1st Neighbourhood Watch.

Neighbourhood Watch.

The moon casts its silvery sheen on the manicured garden. 

She hears the wild dogs barking in the forest beyond. Why do dogs always bark or howl on moonlit nights, she ponders. Is it a primeval instinct of the pack when they see the moon? 

Lying in bed listening to the howling dogs, she gingerly massages her left hip. I must see Dr Patel about my arthritic hip joint. Will he say I’m too old for a hip replacement? Oh, what is it about age when sleep eludes thee. Grandmother used to say it’s the witching hour when ghouls and ghosts roam the earth seeking for souls to steal. But ghosts and ghouls do not exist. They are creations of the irrational mind or so says Professor Dawkins.  

‘Mabel,’ she admonishes herself. ‘Stop it. Stop this interior monologue. You’re beginning to sound like Hamlet’s alter ego.’

She sits up, reaches for the analgesics, and downs a glass of water. 

A cold fear grips her. What is that sound? Someone or something is prowling about in her neighbour’s garden. There had been reports of burglaries, of cars stolen with the owners caught unawares. What if it is a prowler trying to break into her home?

Dragging her left foot, she hides behind the lacy curtains as she watches the activity in her neighbour’s garden.  

Moonlight illuminates her neighbour, carefully unearthing a prepared patch of earth camouflaged by large flowerpots. What’s Professor Bolton up to, she wonders. He’s a keen gardener. But, at this hour of the night? He looks like a Cyclops with that ridiculous headlamp. Hmm!

‘The Old Dog. Up to mischief, no doubt,’ she mutters.  Always so polite, spouting ritualistic behaviour, Egyptian mummies, and the afterlife. He’d soon know about the afterlife, if his wife finds out about that pretty young thing who claims to be his PhD student. ‘Collaborating on a paper about Mythos and Egyptian Mummies, he had said.’ She observes the professor as he carefully removes a wooden casket wrapped in thick plastic sheeting. It’s too small to be a coffin. But I wonder what the Old Devil is up to.

The neighbour looks up. He sees the slight movement of the curtain, and Mabel’s silhouette as she steps away from the window. ‘Well! I’ll be damned,’ he says. It’s nosy Mabel. Always sticking her nose in other people’s affairs. Those eyes never miss much.  He smiles to himself. Not to worry She’s not the full quid. ‘She’ll have forgotten all about it by the morning.’

A week later, Professor Bolton is sitting in his study. His wife Rita  appears in the doorway. 

‘Henry,’ she says, ‘You must stop.’

‘Stop what, Dear,’ he murmurs, as he peers at her through his horn-rimmed glasses.

‘Stop before it kills you.’

‘Rita, what on earth are you taking about? Too much sun in Barbados, Darling? Some of us have been working whilst you’ve been on your long holiday.’ 

‘Can’t sit here chatting, you know. The paper won’t write itself. My keynote address on Egyptian Mummies and the Mythos of Reincarnation, for the conference next week. Remember?’

‘Stop the pretence, Henry. You know what I’m talking about.’

‘And what is that Rita,’ he asks, smiling as if he were humouring a child.

‘Your drinking. It has to stop. It will kill you.’

‘Drinking? Are you crazy? I’ve not touched a drop. You’re being ridiculous. I stopped months ago. You know that.’ 

Rita shakes her head. She points to the table in the kitchen to a large wooden casket lined with deep-purple silk. Within the oak casket are bottles of amber gold single malt whisky, like gods waiting to be honoured in some libation ceremony.

Henry looks perplexed. ‘How on earth did you find the oak casket? Rita. You never garden! It was the perfect hiding spot!’

‘Henry, my darling,’ Rita says, as she empties the single malt whisky bottles down the sink, ‘Never underestimate the power of Neighbourhood Watch. Even the ones you think don’t know what is going on. If you must know, I had morning tea with Mabel. She was convinced you had done away with your PhD student.’

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