Prologue

She closed her laptop, rose from her desk slowly, and glanced around the room at the disarray—the papers and books, empty coffee mugs, her living room and kitchen spilling over into one another so that she had trouble remembering which was where—and simply shook her head. Now was not the time. She couldn't deal with this mountain; she had to get over the other one first.

Walking over to her bedroom across the hall, her tiny apartment seemed even tinier in the wake of her problems and the mess she'd managed to make in the past few days. What was happening to her? She used to have such an organized life—she used to have control over things. What was going on?

"Here, boy," she called out suddenly, and her little dog came frolicking over. She knelt to let him lick her face as his tail swished through the air. "It'll be okay," she murmured in his ear—more for her comfort than his, as she tried her hardest to make his life, at least, stay relatively sane. He rubbed against her face causing her to laugh. He, at least, managed to not remind her of her problems.

"Come on, boy, let's get to bed," she said. He happily followed her to the bed and hopped up beside her as she flopped onto it. Rolling onto her back, she let him crawl onto her stomach. Though small he was not a lap dog, and though his mass made it difficult for her to breath, she still enjoyed his being there and let him stay. Closing her eyes, listening to his happy murmuring, and stroking his fur, she began to drift off.

Her mobile buzzed just then. Startled, she jerked her head up, causing her dog to flinch and roll off her stomach. "Sorry," she muttered sheepishly, leaning over to dig her mobile out of the bag on the floor. Her dog watched as she flipped it open, the harsh, weird light casting over here face. He could see her face. And it was one of dread.

She stared at the text on the screen, her panic mounting. No…no…no. They can't have. How could they have found me? It's a trick, it must be! She sat up straight and tried to control her breathing. It must be! Her dog nuzzled her questioningly. Grabbing him in a hug, she dropped the phone on the floor. Its harsh light ticked out.

"Mer-r-f," he dog said.

"Let's get out of here," she whispered fiercely. "Let's go for a walk," she said louder, to which he wriggled in joy, leaping from her arms and off the bed. Barking merrily, he danced over to the drawer that held his leash and collar. The woman climbed out of the bed and followed him, still shaking in fright. She had to get some air. Be anywhere but here. She had to go do something. Taking her dog outside, she left the still-open mobile on the floor, far, far from her.