[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]
We follow the receptionist out the back, into a cavernous room with a leather-upholstered table in the middle. Between two benches on the right-hand wall is a large metal door.
‘He’s in the freezer,’ says the receptionist, motioning to the metal door.
She puts on a lined parka and opens up the freezer door, pushing down hard on the handle.
‘Did you manage to determine the cause of death?’ asks Gina.
‘Well, we had assumed that it was something he ate.’
‘You haven’t done the autopsy yet, then?’ The receptionist stares at her.
She frowns at Gina. It’s partially a frown of confusion, but there’s some indignant something-or-other in there as well. ‘You want a necropsy?’ she asks. ‘I’m sorry, Miss . . .’
‘Miss Reynolds. I’m afraid that only your aunt herself can request a necropsy. It’s a rather delicate and serious matter, best left to the next of kin.’
‘But I am next of kin,’ Gina says.
‘Well, technically, yes,’ says the receptionist, ‘but you weren’t Gavin’s actual owner, if you see what I mean.’
‘But my aunt asked me to enquire about the possibility. She just wanted to be sure—you know, to be sure that she was right about her suspicions.’
Gina clears her throat. ‘She thinks—though I don’t necessarily agree—that her mailman poisoned Gavin—Jeeves—with some chicken or something.’
‘She thinks her mailman killed her dog?’
‘But that’s ridiculous!’ I say. ‘Whoever heard of something so patently ludicrous?’ Both Gina and the receptionist stare at me. That same look again. ‘Well, it is pretty dumb, don’t you think?’ I say, sheepishly. ‘A mailman murdering a dog. Stupid. If you ask me.’
‘As I was saying, Miss Reynolds,’ the receptionist ignores me, ‘only your aunt herself can ask me to perform a necropsy. I can understand why she would want such a thing, but there are procedures to follow.’
‘Aunt Abby asked me to ask on her behalf. She doesn’t want to be there for it, but she does want to know for sure if it was the mailman. She’s too traumatised by the loss to come in person. I’m sure you under- stand.’ With this last, Gina goes into her uber-charming mode, only just stopping short of batting her eyelashes.
‘Of course it wasn’t the mailman,’ I say. ‘That’s just stupid.’
‘Steven, can you be quiet, please?’
I shut up.
‘Look,’ says the receptionist. ‘If your aunt calls me tomorrow morning, I can do the necropsy in the afternoon. Tell her that she doesn’t have to be here, but that I do need to speak to her personally.’
Gina nods. ‘Well, okay. I’ll get Aunt Abby to call you tomorrow, but could I still just see Jeeves now?’
‘Certainly. I’ll bring him out.’ She opens the freezer door again and steps inside.
‘Why would the receptionist do the autopsy?’ I whisper.
‘Necropsy. She’s not the receptionist. She’s the vet.’
‘But she was behind the desk,’
‘She’s wearing a white coat.’
‘I can see that. I thought it was just a uniform.’
‘It is. A vet’s uniform.’ Our squabble is interrupted by a cry from the vet.
The two of us bound towards the freezer. The vet is standing beside a stainless-steel trolley. There is no Doberman corpse to be seen. Above the trolley, on the side wall of the freezer, which would be the back wall of the surgery, is a small window, about two metres from the floor. Directly underneath is a pile of shattered glass.
‘I don’t believe it,’ says the vet. ‘Someone’s stolen your dog.’
Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.