PIC Background Jeremy Hynes
top drawer journalist
(podcast 1, episode 3)
PIC Thomas Cantwell is with IAN O'DOHERTY
by Diana Darcy
(podcast 1, episode 1)
by Alex K Delph
(podcast 1, episodes 2 & 4)
PIC Juja Han
by Steffi Baker
(podcast 1, episode 5)
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
Doberman, Joshua Daniel
German Shepherd, Sofia Guaico
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.
Exactly as he said it would be. George Wilson is standing under the tall sycamore tree in the small green at the entrance to Cranmore, off Greenmount road. As Clara approaches with Edwin, Hugo moves directly in front of George protectively. She feels apprehensive. In fact, his text of last night made her distinctly uneasy.
‘Please can I call to set up a meeting as I have news. George’.
It was a warm early April night. She tossed and turned. Every time she woke up she wondered about the news. At one point, Edwin was there, looking decidedly perturbed. Then, around dawn that wretched dream that haunts her –
…She is alone. Desperately trying to run away from someone but she cannot see who. It is pitch dark. The terrain is uneven. At first the silence is deafening. Then, a slow tap begins, followed by another slightly louder tap followed by another faster and louder tap. Mesmerised by the increasing penetration of the sound. Paralysed with fear. She cannot move. The pursuer is getting nearer and nearer. The breathing is heavy and course…
What a relief to turn off the alarm and get up.
George Wilson takes a step forward, holding Hugo short.
‘Thanks for seeing me Clara’. Instinctively, Clara looks around her.
‘It’s OK’ George cuts in ‘I’ve just taken a good look. He’s not here’.
‘Good’ says Clara as Hugo growls low at Edwin, held tight too.
‘Gerry O’Toole, the detective inspector I already mentioned to you, stopped by last evening’.
A deep intake of breath from Clara as she nods. George registers the tension in her.
‘Forensics found nothing’ he declares baldly. ‘The car was clean. It is as I feared. This man is thorough, precise and ultra-cautious’.
There is an immediate slump in Clara’s gait. She hoped against hope that something would be found. Anything. The long-term frustration of being on the receiving end of behaviour that would put a regular person behind bars and being unable to do anything about it has taken its toll on Clara. She admits to herself that she pinned too much hope on her conversation with George Wilson two days before.
‘The local Gardai will keep a general eye on him but that’s it’. George conveys the message that he received from Gerry. ‘There simply isn’t enough on him to merit any further attention from us at this time’ the dogmatic voice of the detective resounds in his head.
‘I know what that means’ exploded Clara. ‘Whenever a squad car happens to be passing his house in Donnybrook they will take a look in and check if his car is there or something innocuous like that’ her voice crackles as she comes face-to-face with her own vulnerability in all of this. Then, a gentle nudge from Edwin. Reassuring to have a devoted German Shepherd by her side almost all of the time. Clara instantly perks up.
‘You did your best George. I’m sorry about the car but glad about the book’ she adds wickedly. ‘You have provided me with concrete information’ There is an audible sigh. ‘’Concrete’ has been in short supply so thanks’.
‘The way I see it, there are two choices’ George begins ignoring her sign-off. A flash of confusion passes across Clara’s face.
‘He can interpret that I have stopped following you in response to his vile threats. Victory. If it was just me, this is the one I’d go for’.
‘It seems to me the only way to go’ Clara replies squarely. ‘He will lay off you now’.
‘But what about you Clara’? George interjects sharply.
‘I’ll tell Paul. He’ll know what to do’ she answers almost automatically.
‘Paul has been a huge help to you in getting to the bottom of this exceptional experience and exceptional it is but what more can he do now’? George looks Clara straight in the eye.
She looks away.
‘The other option is for me to set a trap for him’, George fills the silence between them. The salient shock initially flusters her. Feels like there are a hundred things going on in her head at the same time. The thoughts all clamouring for expression.
‘Why would you want to do that? Get embroiled in this wretched business’ she says aloud.
‘I am a policeman Clara. Inadvertently, I have uncovered a potentially dangerous situation. I cannot live with myself if I don’t try to do what I can about it’. George Wilson’s words are deliberate. She hears integrity there.
‘What sort of trap’? Clara enquires quietly.
‘He attacked my car because he thinks that he and I share the same agenda’ George continues. ‘What if we give him the impression that we are seeing each other’?
‘You mean ‘red rag to a bull’ tactics’ Clara replies somewhat suspiciously. ‘He will go ballistic’ she cries ‘and what will happen to me then’?
‘I have thought of little else since the detective left me yesterday. I’m proposing it because I believe that I am the one at risk, not you’.
Clara carefully manoeuvres Edwin closer to the thick tree trunk but maintaining a safe distance from Hugo who growls low in a begrudging sort of way. She needs to lean against the tree.
‘It’s me he wants rid of, he won’t harm you’, George explains ‘you are his fantasy, he will protect that at all costs’.
Clara rubs her chin between index finger and thumb, her eye following a blackbird flitting about the lower branches.
‘Why should you put yourself at risk for me’? she poses the question thoughtfully.
‘I’ll put it this way’ George responds firmly. ‘I need to give you the choice. Whatever you decide to do will be fine with me’.
Close by a blackbird is tapping against the hard ground in search of food for his young. His eagerness momentarily distracts both of them. The dogs pull hard in unison. Clara straddles Edwin in a bid to contain his inherent instinct to chase. She holds him as tight as she can between her thighs. When he settles a bit, she looks up at George.
‘What if he murders you’? Her words hang in the air as the blackbird continues to tap, suspended in silence.
‘I know what I’m about Clara. You’ll simply have to trust in my experience of these things’.
‘This is what I call playing with fire’ Paul declares in his loud booming voice. ‘Yesterday you told me that a writer was following you for his current novel in progress which is damn unusual. Today you tell me the same writer has given you a choice that involves giving the impression of ‘seeing’ him. It’s downright dangerous Clara’!
Paul is worked up. Clara hates it when he gets like this. While confronting a thorny subject, she tries to moderate him somewhat by reminding him of his own shortcomings. Only from her point of view, naturally.
‘It was treacherous , for my general reputation, when you suggested a few years back that I sign up to a dating website in order to draw McDuff out of his comfort zone’.
‘We both agreed that it had to be done’ Paul cuts across her
‘It worked. You have to agree that it worked’. The military victory in his voice is still perplexing to her.
‘Yes, McDuff couldn’t handle it when I was dating someone I didn’t want to be with’. How Clara hated that time. ‘I did it in the hope that I could get something concrete on him, something tangible that I could pursue’ Clara concedes.
‘We both agreed that it was the right thing to do Clara’, Paul’s voice is virtuous. She detests how he has to always be right. Everything is fine between them as long as she doesn’t challenge him. Most of the time that’s how it is. She has learned to only fight the battles that she must win.
‘Yes, but I had to deal with the reality of being dismissed as a cheat when it was in fact you who sat with me and paid for the account’!
There is a sharp audible intake of breath. ‘Why are we going back over old ground now Clara’? It is clear that Paul is losing his patience.
‘Because you don’t seem to understand just how undermining all of this was for me personally at the time. Of course that’s all changed now. I make a point of calling it as it is to everyone– we are family’.
‘Clara, that’s how I talk about us too’, Paul acquiesces dispassionately.
She recalls how long it took for him to stop the pretence that they were living as a married couple. Even when she explained in detail the impact his refutation of the truth to outsiders was having on her. How it made her look. He didn’t seem to understand. He was comfortable with the pretence so that was all that really mattered. In the end, he had no choice. It was the condition that she insisted on before deciding to stay in his house. Everything came down to nuts and bolts, as most things do. In short, they both need to be family.
‘I accept that this is deadly dangerous in a very different sort of way. What are your principal concerns’ ? Clara poses the question in an accommodating voice, watching Paul pull his bulk out of the armchair before taking a turn around the large sitting room. He always does this when he is trying to figure something out. She needs to hear all that he has to say on the subject.
‘We know next to nothing about this Englishman except what he tells you. Last night I checked out his published books on Books Depository and they exist alright. Even seem to be quite good’ Paul stops at the tall walnut sideboard and turns around to face Clara. ‘What if you fall for him’?
‘I’ve only just come to terms with the loss of McDuff in my life, I mean the loss of the man I believed him to be. It’s taken years. It will be a long time before I’m ready to open myself up to someone again’ Clara affirms with conviction.
‘OK, I accept that’, Paul knows when Clara is adamant so cleverly selects another track.
‘What if McDuff targets you, or even worse me? He doesn’t like me you know and that is some understatement’!
Clara is visibly chagrined by the stark selfishness of the man whose house she lives in. She has long observed a certain coldness in him, an abstract absence of sensitivity to the feelings of others. Almost a lack of awareness of the requirements of a given situation. Yet, he takes good care of her. They support each other in the cut and thrust of what life throws at them. He has the courage of his convictions. She feels a strong family commitment to him, the sort she might have felt for a loved parent. An image of her mother sitting in her velour recliner in the stuffy sitting room in Sandymount waiting for something flashes through her mind. It saddens her to acknowledge that she has no emotional attachment to the eighty-two year old woman. Paul is only a half-dozen years her junior and yet look at the active lifestyle he leads. She admires the way he gets stuck in to everything that interests him and he has so many varied interests. ‘How paradoxical life really is’ she thinks.
‘George believes that he will be the target. He says that McDuff will protect his fantasy at all costs’ Clara forces the words out. Paul stops pacing the room and walks over to where she is standing in the half-light by the large Georgian window.
‘If George is murdered, where does that leave us’ Paul interjects almost before she has finished?
‘What do you mean’? Clara asks quietly
‘Well, it would effectively be us who put his life in danger. This is the sort of thing that would come out in court’. He looks out the window down on to the street below. A squad car speeds by with full siren.
‘If I don’t take this opportunity to nail him, I will regret it for the rest of my life’. Clara’s voice cuts into his fears of finding himself on the wrong side of the law.
‘Right Clara! Your mind is made up. How best can we go about this’?
‘That was what I was hoping you would say’ Clara smiles softly.
‘I suggest that the three of us should meet and formulate a plan’ Paul continues briskly. ‘Perhaps he might come to dinner’?
‘We certainly can’t eat out with the restaurants closed’ Clara thinks practically.
‘He has a dog you know’ she adds cautiously looking sideways at Paul.
‘The dog can stay in the garden with Edwin’ he declares ‘ a bit of company will be good for him’.
Clara is thinking of how Edwin will respond to Hugo in ‘his’ garden. This is yet another thing that wouldn’t be considered by Paul.
She is happy that he is getting stuck in to this. She needs him there.
‘Set it up Clara. The sooner the better’ he booms as he walks out of the room with gusto.