"Nice dog." I smile, leaning down.
The sharper eyes me warily, then growls.
"Richard." The man glares at the dog, then looks back up at me, apologetic, and I can sense he's flattered, not only that I've noticed his dog but that I've actually stopped to talk to him about it, and I swear the old bastard is positively flushed, creaming in his tacky loose corduroys from, I'm guessing, Ralph Lauren.
"It's okay," I tell him and pet the dog gently, laying the briefcase on the ground. "It's a sharpei, right?"
"No. Shar-pei," he says, lisping, a way I've never heard it pronounced before.
"Shar-pei?" I try to say it the same way he does, still stroking the velvet bumpiness of the dog's neck and back.
"No." He laughs flirtatiously. "Shar-pei. Accent on the last syllable." Akthent on thee latht thyllable.
"Well, whatever," I say, standing up and grinning boyishly. "It's a beautiful animal."
"Oh thank you," he says, then, exathperated, "It costs a fortune."
"Really? Why?" I ask, leaning down again and stroking the dog. "Hiya Richard. Hiya little fella."
"You wouldn't believe it," he says. "You see, the bags around its eyes have to be lifted surgically every two years, so we have to go all the way down to Key West - which has the only vet I really trust in this world - and a little snip, a little tuck, and Richard can see splendidly once again, can't you, baby?" He nods approvingly as I continue to run my hand seductively across the dog's back.
"Well," I say. "He looks great."
There's a pause in which I watch the dog. The owner keeps eyeing me and then he just can't help it, he has to break the silence.
"Listen," he says. "I really hate to ask this."
"Go ahead," I urge.
"Oh gosh, this is so silly," he admits, chuckling.
I start laughing. "Why?"
"Are you a model?" he asks, not laughing anymore. "I could swear I've seen you in a magazine or somewhere."
"No, I'm not," I say, deciding not to lie. "But I'm flattered."
"Well, you look just like a movie star." He waves a limp wrist, then, "I don't know," and finally he lisps the following - I swear to God - to himself: "Oh stop it, silly, you're embarrassing yourself."
I lean down, giving the appearance of picking up the briefcase, but because of the shadows I'm leaning into he doesn't see me pull out the knife, the sharpest one, with the serrated edge, and I'm asking him what he paid for Richard, naturally but also very deliberately, without even looking up to check to see if other people are walking down the street. In one swift movement I pick the dog up quickly by the neck and hold it with my left arm, pushing it back against the streetlamp while it nips at me, trying to bite my gloves, its jaws snapping, but since I've got such a tight grip on its throat it can't bark and I can actually hear my hand crush its trachea. I push the serrated blade into its stomach and quickly slice open its hairless belly in a squirt of brown blood, its legs kicking and clawing at me, then blue and red intestines bulge out and I drop the dog onto the sidewalk, the queer just standing there, still gripping the leash, and this has all happened so fast he's in shock and he just stares in horror saying "oh my god oh my god" as the sharpei drags itself around in a circle, its tail wagging, squealing, and it starts licking and sniffing the pile of its own intestines, spilled out in a mound on the sidewalk, some still connected to its stomach, and as it goes into its death throes still attached to its leash I whirl around on its owner and I push him back, hard, with a bloodied glove and start randomly stabbing him in the face and head, finally slashing his throat open in two brief chopping motions; an arc of red-brown blood splatters the white BMW 320i parked at the curb, setting off its car alarm, four fountainlike bursts coming from below his chin. The spraylike sound of the blood. He falls to the sidewalk, shaking like mad, blood still pumping, as I wipe the knife clean on the front of his jacket and toss it back in the briefcase and begin to walk away, but to make sure the old queer is really dead and not faking it (they sometimes do) I shoot him with a silencer twice in the face and then I leave, almost slipping in the puddle of blood that has formed by the side of his head, and I'm down the street and out of darkness and like in a movie I appear in front of the D'Agostino's, sales clerks beckoning for me to enter, and I'm using an expired coupon for a box of oat-bran cereal and the girl at the checkout counter - black, dumb, slow - doesn't get it, doesn't notice the expiration date has passed even though it's the only thing I buy, and I get a small but incendiary thrill when I walk out of the store, opening the box, stuffing handfuls of the cereal into my mouth, trying to whistle "Hip to Be Square" at the same time, and then I've opened my umbrella and I'm running down Broadway, then up Broadway, then down again, screaming like a banshee, my coat open, flying out behind me like some kind of cape.