It turns out it’s no trouble at all to bludgeon a man unconscious.
In fact, as he clubbed the animal shelter worker twice round the back of the head with his gun, Pete Lancaster wondered why he hadn’t tried pistol-whipping someone before.
There’s nothing else quite like such a bracing act of aggression: the sound of steel on bone, watching a victim collapse to the ground like a rickety clothes horse. It almost felt enjoyable. Almost.
Turbo-charged with testosterone, Pete summoned a simper from behind his scraggly beard and saluted the crumpled body on the floor with his index finger.
Having broken into Barkledale Dog Kennels on a rescue mission this evening, he felt like Chuck Norris in Braddock: Missing in Action III as he stalked the corridor, his stocky shoulders moving with the swagger of a wannabe commando.
Raising his gun but half-expecting a would-be assailant like Cato might appear out of nowhere to karate chop him in the throat, Pete kicked open the door to the medical isolation room.
Inside, he saw a startled, gaunt-faced vet with a syringe in his hand, Dr Errol Day, looming over a Doberman Pinscher sedated on the extermination table.
With his scrawny, liver-spotted fingers clasping the scruff of the dog’s neck, Dr Day had the calmness of a Columbian drug baron and the icy demeanour of a Schutzstaffel officer.
‘Can I help you, sir?’ he said, putting the syringe delicately to one side for a moment.
‘Give me back my dog,’ said Pete, through gritted teeth, pointing the gun in Dr Day’s direction. ‘You ain’t gonna kill my Monty!’
A few days beforehand, a boy had climbed over Pete’s fence into his back garden to retrieve a football. Pete’s dog, Monty, leaping to protect his territory, bit the child on the arm viciously in a very aggressive but totally uncharacteristic mauling.
Pete had tried all he could to drag Monty off the boy, but the damage had already been done. The child suffered severe blood loss. Nurses worked tooth-to-jowl to stem the bleeding and the boy was hospitalised for a day or so. Reportedly, he needed several stitches but is now expected to make a full recovery.
Pete’s dog, however, was impounded.
In the wake of this subsequent attack, the local news – in particular, The Clodworth Herald – had mounted a hate campaign against Pete and his animal. (There was even somebody on Twitter demanding Pete’s nuts be cut off).
It all came to a head when a Change.org petition got thousands of signatures demanding Pete’s dog be summarily executed, preferably by being force-fed a hand grenade.
In response, Pete was told Monty was to be ‘destroyed’ on the orders of the Police. Only not by a grenade, he hoped.
It was at this moment Pete decided Monty needed rescuing – he went straight to his fire-proof safe and grabbed the Webley MK IV service pistol his Uncle Gerald once used in the Korean War back in the fifties.
Enough was enough. Pete wasn’t going to stand for this.
‘You are NOT killing my dog,’ Pete told Dr Day, the grey hairs in his nostrils flaring. ‘I won’t allow it.’
Monty the dog looked strangely subdued, clearly under the influence of some kind of mild sedative. An apéritif before the main course of euthanasia to follow, no doubt.
Dr Day remained stoic, nonplussed at the gun pointing his way. ‘You must be Mr. Lancaster,’ he said, the elderly man’s grip on Monty’s neck loosening and turning into a sinister stroke.
The dog was still breathing, so Pete knew there must still be enough time to save him.
Dr Day clapped his hands together suddenly: a brief percussive interlude. ‘Well, I must say, I feel like I know you already.’ He chuckled to himself. ‘All those charming front-page spreads. Is this really what the owner of a monster looks like?’
The m-word was spat out with bronchial fervour.
‘Monty is no monster,’ Pete replied. ‘He’s never been in any trouble before. Nothing like this. He’s a good dog.’
‘Good dogs do not try to rip the arms off children, sir. You must face it. This creature…must die.’
Pete looked again at Monty, with sadness in his eyes.
‘Says who? You?’
‘It’s the law, sir,’ Dr Day exclaimed, his gaze oddly grim. ‘I believe it was Jacques Derrida who observed what separates Man from Beast is the law. Who are you to say otherwise?’
It was bewildering to Pete why Dr Day didn’t seem the slightest bit unnerved at being threatened with a service pistol. Had he experienced violence of this kind before? Perhaps so.
For a second, Dr Day just stood there, his hollow eyes studiously fixed on Pete’s like a haunted oil painting.
The vet’s cheekbones seemed to sink into the contours of his skull, giving Dr Day a dour, emotionless look – his thin frame exuding an air of atrophy more than compensated by his steely, intolerable stare.
‘This is not fair,’ said Pete. ‘Monty’s all I have left in this world. That child was trespassing on my property – any animal would defend its territory. Surely you can see that?’
‘Indeed I can. I’m not blind. But how many blind eyes will it take before we see more children being bitten by Dobermans? How many more babies must be gobbled up by Rottweilers? If it’s happened before, it will happen again. The dog must die.’
Pete could feel a lump in his throat forming.
Ever since his wife had died of breast cancer several years prior, Monty had been Pete’s only true constant. His loyal companion. Having raised him since he was just a pup, the thought of Monty not curling up by Pete’s feet every evening left him bereft with heartbreak. It didn’t bear thinking about.
‘You don’t understand,’ Pete said. ‘Monty’s my only friend. I’d be lost without him. I can’t lose him.’
‘The threat Monty poses to the general public cannot be ignored, sir,’ Dr Day replied. ‘It’s simply the perils of…bad breeding.’
‘What do you mean by bad breeding?’
With a sickly smile, Dr Day revealed his teeth to be the same shade of yellow as his fish bait fingers. ‘Oh, come on, Mr. Lancaster. Monty is not a pedigree – he’s a mutt. A deranged mongrel. The last in a long line of filthy cross-breeds.’ He pointed to the dog’s slumbersome brow. ‘Behind Monty’s eyes is nothing but a measly genetic cocktail of violent impulses ready to froth and bubble at any moment. Didn’t you realise his DNA has a predilection for savagery?’
‘What are you talking about?’ Pete replied. ‘What’s the fact that Monty’s not a pedigree got to do with anything? What does it matter?’
‘Breeding is everything, sir,’ said Dr Day. ‘Haven’t you ever wondered why only pure-breeds ever seem to win Crufts? Some breeds, such as the Doberman here, can be naturally violent due to their breeding history. Especially if they’re cross-bred with other, shall we say, less savoury breeds… That’s why we have a list, don’t you know…’
‘People like you have never failed to confound me. Ever since the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, we’ve all known which dog breeds are a menace to society, yet idiots like you still have a pitiful attachment to these despicable runts. Haven’t you ever wondered why dog breeders charge a premium for pedigrees and yet mongrels are sold on the cheap? It’s because their bloodline is…how can I put this…’ Dr Day paused for effect, waiting for the right time to book-end his argument, ‘…impure.’
‘You’re sounding like a bloody Nazi,’ said Pete. ‘I’m half-expecting you to harp on about the racial purity of dogs now. Do you seriously believe people should be viewing canines with the same level of discrimination as the Nazis did the Jews? Are you insane?’
‘We already do discriminate against dogs, sir,’ Dr Day replied. ‘Look at how many people sneer at a Staffordshire terrier. That’s simply how it is. No dog is worth owning unless it’s a pure-breed…a pedigree. Mongrels like Monty here are…tarnished…it’s no surprise they’re violent and troublesome. Eradicating them is the only answer.’
‘So I take it you honestly believe in eugenics then?’
‘I speak as I find, sir.’
‘This is absurd. You’re acting as though one type of dog is the Übermensch, and the rest are violent brutes worthy of genocide. I thought society had moved on from this claptrap. Are you seriously suggesting people’s attitudes to dog breeding is conditioning us all to believe in this racial purity nonsense? If mankind truly no longer believes it exists in humans, then why should we believe it exists amongst dogs?’
‘You tell me, sir,’ Dr Day replied, with a smile. ‘Like I said, I speak as I find. I’m just a vet.’
Pete sighed. It was clear there was no reasoning with this man, much how it must have been interrogating German war doctors at the Nuremberg trials.
‘Well, I guess nobody cares then, do they?’ Pete huffed, sarcastically. ‘Let’s just follow the Pied Piper and ethnically cleanse all of the dogs shall we? Why not? Let’s turn Battersea into the new Auschwitz…’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, sir,’ said Dr Day. ‘Now if you excuse me, I have a job to do. It’s Monty’s time to go…’
With that, Dr Day picked up the syringe again and held it aloft. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is Telazol. It’s a combination of tiletamine and zolazepam. It will induce Monty into a deep and peaceful sleep before it will slowly euthanise him. I can assure you he won’t feel a thing…’
Dr Day was just about to stick the needle into Monty’s neck when a sudden noise shocked him.
‘WAIT!’ Pete yelped, before he flung a metal tray directly at Dr Day’s head. With a thwack, the vet clutched his head in pain, dropping the syringe.
A loud, echoey crash reverberated around the medical isolation room as the tray clattered to the floor.
Pete lunged at him and bitch-slapped Dr Day round the face with the butt of his handgun, before being met with a bony knee in the gut.
Momentarily winded, Pete gasped as Dr Day found the strength to swoop at him with an upper-cut, the wiry vet’s fist clonking his jaw making him stagger backwards like Bambi on an ice rink.
The jarring impact from being punched caused Pete to drop his gun, leaving both old men grappling at each other’s sleeves, moving in circles and scrambling to destabilise the other, before both stumbled to their knees in exhaustion.
Punching Pete in the kidney, Dr Day managed to get the upper hand by sneaking his way around him in an effort to throttle him from behind, aiming to strangle him, until he was met with a poke in the eyeball.
Whinging like a wounded pup, Dr Day was the first to collapse to the floor, falling backwards. Groaning as he lay on his back flat on the ground, the vet’s hands desperately clutched for any nearby object he could grab.
Pete clambered on top of him frantically and put his hands around Dr Day’s neck, choking him with whatever strength he could muster.
And then, unexpectedly, Pete felt a sharp stabbing pain in his lower back, followed by a dull stinging sensation.
It was then Pete realised Dr Day had somehow managed to pick up the syringe he’d dropped on the floor earlier and had injected him with it.
Pete jumped up in shock. Dr Day laughed at him wickedly and rose to his feet.
Monty the dog had now started to wake up from his sedative at this point and was sleepily raising his head up from the table, disturbed by the noisy altercation.
‘You fool!’ said Dr Day. ‘You left me no choice…’
Before Dr Day could finish his sentence, the dog barked loudly in defence of his owner.
Dr Day distractedly looked over at Pete’s dog, little realising the loud ‘WOOF!’ had provided the perfect distraction. Staggering over to a nearby metal shelf, Pete wobbled it forcefully, teetering it on its axis to topple it over.
By the time Dr. Day looked back over at Pete, there was nothing he could do – the shelf plunged down on top of the vet with an enormous force, crushing Dr Day underneath a scrap pile of veterinary equipment.
He was rendered unconscious in seconds.
‘Auf wiedersehen, pet…’ Pete said, even though a James Bond-esque quip was probably the last thing which should’ve sprung to his mind.
Starting to feel the numbness spread to his lumbar region, Pete limped over to his dog.
‘Come on, Monty, good boy. It’s OK, I’m here, buddy.’
Pete ushered the dog down from the table and helped lift him to the floor. Monty was still weak from the sedative yet able to find his feet, his paws sliding on the kennel flooring.
The faint sound of police sirens could be heard in the distance; someone had obviously got wind of Pete’s rescue operation and had sent the boys in blue out for a manhunt.
‘It’s time to go, boy,’ said Pete, gesturing for Monty to follow him out of the isolation room. They headed back out into the corridor.
The woozy effects of the injection were taking effect more strongly on Pete – he could feel his vision glazing over and his centre of gravity shifting.
‘Monty, come on,’ Pete said, more to motivate himself than the dog. ‘We need to leave!’
The dog followed on closely behind.
Pete managed to make it as far as the kennel entranceway before his legs gave out, the injection now finally immobilising him.
Weak enough that he couldn’t lift himself to his feet from the lobby floor, Pete somehow bum-shuffled himself over and managed to prop the entrance door ajar.
‘Quick boy!’ he said to Monty, gesturing him to leave.
Monty stared at him for a moment. Reluctantly, after a brief pause, the dog trotted past him, turning his head back to look at Pete sombrely.
The dizziness of moving his head around proved too much for Pete and he fell with a thud onto his side, causing the entrance door to slam shut.
As the police sirens grew ever louder, Pete watched the blurry shape of his dog Monty from the window, fleeing the kennels and escaping into the night to find his freedom.
It turns out it’s no trouble at all to lose consciousness.
In fact, as he felt his organs fall prey to the tranquillising effects of the injection, Pete Lancaster felt a lot less anxious as his brain drifted into a state far from compos mentis.
There’s nothing else quite like such a surge of relaxing inertia: the embrace of warm and fuzzy abandon in your bloodstream, feeling the worries of the world wither away like an effervescent tablet in sparkling water.
It almost felt enjoyable. Almost.
Until everything went dark.
© 2017 Luke Edley
Poet, humorous fiction writer and novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.