I took my time walking back to the office. I kept turning the day's events over and over in my mind. Why were the cops trying to pin this on that poor sweet kid? Did they know something that I didn't? I went over the crime scene again in my head but there was nothing, no paw prints, no marks on the furniture, and no eyewitnesses. My leads were turning out drier than a bowl of kibble in August.

As soon as I got back to the office I headed straight for the water bowl. The dame was gone, and I was glad. The thought of having to look into those brown eyes while I told her I had failed was not something I was looking forward to. I was just about to settle back into my snuggle-ball when the cops burst in. It seems they had followed my oily paw prints back from the scene and they wanted to ask a few questions. Now normally I would not go quietly, but these two were almost as tall as the doorway and at least half as wide. One of them had a neck as thick as a fire hydrant and the other looked completely insane.

Once they had me at the station it was the same old good cop/bad cop routine that I had seen a hundred times. Now the pretty one was the good cop, but she could lay a guilt trip on you thicker than refrigerated gravy. Even still, she had a softness in her eyes that let me know that behind her "official business" demeanor she was a good egg at heart. The other one was a shaved ape plain and simple. One look into those deep-set eyes told me he'd give me the crate without even a trial. I opted to co-operate so I could find out what the cops did and didn't know. It seems they had suspected the girl, but now as far as they were concerned, I was their prime suspect. After what seemed like forever they let me go, but they told me to "stay" around a while just in case. I decided to head back to my office. If the cops had found me there once they should be able to find me there again.

I made my way back through the darkened alleys to my office. My head was pounding like a screen door in hurricane. This case had more twists and turns than a roller coaster built by the criminally insane. As I dragged myself up the last hallway, I noticed that my office door was ajar. I nosed my way into my office slowly while keeping my ears perked to detect the slightest sound, but whoever had been there was gone. Apparently someone had paid me a visit and had decided to redecorate my office with a bulldozer. My stuff was scattered everywhere in an attempt to make it look like a random robbery but I knew better. Whoever had done this was looking for something very specific. One look in the safe under my snuggle-ball and my questions were answered. Everything in my safe was just as it should have been with one exception; someone had broken in and taken the Rawhide Sneaker!

The Rawhide Sneaker was a shoe shaped artifact made completely of ancient animal hides. It is said that it was brought here by the ancestors of the people who live here now, in anticipation of the coming of dogs. The sneaker is said to have strange and mysterious powers although all I had ever seen it do was stain the carpet and upset the landlord. It was in the possession of us dogs briefly way back in the beginning, but was it taken away because it caused great jealousy and hostility among the breeds. It was decided at that time that it should be hidden far, far away and up so high that no dog could ever dream of possessing it again. There was talk on several occasions of bringing it back provided there was adequate supervision of its use, but the talk of politicians in this town never amounts to much. Politicians are the same everywhere… long on promise and short on delivery. Now I know what you are thinking. How did I happen to come into possession of the Rawhide Sneaker? Well let's just say that I acquired it when a drop went bad…a drop perpetrated by none other than Charlie "The Nudger".

It was all starting to fall into place. This whole thing was a setup right from the start. The oil lamp was a red herring. "The Nudger" had used the dame to get me to go to the scene of the crime so the police would think I did it. Then once I was out of the way in the lock up, he was free to ransack my office and make off with the goods. I really had to hand it to that cat, he not only set me up and ripped me off, but he got me to pay him a couple of Friskies in the process. It was the perfect crime. I couldn't go to the cops. I'd end up doing more time for the sneaker than for the oil lamp, and I had no desire to explain to Bongo the neck-less wonder cop how I had gotten the sneaker in the first place. There was still one thing that I just couldn't understand. What was in it for the girl? She seemed like a nice kid, but then I remembered that she had offered to pay me in cat treats. Cat treats are rare in the dog world; we only see them when a drop goes bad or when the politicians have an unusually painful pill for us to swallow. Still in all, I couldn't believe she would have set me up for a couple of measly cat treats. There had to be more to this. There had to be something I was missing. Why would a cat want an ancient dog chew? Why had he gone to such great trouble to get it in the first place?

I decided to pay one last visit to "The Nudger" to see if in light of my new theory he would be a little more vocal. I found him sitting on a radiator by a window over on the west side. I knew I had to make him angry so he'd slip up and say something incriminating. I told him his place was a dump and that he ought to invest in some furniture. Cats may be crafty, but they have a soft spot for comfortable surroundings, and vanity is their weakness. I told him it was no wonder that he lived like an animal because all he cared about was himself and that kind of attitude doesn't garner many favors with the powers that be. The cat said nothing. He knew I had no proof, and he was not about to open his mouth to give me any. I thought about pressuring him with what I knew, but it was obvious he had been one step ahead of me the whole time. He knew I was going to come to see him, and he knew that if I did it meant that I had nothing to go to the police with. Probably for the first time in his mangy life he was happy to see me because my presence meant that I was grasping at straws. He was right; I had nothing but a half-baked theory and a ransacked office. As I turned to leave the cat muttered something that really bothered me. He said, "Faithfulness and loyalty will always be the downfall of dogs like you". A big part of me wanted to turn around and launch myself at that over fluffed fur ball, but I knew that was what he wanted me to do. There was no way I was going to take on a 20 lb. ball of claws and teeth and win, so I played it cool. I was almost out the door when I noticed a copy of TBS Magazine opened to a page showing a photograph of a Boston Terrier cuddled up in a snuggle-ball. Why would a cat be reading TBS Magazine? … Just then something clicked in my head, and I knew I was on to something.

I couldn't wait to get back to the office. I burst through the door and immediately started rummaging through my back issues of TBS. I found the right issue and whipped it open to the BT Splash section. There in the picture was the answer I had been looking for. At the bottom of the photo was a small Time and Date indicator that let me know the picture had come from a web cam. That's right, a web cam exactly like the one that had been running all day at my office. Not only could I prove that I was in the office at the time of the crime, but I would also have proof that it was "The Nudger" that had torn apart my office. I had that cat this time, and I was not going to let him go. Everything was going to work out just fine. I could save the girl, nab the cat, and make a few bones in the process.

>> to the conclusion

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