Barking and whining noises fill the room. I frown into my glass of whisky. Yelp, yelp, bark, bark, yelp. After a while I realise that it is not Bob Dylan and is in fact coming from next door.

Yelp, bark, yelp, bark, bark.

This is very unusual. Short Tony’s remaining dog is normally one of the quietest I know. It never just sits there and barks. An animal of weak intellect, it only ever really makes much of a commotion when somebody it knows rings the doorbell. Yet there it is, going crazy.

Bark, bark, bark, yelp, growl.

It seems odd that I haven’t heard any “shut up you stupid dog” yells. There is a bit more barking. A small worry forms at the back of my mind. I would feel very foolish if Short Tony and his family had been burgled, pick-axe murdered etc. whilst I just sat there spinning theories about why his faithful dog was in distress.

Thing is, after all of fifteen minutes, I would have expected to have heard a gun-shot by now. If he was being burgled, pick-axe murdered etc. then I would have expected him to have shot the person responsible, whereas if he wasn’t then I would have expected him to have shot the dog.

So I am starting to get worried.

By now I am of the opinion that Short Tony is out. (See ‘absence of shooting noises’ paragraph, above). I do not know about Mrs Short Tony and the kids. She would be less likely to shoot a burglar, pick-axe murderer etc. Or a dog. She might play her tenor horn very loudly and aggressively at him.

But there are no loud tenor horn noises followed by screams of distress. Just barks. And yelps.

I decide to investigate. Crime is very rare in this part of the world, so if a burglar alarm goes off etc., it is a big deal and there is generally an attempt by the neighbourhood to investigate. There is no reason why this shouldn’t be the same with a doesn’t-usually-woof-but-is-now-woofing-dog.

The gravel scrunches under my feet as I head out into the dark and cold.

I wave my big torch in front of me. Halfway across the path to Short Tony’s I have a sort of cold feet moment, and wonder whether I should ditch the torch in favour of a gun. I think better of it.

Scrunch, scrunch, woof, bark, yelp, growl (etc.)

The house is dark. I peer through the front window, trying to establish whether anybody is in or not. I can’t see Short Tony, Mrs Short Tony, a burglar or a pick-axe murderer. This is a relief, although of course this makes me a bit more nervous that they are hiding and ready to jump out on me. (The burglar or pick-axe murderer, not Short Tony or Mrs Short Tony).

I reach the side of the house. At this point I realise that actually it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that it will be Short Tony who jumps out on me and shoots me, mistaking me for a burglar or a pick-axe murderer. Or his dog. I try to make reassuring ‘it’s only me’ footstep noises.

The front door seems secure. There is no burglar or pick-axe murderer, unless he is clever and has broken in causing no damage and is hiding. Mrs. Short Tony’s car is not there. They are out. I scuttle back home in relief.

Ten minutes later I hear their car on the gravel. I wait for five minutes, just in case there are pick-axeing noises, but there aren’t. So I slip upstairs to bed.