The couple in my office, Philo and Amora Cain, were certainly seniors: their snow-white hair, faces as wrinkled as un-ironed bed sheets, and the canes with which they walked were all proof of that. I was surprised, therefore, when they mentioned their son Huggie. They were too old to have a child naturally and I didn’t think older people were allowed to adopt. Then they showed me a picture of Huggie: he was a very cute Yorkshire terrier – is “cute Yorkie” a tautology?
And he had been dognapped. They showed me the ransom note, typed, not hand-written, of course. I had had one kidnapping case in the past, but it was more conventional: the kidnappee had been a boy, not a dog. There was one similarity, however: the ransom demand was ridiculously small, in this case one hundred dollars.
“We’ll gladly pay to get him back, of course,” said Mrs. Cain, “but if you could find him, Mr. Tuff, this dastardly criminal could be arrested.”
I remembered the classic case of dognapping. A gang in Victorian London stole pets and threatened to send the distraught owners paws or ears or tails if they did not pay ransom. One of the victims (twice!) was Flush, the pet of Elizabeth Barrett, later wife of Robert Browning. Somehow – he never told how – Browning rescued the dog, although another version of the story says he merely delivered the ransom. I admire Browning’s dramatic monologues and love lyrics and I prefer the first version so that I can also regard him as a fellow detective.
I like dogs, so that afternoon I attended a meeting at the Cains’ house to plan the rescue of Huggie. The rest of the team included the Cains’ son and daughter, Harry and Candy, their spouses, and Toma Turge, a psychic. The Cains were using every expedient to get Huggie back. Ms. Turge wore a black outfit, like a form-fitting burka, but decorated with brightly coloured kaafir stars, circles, and crescents.
“You are retired, Mr. Tuff,” said the psychic when we were introduced, “and you are not married.” My age and lack of a wedding ring would allow any observant person, even without psychic powers, to make the same deductions.
“Right on both counts,” I admitted.
“And you are skeptical about psychics.”
“Right again, although I try to keep an open mind on the subject.” Many people have such doubts, so this was another logical prediction.
The younger generation of Cains left to search the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and posting signs, while the parental Cains and the psychic and I sat at a table. I hate card games and I hoped we were not going to play bridge or whist. We were not; instead we were having a séance. We touched fingers and Ms.Turge went into a trance – or pretended to – and spoke in a monotone: “I see Huggie. He is well, but he misses you. He is still wearing his jewelled collar and enjoying his favourite treats, Doggy Delight. He is not far away and he will return safely.”
The Cains were reassured. It was a good performance, especially the details about the collar and the treats because, as far as I knew, Ms. Turge had never met Huggie.