(I wrote this for giggles a while back. Not a very serious work, but I hope you enjoy it.)
In my twenty years as both a cop and private investigator I’ve been asked to find a lot of things in New Jersey: murderers, rapists, thieves, drugs, stolen cars, putrefying body parts in the Meadowlands, one serial killer, runaway children, cheating spouses, lost loves, dead-beat dads, insurance fraudsters and the newly litigated ducking subpoenas. But in all that time no one ever asked me to find a dog.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked the elderly woman sitting across from me.
“That’s what the police said,” Mrs. Bogush said. “They think I’m a crazy.”
From where I was sitting Mrs. Bogush didn’t look like a candidate for psychiatric care. Clear eyed and sober, she was in her late sixties and wearing the kind of pantsuit older woman wear when they’ve taken themselves off the market. Her hair was dyed red and the pleasantly plump face that stared back at me was remarkably smooth. She looked like a kindly grandmother who’d spoil somebody’s kid rotten.
“Finding animals isn’t my line of work Mrs. Bogush.”
“You help people find things,” she said. “Don’t you Mr. Byrne?”
“”Yeah,” I said. “Wives messing around on their husbands. Cars that need repossessing, that kind of stuff.”
“You think I’m crazy too.”
“No ma’am. I just think you’re in the wrong place.”
Mrs. Bogush opened her large red purse; dug out a flat pack of newly minted one hundred dollars bills and threw then on my desk.
“That’s five thousand dollars Mr. Byrne,” she said. “Still think I’m in the wrong place?”
I looked at the money and let out a low whistle. Five large would pay my rent for months, send me to Hawaii or buy that macked out stereo system I was lusting after. Forget about what you read in all those private eye novels. We aren’t idealistic knights’ errant on quixotic quests to right the world’s wrongs. We’re in it for the money.
“You’ve got my attention Mrs. Bogush,” I said. “But five thousand’s a lot to find a dog.”
“He’s not just a dog Mr. Byrne,” Mrs. Bogush said. “Muffles was at my side when my husband died, when I recovered from breast cancer and all my friends started moving away. He’s been the one constant in my life for eight years. The police have other things to do – but you can look for him full time.”
I reached into my desk drawer and pulled out a legal pad and a pen. “So the dog’s name is Muffles?”
“You’ll take the case?” Mrs. Bogush said, her face brightening.
“I thought money would convince you.”
“You seem to know how people operate.”
“Ha,” she said. “I was a nurse for forty-five years Mr. Byrne. I’m under no illusions about what motivates people – sex, money and the fear of death.”
I let the fear of death thing slide and picked up my pen. “So what kind of dog is Muffles?”
“He’s a Japanese Chin.”
“Never heard of that breed.”
“They’re a very rare and ancient breed,” she said. “Chinese emperors kept them as pets a thousand years ago.”
“Got a picture?”
Mrs. Bogush reached into her cavernous purse and produced a photo. The small dog that stared back at me had black and white fur, a spaniel’s body, large brown eyes and a pug nose.
“Looks like a Pekinese,” I said.
“He looks nothing like a Pekinese,” Mrs. Bogush said, with a trace of snobbery. You can get one of those anywhere. Chins are very expensive. I paid three thousand dollars for Muffles.” Muffles didn’t look like three thousand dollars worth of anything but I kept that to myself.
“Tell me about when he disappeared,” I said.
“It was the day before yesterday,” Mrs. Bogush said. “I had just left the dog park…”
“In Lyndhurst. In the park near the river.”
“Okay,” I said, scribbling on my pad. “Go on.”
“So I went to the Quik-Mart on Ridge Road to buy some milk. I usually take Muffles with me everywhere but that man who runs the store won’t let me bring him inside. So I left him in the car…” Tears started eroding tributaries in Mrs. Bogush’s make up and her body started to shudder.
“If I hadn’t left him in the car,” she said. “If I hadn’t left my poor baby in the car…”
I handed Mrs. Bogush the box Kleenex I kept on hand for moments like these. Usually people cried in my office because I had confirmed their lovers were boinking everybody but them. Today was a first.
“So went you went to your car and the dog was gone,” I said.
“Some one popped the lock and took him,” Mrs. Bogush sobbed. “I can’t bear to think how scared Muffles was.”
“What did the police say?” I asked.
“They said they’d look into it but that’ll take forever.”
“They’re often very busy.”
“You know what the super in my building told me?” Mrs. Bogush said. “He told me small dogs are used to whip the bigger ones into a frenzy at dog fights. I don’t have time for the police to figure it out! Oh my god. The thought of Muffles dying in some pit bulls mouth…”
Mrs. Bogush was sobbing hard now. I sat back in my chair and waited for the storm to pass. When it did I said, “I can see how much you love that dog Mrs. Bogush. I’ll….
“Millie,” she interrupted. “Call me Millie.”
“I’ll do my best to find him, Millie.”
After Mrs. Bogush left I took two grand out of her stack of cash and put the rest in the office safe. Then I grabbed my cell phone, keys, and gun and went to get my car.
My office was in Haverford that year; above a music store and across the street from a Dunkin Donuts. If you want to lose your hearing and get high cholesterol at the same time I’d highly recommend the location. Walking into Dunkin I ordered a regular coffee and a Boston Cream. I didn’t need the doughnut. I just wanted to piss my internist off.
After I paid up I flicked open the folding knife I always keep in my pocket and poked a hole into my cup’s plastic top. As I did so, two young mothers with obnoxiously oversized baby carriages stared at me wide eyed. I wondered what their reaction would be if they saw my gun. Probably scare them out of their tight fitting yoga pants. Then again, that wouldn’t have been so bad.
Washing down the sugary bolus with a swig of coffee, I climbed into my Chevy and drove over to the Quik Mart in Lyndhurst. When I got there the stern looking Indian guy behind the counter wasn’t too accommodating. “I no see anything,” he said, looking at my Dunkin Donuts coffee with naked hostility. “I tell that lady she can’t bring dog into store. Not my fault lady get dog stolen.”
“You’re all heart, Chirag,” I replied.
“How you know my name?”
“It’s on your name tag,” I said. The clerk was like all convenience store clerks in New Jersey – no sense of customer service.
“You buy something or what?” he said.
“Well, I’m not going to buy coffee.”
“Listen,” I said. “You have security cameras. I want to look at the tapes of the day in question.”
“I no show them to you.”
I produced a fifty and placed it on the counter. “Maybe I do feel like buying something after all.”
The clerk snapped up the bill and put in his pocket before I could blink. “This way,” he said.
Soon I was huddled over a video monitor in a small room filled with posters of Bollywood film stars and a mouse munching on the dried rivulets of rancid Coke syrup that had leaked onto floor. The store’s surveillance system was only set up to take a picture every two seconds but the image quality was good. When I got to the time frame of the theft I watched as Millie walked into the store to run her errands. But as she was comparing the price of regular milk over skim, the outside camera showed a thin Latino man cracking open her car’s passenger door with a jimmy stick and grabbing Muffles. The dog wasn’t much of a fighter and the man ducked into an old silver Buick with rusted out wheel wheels and drove away. From the camera angle I couldn’t see the plates.
“You got another view? One where I can see the plate number?” I asked
“I want two hundred,” the clerk said, grinning avariciously. “Two hundred more.”
“What I gave you was plenty.”
“Two hundred,” the clerk repeated, his eyes looking like hard brown buttons.
I grabbed the clerk by his shirt and lifted him clean off his feet. “You are going to show me that video,” I said slowly. “And you’re going to take my fifty and like it. If you don’t I’ll tell the board of health about the colony of mice you’ve got back here.”
“Okay mister,” the clerk said, gasping. “Okay boss. Whatever you say. You the boss.”
I set the clerk down. After he caught his breath he spooled up footage from another camera.
“There,” I said. “Freeze it there.”
The picture in the monitor showed the dognapper’s car going out of the lot but a pedestrian was blocking the view so I could only get a partial plate: New Jersey UTX something, something.
“Thanks a lot, Chirag,” I said, walking out of the fetid back office. “And don’t worry, I won’t be back. I’m sure your coffee sucks.”
Getting into my car I fired up my laptop and surfed over to an Internet site that only licensed PI’s can access for a hefty annual fee. After a few clicks I narrowed the DMV’s record of silver Buicks with the partial I got down to three people. After a little more probing I discovered one of the cars was registered to a Teresa Alvarez in Passaic – a tough urban burg just a few miles away. Since the other two car owners lived near Philly I figured I had my man. Or woman as it were.
When I drove to Passaic I discovered Teresa Alvarez lived in a dilapidated frame house in the bad section of town. Probably built in the early 1900’s, the house’s mansard roof was missing half of its shingles, the cheap aluminum siding was streaked with rust and the lopsided front porch was breaking the laws of physics just by standing up. Thin curtains in window frames that hadn’t see paint since the Carter Administration flopped lazily in the spring breeze and the front lawn had been replaced by a mat of concrete puddled with a gas station’s worth of oil anti-freeze.
I parked my car down the street and opened the trunk of my car to don a disguise. When you tell people you’re a private eye they usually slam the door on your foot so a measure of deception is usually called for. Shucking my leather jacket I took a blue blazer out of the trunk and rummaged though the assortment of nametags I kept in a shoebox. When I found the right one I attached it to the blazer, grabbed a clipboard and walked to Ms. Alvarez’s front door.
The woman who answered the doorbell was a thin Latina woman in her seventies. Wearing a simple housedress and slippers, she had an apron around her waist and a gold chain with a cross around her neck. I could smell something with onions cooking inside.
“Mrs. Teresa Alvarez?”
“Yes?” she said, looking at me suspiciously.
“My name’s Bob McAllister,” I said pointing to my nametag. “I’m with New Ministries Life Church. I understand you own an old Buick?”
“Well my church is taking old cars people don’t want and selling them to raise money for our missionary efforts in Africa.”
“Oh! That’s good work,” she said in broken English. “The Lord’s work. I go to church every Sunday.”
‘That’s wonderful Mrs. Alvarez. Would you like to donate your car? I’ll give you a receipt so you claim a deduction on your taxes.”
‘Be nice, yes. But my grandson need the car. He works.”
“He’s lucky to have such a nice grandmother,” I said. “Is he good with the Lord?”
“He young,” Mrs. Alvarez said, shrugging. “Only old people worry about God.”
“What his name? I’ll put him on my prayer list and send him a bible.”
“Oh wonderful,” she said. “His name is Cornelio.”
“Is his last name Alvarez too? Want to make sure the Lord get’s the right name.”
“Santiago. Cornelio Santiago. He’s my girl’s boy. His father here no more.”
“What does Cornelio do for living?” I asked.
“He works with animals. Helps sick dogs.”
“Thank you Mrs. Alvarez. I’ll keep Cornelio in my prayers.”
When I got back to my car I ditched the blazer, put on a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and untucked my shirt to cover up my gun. Then I walked into a taqueira down the street to get some lunch. I couldn’t stay on the street because someone would look at my white ass, think I was a cop and telegraph the information all over the neighborhood. So I grabbed a table by the window and washed down three pork tamales with two bottles of Carta Blanca that the place didn’t have a liquor license to sell. But judging from the hard stares I was getting from the waitress I might be fingered as a cop before dessert. I didn’t have much time.
I got lucky, While lingering over my second cup of café tasso, the brown Buick pulled onto Mrs. Alvarez’s concrete lawn and the young man I saw on the Quik-Mart tape got out holding a small cage with a dog in it. The dog was black and white but it wasn’t Muffles. It looked more like a Boston terrier. Paying the bill I walked out of the taqueira got into my car and drove away. The moment Cornelio’s abuelita told him about my visit he’d be looking for me. And from the gang tats I saw on his arms I didn’t want to be around when he did. So I decided to do what any self-respecting white dude does when he needs to infiltrate the Latino community – hire a Spanish guy.
Leaving Passaic behind me I headed to meet my Latin connection at the Riverside Mall in Hackensack – the place where rich New Jerseyites go to shop. Ignacio Marquez was an ex-cop who lived in my town. Just starting on the Newark P.D. as I was gently being shown the door, I worked with him enough to know he was a good kid and a fine officer. But when the recession forced Newark’s mayor to lay off hundreds of cops, Ignacio got the boot. Now he was working as a store detective at the mall. Not a lateral career move.
“So how’s busting crime in one of the ritziest malls in Jersey?” I said as we sipped coffee in a cafe next to Tiffany’s.
“Loss prevention specialist,” Ignacio said, correcting me. “If you like busting kleptomaniac rich chicks it’s a great gig.”
“That’s the wealthy for you,” I said. “Always wanting a little more. But I’ve got some honest work for you. Need you to follow one of your countrymen.”
“What do you mean by countrymen?” Ignacio said. “I’m from the Dominican Republic.”
“You people are all the same. What’s the difference?”
Ignacio frowned at me without malice. He was a skinny kid with the face of an ascetic saint and the frame of a featherweight boxer. The sum of a very black Cuban father and very white Dominican mother, he could pass for black, Latino, Italian or Arab. Ignacio would’ve been a natural for undercover work.
“Very funny blanquito,” he said, stroking the end of his pencil thin mustache. “You were always very funny.”
I pulled papers and photos out of my jacket and laid them on the table. “I need you to follow this guy. He’s from Mexico if that matters.”
“What’s his deal?’
“Cornelio Santiago,” I said. “Twenty-eight years old, member of the Latin Kings, two stints at Eastern State for drug dealing and post grad work at Essex County for stealing cars. Suspected in two murders, no indictments.”
“Guy’s an asshole,” Ignacio said, studying Cornelio’s picture.
“And I thought you people stuck together.”
Ignacio made a face. “What do you need and how much will it pay?” I told him.
“You’re shitting me,” Ignacio said. “You’re gonna pay me a thousand bucks to help you find a dog?”
“The lady wants him back sooner than later. And if Cornelio’s into what I think he’s into Muffles isn’t long for this world. Might be dead already.”
“You white people are crazy motherfuckers,” Ignacio said, shaking his head.
“I need you on this right now,” I said. “Think you can talk your boss into giving you some sick time?”
“For a grand I’ve got gonorrhea. I’ll be in Passaic in two hours.”
As we shook hands a pair of athletic looking older women wearing high heels and short skirts walked into the café loaded down with bags from Prada, Hermes and Tiffany’s. Ignacio and I immediately noticed they had very fine derrieres. Hey, we used to be cops. When one of the women gave Ignacio a covert glance I chuckled.
“Sure you want to leave this all behind?” I asked, pointing to the ladies.
“Gringa cougars,” Ignacio said, smiling. “They marry rich but all end up banging the gardener.”
With my gut digesting three pork tamales stewing in beer and coffee I took an antacid the moment I got home and took a nap. When I woke up two hours later I had seven voice mails on my cell. They were all from Millie. I decided to ignore her. If she found out her worst fears might be true she’d have a coronary.
The next time my phone rang it was Ignacio on the line. He told me that Cornelio had loaded three small dogs into his Buick and drove to an abandoned industrial area by the Passaic River.
“He went into one of the warehouses. So I did my barracho routine and said I was looking for a dogfight. The dipshits told me to be there at two in the morning and bring money.”
“You get a look inside?”
“Not much of a place, man,” Ignacio said. “But I got the layout down.”
“Great,” I said, ““See? They don’t expect a drunken Spaniard to be a cop.”
“Dominican, bro. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Where are you now?” I asked.
“I’m on the fourth floor in the warehouse on the northwest corner, doing the private eye thing.” I looked at my watch. It was six o’clock.
“You want to help me with this?” I asked.
“Go up against some dog fighting gangbangers?” Ignacio said. “You serious?”
“Another two thousand in it for you.”
After telling Ignacio I’d join him at eleven I hung up and went into my gun safe to assemble all the tools the evening’s festivities might require. At nine I changed into black pants, black sweater, black shoes and threw my duffel bag of goodies into the trunk of my car. All this for a dog. Jesus Christ.
Now you just don’t go up against gangbangers without taking precautions. The young ones were, by and large, stupid. But their leaders could be very, very smart. I didn’t want this little escapade circling back on me so I drove to Newark Airport, parked my car in the long-term parking lot and promptly stole another. Nothing fancy, just a beat-up old Honda. Stealing a car isn’t the most ethical thing sure, but gang guys often had cops in their pocket that could run a DMV check faster then I could. So when I got off the Turnpike near the Meadowlands I pulled under an abandoned train trestle and switched the stolen car’s plates with ones from a guy who’d never need them again. I didn’t want the innocent Honda owner getting clipped either.
At eleven o’clock I reached Passaic and parked behind the building Ignacio was hiding in. The wind coming off the river was cold and the hulking warehouse was as desolate and dark as the soul of the serial killer I once hunted. Taking a deep breath I got my duffel bag out of the car and went inside. Using my flashlight sparingly I made my way up the rusted out stairs and found Ignacio lying on a sleeping bag, peering at the building on the other side of the cratered parking lot with a high power night scope.
“Where the hell did you get that thing?” I asked. “Those scopes cost a fortune.”
“Around,” Ignacio said, shrugging.
“So where’d you park your car?”
“Car?” Ignacio said. “Think I’m gonna bring my fine ride here? I took a taxi bro.”
“Can’t blame you. So what’s going on with our friends?”
“Not much. A few guys coming and going. I don’t think we’ll see any action for a while.”
As the hours ticked by Ignacio and I took turns looking though the scope, drinking coffee from his thermos and studying the target building’s floor plan. “Like I said, not much too it,” Ignacio said as we looked at the map he had drawn. “They’re in the basement, a big empty space with a large cage in the center.”
“Exits? Entrances?” I asked.
“There’s only one way in and one way out.”
“Good. That’ll make things easier.”
“We can’t be killing people, man.”
“Don’t worry Ignacio,” I said. “I have a plan.”
“What? Ask them to give up?”
“Shock and awe, amigo. Shock and awe.”
I opened up my duffel bag and laid its contents on the floor. Two shotguns, three stun grenades and several boxes of Hornet’s Nest non-lethal shotgun shells.
“Where the hell did you get stun grenades?” Ignacio said.
“Around,” I replied, grinning.
“Dios mio,” Ignacio said. “I was right. You white people are crazy.”
The plan was simple which was good because the complicated ones always go wrong. We’d enter the basement, toss in the grenades and force the pandilleros into compliance with our plastic ammunition. If things got really hairy Ignacio and I both had semi-automatic pistols holstered on our belts.
For the next hour we crunched though our escape plan and waited. At one-thirty two SUV’s pulled up next to the warehouse and several men got out carrying cases of beer. Then we saw four large dogs straining against chains being led into the basement. From our vantage point they looked like Rottweilers. I felt my stomach tighten as my adrenal glands kicked into overdrive. After a few minutes several more cars pulled into the lot. As the passengers got out they engaged in all that macho posturing these thugs are so fond of – flashing gang signs and slapping each other on the back. There were twenty of them in all.
“Time to go,” I said, handing Ignacio one of the shotguns.
“I hope you’re right about this,” he said.
“Beats shaking down shoplifters for blowjobs don’t it?”
“Aw man,” Ignacio said. “You’ve got me all figured out.”
When we were sure that everybody had shown up, Ignacio and I donned ski masks, got into the stolen Honda and crept up to the basement door with the lights off. As we carefully approached the entrance we could hear the roar of callous men and barking dogs punching though the reggaton music blasting inside. Then we politely knocked.
The fat guy weighted down with gold chains who opened the door managed to say, “What the fuck!” before I blasted him in the chest. Hornet’s Nest rounds are shotgun shells filled with twenty .308 caliber plastic pellets. They won’t kill, but when they hit you with 100 pounds of foot pressure they hurt like a bitch. As the doorman fell down screaming I moved to the side of the door and Ignacio tossed two of the stun grenades inside. Designed to disorient people with bright light and a loud bang, I knew the concrete walls of the basement would amplify the effect. After they exploded I ran inside, aimed at the biggest cluster of men I could see and raked them with my shotgun until it was empty. The grenades and ammunition produced the desired effect. Screaming and covering their ears, the gangbangers didn’t know what hit them.
“Listen up assholes,” I yelled with Ignacio translating behind me. “This is a bona-fide fucking hold up. Now I shot you with plastic pellets to get your attention. But my friend here has the real bullets. If he sees anybody reaching for a weapon you all die.”
“You stupid fuck,” a bodybuilder type covered in tattoos said as he shook the stars from his eyes. “You know who you’re fucking with?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know exactly who I’m fucking with.”
With Ignacio covering me I reloaded my shotgun and walked around the makeshift arena. A huge Rottweiler was whimpering in the corner of the chicken wire fight cage and bleeding from the right eye. He had gotten tagged by one of the pellets and the grenades had overwhelmed his acute hearing. I would’ve felt bad if I hadn’t seen the carcass of a small dog in lying next to him. Its head had been ripped off and grey intestines lay in limp coils on the dirty cement floor. But the dog’s bloodied fur was brown. It wasn’t Muffles.
“Compadre,” I said to Ignacio. “You good?”
“Si, amigo,” he called out from behind me
“If they move,” I said, keeping my eyes on dogfighters. “Kill them.” Then I took a pillowcase out of my coat and threw it on the floor.
“Dipshits,” I said. “Drop your wallets and all the bets into the bag.”
“We ain’t gonna,” the bodybuilder said. “When this is over we’re gonna find you and kill your whole fucking family.” Getting the sense that muscleman wasn’t going to play well with others I clubbed him in the head with the butt of my shotgun. Then, when he was sprawled on the floor, I pressed the blue steel muzzle into his left eye.
“Gonna be hard to find me when your blind culero,” I said. The bodybuilder didn’t make a sound.
“Are you still confused about who’s in charge?” I said, twisting the muzzle.
“No man,” he said carefully. “You’re in charge.”
The crowd of men passed around the pillowcase and tossed their wallets inside. When they finished threw the bag over to me.
“Now I have most of your IDs,” I said. “So if any of you knuckleheads try and find me it’ll be your families who’ll die, not mine. I’ll kill your wives, your children, grandparents, shit, I’ll even kill your damn dogs.”
I was lying of course, but my words caused the men to look stonily at the floor. Threatening peoples’ families was their stock and trade. They didn’t seem too thrilled it was being done to them.
Keeping my shotgun level I slowly walked backwards and when I reached Ignacio he advanced to keep all the thugs in his sights. Looking around I found a small cage next to the cases of beer. Muffles was in it. Pressed up against an equally terrified looking Boston terrier, he was shaking uncontrollably. But he was alive.
Grabbing a pair of leashes off the floor I hooked up Muffles and his cellmate and started backtracking to the exit. “And I’m going to steal your fucking dogs too,” I called out. “Bleeding heart yuppies will pay through the nose to have them.”
The gangbangers stayed silent as I took the dogs outside and put them in the car. Ignacio stayed behind because I knew the men we ripped off would start shooting the first chance they got. Using my folding knife, I sliced open the tires of all the cars in the lot and then got into the Honda. Tooting the horn once I watched as Ignacio carefully backed his way out. Then, just as I started the engine, he threw the last of the stun grenades into the basement and started running like hell.
“Vamanos!” he said, slamming his door shut. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Flooring the accelerator, I heard the Honda’s tires rip through the broken asphalt as we rapidly egressed the area. In my rear view mirror I saw the gangbangers tumble out of the basement and start running to their cars. Discovering that wouldn’t work a few of them started shooting. As the muzzle flashes pierced the darkness I instinctively ducked – but we were already well out of range and headed for the highway. I finally stopped shaking when we pulled into Newark Airport.
Three hours later Ignacio and I were sitting at my kitchen table counting our forcibly acquired loot. The Honda was back in the spot I stole it from, the dogs had been given a clean bill of health by a 24-hour vet and we had even swung by the supermarket to buy dog food. Having eaten two bowls apiece, Muffles and the Boston were fast asleep on my couch. It had been a busy night.
“There’s fifteen thousand dollars here,” Ignacio said, his hands waving over the stacks of bills arranged on the table. “Those guys are going to be pissed.”
“If they are they’ll have a hell of a time finding us,” I replied. “Besides, we know where they live. They won’t forget that.”
“Especially since we went all commando on their ass.”
“So what do you want to do with this money?” Ignacio said. “It’s blood money. If we keep it karma’s going to smack us upside the head.”
“I was thinking about donating it to the ASPCA.”
“Righteous,” Ignacio said, a broad smile playing on his thin face. “Absolutely righteous.”
“Who knows?” I said. “Maybe our friends will repent like Michael Vick.”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”
After we drank a few beers to take the edge off, Ignacio pushed himself away from the table and put on his coat. “Thanks for the thrills, Byrne,” he said. “Next time you need something you know where to find me.”
“Have fun loss preventing at the mall.”
“Adios, muchacho.” And as soon as I closed the door after him I collapsed into my bed with my gunpowder soaked still clothes on.
The next morning I awoke to feel a tongue aggressively licking my face. For a brief moment I thought my ex-wife had paid me a visit for a little breakup sex. Then I remembered she lived in L.A.. So when I opened my eyes I wasn’t surprised to see it was the Boston terrier covering me in slobber. The little bastards had joined me sometime in the middle of the night. I could feel Muffles under the covers at the foot of the bed, snoring louder than his size gave him any right too.
After a quick shower and shave I leashed the dogs and walked the seven blocks to my office. Along the way Muffles and his friend dumped a prodigious amount of feces on some poor slob’s lawn. Since I didn’t have a pooper-scooper I prayed no one saw us. The last thing I needed was a ticket for not curbing my dog. Then I remembered they weren’t mine.
When reached my office the dogs leaped on to the leather couch I used for naps and started nipping and licking each others private parts. After I opened the windows to flush the smell of dog from my office, I dialed Millie.
“I’ll be right over,” she cried when I told her the good news. “Right over” was an understatement. She was knocking on my door in three minutes.
When I let her in Muffles bounded into her arms and Millie broke out crying. But this time her tears were of a better, cleaner quality. After about five minutes of licking, kissing and crying my supply of Kleenex was exhausted and the newly reunited pair plunked down onto the couch.
“Where did you ever find him?” Millie asked, her makeup a wreck.
“I really can’t tell you.”
“Do me a favor Millie,” I said. “If any one asks you, say you found Muffles at the pound.”
“I’ll say anything you want me to.”
After I told Millie her dog had been checked out by a vet I said, “Sorry to say this, but finding Muffles turned out to be quit expensive. Most of your money is gone.”
“Oh, it was worth it Mr. Byrne,” she said, hugging Muffles. “You have no idea.”
“So,” I said, pointing to the Boston sitting next to her on the couch. “Want another dog?”
“Doesn’t he have an owner?’
“He had no tags,” I said. “And the vet couldn’t find one of those ID microchips in him.”
Millie shook her head and sighed. “Dogs like him require a lot of exercise Mr. Byrne. At my age he’d be too much for me to handle.”
I felt something in my mind snap, like an unconscious decision had been made. “It was worth a shot Millie. But don’t worry. I’ll find a home for him.”
“I’m sure you will. You’re a nice man Mr. Byrne.”
“Thanks Millie,” I said. “Nice is not an appellation that’s usually ascribed to me.”
After Millie left I leashed up the Boston and headed to the pet supply store on Route Three. I purchased a new leash, a blanket with paws printed on it and two sets of food and water bowls. Then I went back to the 24-hour vet, got the dog all his shots and headed to the police station to get him licensed.
“So what’s the dog’s name?” the clerk asked as she filled out the paperwork.
I looked at the Boston and thought about it for a minute. I had never named anything in my life.
“Felix,” I said. “I named him after my grandfather.”
Pooch duties finished and a new license dangling from his collar, Felix and I went back to my office. I filled his new water bowl from the bathroom tap and settled behind my desk to figure how much I made off this little adventure. After Ignacio’s fee, bribing the convenience store clerk, vet bills and all of Felix’s supplies my net profit was six hundred dollars. I decided not to bill Millie for my expenses. She had paid enough already. Oh well, no new stereo for me.
Leaning back in my chair I looked at Felix sleeping on my couch. Outside my window the cool spring breeze carried the promise of summer and the racket from the music store below. But if Felix heard the noise he didn’t show it. He just snoozed away, dreaming whatever dreams dogs dream.
“All this for a dog,” I said to no one in particular. “Jesus Christ.”