#b#To view this story’s original formatting, please see page 29 of the online PDF of this issue: http://www.princetoninfo.com/files/library/pdfs/97.pdf#/b#
Evelyn Crabtree was sitting down with her afternoon tea to watch her favorite soap opera when she heard the unmistakable clicking of nails on the wood floor above her.
Placing her tea down onto the doily, she went to the phone and dialed.
It rang twice. “Hello?”
“Leonard, do you have a dog up there?”
“How are you doing, Evelyn?” he answered in his normal cheery voice. She hated young tenants. Always bubbly. If Leonard hadn’t been so timely with the rent checks, she never would have let him extend the lease.
“I heard the nails tapping on the wood, Leonard. On the lease it specifically states that no pets are allowed.” Leonard was silent on the other end. She felt victorious. Leonard always played his music loud and it was always an issue to lower it. Each time she spoke to him about it, Evelyn felt like she was compromising. There would be no compromise this time.
“He’s really a good dog, Evelyn. I found him over at the dump. I think he might have been exposed to something there because he really is smart.”
“I don’t care, Leonard!” She snapped back at him. Evelyn shuddered to think what types of bugs and diseases the animal had contracted at the dump. “You have until tomorrow to bring it to the pound.”
“If I bring him to the pound, they are just going to put him to sleep,” Leonard replied in a slightly louder voice.
Evelyn then found herself talking to the dial tone. I’ll give that boy until noon tomorrow. She picked up her tea. It had grown cold. Putting it back down in disgust, she clicked the television on.
The program was just ending when she heard Leonard leave the house. Peering through the blinds, she saw him walk to his car, alone. Above her, she could hear the nails making that infernal noise. If that thing pisses on the carpet, he’s never going to get his security deposit back.
Getting up, she went into the kitchen to fix herself a fresh cup of tea. As the kettle was beginning to tweet, she heard the faint sound of water trickling down the pipes inside the wall. The toilet had been flushed. Silencing the kettle, she heard the click, click, click again.
Staring up at the ceiling, Evelyn followed the noise until she was in her dining room. Above her was the kitchen. Again, she began to hear the faint trickling of water. Someone was using the kitchen sink. A frown appeared on her face. So, he had someone living up there as well. It was also stated in the lease that Leonard could not sublet any of the apartment.
She decided that Leonard was due another call when the ceiling started to vibrate.
The radio had been turned on. So loud was the music playing that Evelyn could tell which Bruce Springsteen song it was. “Born in the USA.” She watched as a picture of her late husband, Earl, began shaking on the wall.
Grabbing the phone, she dialed up the apartment. The phone rang but no one picked it up. Slamming the phone back onto the receiver, she tried to keep her anger under control. He doctor warned about her high blood pressure. There was no doubt that this wasn’t helping. She tried calling again, but to no avail. Bruce had now given way to “Piano Man.”
Grabbing the spare set of keys, she strode out of the house and around to the side, where the entrance was to Leonard’s.
She banged on the door and rang the bell. No one answered. Even from outside, she could hear the thump, thump, thump of the base.
Gripping the keys, she unlocked the door and went inside.
The stairs went up, then left, and ended into a small vestibule-like room.
“Hello!” she shouted but her voice was drowned out by the music. Walking into the living room, she turned off the stereo. “Is anyone here?”
She heard the clicking again and a dog emerged from the kitchen. If not for the blackish tail, she would have thought it a pure-bred golden retriever. The dog looked clean and well groomed. Probably carrying some sort of junkyard disease.
“Sit.” She commanded. Immediately, the dog sat down.
“Lie down.” The dog placed his chin between his paws.
“Play dead.” The dog rolled onto his back and stuck his paws up in the air.
Leonard was right –– the dog was well trained.
Evelyn began walking through the apartment. She went into each room, looked in every closet, and even peered under the bed. She checked the windows, but they were all fastened shut. All the while, the dog followed behind her, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth like a slice of baloney.
Walking back into the vestibule, Evelyn placed her hands on her hips in frustration. Where was the person hiding?
A beep sounded in the kitchen. Her curiosity piqued, she walked towards it. The kitchen was the only room she had not searched.
The microwave had gone off. A familiar scent was permeating from it. She opened the door and found a warmed bag of popcorn. Taking it out, she ripped the bag open and popped several kernels into her mouth. Ah, nice and warm. Just how she liked it. It did have a peculiar taste that Evelyn simply dismissed as a new flavor.
Evelyn heard the click, click, click again. The dog came into view. Seeing her, he began to growl. Evelyn was taken by this behavior. “Scram!” she yelled, but the dog didn’t move.
The dog bared its teeth and growled.
Evelyn’s temper flared. Placing the bag down, she looked underneath the sink. Taking out a bottle of floor cleaner, she walked over to the dog’s water bowl. Pouring a cap-full into the water, she stirred it with her finger. Placing the bottle back, she grabbed her popcorn.
The dog had left the kitchen. She was curious if the dog had seen her do it. Not that it really mattered. Eating another handful of popcorn, she walked back downstairs.
She was certainly going to give Leonard an earful when he came home.
From the bedroom window, the dog watched as Evelyn walked outside and back into her apartment. Closing the shade, he went back into the kitchen. From the pantry he pulled out a fresh package of popcorn. Setting the microwave for three minutes on High, the dog then took the water bowl and dumped the contents into the sink. Making sure that it was fully rinsed, he filled it back up with fresh water. Stupid woman. Even if she put the cleaner in when I wasn’t looking, it was easy enough to smell. If you’re going to poison someone, you have to use something harder to detect. Like rat poison. Rat poison was easy to mix with the food such as popcorn.
He took out a bottle of Bud from the refrigerator. Using the counter’s edge to pop the cap off, it made a deep scrape in the finish.
Walking into the living room, he turned the stereo back on. “Amanda” by Boston was playing. Not his favorite song, but it would do. Placing a paw on the knob marked volume, he raised it up. The base was set so high that it began rattling one of the nearby window panes.
Not that it really mattered.
He didn’t expect anyone to call complaining.
Michael Penncavage is employed at a Princeton-based national retailer. His story, “The Cost of Doing Business” originally appeared in Thuglit, Issue 24 and won a 2008 Derringer Award for best mystery. One of his stories has recently been filmed as a short movie. Fiction of his can be found in approximately 60 magazines and anthologies from three different countries such as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in the USA, Here and Now in England, Crime Factory in Australia.