Everyone in the village liked Raffi- the friendly mongrel dog who lived near the bus station, in an improvised kennel made of wooden crates. Though not pure- blooded, Raffi looked impressive, maybe because he had gotten many of the genes of his granny – karakachan dog with a pedigree. Everyone knew Raffi and many fed him regularly so he had managed to pick up flesh. After his owner died three years ago, Raffi started roaming the streets, frightening the children, and not only them, with his fearful looks, but a week later no one doubted that the big animal was meek and harmless. The kids were climbing on him, tugging his ears, thrusting their hands into his mouth and in return getting series of wet licks on the face. Raffi induced roars of laughter when playing with a stick or a ball because in these moments he looked like a cub what he wasn't more than twelve years now.
The saleswoman, smoking by the shop entrance, saw Raffi trotting clumsily along the street and called him playfully but a second later her eyes narrowed to compensate the 2 dioptres of shortsightedness. She was trying to see what's sticking out from Raffi's mouth, or, more precisely, to convince herself that the thing in question just resembled ... human hand.
"Hey, Peter, what's that in Raffi's mouth?" she asked and tugged the old man limping along the sidewalk by the sleeve.
Peter was longsighted and saw very clearly what Raffi was carrying.
"Wow, Mary ... human hand! Between Raffi's teeth!"
"Are you sure it's real?"
"Looks real at least."
"Come here, boy, come, come!" Peter shouted out to the dog while Mary uttered a choked cry and pressed her palm to her lips.
Raffi stopped and looked around, his huge bloodshot eyes shifting anxiously back and forth. He had obviously sensed the tension in Peter's voice.
"Raffi, come here, boy!"
Raffi didn't budge, but the hand was swaying slowly between his yellowed teeth. Peter crouched and fixed his eyes on it. The fingers were pale, with purplish tinge, thin, slightly bent except for the thumb that jutted out as if trying to hitch a ride. The nails were manicured; shining colorless polish could be seen. A few inches above the delicate wrist the skin was frayed, covered with congealed blood, and from under it a sharp bone fragment protruded. Severed muscle fibers and tendons were hanging out.
"Raffi, drop it, now!"
Raffi tucked in his tail, lowered his head for a moment, then tore away.
"Mary, run to tell the mayor!"
Mary immediately made a dash for the municipality, not even bothering to lock the shop door.
The news soon got around. Anxious crowd quickly gathered on the village square and the mayor hurried to deliver a calming speech.
"Calm down, people! Everything will be clarified. I called the police. They promised to send a team as soon as possible. There is no reason for panic."
"No reason? Someone has been murdered, obviously!" roared someone. The villagers were shouting helter-skelter.
"Raffi may have killed someone!"
"Dug up into a grave most likely!"
"Someone murdered his wife, cut her body into pieces and buried it, then Raffi..."
"Folks, listen to me! Just keep cool and think! Raffi is a good dog, can't kill a man. And you can't tell he's famished, everyone feeds him so ... Rule out Raffi! The last funeral was three months ago and that hand was ... fresh, so to say. So we drop this option as well. Peter thinks that the hand belongs to a girl, or a young woman. Here in the village we have about ten females aged between fifteen and forty years. Is one of them missing? Why are you looking at me like that, answer the question!"
Oppressive silence ensued.
"As it seems no one is missing," the priest mumbled.
"That's it ... obviously the first assumption is the right one. We have a murder here, but the victim is not native. The police knows its job, we only have to find Raffi and retrieve the hand.
"But he won't give it to us."
"Bait him with something, sausage, salami, whatever."
"Wow, here he is! Oh dear! That's really a human hand!"
The people rushed toward Raffi who tuck his tail between his legs and ran away. The pursuers didn't manage to catch him – though well past his prime, he still was in good shape.
"Mayor, you have a shotgun. Shoot him!"
"No way. I'm not going to shoot at Raffi. What happened is not his fault."
"Hell, why is this damned mongrel running?"
"Maybe because we chase him," said Peter.
"So ... if we stop chasing him ... he will come voluntarily."
Peopled calmed down and no later than ten minutes after that Raffi appeared on the square, happily wagging his tail. But the terrible hand wasn't in his mouth yet.