say and when. Finally, when they turned into his neighborhood, he swallowed hard and blurted, “Mr. Martin is hurting Snowflake.”

Elise’s head spun around.

Kerry’s eyes lifted to the mirror again. “What do you mean?”

“He’s beating her with a belt.”

Kerry’s face twisted. “What are you talking about?”

“She was afraid of me today.”

“You heard Gabe. He said she hadn’t been acting right lately.”

“She had welts on her back … And … And … There was a belt down there. She was afraid of it.”

They pulled into their driveway, but no one got out. Kerry turned to better see him and gave a half-smile. “Gabe’s not like that, son. I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He sounded like he might be trying to convince himself as much as Haldon.

Haldon shook his head vehemently. “She told me, Dad.”

Kerry scoffed. “Told you? You mean she speaks now?”

“Well … I mean … Not like that. She—”

“Listen, kiddo. She probably hurt herself playing in the woods. You just let your imagination get a little wild today. I assure you Gabe isn’t hurting Snowflake.”

“But she’s not allowed in the woods. And you said he had a bad temper when you were kids. That he fought a lot.”

“Yeah, but that was a long time ago. I haven’t seen that side of him since high school. And I’ve never seen him hurt an animal.”

Haldon continued shaking his head. “But I—”

“Listen, son. I’ll tell you what. I’ll talk to him and get to the bottom of this.”

Haldon panicked. “No, no, no. Please don’t talk to him, Dad. I promised Snowflake I wouldn’t tell him.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

“Is there someone we can call? That place you call for stray dogs or something?” He felt a rush of anxiety when he considered his dad might talk to Gabe anyway. He never should have told him. “Mom?” he cried.

She reached back and touched his cheek. “It’s okay, buddy. Your dad won’t say anything. We’ll just keep a closer eye on things from now on. You know if your dad saw something that wasn’t right, he’d speak up. Wouldn’t you, Kerry?”

“Of course.”

Haldon knew he wasn’t getting anywhere. He felt trapped in a box. Maybe he needed to get his mom alone later and try to convince her that Snowflake was in real trouble.

“You all right, bud?” Kerry asked.

Haldon reluctantly nodded.

“Let’s get inside. It’s getting late.”

Elise held Haldon’s hand as they walked up the sidewalk. He got ready for bed on autopilot, trying to figure out how to convince her. When she tucked him in and started to leave, he took his shot. “Mom?”