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“I understand there’s a reward,” said Crook.  “A generous reward,” he added.  There was no point it beating about the bush.  Either they had the money or they hadn’t.  He had learned that these occasions either ran smoothly and quickly, or they went wrong.   When they went wrong, either because the owners didn’t have the money, or wanted to haggle or had persuaded the police to take an interest, it was best to cut one’s losses and bugger off tout suite.


“Do you have Jadie?” asked Sally over John’s shoulder.


“Do you have the reward?” returned Crook.


John turned to Sally.  “Do you know who this man is?   Is he the one who phoned you?


“I think we said £3,000,” interrupted Crook.  “Do you have the money?”


“No I don’t have the money,” snapped John.  “Funnily enough, I don’t keep thousands of pounds in cash around the house.  Few people who work for a living do.”


Just as John’s temper was beginning to rise, the hulking figure of Hook arrived at the garden gate.  He had been waiting for Crook in the van, sitting in the driver’s seat and imagining he was driving.   He had been happy enough until a large boxer dog had run up to the van and started urinating on it.  He had jumped out to remonstrate with the dog, intending to use his boot as the primary instrument of admonition but, by the time he had reached the back of the van, Carter, having successfully emptied his bladder, had departed. 


Now out of the van, Hook decided to wander down to the Truman’s house to find out why Crook was taking so long.   His fellow dog-napper should have been back by now.  All he had to do was collect an envelope full of twenties.


“If you haven’t got the money,” said Crook, relieved to see Hook had arrived to back him up, “you’re not going to see your mut again.  I’ll come back tomorrow.  If you haven’t got the money by then’, that’s an end of it.”  With that, Crook backed down the path, turned and, with Hook lumbering along behind, hot-footed it to the van.


“Any chance I could drive?” asked Hook when he reached the van but Crook was already behind the wheel, with the engine running.


“Get in,” was all Crook said.



The argument


John had been tempted to pursue Crook into the street but was called back by his wife.  “What the hell’s going on?” he asked on rejoining her.   “You didn’t place an ad on the website!”


Sally was not keen to answer what she took to be a question, mainly because she really didn’t know why she had done it.  Obviously she should have discussed the matter with John.  She should have checked whether he could raise that amount of money and, if he could, whether he’d be willing to hand it over to a couple of extortionists.  “I had to do something,” she said lamely.


“But we don’t have £3,000.  Are you mad?  I’ve just lost my job and you think we are going to pay £3,000 I don’t have to a couple of blackmailers on the off chance they might be willing to return our dog.”


“I know it sounds crazy,” said Sally apologetically, “but I just felt I had to do it..  I tried to put it out of my mind.  And I knew I should discuss it with you before I did anything.  But this voice in my head told me to get on with it.  So I did.”


John put his own head in his hands.  Sally was losing her mind.  This on top of everything else!



Teaching Righty Hook to drive


It is worthwhile to take a moment to ponder the tensions that arose from Righty Hook’s desire to learn how to drive. Teaching anyone to drive can be a stressful experience.  Whatever driving instructors earn they are probably worth it.  Any instructor of Hook would certainly be worth every penny.  It wasn’t simply that Hook was a slow learner.  He was really extraordinarily clumsy.  Unfortunately, this combination of dimness and clumsiness engendered frustration which tended to bring into play Hook’s propensity to resort to brute force. The gear box tended to bear the brunt of Hook’s frustrations and brutality.


Hook’s abusive relationship with the motor vehicle is pertinent because of the strain it imposed on the Crook/Hook relationship.   Crook was always wary of upsetting his partner.  Any suggestion that Hook’s intellectual capacity was a tad below par risked a fracturing of the bedrock of interdependence on which the Crook/Hook relationship was founded..  


So it was that when Hook managed to persuade Crook to provide a driving lesson, or rather when Crook ran out of every plausible excuse he could think of for avoiding one, Crook was subjected to an hour or so of exquisite agony.   Had it been any one other than Hook, Crook would have ended the lesson within two minutes.  He would have explained to the learner that he should immediately abandon any aspiration on the driving front.  Indeed, had he not been fearful of the  repercussions, he would also have added a number of expletives wrapped around such words a “moron”, ‘cack-handed’, ‘incompetent’ and ‘plonker’. 


As it was, he could say and do nothing.   He must put up with the jerking of the vehicle, with the frequent stalling, with the numerous near or actual accidents, exhibiting the patience of a Job on valium.


“Think of it as three rows, with three columns..  Neutral is the middle row all the way across. Start in neutral.  You can tell you’re in neutral because you can move the gear stick from side to side easily. OK, it’s left and up for first; then straight down for second; then up through neutral, across to the right a little and up for third and straight down for fourth; then up though neutral, across to the right a little and up for fifth. And if you can manage to depress the clutch when you make each gear change,  that would be really peachy.”  Crook couldn’t remember how many times he had explained.   Whether Hook didn’t know his left from his right (which would be a bit ironic in view of his chosen nickname) or whether he was unsure as to which direction was up and which down, Crook didn’t know.  What he did know was that if Hook had two or three more lessons in the van, they would have to add a new gearbox to the electronic voice distorter on the list of capital expenses to be set against revenue.



A family conference


There was to be further proof for John that Sally had lost her mind.


When the kids came in, it was obvious John and Sally had argued.  Stephen and Penny exchanged knowing looks. 


“Any news about Jadie?” Penny asked, mainly because she desperately wanted to know the answer but partly to break the ice.


“Well there has been a development,” John answered.  “Do you want to tell them or shall I?”


Sally thought it probably best she gave her version.  Clearly John had decided she was insane and she knew she wasn’t.


“Last night, I decided to do what the man who phoned had told me to do. I don’t know why I did it, and I should certainly have discussed it with your father, but I somehow felt compelled to do something.  I placed an advertisement on the LostPetSearch website.  I used the exact words the man had given me. This morning, a man (I guess the man) turned up at the house and asked for the money.  He said he would give us till tomorrow. If we don’t hand over the money tomorrow, he said we wouldn’t  see Jadie again.”


“Did he have Jadie with him?” asked Stephen.


“No,” said John.  “There were two of them, both nasty bits of work, but no Jadie.”


“Can’t we call the police?” Penny urged.


“We could,” Sally conceded, “but I don’t think it would do much good. Even if they found the man, he would say he was just responding to my advertisement, that he had found the dog and that he was simply returning her.”


“But he wasn’t returning her,” said John angrily.  “He didn’t have Jadie with him.   How do we know he’s even got Jadie?  And how am I supposed to conjure £3,000 out of the air even if we were prepared to pay, which I’m not?”


“I’m sure he’s got Jadie,” said Sally.  “He was the man who phoned yesterday.  He stole our dog – and he’s asking us to pay £3,000 to get her back.  It’s criminal.”


“Jolly good,” John interrupted.  “You’ve grasped the situation at last.”


“But I have a feeling we don’t need to worry,” Sally continued.


John and the children were stunned.


“What do you mean ‘We don’t have to worry’”, said John after a bemused silence.   “You really have lost the plot.”


“No,”said Sally firmly.  “That’s exactly what I haven’t done.”



The action


“So, are you up for it?” Luke asked inside Carter’s head.


Carter leapt to his feet.  “How do you do that?” he asked.  “It’s so clear.”


“It should be.  I’m in your head.  My words don’t have to battle through the wax in your ears. It’s pure sound and instantaneous.  But let’s move on. We have to rescue Jade and we don’t have much time.  If we leave it till tomorrow, it’ll be too late.”


“So do you have a plan?” Carter asked. He would do anything to save Jade but, as things stood, he hadn’t the faintest idea what to do.


“Of course I have a plan.  I am Luke.  I have been to places and seen things you cannot possibly imagine.  I have faced enemies so fearsome that most other living things would have promptly died of fright. I have done battle with evil, faced the hounds of hell, passed through the Fourth Beginning and survived.”


“Yes, but do you have a plan?” Carter persisted.   Obviously Luke was a special dog and had undertaken great adventures, endured great hardship and triumphed against terrible odds, but that didn’t necessarily mean he had a plan to save Jadie, a plan that could work.


“Of course I have a plan,” said Luke, a little impatiently.   “The first part of the plan involves you leaping the fence in the back garden and setting of for the caravan site where the evil Crook and Hook park their van.”


“How far is that?” asked Carter, uncertainly, “and how do I find the site.”


“The second part is easy,” said Luke with easy confidence.  “you just have to follow the trail of your scent which you liberally sprayed all over the back of the van.  As for the distance I’m not exactly sure but you should be able to get there in a couple of hours.”


“Hold on,” demanded Carter.  “What do you mean ‘follow my scent’.   I can’t follow a scent that’s been dispersed at sixty or seventy miles an hour along a fume-choked main road.  I may have a good nose, but I’m not super-canine.”


Luke laughed.   “You can’t but I can and I did.  I know exactly where the delinquent duo are hauled up.  I followed your scent when they left the Truman’s home, so I can direct you.  In fact better than that, I can take you cross country. We don’t have to follow the road all the way.”


“What do you mean you followed the scent?”


“Oh! dear!“ said Luke.  “We really don’t have time for this.  If I can talk inside your head from a distance, it’s not so big a stretch for you to grasp that I can follow a scent  from a distance.  Anyway, I can and I did.  So let’s get on with it.”


“Hold on,” said Carter once again.  “When I get there, what am I supposed to do?  There’s two of them and one of them is a thug.  I’ve seen him.  He climbed out of the van at the Truman’s house.  How do I rescue Jadie?”


“That’s for me to know and you to wonder about,” said Luke. “You are just going to have to trust me. You asked for my help and I’m giving it.  But I can’t explain everything as we go along.  This is a time for action, Carter. So I say again: ‘Are you up for it?’”


Carter wasn’t happy.  It was part of his nature to be cautious and Luke, this mysterious voice in his head, was telling him to be impetuous.  In normal circumstances, he would have demanded more information.  But these were not normal circumstances.  And Luke’s plan was the only plan in town.  So reluctantly he stopped questioning Luke, made his way to the fence at the back of the garden and, at the very spot where he had remonstrated with Jadie, urging her not to climb the fence, he climbed the fence himself and began to follow Luke’s directions.


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