With the addition of a hair from the intended victim, the ritual was complete. John held in his hands a doll that would regain control over his life. If it worked, of course. John was a tad skeptical about the latter point, but the old Crone had come highly recommended, and her price was not outrageous. She hadn’t demanded his firstborn, for instance.
John pondered the little doll. It had only a passing resemblance to a person, but as the Crone had explained, too detailed a representation would be distracting, and would risk discovery. So the doll was plain off-white beeswax, with toasted sesame seeds for eyes. Its hands were indistinct paddles, so he would not be tempted to try anything as precise as breaking a particular finger.
John suspected the Crone didn’t trust him entirely. But her trust wasn’t really required since she had demanded payment in advance. He had wondered the week before about the wisdom of paying the Crone that much money with nothing to show for it, but she did indeed have a reputation to protect and had not (and least not obviously) stolen his money. After all, he held in his hands the doll he had purchased.
The doll of his wife.
He considered his next move.
As he considered, he realized he was hearing a low growl, almost at the subconscious level. Looking around, he spotted the dog under the wagon. Growling. As he continued to stare at the doll, the growling got louder.
He pinched the doll’s hand, and the dog yelped.
He looked closer in the shadows, and suddenly recognized the dog. It was his wife’s prize Pomeranian, a yappy little thing that had no patience for the great outdoors, or even being more useful than a lap warmer. And yet, the dog was here, and not at home with its mistress. And it was growling. He pinched the hand one more time and the dog yelped. Odd. He pocketed the doll, then swept the dog up. It was as passive as usual in his hands as he carried the dog home.
All the way back, he had the sense that he was being followed. And mocked, gently.
Finally, he spotted the cat when it was forced out into the open to cross the lane.
He paused in the square, and considered. He was widely thought to be an intelligent man. The cat looked suspiciously like his wife’s cat. The cat and dog had a running vendetta. The dog was acting a little off, but not so much that you’d notice. Unless someone pinched the doll, then the dog yelped, and the cat smirked.
The group of them arrived home, to find his wife brushing a teddy bear. “Oh, there you are, and you found fluffy!” she said.
“Yes, he was over on the far side of town. The confounded cat was with him, and followed us back here. He must be around here somewhere.” The cat, naturally, had faded into the woodwork and was nowhere to be seen. Then it sunk in. She was brushing a teddy bear. With the brush he’d been led to pick hairs from for the doll.
The doll in his pocket.
The doll that made the dog yelp.
As he watched, the dog hopped into his wife’s lap, and she calmly started brushing it.
And the cat turned back up, caught his eye, and winked.