Bonét, the Wonder Dog. Bonét was blinded by all the picture-taking. Fitzy wouldn’t hear of posing for any photographs – besides, he would only appear as a smudge and ruin the shot. The kidnapped parents were found though not the kids, but protocol demanded the discovery be celebrated by the press.
Fitz wanted the press conference to wrap up so he could follow the trail of the children before he lost them in all the muddle and backslapping. Finding the dead parents confirmed bad-endings: What purpose was there in walking the bedraggled family out so far, knock-off the parents and walk on with terrified babies wailing their lungs out? Or was there a purpose? Was he looking for something right in his midst? Bonét still had the old rattle smell stored in his brain just waiting to lead way.
Fitzy estimated that the youngest child would be ten and the oldest, seventeen or eighteen. They may have been ransomed or sold into slavery – how could he reach these poor children? His heart ached.
We’ve got to think like the kidnappers, Bonét. Telepathically Fitz linked to the dog’s mind. Could the kids be hiding in plain sight, could they be whispering our names, beckoning us with their little fingers – like they did seven years ago?
Bonét strained at his leash, whining, I’ve got their scent, I can smell them close by – they are still alive. I want to go. Let me go. I’ll find them, until Fitz released him. Bonét vanished into the crowd of reporters and well-wishers; no one saw him leave. His last thought wafted behind him: Froggy. Call Froggy.
Froggy answered on the first ring, “Fitzy, I’m getting interference – I can barely make you out. Can you hear me? Lizzie and I are on the train somewhere south of … we should make Cha … Hiby morn …”
Fitzy understood Froggy just fine, but bringing Elizabeth? What was he thinking? How could she affect the case’s outcome? He busied himself listening to snatches of random conversations, picking up vibes and unintentional information lisps here and there. He felt someone trying to locate him, trying to probe his mind.
Detective DeMarco watched Fitz work the room, marveling at how invisible he became – how, if you weren’t paying strict attention, like he was, Fitz could fade into the scenery. Or – wait-a-minute – assume anyone’s shape? Who was this guy he was working with? He felt a headache coming on and rifled through his pockets looking for a travel tin of extra-strength pills to tide him over the next few hours. His take on the whole case was different from Fitzy’s, he could only see failure, death and darkness. The chief was going to pull up stakes and head back to NYC after the joint news conference, declaring that the case had gone cold again – any tips would be welcome – thank you. Amen.
DeMarco looked around for Bonét, “Where was that GOD DAMN MUTT?”
And then he suddenly realized that Fitz had let the freakin’ dog loose! DeMarco felt totally frazzled.
Lost en Plein Air. Some detective he was – DeMarco felt anxious then defeated when he couldn’t locate Fitz or the dog in the crowd. His headache pounded like a timpani on his taut temples. When Fitz touched his arm to offer him some Advil DeMarco nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Jesus-H-Christ, man! You effin’ freak me out! I lost you in the crowd – chief wants us to get back to the City – unless you got something. You got something, Fitz?”
“Bonét slipped his leash. Some lady was leaning over him, patting his head while her husband snapped pictures and I guess I rested my eyes, relaxing my vigilance. When I looked around the couple was gone and I held an empty leash!” Fitz seemed to turn green, as though it physically hurt him to tell DeMarco a lie, which it did, but he justified it as a necessary nasty bit of detective deflection. Except he could see that he hadn’t pulled it off – DeMarco hadn’t bought it.
“Man, on top of this nightmare southern hick poh-lice exercise in futility, you tell me some BS story about letting your dumb dog loose – as if you didn’t know I was watching your sorry butt all afternoon! Some partner you turn out to be … you expect me to … Hey, isn’t that Bonét being dragged into that silver sports car?”
DeMarco’s eyes hadn’t betrayed him, Bonét was indeed being coaxed into the patting lady’s car, and none to gently from the looks of it. While Fitzy recorded the car’s license plate number, DeMarco wove through the crowd to intercept the vehicle as it tried to twist and turn its way out of its tight parking spot. Neither man was successful in saving Bonét and the silver car shot off like a silver bullet. Fitz got a partial plate and DeMarco intercepted air – the wonder-dog had been dog-napped! For what reason, dogs couldn’t talk, his picture was plastered all over town, and his name Bonét was used in conversation throughout Chapel Hill and towns beyond. It looked like Froggy and Elizabeth would have to use their own devices to locate a room for the night; Fitzy and DeMarco’s cold case just opened again! Fitzy spied the teething rattle on the sidewalk before DeMarco stepped on it, he knew the frayed ribbon would be wet with dog drool. Where had Bonét found the rattle, where had he been before the lady nabbed him – or had he liberated the rattle from the lady as she sped off? Was this a bread crumb that would lead the detectives into the wetlands surrounding Chapel Hill, into the witch’s lair?
Both men made a silent pact to ride the now double case to a positive conclusion because they now saw light, however dim, but they had a beam to follow. Fitzy held on to the rattle, a rattle that DeMarco could not see, knowing that he had something to focus his talents on. Fitzy knew that the kidnapped children were close by still living as a family but it puzzled him why they were held in the Chapel Hill area – although he couldn’t fathom the significance. Grabbing Bonét had been the worse mistake the thieves could have made because the dog became Fitzy’s conduit into their collective brains and location. They had no idea who they were working with, who would take them down when they least expected it – in a weeks time, in a month, a mighty hammer, a righteous hammer would fall and shatter their plans. But it wouldn’t be tonight or the next, Fitzy and DeMarco had a lot of casework to do.
Hold the Cold Pizza. Bonét had been muzzled in the car but that didn’t prevent his nose from recording flora and fauna data has the car sped away from the city into the country. When the car finally stopped the muzzle was removed and Bonét was thrown into a damp pit. He yelped as he landed hard against a rock wall so he corrected himself after he adjusted to the dark – he was in a damp cellar and it was airless and jet black. His ears told him he was alone and his nose said the hole hadn’t been used in ages. It had been mid afternoon when he was forced into the car so if his mind wasn’t too addled he estimated that it was time to start digging. He needed to find a piece of earth that was soft and crumbly yet out of the human’s sight of vision when they brought in food and water, and scanned the room for evidence of escape. Before he started his get-away project he had a few housekeeping errands to do (this is where Bonét’s years on the lam came in handy), first he had to dig a shallow bed, then he had to roll in the bones of his predecessors, and lastly, well … it was always good to have a false exit plan.
While Bonét was digging himself out of trouble, the NYPD detectives began to get tip calls concerning
scruffy dogs fitting Bonét’s description. Lost dog posters had been liberally stapled, tacked and taped throughout Chapel Hill neighborhoods offering a reward for information leading to Bonét’s whereabouts and safe return though, of course, Bonét’s name was not included on the poster. Most of the calls fell into two camps: wishful thinking and manufactured disruption. Fitzy had a hunch that the posters would pay off and to DeMarco’s chagrin, the call came in just as their delivery pizza arrived. The raspy voice on the tip line was convinced that a silver sports car had pulled into an old mill complex; he had seen it from his panel truck as he stopped to check directions. The height of his cab offered him excellent views into smaller vehicles, once he had seen a fella driving with his fee …
“I seen a lady holding a dog, a muzzled dog, not like she was fond of it, more like she was holding it down against its will,” the voice said with a drawl. “The woman looked PO’d, like she didn’t want to be doing what she was doing.”
Fitzy motioned for DeMarco to pick up his phone to listen in on the conversation that was pretty much propelling itself.
“And she was yelling at the guy driving, cussing him out, looking like she wanted to hit him but she couldn’t cuz of the dog. The car was silver like the poster described and its somewhere in the Bronson-George Mills business complex. I’d of followed it but who’d believe a Hood’s truck had a delivery to make in the complex. If I was driving a tool truck I’d of followed the car to see what was going on but I’m no vigilantly.”
“This George Mills produces what kind of product?” asked Fitzy. “Does it have loading bays and garages?”
“Bronson-George Mills business park, down by the Stop’n’Wash and a bunch of deadbeat bars on route 7,” the caller corrected Fitzy.
DeMarco interrupted Fitzy’s questioning abruptly, “Sir, could you come in to sign a statement and talk to the staff artist because we would like to put something on TV.” DeMarco made a wrap-it-up gesture to get Fitz off the phone.
“You got another call from a Mr. Pierre on-line two, this guy sounds stranger than the Hood’s truck guy – you got them coming out of the woodwork now,” DeMarco said as he looked at his cold pizza with dismay. “Hey Fitz, you seen my antacid?
Fitzy was nowhere in the room. It was as if he had vanished into thin air but DeMarco was used to this by now, it meant he didn’t have to share the mozzarella fries.