I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger yesterday… Will Monty escape from the Peasemarsh Pound? Will the other dogs escape too? Can he find his way home? And which home? To Rose, the young detective who has adopted him? Or, Paddy’s place, the home of his murdered master.
‘What about you, Ralph?’
The Staffie hasn’t moved. He has his back to me, his head on his paws, his shoulders slumped.
‘What’s the point?’ he says, his voice as rough as sandpaper.
‘You’re never getting out of here.’
‘It’ll all be over tomorrow,’ he sighs.
I look at his report card. Tomorrow at ten he’s being ‘put to sleep’.
‘Ralph, mate! Save yourself!’
Ralph shrugs. His spirit is broken. I don’t have time to argue so I lift his latch, just in case he changes his mind. Other dogs are barking at me to free them, so I flick their latches. There are eleven of us.
‘How do we get through this door?’ asks Taz, head-butting it repeatedly.
The doorknob is a long smooth stainless steel handle that you push down to open. I shove Taz aside, raise my forepaws and stand tall against the door. I bring my chin down on the handle and click, the door opens outward and I fall into a dark corridor. The other dogs go berserk and stream past me. There’s a bottleneck of furry bottoms and wagging tails at the other end of the corridor where there’s another closed door. I open it.
A tsunami of dogs bursts into the reception area with destructive force. Taz collides with a chair on wheels, which then smacks into shelves of medication. Pharmaceutical packets rain down on him. Charlie, a Jack Russell, sets about tearing at bags of dried dog food and the others pile in.
I pad over to the entrance doors, which look out onto a small car park, now empty. I sit, my head cocked to one side, as I contemplate the sturdy double doors which stand between us and freedom. The doors are key-locked. But there is no key. Hurrumph.
Taz is ripping apart boxes of flea treatment and then spitting out their bitter contents. Behind the reception desk I find lots of cables (if I had time they might be worth a chew), a waste-paper basket – unfortunately empty of titbits to eat – a filing cabinet, but no keys. There must be another way out? An open consulting room door beckons me. I investigate and give a howl of joy: a casement window is ajar. I do a full circle to ready myself and then jump, landing on the examination table. With a paw, I lift the casement stay and nudge the window wide open.
‘In here!’ I call.
They stampede towards me. The small room becomes a sea of seething strays.
‘OK. One at a time. Up on the table and then out the window. Mind the box hedge. Beyond the car park is a busy road. So watch out for cars.’
I feel like their mother.
Taz is first. He leaps through the window and zooms off down the street yelling, ‘Oh boy oh boy oh boy!’
The other dogs follow, except Charlie, whose little legs are too short to leap onto the table.
‘I’m done for,’ he says and hangs his scruffy head.
I hop down.
‘Can you jump onto my back and then the table?’ I ask.
His little tail wags so fast it blurs and his bushy eyebrows bristle. ‘Can I ever!’
I position myself as close to the table as possible. He leaps onto my back but falls off the other side. On the fourth attempt he reaches the table top, dives out of the window, bounces off the box hedge and lands in the car park.
‘Thanks, mate,’ he yaps.
Finally, it’s my turn and I dive through the open window.
The pound’s car park has no lighting but the street lights bathe everything in an iodine orange glow. Traffic rattles by. I sniff the air, hoping for a clue to where I am. But none of the smells are familiar: petrol and diesel fumes, beer and cigarettes, and the tantalising smell of pizza.
Ralph’s broad, scarred face appears at the open window. Despite his missing back leg, he fearlessly jumps into the box hedge, rolls over and rights himself, leaving a deep dent in the shrubbery. He stands stock still, staring at me.
‘You ever need help, leave a wee-mail, and I’ll find you. Name’s Jake, not Ralph, by the way.’
Then he skips off at surprising speed for a three-legged fellow. I squeeze through a hole in the perimeter hedge and poke my head out the other side. There is a pub opposite and next to it, a petrol station. Further down the street is a pizza place with one of those little delivery scooters parked outside. Marco’s Pizzas, the sign says. Ah, mozzarella, bacon, ham, pepperoni … I am lost for a while, and then snap out of it. I know those hypnotic aromas. I remember the name on the box. Paddy used to get pizza from there, so I can’t be too far away.
I miss Paddy and long for his familiar scent. I’m going home.
That’s the end of the short story, but if you’ve enjoyed it, you’re sure to love Monty & Me, published by Avon Books/Harper Collins. The hardback goes on sale on 22 October. There’s an ebook too!