The Mini Pin Pack
Randall came back to consciousness slowly, his sight gradually focusing on Pedro's grizzled face staring at him. Pedro seemed to have a speculative look about him. Randall attempted to move, to get up, but for some reason, his body was not moving when he tried. His fingers moved, a very little, making scrabbling sounds on the ancient tile floor of his aunt's kitchen. Pedro leaped backward at the sound, out of Randall's field of vision. Randall's head didn't seem to want to move, either, though he could feel a pool of warm liquid under his head.
He had come to his Aunt's ancient pile of a country house to ransack her freezer for steaks. His little birthday party was tonight, and he had seen no reason for him to spend good money when he knew his batty old Aunt kept her freezer full of steaks to feed her dam dogs. He wasn't worried about her catching him at it; he knew for a fact that his Aunt's body lay at the bottom of her well. After all, he'd put her body over the edge of it a week ago.
Slowly, the man remembered what had happened. He had had the freezer door open, a pack of hamburger in his left hand, still sorting through the meats for the filet mignon. Pedro leaped for the meat, missed, and rammed into the man's left knee. Already overbalanced, Randall made a vicious kick at the fallen dog, and remembered the blinding pain when his head smacked the corner of the kitchen counter. Dimly, off to his left he could see some packages of meat lying against the open door of the freezer, shifting white shapes within the clouds of cold vapor. Some of the other dogs, the devilish looking Mini-Pins, were nosing at the packages. Several of them were tearing at the frozen meat, then whining in frustration that it was frozen rock solid. They'd been a week with no food, and their formerly sleek bodies were showing ribs. A few turned to sniff at him, whining and then growling. He could hear the others coming, the entire pack of them banking like small banshees, the clicking of their nails on the tile floos a raging hailstorm of sound.
Randall attempted to curse at them, but found that his voice didn't work, either. He heard odd choking and croaking sounds, then realized that was coming from him. Pedro resumed his position, staring into Randall's eyes with the half bold, half cautious look of the wild animal he used to be. Pedro was his Aunt May's "project," a feral dog of mixed ancestry rescued from the wild pack that lived off the garbage and carrion at the County Dump. Randall remembered being extremely disgusted with her for that; just one more of her wasteful stupidities about those nasty dogs of hers. She'd been so proud that Pedro had become one with her pack, the protector dog of the two dozen purebreds she kept in luxury.
Pedro was a wolfish looking thing, jet black with tan like the others- but the size of a small wolf. One would have thought he would have been the Pack Leader. But Pedro cowered to the Old One, the mother of them all, Popcorn. Popcorn, who weight seven pounds, had been the total and undisputed ruler of the household. Had been. She had died several months ago, at long last.
Randall could see the broom handle he'd used to whack the little dogs when he'd come in the kitchen door. The dogs had always hated him. His aunt had a lot of the small dogs; her life work was a world famous kennel of Miniature Pinschers, those evil looking little dogs that people think are miniature Doberman Pinschers. They weren't, but they were savage little beasts when they wanted to be, anyway; bred to be fearless vermin killing machines. Aunt May had let them run loose in the huge house, with dog doors everywhere, and fountains and pools around the house built just for the brutes. They'd actually attacked a would-be burglar once. That man ran screaming hysterically, leaking blood through the house and across the lawn. Aunt May had bragged of her "babies' valor, and had gotten in even more steaks to feed them. Dotty old bag, wasting his inheritance feeding tender first quality steaks to those horrible little yakking things! He'd been white with rage when he found out what she did with that freezer full of meat. Once a month, the delivery truck from the restaurant supply house arrived and filled up the huge freezer in the kitchen with choice beef and chicken, custom deboned and wrapped. God forbid the dogs should have to deal with a bone in their steaks!
His Aunt had been insane, wanting him to be executor of a trust she set up to keep the huge house and property going as a home for the entire pack of dogs. Why, he would have had to wait until the last little beast died to get control of her estate, and he knew for a fact that some of them lived into their twenties. Especially the way she wanted them cared for, spelled out in that will of hers. He'd almost lost his carefully schooled composure in front of her attorney when she'd gone over the the will with him.
He came back to the present with a start. He saw the wolfish face of Pedro within his range of vision. He was revolted to realize that Pedro was licking at the pool of blood under his head. Randall tried to scream, only managing an inarticulate gargle, while his fingertips scrabbled on the tile floor. Pedro leapt back, but not as far or as fast as before. Randall thought viciously that he would poison the dam dog when he got out of this. He'd meant to leave the entire pack to starve to death in the old mausoleum of a house, but one dog dead of rat poison would only look like he'd gotten some of his aunt's. He still had a good supply of the stuff he'd put in his aunt's chocolate. Fat old woman had slobbered all over him every time he'd shown up with a new box of chocolates. He'd injected the rat poison into the heart of the dark chocolate crÃmes he'd brought to "comfort" her last week when he'd arrived to bury that gremlin thing she'd been keeping alive for years. He'd shown up to dig the grave for her beloved eldest dog, Popcorn, the one who'd lived to be 22 years old. He'd barely been able to hold back his disgust when she clutched him to her flabby old body and called him "her angel'. It was an easy thing to "accidentally' cut the phone line with his shovel; he'd been planning this for a long time, knew where the lines were. He'd only had to wait for the wretched old gremlin dog to die, so he would get the call to help bury it. He'd been properly apologetic for "accidentally' hitting the phone line. It was easy to pretend to call the phone company from his cell phone, even offering to leave the phone for the old lady to use. Of course she'd refused, saying she'd be fine.
Now, he rather regretted not just whacking her in the head, so that it looked like she'd fallen in the kitchen like he did. Would have saved HIM a nasty mess to deal with, that's for sure.
When he showed up the next day her contorted body and bed had been covered in a truly awful mess of vomit that was mostly made up of the afore mentioned dark chocolate and raspberry crÃme. The room reeked of it. He'd never be able to tolerate the smell of raspberry OR chocolates again, it was that awful. He'd decided that it was reasonable that she would have tried to reach the neighbors, and had fallen into the well in the dark. He'd showered afterward, and burnt his soiled clothes and the linens from the bed in the fireplace. He carefully re-made the bed, messing it up to look like a body had slept there.
Didn't have to use cold water, though, cause the silly old thing had put a hot water bathing facility out on the deck so that the dam dogs wouldn't have to be bathed in cold water. She had a perfectly fine set up in the kennel room, but she wanted them to be able to enjoy the outdoors in good weather. Idiot, wasting his money like that. He'd never be able to get that money out of the house when he sold it.
But now, he was RICH! Randall allowed himself a moment to gloat, caressing the memory of the huge fortune his aunt had in her estate. He was scheduled to go on vacation tomorrow morning, after his birthday party, and wouldn't get back for two weeks. He knew his aunt's Latino housekeeper wouldn't show up, either. She hadn't had time to known about that terrible accident the housekeeper had, when Maria's brakes failed going down the winding road. It had been a lucky break to have the housekeeper there; he'd come up with that idea rather on the spur of the moment. Gotta grab the opportunity, right? The housekeeper had been on her way back to Mexico, and wasn't supposed to have been at his Aunt's at all, but had come by to check on his Aunt and the dying Popcorn. This way he wouldn't have to deal with fighting the provision in the Will leaving money to that illegal alien housekeeper to care for the house and dogs. The authorities hadn't even checked the brake lines on the mangled up old pickup truck.
He remembered how impressed his aunt had been that he'd taken the time to go out and bring Maria's old truck up to the door for her. He'd taken his leave of the two dotty women, one old and one young, maundering over that fiendishly ugly little rag of an ancient dog thing. His Aunt was assuring Maria that her beloved nephew would be there with her, that the housekeeper shouldn't delay her longed for trip back to Mexico. He took his leave of them, sure that the rumbling truck at the door would encourage the housekeeper to leave. Maria was offering to stay with Aunt May, since they both knew that the ancient gremlin dog was going to die that night. Even in memory, Randall grimaced in disgust. What crap, what wasted emotion. He'd have been happy to stomp on the thing, but the gore would have messed up his Gucci loafers. Carrying the old woman's puked on body out to the the well had cost him one outfit, but he was resigned to the loss.
Randall had especially hated that blind old wreck of a dog-thing, Popcorn. Even dying, it had still growled at him from the middle of his aunt's bed. When he showed up the next day to help bury it, his Aunt had wrapped the carcass in a mink coat, and put the entire thing in a carved teak box. He was happy not to have to look at it, but was pissed over the waste of the mink and box. Besides, it made a bigger hole for him to dig.
Normally, his Aunt wouldn't deal with anyone the dogs disliked; she operated on the theory that the dogs knew who was good people and who wasn't. But he'd always told his Aunt about his fictitious beloved kitty cats, Blinken and Nod. He said the dogs didn't like him because he smelled of cat. As a bonus, his aunt had sent a lot of good meat home for his cats. Randall was happy to eat it, but remained appalled at the waste, angry that she was spending that money, his money! on animals.
Blinking rapidly, Randall went back to trying to stand up. He was frustrated to find he could move only his head and eyes, a little, and somewhat move his hands. He couldn't seem to make his legs do anything, though. His cell phone rang from it's holster on his belt, the special ring for his current bed partner, Betty. She was probably calling to beg his forgiveness. She had been an idiot and "forgot" to buy the steaks for the little farewell party he'd planned, a final boink to hold him a few days. He figured 'forgetting' was her way of showing how upset she was over not coming with him on his "vacation.' Shoot, he couldn't take a skank like her to Club Med, now could he? He was planning on hooking up with some real women there, hot young things who would appreciate a millionaire. He'd been really angry with her over that, giving her a few slaps and a tap on the face before he raged out of her apartment to get the steaks. If you want a job done right, do it yourself, right? Randall couldn't believe the gall of the woman. Like, he only slept with her because she lived on his way home from work, and she had big boobs. He'd had plans for Betty and those big boobs before he left; she'd gotten to be an embarassment. He didn't need her alive, or in one piece for that matter, after his carefully planned party for one. She'd disappear, just like the others.
The phone rang again; and, again. The dogs were still sniffing about at him, circling closer and closer. Only Pedro sat still, staring at him with those long yellow eyes. Randall could see the kitchen clock; it had been a shockingly long time that he'd been lying there. Hours. Gradually, through the fog that was drifting in and out of his brain, the blacknesses broken by the phone's dying rings, he began to put some things together. He was wondering when the ambulance was going to arrive. He had things to do, money to spend, real high class society women to bone! Where the hell was that ambulance? It had been hours.
It suddenly occurred to him that no one had called for an ambulance; that no one knew where he was! No one. Betty might have thought of him going to his Aunt's, but Randall was famous for his temper tantrums and pouting. He usually disappeared for a few days after Betty made him angry enough to do more than slap her; and he'd punished her for trying to contact him when he didn't want to be. He hadn't told her what flight he was leaving on, either, or, really, where he was going, just that he was going to a Retreat kind of resort where she couldn't contact him for two weeks. No one at work cared where he went, either. Only his Aunt had cared enough to call him, and she was at the bottom of the well.
His thoughts cleared enough to notice that the pack of black and tan little devil dogs appeaered to be sitting in a ring around him. All he could see were staring at him, whining deep and low, almost a growl. The odd thing was, they were whining exactly together, sounding as if it were one huge dog. The sound rose and fell, an unholy canine chant. An occasional red tongue gaped out of a mouth, licking the pointed little jaws and white teeth. Pedro, that huge mutt, maintained vigil just near his head, his dog eyes glowing orange-red.
The dog chanting stopped; the tiny heads turned to look toward door to the hallway. In the total silence, Randall heard the click click of dog nails coming down the stairs, across the hall. One more of the tiny devil dogs moved through the doorway, into his limited view.
He hadn't paid much attention to his Aunt's treasured animals, other than enough to make it appear like he was interested: he knew, for example, Pedro's name, and the old gremlin's name was Poppy, short for Popcorn, but the rest were a blur of black and tan. He knew for a fact that all her Mini Pins were midnight black and tan, as was Pedro the dump dog. The only not-black dog on the place had been the dead and buried Popcorn, who was a greyed out red matching the scraggly mop on his aunt's head.
The prick eared little devil dog clicking her way over the tiles towards him was a gorgeous, glowing dark red. She matched the horrible flame red dye his aunt had used. Her eyes were orange-red fireballs, and her tiny snout opened impossibly wide over a set of very white, very sharp teeth. All the dogs, all fifty black imps, and Pedro, watched her approach as subjects watch a beloved Queen. The red devil dog was a muscled skeleton, as were all the Pack.
Randal suddenly felt awful fear; and a terrible, terrible awareness that his wonderful human body was " meat. Meat that was soft and warm, 200 pounds of well fed, rich and bloody meat. It would be hours yet before the steaks thawed out enough for the starving pack to chew, but there was enough meat in the open freezer to thaw gradually and feed them well until the delivery man came again. His aunt had always fed them raw meat, saying it was "more natural." He gargled in his throat, scrabbled manicured nails desperately on the tile floor, but the pack paid no attention. Even Pedro didn't dodge. They just watched the Red One click towards him, tiny cropped ears looking like hooked horns, pointy teeth shining white. Her red tongue licked out, drool gathering. The Pack whined softly in unison, quivering taut bodies half crouching; but stayed unnaturally still.
The Red One loomed huge in his vision; her breath sprayed across his face. Suddenly, Randall realized that the air he gasped reeked of raspberry and dark chocolate.