The dog’s great escape on the night of the party was still causing friction between Maxine and Matt. Matt had found an ally in Cass. After the party, back at her flat, Maxine had blasted Matt for being stupid and careless. Matt trued to argue back but too much beer and too little will brought on the inertia of a sponge. Cass, on the other hand, equally well-fuelled, used her booze-booster to fight back on his behalf calling Maxine selfish, annoying, animal-obsessed to the point of soppy lunacy and boring. It’s not certain which of these insults hurt the most, but Maxine eventually stormed off in tears to her room. Cass had shouted “good riddance” as the door slammed, and then collapsed on the sofa in a fit of giggles next to Matt. How it happened, why it happened and who made the first move is not clear, but within seconds Matt and Cass were kissing passionately, hands all over each other and in a clinch to rival Rodin’s lovers. Unknown to them, Maxine was watching through the faintly open door of her room. The kissing and fondling lasted a few minutes before Cass stood up, disheveled, reached out her hand to a tousle-haired Matt and lead him to her room. Maxine closed her door, got into bed and stared at the ceiling for hours. In the distance, she thought she could hear a dog barking, and thought of her beloved Billy Bob. Closer, with only a wall as an obstacle, she could hear the creaking bed and groans of two people making love. She was annoyed and jealous that neither person was her.
One week later and Maxine was still spending any spare time she had looking for Billy Bob. She was becoming a familiar figure in all the shops, cafes and offices in the town, asking if anyone had seen her dog. She toured parks, alleys and anywhere else she could think of but it seemed that due to Matt’s mistake, Billy Bob had vanished. She chastised herself for not taking any photographs of the dog because at least one would have been ideal for a poster.
After a couple of hours searching, she went into a café, sat in a booth with high wooden benches, and ordered a cup of tea and an iced bun. She was staring out of the window into the street, always hoping that Billy Bob would appear, but alas, not on this day. The café wasn’t busy but she was aware of a conversation in the next booth behind her. She thought she recognized the voices, a man and a woman, but could not be sure. As she had nothing better to do, she started to listen more carefully. Maybe, she thought, somebody else’s life would be far more interesting and exciting than her own, and God knows, she mused, that would not be a difficult discovery.
“I know, I know it’s an opportunity, but shouldn’t we wait a little bit longer out of respect,” said the man. The woman sighed.
“My darling boy, you have no idea how life really works, do you. You are so handsome but lack so much experience. If we don’t start acting on our plans now, we will miss our chance for a better life.” There was the smack-sound of a loud kiss.
“You’re the boss, Angelica, and I am at your service.” Both of them giggled like teenagers for a few minutes.
“Chico,” said the woman, “I want a share of my former husband’s cash and I think I know how to get it, now that his old lady friend has passed away. He is vulnerable. I heard he is writing a book about her and because of all the meetings and research, he must have become very close to her I’ll bet he feels a bit emotional and empty right now. Enter the woman he spent years with and with a bit of charm and canoodling, contrite old me has a chance to manipulate him. I know him. He’s putty in my hands. His greatest weakness is that he is very forgiving, once he gets all his anger and frustration out of his system.”
Maxine realized that this was Angelica and Chico, her newest neighbours in Maple Court. She had some idea of the relationship between Sophie, her Dad, the dog attacker and this Chico stick-insect of a gigolo. They were planning to take advantage of a tragic situation and no matter what she really thought of Jonathan Montague and his cruel intentions towards dogs, she couldn’t let this pair take advantage of him. With rare bravado on her part, she decided on the spot to do something rash but exciting, morally suspect but adventurous, dangerous but thrilling. She would disrupt this pair of schemers by seducing Chico and throwing his and Angelica’s cosy little plot into disarray. On top of that, she loved the thought of a little illicit sex to jump-start her life, in more ways than one.
Angelica and Chico got up from their booth and walked towards the door. “Oh, I left my phone on the table,” said Chico. As he returned to the booth, he looked at Maxine who gave him a wink and the broadest smile she could muster, trying to look natural and alluring, rather than maniacal and sinister. To her delight, he smiled back, winked and pursed his lips. Maxine looked away, feigning coyness, and then glanced back.
“Hurry up, Chico,” called Angie.
“Ciao,” mouthed Chico to Maxine.
She fluttered her eyes, he blushed, Angie huffed and puffed at the door and Maxine had more than an inkling that her own scheme was now off and running.