The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne

The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne by Barry Jonsberg

Book: The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne by Barry Jonsberg Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barry Jonsberg
possibly be so important that the telephone wouldn't do? Why would a small spider choose just this moment to go for a predawn amble across my cheek? Weighty questions indeed. And then, just as the tickling on my cheek was reaching unbearable proportions, the runt reached across the table and undid the briefcase. He pulled out a small bag and dropped it in front of the Pitbull. I felt Kiffo's hand tighten on my arm. The Pitbull reached out and for one fleeting moment I caught a glimpse of white powder before she took the bag and shoved it in her coat pocket. Yet more questions raced through my mind. Could the contents of the bag really be drugs? Could we really be witnessing what is known in all the best movies as a drop? Could this really be a sneeze building at the back of my nose?
    At least I got the answer to the last question. It was. And it was one of those unstoppable ones, the kind that if you try to contain it with your hand or something, it'll blow the back ofyour head off. I have to confess that when it arrived, it did so with maximum decibels. I don't know who was most surprised: me, Kiffo, the spider or the trio inside the hall. At least I had about one-tenth of a second's warning. For Kiffo, it must have been like a shotgun going off in his ear. He leaped about three yards in the air, his face twisted into an expression that, under other circumstances, would have been quite comical, and the whole flimsy structure we were standing on collapsed in a crash of cascading plastic.
    “Sorry,” I said, after we had landed in a tangle on the ground. Kiffo turned a disbelieving face in my direction.
    “Better out than in,” I added.
    Maybe he would have hit me. I wouldn't have blamed him. There wasn't a chance, though. We heard a startled gasp, the unmistakable sound of a door being opened hurriedly, a large dog tearing at the ground with its claws and the rattle of a chain clasp being released. Slasher had been building up a fair bit of momentum while on the leash. Like one of those old windup cars. You'd rev the wheels against the floor and when you released it, the car would zoom off at about two hundred miles per hour and smash your mum's prize vase in the corner of the living room. Well, old Slash was clearly a bit like that. We could hear the thud of giant paws crashing against the ground. It sounded like a Sherman tank was coming toward us.
    “Run!” yelled Kiffo, a little unnecessarily. I already had a twenty-yard head start on him.
    Have you ever seen those films where they use a handheldcamera during action sequences? Everything jumps around and all you can hear is the sound of heavy breathing? Think of that and you will get some idea of the next few minutes. I had never run so fast. The only thing that crossed my mind was whether it was possible to get whiplash in the mammaries. Head up, arms and legs pumping. I'd have amazed my phys ed teacher. If an athletics scout had been around, I'd probably have made the national squad for the one hundred meters. But whatever I did, I couldn't shake the dog. I could hear it pounding along behind me, the sound of its harsh breathing getting closer by the second. I had no idea what had happened to Kiffo. Under the circumstances, I could only worry about myself.
    Just when I felt that the damn thing was about to clasp its yellowing teeth around my ankle, I did a sort of sideways leap over a low fence bordering someone's property. The dog attempted to change direction too, and I heard it smash into the metal chain-link. I had an image of its face being squeezed into about six separate diamond shapes—you know, like in those cartoons where the cat gets sliced up into segments. It gave me a few precious seconds, though. I ran straight across the yard, dodging the odd palm tree that suddenly loomed up at me in the dark. It wasn't enough. Old Slasher had obviously had lessons in fence hurdling because all too soon I could hear the sound of his breathing closing in again. He

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