Groggily, I attempt to open my eyes, and for a moment, I’m confused. Where am I? Then, it comes back to me in a flash…
It had been a long day, my mind was already in Mack’s Bar, but my wallet told me I’d spent too much time there recently. Sleep was what I needed. I had worked twenty days solid and was home so little, even the cat had moved out.
While chewing the cold, remains of a lunchtime cheeseburger, I checked my office diary. Just the one interview in the morning. With a Mrs Harris. Her husband scarpered over seven years ago. The law presumed he was dead, but quite a substantial claim was on his head. Looked like a routine matter, questions and paperwork, but that’s what guys like me are for. To poke around. Make sure all the dots and crosses are in the right place.
Clients were supposed to visit me, but I couldn’t see the harm in knocking on her door and freeing up the next day. The address was handy, not far from Mack’s place, should my resolve fall by the wayside. The car was having a service, but the bus stopped only a street away. If she was out, well, Mack was always in. Win, win!
The path from the gate to the front door of Rochester Manor was poorly laid and poorly lit. The Halloween hunter’s moon was shielded by clouds, but a dim light shone through one of the windows. Using that as a focal point, I crossed what was quite a substantial front garden.
Glancing through the pane I saw there was an oversized portrait above the desk, illuminated by a light which had guided me to the house. The picture captured a stunning woman. Heavenly legs. Green eyes. Almost as striking were her two companions — male Dobermann. Was that foxy bitch Mrs Harris?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. She answered my ring of the bell and was the kind of chick a man would not grow tired looking at. Curves in all the right places. Auburn hair framing high cheek bones and lips made for love. Not to mention those eyes. Emeralds.
Having explained I was in the neighbourhood she agreed for us to go ahead with our little chat — as she called it — in her study, where her likeness stared down at us. The date printed in the corner of the portrait suggested it had been painted nine years ago.
I couldn’t help but mention the dogs.
Oscar and Oliver, she replied. They’d been like children to her. Lived a long life but now had sadly gone. Her eyes shimmered with tears as she poured me a neat scotch. Then, passing me the glass our hands touched, and I wished I’d changed out of my threadbare flannel suit. It had seen better days, not to mention the shadows under my eyes were as dark as the stubble on my chin.
She sat up close while I asked questions.
“Mrs Harris, when d-”
“Call me Sophie, please,” she interrupted with a smile.
“Sophie, when d-”
“When did I last see my husband?” She finished my sentence. “Just over seven years ago on the 11th of August. After dinner, he popped out to get the evening paper.”
“At what tim-”
“I remember it was precisely eight p.m. because my favourite TV program was just finishing.”
“Thank you. Did you report him miss-”
“Missing? Well, no, not till the morning. I thought he may have gone to the bar, so I went to bed just before eleven.”
“Did Mr Harris go to the…” I hesitated, just in case. Then continued, “to-the-bar-often.” Spurting the last words out at speed.
It turned out he would meet friends there once or twice a week. The case had already been thoroughly investigated. The police initially assumed he’d done a runner. Looking at Mrs Harris, that seemed unlikely. I certainly found myself in no hurry to go anywhere. I dotted the eyes and crossed the Ts…
“It all seems in order, Mrs… I mean Sophie. Sign here.”
She scribbled her name and I put the paperwork in my pocket while she refilled my glass. “Now. I just need to powder my nose while you finish your drink, then I’ll see you out.” She disappeared into the bathroom.
Taking a sip, I congratulated myself on being able to have the following morning off. Sophie returned. I swigged the last mouthful of the amber fluid and followed her out of the door. Suddenly, two massive dogs came bounding into the hallway. Dobermann!
“Mr Conrad, meet Jasper and Jenny… Heel.” She said sternly and along with the dogs I moved to her side.
“I usually walk them around now, as I don’t like them — ehh — soiling the gardens, but I suppose it won’t hurt, while I see you to the gate.”
I was thankful Sophie had a torch.
Once outside the dogs made a beeline to a tree surrounded by fallen autumn leaves, and barked, digging frantically.
“Oh no, not again.” Sophie was clearly aggravated.
We walked over and it appeared the patch of earth and been dug by animals before. Jasper stood shaking his head, an intriguing bone in his mouth.
“What the fuck!” I knew a tibia when I saw one. “Sophie. I think you’ve some expl-”
“Explaining to do!” She stated. “And it’s Mrs Harris to you.”
With that she craftily retrieved the paperwork from my pocket and the last word I heard was…
The Dobermann sprang through the air, their mouths on my neck within seconds, pinning me down on the grass. Following through, Mrs Harris swung a nearby spade forcefully onto my skull.
Dazed and confused, I briefly wonder where I am. My memory returns a second before Jasper’s teeth tear into my larynx and blackness takes hold.
The Dogs of Halloween first appeared over on my Medium Site. I was going for the style of “noir thriller” and had fun along the way. If you fancy a small-town mystery, sexuality tale? Here you go…