When I told Elizabeth I would pick her son’s cornet up from Thaxby music shop, I wasn’t expecting a confrontation with a killer.
“Remember it closes at four o’clock. He needs it back!”
“Yes, it’s only two o’clock. I need to send a couple of e-mails first, then I’ll go.”
“It’ll be shut if you don’t hurry up!”
“For God’s sake, it’s only fifteen minutes’ drive!”
“He needs it back today, not next week!”
I’d had enough of arguing, I just wanted to get away.
It was a warm summer’s day and, for no real reason, I turned off the Thaxby road to the curiously named Welby Peurorum. I’d walked there once, years before – just a couple of farms and an ancient church – and I thought it’d be nice to take a detour along the unkempt country road and visit the old church again.
Suddenly, I noticed a large black dog ahead on the narrow track, grooming itself. Damn! I pulled up sharply but it ignored me, licking a paw with a huge pink tongue, before taking a long stretch and turning a rectangular head. What the hell? That was no dog! I felt a stab of fear. Don’t panic, I’m safe in here, I tried to reassure myself.
He’d been lying on the road, his nose full of summer, the pads of his paws soaking in the warmth of the tarmac. Then his sensitive ears had detected a new sound. Something distant, metallic, rushing unevenly. It came closer. He felt no fear, he could be away in a split second. Then, around the bend came something he’d not seen before. In an instant, the feline brain scanned countless past impressions for a match. Understanding now, his eyes narrowed, focusing intently on his prey.
As if sensing my fear, the animal suddenly turned and ran towards the car. Its head reared up against the driver’s window and, soundlessly, it bared huge white fangs whilst baleful yellow eyes stared into mine. I slammed the accelerator down and the car roared away.
OK, calm down! It was probably just an escaped pet, likely quite tame. Better go and get that damned cornet from the music shop! Feeling rather queasy, I decided to give the church visit a miss.
“Hello Sir, can I help you?” The rotund, effeminate face of the Thaxby Music Shop owner confronted me.
“Yes, I’ve come to collect my stepson’s cornet,” I said.
He looked confused. “Sorry?”
“Elizabeth, my wife, gave you my stepson’s cornet on sale or return, apparently, but now he needs it back. She said she’d told you.”
“Oh yes, of course. Sorry, there’s a lot going on right now.”
“How d’you mean?”
“Haven’t you heard? A little lad went missing this morning. Delivering papers. They found his bike.”
“No.” I felt a chill run through my body. “That wasn’t out by Welby Peurorum by any chance was it?”
He looked surprised. “As a matter of fact, it was.”
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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