In The Doghouse
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Jerry Thorne is on the run with a greyhound, and nowhere left to turn for safety but an old one-time friend, Mike Brown. Which could be a huge mistake. Not only did Jerry have a crush on the man back in the day, Mike happens to be a cop and has no wish to take in the two strays…
I'm a coward. A fully paid up, card-carrying and devoutly fervent coward and I've never made any secret of it. And I like my kneecaps just the way they are. Which is why I was heading out of London as fast as the car could take me on a particularly fogged-in January night. Not only fog, but frost and black ice as well, I discovered, as we skated round a curve in the Fosse Way. Not all Roman roads are plumb line straight, and the Fosse can kink with the best of them. Don't ask me what I was doing on the Fosse Way—I haven't a clue. I'd initially intended to head north. I have friends in Leeds, and I knew we'd be safe up there. But with Joe Mullins on my tail, I'd stayed away from the main roads.
So, since I was taking which ever turnings panic and instinct suggested, while clutching the steering wheel with the grip of a drowning man on a lifebelt and my foot as heavy on the accelerator as I dared in the weather conditions, I'd gone a bit astray. You don't believe me? Listen, I only discovered I was on the Fosse heading southwest when the road sign loomed out of the murk and informed me that Cirencester was ten miles away. On the plus side, as far as I could tell, no one was following us.
The reason why I was haring around the country like a panicked greyhound was—a greyhound. Spot, aka Edie's Lightning, all ridiculously long legs, ditto tongue, and soulful eyes, patrolled my Renault's back seat, shedding brindle and white hair on my upholstery as he went from one window to the next.
Normally I worked at the Customer Information Desk in my local branch of Lloyds Bank. In my spare time I was a member of Brayswood Harriers, an amateur cycling club. Not exactly Tour de France material, any of us, but we did okay at the inter-county level. I'd taken a week off from the Evil Day Job and my training schedule to stand in for Uncle George in his hardware shop while he and Aunt Edie prepared Spot for his upcoming race. They both were greyhound fanatics, and had two or three around the house for as long as I could remember. Usually it was a couple of older dogs kept as beloved pets when their racing days were over, and a young dog in training. Uncle always named their dogs for Aunt Edie; Edie's Charm, Edie's Surprise, Edie's Gift, Edie's—well, you get the idea. Each dog was as much a family member as a racer, and were great characters in that laidback greyhound kind of way. The current three were Gift, Surprise, and Lightning.
Anyhow, all was well, until things started to go pear-shaped. First, Uncle George's old van failed its MOT and the garage had to order in a part, so I was making deliveries in my Renault. Then he dropped an oilcan, slipped in the resulting mess and buggered up his left wrist. These things come in threes, so I wasn't entirely surprised when he'd come to the shop late this afternoon. His worried expression had been warning enough that things weren't about to improve.
"Do me a favour, Jer, my lad," he'd said. "Take Spot to the vet for me and get her to do a blood test on the quiet. He's as jumpy as a cat on a griddle today, and that's not right. I think he's been nobbled."
I'd scoffed, of course. I mean, the race was tomorrow night, and so far Spot was the odds on favourite. Uncle George loved the skinny streak of greased lightning as much as he did his own kids, and it would no more occur to him to give Spot performance enhancing anything than to shove steroids down the rugby-playing twins' throats. Besides, the local track had drug-testing down to a fine art. He wouldn't get away with it.
But if the dog had been dosed with something and it showed up in the post-race tests, both he and Uncle would be blacklisted, banned, fined, and generally be neck-deep in the manure. Zero tolerance was the watchword for the Brayswood Greyhound Racetrack.
I took a quick glance in the rear-view mirror. The road behind us was clear. In the foreground was Spot, tongue lolling, still going back and forth like a canine metronome. Which was odd. He was normally a pretty laidback kind of character, and even I knew this was excessive. He probably should have been travelling in his crate in the Renault's boot, rather than the back seat, but I hadn't paused to fiddle around with catches and locks. I'd bunged him in the back and taken off like Vettel in pole position at Monaco, and moments later the black BMW was hot on our tail.
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