Something was bothering me that I could not put my fangs into.
I had it!
Euphemia had said that Tulip hid things in her armoire. I had heard her words clearly, but had processed them wrong. I thought Euphemia was referring to the trap door I’d found, but she wasn’t. She was referring to a second hiding spot. I bounded to Tulip’s apartment. It was still guarded by the Rottweiler, who recognized me and let me in. Knowing what to look for, I found it in an instant. The trap door under the armoire was long and shallow. I opened it breathlessly.
I found one piece of paper: it was Trouble’s letter to Tulip, a draft of which I’d seen in the feral’s apartment. It began with a quotation from the Keats’ poem,
She took me to her feline grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore,
And there I shut her wild eyes
With kisses four.
And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.
I saw dark toms and mollys too,
Dark cats, death-dark were they all;
I cried – La Belle Dam sans Merci
Hath me in thrall!
Below the poem was one word written with Trouble’s wild paw, Adieu.
I heard a sound of Mittens’ conversing with the Rottweiler, four floors below. Then I heard pawsteps on the balcony.
I carefully replaced the evidence and raced down the fire escape to the street. From a vantage behind a fire hydrant I watched Euphemia enter Tulip’s apartment from the balcony, while Mittens fumbled with the latches on the main door. Euphemia was two leaps ahead of Mittens. She scampered down the fire escape with Trouble’s letter in her mouth just as Mittens’ entered the apartment.
I thought of chasing Euphemia but let it be. I needed a break. Besides, I suspected I had enough evidence to solve this case right now. All I needed was time to think.
I strolled into the rush hour crowd and lost myself in thought. There are notable differences in the ways mammals murder. For felines, killing is aesthetic. How many cat murderers are captured because their victims have been too elegantly dispatched? In contrast, elephant murderers most often act out of passion. Most eliphantidae murderers are gentle souls before they snap, and rampage. In the middle of this spectrum is the grey area of canines. Dog violence is almost always committed by alphas and their challengers. Less common, but common enough, is the canine murderer who – alienated from his pack – becomes unhinged. Tulip’s murder looked like the work of a packiopathic dog, but who? Bull ruled a pack and Fitch was too beta.
What about the fang marks on Tulip’s throat that Trouble had made? Had their mating last Tuesday been fatally rough? Perhaps, but I didn’t think so, and never had. The punctures made by Trouble’s fangs on Tulip’s throat were like paper cuts – or love bites – compared with the damage elsewhere on her body. If Trouble hadn’t murdered Tulip with his fangs, he certainly hadn’t done so with a weapon.
That left Euphemia, the jealous sister, or … a rat …? I didn’t know.
I decided to dine alone. I felt like a carnivore tonight so I went to an excellent cat-run establishment in Mont-Royal. Cats, by any dog standard, are sociopaths, but it is undeniable that they have their society. The restaurant I dined at, Bou bou’s, was at the centre of that society.
Bou bou’s caters primarily to felines, so most of the seating was either raised or hidden. That left the main floor to dogs. Because Boubou’s caters to carnivores, many courses, particularly of small rodents, were not served dead, but rather were released into a hunting room in the back, to be killed and eaten fresh. I needed a break from hunting, so ordered a rare cow steak, pre-killed. I ate my dinner in a shadowy corner on the main floor, doing my best not to be noticed.
The food was excellent but the high pitched squeals of tormented prey gave me a heartache, so I ate quickly, paid, and then went for a walk. Somehow I managed to wind up on a side street full of tattoo parlours, which given my temperament at that moment, was one of the worst places for me to be.
I am one of those who argues that domestication is not the end to the moral development of pawed mammals, but rather brings with it a new range of challenges: leisure and wealth give us the time and opportunity to be wise or vulgar on an epic scale. I am not saying that tattoos are necessarily vulgar. I can understand the impulse to turn your own body into an artwork, and have seen many artistic tattoos. But so many tattoos are of a quality far lower than that of the bodies they adorn. Casually decorate maimed and ugly things, but sully a beautiful pelt with care and please don’t doodle on the Pietà.
I loped away from the tattoo parlors to the nearest cross street, which turned out to be rue Ste. Catherine, in the tummy-rub district. The street was thick with hard young toms and curvy-soft young mollies plying their trade, or at least attempting to do so by being lewd. The solicitations weighed heavily on my mood. I am trained to smell the truth, even when it is hidden. To my nose, the promises of les rubeusses are false, not fantasy.1 I abhor lies.
I proceeded around the Mountain, toward Outremount. With the seediness of the tummy-rub district behind me, I began to enjoy the pleasant evening. There were puppies frolicking in the streets; lovers were nuzzling their muzzles; and old curs were getting re-acquainted with the smell of each other’s scrota. This was middle Canada, the world I am trying to protect.
I decided to take a break at a communal bar. A moment later one of the Dalmatians I had seen street-walking a few minutes previously sat down beside me. I must have stared at her, for she began talking to me. “Hello, my name is Buttons. What’s yours?”
“Fido” I replied, wanting to conceal my identity.
“Looking for some action?” She spoke this line straight, but two breaths later burst out laughing. She said, “I’m just teasing. I’m off duty. I saw you downstairs – she nodded down the mountain toward the red light district. Did you get lucky? It sure didn’t look like you were trying to.”
I was at first put off by her intrusion on my privacy, but the bitch had a charming manner, and when removed from the tawdry context of rue Ste. Catherine was a truly beautiful representation of her breed. I wondered how a pure bred might wind up as a rubeusse.
“Are you one of the Westmount Dalmatians?” I asked, pursuing this line of thought.
“You’re wondering why a pure bred dog would walk the streets? Well you should wonder. Most of us don’t have any choice, but I do. I won’t say I like sex work – some of the bitches are pretty pathetic and so are the johns – I mean Fido’s ! – but all work sucks, and for me this isn’t bad. You know why?” To my amazement the Dalmatian purred her next words, as she lightly rubbed her muzzle against mine. “I like to touch and be touched.” Despite earnest thoughts of my mate and pups, I became aroused. Buttons noticed this and continued to purr for a few minutes more. After an indeterminate amount of time had passed, Buttons quietly barked, “Let’s see where our natures take us.”
I knew that I was reaching the point of no-return, indeed the trajectory of this encounter seemed so inevitable I was tempted to unleash my animal lust immediately. I was saved from infidelity by Button’s star struck voice. She said, “Hey, look across the street. That’s Euphemia, you know, Tulip’s beautiful twin. Tulip, the movie star they just found murdered. The one with snow-leopard ears.”
I looked to where Buttons was pointing with her nose. Sure enough, Euphemia was langorously grooming Trouble. They lay together on a cushioned divan in the window of the restaurant directly across the street from us.
A tom who was standing on the sidewalk in front of me yowled. The noise startled Euphemia, who turned her head so that she was facing directly toward me. She caught my gaze and had disappeared before I had time to blink.
I turned back to the Dalmatian. “Buttons, I have to go. I .. I …” I didn’t know what to say because I was at war with myself. I wanted to see her again, but knew no good would come of it.
“I know who you are Doctor Inspector Patches Barks. I just wanted to hear you lie. Run. Catch the murderer. I’ll find you.”
“Don’t call me Patches!” I barked as I raced out the door.
The café across the street was bordered on the west side by a small lane. Trouble and Euphemia must have gone that way. Sure enough I found their scents by the service entrance door. I followed their trail along a cobbled path that sloped down toward the river.
One hundred metres later the scent trail branched and I was faced with a decision: should I follow Euphemia or Trouble? Without missing a bound, I set off after Euphemia down a back alley. Moments later her trail disappeared at a point where the alley ended in a pile of trash and recycling. It was a an enclosed space, defined by the back entrances of a trio of brick scamper-up tenements. I knew Euphemia must be hiding nearby, waiting for a chance to escape the way she came. The movement of a shadow along the fire-escape caught my eye, but when I turned toward it I saw nothing. I leaped onto the first floor landing, where I detected the faint scent of Serengeti perfume.
My position on the fire-escape landing gave me a view of the entire alley. Euphemia couldn’t conceal herself for long. Something, a movement, a sound, a breeze ricocheting her scent off of a wall, would give her away. The alley became still as the dusk faded to night. The only sounds were the rustle of a loose newspaper, the scurrying of a mouse, and the faint hiss of air passing through my nasal membrane.
It started to rain.
Although my senses were fully engaged, the shadow of a cat landed on my back without warning. We fell off of the fire-escape and then tumbled onto a bundle of papers. I heard the sound of claws unsheathing against asphalt. I looked up to see a fanged silhouette lunging at my throat. At that moment a dog growled and flew over me. The cat let out a great screech as it clattered across the tops of metal bins, and away.
Had Euphemia just tried to kill me? Had Buttons saved my life? I did not know. By the time I regained my bearings both my assailant and my saviour were gone.
“Are you alright, Monsieur?” A kindly old dachshund trundled over to help me.
“Sure. Sure.” I replied, while licking my bloody right fore-paw. “Did you see anything?”
“Bien sûr. I saw a cat, but not very well. I couldn’t even tell you if its fur was black or white.”
“Mais oui, I saw a pure bred Dalmatian bitch. Beautiful. She went that way.” He gestured vaguely toward the River.
“Did you see any other pawed mammal? Perhaps a mouse, rat or raccoon?”
“Now that you mention it, I saw a fancy bull-dog. Looked like he’d walked out of a velvet painting, with his vest and cigar. But he acted like he didn’t see anything.”
“Which way did he go?”
“Vers rue Ste. Catherine.”2
“Merci.” I threw the dachshund a bone, and then retraced my steps to the entrance of the alley. Even though it was now raining quite hard, it only took a few sniffs to determine that the fancy bulldog had been Bull. He was such an alpha he had marked a fire hydrant before departing.
I had three choices: follow Bull, Euphemia or Buttons. Some primal instinct urged me to follow Buttons but my reason said, “To what end? Follow Bull or Euphemia, they are your suspects.” Instinct won that round. I compulsively began to sniff the ground, trying to find Button’s trail. I continued to search vainly, long after my reason told me the rain had washed it away.
By the time I gave up sniffing I was so tired and fraught I staggered to my kennel. When I was perhaps halfway there, in one of those non-descript square parks that dot Canadian cities, I stumbled upon a scent I did not expect to encounter: Mittens. He was laying on his belly under a tent of newspaper in the very centre of the park. The paper covered only his upper back, leaving his hindquarters fully exposed. His two bright, white polydactyl forepaws rested on the box he had purloined from Euphemia.
I had no desire to encounter the ‘nip-addled feline. I gave him wide berth, being careful to stay down wind, and returned to my kennel via a detour. When I got there, I dragged my exhausted body onto a pillow but was unable to sleep. I spent the next hours brooding about all kinds of trouble. I arose unrested at dawn.