Ladd and the case of the missing Malamutes

By Alfred Goodale | Dec 13, 2010
Hi, there. Is the mike on? My name is Ladd, everybody. In case you can't see me, I'm a medium-sized dog of eight or nine years, black with some white on the muzzle and chest, rough but not quite wire-haired, with slightly crossed black eyes. I'm also a talking dog unaccustomed to public speaking, so if you don't mind, I'll turn now to my prepared speech. Robert Baker, my blind former master, was probably the last human being on earth to know about it. Boys and girls knew about it. Dog handlers and cat lovers knew about it. The mailman knew about it. But Robert, a writer, just kept sitting at his huge clunky word processor, adjusting the robot voice, and turning out pages that he most often crumpled and threw away. So it went until one day he needed a book from the Maine Public Library in Augusta, the state capitol, 20 miles from here. He had friends at the library and was told that nowadays he'd receive not a bound volume or an audio cassette but a tiny electronic cell to be placed directly above his right ear or his left ear, whichever he chose. The text of the book would then be displayed inside his head and could be scanned at will. Yes, the new technology worked for the blind, as well as for the sighted. Surprised and pleased, Robert ordered the book, specifying large print instead of regular print, if possible, and sat back to wait for the appearance of the mailman on this thrice-weekly rounds, another aspect of the recent "wonder years," as they'd been designated. Now listen, little children. The story that follows takes place in those wonder years. It's a phrase coined by President Bannock. The successor to Barack Obama and our first woman president, as you know. It's a good phrase be cause it passes over the usual things and says nothing about the weather or the wars or the economy. Which is appropriate, because what happened back then was that the Jarvis Maneuver was invented and human beings and animals, especially dogs, began to talk to each other.

Chapter 3

Acting as my own receptionist, I visited the front desk every morning, tested the telephone for dial tone, polished the little vanity mirror installed by the departed Jonquil. In the days following the abduction of the malamutes there was little else to do. No letters falling through the mail slot, no anonymous sightings, no incoming calls reporting progress. The sheriff thought the dogs had been sold out of state and would never be seen again in Liberty, but he was still making inquiries. As for Robert, he was now in Hartford, Conn., where Joyce had visited the historic Mark Twain house to her great delight and he was busy signing books.

So the office was quiet that morning when Amy the river gull tapped at the back window. I lowered the casement and she fluttered in, apologizing for being late.

“My colony on the Allagash River is in its annual uproar. The eagle is killing our young birds again. A mother, gathering food for her chicks. What can you do? Has the Greywolf-Dennis transcript come? Have you read it?

“Several times.”

“ Well, that’s what I’m here for, Mr Dog.”

She dropped down to the cold rim of the bathtub. Nestled in ergonomic comfort, I thought it only right to suggest another perch, perhaps the metal rod from which the shower curtains had once hung, but she said she was fine. Refusing also the hand basin and the towel rack, she took a copy of the transcript and we read it straight through without interruption.

Question: How are you doing this morning?

Answer: Good

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. No.

Q. For the record, I’m the Assistant District Attorney for Waldo County, Maine. You already know Dr. and Mrs. Anderson, I think, and this is our friend Ladd, a private detective retained by the Andersons. We’re here to ask you some questions about Greywolf and Dennis and what happened the day you were attacked. That would be last month, Friday the 13th of October, to be exact.

A. Yes

Q. Thank you. Carl, you live in Liberty, Maine, you’re in the eighth grade at Mount View Junior High, and you rode the school bus home that Friday afternoon last month. Correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. You got off the bus in front of the Anderson’s house. You entered the house as instructed and dished out the food, two cups for Greywolf and two cups for Dennis. You went outdoors and opened the gate of the enclosure. Now let’s talk about that enclosure a little bit. How big is it? Is it bigger than this hearing room?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. It’s pretty big, then, For the record, the dimensions are 30 feet by 50 feet, with some bushes and trees and a kennel included inside. There’s only the one gate. Carl, as you opened the gate, I understand one of the dogs came trotting up. Now had you ever met these dogs before?

A. I’d seen them before from the school bus. I knew about them because they were malamutes. All the kids did.

Q. What did you know about these particular animals?

A. Nothing. Well, that they were identical twins and only Dr. and Mrs Anderson could tell them apart. But we could tell them apart, because Greywolf never looked at the bus, even when we waved. We liked Dennis better.

Q. Had you ever met the dogs in person? Ever fed them before?

A. No.

Q. Who generally fed them?

A. Dr. Anderson, I guess, when he was home.

Q. Of course. The dog that came trotting up, did you call him by name?

A. I don’t remember. Greywolf probably.

Q. Was he wearing a collar? Identification? A tag of any kind?

A. I don’t think so.

Q. O.K. The dog approached. What did you do?

A. I put his dish down.

Q. With which hand?

A. My right hand.

Q. Are you normally right-handed? Do you write right-handed? Bat right-handed? How did Liberty do in league play this year?

A. Four and three.

Q. Not too shabby, Carl. I happen to know you played second base on that team. Well, well. We’re almost done, I think. What happened next?

A. I put the other dish down. With my left hand.

Q. Where was the other dog at that time? Was he visible or was he back in the bushes somewhere? Sleeping in the kennel?

A. No! I just don’t remember seeing him.

Q. What happened when you put the second dish down?

A. The first dog kept eating for a minute. But then he stopped and snapped at my left arm. He got hold of my sleeve and pulled and pulled. I tripped and fell but got up again and got over the fence.

Q. Did you receive dog bites while getting over the fence?

A. Yes.

Q. Carl, do you recognize these pants with the tears and bloodstains? And is this the blood-stained sleeve of your jacket?

A. Yes, that is. He tore it right out.

Q. Very good. And where was the other dog when that happened? Where was Dennis when you climbed over the fence?

A. I don’t know. He was there, but I don’t remember where he came from. I don’t remember. I’m sorry.

A. That’s all right. Don’t sweat it, my boy.

***

That doesn’t help my client, Dennis, much, does it? I said, returning the transcript to its dusty shelf beside the iodine bottle.

“ Not very much, Mr. Dog. You need a stronger witness.”

There isn’t one. Carl was alone until the police arrived. And they’ll testify that there was blood on the ground and on both dogs. Both Greywolf and Dennis were standing at the fence, barking like crazy. It wasn’t enough for Mrs. Anderson to testify that Dennis was as tame as a kitten. The fact is, he was there at the fence with blood on him. The hearing had no choice but to decide as they did. What do you think? What am I missing?”

What you’re missing is that the malamutes are no longer in custody. Until they’re recovered, none of this amounts to a hill of fishcakes, that’s what I think!”

“Maybe you’re right. Well, we can leave it there for now.” Pressing Button 2 so as to sit a little higher, I asked what was new in the capitol city.

She flew to the end of the tub and with violent wing action settled on the narrow space  between the dry, drip less water taps. “Well, let’s see. There’s Martin Jarvis, to start with-Sergeant Jarvis, to us insiders. But now it’s Special Agent Jarvis of the FBI, transferred from the Augusta office to Washington D.C. It seems he was in Maine last week and paid a courtesy call on the Rockland pound. No human attendants were on duty at the time of the kidnapping, so he talked to the animals. He can do that, you know.”

I know well. He was known for it, even before Robert’s book came out. I used to ride with him. He said he could talk to every breed of dog he’d ever met. So what happened at the pound?”

“The animals agreed there were two men, one white and one dark. The Rhodesian Ridgeback thought they were Africans speaking Swahili or Arabic. The Irish Wolfhound had heard broken English or perhaps Celtic. But the Canada Lynx was the most helpful. He said one man spoke French and they both smelled like a logging camp. He comes from northern Maine where there are a lot of logging camps, so he should know. It broke me up, hearing that.”

Mirth in Amy apparently raised her blood pressure, for her bill, normally a modest pink, had turned bright red. Told to take a break, she launched from the bathtub and darted around the narrow room as if in pursuit of a flying fish. She skimmed the floor, departed through the open window in the direction of the Baptist Church, returned, and retook her place between the water taps. “I needed that!” She pecked at a dust ball between her feet, looking more serious, paler in the bill than before.“ I was thinking about Sergeant Jarvis just now. Moody, moody, moody.”

“Too much pressure, moving to Washington. He’s also been named to the White House security panel, did you know that?”

Nothing like that. He’s worried about something. But anyway. What were we talking about?”

“Dogs. The idea that somebody stole the malamutes and took them to a logging camp in northern Maine. But why would anybody want to do that?” I asked.

“That’s exactly what Sergeant Jarvis wants to know. Talk to him.”

“ I will. But first, do you still have that microchip device? Then you must also have a camera.”

“ I have. And I’ve already cruised some of the rivers where they used to drive logs when the ice went out in the spring. One river in particular.”

“ The Allagash?”

“The Allagash, which as you know is where my colony is. Go a little way upstream from there and you find an overgrown clearing with some buildings in it. Railroad tracks leading down to the river. And a cookhouse with smoke coming from the chimney.”

“Any malamutes in sight?”

No. But who knows what’s inside the bunkhouses?”

“All right. Try to get pictures, then.” I pressed the EJECT button and a small motor began to whir. “Because if this is the right place you should find two dogs and two men in that camp, right?” I’d also look for a third man, the mastermind directing the plot, whatever the plot is. There!”

Chair parts stopped moving and I was set down gently on my four feet. “Good, Amy, it’s been a good morning. Go home now and watch out for the eagle. Meanwhile I’ll pay a visit to Dr. Anderson!”

 

Alfred Goodale lives in Liberty.

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