It was but a short scoot to our next destination – Bull’s office at Local 1210 of the United Litterhood of Longshoremen. The office was situated in a squat brick building on the west side of the St. Lawrence River, immediately north of the Port. We were greeted by two receptionists: a fat, scarred old tabby named Muffin, and a pit-bull bitch named Frisson. The tabby greeted Mittens, the pit-bull greeted me.
When satisfied with our stories, the pit-bull pushed a buzzer with her nose. A lanky German shepherd promptly appeared from behind a door flap immediately beyond the reception desk. He sniffed the air with gravitas, and then gestured for us to enter Bull’s office, which we did.
The moment I entered Bull’s office I was approached by Bull’s bodyguard Fitch, who inspected my genitals and anus; I reciprocated in the French style. Fitch was an unusual security choice: most guard dogs are German Shepherds because the breed is fast, strong, smart and mean. Sometimes they are Rotweilers, but that breed can be ornery. A vocal minority insist on Greyhound bodyguards for their speed.
The choice of a hairy, lumbering Pyrenees with a prosthetic left hind leg, was quite unusual, indeed.
“Why are you here, Inspector Barks?” Bull asked. Canine’s have a saying, “As rare as an unscarred alpha”. It refers to the undeniable correlation between alpha-ness and violence. With the exception of a small, nasty mark on his left cheek, Bull had no visible scars at all. He was wearing an expensive woolen vest and jaunty hat. To complete the picture, he had a large unlit cigar dangling from the side of his mouth.
I ignored the criminal dandy. Instead I asked Fitch, “Where’d you lose your hind leg, soldier?”
Fitch looked at me, and then at Bull, with drooping bloodshot eyes. His tail flapped side to side in a slow, agitated fashion. His ears drooped and he made a plaintive whining sound. Bull answered my question, “Fitch lost his left hind leg in an industrial accident. He was gonna go on disability but I gave him this job instead.”
“What kind of accident?” I asked. Bull nodded toward Fitch.
Fitch reluctantly answered my question, “I lost my leg in a boxing plant. Unsafe working conditions. Nothing to do with Tulip at all. Or any rats.”
Bull nearly choked on his cigar.
Rather than pressing Fitch about this apparent slip, Mittens changed the subject. “Monsieur Bull, tell us about your relationship with Tulip”.
Bull was visibly relieved not to have to explain Fitch’s words. “Tulip and I, we are – were friends …” His voice got caught in his throat. He appeared to be genuinely choked with emotion.
“How did you learn about Tulip’s murder?” I asked sharply.
“A mouse told me.” Bull disdainfully flicked his unlit cigar.
“I understand that you had business dealings with Tulip”, Mittens said.
“Sure. I still do, in a way. You see some of the guys at the Local have some money I’m responsible for investing. Its an investment club. Yeah. Anyways, we co-own the Kitten Klub with Tulip.”
“How is the investment going?” I asked.
“Not so good.”
“You strike me as a smart dog, Bull”, I barked archly. “Why do you keep your money in a bad investment?”
“The investment is going badly because Tulip is dead. She made us a lot of money.”
“Who inherits her ownership of the club?” I pressed.
Mittens spoke directly to me, “Bull’s investment club is one beneficiary of Tulip’s death, mon ami; Euphemia is the other.” He turned to face Bull. With a little bow he said, “This is a bad time to talk about Tulip’s will.”
The Cat Detective then did something only the most modern cats do: he looked Bull in the eye, “Excusons-nous, Bull, we are indiscreet. Bon journee.1”
Mittens withdrew. I followed after one last sniff.