I ever told you about when I first got Charlie?” asked Reginald.
“No, Frederick, you have not,” Williams replied, with apathy.
Frederick Reginald, aged 55-years-old, was quite the wealthy businessman. He owned a prestigious publishing company, one that was world renowned. His once black hair had turned grey over the years. He was recounting the tale of he got his best friend.
Howard Williams, 60-years-old, and not wealthy at all, had to listen to the story. His hair had always been grey, ever since he was a mere page. He had worked as a servant for many years, for it was the life he was born into. Being a servant had caused him so much discomfort.
The two were sitting in the tea room of Reginald Manor. The manor was in the outskirts of Westminister, away from the hustle and bustle of the towns people. Luckily, this area was so remote, that Reginald would not be bothered by any outsiders. The host had some Whiskey, while his friend was treated to some tea.
Reginald continued, “I first got Charlie ten years ago, when he was just a pup. He was the pride of his breed, a proper Cocker Spaniel. He was always such a good boy, Williams.”
“Hmm, you don’t say,” yawned Williams. He used his right hand as a headrest.
“What’s more is, that I didn’t see him as a mere pet,” Frederick paused, for there were tears welling up in his eyes. “Excuse me...” He wiped his tears away. “– As I was saying: Charlie was more like a son I had never had. Even from the start, that dog acknowledged me as his father. He always did as he was told, always waited for my return from work and he always...”
“– Sorry to interrupt,” said Williams. “But might I have a refill of my tea, please? It is quite addictive, if I do say so myself.”
“Of course, my dear sir,” Frederick spoke in earnest.
The servants had the day off, so the aristocrat had to do it himself, and he poured his friend another cup.
Williams bowed his head with courtesy. “Much obliged.”
“Now, where was I?” asked Reginald. “Ah, yes, now I remember. When I first got my dog, I was at the utmost reluctance of allowing total strangers take care of him – if I needed to go out to meetings, the ones that did not allow dogs into the building.”
“But you did find a sitter for your pooch, didn’t you?” Williams mocked him.
Reginald nodded. “Yes, at the time, I did.”
“What made you stop trusting them, then?”
“Paranoia,” whispered Frederick. “I made it legal for Charlie to inherit my empire, after my demise, and was concerned that someone would’ve snuffed my doggy.”
Williams adjusted his collar. He began squirming about in his seat.
“So, I take it that’s why in your dog’s final years,” gulped Williams, “you became a tad overprotective of him?”
The sorrowful man sat up straight. “Yes. You see, I knew at the time that my servants would’ve been disgruntled by that, so I took precautions. From then on, I only trusted close family, friends, and of course, you, Williams.”
Williams wriggled about in his seat more, feeling discomfort.
“Thus, when my doggy died, I was heartbroken, dear boy,” Frederick sighed.
“I-I can imagine,” croaked Williams. “Say, has it gotten warmer?”
“No, the temperature has not changed,” retorted Frederick. He sipped some of his Whiskey and carried on, “Of course, the private vet I hired told me some startling news... Charlie had been poisoned.”
“P-poisoned?” repeated Williams. “It sounds too extreme to poison an animal!”
Reginald nodded again, sadly. “Yes, he was poisoned. Well, my lawyers informed me that if I were to murder this culprit, I’d face some serious jail time, old chap.”
Williams smiled. “Well, sorry to hear, old chum. I guess I’ll be on my way.”
“Sit, Williams,” Reginald demanded, with a stern look.
The nervous guest sat back down, against his will. His face became drenched with sweat, which he wiped some off with his handkerchief.
“I know you had something to do with Charlie’s death, Williams,” Reginald said coldly. “You were the last person he was with when he got sick, and eventually died.”
“You can’t prove anything!” snapped Howard. “The courts won’t believe some old coot – especially one that believed his damn dog was like a child!”
“Well, I thought that too,” sighed Reginald. “I suppose the best choice would be for me to let you go...”
Williams relaxed and caught his breath back.
“– Or I could just kill you.”
“You can’t!” yelled Howard. He flipped the table over.
Frederick sat there, unfazed.
“I’ve got friends in high places, pal! I can feed you to the sharks, or even give you a pair of concrete boots, I can...” Williams stopped, and collapsed on the floor, clutching his own throat. “– What... what have you done to me?” he croaked. He could feel his throat getting tighter.
Reginald got up. He loomed over his ex-friend, with a devious grin.
“From day one you hated Charlie,” said the aristocrat, “I suspected you just stuck around because of my inheritance money. When I announced Charlie was to be my successor, I noticed the twinkle in your eye die like an extinguished flame.” A cruel grin grew on his face. “And now, my dearly departed ex-friend, you get the honour of finding out if Hell truly exists!”
“Reginald,” croaked Williams, “Reg-Reginald!”
As Howard Williams gazed at his killer, his body suffered a violent convulsion. He foamed at the mouth and finally... he died.
Reginald’s smile faded. He climbed over the body of his nemesis and left the room. He entered the study on turned on his light, which helped illuminate the portrait of a dog. He shed a tear from his eye and smiled. “For you, Charlie.”
Now, Frederick chalked it up to imagination at first, but he could’ve sworn for one brief moment, that the portrait of Charlie smiled...