MAN'S BEST FRIEND
Part 2 of 2
The dog’s home was a noisy, depressing place. Rather like a string of wash-houses. The four surrounding brick walls had been whitewashed, the concrete yard scrubbed. Dedicated girls in sweaters, jeans and scuffed boots struggled with meal sacks for the strays.
Inside the surgery Dr. Wallace, the female veterinary surgeon, greeted Pointer.
‘It must shake your girls pretty badly to put down so many of these waifs and strays,’ he began as Cheryl jotted notes. Dan stayed outside, taking photos.
As Dr. Wallace replied Pointer peered through the wire-mesh window into the courtyard. A girl had about twelve hounds of various shapes and shades on a multiple lead, shepherding them into a square building in the yard’s centre. Whether mere puppies or fully-matured, they were going to be done to death. Mercifully painless, but death all the same. He detected no anguish on the girl’s face; but he doubted if such a procession could ever be dismissed as just part of the job: inside, she cared. He switched back to the vet as the door outside slammed shut and the bolt crashed home. Under his breath he cursed all those people who bought dogs and then neglected them, let them stray, put them out at night, like the poor cat; those who found they couldn’t afford them, once their puppy-hood had gone...
‘... I’ve operated on many dogs, it’s my life’s work, after all,’ Dr. Wallace was saying in great earnest, hands wringing. ‘What you’re asking me to do – I must think it over...’
‘Agreed, Doctor. As you must realise, what I’m proposing would mean you couldn’t work here anyway. So, if you will excuse me, we’ll see about more suitable surroundings.’
‘Your dossier packs quite a theory, Mr. Pointer,’ said Sir Mark Stevens. ‘I pride myself on having an open mind. Indeed, I would not be where I am today were my approach to change not an enlightened one,’ he chuckled, more to himself than anyone else. ‘I would suspect that what you suggest we do – with your mysterious vet’s assistance – is, er, highly irregular... But I must agree it seems necessary too.’
‘Then you’ll give us full use of your theatre and equipment?’
‘Indeed. And some of my more trustful staff, to help with the EEG and what-have-you.’
‘You’ve hardly eaten, love,’ Judy berated softly. ‘You sure you’re not heading for something?’
‘No, it’s just – well, I’m tired. This story’s a tough one... No bloody breaks at all. This is the third day we’ve – ‘ He stopped. ‘Well, I’m whacked.’
Judy, knowing better than to question him further about a ‘live’ story, said, ‘Why don’t you take Rik out for a walk in the park – he’s pining, you know – it’s almost a week since you took him. And I don’t seem to get the time, what with the washing, Michael, shop-‘
‘All right, I’ll pop into the Anchor, have a pint.’ Reluctantly, he rose, fetched Rik’s lead. The handsome beast started panting and brushing his sleek hide against Pointer’s trouser legs as he buckled on the lead and collar. He felt a trifle guilty about neglecting Rik. It hadn’t been altogether because he was too busy or too tired. He hardly dared admit it to himself, but of late he had become wary, even a little afraid, of Rik. He only hoped that Rik hadn’t smelled the fear.
Later that night he felt ashamed, as though he had betrayed a trust: Rik trusted him as master and loved him and his family without reservation. Could he be as honest? He wondered.
Stray dogs were caught and tranquillised and vivisected. The docile ones were compared with the more vicious breeds, the savage waifs. The encephalograph showed little difference at all in their wave-patterns. Both types dreamed under sedation; certain stimuli affected them much the same.
They took cornea tissue from the accredited wild dogs, to test for rabies. 'Negative.'
Test after test proved the same: negative.
Pointer began to despair. Doubts crept in. Could the theories be wrong, after all?
Then, they got a break on the fifth day.
One of the violent dogs actually went berserk whilst under the EEG. In some quite indefinable way, it seemed to resemble all the others Pointer had seen. The snarl, the lack of mucus in the gnashing mouth. The beast was heavily sedated, yet the jaws snapped and the creature barked and growled, writhing until the EEG contacts were almost torn off.
But they had what they wanted. Testing a violent dog, proved to be so from previous scrutiny, they discovered that this one was similarly affected, though to a lesser degree.
As though some outside stimulus were affecting the brains...
Dr. Wallace indicated the marked differences on the EEG printout. 'These are normal alpha waves. See, they occur with a 10-per-second frequency... Now, look here... Notice the difference? These are delta waves, with a frequency of 5 seconds, usually indicative of cerebral tumours or epilepsy.'
Pointer looked up from the analysis.
Her steady grey eyes met his. 'Needless to say, these dogs were one hundred percent A1 - and are again right now...'
'Could it be some form of radiation poisoning? Or high-frequency sound, perhaps? Could it be that? The new jets, the Jumbo Concords?'
'I honestly don't know, Brian. But there's enough statistical fact with these here and Dan's photo-file to back up your demand for a more comprehensive investigation by the government. Of that I'm certain.'
'I hope you're right,' he said with feeling.
There was no respite for Pointer and his dog-tired team. With Daldry, they strode into the Minister for the Environment’s office, unannounced. Though he hadn’t been in London since his dismissal, Daldry was still well-known as an eccentric who said what he thought. He was also a man known to speak only when there was something worth saying: a rare breed.
The Minister chased away his petulant secretaries and offered Daldry and his party chairs, which they hastily drew up round the impressive ministerial desk.
‘Here are the facts, Minister,’ Daldry began. ‘The last time I spoke to you – when I had but an inkling – you said, obtain scientific proof… Well, here it is!’ he barked, heavily lowering the file onto the already cluttered desk ‘You run a similar filing system to me, I see,’ he added in an aside.
‘Yes, random,’ the Minister acknowledged, smiling. ‘I can’t possibly read all this now. What does it say, briefly?’
‘It covers – first-hand and otherwise – every reported dog-biting. It highlights the increasing number of stray dogs roaming the cities and towns – each listed in the Annex – which, as you know, will ultimately lead to a health-risk, not to mention the savagery many of these beasts have resorted to already.’
‘I’m aware of most of these problems. I’ve issued directives to the local gov-‘
‘You’ve done damn-all to correlate all this!’ Daldry snapped, fist-pounding the file. Pointer was enjoying this; it was a pleasant change to watch someone else endure a classic Daldry roasting. Instead of leaping onto the defensive, the Minister was looking quite unsettled. ‘Read the figures, the dates, the places, the facts, and you’ll see something very peculiar indeed…’
The Minister’s face dropped. ‘In what way?’
‘I can’t describe it.’ Daldry fleetingly turned to his reporting team, turned back again. ‘None of us can. But we feel something’s tampering with the brains of these dogs. We’ve jotted down a few theories – all pretty hair-raising, I’ll agree. But could the Army, for instance, be testing a new sonic invention? Or maybe another country’s trying out a weapon, experimenting… I know it sounds crazy, Minister. It could be the new jets. It could be a lot of things. We recommend that all loose dogs should be killed on sight – at least till it’s discovered what’s disturbing them, making them insane killers…’
‘Rabies – a new form, perhaps?’
‘Tests have eliminated all organic forms of disturbance,’ interjected Dr. Wallace. ‘When it comes, the interference affects their brains, Minister…’
‘All we ask is that something be done,’ Daldry ended.
‘Yes, I agree.’ The Minister sighed. ‘But I’m afraid I cannot see the PM acceding to your recommendations. You know how dog-loving the British people are. They’d never accept killing all loose dogs on sight. Never. Only in times of emergency, in extremis… If it were rabies, heaven forbid-‘ He shrugged. ‘You see, it’s so difficult an area…’
Judy had been sweeping autumn leaves in the garden when she heard the commotion. On entering the dining-room, she stopped dead. ‘Oh no!’ It was an absolute shambles. Their three-piece suite was ripped open, the standing lamp lay smashed. Michael’s toys were strewn all over the place. The table-cloth had been torn away, spilling a bowl of fruit. Curtains hung askew, chairs were overturned. And then she heard Rik’s low guttural growl and saw his tail whipping back and forth. The rest of him was concealed by the sofa. Already in tears over the damage, she wailed, ‘Rik! Get out of here! Get out!’ Incensed, she ran over, brandishing the garden-broom.
But Rik ignored her, just continued growling.
Then she saw Michael’s blood-spattered shoe, his toeless foot protruding…
She went cold throughout her body. Seconds seemed like hours as she forced herself to get closer, the blood pounding in her temples. At the full sight of her son she collapsed to her knees, pummelling the torn sofa in futile anguish.
Sitting in the back of Daldry’s car with the others, Pointer looked out the rear window as the Environment Minister descended the Ministry’s steps towards the Rolls. The chauffeur opened the door.
Dimly glimpsed through the tinted glass, Pointer noticed two beautifully marked Dalmatians in the back seat with the Minister, licking his hands. He was smiling. A freak of light caught the gleam of sharp canine teeth, white and well-honed.
Pointer couldn’t move. He stared, transfixed as an unnameable chill walked his spine. Dozens of the world’s most powerful people possess dogs…
'Now that you've been provided with the Funds required for your project's improvement, Aldebaran-Pyrrhon,' boomed the All-liege, 'I trust the results will be forthcoming?'
'Certainly, My-liege.' Aldebaran-Pyrrhon bowed backwards as was his planet's custom. 'Perchance you would answer a single query, My-liege?'
'Why are we colonising Earth?'
'Obvious, physicist. Because it is there!' The All-liege grew stern of countenance. 'Now, how long before the beams can function as desired?'
'Oh, I'd estimate about one Earth-year - possibly less... Then we'll be able to control the human minds, make them kill each other without reason...'
'And we'll meet no resistance afterwards?'
'None whatsoever, My-liege.'
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Previously published in World of Horror under the penname Platen Syder, 1974.
Copyright Nik Morton, 2015.
This is another of my ‘invasion stories’ I wrote in the 1970s, alongside ‘Gifts from a Dead Race’, ‘Can’t See the Wood for the Trees’, and ‘The Lights in the Sky’ – all of which have been posted in this blog.
I couldn't resist using Pointer as the name for a main character; this has carried over into my Avenging Cat crime series, where two NCA cops are Pointer and Basset, 'the dogs of law'...
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If you enjoyed this story, you might like my collection of crime tales, Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat (2013), which features 22 cases from Leon Cazador, private eye, ‘in his own words’. He is also featured in the story ‘Processionary Penitents’ in the Crooked Cat Collection of twenty tales, Crooked Cats’ Tales.
Spanish Eye, released by Crooked Cat Publishing is available as a paperback and as an e-book.
Or you could try my co-authored fantasy novel Wings of the Overlord (by Morton Faulkner) currently available in hardback (5 good glowing reviews):
Floreskand, where myth, mystery and magic reign. The sky above the city of Lornwater darkens as thousands of red tellars, the magnificent birds of the Overlord, wing their way towards dark Arisa. Inexplicably drawn to discover why, the innman Ulran sets out on a quest. Although he prefers to travel alone, he accedes to being accompanied by the ascetic Cobrora Fhord, who seems to harbour a secret or two. Before long, they realise that it's a race against time: they must get to Arisa within seventy days and unlock the secret of the scheduled magical rites. On their way, they stay at the ghostly inn on the shores of dreaded Lake and meet up with the mighty warrior Courdour Alomar. Alomar has his own reasons for going to Arisa and thus is forged an unlikely alliance. Gradually, the trio learn more about each other -- whether it's the strange link Ulran has with the red tellar Scalrin, the lost love of Alomar, or the superstitious heart of Cobrora. Plagued by assassins, forces of nature and magic, the ill-matched threesome must follow their fate across the plains of Floreskand, combat the Baronculer hordes, scale the snow-clad Sonalume Mountains and penetrate the dark heart of Arisa. Only here will they uncover the truth. Here too they will find pain and death in their struggle against the evil Yip-nef Dom.