A short story can provide a palliative release

Nothing asks more questions than poetry

Man’s Willing Accomplice

by A.C. Smith

Doule had to go. A sneaky, slithering serpent who, even under a carpet, wouldn’t exhibit a lump. Hated no more than by Jemmy Jessop.

No easy despatch, for cunning was he, smelling danger at noonday and saw a plotter in the filament of every shadow. Always armed, Doule was a lethal marksman and unerringly accurate with a flick-knife.

Jessop was obese and considered slow of wit. He loathed Doule not merely because of the years of teasing at school or the false rumours spread about his sexuality but the theft of the one friend life had bequeathed him, a wiry border collie/kelpie rescue dog, “Alex”.

He had no proof that Doule was the culprit. Merely strong suspicion after a question saw those irksome eyes bore, mouth curl and yellow teeth spitting, ‘Prove it and die.’
He tried it all: spying on Doule’s miserable abode, and, when that proved fruitless, following him. Never had such a fiend led man to so many subterranean places. Gambling dives, opium dens, bawdy houses, and then homes where Doule preyed on lonely, susceptible widows.

Jessop’s disarming approach to the presentable occupant of one tidy riverside house frequented most by his Nemesis faltered at, ‘Yes, are you lost?’ The riddle of Doule entering but never leaving by the front gate, confounded him, the hours of surveillance crushing.

Six months was enough. Jemmy entered a New Farm pet shop near his flat to look for another dog. It was directly over the other side of the river from the lady’s home. There he spied Doule buying dog biscuits and straightaway his spirits lifted. Doule looked about furtively, as if Jessop’s presence had triggered a sixth sense. Not being seen by his enemy was a feat that not long ago would have been impossible. Pining over his friend he shed fifty pounds. Sliding under the rack storing pet food was easy. Not so simple was following him.

And then, late one night, Alex, dripping wet and dragging a frayed rope, arrived at Jessop’s door. He swept up the thin form. ‘Where’s Doule?’ and away they went. At the river, Alex jumped into the dingy tied to a pontoon.

The Doule solution lay in water and Alex was up for it. “You know what to do, don’t you boy?” He gave an insightful yelp.

‘Bastard outboard,’ the drunken Doule screamed, exasperated at the disabled motor and took to oars. About halfway across, he heard Jessop’s call and recoiled in horror as the dog sprang, tipping him out of the boat.

Doule never surfaced. Alex did, with barely a pant, shook himself, licked Jemmy and they walked home.

A.C. Smith