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Perception

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a psychological  novel by 
Alex K Delph

Set in Dublin   2021
About two dogs, and the people  around them
With the spotlight riveted on being an  outsider
In this jaw-dropper  Alex K Delph explores the physical solitude of Londoner, George Wilson, and the stark psychological aloneness of Sandymount-born Clara Browne, amidst the sinister presence of Ben McDuff whose darkness threatens them all

PICS
Doberman, Joshua Daniel
German Shepherd,  Sofia Guaico

©Copyright

 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or be transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners, 'dogs in dublin'  eMagazine and author Alex K Delph.

 

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Please note:  Alex K Delph
writes fiction for
adults.
'dogs in dublin' eMagazine
publishes 'Perception' on a 
designated
adult fiction page.

 

Chapter 5

 

George Wilson is standing aghast beside his white station wagon wearing only a bathrobe. Hugo and he returned from their very early morning run at 0545 hours.  With pressure building daily from his editor, he now tries to fit in an extra writing period first thing after breakfast.  He ran hard today and is feeling it.  In the shower he hears the dog bark.  Hugo is barking more aggressively than usual these days.  His persistence this morning makes him leave the cascading blend of hot water and shower gel having only just got in, or at least that’s how it feels to his aching, lean body. 

 

The fire which he lit as soon as he got out of bed is crackling nicely and the sitting room is filled with the aroma of percolating coffee wafting from the adjacent kitchen.  The dog is sitting upright, ears erect, on the window seat and not by the grate, his usual preference after exercise.  ‘Strange’ thinks his master.  ‘He is barking at the car’!  No longer dark outside, George runs a damp hand over the glass pane to quickly clear the condensation.   He squints to just about make out the red spray can paint all over the bonnet. 

Instinctively, he runs out in his bare feet.  The birds are unusually quiet which doesn’t happen often this time of year, especially at dawn.  Horrified, he reads the stark message that seems even more hideous in the sparce early morning light. ‘She’s mine’. Then, his eye catches the bold red script emblazoned across the front and back car doors.  ‘Stay away from her’.  With a thud the violence of the four slashed tyres registers in his soul.

 

A cold foreboding chill rises up from deep within him and takes over his belly.  His breath is coming in short, sharp gasps.  He acknowledges the powerful, unfamiliar sense of vulnerability.  The stark realisation of being alone in a foreign place.  The visual violence of the act strikes him forcibly like a sledge-hammer slicing a piece of granite.  The savagery applied to what remains of his new tyres ignites intense anger in him.  Just how long he stood there stunned on the icy pebbles before returning to the warm sitting room he cannot say.  His police instinct screaming ‘touch nothing’.  When he can inhale deeply, there is no sense of anyone around.   He admits to being overwhelmed right now.

 

The grandfather clock he brought from London strikes 0630 hours.  This morning George, still severely shaken by this unsolicited personal violation, is slumped in the armchair beside the fireplace with a mug of steaming coffee in his hand.  The towelled bathrobe has been replaced by a navy blue leisure suit that he sometimes potters around in at the weekend at home.  He is grateful for the comfort of Hugo’s long head now lying on his heavy woollen socks. 

 

An hour and a half later, he is back sitting at the window seat where he usually works, still absently checking recent emails on his laptop.  Hugo opens an almond-shaped eye as the thud of the mobile phone reverberates from the table.  George has just spoken to Stephen.  This is his fourth book and the first time that he has run up against a problem following a character.  His gaze catches the wretchedness of his new car collapsed on the gravel, purchased from the total proceeds of his first three books.  It was a treat to himself.  He looks away.

‘If I were in London now, I would have the familiar police network to turn to but only three months living in Ireland, I’m up shit creek without a paddle’ he struggles to articulate aloud. Hugo grunts. 

 

The talk with Stephen, his friend in Dun Laoghaire, has helped.  With a jolt he acknowledges just how much he depends on him here.  In the yacht club, where he is a member, Stephen sometimes crews on a boat owned by a recently retired Superintendent from the Irish Police Force, the Gardai.  ‘Leave it with me George.  Remember Mick is a fan of your books.  He has all three!   I’ll be in touch as soon as I have any news’ were his promising, parting words delivered in a kind, compassionate way, as he laid the phone on the table.  Stephen has never let him down in all the decades he’s known him.  A weak glimmer of warmth is returning to George’s inner body.  The dependable default mode in him to somehow find a reasonable solution to an unreasonable situation is kicking in.

 

‘We’re outsiders here Hugo’ George splutters to the dog now stretched out beside him on the window seat, absently flicking dog hair from the cushion as Dobermans shed all year round.  ‘I thought we were settling in very well to the unfamiliar lifestyle here.  Even beginning to get my head around the general absence of discipline on the street’.  He fondles Hugo’s ears to distract him.  ‘Ireland is a beautiful country.  Dublin is a fine city.  I’m grateful to live here now.  Just look at what Brexit is doing to Richard!  When we started working together nine years ago I particularly admired his relaxed way of getting things done in the world of publishing’.  The dog sits up lazily and lies down again on the opposite side.  ‘It’s just the general ‘laissez-faire’ mentality of some of the people here that I struggle with most.  I’m sure there are lots of Irish who feel as I do too but they’re not in charge of things!’ Hugo acknowledges the softening of his master’s mood with a definite look of approval before closing his eyes again.

 

Suddenly, George realises that this is the first time he has articulated these thoughts out loud.  ‘Strange things happen one alone without even knowing it’ he murmurs quizzically, abandoning  any semblance of checking his emails while stroking the dog beside him more intently.  ‘I got up earlier today in an attempt to reduce the pressure that I’m now feeling from Richard.  I try to stop looking out at the car.  Now, I’m too shaken to think straight never mind write anything’.  Hugo lifts his head to look deep into his eyes.  ‘I have to report this grotesque act of vandalism.  It’s not just an abomination involving deliberate destruction and damage to my new car.  It’s a blatant threat, not just to me, to you but also indirectly to Clara Browne’.  He finds to his surprise that he is fretting about her.

 

George glances at the grandfather clock this evening.  It has just struck the quarter hour.  A quarter past six.  He opens the door to welcome the occupant of the car that has deftly parked outside.  A burly man in his late-thirties gets out of the unmarked vehicle.  The sun is setting as he closes the door.

‘Sit’ George commands firmly to Hugo, who is not used to visitors here.  The dog complies, is stroked by the plain clothes policeman and returns obediently to the hearth where he lies down.

‘Detective Sergeant Gerry O’Toole, Rathmines station’.  George can only describe the buffed accent emanating from the mask as rural but there is something about the tone that instantly puts him at his ease.  The man throws him a shrewd look, hiding weariness after a long day on the job.  George feels a strong sense of empathy.

‘George Wilson’ he replies, pulling a mask out of the pocket of his jeans, remembering to keep his six and a half feet distance.

The darkness outside highlights the comforting ambiance of the sitting room at Weir Cottage.  The table by the window is set for one.  The scent of beef lasagne invades the room.  George popped a generous portion of Tesco Finest into the oven some fifteen minutes ago.

Impulsively and uncharacteristically, George decides to ask the cop to dine with him.

 

‘The boys in white were here?’ Gerry O’Toole utters as he takes a sip of his red wine.  ‘Never ceases to amaze me what a retired Super can still achieve’!

‘Yeah.  They came circa noon. Spent about an hour dusting around’ confirmed George.  ‘I arranged for the car to be towed away to the garage probably an hour later.  I also took lots of photographs myself’.  The way fingerprints can be enhanced and compared these days using computed automated systems, such as AFIS, gives him some hope of getting something on this guy.

‘I stopped by the garage on Rathgar avenue to take a look at it for myself on the way here.  Whoever did it hates your fucking guts’.  Gerry takes another sip of wine.  ‘Thanks to Mick’s intervention, the evidence found will be analysed by our computerised databanks using the latest advanced analytical chemical techniques, so hopefully they find something for us to go on’ continues Gerry as he takes a mouthful of beef, eye-balling George.

‘What I’m interested in right now are the words on your car’ the cop continues to look George head-on before carefully posing his question ‘what do you make of them’?

‘Naturally you want to know who is the woman’? to which Gerry nods, breaking a piece of garlic bread.

‘Her name is Clara Browne.  I’ve never spoken to her.  In fact, I would be pretty certain that she knows next to nothing about me’.

‘Yeah.  Mick filled me in on the complex circumstances’  assures Gerry before adding sceptically ‘Frankly I’m amazed that this is your fourth book and your first problem following people’!

‘Surveillance is my forte’ George replied firmly and with pride. 

 ‘I’ve been following her since the second of February.  In fact, I had decided to stop this weekend as I have more than enough to go on for my purposes’  he tells the policeman candidly, thinking ‘why am I so loathe to let her go?’

‘A most intriguing way of writing, I must say’ acknowledges the cop somewhat caustically, taking in the ex-London Policeman’s discomfort while giving him credit for hiding it well.

George takes a deep breath, locking eyes with Gerry O’Toole. 

‘It was while I was following her that I quickly realised that she was being stalked by another, probably without her knowledge but I’m not sure of that’.

The hard-nosed detective puts down his knife and fork, fumbles for a notebook and pen in the bowels of his jacket

‘OK, Georgie, shoot’!

 

‘It’s been some day of ‘firsts’ Hugo’ George talks to his dog as they both curl up on the sofa by the fireplace.  ‘To start with, running up against it while following a character’.  The grandfather clock interrupts his list striking 10 o’clock. ‘Then, the intense feeling of being an outsider in a foreign place and to top it all, dining with someone here’!  George opens his second can of Budweiser with a flourish.  He is allowing himself to zone out tonight.

 

Stretching languidly to his CDs, neatly stacked on a shelf beside the mantlepiece, he selects ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush.  He celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday the day after the album was released in the UK in August 1985.

He has never tired of looking at the sleeve.  The sensuality of the singer-songwriter recumbent on lilac, crowned by dark, curly hair, wearing a glossy lilac gown with the head of a brown dog lying on her chest still excites him.  The connection between woman and dog is at the soul of it all.  He loads the disc, albeit more awkwardly than usual, into the laptop beside him and selects ‘Running Up That Hill’ from the touchscreen.

‘You don’t want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I’m tearing you asunder

Ooh, there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love?

Tell me, we both matter, don’t we’?

 

He carefully places his empty beer can beside the first on the mantlepiece.   ‘Not bad precision’ he congratulates himself.  This is the signal for Hugo to go outside before retiring.  Standing in front of the fireplace, the now slightly tipsy George is also comforted by the heat and the light in the grate.  He knows only too well that the wicked wretchedness will return in a few hours but that doesn’t concern him now.  Strangely, the happenings of the day have released something in him, something that has been locked up for too long.  He is exhausted but on the other hand exhilarated. 

 

All of a sudden full of questions.  Is it simply the intoxication of the two cans of beer as opposed to his usual one can only?  Why does Kate Bush bring Clara to mind?  The sound of Hugo at the door interrupts his thoughts.  ‘Time for bed old chap’ he calls as he opens up to let the dog in before turning the key and drawing the heavy bolt across the door.

‘How strange life is’ he muses to Hugo, his voice slurring a bit, ‘that sick bastard has made me feel young again’!

Chapter 6  in May  edition

Chapter 1, 2 , 3 & 4
published in December 21, January 22, February 22, March 22 editions
Find now on 'Perception' Page