Einstein Dog
cigarette butt off into the tall grass.
    â€œYou ought to be careful,” Bob warned. “You could start a fire.”
    â€œYeah, yeah. You just keep your eye on those dogs, bro.”
    Bob wished he knew what they were supposed to be looking for. It seemed to him they were taking a big risk. More than once he’d seen SMART 73 snuffle the air, poking her nose through the kennel fence. She’d even barked angrily in their direction until she’d been calmed by Elaine Schwartz. Bob remembered his encounter with SMART 73 in Campus Wood. He didn’t want a repeat performance.
    â€œI still think it’s a waste of time being here,” he said crankily.
    â€œDo or die, little brother. Don’t question why.”
    Bob sighed and resumed his surveillance. By his calculations Elaine was the last person still in the SMART lab and she would be leaving in a few minutes. Professor Smith had already gone home. The dogs had been brought inside. Unless he went down there and actually pressed his nose against the lab’s window, there’d be nothing more to see. There never was.
    â€œSunday night will be different, bro,” Charlie promised cheerfully.
    Charlie was lying on his back, his hands behind his head, soaking up rays from the declining sun. Funny, Bob thought, the only time his brother ever looked truly happy was in that eerie interlude when a job had been planned down to the last detail and they were biding their time, waiting for the action to begin.
    â€œYou ready Bob?” Charlie asked.
    Bob’s stomach turned. “Yeah,” he lied.
    â€œYou’re gonna have to toughen up,” Charlie advised. “I can’t have you wimping out. You saw Hindquist’s look. If we screw up, he’s going to skin us alive, man. Who’s more important: us or a bunch of lab mutts? Make up your mind.”
    Why did they have to choose, Bob wanted to know? Why couldn’t they work things out so it wasn’t always us-against-them?
    â€œOnce Schwartz has gone, we’ll skedaddle too. The Boss will be satisfied. Besides, we have to rest up for the big day.”
    â€œSure,” Bob agreed sourly.

    Bertrand and Ariel moped on the steps in front of her townhouse. Squawk perched on Ariel’s shoulder; Purr lay curled up in her lap.
    â€œDo you think she’ll come around?” Bertrand wondered.
    Ariel glanced at the kitchen window. “I haven’t seen her this mad since . . . ” She thought about it for a while, then gave up.
    â€œShould I leave?” he asked.
    Ariel stared at him, desperate and speechless. “No!” her look said. He shouldn’t even have asked. After all, he had to accept some blame. Hadn’t he suggested the perfect home for Genie would be Unit Eleven, Forestview Townhouse complex?
    The house shuddered as if an explosion had been detonated deep within.
    Ariel winced.
    â€œWhat’ll you do if your mom says no?”
    â€œShe won’t,” Ariel vowed, looking straight ahead.
    Another thunderous crash interrupted them.
    â€œShee-oot!” Mrs. Krieger bawled.
    Then an ominous silence emanated from the kitchen, a silence more threatening than all the clatter and bang that had preceded it. Bertrand and Ariel were still exchanging a worried look when the front door sprang open and Mrs. Krieger thrust her head out. “Okay!” she growled, then banged the door shut. The door flew open again. “But you have to feed her, and walk her, and brush her.”
    â€œMom?”
    â€œAnd we might have to use some of the money from your paper route to cover expenses . . . ”
    â€œAre you saying yes?” Ariel beamed.
    â€œYes, I’m saying yes,” Mrs. Krieger snapped. “But I’m furious with the two of you!”
    Ariel jumped up, dislodging Purr, and hurried over to give Mrs. Krieger a hug.
    A crooked smile lit up Mrs. Krieger’s face as she wrapped her arms around her daughter.

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