Wolfhound Chapter 3

The next order of business – for Finch, at least – was to locate Reese’s cell phone and not only deactivate it but also wipe its memory clean in case it was discovered by someone. Reese had typed an apologetic “COULDNT CARRY BOTH IN MOUTH” in answer to Finch’s verbal query, and Finch found it near the scene where Reese had left the last Number kneecapped and bound for the police.

“She must have caught up to you right after you had… taken care of him,” Finch murmured. “I wonder… Given that she was able to do this bit of… amazing transfiguration, perhaps she has the equivalent of a crystal ball that tells her the future, or at least alerted her to her nephew’s trouble… It would be difficult for us to approach her again if she’s capable of that sort of… clairvoyance.”

DANGEROUS, Reese typed. CRAZY EYES. ALMOST, he hesitated, NOT HUMAN.

“How so?” Finch asked, his brows furrowing.

LIKE SHE WAS POSSESED, Reese explained. I DONT SCARE EASILY, BUT SHE SCARED ME.

“Hm… yes. We’ll have to proceed with extreme caution,” Finch agreed. “Meanwhile, I’ve made sure that any calls to your number will be rerouted to my cell, so if either detectives try to get a hold of you, at least we’ll know. I’ll have to tell them that you’re… indisposed.”

“Awrf,” Reese huffed morosely.

“I suppose I should locate the nearest pet store to get you the… necessary accouterments,” Finch also sighed. “I think there’s one not far from here… Yes, there it is.” He tapped the map on the screen, then stood up to put on his jacket. “You’ll need a collar, with a tag for contact information, and a long leash… I know they have those subcutaneous chips available, but I won’t subject you to that indignity, at least. Would you like a chew toy of some sort? I don’t mean to be patronizing, Mr. Reese, but in your current condition… you may want something to keep your teeth sharp.”

GOING WITH YOU, Reese answered.

“What? I can’t take you out without a leash or anything,” Finch pointed out. “If there are any Animal Control officers around, they will notice you. And I don’t dare try to bribe them to look the other way.”

DO YOU KNOW MY COLLAR SIZE, Reese typed, then turned to give Finch The Look.

“No… I suppose not. Although I do believe they’re adjustable,” Finch replied. Reese’s expression did not change. “Oh, all right. I’ll just have to improvise something so you don’t get dragged off to the Pound. Let’s see… I wish I had some rope here, but maybe a long extension cord would work…”

In the end, Finch sacrificed several of his skinny neckties to form a lead long enough to tie around Reese’s furry neck and give the appearance of a leash and collar.

“At least it’s not far,” he muttered, more to reassure himself than Reese, who was loping out the door a step ahead of him. Finch chose a rather long way around to get to the store, going through a park in the hopes of blending in with all the other dog walkers. Reese, however, was not a dog to blend in anywhere, it seemed – he was stared at, admired, and petted by the many dog lovers and children at the park, and barked at or sniffed by the other canines. Reese tolerated it all with commendable patience, although Finch’s nerves were getting rather frayed.

“Woof,” Reese said quietly, tugging Finch over to an empty bench.

“Yes, I suppose… I could use a rest,” Finch conceded before sitting down. Reese immediately sat in front of him and placed his head on his knee. “Thank you. I’m hoping that while you seem to be calling a lot of attention to yourself – I know, you can’t help it – but I’m hoping that the people who notice you won’t find the man walking you quite so memorable.”

“Wuff,” Reese agreed.

“Excuse me,” came a voice from the path, and the two of them looked up to see a distinguished older gentleman with a white moustache approaching them. “May I ask where you acquired this fine specimen of Irish Wolfhound?”

“Ah… certainly,” Finch responded, “but I’m afraid it won’t be of much help, since he was a Rescue Dog – I found him at a shelter.”

“Indeed! Who would give up such a magnificent animal,” the man tut-tutted, shaking his head. “Do you mind if I inspect him?”

“Ah, no.” Finch looked with some uncertainty at Reese, but he had stood up and turned to sniff the old gentleman – inspecting him, as it were – and had started to slowly wag his tail.

“Magnificent… simply magnificent,” the man said, running his hands down over Reese’s chest, then back along his spine from his withers to his hip, before he returned his scrutiny to his face. “Will he bite if I open his mouth?”

“No, I don’t think so – he’s very even-tempered. But if you’d like him to open his mouth, all you have to do is ask,” Finch told him.

“Really? What is the command?”

“No command. He understands human speech quite well.”

“Ah! They are an intelligent breed – one of the smartest, in my estimation. Well, my fine fellow, will you open your mouth for me?”

When Reese obligingly did so, the gentleman inspected his teeth and tongue, then rubbed his head affectionately.

“What a fine animal! Some of his lower teeth are slightly out of alignment, but they’re all there. All in all, a wonderful example of the breed. Tell me, have you ever considered showing him?”

Finch gaped for a moment before asking, “You mean, in a dog show?”

“Yes. I used to breed Scottish Deerhounds back in my younger days, and I’m still asked to judge at local dog shows on occasion. I think your Wolfhound would do very well in any showing in the area, and that’s saying something. Of course, if he’s a rescue dog, you wouldn’t have any documentation proving he’s a thoroughbred, but these days it’s relatively easy to have a DNA test done. I think it would be worth the effort – in fact, it would be a shame not to put such a fine example of the breed into the circuit.”

“Oh, ah… Well, thank you,” Finch stammered in reply. Reese had turned to look at him with a wolfish grin on his doggy face. “I’ll definitely consider it. I’ll have to do some research on it, of course… see if I can spare the time…”

“Well, if you’d like any information or contacts, just give me a call,” the gentleman offered, pulling out his billfold to find a business card. “You’ll want a handler who can show him off to the best advantage – I can think of a few who are experienced with larger dogs. I would love to see him run… which reminds me: I should probably have asked this sooner, but may I see his gait? How he walks?”

“Oh, of course,” Finch said, meeting Reese’s eyes. “John, I want you to walk across to that tree and come back.” Reese stood up and grabbed the end of his tether out of Finch’s hand before trotting over to the tree, circling it, and coming back at an easy pace.

“Astounding!” the gentleman said, almost gasping for breath. “Did you train him to do that?”

“Ah… not particularly… but I’ve trained him to fetch things for me around the house, so he’s used to commands like that. I’m prone to seizures, you see, and John helps me cope with them. He can even dial 911 if I become unresponsive.”

“Magnificent!” was all the gentleman could manage.

“Woof,” Reese barked, obviously pleased with himself.

“He really is something,” Finch admitted with a wry smile. “The best companion I could have ever hoped for. I don’t know what I’d do without him now.”

Reese jumped up onto the bench with his front paws and leaned in to lick one side of Finch’s face, very thoroughly. Finch winced and tried to back away but could not avoid the large dog tongue.

“Yes, well… I am rather fond of you, John,” he said with a grimace, “but I’d prefer it if you’d refrain from doing that in the future.”

“Woof,” Reese laughed – for there was no mistaking the amusement in his eyes – and put his paws back down on the ground. The old gentleman’s eyes had grown as wide as saucers while watching their exchange.

“Magnificent,” he murmured. “Truly, man’s best friend… Well, it has been my pleasure – a very great pleasure – to meet you both.” He shook hands with Finch, patted John’s head one last time, and resumed his walk through the park, still muttering to himself in disbelief.

“I think it’s high time we found that pet store,” Finch stated.

“Woof!” Reese replied with enthusiasm.


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