Wolfhound Chapter 2

A/N: My tiny little homage to Katica Locke’s “Water Spots” included.


Finch sat down abruptly in his chair, still staring at the screen. The dog had turned to look at him, studying him with its dark blue eyes half-hidden under its bushy eyebrows. For a long moment, Finch’s mind was blank. The only thing running through it was the phrase – cleaned up of the extraneous keys hit by mistake – which the dog had apparently typed: “I’m Reese Help Finch.” Seeing that he was incapable of a response, the dog turned back to the keyboard.

L;AST NMOP NOP NUIMBERT, it laboriously typed, using its nose (which was rather too large for the task) to pluck out each letter and checking its results on the screen, AUNJT6 VOPOPDOPO VOODFOO PRIOEWSTESSD

“Are you telling me,” Finch began, his mind finally beginning to work again, “that the last number’s aunt is a Voodoo priestess? That she was the one who… who… did this to you?”

The dog barked and nodded, wagging its long tail with such enthusiasm that it beat against the wastebasket like a drum. Finch stared long and hard into its eyes, trying to come to grips with the reality presented before him.

“So you… you’re really… John?”

The dog walked over and lowered its head onto Finch’s knee, looking up at him with mournful eyes. Finch noted the shaggy salt-and-pepper hair; the lean, tall, muscular build; and the quiet aura of strength surrounding the animal.

“I suppose, if I were to picture you as a dog… you would look something like this,” Finch admitted. “It defies science and biology and – hell! – every shred of logic that I’ve ever possessed, but… I can’t imagine anyone – not even Mr. Reese – training a dog to type coherent sentences…” Thinking for a moment, Finch stood up purposefully and shuffled into the cubbyhole where he kept spare computer parts. “Hang on just a minute. I think I can set up a better keyboard for you. The trick is to give you enough space for your nose around each key…”

For the next hour or so, Finch worked on taking apart three keyboards, reassembling them so that each key was surrounded by a blank area and lining them up alphabetically across all three sets. Reese (the dog) watched him with alternating curiosity and boredom, then curled up at his feet for a short nap. But when Finch had finished testing the keys to see that they were accurately represented on the computer, Reese became alert again and eager to use them.

THANKS. MUCH BETTER, he nose-typed. LAST NO,S AUNT IN VOODOO. FOUND ME AND THREW SOME LIQUID ON ME. HURT LIKE HELL. WOKE UP LIKE THIS. DAMN INCONVENIENT.

“Now there’s an understatement,” Finch agreed. “What should we do to reverse it?”

WASH ME MAYBE, Reese input, using a paw as well as his nose to speed up the process.

“That makes sense… if we could get whatever liquid off of you… I suppose it’s worth a try.”

There was a shower in the downstairs employee bathroom – a haz-mat requirement in case someone came into contact with caustic chemicals when preserving old books or leather – which Finch had never used before. His initial turn of the knob only produced several popping sounds that rumbled through the pipes like small explosions, but after a while they heard the water coming through the long-unused system. As it neared, Reese suddenly grabbed Finch’s trouser leg with his mouth and tugged, pulling him back away from the shower – and just in time, since a filthy surge of water sprayed out, spattering the tiles with the accumulated dust and rust of a decade.

“Thank you,” Finch managed, still a little off-balance but rolling up his sleeves in preparation for the task. Once the water had cleared out, he set it to a comfortable temperature and opened the lid of a commercial-sized jug of liquid hand soap. Reese stepped into the shower and turned around in circles, allowing the water to pour over every inch of him, plastering his wiry fur against his body.

“Hmm… no luck so far,” Finch observed, then squeezed a generous dollop of the soap onto his palm. Reese stood stock-still as Finch lathered him up, scratching behind his ears for good measure (eliciting a low groan of pleasure from Reese) and making sure that he was scrubbed down to the tip of every paw and even his tail. By the time Finch was satisfied, he had used more than half of the jug of soap.

“Now, let’s see if that does the trick,” he said before turning on the water again. This time there was no belching of the pipes as the water came through, and Reese turned his face into the stream, then each paw, trying to get himself rinsed off as thoroughly as possible. But when they both knew that he was as clean as he would ever get (in this form, anyhow), he was still as much a dog as he had been when they started, and now he smelled like wet dog to boot.

“Well. At least you’re clean,” Finch said, disappointed but trying hard not to show it. “It was a long shot, Mr. Reese… We don’t know anything about Voodoo. Once we get you dried off, I’ll research it on the web.”

Reese twitched as he waited patiently for Finch to unfold the towel, then shook himself from stem to stern in a very dog-like fashion. Finch’s glasses were splattered with droplets since he hadn’t anticipated Reese’s shake, and the bottom halves of his trousers were also caught in the spray.

“I suppose you couldn’t just let me towel you off, could you?” Finch demanded. Reese whined but stood still as Finch rubbed him dry, then the large dog led the way back to the office. When Finch entered after him, polishing his glasses with his handkerchief, he found that Reese had already typed in his reply: SORRY, REFLEX.

“Apology accepted,” Finch stated, his expression softening. “I suppose it’s not the most comfortable thing for you, either.”

CAN SMELL LIKE DOG THO, Reese responded. CAN TRACK BY SCENT NOW.

“Well. It’s good to know that there are some advantages to your condition.”

NO GUNS. BAD.

“That depends on your point of view… but it does put us in a somewhat awkward position should another Number come up…”

CANT BLEND IN EITHER.

“Yes, I suppose you would stand out like a sore thumb, even in a crowd… Which brings me to a rather… touchy subject,” Finch said, hesitating. “You’ll need to wear a collar so you aren’t taken by Animal Control – or, if you are, so I can claim you. And you’ll have to be tied to a leash…”

The howl that arose from his canine throat was obviously speaking of pain, but also of resignation.

“I promise I won’t pull on the leash – unless, of course, you happen to do something completely un-dog-like,” Finch assured him. “I can probably come up with some papers to show that you’re my service dog, too… Let’s say I’m prone to seizures and you help me cope with them. That way you should be able to go almost everywhere with me.”

Finch started searching for the necessary documents to forge, as well as any pertinent information on Voodoo, on his own monitor. Reese plunked out another message in the meantime.

GLAD YOURE TAKING IT ALL IN STRIDE.

Finch glanced at it, then sighed and turned his full attention to Reese.

“It’s not like I have much choice, do I?” he asked rhetorically. “I believe Sherlock Holmes said it best: ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ When I have you staring me in the face – a dog that types and communicates with the knowledge privy only to Mr. Reese – I have to accept that, however improbable, you must be him.”

Reese wagged his tail as he approached Finch’s chair, then gently licked one of his hands where it was dangling from the armrest. Finch swallowed at the sudden sensation before turning to his computer again.

“Just please don’t start marking your territory like a dog, Mr. Reese,” he said as dryly as he could. Reese merely sat there watching him, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he panted, but Finch could almost swear that Reese’s dog-face was smirking at him.


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