It was a little after one o’clock in the morning when I was dragged unwillingly from my slumber. With tremendous effort, I opened my eyes, and as I squinted at my bedside alarm clock, I realized I had retired to my bed only an hour before, having stayed up late to grade term papers for my high school English students. When I had finally dragged myself up the stairs to my bedroom, my body was weary with exhaustion and my eyelids were heavy, and I had barely found the energy to undress myself before I climbed beneath the blankets, grateful at last that I could close my eyes and allow my mind and body the rest it so deserved after a difficult week’s work at the high school. I loved my job as a high school English teacher, but the end of the term never failed to test me, and at times I thought I would never make it through.
As I wondered what it was that had awakened me, I heard a noise which seemed to be coming from outside my bedroom window. It was a familiar sound, and as I lie in bed and kept straining to hear, I heard the sound again, and realized what the noise reminded me of. It was reminiscent of the noise I would hear on my grandmother’s farm whenever she was digging a new vegetable garden. Yes, that was it—the sound of a shovel digging up the earth. What a strange sound to be hearing in the middle of the night, I thought, as I rose out of bed to peer out of my bedroom window.
The light shining from the full moon guided my steps to the window, and my bedroom, which was situated on the second floor of my house, overlooked the Jensens’ backyard. Mike and Susan Jensen had been my next-door neighbors ever since I had moved into my house three years ago. They seemed to be a happily married couple and were raising three young boys who were two, four, and six years of age. They also had a golden lab retriever named Sophie. Whatever they did, they did together, including their dog. They were a nice family, and I enjoyed having them for neighbors.
As I looked down into the Jensens’ backyard, I noticed that Mike Jensen was the one who was using the shovel. He was hard at work and seemed to be eager to be finished with the job at hand. Then I gasped. He had what looked like some rather large object wrapped in a sheet and he was getting ready to bury it!
I had heard stories like this before, but I couldn’t believe it was actually happening right next door to me! I’d heard many gruesome tales about husbands or fathers murdering their loved ones and then getting rid of the bodies right on their own properties where no one would ever find them! I was absolutely indignant! I was not going to let him get away with it! No matter how nice he seemed. I was going to go right down there and confront him on the spot! I’d show him he couldn’t get away with something like this! No way!
I hurriedly put on my robe and slippers, slipped my cell phone in the pocket of my robe, along with a can of pepper spray, and made my way to the back yard. I didn’t think—I just acted.
As I came closer to Mike Jensen, I noticed something that I felt was entirely out of character for a murderer. He was sobbing softly as he went about his task. He must have heard me come up behind him, because he turned around suddenly. It was then I noticed that he had tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Oh, sorry, Danielle, was I making too much noise and wake you up?” he asked softly.
I didn’t know what to say at that point, except to ask him what he was doing. I had a feeling it wasn’t what I thought it was originally.
“What are you doing, Mike?”
“I have to do this before the kids wake up.”
“Bury Sophie,” he said as his voice broke. “She died tonight, Danielle, and I didn’t want the boys to find her like that, so I thought it would be better if I buried her without them knowing about it. They’d be so upset if they knew.”
I could see the pain he was going through. All the love he had for the family dog was shining through his tears, and I could tell his heart was broken. Only time was going to heal his heart and his family’s. Only time.