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He completed two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan that included work as a grunt and later as a bomb technician, the latter earning him the nickname ‘Blood’, short for Bloodhound, in recognition of his superior bomb detection skills. After almost a decade of service, and as a result of his many physical and psychic wounds, his productivity declined. Finally he was honorably discharged, Purple Heart in hand. Subsequent his discharge his PTSD got worse, as did his many other physical ailments, and he slowly developed a debilitating addiction to OxyContin. Blood found it unconscionable that recent legislation made it difficult for him to obtain the medicine he needed to function. While no longer on the battlefield, he nonetheless understood that he had brought it home with him only to be denied the very thing he needed most to make it go away, if only temporarily. His family life deteriorated, punctuated by a divorce and homelessness. He wandered through a series of short term, menial jobs and omnipresent, terrifying loneliness. The most routine social interactions found him bewildered and often inexplicably angry. When he read an advert for a company that specialized in hiring vets (and convicts) for ‘elite’ canine care, he jumped at the chance to find some peace and affection with ‘man’s best friend’. But instead of a way out of his situation, that of a character wrongly condemned to some circle or another of Dante’s Hell, his introduction into the gig economy only plunged him deeper into the abyss. As is so often the case it all began innocently–even optimistically–enough.

The canine care gig was a quintessentially San Francisco startup– an ‘app based’ on-demand concoction that paired ‘charity’ with luxury. Blood was to be the primary ‘on-call’ guardian for three Bloodhounds housed on an estate in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. Blood was from another neighborhood of San Francisco, Hunters Point, a mere three miles from Sea Cliff, but a world away. The mansion, a sprawling architectural hate crime of dubious English Tudor pedigree covering four acres was equipped with a vast surveillance system–a state of the art panopticon. It even had a capacious lawn, a super premium in that dense cradle of plutocracy, where the Bloodhounds could ‘do their doody’. As an independent contractor Blood was responsible for his own taxes, insurance, time off, etc. What he gave up in pay he could reap with flexibility. He could always say ‘no’, although the longer he worked as a contractor for the company, the narrower his flexibility became. And the money was terrible.

His time spent with the dogs began with walks on the beach, bathing, games and even social outings where the dogs could frolic with their own kind. His undoing, later to be covered breathlessly by a media slavering for sensationalism, was not at all the dogs per se, but their owner: a billionaire dowager who insisted that her “precious ones” receive three outfit changes a day, individual hand feeding and a meticulous monitoring and analysis of their bowel movements such that the animals, while pampered, were also in a constant state of anxiety. Blood did what he could to assuage their pain.

Whenever the dowager was away, usually at a philanthropic event centered on (you guessed it) rescuing dogs, her disembodied voice would pierce every room, from one to another. She needed instant empirical confirmation that the outfits were arranged and on the dogs, their dietary regime intact, their stool samples evidence of good gastrointestinal health. There was always a ‘dog whisperer’ or another at the ready whenever one or more of the dogs was sick or disturbed–which, given the depraved regime of ‘care’ insisted upon by the dowager, was often. Always exasperated the dowager ordered her many servants about as a boot camp sergeant might harangue new recruits. In this Blood found familiarity; later contempt. Whenever the voice of the master erupted around them he and the dogs would jump, as if at the crack of a rifle shot, to rapt attention.

At charity and business events, no matter the urgency of the issue at hand, the dowager was not to be interrupted while she was barking instructions to the help on her cell phone. She was regarded by her peers as eccentric, but a real champion of the underdog. A gilded philanthropist and influencer who routinely made or spade political careers. Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsome knew her well. And a feminist! The dowager would outlive her husband by more than thirty-years and grow their fortune more than five-fold. The origins of the family fortune were somewhat obscure, having roots in antebellum Mississippi. The family patriarch, a Southern lawyer and savvy investor, had always been associated with Bloodhounds. Blood thought it odd that someone would insist on outfits for a breed of dog such as Bloodhounds until he began to notice a recurring theme to the costumes. There was the Sherlock outfit, the Prisoner outfit, the Beauregard, the Kentucky Derby and finally the Birth of a Nation outfit, at least that’s how the dowager described it.

This routine continued for a few months before Blood came to the terrifying realization, as with so much in this world, that he could neither protect the dogs from their owner nor steal them away. He, and the dogs, were trapped.

After about six months into the gig, having found a breach not yet made ‘suicide proof’ on the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge, he plunged off, making sure the three Bloodhounds went with him, an act he considered a mercy killing. The dogs, like himself, were too damaged to go on.

He also left a deftly constructed IED at the dowager’s manse. In order to ‘sniff out’ and defuse bombs one must be intimately familiar with their construction. Blood hacked facial and voice recognition software programs so his C-4 device, planted under the dowager’s bed, would only detonate if she, and she alone, was in the room. The explosion took out most of the third floor of the mansion along with the octogenarian meat sack who owned it. Because the explosion occurred early in the evening there were neighbors walking their dogs in the vicinity. One You Tube video captured a King Charles Spaniel licking up brains from off the front lawn. It went viral.

In Dante’s hell the sin of suicide always resulted in irrevocable condemnation and therefore instant admittance to hell. In a hell constructed by communists (forgive such an absurd thought) Blood would undoubtedly receive a pass for having taken an oligarch with him.

Capitalism will not willingly fall into the grave it digs for itself; nor will it likely stumble in. It must be pushed, or in this case, dragged in by someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

In case you are wondering, all dogs go to heaven.

See you in heaven, Blood!