Dave slammed the telephone receiver down so hard he was honestly surprised the damned thing was still in one piece. So much for the 600 bucks he’d spent on those damned anger management courses. To be fair, nothing had the potential to get him as pissed off as Claudia and her endless bullshit.
He’d called to invite her along on a free trip to Cabo and the stupid bitch had turned him down, over her fucking cat, Mephisto?!? If this wasn’t the last straw then it was pretty damned close.
He understood how fond somebody could be of their pet. He’d had his Rottweiler, Casey, since he’d gotten his first place after college. He couldn’t imagine what life would be like without the big lug, but he sure as hell didn’t plan his entire life around the mutt.
When Dave had been promoted up the line from managing a single auto parts store to branch manager, it meant a LOT of travelling. He’d contacted a couple of different kennels and nearly lost it over what they were asking. It was a dog, NOT a head of state for cripes sake!
Dave’s final call had been to a farm supply store. They delivered two large hog troughs – one for food, one for water. He’d filled them both, ruffled the old dog’s fur and headed off for a five-day run of his territory without a second thought. As he’d expected, Casey was just fine upon his return.
How damned hard would it be for Claudia? It was a mangy old tomcat, after all. If darling Mephisto couldn’t survive a long weekend without his precious owner, then Dave figured it deserved to die. Maybe that was a bit harsh, but those sensitivity classes they’d sent him to had been a fucking waste of money, too.
A six-pack of beer later, Dave came to the alcohol-induced conclusion that enough WAS enough with the cat. He tolerated Claudia’s belief in ghosts, her obsession with witchcraft and her observances of weird-assed pagan holidays, but this was the end of that. Yeah, the cat had to die. Nothing else would do. Maybe that would snap her into the real world and get her to take the needs of her man over a furry throw pillow.
Dave checked his watch and grinned. Claudia worked at an organic health food store that had just gone 24-hour. Her shift would start in about an hour and she would be gone all night. Yeah, time to take out the cat…literally.
Twenty minutes later, he coasted up to her house. He snagged the spare key from under a rock and let himself in. Unless some great change in its habits had occurred, the beast would be a great lump on the end of Claudia’s couch. Dave figured to scoop it into the old burlap bag he’d brought and...well, he hadn’t really thought things out much beyond that, but the river wasn’t that far away.
He didn’t anticipate any trouble bagging the cat. In the three years he’d been dating Claudia, he’d never seen it do anything more aggressive than yawn. He reached the couch and, sure enough, there it was.
Not seeing any need to be especially gentle, Dave grabbed a handful of whatever part of Mephisto he got. The cat awoke with an ear-splitting yowl and sank tiny, sharp teeth into his arm. Stifling a yell, Dave tore the thing loose and tossed it in to the bag. It made a vigorous attempt to get loose and Dave was surprised by its strength. In a burst of anger, he took the bag by the top and slammed it against the wall with tremendous force.
Dave cursed under his breath as he drove away. By the wan light of the street lamps, he could see his forearm was bleeding liberally. Fuck, it hurt! Then and there, he decided the river was too easy. Casey needed a new chew toy anyway.
He made a point of taking his turns extra sharp, listening for the muffled thump as his cargo bounced around the bed of his truck. Back home, he took the bag and, with little ceremony or remorse, lobbed it through the air and straight into Casey’s fenced enclosure. He shoots and scooores, Dave chuckled.
He gave neither animal another thought as he headed into the house to find the first aid kit. He polished off another couple of beers and headed to bed. He didn’t sleep especially well. His dreams were dark and disturbing and every time he rolled over on his injured arm, the pain was enough to jolt him awake.
He awoke groggy and confused. Weak sunlight streamed between the slats of the blinds and he heard odd thumping noises. Struggling out of bed, he heard their voices.
“For the last time, this is the Sunnyvale Police. Either you open the door or, by all that’s good and holy, we WILL take it right off the fucking hinges. Now, open the damned door!”
He complied, of course, and then the nightmares truly began. They cuffed him, none too gently, barely caring if he heard his rights read to him. The interrogation room was small and hot and Dave’s arm was really hurting as they tore in to him with the questions.
Did he want to explain the severed head of a dog some jogger had seen stuck on the fence post by his mail box? Did he cut the head off, because it looked more like it had been ripped off? Never mind that. Could he explain the phone call from Claudia’s boss about her not showing up for work for three days? Yeah, they found her with her throat ripped out, like by an animal. But all of her neighbors swore she didn’t have any pets, just Dave coming and going regularly.
Neither cop understood Dave’s insane babbling about crossing the wrong black cat as his mind snapped and he descended into a dark and lonely version of Hell.