When noon came, the residents responded as Walter had hoped. Dawn, Scruffy and Scruffy’s six-pack of Allium’s all made their way towards number five and were each greeted with a sour glance from Walter who led them inside. Nora turned up soon after. They waited a short while in poorly orchestrated silence for Joe’s arrival but Walter was anxious to start.
“I’ll get straight to the point. One of you here has betrayed me.” Walter began.
“You what?” said Dawn.
“François! Someone has taken François.”
“You mean that pathetic toy of yours?” chuckled Scruffy. Walter’s dog growled at him.
“I mean, Mr Snogheart, my priceless artefact from my travels in Ublivia! My most valued possession, my life, my… my love! All four of you, including that unsavoury being from next door, are suspects.”
“Oh Heavens!” replied Dawn.
“So let’s get right down to it, shall we? Steven, it is clear that you are still holding a grudge against me for the measures I took against our mole problem.”
“Poor little buggers”
“Moreover, you are ignorant of the societal norms we all hold dear, though I don’t suppose you know what that means.”
“What? I was not!” Scruffy retorted, largely unaware of both his location, and the spittle that just vacated his mouth.
“Dawn, I know you see a lot more in art than many and while your tastes – if your creations are anything to go by – aren’t quite as sophisticated as mine, I’m sure you might know somebody who might be after it.”
“Well I’ll be!” Dawn said, but Walter continued.
“Nora, you’re a self-confessed kleptomaniac and that Joe… Well he’s avoided this meeting all together. And that is highly suspicious! Scruffy, where were you yesterday morning?”
“As per usually, I was at the café. Oh an’ I saw Nora go by with quite a face on ‘er” replied Scruffy.
“How dare you!” said Nora, borrowing the dog’s bark “Suggesting such a bloody thing! I’d been at work all morning! But, but Scruffy was spitting insults about you, Walter!”
“It couldn’a’been me, Wulter, it couldn’a… couldn’a been me! The ‘ole bleedin’ village knows I can’t sneak about for nothin’ after a few pints. Why don’t you ask ‘er?” Scruffy lazily flopped his arm in the rough direction of Dawn Peters. “She…er… she…woah…” His eyes glazed over, finding a deeper meaning to life in the ever expanding eyes of the dribbling dog.
“Erm… well?” Walter questioned Dawn.
“Surely you’re not serious? What would he know? Lord knows I wouldn’t steal! By the word of God himself, I’m no sinner. It must have been Joe! All those secrets. That ridiculous get up. It isn’t right! He’s up to something, I tell you. You can’t trust a man who doesn’t dress as God intended! ‘No socks, no service’ as our John used to say! The heathen! Why, I bet he took your lawnmower last winter too, Nora.”
“I lost two pennies and a guinea-pig as well that winter. It was a cold and lonely Christmas without Martin by my side. I tried CPR, I tried the mini-guinea defibrillator but his little heart just couldn’t take any more. It’s a miserable old life… Oh Martin, if only you could see the grass now! Your little legs would be lost in it…”
“See! In the name of the Lord, let’s execute the bastard!”
“Yeah!” Screamed Scruffy, throwing his final, half full can across the room. “Wait…what?”
Walter left the room, leaving the two present residents, and the semi-present Scruffy to get riled up while he weighed up his options.
A few minutes passed before Walter returned, hunting rifle in hand like back in Ublivia.
“To Joe’s!” commanded Walter. His dog ran out before him to dig his paws into the earth. They all followed Walter through the door and collided on the hippo-hide door-mat. Joe was standing a few metres in front of the house with a pistol in his hand. The residents hung, paralysed in the doorway. Walter held his rifle tight, Dawn clutched at her crucifix and Scruffy grabbed for a beer that wasn’t there. Joe lifted the gun and turned it, pointing into his mouth.
“I-I’m sorry” whispered Joe. He squeezed the trigger. A small, white pellet came out the barrel. It refreshed his gums. It was a novelty mint dispenser.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I’ve got to tell you something. I saw who took François. It was-” but before he could finish, Walter’s dog ran by them with something in his mouth… It was François.