p>Nikki Heat pondered red lights and why they seemed to last so much longer when there was no traffic. The one she waited for at Amsterdam and 83rd was taking forever to change. The detective was rolling on her first call of the morning and probably could have lit up her gumball to make her left turn, but the crime was long since done, the medical examiner was on scene, and the body wasn’t going anywhere. She used the interlude to peel back the lid of her coffee to see if it was drinking temp yet. The cheap white plastic cracked, and she ended up holding half the lid with the other half still seated on the cup. Heat cursed aloud and chucked the useless half on the passenger-side floor mat. Just as she was about to take a sip, desperately needing a caffeine jolt to lift her morning fog, a horn honked behind her. The light had finally gone green. Of course. With an experienced hand tilting the cup so the momentum of her turn wouldn’t slop coffee over the rim and onto her fingers, Nikki steered left onto 83rd. She had just straightened the wheel passing Café Lalo when a dog darted out in front of her. Heat slammed the brakes. Coffee sloshed onto her lap. It was all over her skirt, but she was more concerned about the dog.
Thankfully, she didn’t hit it. She didn’t even scare it. The dog, a small German shepherd or husky mix, boldly stood there in the street right in front of her, not moving, just staring at her over its shoulder. Nikki smiled at it and waved. And still, it just stood there. That stare unnerved her. It was challenging and intrusive. The eyes were sinister, piercing under dark brows and a permanent frown. As she examined it, something else seemed off about the dog. Like it wasn’t a dog at all. Too small for a shepherd or husky, and the coloring of its rough coat was tan mottled by gray. And the muzzle was too thin and pointed. It was more foxlike. No. It was a coyote.
The same impatient driver behind her gave another horn blast and the animal left. Not in a panic run, but a trot, displaying wild elegance, potential speed, and something else. Arrogance. She watched it reach the other curb, where it stopped, gave her a backward glance, complete with brazen eye contact, and then dashed off toward Amsterdam.
For Nikki, an unsettling way to start her morning: first the scare of almost hitting an animal; then the creepy look. She drove on, blotting herself with napkins from the glove box, wishing she had chosen a black skirt this morning and not gone with the khaki.
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