Man's Best Friends

by Alan A. Smartin Esq

Chapter 1

It's always been emphasized to me from ardent readers that the initial introduction to any tale will determine whether continue to read on or not! But in this case, having never established why he had been chosen at all hopefully will not be a deterrent. For good reason explained later, he had never kept or even considered one before. Although amongst others, there had been a cat, rabbit, Goldfish, and Ronald a miniature Cambodian pig! But never a DOG!!

But before continuing, should you hopefully still be with us, let me introduce you to the family surrounding this tale, as with the rest of this story quite simply, but not so simply, unfolds from there!

It all began with..

Daniel Lovelock aged 67, feeling he was doing okay as far as health goes. A semi retired accountant with a natural slim build that helped keeping him nimble. Although uninvited accompanied now, with an additional slight stoop, encouraged he claimed from an extended desk occupation. With his thinning grey hair still without a bald patch, he kept a daily eye on! His eyesight not so good, even with bifocals! His memory becoming "somewhat unreliable! He found he ached more than he used to, especially his legs and especially in the mornings, but to the best of his knowledge as with most everybody else his age! He was also as both a plus and a minus much more aware of his mortality. More so since the recent death of Doris, his third wife for the past 13 years! While later sadly realising he hadn't really appreciated her enough, especially as being without doubt the most compatible of the three! Again not all uncommon regrets he discovered, when discussed amongst his few close contemporaries.

Other things perhaps worth a mention! He did claim in believing himself to be, a blunt speaking proud to be British undecided agnostic, and contributor to the forgotten! Which in his case now, often his clients? This had come about in growing older, hard to remember why he chose to be an accountant in the first place, as now regrettably finding it so boring!"..

Okay! So that's enough about Daniel for now!!

But in compensating life's uncertainties, he had his family! A son and a daughter! One from each of his previous wives before Doris! And not forgetting his pride and joy his grandson! And lastly, if accountant's were allowed to have an Achilles heel, his antique clocks!!

I think that about sums it up, except with the recent addition to his household of his mother Elsie and the circumstances that brought this about!

Her moving in was primarily a consequence on the sudden, one could say unexpected death of Harry his father. Although one could also say at 94, could hardly be described as unexpected. Especially as with a number of people of his generation, Harry, had smoked regularly, both cigarettes and later a pipe until his 80th birthday! That was when Elsie, being much younger, while readily agreeing had helped a great deal in breaking the habit herself, now threatened unless he gave up would leave him! So on Harry's death at 94 happily for his family, now exceeded his long dead contemporaries by a surprising amount of years.

The move by his mother after 30 years from that council housing estate where as an only child Daniel had grown up, still found him surprised at her reluctance to leave. Especially having frequently on earlier occasions pleaded with them both to consider moving elsewhere! With Doris on those occasions adding, that in not being offered alternative accommodation, welcome in our home!

But mother's eventual move, came not in her inability of living alone, but as with our previous concerns, on the rise over the years in the drug culture now active on the estate. This slowly affecting to their detriment, unless you were a drug addict, the overwhelming majority of decent people living there, culminating with the increase of often violent crime that went with it!

Nevertheless it still took some persuasion from Daniel, to convince her eventually to agree! And although this for the best part had worked out satisfactory, it still brought problems of its own! With Daniel although aware previously present, of his mothers now increased eccentricity! This proving disturbingly evident as a family trait, throughout what little history of the family previously passed down!

Meanwhile his daughter April, named after his end of year accounts, who he saw a great deal of, was soft and caring. A community policewomen living happily with her female partner Boadicea. While his son Leger a group councillor and his son Biff aged nine, living now unfortunately solely with his father. This had come about after divorcing the boy's mother, when she chose unexpectedly to run off to Australia with a right twit! None other than Leger's best friend Dick, a proven discovered later, successful bigamist! Leger meanwhile was irrefutably by nature belligerent, and sadly unaware, ineffective! Who; with the exception on both agreeing Elsie was better off living with his father, Daniel found hard to find other common ground with.

So that I believe, covers certainly enough about the family! And now it's back to the dog and the idea of one living with him!

This something other than the goldfish in the garden pond, the last remaining of previous pets, one that Doris could never have envisaged, and positively not approved of! The reason for her intense dislike of dogs had materialised, when the postman's Catahoula leopard dog named Spot, a rare breed indeed and constantly by his side for protection, had chosen for no apparent reason to bite her!

So it's perhaps understandable, why she wouldn't want him to have a dog. Although I think it's worth mentioning that postman is no longer with us" No! He didn't die he resigned! After according to his replacement, the dog's sudden refusal to continue going out henceforth, with that postman! And worryingly as I understand it, neither dog nor postman, been seen nor heard of since

But moving on now of much greater importance, Daniel meeting this new indefinable, unaccountable, very mysterious canine! And the unbelievable events that followed! This happening had produced problems in coming to terms with; that he would I'm sure found easier, if been younger or" if Doris had been here!! Well she isn't, and she didn't like dogs anyway, so we won't dwell on that one! But with what he now had been privileged too, convinced him that other than Doris coming back, anything he felt indisputably possible!

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It all began on that day out in the country, when he chose to take up hiking again, on trails both previously enjoyed during a long and for the most part happy marriage"""

This he had discovered proved something of an escape, after having for a variety of reasons distanced him socially from a number of old friends. Who often he felt after gaining in wealth had lost touch with their roots. Another stumbling block being with Doris on those past social occasions, because of her acceptable and compliant nature, would though uncomfortably he suspected allow opinions including prejudice that Daniel now would not! So it proved difficult on his own, spending an evening with couples, curbing his tongue while often from his own perspective, finding little left in common with. The conversation without Doris he found difficult and hollow. Especially as with those present, now uncomfortably aware of both his strong social and mixed religious beliefs!

Also on a maddening note realising until now how often when his memory dried up, Doris, having been witness to the event, would comfortably finish after colouring a little, a story he'd begun. This he found totally unique to people with a long history together but not necessarily married. It was comparable he felt to Laurel with Hardy, Morecombe with Wise, and Fish with Chips? Although, not necessarily with chips!"

But not to say those present didn't do their best to cover her absence, talking about her incessantly. But often he felt in a somewhat unflattering way! But apart from that it just didn't work seeing them too regularly, which he felt now proved awkward for all present, excluding, anyone that fell asleep! He did however chuckling; felt time would solve that one, when eventually it became permanent!

Well that I believe finally sums up overall virtually all of his life until now. That was until without invitation the dog appeared! And now finally without further reminiscing, back to the story!

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The trail took him through a familiar wood; one he felt sure recalled had walked before. And it was at that very moment or close to it, enjoying the sun averting his gaze breaking pleasantly through the overhanging branches, when suddenly; he stopped dead in his tracts! For there in his path, a yard, or should you prefer 0.914 meters in front, sat a short peculiar looking dog! Well, he hoped it was a dog! In seeing no sign of the animals presence moments before, its sudden appearance taking him completely by surprise, caused him to jump backwards and stumble over himself. But thankfully his rear end although bony, cushioning the impact with eyes now tightly closed, on contact with the ground! It was also just for an instant before closing them, his focus changed to a cat, a totally cream coloured cat, sitting alongside the dog! One with noticeably just the one long fang tooth showing! Although both cat and tooth disappearing on reopening his eyes!

His next reaction on getting to his feet, his expression still shock, was to look around without success for an owner!

While his attention, with no reappearance of the cat, returning once again to the dog! Which at first it appeared, seemed to have grown slightly? Which didn't take much doing, as previously questionable whether it had any legs at all? But now standing at least confirmed it had! But unchanged were his ears, still almost touching the ground.

He was then very relieved to see that at least appeared friendly, now happily wagging its tale! Both dog and Daniel stared at one another for what seemed ages! The dog's gaze as it continued he felt almost hypnotic, with Daniel actually experiencing trouble in releasing its stare! With that finally resolved, he tried with his limited knowledge of dogs to determine which breed it was? Then, in accepting that whatever it was, it was not one easily recognisable, even he suspected to a vet! It was then with the dog now dribbling somewhat, its eyes still fixed firmly on him, began slowly moving towards him. Noticeably now in a dogged effort, to increase his pace!

Studying the animal more closely as it approached its breed more recognisable even to Daniel, as some short type of Spaniel. But not totally Spaniel, crossed with something else hopefully not more aggressive!

In feeling as it got closer somewhat more comfortable, although worryingly noticeably without a collar, he lowered his hand in an offer of friendship, clenching his fist just in case as he did so! The animal on reaching him sat down, probably wary of the fist. Then to Daniel's amusement and positive relief, raised his paw to the now offered, unclenched hand!

The touch was hard for Daniel to describe, followed by a sensation through his entire body. Like meeting an old lovable friend once again, someone unlikely to bite you! He crouched down staring into the dog's face, which is a dangerous thing to do as dogs don't like that! And just for a moment, ridicules to him later, searching for someone within. Possibly one of those long dead pets, with Ronald always extremely affectionate as the best bet! The dog now seeming satisfied with the contact turned, and then with a backward glance at Daniel nodded, before trotting off slowly in front of him. Only pausing to ensure that Daniel followed close behind!

Now almost clear of the woods, it was getting boring with just trees anyway, they continued on. With Daniel still looking in all directions for a sign of an owner! Even upwards for a possible tree house, not uncommon in a forest of this size, but unlikely especially with those undersized legs one could climb too together.

But again without success! It was only then, after the dog suddenly stopped and bumping into the animal, that in addressing the dog and certainly would have been helpful in knowing his name, suggesting, that he finds his own way home! The dog's response was to wag his tail, then ignore his request with a quiet but definite growl, and continue this time walking beside him in case Daniel ran off. It was obvious in the end, with no appearance of an owner, or anyone who looked like he could persuade to take the dog, and the dog's unfortunate attachment to him, that it was here to stay!

When at last near ending the walk though Daniel had with no avail, thrown sticks in all directions for the dog to retrieve and hopefully not return, they arrived back to where he had parked the car. Only accepting then, having no option for the present from the dogs frequent now threatening look, but to take the beast with him. Assuring himself once home, he would immediately inform the police of this lost animal and the dog's threats, and find out what to do next?

The solution to find alternative accommodation for the dog became essential! As with the dogs worryingly attachment to him, would undoubtedly cause an unpredictable reaction from his mother, much too frightening to think about! She fortunately was at present visiting April, with a planned overnight stay, returning later the following day. Her possible reaction to the animal was undoubtedly caused earlier, by one or two threatening situations with although larger, the less friendly canines owned by the more unsavoury characters on the estate.

His mother had kept few pets, the exception being of two caged birds. One a Budgerigar and the other a Canary, both residing now in her upstairs bedroom! Both accommodated for fear they would fight in separate cages.

And when one died, was replaced without delay with another of the same. But with this now disturbing image returning once again of her likely reaction to the dog, he would he decided, phone the police, A.S.A.P on arriving home!!

On that drive home he cautiously continually glanced in the mirror. With the dog now appearing totally relaxed, like they had known one another for years! Although seeming intent and taking into consideration his undersized teeth, one should say now extremely successful in destroying the back seat of his car. At first furious, then accepting rarely had more than one passenger anyway, he left it at that! It also now came as a surprise that up until the seat business; he was actually beginning to somewhat enjoy the dogs company. The dog by his manner appeared to feel the same by thankfully, with the seat now totally destroyed, going to sleep.

As the journey continued, Daniel concluded with the dog appearing totally at ease on travelling not only in a car but with a total stranger, all seemed likely to have happened before. At the same time wondering if his previous victim, had suffered the same consequences with the seat. His unwelcome passenger certainly appeared in a healthy condition, not one he concluded that had to fend for itself. So, he felt sure after reporting his find to the authorities, there would be an anxious owner eagerly awaiting the news. On second thought, with the dog's odd appearance and disposition so far, he questioned why would there be!!!

Now drawing nearer to Daniels home, the dog up until now totally relaxed became more active. Looking furtively with face pressed firmly on one side window and then the other, covering both successfully with drool! Also appearing it suggested to Daniel, acquainting himself with landmarks. Daniel chuckling then muttered aloud! "I think there's more to you than meets the eye!" With this the dog replied with loud incessant barking. "That I believe confirms it!" was the reluctant chauffeur's innocuous reply.

In realising the remnants from past pet foods in the garden shed unlikely to appeal to the dog's taste; he made a stop at the local provision store run by kindly East Indians known to him. They were shocked when he asked for dog food, reminding him that Doris, who had often shopped there, would not have approved. He agreed and began to explain the circumstances, but when his explanation turned into an argument, with the proprietor's wife raising her voice, he hurriedly left the store while apologising profusely for his tinned six pack purchase.

Arriving back at the car he found his canine occupant now seated on the front passenger seat. And after trying unsuccessfully to persuade him to return to the back seat or what was left of it, now attracting from a number of passers bye offers on how to achieve this. Sensing once again this could turn nasty, he stealthily, seemingly unnoticed, got back into the car. With the solution unresolved, and his well intentioned advisors now heatedly arguing amongst themselves with tempers fraying, he could still hear although fading, the growing now shouts of abuse between them as he drove away.

On reaching the driveway to his house the dog, catching Daniel unawares, barked loudly just the once. This causing him inadvertently to leave the driveway, narrowly missing his featured goldfish pond centred to the lawn. "I would be obliged" he began a little angrily while reversing off the now disfigured once immaculate lawn, and insisting the passenger responsible out of the car "If that's your regular bark, should you do so again, please quieten it down, or give me a warning sign before hand". This shouted request accompanied now, with an unmistakable angry expression now on his face. The dog meanwhile having returned to a seated position looking directly at him began barking incessantly again! This caused Daniel to raise both hands covering his ears, accompanied lamentably, with that now frequently used ambiguous word, "Bastard"! Although rarely reverting to what's now considered profanity, he did feel on this occasion, it an appropriate fitting response!

On recovering his composure and smiling once again while uncovering his ears, he stated somewhat firmly. "That volume I cannot live with, even for your temporary stay". As the dog broke into tail wagging again, Daniel, walking past, intending condescendingly of patting him on the head, then refrained! When the dog added an even more distinct growl to his answer! While greatly relieved then, to finally reach the front door of his home! But still a little angry after a backward glance at the animal and his frustration returning, muttered, "Bastard" once more, as he opened the door, and feeling quite sure"" These sadly, unrecognisable at the time, early symptoms of another growing family affliction to reappear later!!

On entering the hallway, with a quick glance round just in case mother had shortened her visit, Daniel turned around expecting the dog to have followed. But the dog now facing him, remained seated in the driveway.

"What impeccable manners for a dog!" Daniel smiling remarked to himself, strangely impressed against his previous comment of the dog's performance. And with that change of heart beckoned his temporarily adoption, before cheerfully, with the dog close behind, making their way now to the kitchen.

His first task he felt for safety reasons was to feed the animal, as he certainly to Daniel looked positively hungry. And not wanting his guest's disposition to change for the worse in being possibly as a mixed breed, "By Polar"," gave him two tins! Whilst the dog with tail wagging was enjoying his supper, he phoned the local police. But not before securing through information on the internet, the dogs breed recognisable as most probably, a "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". This confirmed he decided by his friendly nature, a flat face, large ears, and most importantly an undocked tail! The other parent Daniel concluded, after his own extensive researched breed combinations would ever remain a mystery. Positively now he felt, even to a vet!!

In reply, having no recollection of any desperate owners reporting a loss of an animal today and being late afternoon, the policeman he spoke to suggested that if possible, keeping the animal overnight. As personally in the past he continued he would of! But then explained having in the past been bitten by a stray, used as an excuse with a chuckle that old adage of "Once bitten twice shy!" He then recommended being his day off that Daniel calls again tomorrow. Intentionally not mentioning, that the policeman then on duty also didn't like dogs as he had been bitten twice! His final advice suggesting he might try in addition the local R.S.P.C.A. shelter as well. As they anyway he added, frequently bitten by strays and didn't seem to mind. Then, with an extra chuckle, ended the call!! Daniel unconvinced by his insincerity, decided he would follow up his advice.

"Well !" again addressing the dog, now curled up comfortably on the only mat in the kitchen and looking decidedly satisfied with the meal, he continued "I think although temporarily, I should give you a name?" At this, the dog raised his head, his hypnotic if somewhat annoyed gaze at Daniel returning. "Now let's see!" he continued ignoring the gaze, whilst adopting a pose comparable to Sherlock Holmes his favourite hero! "You do remind me very much of an old friend I have. Who in believing himself an authority on canines, plus an intense interest in the history of dogs associated with Royal family, I feel sure would like to meet you this evening? Before we hopefully". I mean sadly, part company tomorrow. And strangely enough I have always associated in Graham" he waffled on "In his obsession with dogs Royal"" then stopped once again to pose in the mirror, accepting now the only thing missing a pipe and deerstalker, before continuing ".. "Oh yes, with your breed!" then adding unwisely "I must confess my first thought was to describe you to him as that breed, but as you are more of a mixture!""" He stopped abruptly, with the dog now rising to its feet, with Daniel worried this taken as now an insult! But after circling as dogs do and stretching his legs, he lay back down again! It was a relieved Daniel, who after clearing his throat now flatteringly continued, feeling safer now staying with that same subject, announced.. "But because of your impressive manners and intelligence, and being almost Royal Spaniel, I shall name you Watson!""Although with no obvious Royal association, there are absolutely no guesses as to why! This accolade meanwhile was greeted by the dog before closing his eyes, with a couple of unenthusiastic swishes of the tail.

Before reaching the front door, he could tell by the enthusiasm of the knocking it was Graham outside. This was confirmed with a voice now bellowing through the letter box with the threat of "Come on, come out. I know you're in there. Open up before I make a scene attracting the neighbours!!" followed then as usual by gruff laughter. This being just one of Graham's idea's of a joke, according to his present psychiatrist.

Daniel opened the door smiling; he liked Graham, known him since a boy.

And with Graham's regular stays at psychiatric hospitals, had been his constant and only visitor.

Graham was somewhat depending on your relationship with him, tall and handsome. Others including Daniel's mother, would describe him as somewhat, "Fish faced!" with a moustache!!" Nevertheless for Graham's sake, we will leave it at tall and handsome.

Graham, after placing a heavy kiss on Daniels's cheek, raising his heels as he did so, a custom common amongst public schoolboys, exclaimed then with some authority "So where is he, this beast you want me to assess?" He did not have to wait long for an answer! For one growl from the newly appointed Watson, had Graham turn around with great haste! The dog then quickly positioned himself stretching upwards, one front paw on each leg, his bared teeth as close to Graham's crotch as possible! This leaving his visitors question answered in an instant.

Graham now a weekend officer in the territorial's, recognisable by his large moustache, had at one time served in the military. And had been trained, he informed on first meeting people, in confrontation with the enemy. But that was some time ago, and his reactions if any, had through age it appeared grown slower. One should also add that this training, not reinforced in any actual personal physical contact had, if the truth be known, been supplied in the way of a war office textbook.

Meanwhile Graham stared at Watson who subsequently stared back stronger, his hypnotic powers now showing through. Graham realising he had been out manoeuvred now looked pleadingly at Daniel for deliverance. Daniel surprised in recognising his retreat, offered to make a pot of tea! Graham still shaken could only nod his head in approval. After which Watson with a gesture from Daniel, allowing Graham then, to move safely to a chair! Meanwhile the victor, appearing bored at his victory, moved back to the mat, and continued his nap.

After being unsure the dog was definitely asleep, Daniel without speaking, attempted semaphore signs to his friend from a collection of naval beer mats, that it might be prudent, to move to another room. With Graham although shaken, eventually deciphering the various flags, quickly gulping down his tea, and still clutching his cup and saucer, crept stealthfully by the now snoring dog to the safety of that other room.

"Well, what do you think of him Graham?" His visitor, still appearing to feel the effects of Watson's hypnotic stare, nodding erratically answered. "I think there's more to him than meets the eye?" His host beamed! "My sentiments exactly" Pleased, without Graham's private school education, he had come to that conclusion first. Graham, still appearing in some sort of shock continued. "If I were you I'd get rid of that bastard as soon as possible". Again also confirming Daniel's expletive earlier was the right one! "More tea old chap?" Graham did his best to stop the cup rattling as his host poured.

Offering a variety of excuses, Graham left shortly after. But only after confirming that the dog would be absent before the next time he called. If there had been anything educational in his visit, it was when challenged by a highly intelligent short member of the canine family, Graham came second! Daniel determined this had in some way, altered his previous respect for his friend. Particularly, after the modest success of Graham's only published book. "Man's natural superiority over his Dog". But on reflection, Daniel always thought the title "A little un researched" anyway!

It was also at this time with a disturbing premonition on the dog's future, Daniel felt it prudent to phone April, suggesting for reasons he would explain later, she convince mother to stay another day. And in panicking, offering perhaps as a reason that he was having the chimney swept, with the inevitable soot everywhere, taking perhaps another day to clean up. April, confused by this statement, was about to question of being unaware of ever using the fireplace, always accommodating an electric fire since her father moved in 35 years earlier. That was when Daniel quickly put the phone down! Then waited for a moment, in case she phoned back! Then, relieved at no return call, which would only have incurred further "porky's", made his way up to bed! But only after insuring leaving a now contented Watson, asleep on the older of the two living room sofa's, which was hardly sat on anyway!

The next morning after an unexpected undisturbed night, Daniel made his way downstairs. Only to find to his horror, but not complete surprise, that the sofa had gone the same way as the back seat of the car. Determined not to show anger at the dog in case it retaliated, he now asked the familiar unrepentant tail wagging animal, would he like breakfast?

"I would prefer to shower first!!" was the reply""""..

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When he came round he found Watson, looking down at him, his two front feet placed firmly on Daniels chest. And although initially concerned, now dismissing the shocked and terrified look on Daniel's face below, as he continued!

"I would first apologise profusely for both the car seat and sofa, especially after you being so kind to me. Old habits from the distant past I'm sorry to say, take over sometimes!" Daniel smiled, initially surprised how deep his voice was, while convinced he must still be in bed, and this was just a bad dream he would awaken from. But at this moment hoped the dream would quickly progress further, so this terrifying image standing over him would then disappear. It partly worked when the dog left his sight, only to return moments later with an offer to make him a pot of tea!!

By then, convinced this was just another extension of the dream he replied "Yes, thank you that would be nice" The sound of his own voice was it turned out, his wake up call!!

It was then, still terrified and disorientated but strangely calmer, he managed as the paralysis slowly disappeared to sit up. The scene in front of him reinforced what he feared most! In seeing Watson visible to him again, standing upright on a kitchen chair against the kitchen counter, with an offer of sugar! Daniel seeing no other option as he took sugar replied "Two lumps please!" Moments later found them both either side of the kitchen table, with Daniel agreeing to a second cup.

The first thing he noticed was Watson had to use both paws to get the cup to his mouth. "How do you manage with the spoon if you take sugar?" he asked. The dog smiled then said "It's difficult, but personally I never use the stuff, bad for your health! ". Daniel was just about to inquire if all dogs disliked sugar"..then realised this whole conversation was too bizarre. He pinched himself and felt it; I don't think I would have felt that in a dream, he then concluded. They both sat silent smiling at one another until Daniel said. "Will you excuse me, I think I'll go back to bed for a while" "No objection at this end" replied Watson with ears flapping, on a shake of his head.

After waking a few hours later he took stock of the situation. Yes! He was talking to a dog with a good command of English! His next thought strangely enough was, whether the animal spoke another language as well. With his thoughts continuing he did congratulate himself on "I did think there was more to him than meets the eye, but not quite as much as that!"

Then hurrying downstairs concerned to find out what Watson was up to,

was pleasantly surprised there was no need to worry, when he found him in the living room watching television. On Daniel's appearance, Watson quickly turned the set off.

"They don't get any better these programs" he began "Most as I see them, are either boring or an insult to your intelligence" Daniel nodded in agreement. "I must say!" Watson now continued in a more excited voice "I am impressed with your clock collection, is this anything to do with as an accountant in being punctual with clients?" He looked round the room again, and without waiting for an answer continued with an extended doggy grin "If so, would not a good watch do the job?" And with that, still sporting the grin, added an odd howl before disappearing back into the kitchen. Daniel smiling weakly, but certainly feeling better for the extra sleep, called after him with a touch of sarcasm in a now more confident voice. "Leaving the clocks aside for the moment to be explained later, I'm sure you can guess what I'm going to ask you?" then finding a comfortable seat sat down.

"Pretty good idea!" came the reply as Watson emerged from the kitchen now carrying a biscuit between his paw's, then, as an after thought added "Hope you don't mind" gesturing down at the biscuit. "Not at all" said Daniel "Have another if you like!"

It was before Daniel was about to ask those all important OBVIOUS questions, with no need to guess what they were, that with his worrying premonition returning he phoned April again. Becoming anxious that mother, either suspicious or just dismissing the threat of the soot, would return earlier than expected. As April answered, he strongly emphasised the extra time now being essential, as added to the soot, was as an excuse now a burst pipe. But before he could replace the phone, April, now sounding slightly agitated, did question that might not be as acceptable as the swept chimney, as it would seem unusual in the middle of summer. Once again having no answer to her dilemma, Daniel quickly put the phone down.

All I can say is with Watson's extremely incomplete answer now proving acceptable to his host, coupled with his added promise in the future to explain totally his invasion into Daniel's life, is still at present, living amicably as the story continues with Daniel and mother at the house. With the exception, as with all dogs having extra sensitive hearing, of hopefully adjusting to the problem of clocks STRIKING all hours, from midday till midnight! One shared mutually with Elsie, as he always addressed her, with both, trusting on overcoming that excessive noise factor, as this being absolutely essential in them remaining in the story, as this tale has only just begun!

Chapter 2

The first two weeks proved a taxing adjustment period for Daniel, but surprisingly less so for his mother. Aware that it was impossible in such close quarters to keep from his mother that the dog could actually speak, his decision on introducing this phenomenon to her went worryingly well! In as much as mother, seemed unconcerned that she was being introduced to a talking dog! When Daniel nervously questioned her acceptance, she pointed out having successfully taught her Budgerigar to say a few words, saw no reason why an intelligent dog could not do the same. Taken back by her answer, Daniel decided to leave it there!

An early example on his mother's acceptance, was when on the morning a day later, Daniel, in finding the bathroom door open, found himself confronted with the back of his newly adopted house guest. With Watson, in having restricted height, standing upright on his toes, successfully emptying his bladder with great accuracy into the toilet bowl, and one should add, flushing it with great panache afterwards. Daniel very concerned at this public spectacle, in reminding Watson it's usual to close the door first. Watson, then apologising, politely confirming he assumed this would also apply to bathing as well. Daniel smiling agreed that he was correct in that!

During this whole conversation in educating Watson on accepted bathroom practice, Daniel then surprised when mother pausing on passing the room overhearing her sons comments, other than smiling offered no more than a "good morning" to them both!

Over the following days, apart from asking if the wallpaper in his bedroom could be changed, Watson also requested if possible, that a second television be purchased. As both it turned out preferred very different programs. With Daniel it was anything about antiques and Coronation Street. While Watson, National Geographic and Mastermind! This request was, as with the wallpaper for the present declined!

Meanwhile mother, rarely leaving her room anyway, having brought her own television, had additional company with her two caged birds. And in her choice of programs, becoming hooked through most days on continues daily weather forecasts, quiz contests and endless cooking shows!

It was when one evening Daniel elected to watch with Watson his program, on asking, "What was the attraction to N.G and M.M, and were they anything of special interest to dogs?" The answer caused with the reply to receive a polite rebuff! With an abrupt assurance his guest explained, "That all would be revealed later?" Daniels reply also abrupt being their first tiff, strongly emphasising it needed essentially to be sooner than later! Both then sat in silence, avoiding one another's gaze throughout the rest of the program. However, as the program came to a close, with nobody understanding quite what they had been arguing about, Watson, as much to relieve tension, brought up the possibility of either program being viewed at a later date!"" "What programs?" said Daniel, vaguely revealing his unreliable memory!! Ignoring his dubious excuse with his memory, but with the possibility in his case it could be true, Watson continued "It is one of few pluses with technology, which I'd assumed you aware of, that one of course, could be recorded!" That settled, the smiles returned between them, with Daniel offering to make a pot of tea. This disagreeable incident also caused Daniel now alone in the kitchen, to pinch himself once again, to ensure this was not just a protracted dream he was still in. Dissatisfied with the result, he pinched again harder, painfully with the same result.

It was unlikely without invitation, his son would turn up at the house, and only then on the insistence of his grandson to visit granddad. But his daughter often calling and always welcome, was a different matter. And to make matters worse, her interest in law and having authority to arrest somebody to solve a case, became her goal in life. Other than of course her affection for Boadicea! This also posed a threat on her possibly sensing something strange about her father's house guest. Her obsession in solving a mystery if recognised, understandable in Watson"s case, had been influenced largely as a child by her father's obsession with Sherlock Holmes. And in opposition to "Murphy's Law," that is what fortunately didn't happen next!!

After weighing up his concerns as he saw them surrounding his partly dysfunctional family, Daniel could see no option but to explain of them carefully to Watson.

As Daniels account of his offspring came to a close, Watson smiling warmly said "I do sympathize with your situation, being one we do not have to deal with in the canine world, with our limited options of employment you see!" Daniel touched by his sentiments nodded as Watson continued "But I did have a distant cousin that got into a serious problem when he lost some sheep?" Daniel nodded sympathetically, a concerned look now on his face. "Did he ever get them back?"" "What back?" was Watson's quick reply now looking deliberately absent!

"The sheep!" replied the host raising his voice a little irritably, while Watson with a grin answered "Oh yes, they returned the following night allowing him get to sleep much quicker!" This was followed by a familiar howl, which later was explained to Daniel the equivalent of either dog sadness, or joy, combined in this case with a dog joke. Afterwards Daniel became more understanding of how Gerald must have felt on his "Run in" with this animal.

Then, unexpectedly, a confirmed discovery! That dogs, well certainly this one, do have a sense of humour!! His next thought being, do other species as well!!

It was as predictable having heard about the now Watson through gossip at the police station, when a few days later April phoned to say she was "Popping round midday for a visit" On hearing this Daniel, having no intention of revealing to his daughter, or anyone else other than his mother that the dog could speak, went over once again the plan with Watson, in suggesting he need return to be seen as just an intelligent domesticated pet. Watson agreed with all of that, except for the "Pet" bit! Daniel then agreed out of deference to him, to rescind the "Pet bit!"

April as expected arrived promptly at twelve, attired handsomely in her police uniform. Which was no surprise as she rarely wore anything else, even when not on duty and more so at weddings! Plus, Boadicea really liked her in it!

After giving "Daddy" a big kiss on his cheek and being introduced to Watson as a dog lover, it had become her practice with canines when friendly to wrestle them on the floor. After of course removing her hat and jacket! As the wrestling progressed, Watson in not being particularly physical, but seemingly in this instant unhampered by his short legs, did in fact begin to look a little stressed, as the contest got rougher and more intimate. And although already having showered that morning, her body odour as a big women being strong, would require he felt afterwards, another shower after she left. It was at that point with both of them tangled together in the heat of the contest that mother past by the room. On expectation she might be surprised at the event, she wasn't! And after a smile and a "good morning" to them both, followed by "mind you don't hurt yourselves, especially with the little fellow" acknowledged then with a difficult hand wave from April, mother moved on to the kitchen.

As the contest came to an end, Daniel who loved his daughter as most other people who knew her did, gave her a helping hand from the floor. Then with a smile casually asked? "Is there any further news of the postman or his dog?" Quickly composing herself, she shook her head in reply. "Not a word!" she answered while attempting to recompose her hair and remove some of the dog hair from her trousers before continuing "He seems to have just vanished!" Daniel looking serious for a moment then asked in good faith "Has anybody actually been inside the house with him being single I'm assuming now empty?" She tut tutted for a moment before replying "One just can't do that daddy!" And with that, smiled affectionately at him before adding "Not without good reason and a search warrant, and as yet, nobody's complaining of any smell or anything" With her last remark, Daniel decided to end it there, not that he liked the postman very much anyway, but he thought the dog interesting!!

If Daniel was expecting her to find something strange about Watson, it didn't happen! She did before she left, called a loud goodbye up the stairs to Grandma Elsie, with as usual an undecipherable response above the noise of both birds chirping and the television. Then smiling at Watson, added a kiss to the dog's forehead with the promise to "See you again Watson, and next time I'll bring Boadicea!" The dog, before correcting himself, was just about to reply sardonically "In her chariot, I presume!" but unfortunately not corrected, followed by a howl! This causing April, just leaving through the front door to add "What an expressive dog daddy!" Her father adding a wave as she jauntily disappeared down the path answered quietly to himself "If only you knew how!!"

Later that evening he discussed the day events with Watson, who avoiding mentioning the body odour, expressed how much he liked April. Daniel smiling warmed at this, knowing that up until now, Watson had showed no signs of unwarranted flattery.

It was something that had become attractive to them both, an early morning walk to the park. Fortunately with only having a small garden compensated, with a large combined playing field and park situated behind the house. The official name for the area of the park in the 18th century was "Clodpate Walk". But with the growth of housing in the area, accompanied by volumes of people walking dogs, the humorous label of "flushing meadow" was adopted. This, a cynical reproach to a previous anti dog campaigner, who wanted to restrict both the actual height and weight of dogs exercising on those grounds!

Daniel meanwhile had a few days earlier, purchased a collar and lead, unfamiliar to Watson having never worn either before, and taking some time to persuade him otherwise. His only stipulation was in not having his name on it, as he rightly pointed out on finding himself lost, capable of finding his own way home. Daniel smiling could only agree with his reasoning.

It was on that very morning, on one of those walks along the surrounding path to the green stuff, with Watson just ahead on a short lead that Daniel chose to bring it up? He began "The fact now having been together for almost two weeks, I now feel capable psychologically, handling just why I have been chosen. And more importantly, as yet not revealed, where you've come from?"

Watson, having expecting this would inevitably arise again, but not all at once and unexpected in the park, then stopped abruptly and sat down. With his hypnotic stare returning, Daniel, close behind captured by the stare, stumbled into him treading heavily on the dogs tail.

"Sorry about that Watson!" apologising as the dog wincing offered "No problem, I didn't feel a thing!" Then looking back swished it, checking positively it was still operational.

"I don't think this is the time or the place" Watson began "But if you really insist on it""".

And that's as far as he got, when a voice from somewhere screeched out "Hello, it's me Daniel, over here?" Daniel spun round to centre on a group of ladies in exercise attire, gathered close together on the playing field just to the right of him. Although a small group, he found difficulty from actually seeing who the voice came from, until a raised hand followed by""It's ME Daniel, Hyacinth!"

Daniel shuddered, thought had recognised the voice, but hoped otherwise. For that voice with body close behind, had been stalking him continually since Doris died. And what was worse, making things more difficult, been one of his late wife's best friends. One he was sure had talked her late husband to an early grave. She was without doubt irrespective of gender, one of the most boring and aggravating individuals he had ever met, and that from an accountant should mean something!!

Unable to escape as she hurried over, he looked to Watson for support! Approaching the two of them she dismissed the dog, other than a disdainful look in his direction. This causing Watson to abruptly stop wagging his tale, as was previously prepared to be sociable. "That can't be with you!!" she said aggressively now pointing an ugly finger in the dog's direction. Not waiting for a reply she continued. "Doris would be horrified!" This was just too much for Watson, who began making plans for a justifiable response. Daniel meanwhile remained speechless, knowing however he replied, it would not even be listened to by in his own definition, this self centred dominating women. Feeling now totally in control, she first subjected Daniel to a kiss on the cheek, and then inquired in a coy voice "How are you darling?" This followed again by a contemptuous look at Watson. Her smile returned as looking possessively back at Daniel said "Why haven't you phoned me you naughty boy!" Then giggling, pinched one of his cheeks. This was the final straw for Watson when after a quiet howl, he quickly charged forward and consequently after making a surprising high jump, "Goosed" the lady in question with additional malice. The real upside of this satisfactory assault other than it taking her completely by surprise was, after omitting a terrified scream, her leaping into the unprepared arms of Daniel. Who, in an unsuccessful attempt to catch her, allowed her passage to the floor to be particularly painful? For a moment Daniel stood transfixed, staring down at this dishevelled women lying uncomfortably across his feet screaming abuse at the dog. But with an outstretched hand from the victim, Daniel, subduing temptation to reject it helped her back on her feet. It would have been unforgivable after the unexpected pain she had experienced; to see Daniels face after her then promise to him of "While that beast is living with you" she began with each movement producing either an "Owe! Or an "Ouch!"" "You will never have the pleasure of my company again!" It's nice to add since then; she has to her credit up until now, kept her word on that one! One last bonus was when later; Daniel after thanking Watson then smiling broadly added "I shall be forever in your debt". At that moment Watson, could only manage an embarrassed smile but moment's later remarked under his breath,

"No relationship can get better than that!!"

On arriving back at the house, they found mother making a pot of tea. "Anything interesting happening at the park today dear?" she inquired more from Watson than Daniel. "Nothing much Elsie" Watson replied, "Other than meeting that dreadful women Hyacinth again!" With Watson and Daniel in expectation of an interesting response she replied disappointingly "Well that's nice dear!" as she handed them each a cup of tea!

About a week later there was a surprised call from his son Leger. Informing him that through a conversation with his step sister April, he understands and surprised to hear, after his stepmother Doris he emphasised being savaged by one, that there is now a dog in his fathers household. He also, showing some degree of concern, inquired how his grandmother felt about his father's new acquisition. In answering "She's fine. She likes him!" Daniel wondered if his son detected the chuckle that accompanied the answer! Daniel also thought it time to explain that the bite suffered by Doris had hardly broke the skin; although fair to say she never got over it. But then decided against it, fearing it would end in further detiriation in their relationship.

Personally his son continued, in not liking animals in general, it was of no consequence to him. But unfortunately revealed that Biff overhearing the conversation, had immediately asked if they could visit granddad. The boy you see had always yearned for a dog, or any other animal as a pet, but his father would not even consider it. The reason given, animal hairs all over the place, and the introduction of hazardous allergies! Although now agreeable he added, against his better judgement as a loving but concerned parent, to allow a brief visit to satisfy his son's wishes. God! Daniel thought as he put the phone down, doesn't he go on!!!

Later the following morning, both father and son turned up. The boy always happy on those rare visits to see his grandfather gave him a big hug and a kiss. Then excusing himself ran upstairs to do likewise to his great grandmother. The boy being an exception to her rule, in Elsie allowing him not only into her room, but even turning the television down!!

On returning downstairs moments later, he anxiously looked around for the dog! Leger meanwhile greeted his father like a man who had come to inspect his TV licence. No surprises there!

It was then Watson, having heard their arrival entered the room. After totally ignoring the boy's father, he looked straight at his son. It was love at first sight for them both!! Watson, who enjoyed children, well most of them, produced a repertoire that by the expression on Legers face, even impressed him. Both boy and dog played for the next hour, until after frequent glances at his watch, Leger suggested it was time to go. It was only then Daniel out of politeness asked his son how work was going. Leger's reply remained the same as always. "If there was any other way to support myself and son in an occupation fitting my expertise" he droned on "I would grab it!" followed by a confession of "The more time I spend with them, the more these lost souls annoy me?" His father then refrained from the temptation of suggesting!

"Maximum security Prison counselling officer!" and having heard it all before, only sympathised once again for those unfortunates his son counselled.

It was then Ledger, led by his son, made the trip upstairs to say goodbye through a partly open door to his grandmother. Whilst alternately Elsie allowing Biff in, rewarding him then with a kiss and a cuddle! On returning downstairs before leaving, Biff awarded the same to both granddad and Watson. While Ledger ignoring the dog, offered a limp handshake to his father.

"Nice lad that, most unlike his father!" Watson's immediate comment after they left. Daniel just nodded in agreement, as with very little he could say in his son's defence other than "I believe he does his best!" Watson, happy to leave it there, then inquired further. "Is there anything watchable on TV?" "Doubt it!" Daniel replied shaking his head. "Unless you like endless antique and cooking shows, fake tans and weather reports!!" The answer surprised Watson, as lowering the daily paper he was reading inquired "Do I detect a touch of sarcasm in your voice?" "Somewhat!" Daniel's abrupt reply as he continued "Not with the show's you understand, especially the antiques or the food itself, just some of the self appointed experts in both cases" With this steadfast answer, in reminding Watson of Elsie's choices! Was it possible that in their case it could be "genetic", or, was there very little else to look at? After thoughts of studying that possibility further with possible help from Elsie, he returned to his newspaper.

It was also about now with his relationship with Watson becoming the norm; Daniel became concerned why it worried him so much, and not so his mother?

When Daniel described himself as semi- retired, it could probably better be described as semi reduced hours! This had come about in having not accumulated a great deal of savings, due to both the expense of divorce, and his obsession with antique clocks! It was the clocks, to the annoyance of his ex wives, often taken from dealers instead of cash for services rendered, proving eventually a major contributing factor too those divorces!

So now, with little pressure on either time or ex wives, he would often especially with his old clients, well those he liked, visit them at their home or place of business. And always, if they dealt in clocks!! It was on one of those occasions, he found his next purchase!!

Maurice Walter Fitz-Cohan was a handsome man and as bent as a four pound note.

Everybody loved him, and his choice and eye for a good clock was indisputable. He was in statue on the short side, with a very rotund figured in contrast to his thin face and largish "Romanesque" nose. This highlighted, with a full head of hair more silver than grey stylishly parted in the middle. Acknowledged generally as an impeccable if conservative a dresser, and deemed by some the height of sartorial elegance whether seen inside or outside of the premises! His only drawback, should it be seen as one, a slightly embarrassing and in his case at least natural, lisp!

"It's lovely as always to see you Daniel!" he offered as Daniel entered the showroom. Quickly followed by "And how's mother doing? " As Daniel smiling was about to answer before Maurice continued. "Although you could do with just a little more colour in your attire, but not too much!" Then, looking Daniel up and down once again added reassuringly, "Although at present for an accountant, its fine!" He paused again momentarily before quickly promising. "But I shall still!" he emphasised "On your behalf, have a word with Winston the next time I see him".

Winston was their mutual tailor, introduced by Maurice to Daniel some years earlier, learning with distinction his trade after arriving as a young man from the West Indies. And eventually becoming one of today's most sought after "Avant-garde" tailors in London.

It was then, although rather late, but with the opportunity at last provided, Daniel answered that earlier question with "Mothers doing extremely well thank you!"".. Maurice looking slightly bemused could only reply" "Oh that's good! I'm so pleased to hear!"

But conversely, now satisfied with his initial he felt welcomed advice, he moved quickly forward as always, wrapping his arms around his visitor placing as always, a kiss on his left cheek. "So what's new!" he expressed enthusiastically, stepping briskly back, hands now clasped tightly together in front of him. Daniel smiled affectionately, always pleased to see this man and certainly with his own conservative upbringing, allowing few people other than his family to kiss him on the cheek. "Well I'm still above ground!" was his humorous reply continuing "So, let's do the books first" and with both smiling, Daniel, glancing around the wall of clocks adding "Nothing excitingly new I see?" Then silence for a moment before"". "I do believe somewhere there must still be an optician open!" was the owner's response displaying a tight grin, before leading Daniel gently by hand, into the back office.

An hour later they were back in the showroom.

"Have I got a clock for you that has, you lucky old thing, just come in!" Maurice enthused as he swanned across the floor, stopping at one in the far corner of the showroom. Daniel knowing when it came to flattering a clock, Maurice was never joking. It was a beautiful case, Daniel recognising as probably Cuban mahogany. "Cuban mahogany?" he questioned a little hesitantly. "Spot on!" his gay friend answered before continuing. "Now guess the age?" With this challenge Daniel recognising the brass dial being earlier than a painted dial suggested. "Circa 1740?" Maurice smiled "Timed perfectly, as they say in the trade!" he exclaimed with a grin.

"So what's so special about this one?" Daniel asked as the dust settled.

"It's haunted!!" was the now serious sounding reply. Daniel smiling on reading the name off the dial then suggested "So, Alfred Martwick of Sevenoaks is the ghost?" whilst looking straight at Maurice surprised to see he was not smiling. "He could be?" was the hesitant answer! Daniel his curiosity now heightened said "You definitely now have my full attention!" while looking around in anticipating Maurice revealing more, for one of the comfortable armchairs placed conveniently for customers throughout the showroom.

"It's a long story" Maurice began "But at this time I'll shorten it in case you don't buy it" that bringing an acknowledged smile from Daniel. He then went on to explain how he had serviced the clock for an elderly lady over a number of years. And on her recent death with no appreciative heirs, had been left to him as a bequest in her will! This was also accompanied with a letter describing the strange history of events surrounding the clock! The story began to intrigue Daniel, though not uncommon to hear of strange happenings with clocks, although personally, not having experienced any so far. But now after the dog, he believed positively, ANYTHING was possible!!

And as a second thought hard to dismiss, why did he feel now so strongly compelled even without knowing the price, to buy the clock!!

It came also as a complete surprise to Maurice when before he was able to continue with further merits of the clock; Daniel announced "I'll buy it!" Maurice looked flabbergasted. Stunned if only temporally into silence. Eventually, with a puzzled look still present remarked, "Well, if that's the case, why did you make the sale so difficult for me?" This bringing laughter from them both, and with it subsiding Maurice questioned "It can't be a question of money as you've not even asked the price, so what unearth brought about this very agreeable response?" Daniel raising himself from the chair, his briefcase now back in hand replied "Perhaps my dear cherished friend, when the time is right I'll explain it all to you" then smiling affectionately continued "But if you have never needed a stiff drink from a clock sale before, have a bottle ready, for should I impart to you why I bought this clock, your need one!" Maurice smiled "Now, you have MY full attention! And for that reason! I will definitely look forward to hearing why!" He then paused before quickly adding "Oh yes!" As it's a while since I serviced the movement, I'll need time to check it through before I deliver it, if that's okay with you?" "I would have expected nothing less!" Daniel answered with a wink!

Then warmly grasping his hand, with Maurice still looking mystified on the swift outcome of the sale, Daniel made his way quickly towards the front door, calling back! "Must go, have a dog to feed! Put an invoice in the post to me, bearing in mind we have been friends for years!" this followed by an additional smile and a wave, as he disappeared onto the street.

Maurice composed again, shook his head while mumbling "I think it's time for a pot of tea!" adding, "And in celebration of my fastest sale ever, accompanied I believe with a well deserved gin and tonic!!

It was while on his way home and still smarting a little on Maurice's comment on his dull attire, now warranted he felt, an overdue visit to Winston, perhaps in adding, a little more colour to his image! Something Sherlock Holmes he felt would definitely have approved of. It also came to mind, he had inadvertently avoided entirely with Maurice, the arrival of Watson. That would definitely require preparation he felt before Maurice, usually accompanied with his partner Bernard, delivered the clock.

It also came to mind, with very few places left to put an additional clock, whether mother would consider having it in her room. She certainly having the television on so loud, unlikely to notice the hourly striking! On second thought, he should probably look for a different spot!!

Meanwhile back at the house, Watson was getting excited at Daniels return.

The reason being that he had news of the postman's dog! This contact had come through "Parson", a black and white female Jack Russell terrier; he had become friends with through gaps through the fence next door. It seems while out for her walk late last evening, Parson, exploring the heavily wooded area just off the beaten track in the park, had been suddenly confronted by a distressed looking "Spot", recognised by Parson, as previously accompanying the postman. Spot, after apologising for his sudden appearance, went on to explain to her, his retreat to the woods had been caused after being threatened by the postman that unless he continued with him on his rounds would send him back to Louisiana U.S.A. Where having left there happily as a puppy, although certainly missing his family since, was unsure should he be sent back, how he would get on now having been away so long in understanding the accent? Also as a negative he added, a local term there for the breed was "Louisiana Hog Dog" which he felt most unflattering!

Then continuing to explain his added refusal to continue accompanying the postman, was finally instigated he stressed, on the man's insistence on frightening people with the breed name. "Leopard dog"! Which on consideration he felt; suggest to most "Folks", another term brought over from the U.S.A, that he was aggressive! When in point of fact his breed description by temperament was listed as "Friendly, and good with children"

Parson ended Spots long winded explanation to her, with a request from him having heard about you on the dog grapevine that you might be able to help in his difficult predicament. In not knowing whether you would be able too or not she went on, I pondered, before replying "I'll see what I can do sweetheart!" That reply she stressed was greeted and possibly helped with the added "sweetheart", with Spots tail now accelerating to "Mach" speed.

Watson, now shuffling his feet looking slightly embarrassed, said he was flattered with the opportunity of being able to help. As Parson disappeared from view through the fence, Watson gave his first if for a long time, romantic howl!!

On Daniels return that afternoon, Watson explained with great clarity the situation revealed to him of Spot's predicament as told by Parson. And her added offer to accompany them as a go between providing not out too long on her own. "They let her out on her own! " Daniel queried "Yes" Watson replied "Although she tells me they do fuss and feed her, but rarely notice her gone, as seldom taking their eyes of the television". "How sad!" was Daniels only comment thinking of his mother, something it seems as neighbours, they did have in common. They ended up agreeing on a walk later that evening in hopefully making contact with Spot, if only to see if feasible they could be of help! If nothing else Daniel thought he had always been curious as to why the dog chose to bite Doris?

It was growing dark when they set out; aware it was essential in contacting him quickly with the park closing in under an hour. It didn't take long however in finding Spot; in fact with few people about at that time, he was waiting patiently on the grass, outside the cover of the wooded area.

"Thank you so much for coming Watson, and particularly you Daniel!" he said greeting them all enthusiastically, accompanied with an additional affectionate smile towards Parson. This acknowledged with a nod and smile from all in return. It was Watson who began pointedly addressing Spot with "Well, you do seem to have got yourself into a right pickle!" Spot looking very forlorn just nodded in reply. It was then Daniels turn, when in an agitated tone quickly asked "So, before we look for a solution to your problem, my first question is just why did you bite my late wife Doris, I wasn't aware she had ever chastised you or anything""" But before he continued suddenly became aware, he was in a discussion with ANOTHER dog, one he had only just met! Spot meanwhile, looking down appearing embarrassed, began shuffling his feet, well at least the front two, and ignoring the now bewildered look appearing on his questioners face answered "I can only excuse it as a spur of the moment thing, and your wife being on the tall side!" before adding "And my overall feelings of being let down by humans in general, but far less I feel, by short people!" Then continued, looking straight at Daniel offering apologetically, "It was just one of those mornings where your wife was in the wrong place at the wrong time!" Watson listening then nodded his head agreeably with "Well brother, there's a time when that happens to every one of us!" while then looking up hopefully for confirmation from the still vacant faced Daniel, who, acknowledging with a weird smile said" "I never thought of my wife as being tall?" "Nor did I!" said Parson agreeing "But you must understand from a dogs standpoint, taller people always appear more threatening" Daniel nodding then said. "I suppose that makes sense!" with his still vacant expression remaining.

The discussion between the three continued with a silent Daniel, still trying hard to adjust to this new phenomenon. Then jarred back to the present in grabbing Watson's attention for a moment said "Could I have a word alone with you for a moment?" Watson after excusing himself from the others, still heavily engaged with Spot's predicament, and then said agreeably after they'd moved away from earshot from the others. "Okay, I'm all yours!" This allowing Daniel still looking bewildered to ask in a hushed voice! "Can I now assume that it's possible for any dog to engage me in conversation, where ever I am, whether I'm agreeable or not?" Watson gave a subdued howl, and then said with a comforting smile! "No, only if I'm there!" then added with conspicuous authority "You see, I"m the messenger!!" ".Daniel, having no idea what that meant something he felt to discuss later, but feeling a profound comment was expected offered "Are you really, well, that's a relief!" Watson obviously visibly disappointed in his reply continued now impatiently "And now, if that's all! Can we get back to the REAL problem of Spot"s?" Daniel feeling less comfortable again nodded as they moved back to join the others.

It was nevertheless a curious Daniel that then asked Spot; did he know, as to the present whereabouts of the postman? Spot seemed ill at ease as he answered

"Well to my knowledge Wayne is still in the house!" quickly adding

"But don't ask me to go back and check?" his nervous reply.

All agreed then it would need some overnight thinking to hopefully solve Spot's problem, proposing, that they all meet again same time tomorrow.

As they walked home Daniel, addressing Parson asked "So why the name Parson?" The lady dog smiled "Check out the black and white colouring around my neck! What does it remind you of?" she replied, stopping abruptly sitting down. Daniel, after examining it closely said "Apart from being a pretty neck" he answered shyly, then enthusiastically with the discovery," Got it! It's a dog collar, just like a" Parson would wear!" and still looking at her continued "Well, you don't look too happy about it! " She shrugged her shoulders frowning said "Well, why would I be, I'm a Buddhist!" then continued "Canines generally are either Buddhist or Hindu!" before adding "With the exception of America of course, where a few I understand have become Mormons!" Daniel, trying to stay with this conversation could only answer "Really! Yes, that would make sense!" They continued homebound until Daniel again addressing her inquired. "So, they really don't miss you when you're out on your own?" Parson looking unconcerned just shook her head in reply! "How Sad" Daniel reiterated.

Meanwhile on arriving back at the house, Daniel gave more thought to Spot's claim, that it seemed such a shame, that the postman Wayne, who now had a name, was still.. Staying.. sane"". living on his own at the house!! Suddenly conscious of the riming in his head experienced briefly once before, while desperately hoping it would cease there and then, until he said!! "Do you think Wayne, was his real name?" unfortunately blurting out to Watson, now entering the room with a pot of tea.

"On reflection" Daniel continued with hopefully the riming over. "I do recall he often wore a ten gallon cowboy hat now and again in the summer, until the post office asked him not to!" To which Watson replied "Really, how interesting! Two lumps?" Daniel nodded, as the dog dropped both lumps into his cup, followed by a gentle stir.

The following morning Daniel phoned his daughter, telling her he had received information that Wayne the postman, was still living at the house.

"Where did this information come from Daddy?" was her immediate response. "And where did he get the name Wayne from?" Daniel paused "I believe it's a cowboy thing" was his curt reply, leaving uncomfortably the first question unanswered!

Later that morning he received a phone call from an old client with an art shop, to say he had just acquired a 19th century oil painting of a room with a clock displayed in the corner. Something Roland the owner suggested might be of interest to him. Daniel replied he would call in the shop to view the following Tuesday and suggested, combined with the thought of an invoice, a detailed look at the accounts. Roland as previously, quickly pointed out once again quite firmly on his insistence that, "It isn't a shop, it's a gallery!!!" Daniel, as he put the phone down chuckled, enjoying the tease. It was then in ending a promising morning when mother appeared offering to make a fresh pot of tea!

Chapter 3

The following evening as arranged, all three returned to the wooded area of the park, but Spot was nowhere to be seen. They waited until the park was about to close, then with no sign of the animal, they left! Assuming he had either, agreed to go home with a kindly sole, joined a band of gypsies, or handed over by the police to the RSPCA. Daniel then promised to follow up with a phone call to the police as soon as back at the house.

After phoning his local police station again found himself regrettably speaking to the same officer as before about Watson! Who, in unfortunately recognising his name, was told quite sharply after Daniel describing the dog, and with the officer then consulting his breed chart, that no dog like that existed? And suggested, as somebody who could arrest him as a public nuisance, to lay off the alcohol! Then abruptly pointing out, as a paid servant of the public, he would also check later that week to inquire whether he had followed up his good advice. Daniel then decided he would inquire again the following day when hopefully, another officer would be on duty. That following morning found that same even less tolerant officer at the other end, with the same now even stronger threat of arrest! On ending the call, Daniel decided it was probably safer just to check the park more often.

The following Tuesday morning found Daniel, on his way to Roland's GALLERY with Watson now seated comfortably on the once distressed back seat. This having been now recovered, with a tartan patterned car blanket a remnant from convertible years gone by!

With his thoughts now turning to Roland, one major thing they did have in common was a number of marriages. Roland with four! Other than that, both an interest in antiques in general, but with a huge separation in technology! Whereby Daniel was proficient in computers and communal communication, internet, cell phone's ECT! Roland had never got past the telephone. In fact shy of paying bills, either from a quieter spell of business or just deciding over charging him anyway, his phone was often cut off! The surprising result of this is how he still managed to stay in business? This to his credit was that he was a master in the field of restoration, and other than local traffic being often lucky to find him open, recommended by galleries throughout the surrounding area.

His overall appearance in keeping with his age, was one associated with artists in general, with Roland no exception to this. Long haired, often with a few days unshaved stubble, scruffy cream or white baggy trousers, and never without either a Celt or Aztec jewellery decoration somewhere! Not forgetting when socialising, the essential corduroy jacket.

Arriving at his store, another term in his case that annoyed Roland, he decided initially to leave Watson in the car. Adding, that should the right circumstances prevail, he would introduce him to Roland! "What circumstances?" Watson's immediate while disappointed response. "Well, one could be" Daniel said perhaps too bluntly "The possibility, that he doesn't like dogs, especially short ones of mixed breed!" This Watson deemed an unnecessary remark, bringing both a scowl and this conversation to a close. On leaving the car with Watson now brooding on the back seat, Daniel now pleased to see through the GALLERY window Roland, deep in conversation with hopefully a customer! This discouraging him from entering; for fear of interrupting the flow of Roland's persuasive selling powers, having been acknowledged by all known to him as an excellent raconteur! With time now to study the faÃade of the shop front, Daniel decided it definitely needed a fresh coat of paint. Although seemingly unimportant to its owner, he felt unnecessary to mention it!

As the visitor now leaving past Daniel, there was a gestured nod between them. With Roland, in welcoming Daniels entrance asking "How are you my friend?" Then adding "You're looking amazingly well and how"s mother?" This flatteringly reception now accompanied with a generous handshake as Daniel answered with a warm smile "Both mother and I are fine thank you!" It was then came that hopeful inquiry from Daniel of "Assuming that was a customer just leaving, did it produce a sale?" he said gesturing to the recent departed individual! "Every time I'm open old chap" Roland answered with a confident grin.

The conversation moved on covering a variety of subjects, from the weather to the Pope's last visit. And with both parties unsure of what religious club, or alternative they wanted to be part of, livened things up to an enjoyable debate. It was brought to a sudden end as Daniel, with a change of subject after glancing around at those works displayed, questioned his friend with "So where are you hiding this painting?" Then pausing a moment added "Don't tell me you've already sold it!"

It was Roland then smiling broadly who answered "If I was to tell you. I could have sold it on two or three occasions, would you believe me?" he questioned.

"I would never doubt your word!" said Daniel suppressing an obvious grin.

And with that somewhat gratifying answer, Roland beckoned him into a workshop at the rear of the premises, to an easel with the painting displayed on it.

It was very large and it was fabulous! Daniel was immediately smitten!

On looking at the canvas your eye, well both actually, would quickly gravitate to the clock itself, which was exquisite! A classic period piece, painted in fine detail; He could recognise clearly both the style of the case and detailed brass dial. To a point with the addition later of a magnifying glass, with Roland unable to find his, of just possibly deciphering the engraved name of the maker! On top of all that, there was something strangely familiar about the clock, which with the aid of a glass, might be able to determine later! Roland meanwhile had said nothing, just smiling in a kind of satisfied way until "Haven't wasted your time with this one, have I?"

Daniel looked at him in surprise with a subtle answer of "Never! Even the bad ones you offered in the past were worth looking at!" This brought a chuckle from Roland with "I could be mistaken, but isn't that termed as a back handed compliment!" After a brief discussion over a cup of coffee, and not surprisingly a price agreed on, Daniel bought the painting! It was then, feeling rather elated at his purchase, he mentioned the dog.

He began carefully crafting the story on meeting Watson in the woods, how destructive he was to begin with, before turning into an intelligent affectionate animal. And could not resist however describing Watson in meeting Graham! This brought unrestrained laughter from his listener, who having previously met Graham under circumstances I'll now briefly describe, now wanted without hesitation to meet the animal responsible in causing Graham's discomfort.

Roland's initiation to Graham came about on a morning some months earlier. When, adding some final touches of restoration to a painting in his rear workshop, hearing the small bell ring attached to the street entrance door. Before having time to place both brushes and palate down, an impatient voice boomed out

"Shop!" Anybody there! "Now, if unbeknown to his visitor, his request alternately had been "GALLERY"! Anybody there?" Roland's reception might have been different.

With Roland's appearance, Graham until then busy scampering between the displayed artwork now ceased his search! And with an expression suggesting Roland should be at attention or something similar, said in voice associated with interrogating a prisoner "Anything militarily with canines present?" Roland, now feeling positively no need to be over polite, just shook his head. Graham's reaction to this, was to quickly produce a business card, handing it to Roland with the abrupt request of "Well, should you come across anything in the future, do let me know!" And with that "order", and no reply from the now unresponsive face of the recipient, turned and marched out of the premises. After glancing briefly at the card, before tossing it into the waste bin, Roland then acknowledged. Yes! He would be someone not easily forgotten, but for the wrong, not the right reasons!

Now back to the present! After quickly thinking it through, Daniel, still concerned of Watson having a mood swing, although established he easily accepted the antique clocks, but would there be possibly in the antique art displayed, something featured to upset him? Finally, he came to a decision!

With his overall concerns, he suggested that Roland came out to the car to meet the animal.

"Is there a likelihood that the dog doesn't like, or does not have an appreciation of art?" Roland grinning asked rather pompously. This catching Daniel unawares replied without thinking "Give me a moment and I'll pop out and ask him!"

The look on Roland's face said it all, as he replied with a dubious smile. "Now that really would be an intelligent dog!" Daniel fearing then Watson might be tempted to reveal more than was wise, replied nervously "I suppose it would!" then quickly leaving the room. Minutes later after lecturing Watson on just what had occurred and how to behave because of it, greeted with strong objection from the dog, did follow however with both returning to the gallery!

He needn't have worried on the outcome, as Roland with Watson without uttering a word, got on famously! Appreciating when shown paintings depicting canines, just how much Roland in recognising the breed, showed sound knowledge of their characteristics. It was also unfortunate then, that the possibility of invoicing Roland on updating his accounts thus reducing the initial cost of the painting, didn't happen! Due primarily when touching on the subject, Roland, somewhat embarrassingly admitting with business on the slow side, had not as now updated his bookwork. No surprise to Daniel, as in Roland's case as with previously, fitting in exactly as he saw them, his friends priorities in life.

During the ride home Daniel was unusually quiet, until Watson now holding the painting on his lap while studying the canvas questioned "I suppose in your excitement with the clock, you failed to notice the dog asleep on the rug." Daniel with a glance in the mirror replied somewhat abruptly "As a matter of fact I didn't, but I thought it would be nice to have you bring it to my attention!" Watson's reply in appreciating the compliment came in a low appreciative howl!

With an episode of National Geographic showing, Daniel, was left alone to find a suitable spot for this large painting. This, after his mother without even a suggestion from Daniel, quite abruptly making it abundantly clear when seeing its size, not to consider her room! After studying now with a magnifying glass the painting more closely, he was at first surprised confirming now the dog on the rug uncannily like Watson! But not so much as a surprise, as both the clock and dog would go with that period. And then previously indiscernible without a glass, a shocked surprise at the cat! A totally, no it's not possible, faintly cream coloured cat! Curled up beside the dog!!! In fact with the likeness, both could quite possibly as he recalled the cat, have been distantly related!! It was at that moment Watson, his program over, came into the room.

"So anything new with the painting?" he asked. There was a pause before Daniel answered "Could be!" The subdued reply came while now concentrating with the glass back on the clock, his expression changing to something more worrying as he did so! "It can't be, it"s not possible!!" he kept mumbling to himself. Then back to answering Watson's inquiry while intensifying his focus now back on both the dog and cat again said firmly "Yes, there is something new I believe that we now urgently need to discuss!" adding sharply "And definitely sooner rather than later!"

As the painting now linking as with other incidences to the full, the mystery surrounding the dog. Culminating, in Daniel urgently needing now in finding out just who, or what exactly, he had living with him in his house?? This serious change in Daniels behaviour had produced surprisingly a perceptive look on Watson's face followed by, now looking directly at Daniel with "I do believe it's now my turn to say, I think I can guess what you've possibly discovered?" To which Daniel, lowering the glass looking unswervingly back at Watson replying "Yes, I think you probably can!" And with this said, quickly returning to the painting, now focusing directly on the cat again, searching optimistically for that single fang tooth!!!

It was Watson smiling, causing the atmosphere to become relaxed again in suggesting "I think its time for a strong pot of tea!" And without awaiting a reply, disappeared into the kitchen! "Good idea!" Daniel agreed now following, seating himself comfortably at the kitchen table. It was after the second cup with Watson agreeable; the long awaited now essential questions with hopefully answers began in earnest.

Daniel was not sure with the possibility of strongly offending the dog, who he had grown to like very much, just where to begin. But before he could decide, Watson, having contentedly finishing his second cup spoke first. "I know this proves difficult for you, so as hopefully now a trusted friend, I promise to respond with an honest answer to your every question" Daniel's reply was a quiet "Thank you, that's much appreciated!"

"My first questions in order are!" he began "Who or what are you? Exactly where have you come from? And what's with the "messenger" bit you mentioned yesterday?

And lastly, where does the cream coloured cat come in?" Watson now looking totally relaxed, his paws clasped together smiled, then replied.

"I would with no objection from yourself, answer your last question first!"

When none came he began.

"I must confess you have caught me by surprise in recognising Maneki Neko, my lucky talisman! I had no idea you'd met before, and by the way its Calico coloured not cream!""After heaving a big sigh, Daniel answered "Whatever! Followed by! "We haven't actually met; it was just a glimpse of one another when you and I first met. And, he can't be that lucky as I seem to recollect, otherwise he wouldn't have "mislaid" his other front tooth?"

Dismissing the criticism Watson smiling said "Then I must still point out you were anyway, very privileged with that glimpse. And personally I hadn't noticed the loss of the tooth, although I must admit he"s long been prone to loosing something!" then after a pause, but looking a little concerned added "But I will ask him about the tooth later?" then retaining the smile said "I also promise at sometime, to explain more of my close relationship with that cat!" Appearing more relaxed again but still showing obvious upset with news of the tooth, he then clasping his paws firmly in front of him and after clearing his throat began!

"I would first point out, we are accepted universally along with cats, as the world's oldest most domesticated animals" and was about to continue when".. "Well, that's all very interesting, but it's not what I asked!" Daniels sharp interruption came as being anxious to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible! "Perhaps not to you, but its important in our history!" was the dog's hasty if a little angry response. Daniel, showing some embarrassment with his outburst compromised with "My apologies if my reply appeared insensitive, but please continue!" "No worries!" replied Watson smiling again, as he did as requested!

"Its fully documented, that this close respectful domestic relationship all began in ancient Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs, as dogs along with cats, were venerated and worshipped. Even it appears in our case of providing dog cemeteries!" This causing Daniel to respond quickly but light heartedly with, "So in your case when you die, shall I bury you, or would you prefer cremation?" Watson, with eyebrows raised shook his head, then said in a serious tone "That's something I don't think you have to worry about!" After this somewhat indifferent answer, continued louder with "Over the following centuries, throughout different cultures, dogs were acknowledged as something special amongst animals, as companion, guard and hunter" then looking pleased with himself continued. "Being valued by man and occasionally women as no other animal had been before." Then paused suggesting! "Other than of course, the horse!" But this time Daniels cynical reply of "Well I've noticed cats are no longer mentioned, and incidentally so how come you're Talisman hasn't shown herself since?" Then chuckling quickly continued "Which a number dog lovers would approve of!" adding further "And all that's as I said very interesting, and I suppose it's a relief anyway to know in your case, you're just another dog with the exception that you can talk, other than thankfully not an alien or something!" This then brought about a surprisingly unexpected reply, when after silent for a moment, Watson uttered in an almost devout way "I can assure you my friend, I'm here to play a much larger role than just being a TALKING dog!!" Daniel smiling with eyebrows now raised, answered. "Really", his now recently adopted indifferent reply!

It was at that moment Daniel, taking both the readers and Watson totally by surprise in dismissing the incredible possibilities of this last statement, and seemingly ignoring Watson's lack of explaining further appearance of the cat, returned momentarily to the unresolved plight of Spot!

"Have you seen him lately?"

"Seen who?" replied Watson, caught unawares by this change of topic.

"Spot of course!" was Daniels irritable reply.

"No, but did you hear what I just said?"

"You mean about just not being a dog!"

"Yes! I was revealing to you something important about myself that you have been pestering me to know ever since we met!"

"I don't think you could describe it as pestering" said Daniel "I think better explained as naturally curious!"

Watson, now rising from the table looking both confused and annoyed, began shaking his head. Then said, deliberately avoiding eye contact with Daniel.

"I think I'll go lie down for a while, and we can continue this discussion later". Then adding frustratingly before walking away! "And as regards Spot, Parson said she hasn't seen him at the park since, so it appears he's definitely gone missing again, perhaps this time for good!"

"How sad!" was Daniels other predictable reply?

After a momentary period of silence, Daniel suggested as Watson was leaving the room.

"Give me a shout when you're awake, and I'll bring you up a nice cup of tea".

This, generating on this occasion, a low exasperating howl from Watson!

He did not sleep long, being awoken from the abrupt sound of an over enthusiastic television cooking show host, from mothers bedroom next door. Now wide awake, he gave his intended explanation to Daniel a great deal more thought. Feeling Daniel, especially with his change of topic, not taking him seriously enough! Which had him reconsider in telling him the WHOLE story at this time?

It was then; his movement around his bedroom prompted a voice from downstairs calling! "Are you ready for a nice cup of tea?" He smiled at Daniels offer, calling back loudly "Always!" while feeling at that precise moment great warmth for the man. With his thoughts then returning to his promise in agreeing answering truthfully to whatever question his friend asked, in finally deciding in holding back some of it, until he felt Daniel was ready for the WHOLE story!

With their respectful relationship returning as before, Daniel suggested with it now opening time, perhaps a stroll to the local pub and a few beers might finish the day more amicably. Watson, with the possibility of adding new canine company, readily agreed. And thankfully on this occasion mother, still smarting over the groundless suggestion of placing the painting in her room, declined an offer to join them. Not that she had any problem with alcohol, just misinterpreting any number of things, possibly related to her increasing eccentricity. And when to our loss in accepting an invitation, taking twice as long to get there and back!

It was not their first visit together to this local watering hole "The Dogs Hoden" The pub had been renamed at the end of the war, after part of the anatomy of a Rottweiler dog named "Herman". With this dog having been a loyal companion to a "Battle of Britain" flying ace, and judged the winning entry in a competition in renaming the pub to celebrate that victory! The tavern also had a previous history over 200 years as the "Duke of Clarence", a royal title discontinued as being unlucky following Queen Victoria's reign.

Arriving at the pub and making their way to the bar, they were met with a cordial greeting from mine host Billy Roberts, owner and publican "extraordinaire". "Good evening Daniel! Evening Watson! The usual for you both!" Daniel smiled and nodded, while Watson replied with a quiet howl. After serving both a Guinness and a bag of pork scratchings for the dog, Billy, looking amused gesturing towards the dog said "Funny the way he does that!" His then comment continuing "I'm assuming it's a good sign?" Then leaning fully over the bar and with great gusto, just as Watson now stretching upwards in an attempt to paw down the "pork scratchings", was when Billy ruffled the dogs head!!

"I believe so!" said Daniel watching in answer to his first question, and then added hesitantly. "But I'm not sure I can safely say yes to that!" His cautious reply gesturing towards the "Head Ruffle" followed, looking sternly at Watson, in hopes of preventing any adverse reaction, as being intensely aware how much he disliked being patted or worse, ruffled! Billy now smiling appreciating the advice said "Probably best I remember that!"

Billy Roberts was an interesting character, a retired boxing champion from south London, a firm patriot with Churchill his hero! This expressed to all, by both framed photographs combined with Union Jacks throughout the two bars of the pub. And as a bonus for Watson, his dog Nelson! A very genial Old English bulldog! Often described by Billy, as with Mrs Roberts when in earshot, as both his soul mate"s! Although Mrs Roberts, or Michelle to give her a first name, seen more in the kitchen than the bar in catering for their small restaurant room always busy, attached to the rear of the pub.

As the bar filled with customers, Daniel, as on previous occasions with their appearance, continually questioned on Watson's origin! Causing Watson, anxious to avoid further ruffling, to amble over to join Nelson on his favourite reserved spot! A well worn carpet, lying in front of an Inglenook fireplace as being a constant reminder of the pub's past history. As Watson sat down besides his snoozing "Host", Nelson, raised his head enough to inquire in a strangely familiar Churchillian voice, "And how are you old chap, keeping well I hope!"

Watson, answering with "Fair to middling!" then continued "I suppose you've heard about Spot?" On this Nelson raised himself to a sitting position. "Yes, as a matter of fact I have, sad news that, heard it from a Spaniel who knows Parson, a pretty little Jack Russell he see's regularly at the park. I say is it true, that they let Parson out on her own?" Watson nodded. "Dam dangerous that you know, think her people would know better!" the bulldogs concerned reply, confirmed by Watson with "Yes, it is sad isn't it?" Bringing an additional agreeing nod from his host!

It was not long shortly after, with Daniel finishing his second Guinness, and Watson his second bag of pork "scratchings", and a gesture of leaving to both Billy and Nelson, they began their walk home.

"I think next time we visit the "Hoden" Watson began, using this popular abbreviation. "I insist we find a seat in the corner where with luck, I might escape the attention of my fan club!" After a sympathetic smile Daniel concurring "I can tell it's getting the better of you, god knows what would happen if you actually spoke!" Watson shaking his head replying emphatically "That's more than extremely unlikely! I don't enjoy the attention I get already, and dread to think what that would bring!" he paused a moment before continuing "There is one thing as you seem to know Billy well, that I'd like to ask you!" This bringing an immediate response from Daniel of "He gets very annoyed if you ask him his age if that's what you're going to ask !" Watson shook his head "It wasn't that, you humans always appear very sensitive in that area". No it was, and I believe I've already guessed the answer!" then with a smug expression continued "Just why, did he name him Nelson?" Daniel stopped abruptly and looking hard at Watson said "I'm assuming Nelson's had enough inSIGHT, to avoid this conversation up until now. And probably with enough forSIGHT, combined with now hindSIGHT, will do so in future." Then after a brief smile said "Well I'll give you a clue, it wasn't after a band leader! But as you"ve already guessed the answer, I"ll leave it at that!" This bringing a soft muted howl from Watson, confirming, finding himself undeniably trumped!

But still, without any definite confirmation as to why Billy called him Nelson, wishing had at least been given a sensible clue?" Daniel meanwhile as they continued their journey home, having felt outsmarted his companion, took on his own "smug" look, while being quiet surprised at Watson's lack of knowledge of England's naval history!!

Arriving back at the house and retiring to bed earlier than usual. Daniel felt sure mother still engrossed in her programs, had the volume turned up even higher, possibly as a payback from that earlier altercation. But then remembering fondly what his father had to say about mother. "Life with her" he admitted "Was not always fun, but was never boring!"

Chapter 4

The next few days were spent discussing their future together that is of course should they have one, after Daniel surprisingly not continuing his insistence in discovering Watson's origin! This apparent loss of interest one could determine came about with their concerns over the fate of Spot. Which had entailed spending the majority of their time, in searching the park for any clue to his disappearance? Alternately, it is remotely possible another reason quite simply could be a fear of Daniel's of what that temporary shelved investigation might reveal something he might feel totally unprepared for!

Daniel meanwhile, now feeling positively more of the Sherlock Holmes emerging in his ambitious search for Spot, had even risked a further inquiry about the animal with the local police station. Only to be informed by a new voice at the end of the phone that a file attached relating to Daniels previous calls, suggesting on further calls be given a final warning pending arrest as a public nuisance. Daniel without comment hastily put the phone down!

As with a number of people in a stressful situation, Daniel decided that to lower that stress, might be helped with a complete change of venue. And that change in his case he decided as already suggested, could be accomplished with a visit to his tailor, the celebrated Winston McFarlane. Who knows! Perhaps a brighter change to his wardrobe he thought, might also even contribute to more optimism in him understanding better his mother. If only temporary!

Winston was the only person known to him that was keen on parrots. With the exception of course his mother, with the smaller variety! It was one of a number of tropical birds his tailor maintained that reminded him of his childhood growing up in the West Indies. And to prove his point, and certainly breaking with tradition, kept one as an attraction and company in his lavish London Mayfair showroom! This one described to Daniel later, as a "Yellow-Billed" multi coloured parrot, widespread in the West Indies. This added with a visit to his showroom, brought about combined with Winston's own colourful and agreeable nature, a feel good almost holiday atmosphere on first entering the premises. If nothing else that alone made parting with sizable amount's of money for his services rendered, a great deal more acceptable.

It was on the following day, after a phone call confirming with an appointment Winston would be there, and it would be okay to bring the dog, that both he and Watson set out!

On the journey Watson, had assumed as a special treat, now being allowed to sit on the front passenger seat. However, the practical reason to his somewhat upgrade was undoubtedly this! Driving to Winston's distant showroom entailed heavy traffic, which translated into more eyes needed on the road, requiring less reference to the rear mirror, insuring less chance of collision!

Watson meanwhile as now a seasoned passenger in the car, and being possibly aware of the reason anyway, and now seated comfortably on that front seat had, for whatever the reason never felt happier!

Parking had always been a problem in the heart of London, but now it had grown even worse. Traffic wardens hovered like vultures, reminiscent of waiting as comparable to a sick animal dying; with the added parking cost now involved only comfortably born by the rich! Eventually in finding a space, and placing in the meter the equivalent of a poor mans days wages, they made their way to Winston's showroom.

As they entered, although still with a customer, Winston acknowledged them with a smile, then, on raising his eyebrows further, another smile in the direction of the dog. Fortunately the regular customer present, having grown used to expecting the unexpected in Winston's showroom, smiled at the dog as well.

Winston was a large coloured man with a huge smile and impressive aura about him, increased even more so by a significant diamond earring imbedded in the lobe of his right ear. In appearance he could of at any previous time in history taken as a very fashionable pirate. While today, as an alternative to his already proven success in tailoring, a successful pop artist's manager!

He was dressed this morning in an elegant light blue worsted flannel three piece suit, with the jacket on this occasion left casually open. While displayed across the waistcoat now visible beneath, a fine gold watch chain attached to a fob at one end, with an antique half hunter watch pocketed at the other. And to complete the ensemble a white carnation attached through a flower hole on the lapel of the jacket.

On his customer leaving, Winston, being another demonstrative person, showing common ground with their mutual friend the horologist Maurice, greeted Daniel with a big hug, but in his case not followed by a kiss. This one should point out, and allowing without the kiss, still a rarity as a greeting in the world of superior bespoke tailoring.

"Your looking great my dear fellow, and how's mother" was Winston's additional welcome, then quickly followed by with a sympathetic smile "Although you do look a little stressed! And yes, before you ask, Maurice did phone me!" Daniel looked embarrassed at this; feeling back as a child, when similar instructions would be given by mother to the barber. With that image fading Daniel answered.

"Mothers well thank you, but I'm not sure" he began awkwardly, "What Maurice actually conveyed to you as to the extent that I needed more colour!""He then hesitated, worried now in giving licence to Winston to determine perhaps, a little too much colour! So, he then continued".. "Bearing in mind that if you reduced it by 95% that would probably fit my need." This, with Winston in recognising Daniels fear, burst out laughing, with Daniel joining in with a smile.

And with that settled, Winston then turned to the dog, who had sat again mystified by the complexity in human relationship. Now addressing the dog, Winston began as dog lovers do, by offering a hand for a paw to shake! Adding, "On understanding your name is Watson, may I introduce myself and my friend over there, Oskar the parrot!" Watson though refraining but always tempted with a verbal reply settled in this instant at just raising his paw in acceptance. This followed then by a quick glance at a large colourful parrot, now rocking gently on the bar of his stand, returning a fixed stare equal Watson believed to his own! And then, gratified on what he had witnessed so far, happily accepting Winston as definitely a friend of animals, and with birds it seemed in particular.

As Winston began discussing with Daniel what exactly he had in mind in the way of colour and material, Watson moved across to a corner alcove, where Oskar, still rocking, resided! Both dog and parrot then sat staring at one another, almost like a contest in who would blink first. In a low voice out of Winston's earshot, Watson at first tried verbally to communicate. After all he reasoned they've already proven they can talk! His effort rewarded from the parrot, with just a puzzled stare! Well, thought Watson undeterred, perhaps if I attempt to write it down, that might work! Although writing had proved difficult in holding a pen, and then relieved of the problem on reconsidering if that worked, parrots now would be reading newspapers! The parrot by now having seen dogs before, decided had seen enough of this one, and returned his attention once more to savour his bowl of nuts!

As Watson meandered back to Daniel, with Winston unfurling lengths of cloth for Daniels consideration, Oskar began calling. "Watson, come back! Watson come back! Watson turned briefly to look at the parrot, remarking under his breath, "So, you're not so dumb after all!" Then continued to Daniels side, curious to see just how colourful he would settle for! His interest it seemed well received, with a surprising wink from Daniel!

With a selection of material and style settled for, and a brief check by Winston on any change to Daniels waistline against previously recorded measurements, the conversation turned to clocks. It came of somewhat a surprise, with a suggestion from Winston in seeking Daniels help in selecting a clock for his showroom. Before he could ask, Winston answered the question.

"I would naturally buy it from Maurice, with his expertise in the business and our close relationship indisputable, but his personal choice for the room in question, might be"..! He hesitated for a moment "Not flamboyant enough for what I had in mind!" then apologetically continued. "And I know on my own, I might just be persuaded otherwise". Daniel smiled reassuringly, but curious now in just how flamboyant he had in mind, before offering "No need to say more, I'm happy to help, and if you like, join you in arguing whatever your choice is against our friend!"

With that approval Winston grabbing Daniels hand shook it heartedly with a huge grin before saying "I believe that warrants some additional fine stitching to the suit just ordered!" Daniel matching the grin said "An acceptable gift my friend, especially as winning a battle with Maurice is no easy task!"

As it turned out later, it was the choice of a rich Japanned case that Winston had in mind, a not particularly popular style with the very conservative Maurice, but something that would undoubtedly go both well with Winston's image, and certainly his parrot!!

With an offer of coffee declined, Daniel anxious to beat the traffic home, and on acceptance of another vigorous handshake and an unavoidable although brief pat for Watson, they left the showroom. But only after gaining Winston's promise not to phone Maurice, as he undoubtedly would have requested, so Daniel could then surprise him with his now satisfied slightly flamboyant choice of material. On about to reach the outside of the premises Oskar, his interest in the dog revived, could just be heard again with a cry of "Watson, come back! Watson come back!" This answered with a dismissive howl from the dog!

On arriving back at the car, with two traffic wardens circling, Daniel happily found had beaten an expensive overdue penalty by three minutes. The disappointed look on the traffic wardens faces said it all!

With busy traffic on driving home Daniel certainly appeared more relaxed, intermingling, his conversation with both the need to continue THE important conversation between them, and just as important, and the still unknown fate of Spot? Then surprisingly suggesting as a complete surprise to Watson and in breaking a strict rule, having him now risk a call to the police! Watson, with no hesitation flattered at the opportunity, readily agreed!

The call to the police station went better than expected, with Watson perfecting an acceptable now "New York" accent. Introducing himself as Julius "Rip" Rockenburger, patron of the "God bless endangered canine breeds of the World society". This a privately funded philanthropic organisation he explained, recently established in America, but as yet unknown in England.

"Julius" then went on to explain, the reason for his call, on having been brought to his attention by one of his staff, an article recently published in "Mr Postman". A monthly magazine popular, with both working and in particular retired postman throughout the U.K! The articles he continued, he found very interesting, covering a variety of issues, from miles walked over a year, and the consequences to health because of them. They included damaged and worn joints, dog bites, and in some cases other animal attacks, including those of a pack of wild geese, a wallaby and a goat. One hazard, high on the list surprisingly was divorce rates; encouraged it was reasoned, by inescapable contact with both male and female customers with recorded delivery mail.

Throughout reading "Mr Postman" he continued, discovering this an interesting insight into British culture, but the article then that seriously grabbed his attention, was that of the disappearance of one of our own rare American breeds, "A Catahoula Leopard Dog". He had hoped therefore in speaking for all contributors to his worthy charity, could count now on as this being an animal loving country, the police in helping find this lost and extremely rare canine.

This seemingly had the fortunately friendly accommodating voice at the other end, impressed by both the splendid title of the organisation, coupled with the aristocratic New York patron's name. Added to this, the dangled "carrot", in the suggestion should the officer supply his name, would be given a mention in their soon to be published quarterly journal.

The offer to be part of an exclusive body for an ageing desk Sergeant, whose name now given as Albert Bridgestone with, an unlikely future now of achieving fame through any spectacular arrest, was too much to resist. And the trap was sprung! With the officer now suggesting, mounting detailed patrols of their own in the local park plus, using their informers or "Narks" as there generally known, in the murky underworld of the "doggies" stolen trade.

After thanking him profusely, Watson used as a contact number Daniels mobile phone, as yet fortunately not given to the police on previous encounters! To complete his impressive image, he suggested would contact them later that week, after returning from his round Briton tour of rescue homes for abandoned dogs, to offer when eligible, funds to carry on their good work. An added unforeseen bonus for Watson in this was the pleasant experience of being called "Sir" over the phone.

To celebrate this apparent victory, Daniel offered to make a pot of tea. This suggestion bringing an approved "howl" from this now highly, at least by Daniel, acclaimed philanthropic canine.

Albert Bridgestone now 64 had joined the police force at 18, and finally after graduating over the years to become a sergeant ending at the desk he occupied now.

His appearance apart from substantial hair loss, combined with a slightly increased waistline, was that of a younger man. This he attributed too a healthy diet, a happy marriage and a comfortable amount of exercise.

His previous years had been after leaving school at 16, exploring numerous occupations connected with the legal profession. His gaol at that time to become a solicitor! Although disappointed then, in finding limitations in that area of employment unless, and he hadn't, left school with a substantial number of A levels. So, his employment within the law eventually came from another direction. When, after joining the police force discovering unquestionably at last, found his true vocation. He now wanted desperately to become a plain clothes detective! For reasons never fully explained to him, his attempt at this after sitting a number of exams with numerous interviews, finished with a denial. So in overcoming that disappointment, worked in uniform, plodding a beat for a number of years, before ending up in administration, which unexpectedly finding himself good at, he grew to enjoy! And now close to retirement, but with a future advent in law preventing it compulsory, would give him at least a few extra years, working in an occupation that he loved.

His reluctance to give up police work came first on the death of his wife, after her good companionship over the previous 40 years. And unfortunately in having no children for comfort, found it difficult to live with the loneliness that came with it. With few recreational pursuits, the exception being gardening and walking his dog "Pierre", with that walking now recently extended over considerable distances. As with his social life, that comfortably sustained solely with other members of the police force. The social role of the policeman in almost any community is often regarded with slight suspicion by others in general. As we all apparently, although ridiculous how much it may seem, suggest having something bordering illegal to hide. So as a policeman, it felt more comfortable to be surrounded by people whose experiences, particularly at work or socially, having been the same as your own.

His industrious pursuit of Spot however, although unquestionably seduced to some extent with the introduction of being part of that interesting world surrounding the animal, he did feel although late, perhaps the last opportunity of proving his prowess as a detective. This quest was undoubtedly helped greatly again with Albert being without question a fervent dog lover.

This was fortunately a love shared with his late wife! With their personal choice of breed being as you might already have guessed from Pierre, a Standard Poodle. Unaware of by most people, as the major working breed of the French police! In fact, his introduction and respect for the breed came with an "Entount Cordial" brief exchange of personnel, during his early days as a policeman. So his dedication in finding Spot was both from the heart, and the proven hopefully successful detective work now about to go with it!

Approximately a week later, with still no confirmation from their end in tracing the elusive Spot, Watson alias Julius, phoned the station asking to speak to a Sergeant Albert Bridgstone.

The reply, that included again another heart warming "Sir", was told that the officer in question, in collaboration with the local branch of the R.S.P.C.A, was out with a number of other officers in pursuit amongst others, of an American canine recently added in this country, to the British endangered species list! When "Julius" questioned as to whether they were having any success, the officer replied sadly that up until now, none!!!

Watson, delighted at their effort, although disappointed at "none", confirmed the officer's name now as a Bruce O'Brian. He then asked Officer O"Brian, if he would be good enough to pass on to Sergeant Albert Bridgestone from Julius Rip.Rockenburger, his appreciation for the admirable effort now being made by himself, and others taking part in finding the animal. Including he then added, the "narks", irrespective of their age, gender or time served, in helping find this rare canine. He was also sure on hearing his name now recognised by Officer O"Brian, detected, the distinct sound of the man coming to attention!

Watson, after again thanking him, was elated with the officers parting gesture of "I will at that sir, no worries. But rest assured, we will catch in time both the dog and culprit responsible for his theft!" The officer with his terminology and slight nasal twang was Watson decided probably Australian, added to just a trace of his distant forefathers Irish dialect.

It was later that same evening they decided to walk to the park themselves and look for Spot. But on arriving found the place in turmoil, and with so many people being arrested for all sorts of reasons, they quickly left! It appeared there were skirmishes everywhere, producing not only with others, but their own share of police injuries. These were the result of ambivalent arrest"s made for amongst others! Refusal to pick up deposit's after their dog irrespective of size, gender or age,.. Of the dogs I mean! Flying a kite with rude words on it! And lastly, embarrassingly, and certainly not an isolated case! Of two very aged lady pensioners, battering one another with handbags over a remaining seat, on a park bench between two very frightened old men! In attempting to restrain the two ladies in question, three policemen were lightly injured, with one seriously!

The experience that evening convinced him that it would be probably prudent to avoid their search in the park for a while. Believing now likely absent of any form of life, as with the police now encased in riot gear, and feeling outnumbered increasing their numbers, while their intensive search for Spot continued!

It was also about that time Daniel received a reminder for his yearly health check at the local health centre, which included unfortunately, an expected re examination of his prostate!! This examination as most men would tell you, found somewhat embarrassing, whilst reviving for Daniel in particular, unpleasant memories of last years visit.

On that previous visit, arriving at the waiting room and finding a seat, he was greeted by a senior but rather young and told later, recently recruited Canadian matron. Who, after quickly placing herself in the seat next to him, began ticking from a list his listed ailments, whilst checking whether necessary to add any further since his last visit? After considering for a moment, Daniel answered as to the additional "Only a few aches and pains" but then added with a half smile, "But I suppose you can expect that as you grow older!" On hearing this matron's face tightened, and with eyebrows raised she proclaimed "We never use that word here!"". "What word" Daniel asked hesitantly. She paused, and then replied emphasising "Old! We never say old". Daniel, looking a little confused then asked cautiously with "Then,.. What do you say?" Smiling now she answered in a rather reassuring way "Mature! We say as you grow more mature!" Daniel shaking his head, and looking a little perplexed then offered. "I don't know about you matron, but I stopped maturing years ago, but it hasn't stopped me growing older!"" She glared back at him, and then with a deep sigh and looking extremely agitated, raised herself from her seat, moving quickly across the room to a worried looking gentleman opposite. Who, by the look on his face, was also waiting possibly amongst others, for a prostate examination?

If that had been the end of his problems that day, he would on consideration have felt lucky. But it wasn't!

A short time later, with the said matron although passing him a few times avoiding any eye contact or acknowledgment of him even being there, he was eventually by a different nurse, ushered into the examination room. The doctor, after quickly shaking his hand with a greeting of "Good afternoon Mr Lovelock" quickly followed by a request on reflection, that every normal man would dread. That of "Would you mind Mr Lovelock, if two of our student nurses in training were present at your examination?" This catching Daniel totally off guard, and while feeling reluctant at stopping any helpful advance in their chosen profession, was coupled then with the expression of the doctor he interoperated as, "After all, you are a mature adult, and that's why I've asked you" With this winning combination he felt no option but to say yes!!

With the examination over producing a healthy result, and the feeling of embarrassment subsiding, it still worried him however as he had journeyed home the possibility on a later occasion, of bumping into either of them in perhaps the local supermarket or park. Then momentarily, shuddering at the thought!!

Returning now to the present, this time pleased to find a new "more mature" matron posing him with same questions with Daniel giving the same answers as before, with no correction to his answering "Older"! And with the questionnaire over, he did inquire in as polite a way as possible the previous matrons whereabouts. To be told, she had been part of an exchange program, and since returned to Canada. On hearing this Daniel hopefully, without showing positively relieved at this, did suggest she was very efficient in the way she carried out her duties. There was no reply from the matron, just a knowing look in his direction! The examination on this occasion thankfully went without an audience, again with a good result.

It was later that week he received a phone call from Maurice that the clock was ready for delivery. Daniel suggested with no appointments of his own that week, that whenever it suited him! On that reply Maurice suggested delivering the following day!

With that short notice, Daniel thoughts returned to the now imminent introduction of Watson to Maurice who he felt confident with, but more worryingly with his new partner Bernard, who he"d not met before. He quickly entered into a discussion with Watson as to the prospect of this. Watson assured him positive after his previous experience with, as he pointed out a number of Daniels friends, this would hopefully he guaranteed, go without a hitch! Daniel now thankfully relieved except for the "hopefully" bit, felt now able to leave out his intended lecture on what he feared as a possibly alternative outcome!

The following morning Maurice arrived as was forecast, accompanied with his partner Bernard. A nice chap, who could have been other than being much taller, taken for his twin,! It was then suggested by Daniel that before entering the house they meet the dog! Watson's appearance greeted enthusiastically by Maurice did unfortunately, not get the same reaction from Bernard!

Who, then went on to explain, his problem was that he had been bitten by although larger, a dog when he was younger, although without mentioning reference to his then age! But the mere thought he continued, of being bitten by one although small, was enough on his insistence and agreed by all, for Watson to then be secured in a separate room.

With the clock until a place could be found moved temporarily into the hallway, Daniel discovered an added bonus in buying this particular clock. As on closer examination of the dial, revealed a strike/silent lever, which when operated would allow the strike to be turned off.

So, on explaining this to mother, now showing surprisingly great interest particularly in this feature, was shocked followed with her then offer to have it in her room! Taken back more than a little, Daniel determined it just reinforced another observation his father had fervently emphasised, "That nothing, absolutely nothing, is predictable with your mother!" Nothing new there, thought Daniel generally too his cost!

This delivery had meanwhile, proved less beneficial for Maurice when Daniel suggested with the growing problem of space, or rather lack of it, this would probably be his last purchase. Never without a solution for buying a clock, Maurice's quick response suggesting "It was then time you bought a bigger house!"

Dismissing this with a grin, with at least with mother's offer certainly solving the problem with this clock, although not so the problem with Bernard! Who since being assured the dog was safely secured, still showed unease constantly looking regularly behind him, in anticipation that Watson might appear!

Watson meanwhile, secure in the living room with the door firmly closed, was happily contented watching a rerun of one of the semi finals of mastermind. And positive with Bernard's fear of dogs, and Maurice protective of him in this matter, neither likely to enter the room without prior knocking!

With the clock now finding a home and up and running, mother suggested or rather insisted, on a final pot of tea. A little later Maurice, after enjoying a second cup, did insist when about to leave, on entering the room to say goodbye to Watson, while apologising for his partner's fear of dogs, or has he described, probably animals in general. Watson appreciated this, more especially as this goodbye not accompanied on this occasion by either a head pat or ruffle! Moments later as they walked towards their van with Bernard still looking nervously behind him, unconvinced the dog wouldn't suddenly appear, Watson, observing through the curtains from the living room, wondered if Bernard had the same fear of "Parrots" as well!

That night at midnight Daniel, still half awake, his thoughts engaged with the day's delivery, and now a little more than disappointed that Maurice had not raised any questions at all on his trip to their tailors. Thus preventing him from enjoying describing in detail his choice of material to his friend, when suddenly, his thoughts abruptly interrupted; with the new clock situated in mother's room next to his, he felt positive having struck thirteen? His immediate assumption was that mother not being able to manage working the strike/silent lever correctly. Nevertheless, it still shouldn't have been striking thirteen anyway!!

The next day at midday with mother's hesitant permission, although none the worse for ware having she insisted slept soundly through the night; he stood by the clock to see if it happened again. It didn't! Striking the full twelve just as it should do! His mother meanwhile having become irritable on her now felt his encroachment into her room, suggested, before receiving further instructions on as she put it "the bloody strike/silent lever" that she pop downstairs and make a calming pot of herb tea, kept only she insisted for emergencies.

With mother out of the room, Daniel then addressed the clock! "So Mr Martwick" he began "Was the extra strike last night just to let us know you've arrived?" And uncertain whether to expect a response that didn't happen, smiling, left the room. As he was about to close the door, the clock struck just the once again! "I'm sure I didn't hear that" he said to himself still smiling as he proceeded downstairs.

"But Maurice did warn me!" He later volunteered after explaining what happened to Watson. "Well!" Watson began "I'm beginning to believe your life from now on, guaranteed full of surprises!" his comment ending with a dog chuckle, in the form of a howl of course! Daniels response unsure in appreciating this was to say nothing as he turned on the television.

Throughout the following days and nights, there were no further surprises with the clock, with mother now competent in operating the strike/silent lever. Except for noticeably mother, accompanied by Watson, spending more time together in her room since it appeared, the clock had been placed there! Daniel on inquiring about this was told that both were just curious as to the ghost story that supposedly went with it. What he didn't know would be revealed, as with other revelations when Watson felt Daniel was positively ready! But that particular day, was still some way off!!

After a week of very little happening worth mentioning, Daniel received a call from April, that should it be convenient, she with Boadicea now anxious to meet the dog, would call round after church around midday on Sunday. On hearing this from what he judged a slightly uncomfortable Daniel, Watson could not resist asking light heartedly if their chariot was installed with map quest, followed predictably with a small "chuckle" howl!

With Daniel surprisingly unresponsive to his joke not even a smile, Watson asked if there was a problem with the visit.

"Its not that I dislike her partner, but she is rather overpowering!" he explained almost apologetically. Watson having grown fond of April, but only spoken to Boadicea briefly on the phone, could only imagine that this could be a good match. After all his personal experience revealing that April's not exactly on the quiet side herself! Then feeling Daniel would expect some response to his opinion said "I'm sure you'll understand having not met her personally before, I shall withhold my opinion until then!" That seemed to satisfy his friend, replying with an accepting nod.

It was precisely, perhaps because it was Sunday and just after church or, April's insistence on punctuality that the two arrived on the stroke of twelve. Watson was immediately surprised with Boadicea, first at her statue, small and demure, coupled with being strikingly attractive. After the usual exchange of paw and hand, which Watson normally felt generally unavoidably degrading, was followed by a gentle acceptable ruffle. Which surprisingly he found quite nice! Now feeling relaxed at their meeting, his first thought which he would like to have expressed verbally was "It's very nice to meet you although you did sound taller on the phone" This being one of his misconstrued whimsical expressions which he had always felt somehow a complimentary backhander for shorter people, but thankfully at this time, not able to impart this to Boadicea. So, unable to convey his admiration or mercifully humour verbally to her, he settled for an affectionate howl!

The howl, catching Boadicea by surprise also brought about a delightful smile, which Watson felt at that moment lit up the room! Was it possible he felt, that I'm feeling more than a strong attraction to this most attractive of women! It was then that she spoke!

"You are undoubtedly" she began quietly, smiling, bending forward staring directly into Watson's now totally captured face, with words he felt solely for him alone, as she continued "The most attractive intelligent canine I've ever met!" and then continued after an added very acceptable soft ruffle "And I have loved and known many canines in the past!" Watson was besotted! Vowing that if he had been born human, she would have been and undoubtedly still is! "The most attractive bitch in human form I have ever met!!"

The conversations following resulted in a now most agreeable Daniel, possibly because of her kind response to Watson, while coupled with learning and impressed that her parents ran an animal rescue centre which she Boadicea helped maintain!

The conversation continued on this disclosure for some time, with an eventual surprisingly benevolent gesture from Daniel, that should there be problems with their accounts or accountant, he would happily donate his services free!

That generous offer combined with his change of opinion of Boadicea, cemented a relationship that to everybody's joy, became permanent.

Later that evening now comfortably in bed, enjoying those thoughts of her company earlier that day, Watson gave thought to either why or how, Daniel had come to describe Boadicea earlier as overpowering!

He did wonder and hopefully proved wrong, in perhaps feeling that Daniel disappointed even angry having great affection for his daughter, had resulted in her choice of a female, rather than male partner! Which by definition would have probably guaranteed other grandchildren? This was hard to contemplate considering his great antipathy towards prejudice in any form! Well at least now he felt even if true of the past, Daniel appeared after events that day to have changed his mind completely about her choice. Again reaffirming Watson's opinion of Daniel being a good person, and a good choice on his part in understanding the nicer side of the human race in general! There was an additional amusing moment after the visitors had left, when Elsie, constantly supplying pots of tea throughout their visit, adding to her approval of Boadicea with "Very nice girl that, but I'm surprised she hasn't found a nice young man by now!" This brought a broad smile without comment, from both Daniel and Watson. It was on retiring to bed with that picture in mind, Watson still smiling dropped of to sleep.

On the following morning, Daniel received a phone call from Graham, the first since his altercation with Watson. With an apologetic start on not being available he emphasised since events surrounding that last visit, and in divulging just how much he missed Daniels good Company, followed then predictably whether the dog was still with him! On being told he was, quickly followed expressed by Daniel, on how much more agreeable a dog he had become. This bringing about a positive silence from the other end! Its continuation then prompted Daniel to inquire if he was still there? After a sound of a throat clearing, Graham's voice returned. "Err, he began "Well I cannot in all honesty say I'm glad to hear it, but I would very much like old chap, to enjoy just your company alone at say another location, perhaps the "Hoden!"

Daniel, feeling now somewhat sorry for his friend and smiling at his suggestion, proposed a meeting on the following Wednesday evening around eight, without of course Watson.

In describing later to Watson the outcome of that call and consequences of it, he was not surprised with Watson's comment of "Bit of a sad case that one!" before returning to today's newspaper.

That following Wednesday evening, found Daniel after a warm welcome from Billy, now patiently seated at a table within sight of the entrance door, with still no sight as yet of Graham.

He was in the throes of checking his watch once again now at eight thirty, when a voice from somebody now standing next to him said. "Hello Daniel, hear you've got yourself a dog!" He looked up to find a newly acquired friend, Terry Wilson, who ran a health spa including gymnasium situated close by, one he recently joined after the death of Grace. With his intention hopefully in practising Yoga incorporating both exercise and as important meditation, in a healthy pursuit of matching the longevity enjoyed by his father. After greeting Terry with a handshake he questioned "Don't see you in here very often?" His visitor smiled "I suppose that would depend how often either of us came in here!" his reply with both now laughing, continuing "In having noticed your absence at the spa over the past couple of weeks, is everything all right? Or are you getting your exercise now just with the dog!" He looked around the table even under it "So where is this animal Billy told me about that's usually with you!" Daniel nodded "He generally is, but I'm waiting for an old friend who's not too keen on his company, and that I'll explain in more detail another time." with that quick apology given, as recognising Graham appearing through the front door.

"Sorry I'm late old chap!" Graham's shouted excuse arriving ahead of him. "Car broke down again!" he added looking first at Daniel and then Terry, anticipating now an introduction. With that accomplished, Terry excused himself with "Must go, have some people to get fit, but expect and would be disappointed in not seeing you soon" and to emphasis his point, adding a light finger jab to Daniels chest followed by "Next week I mean, I'm quite sure we can offer you something of benefit beyond walking the dog! " Daniel grabbing his hand to shake replying enthusiastically "And I promise I'll be there!" Then, with a "nice to have met you" to Graham, Terry quickly left.

As Graham sat down Daniel suggested "I'll get you a drink, looks like you need one!" "Thank you old chap, I think I do!" the appreciative reply. When Daniel returned drink in hand to the table, there was a particularly sad expression on his friends face. As Daniel sat down he looked questioningly at his visitor before suggesting "This car breaking down seems to happen to you quite a lot Graham" while regretting later, adding sarcastically "So you walked here?" His friend appeared awkward for a moment, and after recovering his composure answered smiling uncomfortably "No, I did manage eventually to get it started again". "Well, that was lucky!" Daniels reply.

With a history of friendship covering a number of years, and his friend's positive known fear of telling the truth, Daniel, left it at that. But sadly aware that Graham with few friends, being frequently uncovered in fabricating almost every story told and sadly, rarely listened too or believed. It had always been hard to understand why he persisted in doing this, and the only conclusion Daniel could come to, was in his desperation to insure a successful image that would suit the occasion, while unaware in every case failing miserably! One should add in his favour, he had a kind heart, and for the best part his lies or colouring were usually innocent, and rarely harmful to others.

"So", Daniel began. "Other than avoiding small "royal" dogs, what else is happening in your life?" Graham smiled at this, painfully aware that Daniel probably new him better than he did himself. The sad expression returned on his face as he began. "I've been demoted in the Territorial's and not sure now whether to remain with them!" And with that, hands clasped firmly in front of him, staring first from side to side, then at the floor. Anywhere in fact that would exclude him from seeing a possible "I'm not at all surprised expression" on Daniels face. One Daniel worked hard not too show.

In fact as on previous occasions with his frequent setbacks, Daniel always, without exception, felt sorry for him. He lent forward and placing his hand on Graham's arm said sympathetically "So what happened this time?"

Pleased at his friend's unquestionable sincerity, his expression lightened and with a relieved sigh he began.

"It was in this case not entirely my fault!" This for Graham a familiar opening! "But as I was in command of the unit the unfortunate outcome fell naturally on my shoulders." he paused for a moment clearing his throat. "I am still not sure however, that the mistake in misinterpreting that call taken by Private Ramsbottom was possibly, dare I say it, deliberate!" Again more throat clearing before continuing. "He's from the north you know Ramsbottom! And I believe I had previously detected through our question time period, prejudice towards anyone with a private school education" His voice became louder and more determined now when he added "I even possibly considered him being an infiltrated anarchist!!

Daniel at this time was already having problems in taking this seriously, smothering a smile as best he could. But in understanding hopefully not unkindly, that with the best probably still to come, bade him continue.

"The phone call" he began, noticeably finding the next part embarrassing. "Was in determining the location of the up and coming intense training manoeuvres in one week's time, which I understand were fun generally!" With an awkward smile from Graham, Daniel sensed there was a clue here somewhere!

But before continuing, Graham's expression changed to positive signs of despair!

"The message taken and passed onto myself by Ramsbottom was!" as breathing a heavy sigh before continuing" "That these manoeuvres would take place at BroadMOOR, instead of" " He paused again for a moment, a vacant stare reliving that dreadful error before continuing "DartMOOR, as where it was to be!" "It was then, unable to control the absurdity of the situation any longer, Daniel excusing himself on an urgent call from nature made for the men's room, leaving Gerald continuing with the stare, hardly aware of his departure! On reaching that sanctuary, Daniel burst out in uncontrollable loud laughter. Quite possibly heard throughout both bars in the pub! On returning to their table then relieved with no mention by Graham as told by Billy later, of the temporary silence throughout the pub following that outburst!

On seating himself once again, his laughter with difficulty now under control, assuming although feeling somewhat guilty, in hoping in all honesty the story didn't end there, with suggesting now again that Graham continue. After another deep sigh on returning to the story Graham said in his defence. "I did follow up to confirm the phone call with H.Q, and was told to get the train where all would meet at the nearest railway station to the MOOR. And was about to inquire the name of that station, when told very abruptly, "Good God man, it's almost become an institution, the same as before with previous manoeuvres!" Just be there!" The tone in itself was enough without further inquiry, to put the phone down! This then he confessed showing hard to admit, made his biggest mistake EVER! Daniel struggling as to why the biggest, when he continued embarrassingly" "I did not want to reveal that I had not personally, been on any previous manoeuvres!" Then looking perplexed added "Although that word "INSTITUTION" didn't help!"" With this statement he sat straight up as though in a military court being tried for desertion. Then continued, adopting the same pose with "I confess my ego in this case, having got the better of me!" This confession certainly surprised the listener, having not heard from Graham anything remotely close to it before. This he construed a positive hopeful change in the man!

Daniel suggested before he continues and determined with little encouragement he would, that he refill their glasses. Graham although looking thoroughly dejected, attempted a smile whilst nodding approvingly.

After a short silence, only interrupted with the noise created in part downing glasses of beer, Graham continued his tale. After setting out on their journey, with a delay on the train due to a point's failure, they arrived at the nearest railway station. The whole company looking splendid in full battle dress to include rifles and bayonets. He was surprised however, to find no other units present! And assuming arriving late had missed them, so without delay, had them march in quick order to the main gates of the BroadMOOR institution. Where again, surprised at finding no others present, nevertheless lined the men up outside the main gate in strict parade ground fashion!

It was after a short while, still totally on their own, they became noticeable to a member of the security staff on the other side of the gates. Who then chose to immediately believe was witness to an unfolding dire situation that as yet not informed of, in assuming that Graham and his armed squad had been summoned from a higher security level from inside the home. It was then as procedure, that gate security person, sounded the full alarm! This consisted of a howling air raid siren, plus the ringing of loud bells automatically alerting the nearest police station! Meanwhile the governor until now innocent of events, on looking out his window, seeing a fully armed uniformed people of mixed race assembled outside his main gate, now accompanied with the siren and bells, believed in differing from the security guard, that he was being attacked by terrorist"s, in an attempt to rescue he assumed, one or a number of his many foreign speaking patients! After quickly making a call to the police who assured him already having received the alarm call and certainly taking it seriously, had since called on their not to great in numbers, armed anti terrorist squad.

This police unit was commanded by a sergeant Max Feingold, who regularly stated should the opportunity arise with terrorist, would, he made abundantly clear "Love to have a go at the bastards!" That opportunity he dreamed of it appeared was now here!

Meanwhile both Graham and his men, and in particular Ramsbottom, were getting restless, and in Graham"s case, considerably confused! And when two large police vans appeared one at each end of the road, quickly dispatching heavily armed police in protective clothing from each vehicle, which they then proceeded to crouch behind, and to make things worse sighting their weapons on Graham's squad, was when Graham's confusion changed to something bordering panic!!!

But one should say his squad, true to their training, did although more clumsily manage the same manoeuvre where they were, bang in the middle! Although in their case with no vehicles, they crouched uncomfortably behind one another! Gerald found then he now had to except, that something was positively seriously amiss!!

Max Feingold with a loud hailer, now demanded they then drop their weapons or else! Unsure of exactly what "or else was", or even what to do next, Graham described his final blunder! When, after calling for a volunteer to present their explanation to the police, Ramsbottom quickly stepped forward. With no other volunteer Graham mistakenly accepted his offer"..Ramsbottom, in understanding quite simply what he was told to say, chose deliberately neglecting revealing to Graham all he intended to say. He then with his own grubby off white handkerchief now drooping from his rifle approached the police! It was impossible to hear from that distance what he said exactly, but the result was peals of laughter from the police ranks.

Graham's previously dejected face now looking directly at Daniel's, was now complacent. In admitting that the outcome was now inevitable! And if he added, things couldn't have got worse they did. When under Feingold's order, Graham, was relieved of his command, with Ramsbottom temporarily made in charge of the unit! The journey home he emphasised seated alone in another carriage was without doubt he expressed tearfully, the most painful in his life!

It was not long after ending his sad story, unable to speak still forcing back the tears, followed by then a "limp" handshake, he left. With Daniel calling out kind-heartedly "do keep in touch". This reciprocated with now a "limp" hand wave as he disappeared through the tavern door. On making his way back to the bar deciding that something stronger than a beer was now called for, Billy, unintentionally a witness to the final throes of Graham's despair, did remark,

"A bit of a sad case that one!"" On Daniels reply of "Watson's sentiments exactly!" brought both a raised eyebrow and a curiously knowing look from his host. Not wanting especially this evening to get trapped in another possible awkward topic, Daniel, gulping down his ordered Scotch, ordered another. Billy, with a brief smile after refilling his glass, without further comment then moved on to serve another customer, but not before a knowing wink in Daniels direction!

Arriving back at the house Watson, disappointed at being excluded from a "Hoden" visit that evening, immediately enquired as with Daniel with literally one foot through the door "So how was Nelson this evening?"

"Well, he looked fine from a dischance!" Daniels incoherent alcohol induced reply, in referring to Nelsons penchant, his place on the mat in front of the inglenook fireplace! This followed with a sarcastic inebriated edge of! "As shou are aware, I shaven't as yet verbally communicated with Nelson, and hopefully snever will". "I thought now, you liked dogs!" was Watson's quick retort! Daniel, ignoring the question, moved into the living room to collapse into his favourite armchair, while pleased at seeing that Watson wasn't already in it. Then succumbing to the effects of those extra drinks, and that lengthy overall amusingly tragic tale as told by Graham, quickly dropped off to sleep!

He awoke with his mother smiling down on him, a large mug of tea in her hand. "Looks like you need this son?" she said affectionately, as with difficulty he attempted to smile back. Struggling he sat up, appearing surprised at first, and then at least pleased in finding himself in his favourite armchair. As mother handed him the mug she said excitedly "I've finally taught my Budgie Elvis another word this morning!" She announced, before disappearing back into the kitchen, then continuing loudly so he might hear. "The word was Watson!" Daniel still trying at this time to clear his head, did guess however slowly what was coming next. "I thought" she said. Still out of sight, raising her voice even more! "It might help engaging them in more conversation!" Daniel silent for a moment then said quietly "Oh dear" What a way, to start the day!" His head then clearing instantly, fearing the riming had returned!!! "Did you say something dear?" his mother again still in the kitchen. He hesitated, before replying as loud as his hangover would allow. "Err" Nothing of importance" hoping she would accept it at that. But just in case she didn't he continued "I think I'll go lay down for a while!" then before she could answer or appear, quickly made his way up to bed.

Just then Watson, newspaper in hand, entered the room as mother returned from the kitchen. As Watson slumped into Daniels now empty favourite armchair, Elsie said glancing around the room before back at Watson "He didn't look well to me, although has never been good at handling alcohol!" It was then Watson, lowering his newspaper said "That Elsie is what happens, when he goes to the pub without me!" Then with a sanctimonious look on his face, returned to reading his paper.

Chapter 5

Apart from his accent being American, there was something odd about George Custer Stewart from the day he moved in. Not necessarily something you would dislike, just something you immediately felt but couldn't put your finger on. His sudden appearance in next doors garden came about with Daniel subsequently finding out from him, unbeknown until then, the sale of the house. After the previous owners George had explained, left to seek a new life in Canada. But as neighbours Daniel recalled, they had always been distant anyway, keeping very much to themselves, as never accepting after numerous invitations to call in for either tea or coffee throughout the entire four years they'd lived there. And unfortunately in not having children or aware of keeping a dog or cat, rarely seen to speak too, either at the park or in their garden!

At first George was assumed because of his age, one of the parents. But as a result on introduction, discovered he wasn't, and they had moved, and to where!

The new owner was certainly something to look at, confirmed later at aged 80 in having a strong physical presents! With his weathered face sporting a thick drooping "salt and pepper" coloured moustache, added to his matching long hair to both back and sides surrounding a large bald crown on top, he epitomised later agreed by all the "Old Wild West!" Daniel later remarked with the large "Stetson" he also wore, both outside and often inside the house, bore a close resemblance to that legendary cowboy, "Wild Bill Hickok!"

And subsequently it was not long after moving in, to the delight of Watson that his dog arrived! The animal having been safely transported from their last home in the U.S! So, in many respects past and present owners had inadvertently with North America, swapped locations!

His choice of dog all agreed did not come as a surprise, associated with perhaps his age and his "Wild West appearance!" And subsequently later the dog revealed as an old and past neglected rescued Mastiff, one the shelter described as lucky to find a home.

Not surprising dog and owner did have something in common apart from both being old and American, in having lots of grey hair around the face, coupled with an impressive first impression!

The dog after George had already decided to adopt him was described by the shelter as being, which both turned out to be true, affectionate by nature with a natural guarding instinct, this totally matching his listed breed description. His personality as Daniel and family got to know him thoroughly supported this. And with no knowledge of his original name, George had affectionately called him "Hector", in lieu of his own past Scottish heritage.

Hector's size and build dictated that he needed lots of exercise, although fortunately less than earlier because of his age. The shelter had determined that, as being as old as ten! Fortunately where ever they had lived, space for both accommodation and exercise had been available. While George feeling now at his new location from what he had seen, having to settle for less in that department.

And it didn't take long following his arrival, for Watson to find the necessary big enough gap in the fence to engage him in conversation, initially fascinated with his strong American accent. This first meeting in taking an immediate liking to the newcomer, had Watson explaining his verbal relationship with Daniel and mother, and then after something a little more of himself.

Hector was both fascinated by news of this extraordinary unheard of verbal relationship with a human, while pleased to have found somebody already who'd taken him into his confidence as a friend. In having heard before leaving, that the British were rather more conservative in this!

Watson then continued in offering him further introduction to other canines in the area and particularly recent events, especially on the sad situation with Spot. Hector in having experience of being neglected and abandoned, sympathised immensely with Spots predicament, immediately offering to help in the search, and should he be found counselling in helping him hopefully towards a happier future.

It was not long after that introduction in the garden, that an invitation to drop in for tea or coffee was suggested, which in turn was gratefully accepted. It also made clear by Daniel the invitation included the dog.

This was well received by Watson, as a first canine visitor to the house.

If this afterwards remembered as an occasion, it was down to the odd welcome other than Watson's, by mother to the dog.

Her first comment on meeting the animal was "As lovely a nature he has, but if you don't mind me saying, not particularly a sensible size dog for a house!" This agreed with an engaging smile and acknowledged nod from George, followed by a disagreeable howl from Watson. Which immediately had her turn to Watson to say "That doesn't in size apply to you my dear, because anyway you're not just a dog are you!" Her comment causing now a look of concern on Daniels face, hoping her uncovering would end there, and thankfully it did! This also produced an enigmatic smile on George, enjoying although not necessary understanding both comments, but feeling now totally relaxed in the company of his new neighbours replied with reference to both dogs with. "Well for one, Hector's certainly unfamiliar with stairs, which could be a problem!" then laughing continued "And by the way, Watson positively looks just like a dog to me!" Mother's response was to look straight at him and, was it Daniels imagination, smile coyly! Then with that smile still intact, disappeared into the kitchen to make a pot of tea, and as she expected being an American, a coffee request from George!

During this convivial visit, George explained something of his life in America, which he offered to enlarge on later! While continuing, that his reason for moving to England rather than Scotland, was on being told the climate overall warmer, especially important at his age, after spending a lifetime mainly in Texas! So he saw quite simply the climate essential for survival with the possibility of perhaps added longevity! He then went on to explain, his principal idea of moving here being his first visit, was to trace his early recorded Scottish ancestry, with hopefully making contact with those present relatives alive today. With this explanation, Daniel was about to ask why not rent a house instead of buying, which after consideration not doing so, as George's visit suggested permanent! It was also possible with that question answered, revealing other much more personal reasons.

This cordial extended morning visit eventually came to a close, with a suggestion from all it should be the first of many. With an insistence from George, once he could get the hang of the ancient gas stove, or if not an electric replacement, would happily then have them over for supper.

After he left all agreed, especially mother, it was nice to have a sociable neighbour next door once again, and a very interesting one at that! It had also being arranged initially by the dogs, unbeknown to George and Daniel, that they all take a walk to the park early the following morning.

It was as expected with their new neighbours; would be an engaging walk to the park that morning, but being in close order initially, little chance on Watson's part to engage in conversation with his new friend. But that soon remedied on arriving in the park, in finding more distance now from the now welcomed extended leads. And in creating that space in no time at all, their conversation began.

"Did you have a local park near you in America?" Watson asked, with Hector on shaking his head answering "No, where we lived, with so much open ground; there was no need for one!" Also he continued, "And when we worked on a ranch, which was most of the time, George would be out all day rounding up cattle! And although I had access to the outside, I was quite content mostly because of my age, to stay in our quarters which were pretty spacious" Pausing briefly before continuing a little sadder now with "As I don't you see, like too much now of the sun!" then continued in a happier mode "And for company, there always seem to be a rancher's wife around that would make a great deal of fuss of me." Watson, smiling now at his new friend then said. "And I'm sure you deserved it!" and in a more exciting tone adding "And I think you'd be interested to hear, that Spot was born in Louisiana!" "Ah Spot, the one you mentioned earlier!" Hector's warm reply!

Watson then went on to explain Spot's full story from the beginning, including his own efforts as Julius with the police. Hector was laughing with spluttered howls long before he finished, especially after Watson subjected him to his "Julius" accent! This for a moment on Hector's reaction caused both Daniel and George to stop. With George, now smiling down at his tail wagging buddy, with the comment "That's wonderful to hear Hector; I haven't heard you howl like that for quite a while!" Hector's response answered with both tail, and as they walked on, a little more bounces in his step. The only thing that could have spoilt that pleasant walk that morning was the prospect although unlikely of meeting Hyacinth! Fortunately, that didn't happen.

As they arrived back at the house, Daniel was surprised to see mother hurrying down the path to greet them. This was certainly a first thought Daniel, with her reception caused undoubtedly by George being with them!

Anyway it was nice to see her so happy. And she became more so, when George remarked now smiling at her. "You look quite radiant today Elsie!" This taking both Daniel and Watson completely by surprise! "Why thank you kind sir!" came the reply, her coy smile returning. Now this is getting serious thought a smiling Daniel watching on. But already liking George made it perfectly acceptable!

Then remembering his father recalling when mother was young, how she turned many a head! And even now was considered by friends and most people that met her, as a strikingly good looking woman for her age! But that age was something nobody was prepared to confirm, either because of her forthright manner, or just anxious not to upset her. And thank goodness it was a subject that nobody took up with her son! His thoughts of the past then abruptly interrupted with mother now smiling coyly again, inviting or rather insisting that George came in for coffee, with Daniel only assuming that included him as well.

They did get on extremely well, so much so, both Daniel and more surprising Watson rarely left out of mother's attention, could have been ghosts in the room. Still, it was lovely see what only could be interpreted as a growing close relationship. And to help this along even further was when George revealed he liked tropical birds! Of the feathered type we all assumed!

The arrival of George had detracted somewhat, the ongoing saga with Spot.

But with a message left on Daniels cell phone to call a Sergeant Albert Bridgestone, revived all that.

It seems, on "Julius" returning the call, Albert had an encouraging lead made through one of the trustworthy "narks" that he felt worth following up. The information at present was that this particular "nark" who wanted to remain anonymous to anybody other than Albert, knew of three brothers of mixed parentage that were holding the dog, while planning to ask for a ransom on its safe return to the owner. The "nark" it seems, did add if requested, prepared to act as a courier or go between to achieve this. Sergeant Bridgestone thought this might be helpful as during the phone call from the "nark" who he felt obviously familiar with dogs, as could hear one barking frantically in the background. One aspect with the call of concern to Sergeant Bridgestone as he continued was when he asked of the amount demanded; his "nark" replied rather he thought impatiently, "How much is it worth?" Then quickly correcting himself with "Err, I mean, I better ask them!" and with the dog barking louder than ever in the background now shouting, added "I'll get back to you!" before quickly putting the phone down! When Julius inquired what exactly his concern was! Albert's answer was now with a serious edge in his tone. "I do fear" he began "That just for a moment, I think he was considering adding an extra amount on for himself!" On finishing, he seemed awaiting a reaction in Julius's reply. Which probably disappointingly was "Oh really, well not to worry, I"m sure he will get the price right in the end!" Then silence from the other end before "Thank you for your confidence sir, its nice to know were both on the same page!" came Bridgestone's somewhat appreciative reply.

Meanwhile Watson alias Julius, unsure of what exactly that meant, immediately ended the call.

A day later Albert, received a further phone call, with the dog still barking loudly in the background. This causing the "nark" shouting over the noise to quote "Fifty quid!" then in competition with the barking repeating again even louder this time "I said, fifty pounds!" Bridgestone annoyed at the intensity in his voice answered back just as loud "I heard you the bloody first time!" and then continued "I'll tell the owner, and ring me back tomorrow!" and then as an after thought shouted even louder " And this time, without that bloody dog barking!" The voice at the other end then apologising with a very quiet "Sorry, I'll do my best!" before ending the call!

Once calmer again, Albert phoned leaving a message for Julius of the amount demanded, assuring him that the police had no intention of asking him for the money! With Watson returning that call later that afternoon, Bridgestone, then outlined the plan of how he with fellow officers, would proceed in completing the rescue.

Once the time and location to exchange the dog was established he explained he would then hand over while chuckling at this, the marked currency! This being borrowed temporarily he more carefully explained, from collected funds from a drug bust case awaiting court appearance! Then, he assured his listener, on arresting the kidnappers with the marked currency, their guilt easily proven.

Watson as Julius, listening with admiration at the simplicity of the operation, thanked him profusely. Stating then that in this opinion, he measured up to any of the success's of Sherlock Holmes! And in his enthusiasm of the prospect of both the rescue and seeing Spot again added, as he later felt misguidedly from the dubious response he received, the words "God save the Queen!" Watson was positive then of hearing from the other end, both a chuckle, coupled with the loud sound of someone coming deliberately to attention! Had his ruse been discovered?? It was now questionable!!

A day later around midday or close to it, the time and place of exchange was established. With Albert confidently optimistic that the dog, with exchange of hopefully unrecognisable to the "nark" marked notes, would then be rescued.

On hearing this from Albert personally, Watson alias Julius was ecstatic!

And so was Daniel, Mother, Parson, April, Boadicea, Biff, Maurice, Roland, Winston, George and lastly Hector! And to a much lesser degree if at all! Leger, Graham, Hyacinth, Bernard, Oskar," Well, with Oskar being perhaps, Borderline! "

The site of the exchange agreed on as the car park of "New Scotland Yard" And the day, the following Wednesday as traditionally midweek, always seen as a quieter period for crime! With expected present, although unevenly numbered, four officers on one side guarding the money, and just the go between "nark", and hopefully the dog on the other! The exact time agreed making it simple again for all was midday or fairly close to it! And for the "nark" at least, dress and disguise agreed was optional, but strongly stipulated without a hood!!

The morning of the following Wednesday, with the weather forecast as mostly sunny, with the possibility of a brief shower, possibly during the afternoon, returning most probably again to sunshine later towards the end of the day" Although this not considered an unusual totally boring confusing weather forecast, was reason enough for the officers being told it was optional whether they take their issue capes or not. As always acceptable although not in this case, proving handy when having to conceal large weapons!

The following estimated quiet Wednesday unfortunately didn't materialise. This caused determined later, by the excessive number of arrests from the park, bringing relatives and friends turning up with or without bail money. The result of this was that the car park was full! In fact packed to capacity! They did however, with threats of even more arrests, managed to get cars moved from the few restricted "police only" bays, solving at least their parking problem.

On their arrival, the next problem came with the heavily disguised go between "nark", having trouble getting the now recognisable "Spot", off the back seat, and out of his cramped single door three wheeled "Reliant".

And even after continually showing affection to the "nark", with hand licking and tail wagging, while aggression to the officers, even following their tempted persuasion of biscuits and one of the officers cheese sandwiches, he still refused to budge. The desperation on the "narks" part was shown when he finally removed the false beard, nose and glasses. This unfortunately made no difference to the unmoved Spot, still sitting comfortably on the unassailable back seat of the car. With the dog already conditioned with his sensitive nose, in ignoring the previous disguise as in recognising easily the "nark"s" own personal unique smell!

With no success in extracting the dog over the next few hours, following attempts with "burgers" and in desperation not knowing the dogs food preferences, finally a bucket of family size Kentucky fried chicken, they accepted defeat and gave up!

Especially, after having during this period, being subjected from angry people coming and going in the car park, with shouts of abuse and various hand gestures from those now released on bail, as previously arrested mostly "without cause" in the park earlier described.

In desperation as to finding a solution, Albert phoned "Julius" to ask for perhaps as a dog expert, a suggestion from his prospective. Watson alias "Julius, suggested Daniel, who in turn would bring his dog Watson, an old friend of "Spots", to see whether he was able to extract the dog from the vehicle!

This conversation was momentarily very confusing for Watson, in trying to remember at any one time, who exactly he was?

By the time Daniel and Watson arrived, Albert had not yet totally given up on the dog. Having now in desperation first tried Malay, Indian, Japanese, and eventually Chinese, with which he had some moderate success with the duck!! Which unbeknown to both Albert and those present, was due to the inherent hunting, especially with Duck, recovery instincts of the breed? But in liking them uncooked, not enough to get Spot to abandon the back seat!

On seeing Watson suddenly present, Spot's tail led with a greeting. Then on Daniels request, Watson was allowed a comfortable climb as he was short, into the Reliant!. Now close enough to Spots ear to suggest that should he not come out, he would find himself going back to somewhere and the dysfunctional trio. To which much to Watson's surprise, the answer received in the form of almost a mumble was. "I am with my captor, who I originally agreed to go willing with from the park" In fact he continued with a gesture in the "narks" direction, "If Mick hadn't needed the ransom so badly, he assured me in not having a dog before and enjoying my company so much, he would have kept me!"

Looking puzzled Watson then asked. "If you wanted to stay with him, what was all that excessive barking in the background, certainly giving the impression you were desperate!" Spot shook his head "Quite the opposite actually, although I was desperate, but I thought by barking loudly I could stop the negotiations!" "Really!" came now the predictable reply, heard often before!

Then looking sad and dejected Spot continued "After all, I did have a home with him, whereas now, I will most certainly end up in a dog shelter!"

"Not.. Necessarily so!" whispered Watson slowly, now smiling from ear to ear. "I believe we have found you one with Julius "Rip" Rockenburger Esq!!

Adding "I'll explain it all to you later, once we get you out of here!" Spot's reply came in a low appreciative howl.

The police were mystified especially Albert, when the "nark" whose name now known to be Mick, turned down the money, saying that he had persuaded the kidnappers to hand over the dog free of charge. With the reason given, that all three brothers with some help from the local vicar, had become born again Christians! So, with no ransom demanded, it was dismissed as a crime!

It was then Daniel suggested that after informing Mr Rockenburger of the success of the mission, he would be happy to have Spot stay temporarily at his house, until the dog's future could be resolved. Especially he emphasised, as there appeared to be an excellent trustworthy relationship between Spot and his own dog Watson.

Albert unselfishly agreed, as unbeknown to all, was prepared even looking forward too accommodating the animal again temporarily in his own home. Partly as both additional company for himself, and for his own dog "Pierre" But to compensate this disappointment, on arriving back at the police station with both the tremendous applause received on this successful outcome from fellow officers, and his proven success as a detective, made it unquestionably for Albert, a day to remember!

Of course he would never know of the details revealed discussed between Daniel and Mick, covered during a quiet conversation under the pretence of other options available in extracting the dog from the car. When in fact it was Daniel, on discovering the identity through Watson as Mick the real now misjudged kidnapper, and of the fond relationship between the two, coupled with Mick's reluctance through necessity, in asking for the reward, that Daniel then divulged the trap with the marked money! In addition to this, he offered in compensating that lack of reward, the same sum from his own pocket.

It was after with congratulations all round on a job well done, that the police left. Leaving Daniel to tell Mick of a further bonus for him! That of when the dust cleared; he was prepared to pass Spot over to him! With the firm promise however of in accepting this, any further criminal acts brought to his notice either through the press; on Daniels probably ongoing relationship now with Albert, he would lose custody of the dog.

Mick was delighted! Expressing after having had the dog in his company proving not only (without any actual verbal exchange, this at present still and would ever remain exclusive to Daniel) the dog to be a good listener and a great leveller on day's that hadn't gone that well for him. Especially after having experienced very little of the same on those comparable occasions he suggested when with the opposite sex! Daniel then asked, as he thought relevant, "Had he ever been married?" "No he replied quickly, but should I find the right lady, she would essentially first have to like the dog!" With the doubtful possibility of that female turning up, with reasons confirmed later, Daniel smiling shook his hand warmly adding, "Be lucky! And keep in touch!"

A week had gone by when Daniel, after phoning Albert to ask jokingly, how he was getting on as the stations new detective, while also without revealing a name, informing him of finding a new and loving home for Spot. Although pleased initially in Albert's remark in answering softly of "I thought you would!" and yet surprised of no inquiry of with whom! Daniel wondered whether this affable man had put two and two together and come up with Mick!! As knowing he was witness to how reluctant the dog was to leave the car, combined with the soft and affectionate approach Mick displayed in trying to achieve this, he thought then if Albert decided it was Mick, felt sure he would have approved!

With Albert then deliberately he felt changing the subject, on informing him with a chuckle that Daniel had now been taken off the nuisance list. Causing both to laugh at this! Daniel less so!

It was a couple weeks later that Mick arrived to collect Spot. It was then after mother taking a shine to him in offering tea, that Daniel decided to find out a little more about him. Only later did he wish he hadn't!

It turned out his ambition in life was to be a ventriloquist. As was his father and his father before him, and just possibly the father before that! But the trouble was he went to explain, he wasn't very good at it! But he did then become more cheerful and excited as he continued, when he explained in demonstrating his positive lack of skills to Spot, using with no other option as a dummy a large stuffed owl, a successful prop unfortunately he stressed, of his fathers. It was Spot then alone he added in sadly appreciating his efforts began encouragingly wagging his tail. This revelation caused for a few minutes although in silence, for everybody to smile except Mick, now shedding a tear with occasional appreciative glances at the animal. He then went on in describing Spot as "lifting me out of the darkness, giving me incentive to become a proper ventriloquist, while knowing if I didn't make it" he continued "that my dad in is present frame of mind being very disappointed in me, could go on to ave an art attack!

Daniel now beginning to loose interest, as this depressing story grew progressively worse, in somewhat comparable to Graham's, suddenly found subjected too an explicit vision of Mick's dad, being attacked by Roland in his gallery with a couple of paintings! And worse, featuring military scenes with dogs! But thank goodness no sign yet of Graham!!

And as no surprise after that, his story continued going downhill when explaining now in detail, the overall disheartening situation with his family!

It turned out that his father, bitterly disappointed on his sons lack of promise in failing to master the craft, went from being a well dressed tea total , to a badly dressed alcoholic! His mother witnessing his father's demise then became a recluse in never leaving her locked bedroom, except of course not having en-suite, to use the loo. The outcome of this came in Mick's determination to stimulate those so far non exposed required talents.

With mother now refilling his cup, when otherwise he would then have left, had both Daniel and Watson then settle themselves for a further cup, suspecting the end of this woeful saga was now unfortunately someway off!

About an hour later with the three now subjected too, up until now, his miserable existence in trying to keep both parents afloat, had everybody now including mother, although with her an occasional chuckle, close to tears.

During the whole of this time Mick kept reiterating how much the dog now sitting now by his side had been a comfort to him, demonstrating this affection with constant ruffles to the dog's head, with Watson watching, wincing at every ruffle!

When his mother suggested making a fresh pot of tea, that would quite naturally have included Mick, muted suggestions from both Daniel and Watson thank goodness prevented it happening, as neither believing they could handle any more at this time or possibly any time, of this unbelievably depressing saga.

A little later with the story seemingly coming to an end, but more like shelved for the present Daniel's opinion later, Mick before leaving, thanked them all profusely for their kindness and help, while apologising for burdening them with his family problems. After hesitating somewhat before politely refusing the apology, with Daniel after assuring him that his mastery of ventriloquism will come eventually, "either by one means or another", was when Mick accompanied by the now devoted Spot, thankfully left!

With mother now retiring upstairs to catch another T.V games show, Watson brought up his remark of "either by one means or another!"!

"What exactly" he asked cagily, "Did you mean by that!" Daniel smiled, then said "I have a cunning plan my friend" he began with an annoying grin on his face "As in having grave doubts that he will improve by himself as a ventriloquist, I believe between us we can remedy that situation, thus proving himself in time, a worthwhile son to both parents, which could possibly bring about their complete recovery!" "And how's that to be!" came Watson's quick reply wishing he'd never asked after that long winded unclear clarification. Daniel after making himself more comfortable in his favourite armchair which when present still rarely let Watson sit in, then continued. "But before I explain, I need to give it more thought in tidying up the ends!" then added "But I assure you, with your assistance being vital, you will be the first to know when I make clear those ends?" Watson now having his own "grave doubts" particularly these "ends" working said, "I would suggest sooner, rather than later!" his retrospective reply.

When a few days later Daniel revealed his plan, Watson was to say the least, surprised, and not to put it too mildly, flabbergasted!! The plan Daniel continued would necessitate and I warn you he emphasised is complicated, to use Spot as his live dummy, as opposed to a dead owl!! Watson began to appreciate this just part of the "complicated" bit, feeling sure this area would be enlarged on! And that unsurprisingly, didn't take long!

Spot Daniel confirmed, had already while living and unknown to Mick, could as we know verbally understand him. So his plan was when Mick introduced as Daniel foresaw his garbled attempt at throwing his voice with little success, towards the dog now assumed seated beside him, Spot would then repeat as rehearsed whatever Mick intended to say louder to the audience. At this Watson raised his paw in a very human way to scratch his head, in what he had interpreted as a gesture of bewilderment in humans. This he followed with the obvious sarcastic remark of "So you don't think that Mick will notice the difference in the voice then!" Daniels reply was immediate "Not if he has ear plugs in!" replying now with a smug smile. "You see Watson; this is where the tricky bit comes in!" "Really, now that's a surprise!" the sarcastic response from Watson continuing with "But what you actually mean is, this is where the "tricky complicated" bit comes in!" "Yes", Daniels frequently now unreserved reply.

"You see" he continued "We have to convince I suspect, our likable but gullible friend, that ventriloquists are able to concentrate more on their voice, when they have no distracting noise from the audience to worry about!" he smiled before adding "You must agree it does have a ring of truth about it!" Watson began scratching his head again but this time in adding a smile and with no sarcasm attached said "Well, it's bizarre enough, so if it helps the lad, it's probably worth a try!" Daniel delighted with his answer now reached down for his paw. Watson now raising it in response then said, "I believe this now calls for a premature celebration at the "Hoden". Daniel, pleasantly surprised at this sudden unexpected change in attitude answered "My thoughts exactly!" as he disappeared into the hallway to grab his coat.

The following day Daniel phoned Mick to say he had an idea how he revive his future as a ventriloquist. Mick answered in thanking him, but asked if he might ring him back as he was in the throes at that very moment trying to get his mother to unlock her door so he might feed her a meal he had just cooked. Daniel agreed while wishing him the best of luck! After explaining that conversation to Watson, they both agreed as obviously a considerate son, they would do their best to make his act a success. On Mick phoning back later, having had success with the meal, Daniel suggested he meet with us here at the house with Spot, midday, on the following Sunday. Being happily aware that Mother would be away all day on that Sunday, on one of her frequent summer visits to April, often accompanied now with George! For the last thing Daniel needed, agreed by Watson, was mother getting involved with her likely pessimistic contribution in suggesting various reasons how it undoubtedly will go wrong! No surprises there!

On that following Sunday, when the idea of using the dog as a prop thankfully appealing to him, it was as much Daniel suspected in Mick, not really liking Owl's!

Especially a very scruffy old owl connected with his ancestors successful performances! And with his undoubted affection for Spot as becoming part of his act certainly adding great appeal triumphed then with Watson, acknowledging that Spot after a detailed explanation of what the plan was, also enthusiastically agreeing,

Mick it seemed was not fazed at all at having to use earplugs, accepting the explanation without comment. In fact he felt in something discovered that his father and those before him possibly had not!! One thing slightly worryingly to Daniel, was Spots only if slight American accent. But that he felt could interpreted by the audience as a "show biz" thing! So, as a second thought Daniel with no alternative although a little ashamed of the ruse, not that the audience would hear Mick's voice anyway, but covering a possible mention in a local newspaper happening, then suggested to Mick in adopting a slight American accent himself, might give the act more of an international flavour. Mick adding unknowingly to Daniels uncomfortable feeling of deception, agreed enthusiastically! Next, came where to rehearse?

Daniel already felt he had the answer. He had during time past through his now expired membership of the Rotary club, formed a close friendship with a likable local vicar named Donald Duckworthy. They often after a Rotary meeting would have a glass or two, or in Donald's case three or four, in the "Hoden". With Daniel enjoying Donald's attempts to persuade him as an agnostic, to consider just as a challenge to attend a sermon or too, especially as with both his daughter April, and Boadicea a longstanding part of his congregation! Daniel in having great respect for the man had been at times very tempted to take up the offer, more so in admiration for Donald's continued effort in almost overcoming a persistent, "stutter!" While Daniel also aware, encompassed within the church grounds, a perfectly sized adaptable church hall, used on occasions for wedding receptions, fund raising and antique shows! In fact from where some years earlier, Daniel had purchased a fine clock! This building in seating approximately fifty people he felt, a perfect location from where a budding ventriloquist could begin his career! He then delighted with himself at his discovery, wasted no time then in phoning Donald.

Who, when answering the call, always pleased in hearing from Daniel, and certainly with his interest in hiring the hall, then suggested of discussing it further the following evening over a pint or two at the "Hoden". No surprises there!

The pub was very busy that evening when Daniel and Watson arrived, but the already awaiting Donald with glass already in hand, had fortunately secured them both a table with seating.

He was on his feet with a handshake as soon as he spotted them arrive, followed by a moderately improved stutter of "Luv..luv lovely to see you and assume" he said looking down now eventually at Watson "That you're the"the dog Billy's been telling me about just na.. now at the bar!" Watson without thinking fascinated by the stutter nodded! A puzzled expression immediately appeared on Donald's face. "Di..did I imagine that, or did he just nod?" he asked. Daniel thought for a moment before quickly answering "No I don't think so, he was probably just shaking his ears, it's an ongoing problem common with long eared dogs!" Donald smiled briefly before replying "Hee.. wasn't shaking his head, he was..nn .nodding his head!" then adding quite firmly "Its nn, nna, not the same!" "Well!" Daniel began, still wondering how he surprisingly got through his sermons; continued "I do believe I have no answer to that!" then quickly changing the subject back to charges and any conditions in renting the hall. Donald listened patiently, but still continued throwing puzzled glances at the dog. His interest however was renewed on hearing details of the act, with that unusual feature of a ventriloquist act featuring a live dog against traditionally an acceptable dummy! Rehearsals were then set for the following Saturday, with Donald renewing again his puzzled glances at the dog.

In was inevitable that mother without invitation decided she would also be there. But already previously decided between Watson and Daniel, that it might be prudent not to reveal full details of the plan to her, rather in that just helping Mick achieving a better relationship with his parents in bringing hopefully, something towards normality in their home.

Its worth mentioning that Watson without expressing it, although feeling Daniels intentions honourable, nevertheless, thought in the situation going wrong could have dire consequences for all concerned. Unbeknown to him not surprisingly, Daniel also shared these same thoughts as well.

It was a sunny Saturday morning when all including Donald, having the keys to the place, met at 10am at the hall. And after introductions all round with Donald stipulating with difficulty, he would return at six to lock up, that the rehearsal began in earnest.

As arranged, Daniel had composed a script acceptable to Mick that fitted conveniently in with his plan. While Watson taking Spot aside explained his role more thoroughly to guarantee its success! Spot still surprised at the idea, but now confident it could work which was a relief, and particularly impressed without the need to attempt cover his noticeable although now slight American accent. Then added, that he would report suggested improvements when listening to Mick's practice attempts at home! Watson confused at this idea, although accepting this as part of the ruse which was becoming more complicated, but in Mick's case, with no audience actually hearing him anyway, still thought it pointless!! Although later proved otherwise!

With no other audience present except on occasion mother, the routine was practiced over and over again for the following month. Mother made very little in the way of comments other than she thought a parrot would make a colourful addition to the act. Daniel so as not to antagonise her suggestion said it could be a consideration for the future.

The first well advertised opening brought a surprising amount of people, which was not really surprising as unknown at present of any previous act of ventriloquism existing in using as an alternative a live dog! With possibly the probability perhaps in the future, with Watson not having yet totally verified as not being part of a larger invasion revealed, of talking dogs distributed now throughout the planet!

News of the act spread, first making the local papers, followed by a local TV. Stations, which thank goodness because of Daniels precautionary action taken, on Mick now hearing comments from that station mentioning the somewhat American accent!

This popularity good for stimulating confidence in Mick and in addition substantial takings, plus also now showing some positive improvements in behaviour from his parents, but, becoming overnight a different story for Daniel! The problem was the possibility of this unique dog becoming heavily scrutinised, possibly by the medical profession or worse, by the government viewing it as a threat to our dominance of the animal world. The problem then was how to bring this popularity before it got out of hand to a close! This growing situation now surfaced, was what both Daniel and Watson shared as the worst scenario. Daniel then came up with as he saw it, the only plan available, that too discredit in someway bringing a comfortable and sympathetic conclusion to closing the act indefinitely!! And after consultation and agreement with Spot, who himself had become worried at his now growing uncomfortable fame agreed happily on that necessary exit. The only concern all three could see from their decision, was the unknown unpredictable reaction from Mick. But all agreed now they had no choice!

With the usual full congregation as Donald described them, with this evening already advertised previously as the last performance was when, to a now familiar but on this occasion an exceptional ovation from the audience, Mick and Spot appeared on stage.

Mick began as with previously, explaining as now placing in his ear plugs, how they allowed him to concentrate more on throwing his voice. The audience appreciating this unusual addition, especially with those having witnessed ventriloquist acts before, gave him a polite applause. Also on hearing this opening explanation, the audience both surprised and impressed on the different lamphrophonia assumed unintentionally, between man and dog!

Mick then began as before in an exceptionally quiet voice with the minimum managed of lips unmoving, but once again hopelessly out of reach for the audience to hear anyway, asking on this occasion whether Spot had been to the park lately. Spot moments behind Mick beginning, answered the question as already rehearsed with Watson.

The assembly impressed especially with the clarity on the reply, applauded!

The next question and the one after that and one after that, continued over the next scheduled hour! All again accompanied with a polite well rehearsed reply from the dog. It was as the act came near to a close where the change in the answer not expressed by Mick, then occurred!

His question was to his canine partner. "Have you enjoyed our experience working together as a ventriloquist act?" As Mick began quietly with the Daniels rehearsed answer, one quite different to Spot"s, who then answered with his own version to the audience.

"Yes I have! Spot began. "And I would first like to thank you all for the interest and kindness we have received over the past month. But I have nevertheless in being a dog, found the experience quiet frightening and in someway belittling as an animal, thus clouding with pressure my relationship with my carer and friend Mick." There was a muted applause at this time stopping abruptly as he continued. "Therefore with what I've just revealed I hope you can probably now guess, this will be our VERY last performance." and with that, raised his paw to place it on Mick's still seated lap. Mick unable to hear the change on what was being said just smiled down at his friend, returning a soft ruffle to his dog's head! As then Spot continued "And thank you truly once again, and on a religious note added "may your God, if you have one, go with you!" There was for a moment a brief silence, beginning with reserved polite clapping; growing quickly into tumultuous applause from an audience sounding like a hundred rather than the fifty assembled, all now standing on their feet. This causing Mick even with earplugs, to become conscious of the rising rumbling combined sound of both hands and cheers, and when people rose from their seats, Mick now smiling removed the ear plugs and stood up!

Whatever script written by Daniel for Mick in ending the performance, apparently intentionally for Mick, overall indiscernible, although within, did contain in the way of thanks for the audiences attendances, praise for the dog and some sort of indistinct apology in the possibility of not using him in a seemingly yet undetermined future! I think that sums it up!

It was Donald first to congratulate him, comparing him as a decipel of St Francis of Assisi. This as high a compliment as he could get too considering the demands of the text!

And with so many other people now congratulating him on putting the dog first, with his apparent decision not to continue performing, coupled in Mick both somewhat confused and being of a non confrontable persuasion, persuaded him then in saying nothing!

With the hall now emptying, with continues pats on the back and smiles from people leaving, Mick, now both overwhelmed and to say the least puzzled by this unexpected response, asked the question of Daniel,

"Did I do something very right, and in consequence ending the act that I don't recall, that I'm unaware of?"

Daniel then impressed with his question, while pleased at the result answered predictably "Yes!"

Especially after having coached and crafted Mick's own final answer in a way with one or two words possibly interpreted different in expressing his feelings for the animal plus, being slightly garbled having been the case throughout all his previous performances, all combined would thankfully produce an acceptance on his part of the end result!

I suppose in someway in him being an accountant, he was looking after his client primarily Spot, in avoiding too much in the end of unfavourable attention! But in this particular case, not by the Inland Revenue!

When Daniel with difficulty explained the audience's misinterpretation to Mick, it was as to someone now overwhelmed with his unexpected success undreamed of a month ago, of having now achieved his goal as a ventriloquist retiring then on a high note!

I should add after both Mick and Spot left for home, Watson, having left that final reply from Mick for Daniel to compose alone, asked what exactly that final reply entailed! Then added, also just wanted to confirm that this being the positive end to the"tricky bit!" Daniel smiling while nodding his head answered it was, and although he continued appreciating its great success, the answer in the way of the reply was he described too complex to remember. He then added if not for any other reason, his failed memory probably due to still feeling guilty on his deceitfulness.

The next day came a surprise phone call from Mick, stating that although at first disappointed at discontinuing the act, felt obliged on reflection to reveal now that he did feel guilty at what he now recognised as exploiting Spot, purely he emphasised for his own ends. And most surprising of all he continued enthusiastically, when he explained his decision to his now practically normal parents they agreed with him, while also expressing their admiration for his compassion to the dog!

So, in this case Daniel expressed as being, "That alls well that ends well!"

Watson on the other hand thought that too much of a simplification to this whole episode, believing the remainder was still to come!

There was as expected a celebratory drink at the "Hoden" that following weekend, guest's included Mick, his parents with his father drinking orange juice, and his mother now with an unlocked door, and most important of all, two happy dogs!

Our tale at the moment ends there, but the complete story has only just begun. To be continued...

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