Scruffy stood at Trusty’s front door, panting. He rang the doorbell. He laid his head against the door and pounded with his fist. He couldn’t stop shaking.
Trusty opened the door. “Wow. What a mess. What have you been up to?” He laughed. “No wait, let me guess, another adventure?”
Scruffy looked down at his fur caked with dry mud. “I haven’t got time to explain. I took Belle to the salon a couple of hours ago, we were both going to get baths, only Belle never came out. When I asked about her they pretended they’d never heard of her. They sicced their bulldogs on me and threw me out of the salon.”
“This isn’t a joke, Trusty. Belle has been missing for two hours now. The longer you laugh at me, the farther they’ll take her.”
“This is classic Scruffy, except you’ve upgraded your pretend adventure. You know the one where all the dogs go into the salon, but no one comes out. Now you’ve added Belle.” Trusty shook his head, laughing. “She’s going to love this.”
Trusty laughed and laughed. He turned and shut his door right in Scruffy’s face.
“Trusty, wait. This is for real, honest!” Scruffy pounded on the door, but it was no use.
“I guess I deserve this. I must have pretended too many times.” He said aloud to himself. He hit his head against Trusty’s front door a few times and turned away.
Scruffy paced back and forth on the sidewalk in front of their houses. “What am I going to do?” He paced some more. “Belle is in real trouble. . . I’ve always wanted to be a real detective . . . It’s time to go to work!” He pounded his fist into his other paw. He went home and got his spy kit.
He ran to town while a plan formulated in his mind. He’d start in the alleys around the salon.
Scruffy tippy-toed around the back alley behind the outdoor café. He spied Blab, the rather round and squatty rat, sifting through the garbage cans.
“Pssst, Blab.” Scruffy tried to be as quiet as he could be.
Blab kept digging.
“Blab,” Scruffy said a little louder.
Still Blab ignored him.
“BLAB!” Scruffy yelled this time.
Poor Blab just about jumped out of his skin. He lost his footing and fell to the bottom of the can. “Keep your collar attached. I heard you, my friend.” Blab’s lisp echoed.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Indeed? How much is it worth to you?”
“Time is food my friend.” Blab licked his lips. “Why don’t you get me out of here, and we’ll chat.”
Scruffy grabbed Blab by the knap of the neck and set him down on top of a closed can.
“So, what have you to trade with me?” Blab rubbed his front paws together like he was washing his hands.
Scruffy didn’t trust those beady little black eyes, but a little encouragement couldn’t hurt. He looked around the alley and spotted a take-out bag from the café. He picked the bag up and the bottom almost fell out. Gross. The bag reeked.
He held his nose up out of the way and didn’t see the banana peel in the middle of the alley. Swoosh. He slid into a couple of garbage cans. Bang. Crash. Kaboom.
“Hmm, dinner and a show.” Blab clapped his little paws.
Scruffy grinned and picked himself up. He peeled the yucky, black banana peel off his foot. He’d have to go roll in the dirt for that. That’s how boy dogs take a bath.
Blab started to shake. The closer the bag came to him, the more he shook and twitched his nose.
Scruffy thought this might be below even Blab’s standards, but apparently not.
“Here you go Blab.” As he held the bag out, Blab’s whiskers went sproing and his nose twitched. Blab went to grab the bag.
“Not so fast.” Scruffy pulled the bag back at the last moment. “I want to know what you know about the salon next door.”
“They do a lot of business.” Blab trembled.
“You can do better than that. What else?”
“It’s mostly for rich pets, my friend, not for the likes of us.”
“Notice anything unusual lately?”
“Like what, exactly?” Blab reached for the bag again, but Scruffy pulled it away. “Like dogs who get their nails polished?” Blab snickered.
“Ever notice dogs going in that don’t come out?”
Blab shook his head, “Too busy looking for food.”
“Did you happen to see me and Belle go in earlier today?”
“What if I did?”
Scruffy dangled the bag in front of Blab. “Did you see Belle or not?”
“Very well, I saw her with you.”
“Yeah?” Scruffy grabbed Blab again. “They won’t believe me inside. You’re going to tell that receptionist you saw Belle go in there, then you get the bag. Understand?”
“Yes.” Blab wiggled to get free. “You know, my friend, Belle can take care of herself. She could take you.”
“Is that right?”
“I’m telling you, my friend, I saw her kick some other dog’s trash just last week. And Trusty, he’s got skills too.”
“What? He’s smaller than I am.”
“Size does not matter, my friend.” Blab patted his large, round tummy. “Belle taught him.”