Rausse just wanted the runt of the litter. As a rule, he took his cut from all activity within his neighbourhood, no matter how small. Besides he had always wanted a Dalmatian.

            Still Ms Mavis Kilcoyne refused.

            “Inkwell’s my dog,” she told Rausse, right in front of his boys. “So these are my puppies.”

            Rausse sighed as he smoothed down his sandy blonde goatee. “I am not asking for the lot, Mavis. Just the smallest.”

            “Why?” The force with which Mavis asked this made him blink. No easy feat for the man who had run the Black Rail job. Still Rausse made a habit of good manners when it came to women who reminded him of his mother. With Mavis’s short skinny frame all clenched up as it was, the resemblance was uncanny.

            Rausse took a moment to wipe off the spittle from his glasses before answering her question. He affected a light inoffensive chuckle. “It’s a tradition started by my grandfather. Silly I know but, back in his village, his neighbours would show their appreciation by offering a puppy or kitten from their litters.”

            “Appreciation for what exactly?” Mavis put a fist on her hip, varicose veins tightening. “Did he offer ‘protection’ too?”

            Rausse laughed again though this time it was very forced. He leant back in his swivel chair. The boys looked ready to pounce but he stopped them with a raised finger.

            “My grandfather was just that, Mavis, a grandfather to his whole village. Of course, he doted on me more than most which was how the ‘runt of the litter’ thing got started. He meant nothing more than to make his grandson smile.”

            “And that has somehow transformed into a right for firstborns all your life?”

            Rausse’s jaw tightened. One more smart remark and this bitch would be in serious trouble. He didn’t care how much she reminded him of his mother, respect shouldn’t be this hard to earn. He removed his glasses again to keep his hands occupied, the very same fingers that had throttled Mr Thank himself.

            “Mavis,” he spoke with a sing-song lilt. “Need I remind you about how I pulled your own firstborn’s fat out of the fire in Greenwich?” He locked eyes with her. “If it hadn’t been for my timely phone call, where exactly do you think Robbie would be now? And in what condition?”

            Mavis fell silent at this, her outraged expression finally paling under the white light bar flickering just overhead. Rausse smiled to see this change.

            “You were going to sell the litter off, weren’t you?”

            At first, she didn’t respond but then the boys edged forward.

            “Yes,” she muttered.

            “And I believe there’s a teeny tiny nipper that won’t go for as much as the rest. Isn’t that so?”

            Mavis nodded, grey hair falling out of her messy bun.

            “Allow me to take it off your hands then.” Rausse held out his own hand in a small placating gesture. She stared at it hard.

            Then, with the slightest crack of one of his boys’ knuckles, she looked Rausse in the eye. “Okay.”

            With that Mavis was escorted from his office. She only lived round the corner so it wasn’t long before the boys returned. One of them opened his leather jacket and presented Rausse with a wriggly Dalmatian puppy. It was barely bigger than his hand.

            As he brought the runt in close for a hug, he noticed that it was a little girl. She wagged her pure white tail.

            “Hello, sweetheart!” Rausse said, puckering his lips. “How ya doing?”

            His little sweetheart pissed all over his lap.

Payback’s a Bitch is a piece from Lucy’s Workshop on Karma 13-05-2020.

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