For once, the dog keeps quiet. The one time Percy is duty-bound to raise hell and he bottles it. Instead he sits, feet in perfect ballerina’s second position, next to the old woman’s cracked skull as it leaks blood onto the pavement. Brent realises, as he shovels more popcorn into his mouth, that the woman’s name is Mrs Eldred. He could never remember it when she was alive, but somehow seeing her dead next to the wheels of his battered Volvo has jolted his memory.
‘The mind is a mysterious thing,’ he says, though there is no one in the room with him. Eric, his tabby cat, who despite his fear of the stairs retains a permanent air of contempt for his owner, is asleep in the washing basket in the kitchen.
‘What is it that makes it think of one thing to the next?’ says Brent. ‘Why did that woman have to die for me to remember her name? It seems an extreme measure.’ Brent chews some more. ‘Not that I’m not grateful,’ he adds, his mouth full this time. ‘It’s been bugging me for a while.’
Brent looks up the street from his vantage point, but it is unusually quiet. The old lady, Mrs Eldred of course, has been dead for a couple of minutes now and still she remains undiscovered. A student wearing a black hoodie and huge headphones shuffles past on the other side of the road. Brent pushes up his sash window and shouts across the road.
‘Oi! There’s a woman lying dead on the pavement over here!’
But his words drift into the warm morning air, unheard, and the student drags his carcass towards class. Even Percy the dog doesn’t flinch as it continues its silent vigil. A thought zips through Brent’s mind.
What if the dog killed her?
Several others follow it.
What, on purpose?
Don’t be stupid Brent.
Dogs don’t kill old ladies.
They kill babies.
That’s different. That’s instinct.
It looks pretty pleased with itself there.
It does look pretty pleased with itself, Brent’s right. It looks like a dog that’s successfully murdered its owner. It’s eyes are at half-lid as it stares straight ahead, as if daring someone to find him at the scene.
Eventually, someone does. A small man, in a brown button-up coat and pork-pie hat, in this weather. Overton watches the man closely. He doesn’t seem as surprised as Brent expected him to be at discovering a dead body in the street on a Tuesday morning. Indeed, as he bends down, he doesn’t tend to Mrs Eldred at all, but rather, he strokes Percy and offers him a treat.
Brent Overton stops chewing his popcorn.