• “Aah,” Glenn breathed after inhaling an entire glass of water in one greedy gulp. He placed the large glass upon the countertop and prepared to begin washing his face. Gabrielle sat next to her emptied dish, very content with her meal, gazing upward at her newfound friend.
    Her tail wagged vigorously.
    Glenn smiled down at the docile canine as water trickled down through his golden stubble. “I needed that…” he confessed to her, “I was parched! I’m sure you want something to drink, too… It’s hot outside.” He poured some ice-cold water into her drinking bowl, causing her to let out a blissful bark. “You’re very welcome,” Glenn chuckled.
    His carefree disposition comforted the sweet Gabrielle and she licked his face repetitively in gratitude. “Hey! Hey now, easy there!” he called out with a grin, his hands attempting, but to no avail, to shield her tongue from his unshaven face. She obeyed; however, it was not because he had asked her to cease. She had heard the laughter of children just beyond the home’s front door and her inquisitive personality caused her to focus upon this exciting new sound.
    She leaped for the door, yelping enthusiastically. Glenn followed, also curious as to who the children were and why they were in such an elated mood.
    “Stay,” he commanded, hoping that she understood the simple four-letter word, and turned the door’s handle.
    Two young girls and a boy were walking down the street, their small arms full of vibrant fruit they had recently purchased from the market. The two females looked as though they were no older than six, but the boy carried himself in a mature manner, giving Glenn the impression that the youth was a good two or three years older than his companions.
    Gabrielle could not contain her energetic nature and began to bark happily, her fluffy tail sweeping back and forth behind her. Despite her small size, Gabrielle had startled one of the girls; the child backed away from the house timidly as her friends proceeded forward. She desperately wanted to continue, but her fear of dogs overwhelmed her phobia of being abandoned and she froze on the spot.
    Glenn noticed the poor girl standing at the corner of the domicile. He quieted Gabrielle, shut the door behind him, and approached the young brunette. He crouched down on his knees before he spoke.
    “I know she seems like a big tough dog, but she’s harmless…” Glenn reassured with a gleaming smirk. “I’m Glenn; what’s your name?”
    The girl returned his gesture, offering an uneasy smile. She was missing her two front teeth. “I’m Maddie,” she whispered as the fruit in her arms began to slip from her grasp. Maddie awkwardly shifted her body in order to balance the load, but she overcompensated and the top mango rolled down the mountain of produce.
    Glenn caught it skillfully before it hit the ground. “Let me help you with those,” he insisted amiably. His presence attracted the other two children.
    The boy confronted him first. “Hey, who are you?” he asked angrily, obviously intent on protecting his friend.
    Maddie intervened. “He’s Glenn,” she informed him with a confident air, feeling relieved that she no longer had to carry such a heavy burden.
    “Hi Glenn,” the other girl murmured bashfully as blood rushed to her round, smooth cheeks.
    Maddie introduced her friends. “That’s my sister Melanie,” she began. Glenn looked upon her kindly, causing a sheepish grin to stretch across her progressively reddening face.
    “Hi,” Melanie cooed.
    The boy was not happy with Melanie’s reaction. He spoke next; his bold personality was exemplified in his tone of voice. “I’m Joseph, their older brother…” He turned toward the two young girls, then said, “C’mon… Mum’s waiting at home…”
    Melanie and Maddie nodded quietly as Joseph aggressively spun on his heel. He was not aware of the cloaked man and small assembly of soldiers that had suddenly appeared behind the group of four and he inadvertently collided with the stranger in front. An explosion of mashed fruits erupted upon the lower half of the mysterious man’s robes. Joseph stared blankly at the mess he had made, slightly disappointed that his mother would be without a variety of melons for the evening.
    “Uh… Sorry…” Joseph managed to utter.
    The tall, slender man angled his face down toward the embarrassed youth with a vengeful expression on his pallid face. “Sorry, you say?” he hissed.
    Glenn felt this was the opportune time to intercede. He rose to his feet and stepped in between Joseph and the offended visitor. “Listen… It was just an accident…”
    The stranger’s celadon eyes narrowed with disgust. “An accident? Look at this stain. That boy needs to pay for my cleaning,” he growled in a deep voice.
    Glenn twisted away from his potential adversary and faced the three youngsters, whispering, “I’ll handle this, go ahead home…” They all obeyed without hesitation.
    As the children darted away from the heated scene, Glenn’s opponent motioned for his troops to encircle their remaining target.
    “Father Ophidio, who’s this guy? It’s definitely not Henri…” one of the adjacent soldiers softly asked his leader.
    The priest’s thin lips formed a frown. “That’s a great question.” He turned to Glenn, his eyes still maintaining a threatening glare. “Who are you, exactly?”
    Glenn offered a skeptical look. “I’m Glenn… I’m sorry about the fruit,” he replied hollowly.
    “Hmm… Yes, of course you are; however, the fruit is not a pressing issue… ‘Who you are’ and ‘why you’re here’ certainly is,” Ophidio informed him.