Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One
Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One
A Short Story
This morning I was swearing to myself that I would never tell anyone about this. It all made me sort of ashamed, professionally, but a man’s gotta eat and the Power Company doesn’t care about my pride – professional or otherwise.
So, I’ll tell you, but keep what I say close to your vest. I don’t want the competition or the Law to hear about this. OK?
About ten days ago I was in my office going through my billing records. The IRS was calling me in for an audit. They didn’t believe I was making as little as I put on my returns. Hey, it’s been a tough few years. What with the internet and all, people aren’t hiring Private Investigators like they used to and I’m not any Sherlock Holmes or whoever. I’m just a guy who used to be a cop who blew that job to bits along with a couple of train wreck marriages. I’m just trying to make ends get within shouting distance of each other.
Anyway, I’m up to my elbows in paper when in through my door comes this Redhead with a pair of legs that started at her smile and went all the way to bankruptcy court.
“I need help,” she said, “I’m desperate and I don’t know what to do.”
That was her talking, but it could just as easy have been coming from my wallet. George and Abe were lonely. Hopefully they were about to get some playmates.
“My name is Sunny Boggs and ‘Peaches’ is missing.”
Who or what was “Peaches” I didn’t know. All I did know was that I didn’t like the way this day was starting, but then I didn’t like the way yesterday finished either so…
Sunny Boggs was dressed in a rich looking outfit. Even I could tell that, and her jewelry probably cost more than my net worth.
“’Peaches’ is my puppy. I love him more than anything and I think he’s been kidnapped. Can you help me?”
She was looking for her missing dog.
I suggested that she put up a note on the bulletin board at the Piggly Wiggly. She suggested that I shut up and listen to her story. She was wearing diamonds and I was wearing yesterday’s socks. I shut up and listened.
For the next twenty minutes she told me all about “Peaches.” I learned things about that dog that I didn’t know about my parents. When she finally stopped to take a breath I spoke up and asked her why she picked my name out of the yellow pages.
“Your ad had a picture of a Bloodhound so I thought you specialized in missing pets.” Right. I figured that those were twenty minutes I’d never get back.
Halfway through my explanation about the Bloodhound picture she pulled a quartet of hundred dollar bills out of her bag. For $400 in cash I’d look for Peaches, Apples, or even Green Grapes – right after a stop at the bank to make sure the bills were kosher and to the Power Company before sundown. Along with the cash she handed me a picture of the dog. I stuffed it in my pocket without even looking at it. Ben Franklin’s picture was more important to me right then.
With that she stood up and walked out of the office. She left behind the scent of something expensive and the promise of more paid off creditors if I played it right.
The bills were good enough to get me a decent lunch and to keep my lights on, so I felt obligated to at least look for the pooch.
Over my pie and coffee I took the picture out of my pocket. Who names their dog “Peaches?” That’s downright insulting. “Spike,” “Killer,” or even “Thor” if you ask me, but, “Peaches?” If I had a dog and I named it “Peaches” the other dogs would beat it up every time we’d go to the park. He could be a 200 pound Rottweiler and some Chihuahua named “Crusher” would neuter him.
“Peaches” – that’s just cruel.
“Peaches” was a Doberman and he looked like he wasn’t too happy with his name either. He looked more like an “Adolph” to me. Nobody in their right mind would try to “dognap” that meat grinder of an animal, but the lady had $400 worth of a different opinion so I finished my pie and swallowed my pride along with it.
My first stop was the city dog pound. Maybe “Peaches” just ran away from home. You know – start over in a different life, calling himself Brutus or something.
If I was a dog the last place I’d want to end up would be the city dog pound. It was a combination flophouse, insane asylum, and Auschwitz. Very few of the dogs that went in ever came out, and the ones that do leave do so with fleas and a desire to bite every human in sight. I couldn’t blame them.
I checked at the front desk. The guy in charge looked like a prison guard I’d once had the displeasure of meeting. He squinted at the picture of “Peaches” and told me that they had three Dobermans in lock-up. He took me through the steel door into the cellblock that he called the “Housing unit.”
Walking down the row between the cages made me feel like the Donner Party’s last pork chop. Half of the dogs looked like they wanted to eat me. The other half seemed willing to wait and lick the plate.
None of the Dobermans at the pound was “Peaches.” Those three dogs were in the checkout line. Another week and they’d all be gone. Nobody ever adopts a dog that looks like it could open its own can of Alpo.
I told the Jailer that “Peaches” wasn’t there, only I didn’t say “Peaches.”
“Well, what are you looking for – exactly,” he said, “Maybe I can help. I know people.”
We all know people, but when a man who looks like he barely survived a train wreck tells me that he “Knows people” – it smells bad. People like him are, unfortunately, valuable to people like me.
The noise level in the “Housing Unit” was too much for a real conversation so I let him lead me out back where I gave him a smoke and he gave me his attention. I laid out the bare bones of my hunt for “Peaches,” and after he quit laughing he said that he might be able to steer me in a helpful direction.
“Being in the Animal business, such as I am, I hear things and I did hear about somebody and some rich chick’s Dobie.”
He laughed again when I said that if it was ransom they were after grabbing people paid better than dogs.
“Maybe, but J. Edgar Hoover don’t sic his boys on you for pinching some chick’s pooch. Gimme another coffin nail – for later.”
I kept feeding him cigarettes and he gave me a peek inside a very specialized niche of corruption.
“Y’see, snatching people can get to be a messy bit of business. You gotta feed them; keep them from trying to escape or fighting back. With a dog you just toss them a bone or two and they’ll love you like you’re its daddy.
“Its easy money, no Feds, and if the dog drops dead – who cares. There’s another one next door.”
What a charming fellow. I listened. I learned. I guessed that my newest friend – his name was Regis, he told me – had more than a strictly academic knowledge of dognapping. He had dabbled in it himself up until he pinched a Lhasa Apso that belonged to a guy who was more of a lowlife than himself. Regis didn’t get any ransom money, just two shattered kneecaps and a good reason to move out of state.
Most of a pack of cigs and a lighter got me enough information to know where to begin looking again. Regis said that whoever took “Peaches” had to be either a real professional or an idiot. Most dognappers take small dogs, something you could shove into a gym bag and scram with. Pekes are easier to hide than a Pit Bull and less likely to rip out your throat if they don’t like your choice of kibble. Anybody who would grab a Doberman had better be experienced with them. Fake bacon isn’t going to do the trick.
When I got back to my office I saw that my one and only client had called and left six messages. “Have you found ‘Peaches’ yet?” four of them said. Number five asked if I needed more money (silly question), and the sixth asked me, more like commanded me, to come to her home – at once.