Bruno knew something was wrong long before I did. He was a dog amongst dogs and saw things before anyone else. Dad had left early that morning and said he'd be back around dinner time. So just after noon, Bruno and I ran down to the jetty.
The jetty juts out into the great Spencer Lake, a lake so big that you can't see the town on the other side. We all loved the peace and seclusion.
That day was Saturday so he would be bringing back my favourite soda and Bruno's biscuits. Usually, we would see him arrive on 'Swallow' our sturdy little motorboat. He'd be waving and Bruno would bark and howl till Dad reached shore.
That day was cool for May and it was our last weekend by the lake. Dad's special work had called him away. Again. Mum would be waiting for us back home so our last night was going to be special.
We sat in our usual spot. I had my arm round Bruno's huge muscly neck. I loved doing that. The lake was as calm and smooth as a mirror. We watched the birds swoop for midges, spotted fish lurk by the jetty's posts and told each other stories. There was hardly a sound. At last, we heard the motor. Dad had only been gone a few hours but we were both excited. Bruno started his welcoming chorus and I got up to stretch and wave.
I could make out the boat on the smooth water and saw him directing the boat with the rudder. Perhaps Bruno caught some scent then because he growled a growl I'd never heard him growl before.
"What's up boy?"
But his gaze remained fixed on the approaching vessel. The hairs on the back of his neck had stood up and he lumbered to his feet. He barked an odd bark, almost a whimper of defiance and began to run back and forth from me to the edge of the jetty.
His unease spread to me but I had no idea what the cause was.
I looked around anyway. There was an oar by the edge of the jetty to help guide the boat in. I fetched it and stood on guard. The figure driving the boat wasn't Dad at all. He was a very tall young man with a shaved head and, well, a dark complexion. He wore a dark suit and was holding something against my father's head. Bruno carried on growling and running back and forth.
"Get away boy" the man shouted when 'Swallow' was in earshot.
"Do as he says son," And I backed off the least distance I thought I could get away with. All sorts of things and nothing were rushing through my mind. I must have blubbed for the man seemed satisfied. Bruno seemed to understand it all though. Father was forced to his feet and the boat rocked from side to side.
"Try anything stupid boy and you daddy dies. His hands are tied so he is powerless." The figure gestured with his gun for me to retreat further. I backed off some more still clutching the oar.
As they got to the end of the jetty though, my Dad must have deliberately rocked the boat, he was good at that, and the man lost his balance. It was then that Bruno entered the realms of canine heroics. He ran barking with a wild ferocious sound that it hit you in the guts and with a howling bound launched himself at the man. I charged forward with my oar. Which was just as well. The man was true to his word. He was prepared to kill us for whatever his ends were.
The first shot went high and wide, though. It cracked open the day and echoed all around. The second caught Bruno under the chin. The dog's momentum, however, was aimed squarely and true and the man grunted and fell back as Bruno's full weight hit him in the midriff. The boat was rocking and water was splashing everywhere. Dad pitched overboard and I glimpsed his floundering form yelling and struggling for breath. The man knelt up and saw me. He fumbled for the gun and said something aggressive sounding in his own language. I'm not a particularly violent man, but I found the strength and courage to swing the oar - a heavy old piece of wood - down and across the bow of the boat and felt it connect. It helped I was top baseball player at school.
It turned out I had broken his jaw and knocked him cold. I was a strong swimmer and managed - like how mothers rescue their offspring from under cars or from burning houses - to drag my dad to where the water was shallow and get his hands untied.
Later in the cabin after all the Humvees, squad cars and helicopters had gone, I asked him what on earth all that had been about. He explained as much as he could. He'd done for three of them but the last one was too strong.
"But I thought the Saudis were on our side dad?"
"It's a complicated world son."
We buried old Bruno by the mighty pine at the bottom of the garden next day. I think the old man, flinty as he was, had a tear in his eye.
My brother and I inherited the log cabin after Dad died. Kitty and I go up to the lakes every Summer. She's getting tired of hearing me tell the story by now - it's been a good thirty years - but she indulges me sometimes and when we're having breakfast on the jetty or just watching the sun set, she'll play the bad guy and our little Bruno plays me and he puts his arms round my neck and after we tell each other stories, watch the birds and the fish and at night bark and howl at the moon.