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Jo'Burg Days: Love Takes Strange Forms

Barbara Durlacher tells an intriguing tale of murder, illicit love and a 40-carat diamond.

”Yes, everything wrapped, packed and shipped to Andalucia, Spain. Can you confirm that you'll collect on Wednesday 7th, please?” She ended the conversation and replaced the phone, agitatedly pushing her hair back with nicotine-stained fingers.

“Derek,” she yelled, “Where are you NOW, you damn black fool?” slipping her feet into worn mules and, lighting another of the strong Russian cigarettes she consumed relentlessly, she shambled off to dig in the fridge for a carton of full cream milk, the last of the whipped cream and a large piece of chocolate cake.

Steaming mug of coffee in hand, another thick slice of cake on a smeared plate, she wandered idly into the study and began stuffing files, books and papers into the first of the cardboard boxes that lined the walls. Ticking the papers off against a clipboard, she read the list over to herself. Blood tests, vaccinations, microchip, shampoo, stripping and nails cut.

Now, where'd she put the old cheque book? Must check those stubs to see if she'd paid the balance of the rental for the Spanish house, wouldn't do to let that slip through her hands. Terribly important to spend the required time in Spain before she went further. It would be disastrous for the plan to fall apart even before she'd got on the plane; everything had to be carefully checked and re-checked several times before she was sure there'd been no mistakes.

Clack of the screen-door, and the click of nails on parquet. Then, a plumed tail sweeping her legs, and a cool questing nose thrust into her hand. “Where've you been, you rascal, you lovely boy, you, hmmm? Oh! I really do love you [caressing his head and ears], my darling boy. Had a nice walk?”

“Patrick, now you listen to me. I want you to do exactly as I tell you. No arguments, no delays, and no mistakes. You hear me? No mistakes, I said, and I mean that!”

Yup; life was getting pretty damn expensive these days, particularly with a shrinking British pension. No matter how carefully she cut corners and discarded items each week from her shopping trolley she just couldn't keep up with the constant rise in the cost of living. Her plan just had to work.

Over the next few days she worked them all tirelessly. Smoking like a furnace, living on junk food and snacks, no time for balanced meals now, too many details to attend to and always, always that damn fool to think about and cover up for, she drove them like a demon.

Gosh, how she was growing to loathe him, she couldn't believe that she'd allowed herself to imagine that she'd ever been in love with him, actually physically and sexually in love. Looking at him now; fallen cheeks over toothless jaws; wizened neck straining tautly over pigeon chest, flaccid stomach and haunches; what a dismal prospect, thank heavens she had something better in mind for when her plan succeeded.

At last the delivery was made, the visits paid to the vet and all the necessary formalities completed. Microchip in place, Nelson looked the very picture of health, although the innoculations had put him off his food for a week or so, he'd recovered now and was happily chasing his ball around the garden, blissfully unaware of what the next few days had in store.

Crated with his favourite ball and cushion to keep him company, the animal travel agents quickly loaded him into the air-conditioned van for transport to the airport and the flight to Spain.

All his documents were in order, nothing left to chance on that score. No sirree! She'd worked far too long and too hard to make any mistakes over the paperwork at this stage and although she had to wipe a surreptitious tear from her eye now he was gone, she knew that her love would make it all seem worth it in the end.

Six months later a rejuvenated Pauline, ten stone lighter, hair fashionably short and smartly styled, tailored pants-suit accented by an expensive silk shirt, gold bangles and gemstone earrings walked confidently out of Heathrow Airport into the arms of her lover. Left behind in Spain was her elderly husband, dead of a heart attack brought on by stress and overwork. As a mark of respect, he had been buried under an olive tree after he had fallen from it's branches whilst pruning the overgrowth resulting from years of neglect.

At his feet lay the golden retriever Nelson, minus the large diamond encrusted microchip. The 40-carat blue white diamond had been carefully removed and, with the aid of the lover it was sold and the proceeds invested in off-shore futures. Nobody would be able to trace the funds or their origin. Nobody knew anything about the deception or how the jewel had been smuggled into Spain, and best of all, nobody suspected anything. There were no traces of any crime, no suspicion that there could have been anything wrong.

It was the perfect murder, the perfect crime and now she was ready for the perfect love.

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