Sreelekha Sarcar: The Lead

This story was written during the Duckbill Workshop in Delhi. The participants were asked to develop a story in a particular genre featuring a given object. This is Sreelekha Sarcar’s detective story. Our thanks to Sreelekha for allowing us to use this story.

Top Dog’s number buzzed on the new Zen Dog 100. It was 11 p.m. in the night and the Blood Hound was enjoying his eggless devil’s food cake. Blood Hound’s nose itched. He smelt danger.

“Sir,” he barked into the phone.

“BH, the leash has gone. Come at once,” said Top Dog.

Blood Hound barked once and then jumped out of the open window.

How could this have happened?

Blood Hound himself had checked the security system that morning. He’d changed the password to MUFFIN.

Brahma Bull had called him an hour ago and said, “All cool, Sir.”

It was impossible but the leash had been stolen.

BH loped through the hot, dusty streets of suburb 46 his mind calm and his snout sniffing out the humans loitering in the streets.

Brahma Bull lumbered forward as soon as he saw BH come into the underground vault, lit by a row of white bulbs. BH felt his pupils narrowing as he surveyed the scene of crime. He closed his eyes and smelt. Brahma Bull’s low voice gave him all the information he needed.

“Chihuahua was murdered after somebody lured him to open the vault by doing a live retina scan.”

BH asked, “What about the password?”

Brahma Bull said, “Sir only you, the Council and Top Dog know about it.”

Blood Hound looked at Chihuahua’s legs stuck in the air like spindly chopsticks. The blood around the dead dog looked like thick goulash.

“What about the lasers?” BH asked sniffing through aromas carefully.

“They were on Sir. Only someone really nimble could have gone through it.” Brahma Bull replied.

BH closed his eyes and sniffed long and hard. He smelt the Bull’s nervous sweat, the metal of the vault, the dead fungus that had been on the stolen leash, traces of popcorn and lamb shanks. And, then, there was another smell. The photo slides of his brain turned on as he shuffled through them. He had it. He’s smelt it at Canine Library two months ago in the old and rare books section, as he had been pursuing his hobby of identifying extinct smells.

He had smelt it on page 260 of “Smell Encyclopaedia” on a little brown swatch at the top of the page. It had been just below the swatch that smelt of Cuban cigars. Beside it he remembered had been written the words – SWEATER.

That was it! He had known it from the beginning. Humans were involved. And humans could be nimble.

Blood Hound entered the last ghetto. All around him light spilled from the human houses. High on the towers the Pigs stood with their sleep lasers. It was new technology. Any sign of unrest and the high pitched beams which no human would hear but only feel like a mushroom cloud surrounding them would instantly put them to sleep.

The humans looked at BH and his team with sleepy, suspicious eyes. Since the Canine uprising of 2060 humans had stopped being sappy about Dogs.

“Sir we have found the smell,” said Malli the Rottweiler.

Blood Hound had smelt it too as soon as he had entered the ghetto. It was just a matter of narrowing it down. The Chihuahuas, Norbu and Sejal, the best sniffers on the team apart from him shepherded the human towards him. The human was wearing a black sweater with a white horse rearing up on his chest.

“I haven’t done it,” said the man sullenly. Blood Hound looked into the human’s eyes. They were filled with fear.

“Is the sweater yours?” barked Blood Hound.

“Yes. It belonged to my great grandfather. It’s not the synthetic ones that are made by the sheep from cheap yarn by the sheep at the rayon factory.”

A human’s cell phone rang. An old nursery rhyme about sheep and wool filled the air.

Bloodhound showed his teeth in a manic grin and said, “Take him to the station.” Sejal and Norbu barked at the human to comply with the order.

Blood Hound turned around and boomed to the ghettoes, “The leash thief has been found. Everyone back to your houses.  Remember we treat you better than you ever did us. And when the leash is found it will be put back in the vault. A dog will never wear a leash again.”

Blood Hound was still grinning when he walked into Top Dog’s office. Top Dog sat at his desk with the Council around him. They were Rabbit, Koala, Black Sheep and Fish in the Bowl.

“Has the human confessed?” asked Rabbit.

“We have him, Sir,” BH said. Rabbit’s red eyes looked pleased as he sipped carrot juice.

Koala stretched in his chair and said, “It’s been a long night Top Dog. I’m off to bed.” Fish in the bowl flipped its tail.

Top Dog said, “Before you go let’s get your signature on the papers to officially close the investigation.”

“Ah…yes. Almost forgot,”replied Koala.

Black Sheep said, “BH once again a great job. But tell me have you found the leash?”

Blood Hound took the phone from his pocket and placed it on the table.

“It’s right here, Sir, “ he told Black Sheep.

“You have its picture,” Black Sheep giggled.

“Sir I have nothing,” Blood Hound replied catching Top Dog’s eye.

Top Dog signalled that the door to the room should be closed. The Bulls on guard obeyed efficiently. Blood hound took out his phone and dialled the human’s number. The phone on the table began to chime out an old forgotten nursery rhyme in a human girl’s voice which suddenly sounded too loud in the office.

“Ba Ba Black Sheep

Have you any wool?

Yes sir, Yes Sir…Three Bags full.

One for my master

One for the dame

And one for the little girl who lives down the lane.”

Black Sheep laughed. He said, “A rhyme BH. Don’t be silly. It says nothing about the leash.”

“Oh But it does,” barked Blood Hound. He whistled sharply and Norbu and Sejal slipped in through the door before they clicked shut again.

“What is this?” Fish in the bowl asked.

“ A new development Ma’am.” Blood Hound uttered.

Top Dog sat back in his chair and said, “So Blood Hound what is this new development?”

Blood Hound said looking at Koala, Rabbit and Black Sheep, “ Sir, the leash is a reminder to us that we never want it around our necks. But what if one among us steals the leash, pins the blame on humans or dogs?”

Koala muttered, “Rebellion.”

Blood Hound said, “Exactly Sir. So someone in this office who was known to Chihuahua, had the password and could prance through lasers stole the leash and prepared to start a rebellion.”

Fish in the bowl said, “And when there’s rebellion there’s trouble.”

Top Dog rumbled, “And always a new ruler.”

Blood Hound sniffed, “And this time it would be Black Sheep.”

Black Sheep bleated out, “And how will you prove it?” His eyes looked like buttons of evil.

Norbu stepped forward and addressed BH. “We found the leash, Sir. It was under a stash of sweaters that are produced at Rayon factory. We’ve tested it for his paw prints. They are a match.”

Sejal nipped at Black Sheep’s heels whose face had become a slate of grey.

Much, much later when BH was enjoying a late breakfast of soya shake, freshly baked oatmeal bread and apple crumble at his quarters above the Station his Zen Dog 100 buzzed again.

It was Top Dog on the line.

“One question BH. You never really told me what made you suspect Black Sheep?”

“It was the smell Sir. We are all vegetarians, down to the last one of us, Sir. So when I smelt lamb shanks at the vault it could only have been a lamb’s shank, sir. A leg belonging to a living sheep. It was just a matter of finding which sheep, Sir.”

Top Dog probed more asking, “So the human and the sweater? That was all a hoax?”

“Oh no, Sir. They were all part of the process.” Blood Hound said eyeing his breakfast with a little twinkle in his all-seeing eyes.

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