Jackson rubbed his tired eyes, sore from the previous night’s drinking. He wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t allow himself to sleep. They were still out there, somewhere. Leaving their waste.

He took a pen from his jacket pocket, a gift from his ex-wife when he made Detective. Now nothing more than a tool, he hooked it through the looped handle of one of the bags. He lifted it carefully, trying not to disturb the scene any more than necessary, but he had to know. For years he’d been searching, the truth just out of reach. Somewhere from within him came a distant memory, the same one that sprang forth when he came face to face with another piece of the puzzle.

The memory filled his vision with perfect clarity. He was only a child, skipping down the street without a care in the world. His brand new light-up trainers flashing like fireworks. He felt good, he felt fast, as though the lights propelled him forward.

Crunch. He stopped suddenly as he felt it break beneath him. He knew what it was before he saw it. Terror filled his chest. He shuddered and looked down. At first it looked like white gravel, but he knew the hard, pale exterior hid a secret: dog shit. He’d broken through it like an eggshell, the gooey interior splattered across his brand-new trainers, sticking within the complex rubber sole. He’d have to pick it out with a toothpick. His mother was going to kill him.

“Detective?” a voice called from over his shoulder, breaking the trance. He dropped the bag reflexively, shamefully. “Are we done here?” his partner asked.

“Almost,” he replied, donning a pair of rubber gloves. He carefully tore into the bag, the knot tied far too tight to untie. Within, he’s confronted by something he’d seen a dozen times now, in scenes like this across the county. Dog shit with a white crust. He knew the inside would still be gooey, like when he was a child.

But the mystery remained: why don’t you see white dog shit any more? What did they feed them, back then? And why was it back now? Isolated as it was in these bags, left surrounded by flies outside of park bins. Was it one person, dragging their cursed animal around with them? Or was it more sinister? These questions haunted his every waking moment.

Someone out there was leaving these clues for him, taunting him. He rose to his feet unsteadily and pulled off the gloves. He leaned over to the park bin to dump them, when he felt a wave of nausea. He stumbled to steady himself, then felt something that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up: Crunch.

“No!” he cried, stepping back, his arms waving in the air to steady himself. His left shoe left white and brown prints in the grass as he stumbled, before landing with a painful bump. “God, no!” he cried, scrabbling with the laces, “Not again!”

Note: I don’t own a dog. My local Facebook community group’s #1 concern is dog shit. Apparently it’s on everyone’s gardens, their cars, their hair, everywhere. People are dead strange.