Sneak Peek: The Sound and the Furry
I sat up straight. We rounded a curve and spotted some dudes in orange jump suits picking up trash by the road side, a sheriff’s van idling behind them, yellow light flashing. Bernie eased off the gas. We’d put a lot of perps into orange jump suits and you never knew when you’d bump into an old pal.
“Hey,” Bernie said. “Isn’t that Frenchie Boutette?”
The little roly-poly dude at the end, poking at a scrap of paper, missing, taking a short break? He glanced our way, recognized the car, easy to tell from how his eyebrows shot up. Yes, Frenchie for sure. We pulled over.
“Frenchie! How’s it going?”
Frenchie looked at Bernie, then at me, and backed away.
“Don’t be shy,” Bernie said. “We’re not going to bite you.”
“Think I’m fallin’ for that line again?” Frenchie said. “Slipped your mind how Chet bit me that last time, down in Arroyo Seco?”
“Come on, Frenchie. How can you call that a bite?”
“Because of all the blood,” Frenchie said.
“Barely a scratch,” Bernie said. “Booze thins the blood. And why did you try to run away in the first place?”
“Because I didn’t want to do time. Why else? Like maybe I was training for the Boston Marathon?”
Bernie laughed. “Haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
A sheriff’s deputy came over, shotgun pointed down, although not completely down. Weapons are something I keep a close eye on.
“What’s goin’ on here?” he said.
“I was just saying that Frenchie hasn’t lost his sense of humor.”
“Bernie?” the deputy said.
“Hey, Waldo,” said Bernie. “How’s it going?”
“Hundred and seven in the shade and I’m out here with the scum of the earth – how do you think it’s going?” Deputy Waldo said, the shotgun now pointed directly at the ground, just the way I like. “This Chet?”
“Heard about him.” Deputy Waldo gave me a close look. Right away, just from a change is his eyes – tiny eyes and pretty cold until this moment – I could tell he liked me and my kind. “A pretty big dude,” Waldo went on. “What’s he weigh?”
“Getting him on the scale’s not easy,” Bernie said.
I remembered that game! Bernie tried to pick me up, maybe with some idea of standing with me on the scale. Lots of fun, but no one picks me up, amigo.
“A hundred plus,” Bernie was saying. “And he’s strong for his size.”
“You got him from the K-9 program?”
“He flunked out – was what went down?” Waldo said. “Hard to believe.”
“A long story,” Bernie said.
And not one I wanted to dwell on at that moment. Flunked out on the very last day, with only the leaping test left, and leaping was my very best thing. The good part was I actually couldn’t dwell on it for long, on account of the details growing hazier in my mind every day. I was pretty sure a cat was involved, and maybe some blood – but I might have been getting it all mixed up with Frenchie’s blood. I’d never meant to do Frenchie any harm, just grab him by the pant leg, which was how we usually ended cases at the Little Detective Agency, but Frenchie had strangely chubby calves, and all of a sudden I’d found myself … best not to go there. Sometimes things happen before you even know it – let’s leave it at that.
Meanwhile Deputy Waldo was saying, “Is he allowed any treats?” He handed Bernie the shotgun, fished through his pockets. Allowed? That was a new one on me. “Don’t have any dog treats as such,” Waldo said. “But here’s a Slim Jim, kind of a weakness of mine.”
Not a whole Slim Jim – one end completely chewed off – but one thing was clear: Deputy Waldo and I were peas in a pod, although peas, in or out of the pod – and I had experience with both kinds – didn’t do it for me at all. Also I was kind of confused on the weakness part. The very next moment I was fully occupied and none of that – peas, pods, weaknesses – mattered the least little bit.
- coming Sept 10 (next Tuesday). Spence is thinking of reading this selection on the tour.
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