She stood in my office, panting, all legs and neck and muzzle. She was a great dame, alright.
I'd been snoozing in my basket, not a care in the world, dreaming about squirrels. Why was it always squirrels? Those slippery bastards always seemed to get away. But then there she was, standing there in front of me, and my dreams took on a different tone.
"Are you Woofus?"
"I am," I replied, as nonchalant as I could manage. "Private Investigator for hire and part-time puddle drinker. What can I do for you?"
She wagged. Just a little, but enough so that I could see what she was thinking. "I need your help."
My ears pricked. A fine piece of tail and a job? The day was looking up.
Turned out that someone had been taking her food. Just a little each night, but enough that she noticed it was gone. Exactly the kind of kibble that makes me mad. That bowl was all she had in the world, and someone takes it right out from under her. What a world.
I took the job. Whether I'd let her pay, I wasn't quite sure yet. First I needed to talk to the right people.
Owie Howie was the neighborhood hedgehog. A real spiky fella, from the wrong side of the fence. Slept all day, roamed the area at night. You had to be sharp to see him, but whenever there was trouble, he'd be there. Luckily, I knew that he'd always talk eventually. A single saucer of milk was all he needed.
Sure enough, he was snoozing under a hedgerow when I found him. I slid the milk towards him with one paw. Wordlessly.
He looked up at me, startled. "Talk," I said.
"I haven't done nothin'," Howie said.
"I'd bet a boneful of kibble that you have," I said. "But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about. I'm here about a dame."
"I didn't touch her," Howie said. "Whatever she tells you, she's lying."
"I'm not here about Lena Dachshund," I barked. "But you keep your spiky paws to yourself. I'm talking about a real tall dame. Came to me this morning. Said her food was missing. Just a little bit. Sounds like the work of a professional thief, if you ask me."
Howie looked up at me. There was fear in his eyes, clear as day, even through his milky haze. "I don't know nothin' about that."
I put one paw down on the saucer of milk so hard that it flipped right out onto the lawn. "Talk, damnit. I ain't gonna ask you again."
"This is deep," Howie said. "Too deep even for you, Woofus. Turn away. Turn away now while you still have the chance."
"I ain't never turned away from a dame," I growled, my voice real low. "And I ain't doing it now. Enjoy your milk, Howie." I left him, desperately licking milk from blades of grass, out there in the open. Guys like Howie were shameless. I wasn't about to take advice from him, particularly not now he had told me everything I needed to know.
That looks of fear could only mean one thing around here. There was only one hound sick enough to produce that kind of reaction from a guy like Howie. And I was going to schnuffle him out.