dogged by doubt

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
one friend's strange anecdote becomes another ones mystery.
***some strong language***

Submitted: September 26, 2016

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Submitted: September 26, 2016

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Like every other Friday it ends up me and Bill. Every other fuckers gone up the road by half eleven and we’re left nursing the last one or two pints before last call.

 

Usually known for flinging his hands about saying nothing louder than most would hail a taxi, this time on a Friday he dedicated to some philosophising or politicising. He knew that alone, even if I knew more on a subject, the words I’d slot in on their edge wouldn’t be enough to pick at the glaring holes in his argument.

 

Tonight was different though, as soon as we were alone he moved to the seat opposite myself and gripped the edge of the table as if for support. He glanced around himself and leaned in covering half the distance between us with a glare as though he hoped I’d cover the other half. I hunched over non-committally. He began in a hushed tone.

 

“So there’s me watching the game on Tuesday and I sees this woman in the corner of my eye…”

“The wife?”

“Not the bloody wife! I sees this woman on the street, my TV’s in the corner, y’know, near the window. Anyway, she’s got this dog with her, she’s got it on a lead.”

“You saw a woman walking her dog.”

“Well you say that but there’s more to it.”

“She’s walking. She’s got a dog. She’s walking her dog.”

“She’s got this right suspicious look, cautious like side to side and that.”

“Suspicious! You called the police I hope ‘Hello, I’d like to report a woman walking a dog and looking side to side’”.

“Shut up! Look, she went past and I didn’t think much but it was when she came back...”

“Suspiciously.”

“She didn’t have a dog alright! Just a lead!”

“What?”

“She goes out, she’s pulling this dog along, she comes back, no dog.”

“So?”

“So it’s suspicious!”

“How exactly is that suspicious?”

“Where’s the dog?”

“Well where was the dog before she had it the first time? Maybe she borrowed it, maybe it’s at her sister’s, maybe she took it down the royal mail and posted it to Cuba, what does it matter?”

“Alright, alright but get this, Thursday, got the game on and there it is again, corner of my eye she’s walking down the street with a dog.”

“Found it! Mystery solved, you finished now?”

“Hold up, hold up, get this though, different dog.”

“Okay.”

“Half an hour maybe forty five minutes later, no dog.”

“You sure they’re different dogs?”

“First was a border collie, second was an alsatian.”

“Kind of similar, no? Not just confused?”

“Mate! The first time she was dragging this little collie along like it was nothing but the grip she had on that alsatian, looked like she was going to do her back in.”

“Anyway, doesn’t mean anything, she’s probably just a dog walker.”

“Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, maybe she’s taking them down the canal and doing them in.”

“You’re paranoid pal. You just need to chill out.”

 

He seemed to take the advice, sloping back in his chair he immediately broke into his usual tone, leaving me, hunched and doubtful, on the back foot for some romanticised notions about the death penalty he was now firing in my direction.

 

The thought came back to me a number of times that week, not really Bill’s crazy conclusion, just the certain, angry, almost fearful way he said it, like he really sensed there was something going on.

 

Friday again and as expected everyone clears off leaving me and Bill. I quickly moved opposite and lean across, gripping the table in one hand and pleading with the other.

 

“So?” I ask him.

 

He’s slouched in his chair, he stares at his pint for a second before raising it to his mouth, he seems somehow to drink almost nothing and yet take almost forever.

 

“So, what?”

“So, what happened with this dog woman then?”

“Dog woman?”

“Last week you were perving on some woman walking her dogs up the road, what happened with that?”

“Oh right, yeah, put that to rest basically.”

“Just a dog walker then.” I said, half disappointed.

“Don’t know really. Just stopped worrying about it.”

“That it? You seemed pretty worried about it a week ago.”

“Yeah well I saw her again, Monday this time. Had some kind of spaniel. So I figured I’d go along, see where it was she was taking these dogs. So we’re walking down the canal and coming up to the aqueduct she takes that footpath that goes…”

“To the river, yeah”

“Right, so I’m hanging back in a bush when I see her, at the bottom of the path she goes to that old room that’s under the aqueduct. Remember in school they used to warn us about that old place, used to be used as a smack den and that old fella lived under there…”

“Pete the Paedo.”

“Yeah, yeah, stand up guy actually, World War Two veteran, pretty sure he wasn’t actually a paedo. Passed away about ten years ago now in that bad winter.”

“Hypothermia, I remember that, real shame.”

“Anyway, so she goes into this room and it hits me. Here’s me about to follow this woman I’ve never met into a dark room where I could end up getting accused of any old thing. Plus as you know, that room has two entrances and she’s probably just using it to get through.”

“Pretty daft short cut if you ask me.”

“Well I didn’t, I’m done with it, it’s probably nothing. Anyway I’ve found a solution.”

“What’s that?”

“I shut my curtains when I watch the telly now.”

“So that’s it?!”

“So that’s it.”

“So you’re done with it?!”

“Done.”

“Day after day, a woman drags one dog after another into a dodgy little room under the canal and comes back with nothing. You go all the way down there and you don’t even think to go through the door?!”

“I didn’t have a torch. Anyway, it’s like you said, it’s probably nothing. I’m over it.”

“Probably nothing?!”

“Over it.”

“You don’t think it’s even possible that she’s taking them down the canal and doing them in?”

“You’re paranoid pal, you need to chill out.”

 

After a night of staring at the ceiling in the dark, the sunlight was quite welcome. I had hoped Bill’s anecdote was going to remain just a story to me but after last night I felt like he’d swapped me in as the protagonist. This morning I knew I was going to have to do what he was supposed to have done. Bloody idiot.

 

Following his route down the canal footpath I was sure I could see indents in the sidings, a shoe or a knee where Bill hid in the foliage and stalked his prey. In reality it was well trodden and as well could have been anyone. I walked in the middle of the path with unease as though I was breaking some unknown rule.

 

Nearing the aqueduct I was startled by the sound of a snapping twig and without looking around threw myself into the bushes and took position at the edge. I felt the blood being wrung from my stomach as I saw a woman with a yorkshire terrier on a lead rounding the corner. The dog showed great interest in its surroundings, running side to side, sniffing for something. The woman however simply wanted to go forward, tugging the lead impatiently.

 

As the terrier approached my hiding spot it became aware of a presence and began to puff up, like it was building pressure for an explosive fit of barking. The woman stopped. She looked at the dog. She looked up at the bush. None of us seemed to breath for an eternity.

 

She yanked the lead and lead the dog towards the aqueduct. They began to cross over the top. Why wasn’t she going down to the river? Had I been spotted? Was she moving faster now? Had she changed her route? Did I miss my chance to catch her in the act? I kicked myself for not getting a description of the woman from Bill.

 

My speculation ended as she left my view. The path was now clear for me to continue with my mission. As I stood at the gate of the old room in Bill’s shoes I realised his predicament. I had a distinct urge just to go home and shut my curtains.

 

The gate crumbled with rust in my fingers but swung freely as I pushed it open as if the hinges had been used often. I stepped forward and my nostrils were filled with a damp musty air. The ground was lit through the doorway for about four or five paces ahead but after that it was pitch black.

 

As I stepped forward into the darkness I willed my eyes to adjust but they were painfully slow. My movements were stiff and short. Swallowing hard I took two large steps into the unknown. As my foot planted the second time there was something soft underfoot, just under the tip of my shoe. The edge of something bigger. I was still. I closed my eyes which changed nothing but I had a sense I didn’t really want to see what was coming. I wondered if the damp air had gotten thicker, if the musty smell had gotten stronger. I wished to be back at the gate.

 

I should’ve brought a bloody torch. I carefully slid my phone from my pocket. Clutching the phone cautiously it slipped from my grip and fell. There was no sound. Instead of clattering off the hard stone floor the phone had landed silently. I shuddered. Knowing roughly where it had fallen I bent slightly, my feet locked in position, unwilling to disturb that unknown mass under my shoe. My fingertips traced the path the phone had taken through the air. The tip of my middle finger brushed against something soft. Hair? Fur? I fought the urge to recoil and eventually touched something hard and plastic. Scrabbling for it I yanked it up with a small tuft of fluff in tow.

 

The screen was blinding, cancelling out any adjustments my eyes had made. As I was about to turn on the light I stopped. The entrance suddenly seemed so close. I thought of simply turning around but I knew it was too late. Either way I would end up staring at the ceiling again tonight.

 

As the light flooded the room it grew exponentially and the floor was coated, ankle deep in every direction with dogs. Soft, plush, toy dogs. On the rear wall of the room he could make out spray painted in foot high letters “MADE YOU LOOK!”.

 

Prick.

 


© Copyright 2017 Alexander Ramsay. All rights reserved.

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