“Come on, come on, move it, idiot!”
Joanne beat impatiently on the steering wheel of her Mercedes sports car. How stupid to get caught up in the rush hour! She had planned to leave work early this afternoon, at three o’clock, to give herself a chance to relax and have a bath before going out to a meeting of her local tennis club. But just at ten to three a client had arrived, and it was two hours before she had finished dealing with the man. When she came out of her office, all the other staff in the Highlight Advertising Agency had already left. Now she was stuck in a traffic jam in central Birmingham at 5:30, and at 6:30 she was expected to be chairing a meeting of the tennis club. There would be no time for any hot bath.
Ahead of her, the traffic was moving at last, and she swung quickly out into the centre lane to turn right, and raced the last half-mile through the quiet suburban streets to her house. Pulling up on the driveway, she leapt out of the
car and ran for the house. As she opened the door, she nearly tripped over Sheba, who was standing behind it.
“Hey, Sheba, hello,” she said, bending down to stroke the large alsatian dog’s head, “I’ve got no time for you now, but I’ll take you out as soon as I get back from the tennis club.”
It was then that she noticed something worrying about the dog. Sheba seemed to be coughing or choking, her stomach pumping repeatedly as if she was trying to vomit something up. She was obviously in real discomfort and could hardly breathe; her sad eyes gazed up at Joanne helplessly.
“Oh damn, this is all I need now,” said Joanne to herself, dropping her briefcase and bending down to take a closer look, “a sick dog, today of all days!” On closer examination, Sheba did look very sick, and Joanne realised she would have to take her down to the vet immediately. Luckily, the vet’s surgery was only a few streets away, and Joanne quickly loaded the dog, still coughing and choking, into her car for the short drive.
When she got there, the surgery was just about to close for the day. Luckily, Dr. Sterne had not left yet, and when he saw the state of Sheba, he brought her quickly into his office.
“It looks like something is stuck in her throat,” said Dr. Sterne. It shouldn’t take me too long to get it out.”
“Listen, doctor, I’m really in a rush to get to a meeting – can I leave her with you, and go and get changed? I’ll be back in ten minutes to pick her up, then I’ll take her on to the meeting with me. Is that OK?”
“Sure,” said the doctor. “You get going. I’ll see you in ten minutes.”
Joanne jumped back into her car again, and made the quick trip round to her house in a couple of minutes. As she was once more entering the hallway, the phone on the table by the door began to ring. She picked it up, annoyed by this additional interruption to her plans.
“This is Dr. Sterne,” said an anxious voice. “Is that you, Joanne?”
“Of course it’s me,” said Joanne, surprised at the sound of his voice, “no-one else lives here.”
“I want you to get right out of that house immediately,” said the doctor’s voice. “Right now. I’m coming round right away, and the police will be there any time now. Wait outside for us.” The phone went dead. Joanne stared at it. She was confused, but she was also a little frightened by the obvious fear in the voice of the doctor. She replaced the receiver, then quickly backed out of the door and ran into the street.
At that moment, a police car with its lights flashing swung round the corner and screeched to a stop outside the house.