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Hounded

Damn, the sky seemed so low, bubbling and
roiling just an inch above the chimneystacks of
the decrepit manor house. By the sounds of things
God was shifting His heaviest furniture around up
there, and the rain rattled against the windows like
handfuls of gravel, driven so hard by the icy wind
it actually formed vertical puddles on the glass.
A damnable night. And, doing little to brighten
the situation, circling the shambling house
ceaselessly, in the shadows and undergrowth, a
beast, of some kind, it’s enormous tracks could
be seen in the mud, outside the windows and
doors, the footprints of a gigantic hound, of some
godforsaken breed.
John Watson stood at the window of the drawing
room and regarded the evil night with excitement
trickling electrically through his veins. He was
old, but he could still get it up. His reflection in
the window was faint, ghostly, a smudged chalk
thumbprint on a blackboard. He stepped closer
to the glass, and an old face he barely recognised
loomed toward him, like something dead floating
to the surface of a stagnant pond. The years, and his
illness, had been unkind. The remorseless process
of loss. He had lost a lot of weight, and a bit of
height. He smiled to himself, only a tiny smile, he
couldn’t help it, yet even the tidgiest smirk made
his old eyes crumple and pucker like the derrieres
of two cats. He put his face straight and serious,
and shifted his attention to the reflections of the
people in the room behind him, waiting on his
announcement. The sour and grotesque visage
of little old Lady Wainhouse, her skin a hundred
square inches of horror, warts, boils and diseased
flakes. Her eyes, though, were a beautiful, warm
chocolate brown. But they clashed like a bastard
with the icy blue of her irises.
Watson could feel her gaze burning into him.
She could probably incinerate a turkey from five
hundred yards, the loathsome old witch. When his
back was scorching from the combined impatient
gaze of the audience, and his face chilled by the
cold seeping through the window, he decided to
spin, turn, and face them dramatically. A china
cup rattled, he had startled the vicar, a fart of a
man, so thin, he probably had to run around in
the shower to get wet.
It was unnecessary and ungentlemanly to keep
them all waiting. But he had learned from an
old, sadly no longer with us old friend, a little
showmanship sweetened the pot.
“You are probably wondering why I’ve called you
all here.” Watson began. He had been itching to
say those words for, oh, forever...
He regarded himself as a dog lover, he owned
three, but he was a bite hater. Anyone that saw the
scars on his legs would understand why. Reaching
into his utility bag, he tossed a black wooden ball
high into a tree. It hit the trunk loudly, and rattled
it’s way to the ground through the dripping wet
branches.
He waited silently, scanning the trees and
bushes.
While he waited for the guard dog, the hound
waited for him. Not moving, not blinking, not even
breathing. Not even glancing at the rabbit that
shot close by, startled by the ball.
Five minutes elapsed. Stiles wondered if the dog
had been kept inside, out of the rain.
“Can’t hang around here all night.” Stiles muttered
to himself, and then he took hold of two of the
iron spikes adorning the wall, and heaved himself
up. He despised iron spikes, anyone who saw the
scars on his arse would understand why. He took
three of his trademark black wooden balls, each
with a hole, and he jammed them onto three of
the vicious spikes for protection.
Stiles was a damn good shot with those wooden
balls when necessary, practice made him able
to knock an ant’s hat off from fifty yards without
disturbing its hairstyle. Using them on past jobs,
he had incapacitated X amount of human guards
and two alsations.
His balls were his calling cards.
So to speak.
He always left at least one behind. The ‘Black
Ball’ some called him, those that moved in ‘better’
circles. “Oh dear boy, you’ve been black balled,
how delicious!”
Those who moved in lesser circles knew him as
‘Black Balls’. Which made him sound like some
Outside, while this was going on, a man in black
was scaling the perimeter wall. He was tall, lean,
he seemed to simply float up the brickwork despite
the wind trying to rip him off, a skilled intruder. He
paused only once in his ascent. A spider the size
of a bunch of black hairy bananas regarded him
evilly from it’s home - his fingerhold. If there was
one thing he hated. It was spiders. And bananas.
He scanned the area for a different hold, saw one
and reached for it, then thought no. It was simply
not on for him to be scared of anything. To prove
his merciless intent in the execution of his ‘duties’
the man in black deliberately stabbed his finger
into the hole and crushed the spider dead. Then
he floated higher and peered over the wall into
the grounds of the manor.
He had good reason to believe there would be
a big dog. That was the reason he had some
poisoned meat in his bag.
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