On a lovely March day—if such a thing existed in Chicago—Lucia Rizzo led Miss Elizabeth, a Yorkie possessing the confidence of a runway model with a good boob job, across State Street’s lunchtime traffic and was nearly pancaked.
“Slow down!” she hollered at the errant driver.
A terrified Miss Elizabeth cowered on the sidewalk and Lucie scooped her up for a nuzzle. “Poor baby. I’m so sorry.”
The dog sniffed, then licked Lucie’s chin. “You’re a sweet girl.”
Maybe this dog walking thing wasn’t so bad. Heaven knew the investment bankers in Lucie’s old office never got their faces licked during the workday. And if they had, surely a sexual harassment suit would follow.
Speaking of investment banking… “Okay, girl, playtime is over. You need to poop so I can get home and look for a job.”
She glanced at her watch. No time for delays in an already packed schedule.
The sound of heavy breathing pelted Lucie’s ears and she glanced over her shoulder to see a man on her heels. Some people had no respect for personal space. She gave him the Lucie Rizzo version of the narrow-eyed back-off-bub look. When the man didn’t respond to her obvious warning, she darted ahead, but Miss Elizabeth flopped to the ground with an effort that sent her sequined barrette dancing in the sunlight. Fabulous.
Lucie stared at the dog. “Get moving, girl.”
The dog could have been a statue.
A man wearing a red warm-up jacket strode toward them, his eyes focused on Miss Elizabeth in a way that caused a prickle of unease to snake up Lucie’s spine. Another space invader?
She reached for the dog, but hands clamped on her shoulders from behind and shoved her sideways. Her heart jackhammered, and the shove carried her step by step by step until the side of a red Camry loomed in her vision. Uh-oh. Incoming. With the force of a line drive hitting a windshield, Lucie plowed headfirst into the parked car.
Pain slammed into her as she landed on all fours, her right knee taking the blow from the pavement before she rolled to her back. Swirling white birds flapped above. She blinked, realizing they weren’t birds but white spots from the whack to her head.
Had she been mugged? Couldn’t be. She didn’t have a purse.
Panic forced the hour-old kraut dog to lurch up her throat. She shifted to her knees, propped her hands under her and waited for the evacuation of her lunch. She let out a slow breath and stared at her hands.
No vomit. Good.
No leash. Bad.
No dog. Very bad.
She turned her head to where Miss Elizabeth should have been. Nothing. Could the dog have been under her when she fell? She hadn’t felt anything or heard a yelp. Please don’t let me have fallen on her. Lucie might be petite, but her hundred and ten pounds could still take out a three-pound dog. An image of the beloved Yorkie—lifeless—gripped her mind.
The sounds of traffic and car horns nearly blew Lucie’s aching head apart, but she peeked all around. No dog. At least she wouldn’t have to live with knowing she’d crushed Miss Elizabeth. A moment of relief sparked and disappeared.
The jerk that knocked her over had vanished and sent poor Miss Elizabeth into hiding. She couldn’t have gotten far. Her legs didn’t move that fast. Lucie dropped to the ground and checked under the cars. Nothing.
She ran to the corner, where a dark-haired man wearing a red jacket bolted through heavy traffic on State Street. She squinted hard and focused on a flash of glitter in the man’s arms. Miss Elizabeth’s sequined barrette.
“Help!” Lucie’s voice carried the high-pitched panic storming her body. “Stop him. He stole my dog.”
She stepped off the curb, but a middle-aged man in a business suit heaved her backward before a speeding cab tattooed her to the pavement. “Are you okay?”
“He stole my dog! That guy.” Dammit. The thief had turned the corner.
“What guy?” the man asked in a this-chick-is-nuts tone.
For a change, she didn’t care what anyone thought of her. All she cared about was losing Miss Elizabeth. “The one that’s gone.”