Daniel Lopez had a bad night. He slept fitfully, never fully awake, but never properly asleep either. He tossed and turned throughout, which gave his wife, Estrella, a poor restless night too. The reason for their lack of quality sleep, unbeknown to them at first, was the lack of barking of theirs and their neighbour’s dogs. They had become so accustomed to the persistent barking, that they could no longer rest properly in a quiet neighbourhood.
Their son, Juan, poked his head around their bedroom door, waiting for the invitation to come in and crawl under the warm duvet with them. Daniel woke as he heard the door creak open, winked at his son, and motioned for him to come and join them. Juanito smiled, leapt onto the bed and snuggled under the covers with his parents. The sudden movement woke his wife, Estrella, with a start. She groaned and buried her head under the pillow.
After some time Estrella sat up with a slight look of concern. “Danny, why is it so quiet outside? I hope Bacco is alright.”
Bacco was their German Shepherd. Estrella sometimes wondered if her husband loved the dog more than he did her. She knew that he doted on his prize winning pedigree hound.
“Juanito, go and take a look will you? Just check that he hasn’t got out again like last time.”
Juanito groaned, climbed out of the warm place and sidled out of the bedroom. He came back minutes later, tiptoeing up to the bed and whispered, “Shhh Mummy. Bacco is sleeping on the front doorstep. I didn’t want to wake him up.”
Daniel raced out of the bed. He knew something must not be right. Bacco never slept on the step; always in the corner of the garden.
He opened the door, sensing instantly that poor Bacco was dead. He was lying in a pool of his own vomit, with his long pink tongue sticking out, as though he was trying to gasp for air. Daniel sat down on the step, oblivious to the stench and filth, cradled Bacco’s head in his arms and slowly wept. Through his tears he gradually became aware that the whole street was dead quiet.
At first he imagined some kind of dog disease, but quickly dismissed the idea. He dressed quickly and went out into the street. Many neighbours were already out there talking, crying, showing bouts of anger. “Who would do such a thing?” cried the older widow from opposite.
Daniel swung his head round in the direction of his nearest neighbour, John Diamond. “I bet I know who did it. I’ll kill the bastard,” he spluttered as he immediately marched in the direction of his neighbour’s house.
He rang the bell non-stop. Before waiting for anyone to come he began shouting, “Come out you murdering bastard. I am going to wring your bloody neck.”
Glenda Diamond came rushing out to see what all of the commotion was about. “Daniel, what’s wrong? Why are you shouting and threatening John?”
“He killed our dog. I know it was him. He never liked our dogs. Getting a bloody little poodle was just for show, so that he could kill ours without being suspected. Where is he? I’ll kill him.”
“He is around the back of the house. You are wrong. He would never hurt your dog.”
They walked round the house. Daniel had his fists clenched ready. He was trembling with anger. As they turned the corner at the rear of the house John was sitting with his dead poodle laid across his lap. Tears could be seen running down his face. “Who could do such a thing?” He looked up at Glenda and Daniel. “Who? Tell me, who would do something like this?”
Daniel’s anger drained out in an instant. He was momentarily confused. He didn’t know what to do or what to say.
Without speaking he turned and walked away. Glenda looked at her husband, then at their little dog and finally at Daniel. “You see Daniel; I told you he would never do something like that.” Then turning back to her husband she stuttered, “But who would?”
Before leaving, Daniel turned towards them and whispered, “I’m so sorry. I thought…..Please forgive me.”
John’s mind was racing. “Go back in the house darling. I will take care of this and clean up the mess. We will discuss it when I have calmed down.” Then realising that he was still not supposed to know about any other dogs being poisoned yet he added, “We’d better call the guardia civil.”
He winced, thinking that he had almost made a serious mistake. He must be more careful.
Then, as Glenda walked away, he gave a long smirk, pleased with himself that all was going as planned. What he didn’t know was that Daniel Lopez had been watching him through a small gap in the fence. Daniel saw the smirk and now knew that he had been right all along.
The police came, took statements from all seventeen close neighbours who had lost their pets. There were also a number of cats amongst the casualties. Clearly someone had poisoned them all.
Due to the scale of the crime tests were made on the animals. They had all been poisoned with a high strength arsenic solution placed in their food. This explained the number of cats which were also killed.
During the interview Daniel gave no clue that he believed that John Diamond was guilty of the crime. In fact he openly praised his neighbour for the way he had handled the situation, in front of the police during questioning. He wanted this to be recognised by everyone.
All of the animals had been collected by the local veterinary surgeon and, after testing, were packed into a wooden carton to be disposed of by burning the carcasses.
That night Daniel looked full of sorrow. “I always walk Bacco in the evening. I think that I will just go out for my walk anyway Estrella.”
He slouched out of the door with his head hung low. Estrella wanted to hug him, but knew that was not what he needed. “We can go out for some tapas at Pedro’s Bar if you want,” she called down the hallway.
“I’m not really in the mood if you don’t mind. I just want an hour to myself.”
Daniel walked slowly at first and then broke into a trot. He must be back in time. He jogged five kilometres to the ‘laboratorios patológicos’ and quickly clambered over the iron gate. Once inside the compound he was invisible from the street.
He crept stealthily around to the back of the building, where he was expecting to find it necessary to break in. He was in luck. The wooden carton was recognisable immediately. To his surprise it had been left outside ready for disposal. He slowly unscrewed the top bracket and eased the lid open.
Instantly the stench caused him to wretch. He turned away, before his stomach lost control. Gagging on the putrid smell, he took a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it around his mouth and nose. He turned back to the carton with dogged determination.
He thrust his gloved hands into the slime and gristle. There was little to be recognised of the individual animals. They had been carved up during the examinations. He was losing resolve and was about to give up, when he felt something he recognised. It was the studded collar of his Bacco. He pulled as hard as he could to free the animal from the surrounding mix of blood and flesh, eventually managing to drag the remaining contents of his dear old pet free.
This was the part that he had been dreading. He took out his knife and began to cut through to the stomach. His job was made much easier by using the opening that the investigators had made. He cut two small slices of meaty offal from around this area, hoping that he had enough to do the job. He placed them into a self-seal food bag, and stuffed it into his coat pocket. Silently, he slid the remains back into the carton, removed his gloves and screwed back down the lid.
At home, after depositing the food bag in a discrete place in his garage, he went directly to the bathroom for a shower. Later, while he sat with his family he began to slowly feel better. A good bottle of rioja helped him on his way.
Two days later was the annual birthday event for Felix Garcia, one of the well-known residents in the street. Felix was famous for his wonderful garden parties. He would always invite the neighbourhood for an evening of paella, grilled fish, tapas etc. He prided himself on his ability to throw a great party and invite as many guests as he could. Since his wife had died this had become the main event of his year. It was to be a special event this time, as it was his seventieth birthday party.
It was a warm humid evening as the guests began to arrive. Glenda and John came early and sat furthest from the BBQ because of the heat. In all, more than forty people arrived during the next half hour. Daniel and Estrella, together with young Juanito were almost the last to arrive.
Juanito said, “aw Dad. Now we need to sit near the fire. It will be too hot.”
Estrella admonished Daniel by whispering, “If it wasn’t for your messing around in the garage until the last minute, we could have been here earlier.”
Daniel was calm and knew exactly what he was doing.
Despite the tragedy of losing their dogs only a few days before, many of the guests were upbeat in anticipation of the evening ahead.
Once everyone was seated Felix brought them to silence by clanging his spoon on a wine glass and made a small welcoming speech, thanking them for coming and wishing all his friends a wonderful evening.
When he had finished Daniel stood up to make a further toast to Felix. All stood and took the toast. Before Daniel sat down again he begged forgiveness for his indulgence but wanted to say a few words more.
“Please, I don’t want to spoil a wonderful evening by discussing the tragedy that has befallen our pets this week, but feel it necessary just to say a few words. Many of us have lost something special to us and are still grieving. Let me just say that when I went round to John, our newest neighbour, immediately after he had found his poor poodle, I saw a sight that I will never forget as long as I live. The sadness I saw in him losing a pet that he loved helped me to realise that I was not the only one to be suffering. It helped me a lot.”
As he was speaking he walked around the table and put his hand on John’s shoulder.
“We, as neighbours and friends help each other in so many ways. I would like to propose a toast to ‘neighbours’.”
All stood again and repeated, “To neighbours”.
Everyone clapped and began to continue with their previous conversations.
Daniel was watching them all. He was tight inside down to his guts. He used all of his self-control to convince the guests that he was genuine.
After the aperitif and some olives Felix announced that the paella was ready to serve. Daniel, being the one closest to the BBQ, jumped up and shouted, “Here Felix, let me help you. Who is for paella?”
The chicken Paella was handed out, ladies first, as is the custom. “This looks really good,” said John Diamond, smiling. “Felix, you have excelled. I think I am going to enjoy my retirement here very much. I am hungry enough to eat a horse.”
Daniel almost choked. “Well, we have no horse, but I hope chicken will do.”
As Daniel piled the steaming plate of paella, he slipped in the two small pieces of dog meat, which he had cooked earlier. He was shocked at the difference in colour against the pale paella, spending some moments stirring John’s plate to blend it in.
Daniel placed the plate in front of John but realised that he hadn’t given him such a good portion after all. With the stress of the situation he had lapsed in concentration and only then realised that the plate was only half full. “I’m sorry John. You said that you were hungry. I will get you some more.”
John laughed. “Don’t worry Daniel. I can always come back for more afterwards. Please, get yourself a serving and join us.”
By the time Daniel had served himself and sat down, he was almost shaking with the tension. He didn’t even know if his plan would work. As he began to eat he heard the most frightening thing of his life. “Darling, you have far too much on your plate. As my portion is smaller, let us swap.”
John shoved his plate in front of his wife as he took her plate. Glenda was irritated by John’s assumption that she would eat a smaller portion but they both began eating without a further word. Daniel, on seeing this, choked on a piece of chicken and broke into a fit of coughing. “Here amigo. Drink this. It will wash it down,” said Felix, handing him a large glass of Sangria.
With a blotchy red face Daniel could finally speak. “Sorry about that. I think a piece of something went down the wrong way.” Everyone laughed, when they saw that all was well.
Daniel eyed Glenda working her way through the meal. He stared from the other end of the table as she placed the first piece of Bacco into her mouth. He watched the movement of her moist lipstick coated lips as she chewed the morsel of his old dear dog. He was fixated as she picked up her glass of sangria and placed it to her lips, taking a small sip and swallowing it down with the remaining residue of the chewed meat. He was paralysed as he watched the slow movement of her Adam’s Apple as she swallowed Bacco down into her stomach, where it would react with her body. He had no idea what would be the result, but only knew that his plan had failed. The revenge he had planned on the evil dog killer, John Diamond, had instead gone to his poor innocent wife.
The ambulance was quick to arrive. Its siren could be heard almost as soon as the call was made. Glenda, on her way to the toilet, had dropped to her knees with terrible stomach pains, resulting in severe vomiting in the middle of the terrace. Felix reacted instantly and called emergency. He had seen the results of food poisoning before, and knew that speed was critical for the patient.
The two hour delay, from serving the paella until the time of Glenda’s symptoms, was hell for Daniel. By the time the ambulance came he was totally drunk. Estrella had never seen him like this before, but just assumed that it was another reaction to the loss of his dog earlier in the week.
Glenda was immediately packed into the ambulance, which raced off to the local hospital. John and Felix went together in Felix’s car.
It was a long night. Glenda was drifting in and out of consciousness the whole time. Luckily, as it had happened just after a meal, the doctor assumed food poisoning and had her stomach immediately pumped and flushed. The samples were sent to the laboratory, as was standard practice in such circumstances.
The following morning at 8am, the doctor came out into the waiting area to see John and Felix, who had stayed with him the whole night. The doctor looked very grim. “Mr Diamond, I can tell you that your wife is still very ill,” but then his face relaxed slightly as he continued, “however, she is now out of immediate danger. She will live.”
John slumped down into his chair, buried his head in his hands and whispered,” she will live. She will live.”
The doctor continued, “She is now sleeping and needs more rest. I suggest that you go home and get some sleep. Come back in a few hours and she will probably be able to speak to you.”
At home Daniel, despite all of the alcohol the previous evening, had not slept a wink. He heard the car pull up outside and was immediately at his front gate showing concern and wanting to know how Glenda was. John was quite taken aback by the look of concern on his neighbour’s face. He was quite touched.
That afternoon, while John was at the hospital, a police van arrived. They had a warrant to search each house in the street and with utmost speed and efficiency began to go through sheds, garages and houses, looking for something. They refused to explain what.
Later, as the officer in charge came out of John Diamond’s garage holding a small vial, John appeared at the front driveway.
“What the hell is going on here? “He shouted. “You have broken my garage door.”
“Sir. Are you Mr John Diamond, of this address?”
With cold eyes piercing right into John’s face, he grimly said,” Mr Diamond, I am placing you under arrest for the attempted murder of your wife and the brutal poisoning of seventeen dogs and numerous cats.”
As he said this an officer took John’s hands, placed them behind his back and clapped them in hand cuffs.
Daniel looked on from a distance in cold satisfaction. “Revenge is sweet,” he thought to himself.
He breathed a long sigh of relief. Never again would he try such an evil deed. He had learned his lesson.