Copyright ©Jerold Last
It was “bring your parent to school day”. Roger Bowman was answering questions about his job posed by his young son Robert’s kindergarten classmates. The pending questions were, “Have you always been a detective?” and “Who is the strangest client you ever had?”
“I used to be a policeman, then a lawyer, but now I work as a private detective here in Los Angeles. Who was the strangest client I ever had? I have to think about that a bit, but probably the dog with no name would be somewhere near the top of the list.”
That drew a laugh from the assembled 5-year olds. They clamored for more. Obviously the idea of a dog, especially one without a name, as a client appealed to kids, Roger looked over at Robert, who was obviously enjoying his father’s 30 seconds of fame in this class.
“Do I have some time to tell the whole story?” Roger asked Ms. Fleming, the teacher.
“Take all the time you want. I’d kind of like to hear about this nameless dog too.”
Roger turned back to face the 29 eager young minds that made up the class.
“Imagine the scene, all of you. I’m sitting in my office totally bored with nothing to do just a few weeks after I left the legal profession to become a private detective, still waiting for the first client to hire me. I’m asking myself who will my first client be: a man, a woman, or a kid from the kindergarten class?”
The kids all laughed at that idea. They’d all seen enough P.I. shows on TV to know that 5-year-olds weren’t their usual clients.
“It was a cold, dark afternoon. I heard a scratching at the door. I went over to open the door, which led out to the street, thinking, ‘Wow, I’m about to get my first client.’ Well, I did, sort of. A medium sized dog trotted in to my office, sat down in the middle of the rug, and looked at me as if she was in love. She was white, with a few large brown spots at her head, tail, and in the middle of her body on the left side. She wasn’t wearing a collar, so there weren’t any tags to identify her owner. I like dogs, so I petted her head a bit while she gave me a bunch of doggie kisses.
Fortunately there was a veterinarian, a doggie doctor, in a building just a few doors away from my office. I used my belt as a leash and took her over there. She behaved perfectly and had obviously been well trained. The doctor examined the dog. The good news was she was in excellent health, was a pure bred German shorthaired pointer, and was nicely put together. The bad news was there were no microchips or tattoos to identify her. Nobody had reported a missing dog that looked like this one. So now I had a dog without a name. What do you all think should I have done next?”
There were lots of suggestions, but the most popular one was to find the dog’s owner and return her to her family. One little girl named Susie pointed out that I was a detective so I should have been able to find her owner pretty easily.
The veterinarian offered the dog some food, which she didn’t want, and some water, which she did. Then I tried taking her for a walk. When we got to my office door I hoped she’d start pulling me in the right direction to take her home, but she just seemed to want to go back into my office. I sat down on the couch and BOOM she jumped up into my lap and gave me some more kisses. It was fun, but I wasn’t doing a whole lot of detecting sitting on the sofa with a dog in my lap. I thought as hard as I could with 55 pounds of dog sitting in my lap kissing me.
The kids all giggled at that image.
Finally, I had an idea. It was risky because the no-name dog might run away from me, but it seemed to be worth a try. We went back outside and I turned her completely loose. She looked up at me, nodded as if she understood, and started walking up the street away from the veterinarian’s office. After she went half a block she stopped to make sure I was following her. I was. When she got to the corner she sat down until I caught up and crossed the street walking alongside me. Then she trotted ahead to the next corner and waited for me. She continued to do the same thing for six more blocks, turned left a block, and stopped to wait for me in front of a small house painted light brown with a small, well cared for, lawn at the front of the house. The dog barked twice and trotted up the walk to stand just in front of the big door.
It seemed clear this was her home. I walked up to the door, stood next to No-name, and rang the doorbell. Nothing. No-name started to whine urgently. The clear message was “let me in—we have to get in.”
My law school training kicked in. I had absolutely no legal right to do much of anything at that point, but figured I could look around a bit without breaking too many laws. I walked around the house trying to look in the windows. That didn’t work too well; there were drapes or blinds covering all of them. The back and front doors were locked. No-name kept whining and trying to paw her way in through the front door. Finally, I made up my mind to do something.
I looked down at the now frantic dog and told her to sit as firmly as I could. She amazed me by sitting down right in front of me, with part of her butt planted firmly on my left foot.
There were some more giggles from the kids when I said “butt”.
My law school training was useful now. I knew exactly what I had to do before I could break into the house without getting into trouble with the police.
“OK, No-name,” I said firmly. “I need some legal status to break into this house. First, I need to know that this really is your house. Is it?”
The dog nodded her head as if to say yes. She also wagged her tail as best she could while sitting on my foot.
“Now, I need a retainer fee to establish that you’re my client. Can you promise me you’ll pay me when you can?”
She nodded again.
I walked back around the house to the back yard, broke a kitchen window as quietly as I could, unlocked the window, and climbed into the house. No-name jumped gracefully through the open window, the sill of which was at least four feet above the ground. She grabbed my trouser leg in between her teeth, careful not to rip anything, and half led, half dragged me to the staircase in the middle of the house. She bounded upstairs and waited for me at the top. The meaning was clear so I followed her up. She then led me to a closed door, seemingly leading to a bedroom, and whined more or less continuously. I knocked and called out. No answer.
I very cautiously opened the door and looked in. Lying on the floor beside the bed was a middle-aged woman, unconscious, wearing pink pajamas and a blue bathrobe tied shut across her tummy. I checked her pulse, which I could feel, and her breathing, which seemed normal. I dialed 911 and asked for the police and an ambulance. Then I unlocked the front door of the house and sat down to wait where I could keep an eye on the woman to make sure she didn’t do anything to hurt herself more than she already had.
No-name ran downstairs for a minute or two, returning with a rawhide chew bone, practically new, which she very carefully put on the floor by my feet. It looked like she had just paid my retainer as well as she could.
A few minutes later we heard the sirens, and a minute or two later the police and paramedics came into the house. I called to them and they were in the bedroom checking out the woman almost immediately. While the paramedics attended to the woman one of the police officers took me downstairs and started to ask me a bunch of questions.
The policeman wore a blue uniform, was very large, and acted very unfriendly, like he thought I was the one who had hurt the woman. “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” “Are you a relative of the woman upstairs?”
I showed him my private detective license, suggested that he call a couple of my former colleagues on the police force who could vouch for me, and told him I had come by the house because my client was worried about the dog’s owner, and had to break a window in the back to get into the house. I also told him that I had found the woman exactly the way she was when they arrived.
He gave me a hard time about breaking into the house, but relaxed after a couple of police detectives told him over the phone that I had been a good cop and to treat me right. He had a very hard time when I explained my client was the dog, but relaxed again when the paramedics told him that we had just saved her life and I showed him my almost new rawhide chew bone. The woman had an apparent concussion. It looked like she had fallen accidently and hit her head. The paramedics took her off to the hospital telling the officer who had been questioning me that she should be ready to talk to the police tomorrow or the next day.
I took No-name home for the next couple of days and nights until her owner was released from the hospital and ready to look after her dog with some help from her family. Then I returned No-name to her now recovered mistress. She thanked me for my help and offered to pay me for my time. I refused, telling her the dog was my client and she had already paid me.
Two days later it occurred to me that somehow the dog with no name had gotten out of a closed and locked house to find me, and I had my first locked room case I could try to solve. On the other hand, I could only afford to do so much for a total fee of a single, used rawhide chew bone, and I’d already saved a life. That seemed to be enough, especially since it was only my first case.
I kept the rawhide chew bone as a souvenir of my first case and the first fee I ever earned.
I said good-bye to Robert’s class and Ms. Fleming.
When Robert got home he asked to see the rawhide chew bone. I got it down from the shelf. He looked at it a bit and asked, “Daddy, can we get a dog and name her No-name?”
“Why not?” I answered.
Hunter Down (Roger and Suzanne mystery series Book 12).