When dog-nappers fall out
“£3,000 was too much,” said Hook, when they reached the camp site. He was still peeved that Crook hadn’t let him drive. “I told you,” he added.
Crook did not respond at once. His face remained impassive but behind his face, in the dark and malodorous corridors of his mind, he was involved in a running battle. It was bad enough having to put up with a mentally challenged sadist (not that he was averse to a bit of sadism himself now and again) but to be told you had made a mistake by someone so obviously his inferior, was intolerable. Or, at least, almost intolerable. In the end, all he said was: “We will have the money tomorrow”.
“No we won’t,” said Hook. “It’s obvious they’re not going to pay. The man didn’t even know the woman had placed the ad. £3,000 is too much. I told you before. No one is going to pay £3,000 for a mut.”
I think it was the “I told you before” that finally pricked Crook beyond endurance.
“You told me before, did you?” sneered Crook. “You analysed the situation, worked it all out, assessed the mental state of the Trumans and concluded that they wouldn’t pay.”
Hook grinned. He couldn’t have summarised it better himself. Indeed, if he were honest, he couldn’t have summarised it at all.
“Well let me tell you this,” Crook continued, “Tomorrow we will visit the Trumans again, and they will hand over the money. And something else will happen. You will realise it’s best to leave the thinking to me.”
“What does that mean?” asked Hook menacingly. The image of Peter taunting him in the classroom over his problems with multiplication flashed before his eyes.
“It means,” said Crook, “that, in our partnership, we each have our strengths. I do the thinking and you provide the muscle. It works well. Now if we swapped places, it wouldn’t work so well. I don’t really have the physique to frighten people.” He left the corollary unsaid.
Hook frowned. Apart from anything else, he was unconvinced that the Trumans would pay up. “We might as well chuck the mut over the cliff now and be done with it,” he opined. We’re wasting time. We should go back to £2,000.”
Jade was back in the metal trunk. She had been bounced about in the back of the van to and from the Trumans’ house so that now it was not just her nose that was bruised. She ached all over and was hungry and thirsty. She had not eaten or drunk clean water for more than 24 hours. She had tried to be brave but the hopelessness of her predicament gnawed away at here normally optimistic disposition, allowing despair to slide into her soul, like the murky waters of an overflowing sewer creeping under the door into a house.
Carter reached the cliff top campsite just as Hook opened his eighth can of lager. Carter spotted the two dog-nappers some minutes before they noticed him.
“OK, I’m here,” said Carter. “Now what do I do?”
There was silence. The weather had brightened up and Messrs Crook and Hook were sitting on their fold-away stools.
Carter repeated his question: “Now what do I do?” He felt rather foolish. He was perfectly happy to confront the two criminals. He would bark at them, demanding the release of their captive. He would even attack them, if they failed to accede to his demands. But it wouldn’t work. He might get a bite in but he knew that Hook would kick him to death, or break his neck, or pull his forelegs apart until his ribs splintered into his heart before they released Jadie.
Still there was no answer.
“Look!” slurred Hook. “Maybe I’ve had one too many or maybe I’ve got dogs on the brain, but isn’t that another bloody boxer over there?”
“You’ve certainly had one too many,” Crook rejoined, “but you’re right. It’s another boxer.” Crook squinted. “It looks a bit like the Trumans’ other dog.”
“Don’t be daft,” said Hook. “How could that dog get here?”
Crook winced. He was beginning to find Hook profoundly irritating. Of course Crook knew that the cement that held their partnership together was the unspoken agreement that he would never even hint at Hook’s mental limitations. Unfortunately, Hook, unaware of the cement thing, seemed to take the absence of Crook’s criticism as evidence of his own burgeoning mental acuity.
“I’m not daft,” said Crook tersely. “That dog has the same markings as Truman’s other dog – the dark face, the white paws. It’s their dog, alright.”
“Why’s it staring at us?” asked Hook, still not conceding it was the Trumans’ dog.
“Well, if it’s the Trumans’ dog, it’s fairly obvious why it’s staring at us. It want’s it mate back,” suggested Crook.
“What do I do?” Carter asked for the third time of the silent and seemingly absent Luke.
There was a panting in Carter’s head and then Luke spoke. “Sorry about that. I had a lot to do. But it’s all arranged. Just go over to the camper van. Stay out of the reach of Hook’s boot and bark.
“What good will that do?” enquired Carter.
“You’ll see,” said Luke.
Not entirely convinced, Carter moved towards the evil pair. He stopped a few feet away from Hook who had risen unsteadily to his feet, knocking over the fold-away stool.
“Why don’t we grab this one and ask the Trumans for £6,000,” he suggested.
Crook thought of challenging the logic of trying to extort £6,000 from a couple who, Hook argued, couldn’t afford or wouldn’t part with £3,000 but decided against it. He had decided to sever his partnership with Hook as soon as the Truman situation was resolved. Only the method of the severing had to be determined.
Carter barked. It was not a particularly loud or aggressive bark because Carter was unsure of himself but it was loud enough for Jade to hear. Her ears pricked up which is a major achievement for the floppy ears of a boxer, even when said boxer is in good condition. It was a minor miracle in Jade’s case because she was so debilitated by lack of water, food and hope.
“Bloody dog barked at me,” observed Hook unnecessarily.
Out of nowhere, a dachshund appeared, pumping desperately on its stumpy legs to cross the campsite and stand beside Carter.
“I see he’s brought a friend,” Hook continued. “We could have trouble,” he sneered.
Carter barked again. He had heard Jadie’s whimpered response to his first bark and he wanted to give her encouragement.
Two black Labradors ran through the open gate of the campsite and took up a position behind Carter.
“Here, Crook,” Hook quipped, “we could start a kennel.”
Carter barked again. Three sleek black and tanned dobermans streaked across the campsite and lined up behind the Labradors.
“Get you baseball bat out of the back of the van,” said Crook quietly. “And bring me my knife,” he added.
Another bark from Carter and some thirty of forty dogs of various breeds and cross-breeds entered the camp-site and formed up behind the dobermans. They spaced themselves out in ranks, like a canine Roman legion
Hook returned from the back of the camper van with the baseball bat and Crook’s knife. He stared in amazement at the growing pack of dogs that were standing and staring at them.
“Crack the boxer’s head open,” said Crook in a matter of fact voice, keen not to warn the dogs of Hook’s impending assault.
One of the dobermans growled.
“Are you sure?” asked Hook.
“Just do as you’re told,” said an exasperated Crook.
As Hook stepped forward to perform Crook’s bidding, both dobermans leapt forward over the tops of the Labradors and Carter and locked on to Hook’s arms. Neither of them bit hard into the arm they had seized but they didn’t let go. Hook dropped the baseball bat and the knife.
“Get them off me,” Hook appealed to Crook.
Crook started to move towards the knife which Hook had dropped, and then he stopped. Four Rottweilers which seemed to Crook to be the size of small horses were padding across the campsite. As they approached the camper van, the ranks of the dogs parted to let them through. When the four Rottweilers reached Carter, they split into two pairs, two dogs to Carter’s left and two to his right. And then they snarled.
A single Rottweiler showing signs of aggression is intimidating. Four of them, inexplicably gathered together and lined up in front of you, all exhibiting hostility, is something else altogether.
Crook found himself talking to the mob of dogs as though they understood him, as though he was negotiating with them.
“I’ll let the mut out of the crate, then you lot can bugger off. OK?” It was more an appeal than a deal. The Rottweilers stopped snarling and looked towards Carter. Cater barked his assent.
“What about me?” cried Hook. “Get these dogs off me,”
“As a sign of good faith,…..” Crook began.
Carter barked and the Dobermans released Hook and slipped back behind the Rottweilers. There was total silence as Crook stumbled round the van to release Jadie.
“Take Jadie and go,” said Luke inside Carter’s head. “There’s water in a trough at the campsite gate and one of the Doberman has left a dead rabbit for Jade to eat. As soon as she feels up to it, take her home.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Carter.
There’s some unfinished business here,” said Luke.
Carter and Jadie arrived home just after John had told the family that he had managed to beg and borrow £3,000 to pay the ransom. It wasn’t right to pay these thugs. But he couldn’t let Jadie die. He planned to give the police full details of the two extortionists and the number plate of their van. The police might not be able to prosecute them for accepting the ‘reward’ but they might catch them actually kidnapping the next dog.
There was great jubilation when Carter and Jade arrived at the front door, jubilation mingled with astonishment. After much debate, the Trumans, parents and children, agreed they would never know what had happened. After all, neither dog could tell them.
Carter wanted to add that, even if he had been able to tell them, they wouldn’t have believed him. “I just followed the telepathic instructions of a superdog based in Harrow. He guided me to the place where Jadie was held, martialled a small army of dogs to back me up and, with their help, I forced the criminals to release Jadie.” No, I don’t think so. Yet that was what had happened. What’s more, Carter knew that, if he ever needed help in future, he would always have someone to turn to, even if that someone was only a disembodied voice in his head, a benefit he enjoyed in common with those of a religious persuasion and, of course, lunatics.
As for Jadie, I’d like to say that she never strayed from the Trumans’ garden again. And indeed she didn’t for a couple of weeks. But then her natural spirit of adventure and insatiable curiosity got the better of her and, from then on, from time to time, she would embark on an excursion into the forest. The good news is that she had learnt to be more cautious in dealing with strangers and happily never met fellows as evil and noxious as Alvin Crook and Bruce Hook again.
And there was more good news. Shortly after John had decided to pay the ransom for Jadie, Ingold Software phoned. They had been awarded the government contract after all and they asked John to ignore the dismissal notice and come back to work. In a moment of pure inspiration, John decided to play hard to get. After all, really good programmers are hard to find. He mentioned that a couple of competitor software firms had expressed real interest in the possibility he might join them. The result was a guaranteed three year contract from Ingold Software with a considerably enhanced. Inflation-protected salary. Result!
There is one question which has to remain unanswered, or at least can’t be answered with certainty. How was it that Messrs Crook and Hook ended up dead, in their camper van, at the foot of the campsite cliff?
Of course, Luke would know the answer but we can only speculate.
The most likely explanation is that, after Carter and Jadie had left, things turned nasty. Maybe one of the Dobermans thought Hook should have a little of his own medicine. Maybe a Rottweiler felt like teaching the bullying dog-nappers a lesson they would never forget. Whatever the truth, Crook and Hook must have been terrified. It seems likely they both took refuge in the van. Crook, being more nimble than his partner, must have jumped in on the passenger side because that was the nearest door. Hook must have lumbered round and climbed into the driver’s seat. At last he would get to drive the van, albeit not in ideal circumstances. He must have started the engine, whacked it into gear and, following Crook’s screamed instruction to “get the hell out of here”, promptly accelerated backwards, in reverse gear, over the cliff edge.
There were no actual teeth marks on the bodies, so there was no evidence dogs were involved. True there were some minor indents on Hook’s arms but the skin had not been broken. That was all.
For anyone who is upset by such a grisly end to this tale, it is worth pointing out that Crook had intended to knife Hook as soon as he had taken the Trumans’ £3,000. Given Hook’s formidable strength and Crook’s inevitable nervousness at graduating from extortion to murder, it is quite likely that Hook would have seized the opportunity to break Crook’s neck before he died, even if he had been fatally stabbed.
So there you are. No harm done and, as in all good stories, all’s well that ends well. And full credit to Luke, although, as the story shows, it was really Carter who did most of the heavy lifting.