Bernard

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Looks can be deceiving.

Take Bernard for example.

He looks small and cute, and his mistress is French.

You might think that he lives in a handbag and eats paté all day, but no, he doesn’t. Okay, so he does eat the occasional croissant, and he once licked paté off the floor where some French bloke dropped it while talking to his mistress, but I don’t think that counts.

He does eat snails, but that is a whole other story.

Bernard is special.

All dogs are special, of course, but what I mean to say is that Bernard is especially talented.

You already know that dogs have amazing senses, and the sense of smell is particularly acute.

I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but to be truthful, I only discovered this because my mistress was doing research for a story.

It all started after I caught the murderer in the country house. It was one of my very first adventures. My mistress was very proud of me, and she wondered how I did it. I didn’t think much about it at the time; I just did what dogs do — I sniffed it out. I thought everyone could do it, but apparently not.

My mistress said that some dogs could detect individual ingredients in a pasta sauce. I could have told her that. It drives her crazy that her girlfriend makes a particularly good Napoli sauce, and she is not sure what the secret ingredient is. It’s Turmeric. A very tiny amount. I tried pointing at it in the spice rack using my nose, but she told me off for climbing on a chair. Humans can be very annoying.

Bernard, on the other hand, never gets told off for climbing on chairs. He is treated like a king — a small hairy king, but a king none the less.

His unique skill is finding things.

Rich people pay his mistress large amounts of money to find things that have been lost inside their huge houses, but more importantly, Bernard is asked to find things that are hidden in the houses of wealthy deceased persons — usually by greedy relatives who are sure that their dead uncle has stashed away a fortune.

Bernard comes to visit at least once a year.

His mistress and my mistress have been friends since my mistress was a student in France. She stayed with her friend’s parents for a year, and she says it was one of the best years of her life.

I was expecting Bernard to be a bit ‘up himself’, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was a very down-to-earth dog.

Appearances can be deceiving.

He likes watching soccer on TV, and he enjoys walks in the rain, but his mistress won’t let him. I splashed water on him one time so that he would know what it felt like. He was very appreciative.

I took him down to the local Butcher Shop, just to show him the sights and he had a splendid time. He got dusty, and some sand got stuck between his toes and he said it made him feel like one of those free range dogs. He was kidding himself of course. He wouldn’t last five minutes in the wild, but I let him have his dream. Who am I to step on anyone’s dream?

He told me about life in Paris, and it sounded pretty good.

French dogs are allowed into cafés, but I like it here. I’m too old to learn the French words for ‘walk’ and ‘treat’ and ‘get off the chair’.

I asked Bernard what was the most interesting thing he was asked to find, and he said that it was hard to choose, but it was probably a lost toy.

The toy belonged to a little old lady. She was very old and sick. She believed that she was going to die soon and she had been thinking a lot about her childhood. She had a favourite little doll.

She used to tell it her secrets.

One day, while playing hide and seek with her brothers and sisters, she put the doll down and forgot where she put it. She searched and searched, but to no avail.

She wanted to hold that little doll one last time before she died.

Bernard said that she offered a huge reward, but it would only be paid if he could find the doll.

His mistress brought him to meet the old lady, and they got on very well indeed. Bernard gave her a good sniffing and set off through the large old Chateau in search of the little doll. It helped that he is small because it stood to reason that the doll would be in a small hiding place just big enough to hide a little girl.

Bernard searched all day, and he was beginning to wonder if he might have to come back another day, but just as the light was failing, he wandered into a small room attached to the huge kitchen. It was full of dusty old boxes, and it looked like no one had been in there for a long time. To start with, nothing in the room seemed to smell like the little old lady had touched it, but after pushing a few boxes aside with his nose, he got a faint whiff.

The little doll had been nibbled on by moths and was very dusty, but she was in one piece, and she was exactly as the old woman had described her.

Bernard said that it was very strange, but he was sure that the little doll was calling out to him. He followed the scent and the sound directly to where the doll was lying, but when he got there, the doll stopped talking to him.

He gently carried the little doll back to the old lady. She was sleeping and woke as he jumped up on her bed. She didn’t care that the doll was dusty and moth-eaten. She hugged it and cried. Bernard knew enough about female humans to know that there was a chance that this little old lady was happy and not sad.

I asked him what happened to the doll and the little old lady, and he said that he was not sure. He heard his mistress talking about her a few times, but he did not know what her words meant. He did say that they got paid a lot of money because of his find and they went on a holiday to Trieste, and as a special treat, he got a ride on the famous funicular tramway. Bernard loves trams, and he and his mistress are going to visit Melbourne next year because they have the most extensive system of tramways anywhere in the world, not to mention the longest continuous piece of tram track.

Bernard loves trams.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but appearances can be deceiving.

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Never Chase a Pretty Girl

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“I’ve never met another man I’d rather be. And even if that’s a delusion, it’s a lucky one.”

Charles Bukowski

“Never chase a pretty girl or a tram, there will be another one along in a few minutes.”

My mum was trying to make me feel better, and it worked, up to a point. She would not be the last girl who broke my heart, but she was the prettiest.

My mum had a saying for most situations.

Her ancestors were Irish, and the Irish have an interesting slant on most human endeavours.

I’m no philosopher, but it seems that we do most things for love; trying to get some, trying to buy some, or trying to forget.

You cannot have love without money.

I know that about now, some of you are howling: ‘You don’t need to be rich to be happy’.

Bollocks!

“If you are poor, and you are happy you are deluded.”

My mum didn’t say that one.

She was one of those people who believed that money didn’t bring happiness, and therein lies a story.

I grew up in a household where the belief was that people with real money probably did something wrong to get it.

Therefore, people with real wealth were probably very bad people.

Can you see how my logic flowed?

I was just a kid, but I swallowed this thought pattern hook, line and sinker.

None of my friends was wealthy.

No, that’s not true; there was this one kid.

His dad drove a Jaguar, but his wife had died, and that seemed to even things out for me, at least, it did in my young mind.

I grew up thinking that money had a soul, and it was as dark as night.

Naturally, with the passage of time, I worked out that this is a load of old cobblers. It’s the line that poor people feed themselves to make their failure seem noble.

After many years of struggle, we finally had a good year.

We had a bit of ‘spare money’, and it felt good.

We were a long way from ‘well off’ but we were certainly not living ‘paycheque to paycheque’ like we had been for so many years.

I read somewhere that money attracts money, and to feel successful, you needed to carry more money in your pocket.

More than would generally make you feel comfortable.

A hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money to me at the time, and I was sure that there was a neon sign on my back that said, “This bloke is carrying a serious amount of cash. Hit him on the head and take it. He’s a wuss; he won’t put up much of a fight.”

Screw that neon sign.

I stood in line at the bank, and when it became my turn I asked for two hundred dollars, “all in twenties, please”.

My voice sounded funny, but I don’t think that the girl behind the counter noticed. She was cute, and I had seen her around, but I doubt that she ever noticed me; my ‘attractive single male’ neon had been turned off for some time.

“There you go Mr Rainbow. I hope you enjoy your day. Is there anything else I can help you with today.”

“As a matter of fact, there is,”

I smiled at her, partly because she was smiling at me and partly because I did not want her to see how nervous I was.

“Is there a jewellery store nearby?”

This is something that I should have known, but my brain had gone into neutral, and she did ask.

“Yes, Mr Rainbow, just across the road. The White Box has beautiful things. Are you going to use all that money to buy your wife something nice? Birthday? Anniversary? She’s a lucky lady.”

“Probably, but firstly I need a money clip to hold all these notes. I didn’t realise how bulky it would be.”

The lovely young woman smiled at me, but I know that she thought that I must be a bit dim. Had I not held this much money before? Didn’t I know what two hundred dollars felt like? She handled large sums of money all the time. It was nothing to her. It might have been other people’s money, but it was money just the same, and if her plan worked out there would be a large pile of money in the shoebox under her bed, very soon. All she had to do was not get too greedy.

“Have an excellent day, Mr Rainbow, and please say hello to Mrs Rainbow for me.”

I looked at her name badge.

“I will Joyce. You enjoy your day also.”

I jammed the money into my pocket and walked unsteadily out of the bank.

I waited for the lights to change so I could cross the street.

Typically, I would have run across the street, dodging cars and enjoying my strength and speed, but today I had visions of being hit by some bozo in a van.

The people would gather around in horror, “He’s badly hurt”, one woman would say.

“He’s carrying a lot of money”, someone else would say.

“Don’t get too close, he must be a bad man to be carrying all that cash”, a small child would say.

The lights changed.

I noticed that a few other people had joined me in my quest to cross over to safety.

The old bloke with the walking stick was trying to stop the medium sized dog from sniffing his leg.

The dog seemed to like the old bloke, either that or the old timer had stepped into something interesting.

We all made it across safely, and the dog was very disappointed when its owner went the opposite way to the old man.

The old bloke looked back at the dog, and the dog looked longingly at the old bloke.

Maybe they knew each other in a previous life.

As I reached the Jewellery store, I was nearly run down by three small children who were escaping from a frazzled mother.

“Quite a herd you have there,” I said as I deftly avoided being trampled.

“Give me that wad of cash you have in your pocket, and you can have them,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?”

“I said, you can have them. I’m fed up.”

I smiled, but I suspect that I looked like I had swallowed a lemon.

The shop was exactly what you would expect a jewellery store to look like — all twelve-volt lighting and satin cloth.

The lady behind the counter was about twice the age of the girl in the bank.

It occurred to me that the shop owner had employed her because she gave the premises an air of maturity.

He was right, it did.

She was well dressed and had a sparkle in her eye that had nothing to do with the lighting.

“You look like a man who has a great deal of money in his pocket,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?” I said for the second time that day.

“How can I help you, sir?”

The smile that came with the question seemed real. I liked that.

“I need a money clip. Something nice. Something that says I’m not a wanker.”

I wasn’t sure whether I had said that out loud, but the woman didn’t blink. She brought out a small tray.

“We don’t get a lot of call for these. Our customers don’t seem to appreciate such things.”

That sounded vaguely like a compliment to me.

The limited selection was predictable and a bit garish with the single exception of the brushed steel clip with a shiny leaping jaguar. I’d always wanted to own a Jaguar, ever since my mate’s dad had driven us to football practice, all those years ago.

“I’ll take that one, please.”

“Do you have the car to go with it?”

“Not yet, but it’s on the list.”

I removed the wad of twenties from my pocket, and the woman behind the counter reacted as though people did that every day. I peeled off a couple and handed them over. I took my change and slid the notes into the clip and put it into my pocket. I imagined some rich bloke in a good suit, with Martini stains on his tie from the three-hour lunch he just had with the bloke from Mad Men.

The book said that you should treat money as a tool.

It has no magic powers; it’s just a tool.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a slightly scruffy looking bloke selling The Big Issue. He was standing near the pedestrian lights. I reached into my pocket and got out my money clip. I peeled off a twenty and gave it to him. He gave me a magazine and fumbled for the change.

“Keep the change mate; it’s been a good day for me.”

He looked at me and grunted, but I know that he thought I was a wanker.

Only wankers have a money clip.

I didn’t care.

When I got home that night, the kids were in the backyard playing. Our dogs met me at the door, and they sniffed me all over. There was something different about me, and they were determined to sniff it out. They followed me around for ages, trying to work out what had changed.

I told my wife what I had done, and although she looked a little bit concerned, she was aware of what I was trying to do, and she had always been very supportive of my hare-brained schemes.

“Can I see the money clip?”

I’m pretty sure that it was the wad of money that she really wanted to see, so I handed over the clip and the money.

I tried to look nonchalant as I took it out of my pocket.

She held it for a moment, then removed the money and proceeded to count it.

“Two hundred dollars is a lot of money to be carrying around Brett Rainbow. Weren’t you scared?”

“A bit, but I felt better after I spent a bit of it. I know it sounds funny, but it seemed lighter, and that made me less concerned.”

“How much did you draw out?”

“Two hundred dollars. All in twenties. Just like the book said.”

“You said you spent some?”

“Yep. Bought the money clip and gave this scruffy bloke a twenty for a Big Issue.”

“I’ve counted it twice, and there are exactly two hundred dollars here. Did you have other money in your pocket?”

“No. Just the money I drew out.”

She handed me the clip, and I counted it.

Two hundred dollars.

It didn’t make sense.

“Did you include the twenty that’s on the floor?”

“No, I didn’t.”

It must have fallen off the bed when Betty was counting it the first time.

I pulled out two twenties and threw them on the floor.

I slid the clip over the remaining notes.

I took the clip off and counted again.

Two hundred dollars.

The two twenties lay at my feet.

The book was right.

Money attracts money.

I looked at my amazing wife who had stuck with me through all the bad times.

She had that sparkle in her eyes.

I was pretty sure that there was a neon sign on my back, but it did not say “this bloke is a loser.”

Whatever it said and wherever this was leading us, I was pretty sure that it was not going to be boring.

Too Busy To Die

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Scarlett put the phone down, stared at the wall for a moment, then burst into tears. The clock showed 3:22am — still dressed in the clothes she was wearing when she rang D.I. Blank to ask for his help.

“Sam didn’t come home. Somethings wrong.”

“I find it hard to believe that Sam never came home late before. Just relax Mrs Bennett. He’ll stagger in when he’s had enough.” D.I. Blank wasn’t exactly a friend of the Bennetts, but he did like them. They handed him a case which made the brass take notice of him for a change, so he had a soft spot for Sam which would last about as long as it took for Sam to piss him off again.

“Had enough of what?” Scarlett was shouting and D.I. Blank had never heard her shout.

“Okay, look. I’ll make a few calls and see what I can find out.”

It was well after midnight when Blank rang back. Scarlett had walked up and down in her lounge room, too frightened to sit down in case she fell asleep and missed the call. She wondered if the carpet had a groove in it. The mind does funny things when you are waiting for a call to tell you that the man you love has been murdered. She knew Sam’s life had been dangerous before he met her. She knew that there was a good chance that someone had tried to kill him with that stolen car. She lived with these thoughts and never said them out loud — to do so would be to tempt fate, and fate had been kind to them both — so why take the chance?

Her’s were tears of joy and relief. The young policeman told her that her Sam was on his way home. He had given his statement and the police surgeon said that he was bruised and battered but nothing a nights sleep and a good woman couldn’t cure. The young constable hesitated after he said the last bit. “Sorry, Mrs Bennett, I was just saying what the surgeon said. Probably should have left the last bit out.”

“No need to apologise. I will look after him and try and keep him out of trouble,” said Scarlett.

“I know the surgeon sent him home, but he is going to have a hell of a headache in the morning. I saw the bump on his head. Oh, sorry, I probably shouldn’t have said that either.”

“Not to worry. I’m just glad he is coming home, bump or no bump.”

The dogs woke from their sleep and came to Scarlett’s side. They were both sensitive to her tears. They did what they could to comfort her — they stayed by her side.

She didn’t know how long she had been asleep. The dogs were excited about something — scratching at the door. A car backed out of the driveway and Sam stepped through the front door.

“Honey, I’m home,” sang Sam.

“Don’t you honey me Sam Bennett. Have you been playing with those rough kids again? How many times have I told you to come straight home after school — no hanging out with your hoodlum friends.”

“But mum, there’s not that bad really. Except for the one who stuffed me in the  boot of his car and tried to take me for a ride. Him I can do without.”

“Holy shit Sam. You’re covered in blood!”

“Relax. It’s not mine. Long story and I’ll tell you as much as I can before I fall asleep.”

Scarlett ran him a bath and included her least feminine bath salts. Sam was naked by the time she had turned on the taps. He embraced her and she hugged him back.

“I see that a bang on the head has not dulled his enthusiasm.”

Sam stepped back a step still holding his Scarlett. He looked down proudly.

“Not bad if I do say so myself. You always said he had a mind of his own.”

They held each other and Sam kept his erection. The bath was ready and Scarlett suggested that what Sam had on his mind could wait until after he had his bath.

“And no self-pleasuring. He’s mine,” Scarlett said — smiling.

Her bed was warm and inviting and her naked skin enjoyed the fine Egyptian cotton. What she yearned for was the feeling of Sam’s naked body close to hers. She knew he was in pain so she let the warm water do its healing.

She’d almost drifted off when she felt the bed move. Sam slipped in beside her. He snuggled up but did not caress any of those personal bits that signal a need for lovemaking.

“Do you feel like talking?” said Scarlett.

“What would you like to talk about? Football, the weather, knitting patterns, or my near death experience?”

“Near death experience, please.”

“Oh, that. Not much to it really. Some moronic bozo who held a family grudge. Wasn’t brave enough to face me so tried to squash me with a stolen car, then sneaked up behind me on the way home and attempted to increase my hat size — succeeded on that front.” Sam rubbed the bump on his head. There was no way he could sleep on that side of his head for a few days. The thought panicked him momentarily. Being able to roll over at will is one of those things that you take for granted.

“How did you escape?” Scarlett sounded like a little girl listening to her grandfather telling her a bedtime story.

“I used a technique that has been working for possums for centuries. I played possum. He fell for it, and in the end his scarf finished him off.”

“Damn dangerous things scarves. I’ve always said that.” Scarlett’s humour was a little bit hysterical and this was understandable.

“His mum knitted him that scarf and I held him when he died.” Sam’s voice trailed off and Scarlett waited before putting another question.

“Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah. He was an idiot, but even an idiot shouldn’t be alone when they die. It was sad, and don’t ever tell anyone I said that.”

“I won’t. It’ll be our secret.” Scarlett hugged him for being sad. She loved her tough guy Sam and she loved the Sam who knew what feeling sad meant.

Sam filled in some of the blanks and Scarlett asked a lot more questions and they both knew that when she had sated her curiosity they would make love.

Their passion had a visceral edge that comes from seeing death up close.

They made love as though it might be the last time — not wanting the intimacy to end, but of course it finally did, and they lay exhausted in each other’s arms.

“You might have a bump on your head, but you’ve still got it, big fella.”

“Thanks, kid. You’re not so bad yourself.”

They regained their breath and lay staring at the ceiling as the early morning light was slowly filling the room. First light gives a person new hope — a fresh day full of possibilities.

“Your next session with Dr Doug is going to be interesting.” Scarlett was lying uncovered on the bed and as she cooled down from their passionate encounter she moved the sheets across her stomach and legs — she left her naked breasts exposed. Sam loved her tits and he always enjoyed watching them in the wild.

“I hope the story cheers him up. He’s going to need it. Do you remember me telling you about looking for his missing secretary? Well, she turned up and when the story gets out, Dr Doug is finished. His clients are going to disappear like smoke through a keyhole.”

Scarlett didn’t completely understand why Dr Doug was in trouble. There would be time enough to find out all the details and now there was sleep — glorious sleep.

The Bennetts drifted off into a wonderful slumber and would not stir until the sun went down.

Sam and Scarlett lived in a house on a very large block of land. Imagine four average sized build lots. Despite the distance between them and their neighbours the volume of their lovemaking was such that even the neighbours needed a cigarette when they had finished.

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