Mittens put down his leather-bound edition of Domestication and its Malcontents1 without making a sound. He then carefully took out a bag of catnip from a velvet lined mahogany box, arranged a pinch of it into two even lines, and picked up an enameled bamboo tube. He carefully inhaled each line of catnip through the tube. When done, the Cat Detective brushed away non-existent bits of catnip from his meticulously waxed whiskers, licked his bright, white forepaws and said, “Instinct.”
I make a rule of ignoring Mittens’ pronouncements, which of course deters him not one bit. The feline continued, “Barks, when a cat or dog becomes domesticated …”
“One does not become domesticated”, I replied. “One is born domesticated and then may become feral, but never the reverse; no wild creature ever becomes completely domesticated.”
“Agreed” Mittens said without confirming my point at all. He meticulously prepared two more lines of catnip. “Inspector Barks”, he said, “let me rephrase my thought as a question: what happens to the instincts of the Domesticated? Are they dulled? Do they go away? Are they present but repressed?” He punctuated his words by inhaling yet another line of catnip.
“What does this have to do with the Mont-Royal murder?”, I asked with a brusque voice. “I return to Toronto in two days. I only have so much time.”
Mittens purred, “I’m not certain that the Mont-Royal murder is about instinct per se. But it is about elemental motives: lust, obsession, violence. Some people consider these the traits of wild animals. I’m not so certain. The Domesticated have compulsions too, hien?” With these words he sprang from his chair and circumnavigated the room. As he did so, he methodically marked each piece of furniture with his right cheek.
I realize that I have begun my story in the middle of a conversation, but if you think about it all stories occur in the middle of something; there is always a back story, a context and allusions to the future. But that is no excuse for a lack of manners: I have not even introduced myself. My name is Doctor Inspector Patches Barks. I am the eldest child of a Collie mother and a Shepherd father. My father, Patches Senior, went feral when I was three, which is a story that I don’t want to go into except to say that the struggles of my single-parent mother motivated me to be self-supporting at an early age. I spent long hours as a puppy studying biology and chemistry, was admitted into the Royal Military College before I could vote, and graduated as a medical officer four dog-years later. My first tour of duty was at a military hospital in Kandahar.
Afghanistan is a terrible place for dogs.
Although most of my colleagues were content to treat the Kandahar hospital as a kind of fortress (or prison), Canadian soldiers were allowed to visit the town. Every time I did so, I’d come upon the ragged corpse of at least one poor mutt who had been beaten to death, and then left to rot in the streets because some of those who wish to rule that benighted city think dogs are unclean.
The locals gave me wide berth when I buried the murdered canines: they knew I was both upset and well-armed. They must have watched me closely. One day a nefarious creature – I believe it was a Siamese Taliban – planted an IED2 in the mauled corpse of a Rottweiler. In the subsequent explosion of shrapnel I lost two claws and a chunk of my right hind leg. I was less useful to the army after the injury, but was not discharged. After my tour ended I settled in Toronto, which my mate insists is because I need to live in a city ruled by dogs.
I gave up the practice of medicine. Against my mother’s objection that policing is for hound dogs I set out to become a detective in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I progressed quickly from Cadet to Detective Sergeant, and immediately leveraged my forensic knowledge to become an Inspector.
Although it is impolitic for a police officer to talk politics, I can say, without being political at all, that I am a dog’s dog. So despite my lack of political acumen, my career has benefited greatly from the political success of the Canine Party. When they formed a majority government last May this caused my employment prospects to improve to the point of regret, for I finally became so senior I could not avoid becoming embroiled in the politics of dogs and cats. That was why I was now assigned to Montréal to work with this vain, plump catnip addict named Mittens.
On the surface the Mont-Royal murder appeared complicated. The victim, a cat named Tulip, was one of the most famous media personalities in Québéc, but her career had been in decline since she had dated Bull, the reputed leader of a dock workers gang. It was not that she dated a gangster, but rather that she dated a dog that so offended feline Québéc. Tulip had dumped Bull long ago for a Latino rock star named Trouble, but it was rumoured that her ties to the dock workers’ gang had increased even as her career declined. That would not be of too much concern except that Montréal was now into the sixth week of a rancorous strike in which images of Westmount dogs battling cat workers featured prominently.3
Tulip’s murder could start an inter-species riot.