Kristin had always been the “black sheep” of her family. She came from a rural and very conservative Middle Georgia clan, and had fought constantly with her parents since she was a child. Kristin wanted no part of the settled and routine life her parents had lead – she was an impulsive free-spirit who would travel to the far corners of the earth at a moment’s notice, sometimes not even knowing where she was headed, or why.
So it came as no surprise when, a few weeks shy of her 30th birthday, Kristin announced that she was leaving her high-paying job at a major corporation to fulfill her life’s dream – to become a professional sculptor. She sold her expensive suburban apartment and moved into an abandoned mill in one of the rougher areas of Atlanta. She planned on converting part of the space into a full-time studio and living area.
Her parents were horrified, especially when they learned that her studio was just a few miles down the road from the county jail. And Kristin didn’t see the need to rig her studio with an expensive alarm system, for her neighbors seemed nice enough. But like every other discussion Kristin had with her father, his words of warning went in one ear and out the other.
So on her 30th birthday, her father took matters into his own hands and bought Kristin a guard dog – a Doberman named Bishop from the local humane society. The dog had been abused by his former owners, and had become mean and distrustful of humans. But Kristin always had a strong love for animals, and she took the poor dog into her care. In a matter of weeks, Bishop became very attached to Kristin, and extremely protective whenever anyone else would approach her.
One morning, Kristin came home from a trip to the hardware store to find Bishop lying in the middle of the floor, coughing and wheezing uncontrollably. She immediately rushed him to the local veterinarian, who performed a series of tests. After a while, the vet was satisfied that Bishop wasn’t dangerously sick, but he couldn’t figure out why the dog was still coughing.
“Don’t worry,” he told Kristin in his calm and soothing voice, “Bishop looks perfectly healthy. But I’d like to run some additional tests on him this afternoon. Why don’t you go home and I’ll call you when we know something. There’s no sense in sitting in the waiting room all day.”
So Kristin got back in her car, made a trip to the health food store, then returned home. As she walked through the door, she could hear the phone ringing in her bedroom. Loaded down with shopping bags, she decided to let her voice-mail catch the call. But no sooner had the phone stopped ringing then it started ringing again. Thinking it may be an emergency – or perhaps an annoying telemarketer who needed to be yelled at – Kristin dropped her bags and ran to the phone, catching it on its last ring.
“Hello?” she breathlessly answered.
She was surprised to find her veterinarian on the other end. “Kristin, we have some results on Bishop. We need you to come back to the office.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in an hour or so…”
“…No, Kristin,” interrupted the vet in a barely controlled voice. “We need you to come down now.”
Kristin was taken aback by the sound of his voice. She could hear the tension lurking behind his words. There was something he wasn’t telling her. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Is Bishop okay?”
“We’ll talk about that when you get here,” answered the vet, his voice growing louder and more agitated. “Just get in the car now.”
“Why can’t you tell me over the phone?” asked Kristin.
The vet suddenly blurted out, “Are you in the house alone?”
A chill ran through Kristin’s blood. She slowly sat on her bed and replied, “Yes. Why?”
She could hear the vet taking a deep breath on the other end of the phone. Then, barely able to contain the tremor in his throat, he said in a hushed voice, “Listen to me carefully. We found out why Bishop was coughing.”
It was then that Kristin noticed her bedroom window. A hole had been punched through the glass, and it was unlocked.
“Kristin, are you there?”
“Yes,” Kristin answered, her voice starting to shake.
She then noticed drops of blood on her carpet. They stretched across the room and underneath her closet door. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but what we found in your dog’s throat were fingers. Human fingers.”
As the vet spoke, Kristin sat frozen as she watched the closet door slowly creak open on its rusted hinges. “Did you hear what I said? He bit the fingers off somebody’s hand!”
Kristin still didn’t answer. In the darkness of the closet, she swore she could see the hand of a large man, blood dripping from where his fingers had been gnawed off. And on his arm was the orange sleeve of a prison uniform.