Tuesday evening… The K9 book club meets every second Tuesday of the month. This month it was Reggie Brown and Rebecca’s turn.
The members, who joined them, included Rocco, the musician and his latest squeeze ditzy Doodle the Poodle; Bertie and Susie, the restaurateurs, and the infamous Bunny and Claude.
Rebecca, once Rocco’s stage partner, still held a candle for him. As he grew older and more desperate, he seemed to latch onto younger floozies. But this one was a real scrubber, she thought bitchily. Rebecca wondered where Rocco had picked up Doodle the Poodle.
Bertie, an exuberant Beagle, was not his usual cheery self, in fact he was positively glum. He mentioned that his new electric lawn-mower had gone walk-about. He was very proud of his new mower, a top of the range electric job called a Fly Mo.
“It was there, hanging up in the car port, when I checked last”, Bertie explained.
“Maybe the gardener left it under a bush?” asked Reggie.
The conversation had ranged far and wide, mostly about the new restaurant Bertie and Susie were planning to open up in the new year.
Susie asked “Did anyone see that amazing program on the cooking channel the other night”.
“You mean the one about the Spanish chef, from Barcelona, who does all sorts of peculiar things with food?” asked Rocco.
“Yup, that’s the one”, Susie said.
“But he’s as daft as a brush”, said Bertie, “he has invented something called MoleCellar Gastronomy. He sounds totally wacky”.
He peered at Susie through his eye-glass, “Mole has potential you know; you could debone it and stuff it with creamed chicken breast, some sage and a little lemon zest; it would be brill with a glass of good Cabernet”.
“Blimey Bertie, you are as dim as a TOC H lamp”, replied Susie “it’s Molecular Gastronomy, not mole cellar gastronomy”. “He puts splodges of different coloured gloop on the plate with smears of foam and the punters are absolutely raving.”
“Foam?” exclaimed Rocco, leering at Doodle.
Rebecca chipped in, “the Spanish bloke has got a great name for his restaurant, he calls it El Bulli”.
“Awesome!!” exclaimed Bertie, cheering up a little, “why don’t we call ours El Doggi?”
“Come on, you two, we are not here to blather on about your new restaurant”, said Reggie, all bustling efficiency.
Rebecca kicked off the literary reviews, mentioning that she had just read the latest best seller, ‘The History of Glue’.
“I just couldn’t put it down”, she said, po faced.
Doodle giggled her way through a comic while they spent the mandatory hour discussing books.
Reggie, wearing his custom made PI’s hat and puffing reflectively on his old meerschaum, steered the conversation back to the missing mower. Ever the dogged detective, he got out his notebook and started to jot down the facts.
“So when did you last see the mower?” he asked Bertie.
“It was hanging on the wall in the car port on Monday”.
“Who uses it?” asked Reggie.
“Only the gardener,” said Bertie. “Lovely chap, but he’s not quite a full deck of cards; he forgets were he has put things. We found the garden rake in the toilet the other day.”
“Have you hunted high and low?” asked Reggie.
“We have combed the garden and all the out buildings and there is no sign of it”, said Bertie.
As the meeting broke up, Reggie pulled Bertie aside and said, “we’ll pop over to your place to-morrow morning to carry out a systematic investigation.”
Wednesday morning, early…
“Rebecca, honey”, Reggie called to his wife, “have you seen my specs?”
“You left them in the den last night after the book-club meeting”, she shouted from the kitchen.
“I’ll need them for our visit to Bertie’s place today”, he said as he rummaged in the detritus of the previous evening’s festivities. He found them in a discarded Pizza box.
He phoned Bertie; “we’ll be there in a Jiffy”, he said. They had traded in the Porsche when they moved to the Midlands, it just wasn’t coping with the gravel roads. The Jiffy was faster and handled the rutted roads well.
Armed with his specs and his dog-eared notebook, Reggie set off with Rebecca for Bertie’s place. It was a glorious day, just right for a drive in their spanking new Jiffy, with the hood down.
When they arrived, Susie was setting out a selection of her scrumptious home made muffins, jams and marmalades on the garden table.
“Come on you two, you’re just in time for breakfast”, she said, “I’ve made a pot of that Blue Mountain coffee you love so much”.
Reggie winked at Rebecca; timing is everything when you are a Private Investigator.
After breakfast Reggie set out his plan for a shrub by shrub sweep of the property.
He said with some authority, “the first few hours are the most important, we don’t want the case to go cold”.
“I’ll need the gardener’s DNA”, said Reggie.
“His what?” asked Bertie.
“DNA Bertie, it’s like a fingerprint, but much more interesting”.
“Where do you get it from?” asked Bertie.
“His mouth”, said Reggie.
“Gross”, replied Bertie, “rather you than me.”
They studied Reggie’s block plan carefully, synchronised their watches and scurried off to hunt for the missing mower.
They unearthed 2 spades, a trowel, a pair of old boots, assorted garden shears and a discarded Sharks rugby jersey.
They had finished their search by lunchtime, and settled down to compare notes over a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Reggie swirled the luscious liquid round in the glass, savouring the nose.
He listened carefully to their reports and then pored over the block search plan as he sipped the chilled nectar. He satisfied himself that they had searched every square inch of the property and the mower had definitely not been left under a bush.
Finally Reggie asked Bertie “did you always hang the mower up in the car port?”
“Always; it has been there ever since I bought it, no problem”, replied Bertie.
“Did you have it chained and padlocked?” Reggie asked.
Bertie looked disconsolate, but he acknowledged his faux pas with a shake of his head.
“Well Bertie” said Reggie, “I’ll interview the gardener to-morrow but I’m afraid the prognosis is not good. I’ve checked every hook and cranny in the car port and there’s absolutely no trace of your Fly on the wall.”
First published in a book of short stories – ‘Parrots, Witches and Call Centres’