I’d been puttering around my office all afternoon. After a while I put the putter away, kicked all the golfballs into a corner. I leaned back in my chair with my feet on my desk, listening to the soothing sounds of the city.
“Shut up, Harry!” screamed the soothing voice from next door. “You’re not taking my sister for a walk anymore, and get that stupid dog out of here!!!”
“It isn’t a dog! It’s your mother!” Sirens punctuated her sentences, and noxious fumes rolled in from the traffic above.
I had just returned from a weekend of pheasant hunting in the plains. We flushed birds for two days. Then I called the plumber and he cleared the drain.
“Don’t flush anymore pheasants,” he ordered.
I joined him and ordered also, hamburger and fries.
“Try flushing quail, they’re smaller,” he said, then left.
Someone knocked timidly at my office door. “Come in!” I turned on the background saxophone music to set the mood.
The man who entered looked like he wanted to run. It was his running shoes, headband, and shorts that gave him away. He was sweating. “You don’t have to yell.”
“I’m sorry. What can I do for you?”
“I want to hire the Outdoor Detective.”
“That’s me,” I answered proudly.
“I expected more.”
“They always do. What can I do for you?”
“I want to hire you to find my missing hunting guide. I’ll pay you well.”
I licked his hand gratefully.
“You need to keep your eyes peeled for him.”
“I’d rather not,” I said. “They always dry out when I peel them, and those dried peelings all over the floor crackle under your feet.”
“Is that your dog?” his gaze wandered as I talked, ignoring my comments. He pointed to the corner.
“What’s his name?”
“Play dead, Neil,” he said. “Good dog.”
“He is dead.”
“Oh. Well, anyway, I’d look for the guide myself but I don’t know how. Maybe you could show me the ropes?”
I produced several ropes of various lengths.
“It looks too complicated,” he decided. “Maybe you’d better do it for me. How much will it cost?”
“That depends. Are you rich?” I asked.
“No, I’m Ken.
“You don’t look like kin. You must be from dad’s side of the family.”
“Will it cost a lot?”
“What’s a lot to you?”
“A big piece of land to scrape clean and cover with concrete buildings.”
I smiled in understanding. “Never mind. What happened to your hunting guide?”
“I’m not sure. We were hunting out near Abilene and communicating by walkie-talkies…”
I took notes as he talked. Mostly B flats.
“…and I was in a deer stand. He was in the coffee shop when a huge buck stepped into my view. I described it; a large animal with legs and antlers. I heard him order
coffee and then he said shoot. I was almost ready to pull the trigger, I just had to load the rifle and attach the scope, when guns began firing all around me. Then machine guns started chattering and pretty soon I heard artillery thumping in the distance. Soon the mortars kicked in for support. It was awful.”
“The shooting?” I asked, sympathetically.
“No, the coffee. He said it was chicory. Ya gotta help me!” he shouted.
“You’ve gotta stop saying words like ya gotta!” I shouted back. “I don’t know what he looks like. Do you have a picture?”
He produced an oil portrait of Picasso.
I didn’t say a word. He has mean eyes, I thought, both on the same side of his head.
“What do you think?” he asked.
I dummied up. His eyes narrowed. “I can see the dummy’s mouth move when you talk,” he said.
“It’s supposed to be the other way around,” I answered.
“Luck has nothing to do with it.” We shook hands and he left.
I practiced my yodeling and for a while, turned off the music and smiled at Neil. “Good dog,” I said.
I hate it when dogs jump up on people.