Every day at noon he drifted through the village avoiding eye contact, mumbling, sometimes singing, with a perpetual grin on his face. He was large framed and tall with big hands and a long stride. His face looked red as a cherry, and his hair was greying and rested on his shoulders and looked unkempt, like a mullet. He usually wore a cape. A black cape. Not like Batman’s, much shorter. Why did he wear such a thing? Nobody knew. Nobody could answer that question. Sometimes he carried a cane and would beat the rhythm of each step on the road as he walked along. He was strange indeed. Everyone talked about him.
Only Jones the butcher conversed with him, but even then just small talk. He would come in the shop and point with his cane at what meat he wanted behind the glass counter and grunt or mutter the odd word or speak in broken sentences. Turned out he was the son of Mavis, the old gal who had passed away a few months prior. She had bequeathed him her cottage, and he had escaped from a mental asylum to live there.
It wasn’t long before the bad kids clocked him and started making fun of him, calling him names and following in groups as he drifted through the village. He would spin round and wave his cane at them. They talked of him as the village idiot.
One day, locals Jack and Karen’s border collie Sinbad went missing. Grief stricken, they went to every household in the village, handing out missing dog flyers emblazoned with a soppy-eyed picture of Sinbad. The last house to visit was the cottage on the outskirts, the former home of Mavis, the old gal, now occupied by her son, whose name nobody knew. As Jack and Karen approached the front gate they noticed something familiar on the ground. Jack stooped and picked it up. It was a dog collar and it looked remarkably like Sinbad’s. Jack held it between his thumb and forefinger, turning it, examining. It was Sinbad’s. It had his name stitched on it and the brass dog tag still attached with Jack and Karen’s home address engraved on it. They knocked on the door. There was no answer but they knew someone was in as they could hear noises coming from inside. Jack leant across and peered in through the lounge window. There was a roaring fire going in the hearth and a large black pot suspended over it, bubbling away and there was something bony poking out the top. Jack thought this was extremely odd as it was June and nobody lit a fire in June. They popped the flyer of the missing dog through the letterbox and shuffled back home. They got home and talked, suspicious about the stranger.
Next day the search for Sinbad intensified. All the villagers got together and covered every inch of ground in the area. There was no sign of the dog. Jack and Karen were crushed. That evening in the village pub, while nursing a pair of pints, they decided to confide in the group as to what they had seen over at the cottage the day before. Everyone now was even more suspicious of the new man in the village. They wanted to know more about him. They had become fearful. Was he a danger to the community?
Word spread as to what Jack and Karen had seen at the cottage. The kids got crueller, and one day followed the caped man home, shouting out “DOG KILLER” and if he turned round would hide behind a tree giggling. One day, feeling particularly mischievous, they went to his house and spray painted ‘DOG KILLER’ on the front gate. He happened to see them do it from an upstairs window. He opened it and shouted something unintelligible at them. They laughed and started running. The man came out the house and chased them brandishing his cane. The boys took a short cut along the riverbank and the man followed making grunting noises as he ran. There had been a storm that day and heavy rain and the going was greasy underfoot. The man lost his footing and tripped on a tree root and went headfirst into the river. The kids stopped and look back expecting to see the man chasing them. “Look he’s in the river,” one of them said. The man was struggling in the currents, splashing. It was obvious he couldn’t swim. The boys stood there laughing and pointing. The man disappeared under the ‘water. The boys waited for him to resurface but couldn’t see him. The currents were strong and he was swept away. The boys ran home in a state of excitement, laughing.
Next morning the postman noticed the graffiti on the gate and the front door of the cottage wide open. He walked on by and told everyone in the village what he had seen.
A couple of days passed and the villagers started gossiping that they hadn’t seen the eccentric around for a while. That afternoon, a squad of police cars shot through the village, sirens wailing. Then a police van pulled up outside Jack and Karen’s. An officer climbed out the back with a dog on a leash.
Karen flew out the front door. “Sinbad!” She gathered the dog in her arms, tears of joy flowed down her cheeks. She squeezed him tight, petted him all over.
“Where did you find him?”
“He was spotted wandering around uptown, possibly taken there by dog thieves,” said the policeman.
They thanked the policemen profusely.
“Would you like to come in and have a cup of tea officers?” said Karen.
“We’d love to stop by but we need to assist some colleagues up ahead. You may as well hear it from us. A body of a man has washed up on the riverbank. Probably fell in and got swept away by the strong currents.”