‘We haven’t seen you here before?’ said Walker.
Mrs Bagshaw sat in the corner. Her handbag rested on her lap.
Adolf lay on the table in the middle of the room. Walker gripped the throat of Adolf to stop him moving.
‘I’ve only had him a week,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘He’s a handsome dog,’ said Walker. ‘Pity about the name.’
‘Helen had a strange sense of humour.’
‘The dog looks healthy.’
Walker looked inside the mouth of Adolf. The room had photographs of animals on the walls. Mrs Bagshaw did not like the smell in the room. Walker was tall and a quiet man. In his long white coat he looked very tall.
‘He’s more cooperative with you than me,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
Walker smiled. Mrs Bagshaw was 50 years old and attractive. Her face was wrinkle free, and she had a fine figure. She had a boyfriend at least 15 years younger than her. Some of the people in the village thought it scandalous. When anyone mentioned it to Walker, he raised an eyebrow and said nothing. Walker was only 30 and a little shy but, no, not a difference of 20 years, although Mrs Bagshaw was a woman who would know how to warm a man. Walker felt in between the ribs of Adolf.
‘Helen loved the dog,’ said Mrs Bagshaw. ‘I’ve no idea about dogs. I couldn’t tell you what type he is.’
‘Adolf is a Miniature Schnauzer, affectionate but prone to allergies.’
‘He isn’t friendly with me,’ said Mrs Bagshaw. “I can’t believe he’s just lying there and letting you. He’s had a couple of snaps at me.’
‘Are you going to keep Adolf?’ said Walker.
‘I’m torn,’ said Mrs Bagshaw. ‘He doesn’t make a mess. And if I don’t shout at him, he looks at me with those eyes.’
Adolf twisted his head sideways and stared at Mrs Bagshaw.
‘Aw,’ said Mrs Bagshaw. ‘Do you like animals?’
‘I suppose I must,’ said Walker. ‘I’m not a failed doctor.’
‘I didn’t mean to imply. Helen adored Adolf. She used to take him upstairs to bed. He was always on her lap.’
‘You’ve had to shout at Adolf?’ said Walker.
‘For taking a snap at me, he does his share of growling.’
‘He’s happy with his food?’
‘I feed him what Helen left.’
‘Is he snappy with everyone?’
‘He doesn’t attack the postman. It’s when he’s sitting in the living room. He growls and stares at me as if I am denying him something.’
‘What about when you go to bed?’
Walker had heard that Mrs Bagshaw and her young lover were noted for being enthusiastic and unrestrained lovers. Mrs Bagshaw was slow to answer Walker, as if she was thinking about what happened when she went upstairs with her young lover. Mrs Bagshaw may be 50, thought Walker, but she is as attractive as any other woman in the village.
‘He cries,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘Who cries?’ said Walker.
‘Who do you think, you silly sod, Adolf cries. He’s crying now.’
Walker noticed that Adolf was making a noise. It became quite loud.
‘This could keep you awake at night,’ said Walker.
‘Oh, I always drop off. I have a special ritual that never fails,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘What would that be?’ said Walker.
‘You wouldn’t want to know,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
Probably not, thought Walker. The woman was 50 years old. Walker bent down and sniffed the fur of Adolf.
‘Have you washed Adolf yet?’ said Walker.
‘I’ve only had him a week.’
Walker sniffed the fur of Adolf again.
‘This is where I do my impression of Sherlock Holmes,’ he said. ‘Am I right in thinking that your friend was about your age, attractive and a heavy smoker?’
‘That’s brilliant,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘Adolf stinks of nicotine. I guessed about your friend. If I am right, Adolf has a nicotine addiction. He is missing his fix. We’ll put some Nicorette patches under his fur. We’ll wean him off slowly. Three this week, then two and so on.’
Walker paused and smiled at Mrs Bagshaw who was still thinking about his deductions.
‘We’ll have him healthy,’ said Walker.
He lifted Adolf off the table and patted him on the head. The dog said nothing.
‘I wouldn’t dare pat him on the head,’ said Mrs Bagshaw before she smiled.
Walker handed Mrs Bagshaw the dog lead, and their hands touched for longer than he expected.
Surely not, thought Walker.
A week later Mrs Bagshaw returned to the surgery. Adolf was put back on the table in the middle of the room.
‘He is much quieter, so thank you, but Adolf has a problem with his chest.’
Walker took out his stethoscope and examined Adolf.
‘There is a definite wheeze,’ said Walker.
‘Maybe the Nicorette is affecting his chest,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘It wouldn’t,’ said Walker. ‘Let’s see what happens with the reduced dosage.’
Mrs Bagshaw led Adolf to the door of the treatment room.
‘I don’t understand how you knew that my friend was attractive,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘I couldn’t imagine you having a close friend who wasn’t beautiful,’ said Walker.
Mrs Bagshaw smiled.
A week later Mrs Bagshaw visited the surgery again. Adolf coughed and wheezed so badly the noise affected Walker.
‘This is not the result of Nicorette,’ said Walker. ‘It can’t be.’
Mrs Bagshaw shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
‘He is calmer at night but he wheezes throughout,’ she said.
‘I thought you slept through the night.’
‘I had a friend stay over, and my friend went downstairs,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘What did your friend see?’ said Walker.
‘My friend said there was nothing to see. My friend didn’t hang around downstairs, said the house was too cold at night. Nobody has the heating on at night. My friend thinks the dog is creepy.’
‘I suppose they don’t,’ said Walker. ‘All we can do is try reduced Nicorette. Adolf has a terrible cough.’
Again, Walker and Mrs Bagshaw paused at the door.
‘Well, at least you’re sleeping nights,’ said Walker.
‘Not the same,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
‘I thought you had a ritual.’
‘Not anymore,’ said Mrs Bagshaw and smiled, as did Walker.
A week later Walker was examining a rabbit that had an infected nose when the telephone rang.
‘Mrs Bagshaw,’ said Walker. ‘I was expecting you to visit.’
‘Adolf’s died last night. I saw him die.’
‘Oh, I am sorry, Mrs Bagshaw.’
‘Yvonne,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.’
‘’I’m Terence. People call me Terry.’
‘I saw poor Adolf die. His wheezing woke me up which it had done every night. Terry, my friend was right. This house was cold at night, really cold. Adolf didn’t look like he was going to die. He lay still on the arm of the sofa. Apart from the wheezing, he looked contented.’
‘I am sorry, Yvonne.’
‘I don’t know what to do with poor Adolf. Do I bring him round to you or is there a special place?’
‘Yvonne, I can call round in the morning,’ said Walker
‘I’ll be at home, Terry,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.
Terry Walker did not sound so bad, not as bad as Yvonne Bagshaw, she thought.
‘Look forward to seeing you, Yvonne,’ said Walker.
‘And you, Terry,’ said Mrs Bagshaw who hesitated.
‘Is there something else,’ said Walker.
‘No, no, I’ll see you in the morning.’
Mrs Bagshaw thought she would tell him more after they became friends, which Mrs Bagshaw knew they would. Then she would tell Terry about the living room, which had been as cold as ice and, even stranger, the odd smell of tobacco and perfume that she remembered from when Helen was alive.
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