Quite Possibly, Man's Best Friend!

by Alan A. Smartin Esq

It's always been emphasized to me from analytical 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 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 that is should you hopefully even now still be with us, let me introduce you to the family surrounding this tale, as with the rest of this story quite simply, but perhaps not quite so simply, unfolds from there!

It all began with"

Daniel Lovelock aged 69, felt he was doing okay as far as health goes. A recently disillusioned semi retired accountant with a natural slim build, which had helped in keeping him nimble. Although sadly 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 sadly not so good, even with bifocals! And his memory well"somewhat unreliable! He found he ached more than he used too 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 grown lately more aware of his mortality! This more than a coincidence as coinciding with the recent death of Doris, his third wife for the past 13 years! While if superstitious can be a somewhat dodgy number! Although then later sadly realising he hadn't really appreciated her enough, especially as her being without doubt the most compatible of the three! Again not all too uncommon misgivings he discovered when discussed at length amongst his few now close contemporaries.

Other things perhaps worth a mention! He did claim in believing himself to be, a blunt speaking happy to be although still somewhat undecided, agnostic! Which by in his definition encompassed tree hugging with preferably OLD OAKS, and talking to plants? He also as seeing himself as a minor contributor to the forgotten! Which in his case the occasional tramp which he refrained from hugging, as well as annually the Salvation Army? But surprisingly less often now in terms of time, awarded to clients! This had come about in growing older, hard to remember why he chose to be an accountant in the first place, as regrettably now finding it so boring!"..

But in compensating life's disappointments he had his family! A son and daughter! One from each of his previous wives before Doris! And not

forgetting his pride and joy his grandson Biff! And finally if accountant's allowed to have an Achilles heel, his antique clocks!!

I think that about sums it up, except for 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 93, 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 his wife, 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 93 and a month, happily for his family exceeded his now long dead contemporaries by a surprising amount of years!

It was undeniably his father's ambiguity that influenced his decision to tread the path of an agnostic. While in rarely using the word proved especially evident during his father's final hours. With Harry expressing very lucidly and with great conviction in accepting that all religions had played a part in promoting a number of good principles, even he suggested although more aggressively, the Vikings! But as yet none he felt including the VIKINGS had offered a total answer too what exactly did lay beyond, but nevertheless still waiting, to be convinced otherwise. So Harry in the meantime then offered an explanation of his own. This only after being witness too as with a great number of people life being painful, miserable and generally unrewarding, in more ways than one could imagine, while if lucky some happier stuff in between! His idea therefore in obtaining that better existence beyond was simply an initial test proving you worthy of a place! Although then readily accepting this unlikely as an original thought of his own. But then with the likely chance in that being the case in meeting the criteria for entry, perhaps as an example of that test would be the following!

His suggestion in once having proven unquestionably your compassion, honesty and respect encompassing all forms of life with no exceptions, would be on a scale of one to ten in scoring six or more allowed you then to move on to a somewhat more agreeable place.

Whilst below six, had you returning once more to improve that number by giving it another try! Then adding importantly on returning, not to expect in the same recognisable form in race, gender or colour? Should you regrettably again fail to pass the test, his guess then would be a lengthy stay in constantly returning until you got it right!

It was an afterthought later for the benefit of one or two concerned looking bedside visitors, pointing out as not subscribing as with another recognized religion its beliefs similar to his own, the likelihood of returning in the form of a bluebottle, worm or should there be one, even less attractive creature!

Not that in anyway would have troubled Harry, as it was without embarrassment and encouraging to hear his father announce and deservedly agreed by all, that his score would without doubt register well above six!

His arduous search in answering that question came to fruition when successfully finding the answer himself. Which thankfully did as you can imagine later, contribute to a very pleasant funeral! Although with it raining heavily the boat did unfortunately take a long time to burn!!!

The move however 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 them not being offered alternative accommodation, having a room albeit small as welcome in our home!

But mother's eventual move came not in her inability of living alone, but as with those previous concerns on the rise over the years of 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. And culminating as would be expected with an increase of often violent crime that went with it!

Nonetheless surprisingly, it still took some persuasion from Daniel to convince her eventually to agree! Whereas strongly then to dismiss that groundless rumour as part of that reluctance to leave, as with her enjoying a "joint" now and again! Although with that eventual move for the best part working out satisfactory, it still brought problems of its own! As Daniel although aware previously present, with mothers now increasing eccentricity! This proving disturbingly evident as a family trait, through what little previous history of the family been 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 tallish woman with a jolly disposition now living happily with her female partner Boadicea! While her noticeably impressive physique best described as having a solid frame of bone and muscle with very little fat. And when uniformed, befitting perfectly in appearance her role as a community policewoman! While his son Leger a group councillor less impressive, being tall, scrawny, balding, bespectacled with hawk like piecing eyes, and regrettably for his grandson, the boy now living with his father!

This unfortunate and unenviable situation for the boy had come about after Leger having divorced the boy's mother when she chose unexpectedly to run off to Australia with a right twit! Being none other would you believe, than Leger's best friend Dick, a marriage councillor and proven discovered later successful bigamist! Leger meanwhile was irrefutably by nature in his appearance tastelessly dressed, as well belligerent and sadly although completely unaware, an utter total bore! Who; with the exception on both agreeing that Elsie a term Leger preferred with mocking approval from grandma in being better off living with his father, found otherwise with Daniel, little else in common!

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

This other than the remaining goldfish in the garden pond, was one that Doris could never have envisaged, and positively not approved of! It should also be mentioned that Ronald the Cambodian pig in being her particular favourite, died literally days after Doris, possibly it was suggested from a broken heart. Strengthening the claim amongst others, that we are very close geologically, and even in some cases appearance to this other life form!

However sadly the major 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 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 at present from the new postman, neither dog nor past postman has been seen nor heard of since?

But moving on now of much greater importance, with 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 still been with us!! Well she isn't, and she didn't like dogs anyway, so we won't dwell on that one! But with what since he'd been privileged too, convinced him that other than Doris coming back, anything he felt indisputably possible!

----------------------------------------------

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

This he 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, resulted in them sadly loosing 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 strong prejudice that Daniel now would not! So it proved difficult on his own spending time with couples while curbing his tongue, and finding the conversation without Doris difficult and hollow. This leaving with his host's, little left in common with! And particularly as time progressed the topic of conversation became centred most depressingly on ailments connected with old age. In as much as with some of those present, growing unable with those fading memories to rely as too those ill's, now actually carrying a list! There was also the question with those present in making things worse, in now becoming uncomfortably aware of Daniel's strong social and questionable religious beliefs!

Although worth mentioning on a lighter but frustrating note, that Daniel not realising until now how often when his memory dried up in Doris having witnessed the event, would comfortably finish after colouring a little a story he'd begun! This he discovered totally unique to people with a long often happy history together, but not necessarily married. It was comparable he felt to Laurel with Hardy, Morecombe with Wise, and Fish with French fries! Or if British, Chips!

But anyway, not to say those present didn't do their best to cover his wife's absence mentioning her quite often, but somehow in a somewhat unflattering way. But apart from that it just didn't work seeing them all too regularly in proving awkward for all those present, excluding of course anyone that conveniently fell asleep?

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

""""""""""""....................

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 was 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 with its sudden appearance taking him completely by surprise, caused him startled, to hop backwards and stumble over himself. But thankfully his rear end although now considerably bony, cushioning his impending 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 having disappeared on reopening his eyes!

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

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

He was then relieved to see that it 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? While accepting that whatever it was, not one easily recognised he suspected even to a vet! It was then with the dog now salivating somewhat its eyes still fixed firmly on him, began slowly moving towards him. While noticeably in compensating his short legs, a dogged effort to increase his pace!

Studying the animal more closely as it approached its breed more recognisable even to Daniel, as some odd type of Spaniel! But not totally Spaniel, crossed with something else hopefully not more aggressive! His best guess from a safety aspect and clear lack of substantial legs, being a Dachshund!

In feeling as it got closer somewhat more comfortable, although worryingly noticeably without a collar, he lowered his hand in an offer of friendship. Although clenching his fist just in case as he did so! The animal on reaching him now submissively 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 more 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, which he thought odd, before trotting off slowly in front of him! Only pausing to ensure that Daniel followed close behind!

Now in the thick of the woods in having so many old Oak trees temping to hug, Daniel with difficulty continued on, while still looking anxiously around for 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 stopping and stumbling into the animal, that in addressing the dog and it certainly would have been helpful in knowing his name, suggesting that he finds his own way home! The dog's response was first to wag his tail, then ignoring his request with a quiet but definite growl; then 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, although Daniel had with no avail thrown sticks in all directions for the dog to retrieve and hopefully not return, in eventually arriving back to where he'd parked the car. Only accepting then having little option for the present from the dog's 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 now ongoing threats, and find out what they suggest he does next?

The solution in finding alternative accommodation for the dog now 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 was fortunately at present visiting April, with a planned overnight stay, returning later the following day. Her possible reaction to the animal had undoubtedly been 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, 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 continued glancing in the mirror. With the dog now thankfully 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. Daniel at first furious, then both wary of an adverse reaction from the animal plus accepting he rarely had more than one passenger anyway, left it at that! It also now came as a surprise that up until the seat business; he was actually beginning to enjoy somewhat the dogs company. The dog by his manner appeared to feel thankfully the same, as now with the seat 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 thoughts, with the dog's odd appearance and unpredictable disposition so far, then 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 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!" To which the dog replied with loud incessant barking. "That I do believe confirms it!" was the reluctant chauffeur's now shouting 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 of 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 very loudly just the once. This causing him inadvertently to leave the driveway, narrowly missing his featured goldfish pond centred to the lawn. "I'd be obliged" he began very loudly if 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 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 and addressing the dog once more, 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! It was then with great relief he finally reached 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"" This sadly, unrecognisable at this time, early symptoms of another lesser known 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, Daniel phoned the local police. But not before securing through information on the internet, that the dogs breed recognisable now most probably as part "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel". This confirmed he decided by his friendly nature, flat face, large ears, and most importantly an undocked tail! The other parent Daniel concluded, after his own extensive researched breed combinations, ever remains 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 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, was frequently bitten by strays and didn't seem to mind. Then, with an extra chuckle, ended the call!! Daniel unconvinced of 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 stare 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 as it happens, 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 the Royal family, I feel sure would like to meet you this evening? Before hopefully!" then a pause correcting". "I mean sadly, Part Company tomorrow. And strangely enough I've always associated in Graham" he waffled on "In his obsession with dogs Royal"" then! Stopped briefly to pose before passing a large wall mirror, and accepting with a smile that the only thing missing with that reflection was a pipe and deerstalker! Nevertheless satisfied anyway and still smiling continued with".. "Now where was I? 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 mixed breed!""" Then stopped abruptly! With the dog now rising to its feet, with Daniel worried with the possibility of this taken now as an insult! But after circling as dogs do in stretching their legs lay back down again! It was a relieved Daniel who after clearing his throat flatteringly continued, feeling safer now on staying with that same subject, in announcing.. "But because of your impressive manners and intelligence and being almost Royal Spaniel, I shall name you whilst our time here together as,.. WATSON!"" Although in hearing this with no obvious Royal association, there are absolutely no guesses as to why!.. This accolade meanwhile was disappointingly 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 again!!" 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. While Daniel's mother, described him as having "a slapped bum face, 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 whilst raising his heels as he did so, a custom common amongst privately tutored schoolboys, exclaimed then with some authority "So, where is he, this beast you want me to assess?" He didn't 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 and had, if the truth be known, 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 as a Army man with no naval training and visibly shaken, able eventually with great diligence decipher the various flags, too quickly then after gulping down his tea and still clutching his cup and saucer creep stealthily 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 having come to that conclusion first! Graham although still appearing in some sort of shock then 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 then 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 panicking, quickly put the phone down! Then realising a different answer might suffice, waited a moment just in case she phoned back! Now relieved with no return call which would only have incurred further "porky's", Daniel thankfully then 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 ever 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"""".

"""""""""""".................

Chapter 2.

When he came round from that brief fainting spell , Daniel found himself looking up into Watson's face, coupled with both Watson's front feet placed firmly now on his chest. And although Watson's expression initially expressed in what was later interpreted as a doggy grin, had chosen then clearly in dismissing that shocked and terrified look on Daniel's face as he offered quite formally!

"I would first like to apologise profusely for both the car seat and sofa, especially after you being so kind to me!" he paused then for a moment as Daniel appeared struggling to focus as then continued " Old habits from the distant past I'm sorry to say, take over sometimes!" Daniel initially smiled then on being quite surprised how deep his voice was, while convinced still in bed and this just a bad dream he would soon awaken from. But at this particular moment hoped the dream would quickly progress further, so this terrifying image standing now 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, still convinced this was just another extension of the dream 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 now 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'd 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 for a moment, 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 unevenly 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 now recognisable 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," he said "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, with then as an after thought looking slightly embarrassed adding "Hope you don't mind" gesturing down at the biscuit. "Not at all" said Daniel "Please, 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, and with his worrying premonition of mother returning earlier, decided to phone April again. As now becoming anxious that mother, either suspicious or just dismissing the threat of the soot, would return sooner than expected. As April answered, he strongly emphasised the extra time now being essential, as added to the soot, was as an additional problem of a burst pipe. But before he could proceed further, 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 in having no answer to that, Daniel quickly put the phone down.

Moments later although still feeling rather guilty at telling further "Porky"s"" to his daughter reengaged then in conversation with Watson and finding both getting on famously. As one thing led to another climaxed finally with Daniel at Watson's request, bringing out the family photographic album

All I can say is with Watson's soon after offer of a somewhat incomplete answer then proving surprisingly acceptable to his host. This one would assume because of his added promise in the future to explain totally his invasion into Daniel's life. So nevertheless still at present living amicably as the story continues with Daniel and mother at the house. With one exception as with all dogs in having extra sensitive hearing, of hopefully adjusting to the problem of clocks STRIKING all hours from midday till midnight! One he found shared mutually with Elsie as was later to address her, with both trusting on overcoming that excessive noise factor. As this being absolutely essential to them remaining in the story as this exciting tale only just began!

---------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 3.

The first two weeks however 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 totally 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 in Daniel deciding 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 on overhearing her sons comments other than just 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 and if possible that a second television be purchased, on discovering that both he and Daniel it turned out preferred very different programs. With Daniel it was anything about antiques, history, and Coronation Street. While Watson, National Geographic and Mastermind!

It hopefully came then as no surprise that after little deliberation both requests from Watson were for the present declined!

Meanwhile mother rarely leaving her room anyway in bringing her own television seemed perfectly happy and certainly helped in having that additional company of those two caged birds! And with her choice of programs becoming hooked on most days it appeared, continues daily weather forecasts, cooking shows and endless quiz shows!

It was one particular quiz question on a show mother subscribed to, that both baffled and somewhat impressed Watson on its unbiased education wise, and generosity to the contestants by the sponsors when asking this! For a Â50,000 prize round the world trip for two, answer the following question correctly. "Name the first letter of the alphabet, is it: - A, B, OR C? Unfortunately for the winner in this case because of the enormity of the prize, named unwittingly then through the press as a Peregrine Nostradamus- Smith, a retired librarian from the Lake District!

It was later one evening Daniel elected to watch with Watson his program, and on asking, "What was the attraction to N.G and M.M, and were they anything of special interest to dogs?" With the answer then caused with the reply then receive a polite rebuff! With an abrupt assurance from his guest of, "That all will 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 disagreed 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're aware of, that one of course could be recorded!" That settled with an acknowledged now embarrassed nod from Daniel, who hadn't been positively aware of that, had the smiles return between them, with Daniel offering then to make a pot of tea. This disagreeable incident also caused Daniel alone in the kitchen, to pinch himself once again, ensuring 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 possibly 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 understandably in Watson"s case, had also 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 often 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 causing a serious problem when he lost some sheep?" Daniel nodded sympathetically, and with a concerned look now on his face inquired "Did he ever get them back?"" "What back?" was Watson's quick reply now looking deliberately absent!

"The sheep!" replied his 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 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 around 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 on 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, handsomely attired 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, April's body odour as a big women being strong, would require he felt on his part 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" this acknowledged in return with a difficult hand wave from April, as mother still smiling 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, April 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, as with him being single I'm assuming now empty?" She paused then tut tutting 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 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 too "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 then unfortunately not corrected, was followed by a howl! This causing April, just leaving through the front door to say "What an expressive dog daddy!" Her father acknowledging with just a smile then adding a wave as she jauntily disappeared down the path while answering 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 since 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 early 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. Both items unfamiliar to Watson having never worn either before, and taking some effort to persuade him otherwise. Watson's 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 at any time, 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, then stumbled into him treading heavily on the dogs tail.

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

"Well, 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! I'm 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 pompously boring and aggravating individuals he'd 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 momentarily 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 now aggressively 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 too, by in his own definition this self centred dominating individual. Feeling now totally in control, she first subjected Daniel to a kiss on the cheek, and then inquired in a coy voice "And how are you darling?" This followed again by a contemptuous look at Watson. Her smile returned as then looking possessively back at Daniel continued with "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 quickly charged forward and consequently after making a surprising high leap, "Goosing" 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 now lying uncomfortably across his feet screaming abuse at the dog. But with an outstretched hand from the victim, Daniel, in subduing temptation to reject it, helped her now back onto 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 be offered 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 and 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, 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's reply, adding a glancing smile towards Daniel before continuing "Other than for myself meeting that dreadful women Hyacinth for the first time, and possibly hopefully for the last!" With Watson and Daniel in expectation of that producing an interesting response, she replied rather disappointingly! "Well that's nice dear!" as handing 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 Elsie felt about his father's new acquisition. In answering "She's fine. She really likes him!" Daniel wondered if his son detected the chuckle that accompanied the answer! Daniel also thought it time to explain that the actual bite suffered by Doris didn't even break the skin; although fair to say she never got over it. But then decided against it, fearing it would end in further deterioration 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, after overhearing his earlier conversation with April, 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 chosen he then added against his better judgement as a loving but concerned parent, in agreeing to allow a brief visit to satisfy his son's wishes. So continued with no objection from his father, he would be visiting with his son the following day! God! Daniel thought as he put the phone down, doesn't he go on!!!

Late on 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 in being an exception to her rule, in as much as Elsie not only allowing him into her room, but even turning the television down!! His father however anxious to get on with this somewhat reluctant visit managed a shout of "Hello Elsie!" from the foot of the stairs. This bringing an indecipherable somewhat mumbled reply from above

On returning downstairs moments later, Biff 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. And after totally ignoring the boy's father, 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 from Leger, only sympathised once again for those unfortunates his son counselled.

It was then Ledger, stubbornly led by his son, made the trip upstairs to say goodbye through a partly open door to his grandmother. Whilst alternately Elsie after happily allowing Biff in, rewarding him with a kiss and a cuddle! On returning downstairs before leaving, the boy awarded the same to both granddad and Watson. While Ledger after 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 worth watching on TV this evening?" "Doubt it!" Daniel's instant reply whilst shaking his head! Followed by, "Unless you like endless antiques 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 before continuing "Not with the show's you understand, especially the antiques or the food itself, just with some of the endless self appointed experts in both cases" With this steadfast answer in reminding Watson similar to Elsie's choices! Although in her case, minus the antique show's, while others, definitely overall more flattering! Or was it with Daniel in only having four channels, little of interest for him to watch?

On deciding more likely to be his last conclusion, he was about to return to his newspaper when remembering there was something else he was curious to ask.

"With this in you being an Agnostic" he began. While immediately catching Daniels attention continued "As I understand it, in dismissing a God as acceptable to most, does this in your case dismiss an equivalent of some sort of overseeing power out there somewhere!" he waited a moment before continuing "So, with great respect explain your understanding of how you understand it?" Daniel leaning forward from his chair, a genial smile now on his face answered. "Well, in not being sure how long you've been with us, I mean on this particular planet!" his grin broadening then a little on continuing "As in my opinion during our brief stay here, I do concur with my father there needs some clearer answers" his grin now disappearing at this as he went on "So as much as it would be simpler to accept the answer as with other people through those presently established religions, that for me up until now hasn't happened!" Then adding with the grin offering "I do tend to subscribe to a decision taken by Groucho Marx who humorously said "Any club that will too readily have me as a member, I don't wish to join! " Watson being a Groucho fan, immediately noting that slight deviation from the original quote, as Daniel sitting back now his hands now clasped firmly together, with the smile unaltered adding "But I'm quite sure as did my father, will have made up my mind before it's time to leave!!" Then smiling even broader adding "But not as my fathers choice a VIKING!!!"

And with Daniel's expression suggesting a response required! Watson obliged with!

"Well!" As being a fan and appreciating your near quote of Groucho"s," he offered kindly "And with most of my people Buddhist's, your always welcome if only temporarily to join us!" Daniel smiled at this, and in appreciating the offer replied

"Thank you, I'll possibly get back to you on that one!" But he knew he wouldn't! Not with the prospect of returning as possibly a bluebottle or worm!

He also felt with his relationship with Watson as more becoming the norm; his concern as to why it still troubled him so much, and apparently not so his mother? That answer if any then he decided, had definitely LEFT with his father!

When Daniel described himself as semi-retired, it could probably better be described as "essential additional hours!" This had come about in having not accumulated a great deal of savings, due for the most part to both the expense of divorces 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, that proved eventually quite a contributing factor too those divorces!

So now with no pressure from past wives but still unfortunately in having to maintain an income, Daniel in retaining those likable old clients, prepared as in the past visit them at their home or preferably place of business. Especially if they dealt in clocks!! And it was on one of those occasions that brought about his next purchase!!

Chapter 4

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, of undetermined age with a very rotund body in contrast to his long thin face and largish "Romanesque" nose. Whilst on top, crowned with a full head of hair more silver than grey, stylishly parted in the middle with added length too both back and sides. And acknowledged generally by all as an impeccable if slightly conservative a dresser, and further deemed by both friends and customers alike as the very height of sartorial elegance whether inside or outside of the premises! His only drawback should it be seen as one, a slightly embarrassing impediment in the form of a presumed natural lisp!

"It'ss..lovely as always to see you Daniel, and you do look amazingly well!" He offered as Daniel entered the showroom with the lisp proving its point. Quickly followed by "And how's mother doing? " As Daniel smiling was about to answer Maurice quickly continued. "Although at a second glance, you could do with just a little more colour in your attire, but not too much! Then looking him up and down once again now promptly correcting reassuringly with "Although at present for an accountant its fine!" He paused again momentarily and without taking a breath 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 the 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!"

Then as predictably 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 both Daniels cheeks. "So what's new!" he then 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, and them with exceptions, to kiss him on any cheek. "Well I'm still above ground!" 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 from the proprietor before"". "I do believe somewhere there must still be an optician open!" His droll response while exhibiting a tight grin before leading Daniel gently by hand into the back office!

An hour later smiling together they were back in the showroom.

"Have I got a clock for you?" Maurice enthused as raising his voice a little before continuing "That has, my fortunate friend" as rapidly now gliding across the floor stopping at one in the far corner of the showroom, his eye's ablaze as ending with" "In having just"arrived!!""

Daniel knowing when it came to flattering a clock, Maurice was never joking. It was a beautiful case, one 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!" His smile remaining!

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

"It's haunted!!" 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 him now not smiling. "He could be!" His now somewhat cautious answer! Daniel his curiosity now heightened said "You definitely now, have my full attention!" and with anticipating of Maurice revealing more, looking around for one of those relaxing armchairs placed conveniently throughout the showroom for potential customers to sit comfortably in.

"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 him as a gift in her will! This was also accompanied he emphasised 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 having not 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 purchase?" Daniel now raising himself from his 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 "Well NOW!" he replied with enthusiasm, "You have MY full attention! And for that reason! I will definitely look forward to hearing precisely why!" Then paused before quickly adding "Oh yes! And 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 adding a wink!

After warmly grasping his hand with Maurice still looking mystified on the swift outcome of the sale, Daniel made his way quickly towards the front entrance, 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 out onto the street.

Maurice feeling tranquil once more shook his head a little while muttering to himself "I think it's time for a pot of tea!" Then with a smile adding, "And in celebration of my fastest sale ever, accompanied now with a well deserved gin and tonic!! Then appearing a little perplexed recalled "And what was that he said about a dog?"

It was while on his way home still smarting a little on Maurice's comment on his dull attire perhaps he considered in possibly warranting an overdue visit to Winston, with perhaps adding just 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 being something that would definitely require preparation before Maurice, assumed accompanied now with his new 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. With her normally in having the television on so loud, unlikely to notice the hourly striking! On second thought it would probably be less of a problem to look for an alternative 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'd become friends with, through gaps in next doors fence. It seems while out for a 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", immediately recognised by Parson as previously accompanying the postman. Spot, she continued, 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 in certainly missing his family, unsure now should he be sent back, how he would get on 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 that 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 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 this 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.

With the tale now at an end, Watson, now shuffling his feet looking slightly embarrassed, said he was flattered with the opportunity of being able to help. It was then after a "Thank you, it's very sweet of you to offer that help" Parson, after an affectionate smile disappeared from view through the fence. Having Watson giving his first if only for a long time, full romantic howl!!

On Daniels return that afternoon, Watson explained with great clarity the situation as revealed by Parson of Spot's predicament. 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 then queried "Yes" Watson replied "I believe she does it all the time. Although she tells me they do fuss and feed her, but rarely ever notice her gone, as seldom it seems taking their eyes of the television". "How sad!?" Daniels sympathetic reply! "Well!" Watson continued, "She says that they always seem so exhausted after coming home from work, so rather than trouble them she barks twice just to let them know she's going, and after an acknowledged wave back, pops out for a walk!" Daniels thought then in thinking of mother, was of something then they certainly did have in common it was the television!

But what they definitely did not have in common by comparison was bodyweight! Especially to his mother who was still pitifully thin? While sadly the two neighbours in question, husband and wife Dave and Rosemary Tuckin, were the opposite! And judged by modern standards as positively obese! And because of this Daniel surprised as with exercise known as beneficial to controlling weight, in them not joining the dog on her walks! And seemingly appearing to dismiss the dangers of her being out on her own! It wasn't that Daniel as with other differences prejudiced to overweight people; it was purely of circumstances surrounding the safety of the dog. He even felt in someway on Parsons behalf duty bound in broaching the subject! But on those rare occasion's earlier in seeing both in their garden, allowing little more than "Hello and how are you!" With an answer of "Yes were both well thank you!" ending the conversation as on previous occasions there! It was later then best described as the "nail in the coffin" that finally ended those garden exchanges, when mother chose for no apparent reason to introduce the word "flatulence" into the conversation. So inevitably the opportunity in discussing Parson unlikely to happen again!

And according to Parson with them rarely straying far now from their couch, did make him curious however if at all they'd altered since?

But on reflection he still considered it a shame, as with that initial meeting a year or two earlier not taken up with the offer to pop by for a cup of tea; as they'd appeared to be a nice couple, and certainly then not noticeably overweight! And from then on according to mother who would have made it her business to know, appearing as with having no other visitors Parson their sole company!

So now after returning to the other problem at hand, all agreed on a walk later that evening to hopefully again make contact with Spot. If only to see whether feasible they might be of help! If nothing else Daniel thought, he'd always been curious and now having Watson as an interpreter, as to why the dog chose to bite Doris anyway?

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 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 three 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 hurriedly, Daniel surprisingly in a slightly agitated tone quickly asked "So, before we look for a solution to your problem, my question is, just why did you bite my late wife Doris, as unaware of her ever having chastised you for anything!""" But then before continuing paused, becoming aware he was now foolishly addressing ANOTHER dog, one other of course than Watson! Spot meanwhile, reacting unknown to Daniel in understanding every word, now looking down appearing embarrassed began shuffling his feet! Well at least the front two! And ignoring the now befuddled look appearing on his questioners face in apologetically answering "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, although far less I feel by short people!" Then continued looking straight now at a somewhat dazed looking Daniel in offering remorsefully! "It was just one of those mornings, where your wife was in the wrong place at the wrong time!" Watson overhearing, 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 now bewildered faced Daniel, who ignoring that confirmation now nodding, muttering " "I never thought of my wife as being tall?".. "Nor did I!" said Parson loudly also looking now directly up at Daniel, and nodding her head in agreement adding "But you must understand from a dogs standpoint" she emphasised quite firmly "Taller people always appear more threatening" Daniel, now looking decisively out of it could only mumble almost incoherently " Mmm..I suppose that does make some sense!" his vacant now disturbed expression, if anything now growing!

The discussion between the three then continued, with a silent Daniel still trying hard to adjust to this new unexpected exposure. Then jarred back to the present in grabbing Watson's attention said "Could I have a quiet word alone with you for a moment?" Watson after excusing himself from the others, still heavily engaged with Spot's predicament, then said agreeably after they'd moved out from earshot. "Okay, I'm all yours!" This allowing Daniel still looking uncomfortable 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 now 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 managed a nod, as they then moved back to join the others.

It was nevertheless a now curious and much more composed Daniel who 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 although more relaxed but still slightly uncomfortable in 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 and sitting down. Daniel, after examining it closely began shyly "Apart from being a pretty neck" then enthusiastically with the discovery," Got it! It's a dog collar, just like a"a Parson would wear!" and still looking at her continued "Well, you don't look too happy about that! " She shrugged her shoulders then frowning said "Well, why would I be, I'm a Buddhist!" then continued "Canines perhaps your probably not surprised to hear, especially in having that affinity with animals are usually Buddhist and occasionally Hindu!" before adding "With the exception of America of course, where one or two I understand have become Mormons!" Daniel, trying to stay with this conversation could only think to answer "Really! Yes well I believe that would make sense!" He really did except for the Mormon bit, but as they continued homebound until again feeling more confident now in 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! Which prompted Daniel to say in all sincerity "How Sad?? Proving later, one of his standard retrospective replies!

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!! Suddenly, conscious again of the riming in his head, experienced briefly once before, while desperately hoping it would cease there, and then did," until a voice exclaimed!! "Do you think Wayne, his real name?" This unfortunately blurted out by Watson now entering the room with a pot of tea.

Shocked for a moment then realising this outburst Watson"s problem, Daniel continued calmer now after a sympathetic smile in the dogs direction with the suggestion "On reflection, perhaps it was then the name that influenced the ten gallon cowboy hat he wore now and again in the summer, until the post office asked him not too!" Too which Watson growing bored with this whole business with Wayne answered "Really, how interesting! Two lumps?" As Daniel still thinking about the hat agreeably 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?" her immediate response! "And where did he get the name Wayne from?" Daniel paused before answering quite truthfully with "I believe it's a cowboy thing, related I would guess to the hat" his then initial reply, while leaving uncomfortably that 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 an early 19th century oil painting of a room with a large clock displayed to one side! Something Roland the caller felt would possibly be of interest to him. Daniel replied thanking him that it most certainly would, and would call at the shop to view the following Tuesday. This also brought to mind combined with the visit, a detailed look at the accounts in adding a justifiable invoice! Meanwhile Roland, as with previously quickly pointing out once again quite firmly, his insistence that "It isn't a shop it's a gallery!!!" Daniel chuckling before putting the phone down after mumbling once again a familiar apology, as with although in liking the man still enjoying the tease! It was then in ending a promising morning, that mother appeared offering to make a fresh pot of tea!

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 on being captured, QUICKLY handed over by the police to the RSPCA. Daniel then promised to follow up with a phone call to the police station as soon as back at the house.

After phoning his local police station as before, found him regrettably again speaking to the same officer previously about Watson! Who, in unfortunately recognising his name, was told quite sharply after Daniel in describing the dog 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 booze! 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 however, 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 to just 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 now been recovered with a tartan patterned car blanket, a remnant from a convertible from year's gone bye!

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 reasonably proficient in computers and communal communication, internet, mobile phone's ECT! Roland by comparison, had never got beyond his landline phone. And with an alternative mobile out of the question as confirmed by a number of people living in his area, as rarely able to get a reliable signal! While coupled also with shy of paying bills, either from a quieter spell of business or just deciding them over charging him anyway, his landline phone often cut off! The surprising result of this, is how he still managed to stay in business? This was to his credit in being a master in the field of restoration! And as with local traffic often lucky to find him open, still highly recommended by galleries throughout the surrounding area! And with these skills causing potential clients returning until at long last finding him open.

His overall appearance generally it seems very attractive to women, as one assumes as did his past four wives! While in keeping with his age his appearance was one associated with artists in general, with Roland positively no exception! As in having shoulder length hair often accompanied with a few days unshaved stubble, along with scruffy cream or white baggy trousers, and never without either a Celt or Aztec jewellery decoration displayed somewhere! And not forgetting when socialising that essential corduroy jacket!

Arriving at his store, another term in his case that annoyed Roland, he decided initially to leave Watson in the car. Assuring the animal that should the right circumstances prevail, he would introduce him to Roland! "What circumstances?" Watson's immediate showing disappointed response. "Well, one could be" Daniel said perhaps too bluntly "The possibility that he doesn't like dogs, especially short ones of a mixed breed!" This Watson deemed an unnecessary remark, bringing both a doggy scowl and this conversation to a close. On leaving the car with Watson now sulking, returning once more to the more comfortable blanket on the back seat! This now in leaving Daniel pleased to see through the GALLERY window Roland, deep in conversation with a very attractive stylishly dressed lady. Who from her "arty" appearance just might be a customer! This meanwhile although enjoying the view, discouraged him from entering the premises; for fear of interrupting the flow of Roland's persuasive selling powers. This generally acknowledged by all known to him as an excellent raconteur, while added too if not always appreciated, attractive sense of humour! Having time now to study the condition of the shop front, had Daniel in deciding it definitely needed not only a fresh coat of paint, but less dramatically, possibly the windows cleaned? Although seemingly unimportant to its owner he felt unnecessary then to mention it. He did smile then on recalling as an example of Roland's odd and somewhat understated humour, when having placed in his window on a previous Christmas a sign offering "A merry Christmas to my customer and his wife?" It was of little wonder then that he liked the man!

With that attractive visitor now leaving past Daniel, a gestured nod past between them. With Roland then in welcoming Daniels entrance asking "And how are you my friend?" Then adding "You're looking amazingly well, and how"s mother?" This warm reception now accompanied with a generous handshake as Daniel answered with an appreciative smile "Both mother and I are fine thank you!" It was then, came that hopeful inquiry from Daniel of "In assuming that attractive lady leaving was a customer !" then adding with a wink, "Did it hopefully produce a sale?" he waited with great anticipation as Roland answered with a definite mischievous and somewhat confident grin "Every time I'm open old chap" his reply the grin unchanged.

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

It was Roland then returning the smile 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, finely detailed, and 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; one recognisable clearly with both the style of the case and detailed brass dial. To a point with perhaps 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 very familiar about the clock, and with the aid of a glass would be able he felt confirm later! Roland meanwhile had said nothing, just smiling in a kind of self satisfied way until he offered "Haven't wasted your time with this one have I!"

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

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

Roland's initiation to meeting Graham came about on a morning some months earlier. While adding some final touches of restoration to a painting in his rear workshop! Then on hearing the small bell ring attached to the street entrance door, and about to place both brushes and palate down, when 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 up 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 more associated with interrogating a prisoner "Anything militarily with canines present?" Prompting Roland, now feeling positively no need to be over polite, too just shake his head. Graham's reaction to this was then to quickly produce a business card, handing it to Roland with an abrupt request of "Well, should you come across anything in the future, do let me know!" And with that "order", and with no reply from the now unresponsive face of the recipient, Graham 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 although unlikely in Watson having a mood swing? Although established earlier easily accepted the antique clocks but with a difference, as in this case the possibility of something with animals in the paintings displayed found to upset him? Finally, Daniel came to a decision!

With his now overall concern, suggested then 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 unaware replying hastily without thinking "I'm not sure, but give me a moment and I'll pop out and ask him."

The look on Roland's face said it all, as replying with a dubious smile. "Now that really would be an intelligent dog!" Daniel fearing then that Watson on meeting the man, just might be tempted to reveal more than was wise, replied nervously "I suppose it would!" then with "I wont be a moment!" quickly left the room. A short while later after lecturing Watson on just what had occurred, and how to behave because of it, greeted then with strong objection from the dog as quite capable of handling the situation his own way, 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 in 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 there for Daniel, as in Roland's case as with previously, fitting in exactly as saw them his friends priorities in life.

During the ride home Daniel was unusually quiet, until Watson now back on the back seat having more room there in holding the painting on his lap although because of its size still with difficulty! It was then on further 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 then amiably "As a matter of fact I didn't, as I thought it would be nice to have you bring it to my attention!" Watson's reply in appreciating the gesture came in a low appreciative howl!

With an episode of National Geographic showing, Daniel, was left alone to find a suitable spot for this exceptionally large painting. This after his mother in seeing it without even a suggestion from Daniel, abruptly making it abundantly clear not even to consider her room! In setting aside that problem for a moment, Daniel returned to studying now with a magnifying glass the painting more closely himself. And initially first pleasantly surprised confirming how the dog on the rug looked uncannily like Watson! But then not so much a surprise as both the clock and partly the dog relevant to that period! And then previously indiscernible without a glass, his shocked surprise at the cat! A totally, no it's not possible, now discernable faintly cream coloured cat curled up beside the dog!!! In fact with the likeness to both Watson and the cat, only briefly glimpsed earlier, suggested both possibly 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 first back on the clock, then on both animals again, his expression now 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 dog and cat again said firmly "Yes, there is something new I believe that we now urgently need to discuss!" then adding sharply "And definitely much sooner now, than later!"

As with the painting now linking as with other misgivings surrounding the dog, culminating in Daniel urgently needing to find 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?" This caused Daniel; on lowering the glass and looking unswervingly back at Watson replying "Yes, I think you probably can!" And with that said, quickly returning to the painting in focusing directly on the cat again, searching optimistically now for that single fang tooth!!!

It was a smiling Watson, causing the atmosphere to become relaxed again 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, before seating himself comfortably at the kitchen table. It was after the second cup with Watson agreeable; the long awaited now essential questions with hopefully honest answers began in earnest.

Daniel was not sure with the possibility of strongly offending the dog, who he had grown to like very much in just where to begin. But before he could decide, Watson, having finally 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 honest answers to your every question" Daniel's reply was a quiet "Thank you, that's what I hoped for and very much appreciate!"

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

"Ah yes, and finally, where does the cream coloured cat come in?" Watson now looking totally relaxed, his paws clasped together in front of him, 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! "You see we haven't actually met; it was just a glimpse of one another when you and I first met." Then with an annoying grin continued "And it appears he can't be that lucky, otherwise not shown in the painting but noted when I first met him, wouldn't, have since "mislaid" his other front tooth?"

Dismissing momentarily the criticism Watson smiling said "But 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 things!" Then after a pause and looking a little concerned added "But I will ask him about the tooth later?" then retaining a smile said "I also promise at sometime, to explain more of my close relationship with that cat!" This revelation caused raised eyebrows from Daniel, as Watson more relaxed again although still showing signs of concern with news of the tooth, continued then but only after clearing his throat and clasping his paws together even more firmly in front of him.

"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 as being naturally anxious to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible! This early interruption did NOT sit well with Watson, and with an angry response of "Perhaps not to you!" Raising his voice up a notch continuing "But it's important in our history!!!" Daniel, showing some embarrassment with his outburst compromised with "My apologies if my reply appeared insensitive but please continue!" then a pause before". "No worries!" replied Watson calmer and smiling again, as he did as requested!

"Its fully documented" he began enthusiastically now "That these close, respectful domestic relationships 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 as your ancestors, or would you prefer cremation?" Watson with eyebrows raised shook his head, then said now in a serious tone "That's something I don't think you have to worry about!" After this somewhat indifferent answer and clearing his throat again, continuing louder with "Over the following centuries throughout different cultures, dogs were acknowledged as something special amongst animals, as a companion, guard and hunter" then looking pleased with himself feeling the interruptions were now over continued. "Being valued by both men and women as no other animal was before." Then paused for a moment with the suggestion! "Other than possibly the horse?" Followed lightly emphasising on a humorous note "And with the present day it seems, that particular animal certainly appears more popular now more so with the ladies! Unless of course should you be a betting man!" This followed with a sarcastic comment from Daniel of "Well I've noticed cats are no longer mentioned! And incidentally, how come you're Talisman hasn't shown him since?" Then chuckling quickly continued "Which certainly myself not included, a great number of devoted dog lovers would be happy about!" and hardly pausing for a breath adding further, "And all that as I've said before most interesting, and I suppose it is a relief anyway to know that in your case, that you're just an unusual dog with the exception that you can talk, other than thankfully, an alien or something!" This then brought about a surprisingly unexpected reply, when after silent for a moment with Watson then addressing Daniel uttering in an almost devout and quite formal way with "I can assure you my good friend DANIEL, I'm here to play a much larger role than just being a TALKING dog!!" Daniel, caught off guard with this claim, although still smiling with eyebrows raised, answered while trying to keep a straight face with an obviously bored then of "Really!!!" This now seemingly adopted especially in circumstances such as these, one of his other indifferent replies!

It was at that moment Daniel taking both the readers and Watson totally by surprise, while completely dismissing the incredible possibilities of Watson's last statement. While seemingly ignoring Watson's lack of explaining further the non reappearance of the cat, by returning 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!" accompanied now with a heavy sigh continued. "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 extremely 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!" Another popular retrospective 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 didn't sleep long, being awoken by the abrupt sound of an over enthusiastic television cooking show host from mothers bedroom next door. But now wide awake, gave his intended explanation to Daniel a great deal more thought. Feeling that Daniel, especially with his unexpected 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 to hold 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 as she saw it, the unjustified intimation of placing the painting in her room, declined thankfully an offer to join them. Not that she had any problem with alcohol, often treating herself to a little tipple just before closing her eyes. And always with Sherry, with both bottle and glass available from the bottom of her bedside cupboard, within reach while comfortably in bed. And as too their loss of her company in not accepting the invitation, justifiably pleased as in walking there with mother, taking twice as long in getting there and even longer getting back!

This on occasion since Watson"s arrival, provided a regular visit together to this local watering hole now named "The Dogs Hoden" This pub interestingly had being renamed in a competition following the end of the war, as part of the anatomy of a Rottweiler dog named "Herman". The dog having being chosen as previously a loyal companion to a "Battle of Britain" flying ace, and as a result, that PART, judged as the winning entry in celebration of that victory! The tavern also had a previous history of over 200 years as the "Duke of Clarence". This a royal title discontinued as being deemed now unlucky following Queen Victoria's reign, and possibly in deference to her late majesty, the reason why this particular pub been chosen.

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! "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 without confirmation leaning fully over the bar, with Watson on the other side, stretching fully upwards attempting to extract from the counter those "Pork scratchings" was when Billy's hand with great gusto ruffled the dogs head!!

"I believe so!" said Daniel then in answer to Billy's first question, but now looking decidedly concerned when he added hesitantly. "But I'm not sure I can safely say yes to that!" His cautious reply gesturing towards that following "Head ruffle"! While looking now intensely at Watson in hopes of preventing any adverse reaction aware, just how much Watson disliked being patted, or even much worse ruffled! Billy now smiling in appreciating the advice then 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 having as an additional bonus for Watson, Billy's dog Nelson! A much loved very genial Old English bulldog! Often described by Billy with Mrs Roberts out of earshot as his soul mate! Although Mrs Roberts or Michelle to give her a first name, seen more in the kitchen than the bar, engaged in catering for their small conservatory restaurant room, always busy attached to the rear of the pub.

As the bar filled with customers, Daniel as on previous occasions with the dog's odd appearance, continually questioned by them as to his exact breed! Causing Watson, anxious to avoid further ruffling, to quickly amble over to join hopefully generally out of reach, his friend Nelson! While usually found comfortably on his favourite reserved spot, a well worn carpet in front of an Inglenook fireplace situated in a quieter corner of the bar. This ancient fireplace serving as well as Nelson a constant reminder of the pub's past history. As Watson now sat down besides his still snoozing "Host", Nelson, suddenly aware of his presence and always happy with company, raised his head enough to inquire in a strangely familiar Churchillian voice, adopted it seems virtually now by all Bulldogs with "And how are you old chap, keeping well I hope!"

Watson in answering with "Fair to middling!" then questioned "I suppose you've heard about Spot?" On this his host after gradually raising himself to a sitting position answering now in a concerned way! "Yes, as a matter of fact I have! Sad news that! Heard it from a Spaniel who knows a pretty little Jack Russell bitch named Parson that often he tells me see's regularly in the park. But of course you'd know her! Lives next door to you I believe!" Watson nodding smiled, with Nelson continuing "I say is it true they let Parson out on her own?" Watson still smiling nodded again, with his friend adding in showing now a concerned response "Dam dangerous that you know, think her people would know better!" This then readily agreed by Watson with his predictably "Yes! Sad isn't it!" whilst choosing to leave it there. With the exchange then in ending after another agreeing nod from his host!

It was a short time later with Daniel finishing his second Guinness, and Watson his second bag of pork "scratchings", coupled with gesture of leaving to both Billy and Nelson, they began their walk home.

"I think next time we visit the "Hoden" Watson suggested in using this popular abbreviation. "I insist now when finding time their together, we find a seat in the corner where with luck I can escape the attention of my would be fan club!" After a sympathetic smile Daniel concurring said "I can tell it's getting the better of you, god knows what would happen if you actually spoke!" Watson then shaking his head replying emphatically "That's more than extremely unlikely, as I don't enjoy the attention I get already and dread to think what that would bring!" then pausing for a moment before continuing "There is one thing as you seem to know Billy well, that I'd like to ask you about him!" This bringing an immediate response from Daniel of "I wouldn't reveal his age if that's your question." 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 after a smug expression continued "Just why, did he name him Nelson?" Daniel stopped abruptly, and looking hard at Watson said "I'm then 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, if that's not enough I'll give you a further clue!" "Kiss me Hardy!" This other than bringing a smile to Watson's face, this did not register at all! So Daniel continued "But anyway, as you"ve stated already guessed the answer, I"ll leave it at that!" This bringing a soft muted howl from Watson, confirming in finding himself undeniably trumped! Assuming of course he was acquainted with the game of cards!!

But still, he felt without confirmation as to why Billy called him Nelson; he deserved at least be given a sensible clue?" Daniel meanwhile as they continued their journey home, having duly outsmarted on this occasion his companion, took on his own "smug" look, in being quietly surprised at Watson's lack of knowledge of England's naval history!! As previously often up until now, felt at times slightly intimidated with Watson's extensive general knowledge, but this proved at least the dog humanly flawed after all!

On arriving back at the house after a tiring day Daniel decided on retiring to bed earlier than usual. Although once comfortable felt sure Mother had on this occasion the volume turned up higher than normally as possibly still "smarting" from that earlier misconstrued altercation with the painting. But then on remembering rather fondly what his father had to say about mother with "Life with your mother" he would often declare "Was not always fun, but was never boring!" with Daniel on recalling this thinking "He certainly got that one right!"

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 largely with their now concerns concentrated exclusively over the fate of Spot, which entailed on spending the majority of their time in searching the park for any clue to his disappearance? Alternately, it's remotely possible another reason quite simply could be a fear of Daniel's of what that temporary shelved investigation might reveal something he might find totally unprepared for!

But meanwhile in feeling now positively more of the Sherlock Holmes emerging in his ambitious search for Spot, even risking a further hopeful inquiry with the local police station! Only to be informed after being asked to give his name by a new voice at the end of the phone, causing reference to a file attached relating to his previous calls, with the officer suggesting then that Daniel be given a final warning pending arrest as a public nuisance. Daniel without further 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, accomplished with a visit to his tailor, the celebrated Winston McFarlane. Who knows he contemplated, perhaps a brighter change to his wardrobe might also even contribute to more optimism in him understanding better his mother. If only temporarily!

Winston was it turned out; the only person known to him that was keen on parrots. With the exception of course his mother, with the smaller variety! Especially one in particular from a number of tropical birds he maintained, that reminded him of his childhood growing up in the West Indies. And to prove his point and certainly breaking with tradition, kept that one as an attraction and company in his lavish London Chelsea showroom! It was later described to Daniel, as a "Yellow-Billed" multi coloured parrot, quite widespread in the West Indies. This bird added with a visit to his showroom 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 that Winston would be there, and being okay to bring along the dog, that both he and Watson set out!

On the journey Watson assuming as a special treat, as allowed now 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 real reason anyway and now seated comfortably on that front seat had, for whatever 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, comparable in anticipation of a sick animal dying; While coupled with this the cost involved only born comfortably now by the rich! Eventually in finding a space and placing in the meter the equivalent of a minimum day's wage, they made their way to Winston's showroom.

As they entered although still with a customer, Winston acknowledged Daniel 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 too 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, and increased even more so by a significant diamond earring imbedded in the lobe of his right ear. In appearance he could have at any previous time in history be 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. This leaving displayed across the waistcoat 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 his 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 even 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 with a sympathetic smile with "Although I must admit, you do look a little stressed! And yes, before you ask, Maurice did phone me!" Daniel looked embarrassed at this; feeling then back as a child when excluded from any opinion instructions would be given then aloud by mother to the barber. With that image fading Daniel then able to answer.

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

And with that settled, Winston then turned to the dog, who had sat again mystified by the complexity in human relationships. But now addressing the dog, Winston began as dog lovers do by offering a hand for a paw to shake! While announcing, "On understanding your name is Watson, may I introduce myself and my friend over there!" then gesturing in the direction of the bird offered""Meet Oskar, my 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 bird in the far corner of the showroom, now rocking gently on the bar of his stand, while returning even from a distance a fixed stare equal Watson believed to his own! It was then, gratified on what he had witnessed so far in Winston as definitely a friend of animals, and with parrots it seemed in particular, glanced again at the parrot while omitting a quiet, approving howl.

As Daniel began discussing with Winston what exactly he had in mind in the way of colour and material, Watson casually moved across to the 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. With that undecided 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 then disappointingly rewarded from the parrot with just a puzzled stare! Well thought Watson undeterred, perhaps if I attempt to write it down that might work! But with writing already proving difficult in holding a pen then thankfully relieved of the problem, on consideration that if that previously worked, parrots now would already be reading newspapers! Which of course their not!! The parrot 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 then under his breath, "So, you're not so dumb after all!" Then ignoring the call, continued to Daniels side, being curious to see just how colourful he would eventually settle for! His interest it seemed was well received, with a then 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 why, Winston answered the question.

"I would naturally buy it from Maurice, as with his expertise in the business and our close relationship undeniable, but his personal choice for the space in question, might be"..! He hesitated for a moment "If you can believe it, 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 in acknowledging that Maurice's tastes in being not exactly bland, wondered now in just how flamboyant Winston had in mind, but offering anyway "No need to say more, I'm happy to help and if you so wish, join you in arguing whatever your choice is against our friend!"

With that approval Winston grabbing Daniels hand shook it heartedly, then with a huge grin promising "I believe that warrants some additional fine stitching to the suit just ordered!" Daniel matching the grin replied "A very acceptable gift my friend, especially as winning a battle with Maurice no mean task!"

As it turned out later, it was the choice of a rich Japanned case that Winston had in mind underlining totally his problem, as this not a particularly popular style with by comparison a very conservative Maurice, but something that would undoubtedly go well with both Winston's colourful persona, and the parrot!!

With an offer of coffee declined with Daniel anxious to beat the traffic home, and after acceptance of another vigorous handshake coupled with 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 mildly restrained 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 two minutes. While the disappointed look on the traffic wardens faces expressed as if the kill this time managed to get away!

Even with the busy traffic on driving home, Daniel did appear much more relaxed! Combining their conversation with both the need to continue THAT important question unresolved between them with truthful answers, and just as important, the still unknown fate of Spot? With Daniel suggesting as a complete surprise to Watson and in breaking a strict rule, having him now risking a call to the police! Watson with no hesitation readily agreed, being both flattered at the opportunity, and unbeknown to Daniel intuitively having already a planned character in mind!

The call to the police station went better than expected. With Watson's revealed choice of character perfecting with great surprise to Daniel, an acceptable, "New York" accent. Having introducing himself as Julius "Rip" Rockenburger the third, patron of the "God bless the endangered canine breeds of the World society". As with this being he went on to describe, a privately funded philanthropic organisation recently established in America, but as yet unknown in Great Briton.

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

At this juncture then interrupted by a voice at the other end asking politely "Well that's all very interesting sir!" whilst embarrassed to say unaware of the magazine when continuing "But can you get to the point of your phone call?"

"Of course officer!" Julius answered in an apologetic tone before progressing.

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

Then after a brief silence from the other end followed fortunately by a friendly accommodating voice seemingly impressed by both the splendid title of the organisation, coupled with this obviously named aristocratic as by American standards! Added to this, a dangled "carrot" with a suggestion from "Julius", that should the officer supply his name would be given a mention in their soon to be published here quarterly journal, of his commendable help in finding the animal.

The offer to be part of an exclusive body for an ageing desk Sergeant, whose name now given as Albert Bridgestone, with as now an unlikely future of achieving fame through any spectacular arrest, was too much to resist. And consequently 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 he pointed out 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, and other than REAL emergencies never used! To complete his impressive image, Julius suggested he would contact him later that week, after returning from his round Briton tour of rescue homes for abandoned dogs, by way of offering those 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.

With the conversation over in celebrating this apparent victory, Daniel offered to make a pot of tea. This suggestion bringing an approved "howl" from this now highly respected, at least by Daniel, self proclaimed philanthropic canine.

Albert Bridgestone now aged 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 partial 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 an agreeable 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 required large number of a levels. So in failing this employment within the law eventually came from another direction. When, after successfully joining the police force, discovering unquestionably at last in finding his true vocation! And with that acceptance, his ultimate gaol then was to become a plain clothes detective! Unfortunately 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 with a promotion to administration! Which unexpectedly he found himself good at, even 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 now loved.

Although part of that reluctance to retire, came chiefly from the death of his wife Grace, after her loving companionship and gardening skills over the previous 41 years. While unfortunately in having no children to comfort his grief, who possibly would have had gardening skills, made the thought of him having to attempt it himself good enough to stay where he was! So with few recreational pursuits without any attractive incentive on acquiring gardening skills, lay solely now in walking his dog "Pierre". Who had certainly through that close companionship helped enormously in overcoming the loneliness that had followed! And in gratitude for that relationship strongly influencing his concern and sincere help offered, in finding the missing "Spot!!"

As with his social life, that now comfortably sustained adequately and significantly with other members of the police force. As with the social role of the policeman in almost any community often unfortunately regarded with some suspicion by others in general! As we all apparently although ridiculous how it may seem, suggest in 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 much the same as one's own.

His industrious pursuit of Spot however, although unquestionably seduced to some extent with the introduction of being part of that interesting world with Julius surrounding that animal, did feel although late, perhaps also the last opportunity of proving his prowess as a detective. This quest was undoubtedly helped greatly with Albert without question being largely indebted to that comfort provided by "Pierre", in becoming an enthusiastic dedicated dog catcher!

This love of dogs fortunately also shared unlike gardening with his late wife Grace, although possibly minus "dog catching skills!" With their personal choice of breed being as you might already have guessed from the name "Pierre", as a Standard French Poodle. While also might come as a surprise to most people considering their pampered appearance at shows, as by choice 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. Although during time when let loose on the public produced an increase in arrests as with few in the ranks if any speaking French! So his dedication in finding Spot was both from the heart, coupled with his proven hopeful ability in the detective work about to go with it!

Approximately a week later with still no progress at his end in tracing the elusive Spot, Watson alias Julius phoned the station, but this time asking to speak directly to a Sergeant Albert Bridgstone.

In 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 primarily of a rare American canine lately lost in this country, and now added recently 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!! He did however add that in their effort in finding the animal referred too, had now been extended to cover the rough overgrown perimeter of a nearby golf course in close proximity to the park. Although sadly once more admitted, apart from finding a great number of golf balls and articles of personal clothing, no other evidence of the animal was as yet to be found.

Watson, now expressing delight at their effort although disappointed at "none", whilst admitting not remotely interested in golf, or balls used, while confirming then that the officer's name 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 went on, the "narks" irrespective of their age, gender or time served; in their volunteering in helping find this rare canine. He was then quite sure when on hearing his name, now seemingly recognised by Officer O"Brian, the added distinct sound of the man coming to attention!

Watson, after again personally thanking him, was elated with the officers parting gesture of "I believe meself were doing our best sir, no worries. And rest assured, we will catch in time both the dog and culprit responsible for this unsociable theft!" The officer with his terminology and slight nasal twang was Watson decided probably Australian, added too just a trace of his distant forefathers Irish dialect.

It was later that same evening Daniel decided it was worth a walk once again to the park to look for Spot. But on arriving found the place in turmoil, and with so many people being arrested for all sorts of reasons, and in not wanting to become one of them, they quickly left! It appeared later verified by the local press, that there were skirmishes everywhere, producing not only with the public but also a large share of police injuries. These Daniel discovered afterwards through his daughter April, were the result of frustration by the police in having no success in finding the gone astray Spot. And producing even by her standards, uncompromising arrest"s, made for amongst others! Refusal to pick up deposit's after their dog, without establishing fully whether it was THEIR dog irrespective of comparing size, gender or age. Others meanwhile included, flying a kite with badly spelt rude words on it!". Demonstrating excessive affection in public for a companion, whether male, female or both! And lastly embarrassingly, and certainly not an isolated case! Of two very aged lady pensioners, battering one another with large 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 them that it would be probably prudent to avoid their search in the park for a while, leaving it in the end although questionable, in the capable hands of the police? Believing positively at present anyway the area likely for the time being absent of any other form of life. Particularly as with the police now frighteningly encased in riot gear in feeling outnumbered, while steadily increasing daily their numbers as 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 will tell you, found somewhat embarrassing, whilst reviving for Daniel in particular, unpleasant memories of that previous years visit.

And on recalling that previous visit when arriving at the waiting room and finding a seat, greeted then 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 already proved 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 with "Only a few aches and pains" but then added with a friendly smile, proved mistakenly later, "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 with great emphasis "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, after shaking his head and looking a little perplexed although still with a smile then offered. "I don't know about you matron, but I stopped maturing years ago, but it hasn't stopped me growing older!"" She silently 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, a prostate examination?

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

A short while later, with the said matron although passing him on a number of times, avoiding any eye contact or acknowledgment of him even being there, 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 with THAT exam, that every normal male patient dread"s! That of "Would you mind Mr Lovelock, if two of our student FEMALE 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, coupled then with the expression on the doctor's face he interoperated as, "After all, you are a mature adult, and that's why I've asked you" So then, in feeling compelled with this winning combination saw no option but to say yes!!

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

Returning now to the present visit, and relieved to find a new "more mature" matron posing him with same questions, with Daniel then giving the same answers as before! But with a difference as with no correction to his answering "Older"! And with the questionnaire over, did inquire then in as polite a way as possible the previous matrons whereabouts. To be told, she had been part of an exchange program and had since returned to Canada. On hearing this Daniel hopefully without showing being positively relieved at this, did suggest in a complimentary manner that she was very efficient in the way she carried out her duties. There was no reply from the matron other than just a knowing look in his direction! The examination on this occasion thankfully without an audience over 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 more 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 less so more worryingly with meeting his new partner Bernard, who Daniel not met before. He quickly entered then into a discussion with Watson as to the possible outcome of this. Watson assured him positively 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 at least able to leave out his intended lecture on what he feared as a possibly alternative outcome!

The following morning Maurice arrived as was anticipated, accompanied with his partner Bernard. A nice chap, who could have been other than being slightly taller, taken for Maurice's twin! Bernard before his introduction and now passionate through Maurice about clocks, had an interesting background. Beginning from an isolated home schooling education in Brixton, to be found later working in the entertainment media in Soho, as an occupational dialect specialist! His work mainly entailed working with newcomers on shows such as "Eastenders", in allowing the transition in integrating for non speaking cockneys to go much smoother. And with shows like "Coronation Street" the same tuition would be given for people largely from the West Country. It was then suggested by Daniel that before entering the house, probably preferable they meet the dog! Watson's then appearance greeted enthusiastically by Maurice, although unfortunately didn"t; 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 any 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 then discovered an added bonus in buying this particular clock! As on closer examination of the dial, revealed almost hidden, a strike/silent lever, which when operated would allow the strike when desired, to be turned off.

So on explaining this to mother now showing surprisingly great interest, this feature undoubtedly contributed then coupled with the history of the clock, to her surprising 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 to 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; that this probably his last purchase. Never without a solution for encouragement in purchasing a clock, Maurice's quick response suggesting "It was then time you bought a bigger house!"

Dismissing this with a grin, with the satisfaction in at least with mother's offer certainly solving the problem with the new clock, although not so the problem with Bernard! Who since being assured the dog was safely secured, still showed unease in constantly looking behind him in anticipation that Watson might suddenly 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 that other room to say goodbye to Watson. And whilst in the room, apologising for his partner's fear of dogs, or has he described it 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, still unconvinced the dog wouldn't suddenly appear, was when Watson observing through the curtains from the living room, wondered if Bernard possibly had a fear of "Birds" as well!

And more especially, "Parrots!"

That night at midnight, Daniel half awake his thoughts still engaged with the day's delivery and being surprised and more than disappointed that Maurice, not raised any questions at all on his trip to their tailors. This had certainly preventing him from enjoying describing in detail, his choice of material to his friend. It was then suddenly his thoughts abruptly interrupted; with the new clock now situated in mother's room next to his, now felt positive in having struck thirteen? His immediate assumption was that mother not yet 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, as being none the worse for ware she stated on hearing the reason for Daniels intrusion into her room having insisted slept soundly through the night; was when Daniel then positioned himself next to the clock to see if it happened again. It didn't! Striking the full twelve just as it should have done! His mother meanwhile having become irritable on his now she felt unnecessary 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 her "only kept for emergencies", Herb tea!!!

With mother out of the room, Daniel now 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, then smiling left the room. As about to close the door however when the clock struck just the once again! "I'm sure I didn't hear that" he said to himself still smiling, as making his way then back downstairs.

"But Maurice did warn me!" He later volunteered after explaining what had 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 chuckled dog howl! Daniels response unsure whether appreciating this good or otherwise was to ignore it and turn on the television.

Throughout the following days and nights, there were no further surprises with the clock, with mother fortunately now fully competent in operating the strike/silent lever, generally then stayed on silent. Except with mother accompanied by Watson, noticeably spending more time together in her room! Markedly since it seemed the clock installed 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 those revelations were still some way off!!

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

With Daniel surprisingly unresponsive to his joke even with a smile, Watson then asked if there was a problem with the visit.

"Its not that I dislike her partner" he began "But she is rather overbearing!" he explained almost apologetically. Watson having grown fond of April, but only overhearing briefly when on loud speaker Boadicea on the phone, could only imagine that this would 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, that I shall withhold my opinion until after the visit!" 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, in bearing no resemblance at all as described by Roman historians to her original namesake. In being both small and demure, and strikingly attractive! But what they would have had in common was both as confirmed with the original's namesake, in having reddish hair, and as with both past and present extremely assertive! After the usual exchange of paw and hand with Boadicea which Watson normally felt generally unavoidably degrading followed by a gentle acceptable ruffle? Which surprisingly he found quite nice! Now feeling relaxed at their meeting his first thought which he would have chose but forbidden to have expressed verbally was "It's very nice to meet you although you did sound taller on the phone" This being just one of his misconstrued whimsical expressions which he unfortunately, had always felt somehow a complimentary backhander for shorter people. But thankfully on this occasion, not able verbally to impart this admiration or mercifully humour in words settled then 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 now bending forward staring directly into Watson's now totally captured face, with words following he felt solely for him alone "The most attractive intelligent canine I've ever met!" and then continued after adding a very acceptable even softer 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, coupled I'm sure with hearing and seemingly impressed in 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, offering that should there be any problems in the future 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 evening to everybody's joy that became permanent.

While much 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 overbearing!

He did wonder and hopefully proved wrong, in perhaps feeling that Daniel having great affection for his daughter had become disappointed, even angry resulting in her choice of a female, rather than male partner! Which by definition would have probably guaranteed other grandchildren? This being hard to contemplate considering Daniel's great antipathy towards prejudice in any form! Well at least now he felt even if true of the past Daniel appearing after events that day, to have now changed his mind completely about her choice of partner. Again reaffirming that his with own opinion of Daniel being a good person, and an excellent choice on his part in understanding the complexities 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 that 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, whilst then divulging just on how much he missed Daniels good Company. This was followed then predictably on inquiring whether the dog was still with him! On being told he was, Daniel then quickly expressed on how more agreeable a dog he had become. This brought about a positive silence from the other end, and its continuation prompted Daniel to inquire whether 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 to old chap, to enjoy just your company alone at say another location, perhaps the "Hoden?"

Daniel as was his nature predictably sorry for his friend and welcoming his suggestion proposed a meeting then on the following Wednesday evening around eight, minus 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 although awkwardly in still having trouble in turning the pages, returning once again to today's newspaper!

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

He was in the throes of checking his watch once again now at eight thirty, when a voice from someone now standing next to him said. "Hello Daniel, hear you've got yourself a dog!" He looked up to find a recently acquired new friend Terry Pajari, who ran a health spa including gymnasium situated close by, one Daniel had joined just after the death of Doris. And one since the arrival of Watson awarded no time to go back too.

Terry Pajari was an interesting character, having previously been employed in both the theatre and movies. As both an acrobat and dancer, and occasionally a stuntman! His physique now in confirming that fitness while comfortably disguising in revealing his age!

Daniels intention on joining was instigated on a new found interest in practising Yoga, as incorporating both exercise and as just important, meditation. This in a healthy pursuit of matching the longevity as enjoyed by his father! Following their greeting with a handshake Terry then questioned "Can't say I've see you in here very often?" with Daniel smiling replying "I suppose that would depend how often either of us came in here!" this bringing laughter from both as Terry continued "In having noticed however your absence at the spa over the past few weeks, is everything okay? "Or" he continued smiling "Are you just getting enough exercise now with that dog I"ve heard so much about!" Then looking around the table even under it before inquiring "So where is this cobaka Billy"s so impressed with, that's usually he tells me always with you!" Daniel nodding replied "He generally is, but I'm waiting for an old friend who's not too keen on his company, and that!" He paused as now peering over Terry's shoulder continued "I'll explain why in more detail another time!" That quick apology given as recognising Graham now entering through the tavern door!

"Sorry I'm late old chap!" Graham's shouted excuse as moving quickly towards them. "Car broke down again!" Looking first at Daniel and then Terry in hopeful anticipation of an introduction! Terry, after just a smile in Graham's direction then quickly excusing himself with "Must go, have some people to get fit, and will expect and be rather disappointed otherwise in not seeing you soon!" And to emphasis his point, adding a light finger jab to Daniels chest followed by "Over the next couple of weeks I mean, not, the next couple of months!" then added with smile "And I'm quite sure we can offer you something of benefit beyond just walking the dog! "Daniel, in acknowledgement now grabbing his hand to shake, replying sincerely "And I promise I'll be there!" Then Terry after addressing them both with a polite"dobryj vyechyer!" quickly left! "Seems an odd chap that one, strange accent!" Grahams then comment, as with the obvious disappointment now showing in that lack of any formal introduction to the Russian, with Daniel offering in return just a smile.

As Graham sat down Daniel looking at the troubled expression on the person now seated opposite him suggested "Let me get you a drink, it certainly looks like you need one!" Graham then, his expression unchanged nodding with "Thank you old chap, I think I do!" his appreciative reply. When Daniel returned drink in hand to the table, the increasingly sad expression on his friends face prompted him looking questioningly at his visitor in suggesting "This car breaking down seems to happen to you quite a lot Graham" while regretting later adding sarcastically "So, did you walk here?" His friend appeared awkward for a moment, but after recovering his composure answered smiling although uncomfortably "No, I did manage eventually to get it started again"" "Well, that was lucky!" Daniels lighter more cordial 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 in being frequently uncovered in fabricating almost every story he told, and sadly because of it rarely listened too or worse 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 self-defeating, and rarely harmful to others.

"So", Daniel began. "Other than avoiding small "royal" dogs, what else is happening in your life?" Graham smiling at this painfully aware that Daniel probably new him better than he did himself! The sad expression returned on his face as he explained. "I've been demoted in the Territorial's and unsure now whether to remain with them or not!" 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 now working hard not too show.

In fact as on previous occasions with Graham's frequent setbacks, Daniel always as probably his only close friend did without exception feel sorry for him! Leaning forward then and placing his hand sympathetically on Graham's arm inquired "So what happened this time?"

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

"It was in this case not entirely my fault!" This from Graham a familiar opening as he continued "But as I was in command of the unit, the unfortunate outcome fell naturally on my shoulders." he paused for a moment then after clearing his throat continued "I am still not sure however, that my mistake made when in misinterpreting that call taken by Private Ramsbottom and consequently passed onto me, was possibly dare I say it, deliberate!" Again more throat clearing before continuing. "He's from the north you know, Ramsbottom! And I firmly believe I had previously detected through our question time period, prejudice towards anyone like myself 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 by this time was already having problems in taking this seriously, smothering a threatening smile as best he could. But in understanding hopefully but not too unkindly that with the best probably still to come, bade him continue.

"The phone call" Graham 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!" But then with an awkward smile from Graham, Daniel sensed there was a clue here somewhere!

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

"The message taken and passed onto myself by Ramsbottom was, as he allowed me to interoperate it!" as breathing another this time 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 hurriedly then 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 of the pub! But then thankful as with no mention by Graham as later told by Billy, of the temporary silence throughout the pub that followed that outburst!

On seating himself once again at the table his outburst now under control, assuming although feeling somewhat guilty in hoping in all honesty the story didn't end there, confirmed then with his suggestion that Graham again continue! After another deep sigh before returning to the story, Graham then added 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 usual nearest railway station to the MOOR. And was about to inquire the name of that station when told very loud and abruptly, "Good God man, it's almost become an institution, it's the same as before with previous manoeuvres so just be a good chap and be there!!" Then another sigh as he continued "The tone in itself was enough without risking a further inquiry for me to put the phone down!" This then he confessed but 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 those previous manoeuvres!" Then looking perplexed added "Although that word "INSTITUTION" didn't help!"" With this statement he sat bolt upright as though in a military court being tried for desertion. Then continued in adopting the same pose with "I must confess my ego on this occasion, 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 then construed a positive hopeful change in the man!

It was then Daniel suggested before Graham continued, he would refill the glasses, determined after with a little encouragement that his friend would continue. Graham although still looking thoroughly dejected, accepted the offer with a smile whilst nodding approvingly.

With the drinks now in hand, and 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 he began, with a delay on the train due to a point's failure, they arrived at the nearest railway station. The whole company now looking splendid in full battle dress to include rifles and bayonets! He was surprised however to find no other units present! And assuming in arriving late had missed them then without delay had them march in quick order to the main gates of the BroadMOOR INSTITIUTION. 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 then 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 uninformed 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, waking up even most of the sedated patients, plus the ringing of loud bells while automatically alerting the nearest police station!

Meanwhile the governor until now innocent of events on looking out from his upstairs window, seeing a fully armed uniformed people of mixed race assembled outside his main gate, accompanied now 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 only 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 a terrorist threat, would, he made abundantly clear "Love to have a go at the bastards!" That opportunity he dreamed of it appeared had now arrived!

Meanwhile both Graham and his men and in particular Ramsbottom, were getting restless, and in Graham"s case, considerably troubled! 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 now on Graham's squad! This was when Graham's confusion changed to something bordering panic!!!

But one should say that 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, facing the police as best they could! Graham found then he now had to except reluctantly and being more confused, 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. It was then Ramsbottom in understanding quite simply what he was told to say, chose deliberately, neglecting in revealing to Graham all he intended to say. He then with his own grubby off white handkerchief held high now drooping from his rifle's bayonet 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 strangely 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, although unable to speak while still forcing back the tears, followed by then a "limp" handshake, Graham left! With Daniel calling out kind-heartedly "And don't take it to personal, and do keep in touch!" This also accompanied with a wave to Graham but sadly with no response, as his friend dejectedly 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, chose to 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, in then gulping down his present Scotch, quickly ordered another. Billy with a brief smile after refilling his glass, without further comment then moved on to another customer, but not before a perceptive worrying wink in Daniels direction!

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

"Well!" Daniel began a faraway look on his face. "He looked fine from a dischance!" Daniels incoherent alcohol induced reply, in referring now to Nelsons penchant, his place on the mat in front of the inglenook fireplace! This followed with a sarcastic inebriated edge of! "I'm shou your aware, I shaven't as yet verbally communicated with Nelson, and hopefully snever will". Watson, now correctly interoperating him as drunk said "I thought now you actually liked dogs!" Daniel ignoring his retort, moved into the living room to collapse into his favourite armchair, pleased for once that Watson wasn't already in it. Then succumbing to the effects of those additional drinks, and that lengthy overall amusingly tragic tale as told by Graham, plus having a silly inebriated grin on his face, now quickly dropped off to sleep!

He awoke the following morning with his mother smiling down on him, a large mug of tea in her hand. "Looks like you need this you silly boy?" he hopefully interoperated as affectionately, as with difficulty attempting to smile back! Then struggling awkwardly he sat up, appearing surprised at first and then at least pleased in discovering himself in his favourite armchair. As mother handed him the mug she said without warning in changing the subject 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 still hopefully hear with "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 in 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, as although inebriated still fearing the riming had returned!!! "Did you say something dear?" his mother loudly again still in the kitchen, as Daniel emitted a tempered wailing hangover cry. Then regaining control in 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, continued loudly "I think I'll go.. lay down for a while!" then before she could answer or reappear, quickly but stumbling somewhat, made his way up to bed.

It was just then with Watson newspaper in hand entered the room that mother returned from the kitchen. As he slumped into Daniels now empty favourite armchair, Elsie said glancing around the room before back at Watson "He didn't look well did he, although he's never been good at handling alcohol!" It was then Watson, lowering his newspaper offered "That Elsie is what happens when he goes to the pub without me!" Then with a sanctimonious look on his face, turned back angrily struggling to turn pages of his newspaper again.

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 felt but couldn't put your finger on. His sudden appearance in next doors garden came about with Daniel consequently as a result, finding out from him unbeknown until then, his recent purchase of the house next door. After the previous owners George explained, had sold to seek a new life in Canada! But then as neighbours Daniel recalled 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 in their garden or at the park!

At first sighting George one assumed because of his age as one of the parents. But as a result on introduction while ignoring the accent, discovered he wasn't, and that the previous owners had moved out, and to where!

The new owner was certainly something to look at, confirmed later although aged 80, in having a strong physical presents! With his weathered face sporting a thick drooping "salt and pepper" coloured moustache as a reminder happily of Daniels fathers. This added to his matching long white hair to both back and sides surrounding a somewhat wispy mop on top, in epitomising all later agreed traditionally "The Old Wild West!" Confirmed as Daniel later remarked with that large "Stetson" also worn both outside and later discovered inside the house close resemblance, other than when wearing his pince-nez still rimmed glasses, too old photographs of that well known legendary cowboy, "Wild Bill Hickok!" Although now accepted discovering historically, that a number of memorable cowboys of that period also required glasses, although rarely worn when they were photographed,

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

His choice of dog all agreed when seen did not come as no surprise, as perhaps matching with both his age and "Wild West" rugged Cowboy appearance! And subsequently later revealed as an old and past neglected rescued Mastiff! One the shelter had described as lucky to find a home, and one everyone agreed when both together they made an excellent match! Daniel later remarked as he got to know the dog better, how no animal reminded him more of an old dog having previously experienced the up's and downs in life, having eventually finding what he'd been looking for, an owner like George!

Not surprising dog and owner did have other things in common apart from both being old and American. With both having lots of grey hair around the face, coupled with that notable first impression!

The dog with George already deciding to adopt him, even before described by the shelter with both turning out to be true, affectionate by nature with a natural guarding instinct! This later not so surprisingly matching exactly with his listed breed while his personality as Daniel and family got to know him confirming this and with no knowledge of his original name, other than a temporary name given by the shelter, George, had deferentially renamed him "Hector", in lieu of his own part Scottish heritage!

Hector's size and build dictated that earlier have required a good amount of exercise, although fortunately less now because of his age. The shelter had determined this quite possibly as old as ten!

And it had been fortunate however wherever they'd previously lived in the U.S, space in both accommodation and exercise had not been an issue. While George judged now in his new location from what he had seen, could happily settle now because of age for less in both departments.

And it didn't take long following his arrival for Watson to find or possibly make a necessary gap big enough in the fence to engage Hector in conversation, as initially fascinated with his strong Texas accent. And through this meeting taking an instant liking to the newcomer! This was quickly strengthened as the conversation continued as a show of trust, with Watson then revealing to a surprised even stunned Hector, his verbal relationship with Daniel and mother, followed almost he felt boringly with a little more of himself.

Hector fascinated with the revelation of a spoken relationship with a human, while both pleased and flattered as being complete strangers, to have found somebody already taken him into confidence as a friend. This after having been warned before leaving, that the British traditionally rather more conservative in this!

Watson then continued in offering him further introduction to other canines in the area; including the one fence away Parson! This followed then in describing the sad bizarre situation with Spot! After hearing his sorry tale, Hector in having experience of being both neglected and abandoned sympathising immensely with Spots predicament in immediately offering both help in the search and should he be found, counselling, in helping Spot 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 gratefully accepted! It was also made clear by Daniel the invitation naturally 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 probably down to the odd welcome other than Watson's, by mother to Hector.

Her first comment on meeting the animal was "As lovely a nature as he has, but if you don't mind me saying so, not particularly a sensible size dog for your 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 "Size in your case doesn't apply in any way my dear, because were both aware you're not just a dog are you!" Her comment causing now a look of concern on Daniels face, in hoping her uncovering would end there, and thankfully it did! This also produced a puzzling smile from George, enjoying though relaxed but not necessarily in understanding that last comment from his new neighbour. But after consideration replying with reference to both dogs said "Well for one, Hector's certainly unfamiliar with stairs, which could foresee a problem!" then laughing continued "And dear lady, if you don't mind me saying, Watson definitely appears just as a dog to me!" Mother's then response was to look straight at him, and was it Daniels imagination, smile coyly!! And then with that "coy" smile still intact, disappearing into the kitchen to make as predictably a pot of tea, and as an American without asking, a coffee for George!

During this convivial visit, George explained something of his life in America, offering to enlarge more of later! While continuing primarily that his reason for moving to England rather than Scotland was being told the climate overall warmer, which especially important at his age after a lifetime mainly in Texas! And seeing quite simply the climate as essential for survival, with the possibility of perhaps added longevity! He then went on to explain his principal idea in being his first visit of moving here, was to trace his earlier English and Scottish ancestry, with hopefully making contact with those present relatives alive today. After this explanation Daniel was about to ask why not rent a house instead of buying, which after consideration decided in not doing so, as with George's purchase then possibly suggesting something more permanent! It was also with that now shelved question unanswered in possibly revealing other more personal reasons. Reasons later revealed if ever left solely too George!

This cordial extended morning visit eventually came to a close; with a suggestion from all should be the first of many. Coupled now insisted George that once in getting the hang of the gas stove, or if not, a familiar electric replacement in reciprocating, having them all over for supper. Stipulating then with a smile and naturally include Hector's good friend Watson!

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 been suggested by Watson after having a quiet word with Daniel, that they all take a walk to the park early the following morning. This was agreed whole heartedly later by George with Hector along side already aware of the walk, immediately adding an appreciative "howl" to the occasion.

George surprised at the dog's response, offering with a smile "I bet you and your friend were already ahead of us on that one!" Hector replied this time with not only another "howl", but also a ferocious tail wag! With Daniel meanwhile just grinning at the suggestion!!

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

"Did you have a local park near you in America?" Watson asked, with Hector shaking his head answering "No, where we lived on the prairies with so much open ground; there was no need for one!" then continued, "And working on a ranch had George out most of the day rounding up cattle!" then with a "doggy" smile continued " So although with access to that outside, I was quite content mostly because of my age and frequently extremely hot weather, to stay in our quarters, which always pretty spacious and often air conditioned!" Pausing briefly again before continuing a little sadder now "As I no longer you see, can handle too much of the sun!" then continued in a happier mode "And for company, there always seemed to be a rancher's wife around that would make a great deal of fuss of me". Watson, smiling appreciably now at his new friend said. "And I'm quite sure you deserved it!" and in a more exciting tone adding "And I believe you'd probably be most interested to hear that Spot was born in Louisiana!" "Ah yes, Spot!" pondered Hector "The one with the problems you mentioned earlier!" His now concerned reply!

Watson then went on to explain fully Spot's story from the beginning, including now his own efforts as "Julius" in finding him with help from the police. Hector was laughing with spluttered howls long before he finished, especially after Watson subjected him to his "Julius" New York accent! This for a moment on Hector's reaction caused both Daniel and George not far behind to stop. With George in catching up with the pair, now smiling down at his tail wagging buddy, with the comment "That's wonderful to hear Hector; haven't heard you howl like that for quite a while" Hector's response answered with both tail, and a little more bounce in his step, as both dogs moved forward way out of earshot again. The only thing that could have spoilt the pleasant walk that morning was the prospect although unlikely, of meeting Hyacinth! And 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, knowing 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 Daniel smiling looking on. But already in liking George made it perfectly acceptable! And as an added bonus perhaps with the possibility with more of that in softening mother!

Then in remembering his father recalling at one time to him, that when mother was young how she turned many a head! And even now Daniel had to admit, as considered by friends and most people that met her, as still a remarkably good looking woman considering her age! But that age was something nobody was prepared to confirm either because of her forthright manner, or just anxious in 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 a coffee, with Daniel chuckling assuming that probably included him as well?

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

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

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

It seems on Watson alias "Julius" in returning the call, that Albert had an encouraging lead made he emphasised although not known previously of this particular "nark!", that he positively 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, had also volunteered 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 certainly familiar with dogs, as could hear one barking frantically in the background. Although one aspect with the call of concern to Sergeant Bridgestone however was, when asked of the amount demanded; his "nark" replied rather he thought impatiently, "I'm not sure, how much do you fink its worth?" Then quickly correcting himself with "Err, I mean, I'm not really sure I'd better ask them!" and with the dog barking louder than ever in the background now shouting finally before quickly putting the phone down "I'll get back to you on that!" When Julius inquired what exactly his concern was, Albert's answer now with a serious edge to 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 his concern, he seemed awaiting a reaction in Julius's reply. Which turned out probably disappointing with "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 "Well, thank you for your confidence sir, its nice to know were both on the same page!" was Bridgestone's somewhat bland appreciative reply!

Meanwhile Watson alias Julius, unsure of what exactly that meant, and in fear of asking the wrong question, immediately decided in ending the call!

A day later Albert, received a further phone call, with the dog still barking loudly in the background, 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!" to continue then with "I'll tell the owner, so ring me back tomorrow!" and then as an after thought Albert added even louder " And this time, without that bloody dog barking!" The voice at the other end then apologising with an unusually quiet "Sorry, I'm doing 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! On 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, marked currency! This being quite well worn cash set aside by the Chief Constable for situations such as this! Then he assured his listener, on arresting the kidnappers with that well worn marked currency, their guilt easily proven.

Watson as Julius, listening with admiration at the simplicity of the operation, grew curious now how well worn the currency really was? Nevertheless on dismissing that thought, thanked him profusely anyway! Then stating flatteringly, that in his opinion this plan measured up to any of the more successful episodes of Sherlock Holmes! Although on reflection un stated, could not remember one where they used well worn marked currency. And in his enthusiasm of the prospect of both the rescue and seeing Spot again added, later he felt misguidedly from the dubious response he received, the shout of "God save the Queen!" Watson then positive of hearing from the other end, both a chuckle coupled with the loud sound of someone coming deliberately to attention! Had his ruse NOW been discovered?? No, he didn't really think so, although now with that added CHUCKLE, it was plausibly possible!!

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

On hearing this from Albert personally, Watson alias Julius was ecstatic! And so were the others on being informed of the hopeful rescue. They included: - Mother, Parson, April, Boadicea, Biff, Maurice, Roland, Winston, George and of course 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 Wednesday always traditionally seen as a quieter day for crime. While in numbering those expected present although unevenly numbered, as four officers on one side casually guarding the marked money, and on the other just the go between "nark", and hopefully the dog! The exact time agreed as already mentioned making it simple again for all, was midday or fairly close to it, and for the "nark" at least dress and disguise as agreed optional, but strongly stipulated without a hood!!

On 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, ect"ect Although this not considered as an unusual totally boring confusing and more than often unreliable weather forecast, was reason enough for the officers being told it was then optional, whether they take their issue capes or not. As those capes always acceptable although not in this case, in proving handy when having to conceal large weapons!

The following estimated quiet Wednesday crime, unfortunately didn't materialise, while added to the problem a freak snow shower, unsurprisingly not notably forecast that same morning. This also then found in trebling the problem with the unexpected excessive number of people arrested from the park, now filling the cells, bringing relatives and friends turning up with bail money, credit cards and I.O.U's to release their love one's., yet another unforeseen unplanned for problem. The result being that the car park was full! In fact packed to capacity! The police however with threats of even more arrests, managing to get cars moved from the few restricted "police only" bays, solving at least that planned parking problem.

Then as expected as with "Murphy's Law", on their late arrival the next problem came with the heavily disguised go between "nark", in having trouble not only in parking but after in getting the now recognisable "Spot", off the back seat out of his cramped single door three wheeled "Reliant" car!

And disappointingly, even after continually showing affection from the dog to the "nark", with hand licking and tail wagging, ultimately still in failing again to extradite the animal from the car! While in contrast with the "narks" failure to remove the animal, fresh assistance then came with offers from the officers themselves!! This took the form with their tempted persuasion of biscuits, donuts, and in one case, one of the officers own cheese lunchtime sandwiches, constructed with great care by his wife, with Spot still refusing to budge! The desperation on the "narks" part was shown when he finally removed the false wig, beard, nose and glasses. With this unfortunately making no difference to the unmovable Spot, still sitting comfortably on the unassailable back seat of the car! As with the dog already conditioned with his sensitive nose in ignoring the previous disguise, as in easily recognising the "nark"s" own personal and in his case utterly unique if offensive body smell!

So with no success in extracting the dog over the next few hours, following attempts one should add with, "burgers" and in desperation not knowing the dog's food preferences finally a bucket of family size Kentucky fried chicken. It was only then unconditionally all accepted defeat and gave up!

And this especially disappointing after having during this whole period in addition, being subjected to shouts of abuse and various hand gestures from those angry people now released on bail in feeling arrested "without due cause", on trivialities described earlier in "Clodpate Walk" park. And now it appeared joined with them, although solely with hand gestures, other traffic using the car park with previous grievances with the police! This included unexpectedly both their regular postman and window cleaner.

In the meantime in desperation as to finding a solution, Albert phoned "Julius" to ask as perhaps as a dog expert, in having any practical suggestion from his prospective! Watson alias "Julius, suggested Daniel could bring his dog Watson an old friend of "Spots", to see whether he was able with any luck to extract the dog from the vehicle!

This conversation was becoming momentarily very confusing for "Julius" alias Watson. Or was it "Watson" alias Julius, in BOTH trying to remember at any one time of whom exactly which one 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, Swahili 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 instincts in Duck recovery of the breed? But in liking them preferably uncooked, not enough to get Spot abandon the back seat!

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

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 " I was desperate actually, but at that stage desperate to stay, and barking annoyingly loudly enough thought I could stop the negotiations, never dreaming they would agree to the ransom!".. "Really, how sad!" came a now commonly used retrospective reply, although THIS time from Watson??

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!"

"No!.. Not.. necessarily so!" Watson whispered slowly, while smiling from one large ear too the other. "I believe we have actually found you a home, through unsurprisingly you might believe, with Julius "Rip" Rockenburger Esq!!

Adding quickly "I'll explain it all to you later, once we get you out of here!" Spot's reply came in generating a low rather emotional 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 now known fictitious brothers, had with some help from the local vicar named Donald who stuttered somewhat, becoming born again Christians! So, with no ransom demanded disappointingly for the police, as now dismissed as a crime!

It was then Daniel suggested to Albert, 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 temporarily in his own home. Partly as both additional company for himself and also for his own dog "Pierre"! But to compensate that disappointment on arriving back at the police station, greeted, with both tremendous applause from his fellow officers on the successful outcome, alongside proving without doubt his success now as a detective! This made it unequivocally for Albert a day to remember!

Of course he would never know of the details revealed discussed between Daniel and Mick, covered during that 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, with Daniel then divulging the trap with the marked money! With reward from the police now unavailable, Daniel then offered in compensation the same sum from his own pocket. It had also come on Daniels suggestion in mentioning his old vicar friend Donald, in adding some substance to the tale. With this Mick was more than delighted and humbly grateful.

It was after with congratulations all round on a job well done that the police then 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; or on Daniels probably ongoing relationship now with Albert, he would lose custody of the dog.

Mick again was delighted! Expressing after having had the dog in his company proving (without any actual verbal exchange with at present ever to remain exclusive to Daniel and mother!) that the dog to be a good listener. But adding also a great leveller on day's that hadn't gone that well for him! Especially after having experienced he continued, very little of the same on those comparable occasions when with either mates or the opposite sex! Daniel then asked as he thought it relevant, "Had he ever been married?" "No!" he replied quickly, "But if I fink I've found the right lady sir" he continued sincerely "She would first ave to like the dog!" With Daniel doubtful of the possibility of that female turning up, with reasons perhaps already recognised and certainly confirmed later, then smiling shook his hand warmly, adding a popular term from his own distant cockney background of

"Be lucky my old son and I'll call you later!"

A week had gone by when Daniel after phoning Albert to ask jokingly how he was getting on as the stations new detective. While then without revealing a name, informing him in having found a new and loving home for Spot! Although pleased initially in Albert's remark in answering appreciably "I thought you would of!" and yet rather surprised of no inquiry as with whom! Daniel wondered whether this affable man had put two and two together and come up with Mick!! As also 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 with his detective ability shining through deciding it was Mick, now felt pretty sure he would have approved!

When 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 Mick's ambition in life was to be a ventriloquist. As was his father and his father before him, and just possibly if there was one, the father before that! But the trouble was he went to explain he wasn't very good at it! But then did become more cheerful and excited as he continued, when in demonstrating his positive lack of skills to Spot, how the dog appreciably wagged his tail in return. This even more rewarding as previously using with no other option as a dummy a large stuffed scruffy owl, a successful prop unfortunately he stressed of his late grandfathers. It was Spot alone he added; in sadly appreciating in at least his effort by encouragingly wagging that tail that gave him fresh hope. 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. Then when eventually more composed in describing Spot as "lifting me out of the darkness, giving me as nobody else has dun that incentive to become a proper ventriloquist" then after wiping another tear from his eye and taking a deep breath continued "While knowing myself, if I didn't make it, that my old dad in is present frame of mind being very disappointed in me, could go and ave an art attack and end up in ospital!

With this depressed picture emerging Daniel quite understandably was now beginning to loose interest. As with this family story he correctly forecast was only destined to grow progressively worse. It was somewhat comparable to Graham's but much more depressing. He suddenly found himself also subjected too an explicit vision of Mick's dad being subjected to an art attack, instigated now by Roland with a couple of nicely framed paintings from his gallery! And even worse paintings featuring military scenes with dogs! But thank goodness as yet, no visible sign of Graham!!

And as predicted as Mick's story continued, when he chose to explain unfortunately now in detail, the overall degenerating situation within his family!

It turned out that his father, bitterly disappointed on his son's lack of promise in failing to master the craft, went from being a well dressed tea totaller, to a badly dressed alcoholic! His mother witnessing his father's demise then became a recluse in never leaving her bedroom. Except of course in not having en-suite, to use the loo! The outcome of this came in Mick's determination now to stimulate those within him of his yet unexposed required talents.

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

It was a least another hour later in having been subjected too more graphic details of his miserable existence in trying to keep both parents afloat, with everybody including mother, although with her an occasional chuckle, but still otherwise close to tears.

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

When his mother suggested in making a fresh pot of tea, that would quite naturally have included Mick, muted suggestions with immediate hand signals between Daniel and Watson thank goodness, prevented it happening. As neither believed they could handle any more at this time or possibly any time, of this unbelievably depressing tale.

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

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

"What exactly" he asked cagily, "Did you mean by that!" Daniel smiled, and then said with an exceptionally annoying grin on his face "I have a cunning plan my friend!" And after an "Oh dear" from Watson he continued "As in having grave doubts that he will ever improve by himself as a ventriloquist, I believe between us we can remedy that situation" After another quite depressingly "Oh dear!" from Watson, purposely unnoticed by the speaker, continued with

"Hopefully in proving not only to himself but others in due course as a worthwhile son to both parents, which could eventually possibly bring about their complete recovery or at least part of it!" Then after a pregnant pause and huge sigh, Watson questioned quickly with "And how's that to be!" then wishing he'd never asked, in suddenly realising this long winded unclear explanation would now continue. This had Daniel now with a smug smile continuing whilst making himself deliberately more comfortable in his favourite armchair, with Watson now sitting in the less comfortable of the two enviously looking on. "But before I explain" he began with the smug smile getting larger, "I need to give it more thought in tidying up the ends!" then adding flatteringly "But I assure you as with your initial assistance as being VITAL, you will naturally be the first to know when I make those ends clear?" Watson now having his own now "grave doubts" particularly with these "ends" working said, "I would suggest perhaps sooner, rather than later!" their both now well rehearsed 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!!! He began his plan was now too use Spot as a live dummy, as opposed to the alternative, one dead scruffy owl!! Watson then began to appreciate this just part of the "complicated" bit, feeling sure this area would ultimately be enlarged on! And that unsurprisingly didn't take long to happen!

But before Daniel could even begin on that "complicated" bit, Watson looking exceptionally unusually serious spoke first..

"I'm going to "jump the gun" a little here!" he began using an adopted English sporting expression in failing starting a race "I do believe I'm assuming now with Spot acting as the dummy, would have Spot then verbally without them aware, addressing the audience?" Daniel made a quick "nod" in reply, as Watson continued

"And again I'm assuming you're going to ask me if the audience were able then to suss that?" Again Daniel answered with the same single "nod"!! As Watson continued again!

"The answer to that I believe depends how susceptible the audience?

Daniel pleased with seemingly that problem almost overcome, and then asked feeling as just as important "What about after the show, do you think then he just might be tempted to talk to people?" "Oh dear!" Watson sighed, believing it was a non starter as a question. "Of course not!" His then abrupt reply! "They won't expect him too, it's a ventriloquist act! To them it's not a dog talking, it's a man throwing his voice!!" ""Mmm.. Yes, that makes sense!" Daniel's agreeable answer, in attempting to appear brighter than he really was! But then continuing in proving he definitely wasn"t with! "Wouldn't you then think it's rather essential then we make that VERY clear to Spot?" Watson now becoming really exasperated with Daniel but thinking perhaps positively now totally in charge, answered now in a condescending tone in hopefully then bringing this exchange to a close "Of course I will, leave Spot to me, he's a sensible chap! And I don't think he will particularly want OUR relationship's expanding any further" then cynically with "That's assuming he even agrees to what you're proposing in the first place!" Daniel now looking a little dejected just nodding in reply, with Watson again continuing louder in proving his point "In fact, without his affection for Mick, I don't believe it could go as far as what you're proposing anyway, And that"s only IF!" he repeated once again, "He's agreeable to it all too begin with!!!"

So with that appearing to have resolved in someway the early part of the "complicated" bit or has it? Daniel although visibly less confident now continued with the rest of his plan!!

With both then agreeing already established that Spot while previously living with Mick although being unaware, had understood everything said to him. So Daniels plan was he continued that when Mick introduced as Daniel foresaw his garbled attempt at throwing his voice, Spot would repeat everything he said again much louder and certainly clearer too the audience! At this Watson raised his paw in a very human way to scratch his head, in what he'd interpreted other than possibly flees, as a gesture of bewilderment in humans. This followed with his obvious sarcastic remark of "So you don't think that Mick will notice the difference with the voice then!" Daniels reply was immediate "Not if he has ear plugs in!"". as continuing then with his smug smile returning "You see Watson; this is where the tricky bit comes in!" he paused with the smug smile remaining as Watson said". "Really, now that's come as a surprise!" Then adding further a sarcastic remark with "But what you actually mean is, this is where the "tricky complicated bit that I haven't worked out yet comes in!".. "Well, not quite but, Yes!", Daniels now frequently indifferent vague reply.

"You see" Daniel began again after taking a decidedly deep breath with much more enthusiasm "We have to now convince 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!" then smiling a little less smugly now while adding "And I think you must agree it does have a ring of truth about it!" Watson began scratching his head again but this time with a smile, and with something of a disguised sarcasm attached to bring this improbable plan now to a close said "Well, it's certainly bizarre enough, so if it helps the lad, it's probably worth a try!" Daniel astounded and delighted with his instant now unexpected approval, reaching down then with great resolve to grab his friends paw. This unforeseen gesture then caused Watson to wince slightly, as unlikely with that contact; knowing positively quite unable to raise it to the height Daniel now excitedly seemed determined to take it too! In eventually having although painfully to shake his paw free bringing at least for the time being this unnecessary unwarranted gesture to a close. While his plan in bringing this ridiculous idea to a close was too continue lauding its potential!

"Although the plan certainly fascinating!" he began "I'm finding it impossible to absorb any more of IT at this time, and would suggest if agreed an excellent time to relax perhaps with a drink at the "Hoden", and continue in discussing it further!". Daniel, almost euphoric at this sudden totally unforeseen compliment and interest shown by his friend answered affectionately "My thoughts exactly my dear old friend!" then disappeared into the hallway to grab his coat.

Meanwhile Watson's hope's lay pitifully as it may seam, that after a couple or more drinks, Daniel hopefully realising the folly, pitfalls and utter silliness of his plan that life as before would return too normal? But then as the evening progressed although thoroughly enjoying the endless "pork scratchings", now finding with his plan more likely a prospect of ending in failure! As with Daniel's enthusiasm for HIS plan if anything superficially heightened by the alcohol! This could only then bring about the feared inevitable, something he hoped to avoid at any cost!! That guaranteed alcohol inspired "buddy" paw shake again!! It did transpire however with Daniels alcohol induced temporarily loss of memory the paw shake didn't happen, bringing at least the evening to a somewhat painless end.

The following day Daniel then phoned Mick to say he had a splendid idea how he could rejuvenate his future as a ventriloquist. Mick answered in thanking him but asked if he might ring him back later, as he was in the throes at that very moment in trying to get his mother to unlock her door, so he might feed her a bowl of soup he'd just re-warmed! Daniel while wishing him success, but anxious for health reasons, to know exactly the precise number of re- warming's he'd subjected the soup too! But after explaining that conversation to Watson both agreed as obviously in being a considerate son would naturally trust him in not over extending those re-warming's. On Mick phoning back later jubilant at having had success with the soup except for mother spilling rather a large amount, with Daniel naturally suspecting with THAT soup it was quite possibly deliberate!! He suggested then Mick meet them here at the house with Spot a midday on the following Sunday. As being happily aware that Mother would be away all day that Sunday on one of her frequent summer visits to April. While now most frequently accompanied very happily with George! For the last thing Daniel needed agreed by Watson was mother in getting involved, with her likely contribution in suggesting various reasons of how it undoubtedly will go wrong! Or, now with George in tow, just as predictably, in suggesting the unlikely opposite with, "I'm positive it will work, particularly with the help of my brilliant son Daniel?? No, on second thought's, that's very unlikely!!"

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

Especially a very old scruffy owl connected with his ancestors successful performances! While with his obvious affection for Spot in becoming part of his act had also undoubtedly helped! But it later achieved total success on Watson informing Daniel that Spot, after a detailed explanation of the plan, readily declared it a positive winner!!!!

Mick it seemed thankfully was not at all fazed at having to use earplugs, accepting the reason without contradiction because it made sense! In fact he felt it something important discovered, that his father and those before him probably had not!! The one thing still slightly worryingly Daniel was Spots if only slight now American accent! But he felt that could be interpreted by the audience as a trendy "show biz" thing! So as a second thought Daniel, with no alternative although a little ashamed of the ruse suggested to Mick that a slight American accent would give not only a separate identity to the dog, but also a transatlantic flavour. And added as a bonus, a likely mention in a local newspaper! Then to shore up the idea suggested to Mick in practising a source for adopting American accents, could be he suggested found in watching any number of cartoon and gangster movies! Mick not so surprisingly then revealed that those movies were amongst his favourites.

The next question then was, just where to hold the event!!

Daniel already felt he had the answer. He had during times past through his now expired membership in the Rotary club, previously formed a close friendship with that likable lovable local vicar already mentioned earlier in the tale, now named fully as Donald Duckworthy. They would often after a Rotary meeting have a glass of beer or two or in Donald's case a "shandy" or two in the "Hoden". With Daniel always enjoying Donald's attempts to persuade him as an agnostic, consider as a challenge to attend a sermon or too! Especially as with both his daughter April and Boadicea, being a longstanding part of Donald's congregation! Daniel in having great respect for the man had been at times very tempted to take up the offer, but more so in admiration for Donald's continued effort in almost overcoming his persistent "STUTTER!"

Daniel was also very aware encompassed within those church grounds sat a perfectly sized adaptable church hall, used on occasions for wedding receptions, Irish "Wakes", fund raising, sÃances and occasionally antique shows! In fact from where some years earlier Daniel had purchased a fine longcase clock! This building in seating comfortably approximately fifty three people he felt, a perfect location from where a budding ventriloquist could begin his career! He then delighted with himself at his discovery, wasting no time then in phoning Donald.

Who, after cheerfully answering the call, immediately stated how pleased he was in hearing from Daniel, and even more so when Daniel showed interest in hiring the hall! This followed with Donald in suggesting not surprisingly, of discussing it further the following evening over a pint or two at the "Hoden".

A location very agreeable to Daniel!

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

Donald 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 as..sume" he said looking down smiling now eventually at Watson "That you're the"the dog Billy's been telling me about just na.na. now at the bar" Watson without thinking being fascinated by the stutter nodded! A puzzled expression immediately appeared on Donald's face, as he with some hesitation asked "Di..did I imagine that, or did he.he just nod?" Daniel thought for a moment then quickly answered "No, I don't think so, he was probably just shaking his ears, it's a recognised irritation and ongoing problem common I believe with long eared dogs!" Donald smiled briefly before replying with some effort "Hee.hee... wasn't shaking his head, he was..na na .nodding his head!" then adding quite firmly "Its nn, na, not the same!" There was a pause before Daniel distracted thinking in awe of just how he got through his sermons, then replied "I must admit it not something I've noticed before, so I have no answer to that!" Then quickly changing the subject back to charges and any conditions in renting the hall! At first Daniels ploy seemed to have worked, although Donald still appeared unconvinced when continually throwing more inquisitive glances at the dog! His interest did change however on hearing more explicit details of the act, and particularly with the unusual feature of a ventriloquist act featuring a live dog, against one traditionally acceptable dummy! With that sorted, rehearsals were then set for the following Saturday, with Donald renewing once again his puzzled although now smiling glances at the dog.

In was inevitable that mother overcoming their efforts to persuade her otherwise, and without invitation decided she and on this occasion George, would be there on opening night. But already previously decided between Watson and Daniel, that it might be more than prudent not to reveal any details of the plan to her, rather than in suggesting just helping Mick in achieving a better relationship with his parents! Which would in the long term bring hopefully he stressed something towards normality in their home. Although on reflection both positively doubtful that mother would believe either of these deterrents!

Its worth mentioning that Watson without expressing it although feeling Daniels intentions honourable, nevertheless thought in the situation going wrong could, or would most definitely have dire consequences for all concerned! Unbeknown to him not surprisingly, Daniel also shared these exact same thoughts as well. Was it possible now with both becoming, "Telepathic?"

It was a sunny Saturday morning when all including Donald in having the keys to the place, met at 10am at the hall. And after introductions all round, with Donald stipulating with difficulty, "I ha..hav got to return at six to la. lock up!", and with that time eventually established, the rehearsal then began in earnest.

As arranged then Daniel with obvious expected difficulty, compose a script acceptable to Mick that fitted conveniently in with his plan. While Watson taking Spot aside explained his role more thoroughly guaranteeing hopefully its success! Spot still surprised at the idea but now almost confident it could work which was a great relief, while particularly impressed without the need in attempting cover his noticeable although now slight American accent. Then added would report any improvements after listening to Mick's practice attempts at home! Watson confused at this, although accepting as part of this complicated ruse, but with the audience with Mick's replies in not hearing him anyway thought it quite pointless! But not to confuse things further, chose then not to mention it!

With no other audience present other as expected occasionally mother, usually with George who she showed not surprisingly more interest in than the rehearsal, had the routine practiced over and over again for the following month! Mother thankfully made very little in the way of comments, other than of her suggestion that a parrot would make a colourful addition to the act. This quickly prompting Daniel in avoiding antagonising her in any way, but wondering whether it came originally from George, suggesting then perhaps taken in consideration for the future!

After that first practice, one useful suggestion to obscure Mick's quiet "mumblings" against the louder "Spots" voice was to set Mick back just slightly from both the dog and audience. This actually later it appeared from audience comments, made his expertise seem even more impressive!

The first well advertised opening brought a surprising amount of people, but not so surprising as unknown at present any other act of ventriloquism in using as alternative to a dummy, a live dog! With possibly the prospect in the future as being viewed as a unique worldwide ventriloquist dog act! That happening only with Watson in verifying as still not revealed, in not being part of a larger invasion of talking dogs distributed now throughout the planet!

News of the act then spread, first in making the local papers followed by a local TV. Station! Which thank goodness because of Daniels precautionary action taken; now offered comments from that station in mentioning the somewhat transatlantic accent?

Its popularity then proving very worthwhile, in both stimulating a renewed confidence in Mick and his parents with additional substantial takings. Plus, also in becoming aware of their son's success, some positive improvements in a more personal relationship between the two!!! But, in unfortunately becoming overnight a different story for Daniel!

The problem arose with the unanticipated huge success of this unique dog with his unexpected overwhelming popularity, now attracting attention in becoming heavily scrutinised by the authorities. First by the head of the investigative department of the biological section part two, a Sir Sidney Dynott -Grope Jones, in confirming as he saw it, an interesting although questionable troublesome phenomenon. Also viewed perhaps more seriously by both the C.I.A in America and M.I.5/6/7/ and possible 8 here in the U.K. All agreeing as viewing it as somehow in someway, an undeterminable threat to human domination of the animal world! The problem then with Daniel, how to bring this possible global popularity before it got immeasurably out of hand to a close! This growing situation now surfacing with both Daniel and Watson now sharing verbally and quite possibly while previously telepathically! As then being the worst possible unplanned scenario either of them could have imagined. But with little choice now, Daniel came up with as he saw it their only remaining choice available! That was with difficulty, to discredit Mick in someway, whilst securing a comfortable and sympathetic reaction from the audience, in resulting sadly, and in reference to the authorities in safely closing the act for good!! And after consultation and agreement with both Spot and inevitably Watson, who himself had personally become worried with Spot's now growing uncomfortable fame, and certainly in realising not the end of the "tricky bit", persuading Spot although still somewhat reluctantly agreeing on that now necessary exit. The only concern all three could see from their finally agreed decision, was the unknown unpredictable reaction from Mick. But all agreed anyway now had little or actually no choice!

Although unbeknown to even Watson, Daniel as with any good accountant had already planned ahead, with as it happens one best described as plan B! Which he revealed more of as the last performance began!

With the congregation as Donald described them now filling the hall, with this evening already previously advertised as the last performance, Mick and Spot now appearing on stage given an even louder against previously, enthusiastic ovations.

Mick began as with previously while placing in his ear plugs, an explanation of how they allowed him to concentrate more when throwing his voice. With the audience appreciating this now a well advertised and unusual feature! And more so especially from those in having witnessed ventriloquist acts before, giving him once again, a polite although short enthusiastic ovation! Also on his opening address as previously explained to the audience, might possibly notice a slightly different American intonation assumed intentionally between him and his dog Spot! This suggestion as before causing subdued dribbles of laughter throughout the audience.

It was at that moment that Daniel looking on from the wings thinking sadly

"If only they knew how confused it"s all become!" then after shaking his head added pessimistically "And perhaps, not a good idea after all!"

Mick began as before with the audience silent once more and his earplugs secure, in asking a question just loud enough for the audience to hear, whether on this occasion, Spot had enjoyed their walk in the park earlier! Then moments later allowing a pause, following up in answering his question while struggling once more against lips moving and demands of the accent, in finally producing without knowing a much reduced almost indiscernible reply! At that same time the reply from Spot, overwhelming disguising in volume with clarity that sadly determined effort made by Mick!

The next question and one following that continuing over the next scheduled hour, as rehearsed with the same reply from both! It was then with the act near to a close, where the change to the answer unknown to Mick, but well rehearsed with Spot was given!

Mick's question then to his canine partner was "Have you enjoyed the experience of us working together as a ventriloquist act?" After the obligatory pause, Mick began quietly with his rehearsed answer. While Spot with exact timing answering with his, adding again the volume ensuring essentially in drowning out Mick's reply, as his being now entirely different!

"Yes I have! Spot began. "And I would first like to thank you all for the interest and kindness shown we've both received over the past month!" And with a gestured doggy smile towards Mick before continuing "But I have nevertheless found the experience quiet frightening, and in someway belittling as an animal, ultimately bringing pressure to my relationship with my carer and friend Mick." There was a muted applause at this time, quietening abruptly as he continued again. "Therefore with what I've just revealed I hope you might probably now have guessed," He paused looking doggy sadly then before finally "That this will for that reason be our VERY last performance together, not as partners, but definitely as a ventriloquist act!" This bringing first silence shocked by this confirmation, and then quickly followed by a sympathetic warm gesture of hand clapping. Spot in respecting this after allowing the applause too subside, now moved closer to Mick, and raising a paw placed it on his still seated partners lap! Mick with earplugs still in place in thankfully unable to hear that change to his own reply just smiled down at his friend, returning a soft ruffle to his dog's head! As then Spot continued "And thank you all sincerely once again!", and then offering off script on a religious note added "And may your God, which ever it be, even Nordic go with you!" There was just for a moment silence, beginning with reserved polite clapping; then growing quickly into tumultuous applause from an audience all now on their feet, sounding more like a hundred rather than the fifty two people there!

This now causing Mick even with earplugs in becoming conscious of both the rising rumbling combined sound of both clapping hands and feet, causing his chair to wobble, with added cheers and occasional boo's, and people rising now from their seats. This having Mick still smiling after removing his ear plugs feeling necessary now to stand up!

Whatever script written by Daniel for both, but more so in Spot's in ending the performance, had more than successfully worked. And something essential with credit to Spot, in timing his answers mostly in ending together! And naturally including intentionally with Mick's version, a way of thanks for the audience attendances! Including praise for the dog and some sort of indistinct apology in his commitment to not use him again in the future! I think that almost sums it up! Or if not, very close too it!

It was Donald first to congratulate Mick, in describing him as "A proven disciple of St Francis of As..as.Sisi!" This as high a compliment as Donald could manage while understandably avoiding any extra text. But one should still add that even tackling "Assisi" appeared now to be less difficult! And with his face beaming and now obvious to all in overcoming slowly but surely that past persistent but now fading stutter!!!

And in having so many people congratulating him on putting the dog first in his decision not to continue performing, had Mick at that moment both baffled and confused but then of a non confrontable persuasion deciding against questioning any of it!

With the hall now emptying with continues pats on the back and smiles from people leaving, Mick giving it more thought to this unexpected response, then questioned Daniel surprisingly with!

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

Daniel impressed with this rhetorical question, while overwhelming pleased with the end result then answered "In all honestly, Yes!"

Followed quickly by "I do believe you did what was right!" In hoping, no praying not requiring an explanation beyond that, as at that moment he didn't really have one!

Then fortunately for Daniel Mick left it at that!!

I suppose in someway in being an accountant Daniel, was genuinely looking at Spot as he would a client, in avoiding as accountants do, too much unfavourable attention! But in this particular case not as with his other clients the Inland Revenue, but something larger and much more sinister!

When Daniel with difficulty later admitting to Mick the audience's possible misinterpretation to what he had written, it was as to someone completely overwhelmed with his unexpected success undreamed of a month ago, and quite happy now to settle for that! And on having now achieved his ultimate goal as a ventriloquist, although retiring unaware through circumstances he could not totally explain, he was at the very least ending on a high note! So, Mick's response to Daniel's multifaceted explanation was to nod, smile, and then to thank Daniel for all he had contributed to that success! Daniel then and only then breathed a justifiable sigh of relief! As still somewhat uncomfortable at the method he'd chosen to achieve this!

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 wanting just to confirm that this being positively the end to the"tricky bit!" Daniel smiling nodding, answered it was! Then continued in answer to Watson's request that it is was anyway far too complex to remember.

It was later that evening in returning to that same subject with Watson, he went on to admit if not for any other reason his failed memory in that area, probably due in still feeling guilty on his deceitfulness.

Watson then with that in mind could say nothing but admire the man!

The next day came a surprise phone call from Mick, stating that although on reflection admitting at first disappointed at discontinuing the act, felt obliged to reveal now that he did feel guilty at what he now recognised as exploiting the dog, selfishly he confessed for his own ends. And most surprising of all he continued enthusiastically, when explained his unplanned decision to his now practically normal parents, that both agreed it was for the best! Whilst then mentioning the added pride he felt, in them expressing their admiration for his compassion towards the dog!

So with Daniel delighted on hearing this suggested then as appropriate, "That alls well that ends well!" This bringing both a cheering response and background celebratory howl from the other end!

Watson on the other hand, thought too much simplification had been accepted in this ending this whole episode, believing the remainder was yet to come!

Later there was as expected on that following weekend, a celebratory drink at the "Hoden". Guest's included Mick, his parents with his father drinking orange juice, while his mother now with an unlocked door eating solids only. This after acquiring unsurprisingly an allergy with soup! And not forgetting most important of all, two very happy DOGS!!

It was noticeable as they celebrated that mother was missing, as was at that very moment accompanied by George, now enjoying a two day cruise on a paddle steamer around the Isle of White. From this Daniel concluded things were now getting acceptably rather serious!!!

As this somewhat happy episode came to an end, while another with mother just possibly beginning, life again returned to normal. Although in Daniels household normal as we know it, generally only apply to others!

Anyway THEIR normal as expected, did not last long!

It was then as with that unexpected arrival earlier of Watson, that Daniel agreed taken some time in adjusting too, that yet another surprise awaited him on the horizon. It began with Daniel up until then, not even considering or remotely imagining a possible romance re entering his life! But that was about to change instantly on a phone call from guess who? "Bo!!" Who on searching his memory remembering at ONCE!!!!

That contact now had come through Roland, from where Daniel had first caught a glimpse of her. Her voice now on the phone in reintroducing herself as pleasantly matching as he recalled that past image leaving Roland's showroom!

It had turned out on that memorable day with Roland having mentioned the imminent arrival of his accountant, accompanied with a flattering recommendation of his expertise, that Daniels arrival keenly noted.

So that brief exchange of looks Daniel now interoperated, accompanied with Roland's help had at least given prior approval of his person.

"Bo" later subsequently revealed was one of the old school, a lady of the sixties, flower power and the like. Her own age being somewhere in the sixties but definitely looking younger! She was on her insistence expressed later, a confirmed biological redhead. With her attire a combination of a sixties hippy and ultimately adding to her style, a chosen 1920"s "flapper"! She drank and smoked occasionally always through a long "chic" cigarette holder, mostly at parties, and mostly for style. She was intelligent, confident, attractive, witty and extremely good company, speaking with no regional accent culminating in a rare combination indeed. She also ran her own business and enjoyed male company, another definite plus! Her major downside unknown to few if any, at times strongly bi-polar! This could with unapparent encouragement then produce a tigress!! This probably by now would seem rather an unlikely partner for Daniel. But life thank goodness has a way of colouring situations to include now and again unfathomable opposites in liking one another. And in their previous encounter without introduction, now been remedied with that most acceptable phone call!!!

With the initial pleasantries over followed then in a suggestion from "Bo" that she'd encountered a problem in which he might be able to help. In as much as she'd recently received an invoice from as she described him, her "young swinging accountant", in appearing now, wishing to die rich as apposed too just well off. As with his last proposed increase in fees was as she put it, "the straw that broke! ". , I think you know the rest! Daniel interpreting quite rightly then as seeking his services, and sorry after succumbing to her soft sensual voice as she continued when her more detailed explanation finally came to a close! This causing Daniel now picturing her as well, fall silent for a few moments, prompting from his lack of response a "Hello! Are you still there?"". "Yes I'm sorry!" he eventually replied stuttering slightly, but nothing comparable to Donald, "I was just absorbing all of you and..and what you said!" He was sure then he heard a chuckle from the other end, accompanied slowly with "Is this a suggestion you need more information from me about the accountant, or is it something else?" her reply accompanied again now with what Daniel certainly interoperated as a rather saucy chuckle! Then caught completely off guard by this very direct lady, in offering a hesitant reply of "Yes"! Well, sort of both I suppose!" Then after a long "Mmm" from the other end, she continued now how flatteringly Roland had spoken so highly of him, while also in mentioning with you both in having much in common; Daniel listening hoping that did not include him mentioning their respective number of marriages. But then she moved on to her understanding that when you've accepted a client, you are prepared to meet if convenient at their premises. Daniel before answering "Yes" already had optimistically pen in hand to take down the address.

It turned out later that her showroom was not too far from Winston's in Chelsea. Which immediately registered with Daniel although her business described on the second floor, as an area known in commanding high rents? This he felt sure a contributing factor as to why with her present accountant in overseeing as assumed successful business, thought he'd chance his luck in asking a higher fee.

So as often you hear that greed doesn't pay, it was nice to hear on this occasion with his decision, in was true!

His visit to her premises was set up for the following Tuesday, as Monday strictly set aside by Daniel to finalise other accounts. On that Monday however he did have a problem in concentrating on anything but the prospect of seeing her the following day. It was high time now he felt as in the past, to enjoy a women's close company again.

It had not as it happens gone unnoticed by Watson of a dreamy expression constantly now on Daniel. And with no feedback from him during their daily conversation, he did have his suspicions that that expression naturally would ordinarily suggest a woman! But with his definite reluctance in revealing anything other, decided to seek perhaps the answer from mother. Without a mention of course of a women! He approached her that same afternoon while she was watching television in her room. Her response in quickly showing positive interest on quickly turning down the volume and then glaring at Watson with eyebrows raised after doing so said "Really! A silly expression on his face has he? I've no idea why but I'll have a good look at him next when this programs over!" With that said, returning once more back to the television, so as not to miss more of the latest unchanged weather forecast!

This obsession with the media in continual weather forecasts throughout the day still baffled Watson. As with the climate mostly from day to day other than one or two dramatic exceptions as expected through the long winter months, as otherwise hardly changing at all! It snows or rains then the sun comes out, or, the sun comes out then it snows or rains again, sometimes, with a slight wind! I can see this beneficial to road conditions, so why not in saving in the way of personnel by combining the two!!

Although with the weather forecast as predictably boring most times, it does have one saving grace, as this subject throughout the world viewed as an integral part of British culture. Something visitors flocking to Britain being generally aware how unresponsive we are to other more personal topic's, particularly international football, but knowing full well that any conversation about the weather was one they could comfortably safely join in with. I suppose also for a number of those visitors, a pleasant lighter change in comparison as with many back home experiencing unfortunately, famine, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and serious droughts. Overall the REALLY unpleasant side of the global anger of nature!

In deciding that most women see something softer in a man that share's time with an animal, Daniel suggested on this occasion then quite selfishly, that Watson accompany him. Watson unaware of the reason but pleased with the offer although naturally suspicious, as with no previous mention of just where they were going and who was there when they got there!! But then when a women's name mentioned alongside the dreamy grin, guessed the worst! Or in Daniels eye's the best! That strangely enough made him feel more comfortable, as with his only other answer to the silly expression, was that Daniel was possibly loosing it!!

The journey once again entailed lots of traffic, with the vulture's alias traffic wardens as usual hovering for the kill. But with more people prohibited by the now cost of petrol and others related in affording a car causing people in large numbers turning again to public transport consequently in leaving meters available! This situation definitely not welcomed by the wardens, as with the distinct possibility then in needing less of them!

This confirmed by the disappointed resigned expressions as seen on the majority of their faces. As with that now threat of possible dismissal coupled with that lack now of a kill had also already sadly taken that added sport out of it!

The street on which Bo's business was located was one full of trendy clothing shops. While the wider pavements proving popular with cafÃs in accommodating out door tables. As they walked along looking for the number 23, Watson received a great deal of attention from those "trendy customers" now seated outside those cafes. With attention unbeknown to those well intentioned, that Watson didn't appreciate.

The three storey late 18th early 19th century buildings common in that area were it seems popular with fashionable clothing designers frequently established on the upper floors! As with generally not open to the public, happier on those upper floors in avoiding those higher rents demanded in the shops below.

On finding the number with her name plaque "Bo Fashions" alongside, they climbed the stairs to the second floor with on this occasion, Watson leading the way. Arriving at the unpretentious door with her name on it still period too when these rooms were dwellings, Daniel then knocked nervously awaiting a call to enter.

"Its open!" cried a voice from within! Daniel now growing excited of the prospect of seeing Bo again ran his fingers in hopes of improvement quickly through his hair. It was then after slowly turning the handle that both entered the room.

He was after surprised with no sign of Bo, that the area now visible in front of him was surprisingly much larger than he would have imagined, creating a sizable showroom. With still no sign of his prospective client he quickly surveyed the room. The open floor space directly in front of him was covered with a sizable aged oriental patterned carpet. And to the right of that a large long and wide with detailed carved legs Victorian dining table. Its function now in displaying colourful bolts of clothing material available by choice to prospective customers! While to the left side of the room just beyond the carpet, a long clothes rail packed with finished assembled clothing, displayed on rows of wooden hangers.

It was then Daniels instant smile returned as she appeared through a door from the far side of the room!

"So you found it okay!" she said with her smile as remembered, her outstretched hand now reaching towards him. At this moment all Daniel could think of was how young and attractive she looked, as recalled exactly from her last appearance. He shook her hand warmly and perhaps conscious of holding it longer than should of. But she didn't seem to mind by leaving him to let go first. He was for a moment lost for words, then stammered out rather naively and boringly in observation. "Would this room have been smaller at one time!" she hesitated before laughing then explained. "Well it was until the wall was taken down." then softly smiling continued "But your right, this in the past would have been two rooms!" "Really!" his regrettably later banal reply

She then continued still smiling, "Can I offer you first tea, or coffee?" and looking down now at Hector with a smile directed at the dog adding "And a bowl of water for?" ".. Then glanced up at Daniel awaiting a name?"" "Hector, his name's Hector! I'm sorry I should have introduced you, I was just admiring!"""..Then quickly glancing around in desperation continuing he thought convincingly "The, the, the colourful dresses on that rail there!" Now gesturing towards them! "Really!" she answered smiling broader than ever, mimicking he suspected his earlier reply. Then in leaving him visibly looking awkward, turning again back towards what he now assumed to be a kitchen, while calling back "I'll go and make coffee as you don't seem to mind either, and get a bowl of water for your!"" Then casting a quick smile at the dog added affectionately "Friend Hector!"

There was a quiet quick up date between Daniel and Hector before she returned, with Hector expressing positive approval of the lady. And later after an offered happily accepted second cup of coffee, they began discussing her business.

Most of which it appeared were commissioned bespoke pieces ordered by a number of the clothing shops from the street below. Her contribution to the business after obtaining those orders it appeared, was to cut from her own designs approved by the client from material chosen, that would then be sent out to home machinists, who would finish in completing the garment.

As her explanation came to an end she excused herself for a moment, before returning quickly to pass now in her hand to Daniel, those returned accounts from that previous accountant. While adding to Daniels delight a knowing smile as she did so! After carefully slowly going through them while delaying the process as long as possible, accepting eventually with time running out suggesting a return meeting the following week! While hoping nay praying, that he would not have to wait any longer before seeing her once again. He had no need to worry when a day on that following week was quickly settled on.

It was with an approving nod from Watson following their brief update earlier, that Daniel before leaving then asked if a little hesitantly, how she came to know Roland in the first place. Hoping in Watson's guess as not being one of Roland's previous four wives!

He was pleasantly relieved on hearing she wasn't, as with her explanation unfolding explained "When I can afford it!" she began "I'm always interested in purchasing and have done so frequently with Roland, any illustrated women's clothing throughout that Edwardian period, such as watercolours, coloured engravings or drawings. Then continuing firmly with "As I believe little in style has surpassed it since!" then adding "Other than perhaps the 1920"s!" she paused for a moment allowing Daniel with his grin reappearing to say "I believe I can quite understand why!" Although really he didn't, but it did seem to him at the time suggesting a well informed answer, while thinking later could have probably improved on! But she didn't seem to see it that way as smiling in what appeared recognition of this acknowledgment, she continued. "I should add Roland will always call should he find something of interest to me, although regrettably no call since last seeing you there! But then whenever I'm passing his showroom, I'll always pop in on the off chance perhaps to find another gem!" Daniel's immediately thought was with the "gem bit" feeling the same about her! Then sensibly adding nothing more, as extremely relieved at discovering not one of Roland's ex-wives! To insure then in not overstaying his welcome prepared now with brief case in hand sadly to leave!

It was just then she remarked most enthusiastically in delaying that, with "He did show me by the way, the painting you were calling in to look at of a clock, which I understand you collect! Before adding "Paintings with clocks I mean!" Her expression then became more reflective as she recalled "Wasn't there also a dog in the painting!" she stopped now looking affectionately down at Hector before continuing" "Of a similar breed to Hector!" and with that bent down to ruffle gently his head. Hector seated having warmly accepted the ruffle as she pulled her hand away then looking now in her direction, added a "wink" to his now wagging tail!

With that response taken back by the "wink", she began to laugh, "Now!" she began slowly questioning Daniel "Did Watson just wink at me, please tell me it's true, as it would be my first from a dog!"

Daniel half expecting a possible reaction of some sort from the "ruffle", one rarely of approval, was shocked then pleased particularly as interoperating the "wink" being as rewarding as that!!!

With Daniel appreciating also knowing the dog was definitely in "winking", doing him a substantial favour in answering then accordingly. "Usually only!" he paused smiling very affectionately now at the dog "When he particularly likes someone!" Bo, looking down now at Hector, spoke softly while adding another ruffle "I'm really looking forward to seeing you very soon again Hector, and of course!" Now looking smiling at Daniel added then with her own "wink" "And please, do bring along your friend!"

This followed then by a wagging tail, accompanied with that now familiar dreamy smile from the friend!

It was still in place, when eventually reaching the car!

During that ride home both first sat in silence. It was then Hector broke that with!

"Well, if it's of any importance to you I definitely approve of that one!" With obvious reference of course to Bo!

Daniel smiling glancing over at him whose place now permanently secured, both within his heart and now conveniently for Hector the front seat, replied!"

"Believe it or not, your opinion is important to me, while especially on this occasion I couldn't agree more, as she is I concur rather unique and quite beautiful!"

On reaching the house mother, still mulling over that suspicious grin of his, to the extent of taking again a break from her television awaiting their arrival on the other side of the front door. On their entering she greeted them predictably with!

"Anything interesting to tell!" she looked then very disappointed when both after confirming with a glance at one another, answered almost in unison "Not really!" But that answer by the look on her face, did not sit well with mother, with positive proof a little later.

The reason for their vague answer was in the guarantee of mother on awaiting their arrival home, in predicting correctly that expected inquiry. So in having prepared for this on the journey home, with as they saw it the only answer to give!

For as to mention this visit was to a new female client, would instigate a mountain of inquiries that would require them to be interrogated for at least the next couple of hours. Plus, Daniel already felt with Watson agreeing, that he would have difficulties in describing "Bo" without showing himself emotionally interested beyond that of just being a new client.

But the suspicious look returned by mother, confirmed coupled without her customary offer of tea as non acceptance of their reply as she found questionable? Then without uttering another word to emphasise her point climbed the stairs back to her room! With her annoyance made even clearer by stamping her feet heavily as she did so! And unfortunately with that exit, convincing them her interest most unlikely ending there but to guarantee now only grow!

The excitement of a possible more personal relationship with Bo was reason enough for Daniel to want to share the happiness he now felt with somebody else, other than of course Watson!

And with just the possibility of his intentions blossoming and ultimately mother becoming aware, and in having grown to like him, that person would sensibly be he decided, George Custer Stewart. For should the reaction from mother be unreasonable which initially guaranteed, George's assistance would prove most valuable. Pleased with his choice, his next move was to ask George out to the "Hoden", both to enjoy a glass of beer with the man, whilst putting his concerns to him.

That following Saturday found all four with the two dogs making up that number, enjoying a walk happily to the "Hoden".

With both Daniel and George engaged in deep conversation, Watson ahead out of earshot, grew excited with the prospect of introducing Hector to his old friend Nelson.

Whilst worthwhile he felt in bringing to the attention of his new friend, that there is substantial evidence that Bulldogs originated as a cross breeding between a Mastiff and a Pug.

He was also somewhat initially pleased with Hector as being unaware of that. But then went on to suggest that although unlikely, this best perhaps not brought up in conversation with Nelson. As with the thought of a traditional British icon of strength, crossed with the jolly disposition and high pitched bark of the Pug, would undoubtedly be felt by Nelson to somewhat diminish that image!

Hector immediately agreed not to mention it, but then quickly pointing out that the Bulldog also the official mascot of the United States Marine corp, something then Watson had to admit that he was unaware of!

On entering the bar Hector received immediate attention and especially from Billy, who as a great enthusiast of bulldog related breeds and very aware of that important historic connection. With the head ruffling now entirely over to the newcomer with a relieved sigh from Watson, both dogs made there way over to the now wide awake figure of Nelson. Who, having been aroused from his nap on the rather loud enthusiastic uttering's from Billy that included the word Mastiff!

As the two approached, Nelson on raising himself onto all fours smiled while nodding a gesture first to Watson then to Hector. This before welcoming with

"Extremely pleased to see you both, whilst especially pleased to meet our new acquaintance Hector! I've already I must admit, having heard of your arrival on the grapevine!"

With all seated comfortably again, Hector towering above the other two answered with a polite rather traditional English greeting of

"Good afternoon Nelson! It's also a great pleasure to meet you as well at last, then adding warmly "But in my case in having heard so much about you from our friend here Watson!" Nelson after acknowledging this graciously with a nod then continued

"Hopefully some of it good!" his appreciative witty response, continuing with!

"That accent, without doubt from the colonies old chap, would I guess right with, Texas!" he asked now exhibiting a mischievous doggy grin.

"Ex colonies I believe last time I looked at the map!" Hector smiling replied

All three laughed at this as Nelson continued.

"Quite so by Jove! Threw us out fair and square!" his Churchillian affectation resonating in reply! Watson then relieved with the banter ending there, in avoiding just the remote possibility of any early discord emerging between them. Not that he really saw that happening, especially as Churchill, Nelsons idol did have an American mother.

As the conversation continued the subject turned to the successful return of Spot, and his new home with Mick. It was then surprisingly Nelson then inquired "Anything new on the postman?" Watson appeared taken back at this in asking "Didn't even know you knew the man!" "Oh yes!" his confident reply "Nervous chap, always alone, used to come in for a beer now and again, and always going on about his "Leopard dog". Although what was odd, that Spot was never with him!" He paused for a moment before adding "And strange as that may seem, I did get other than his reference to Spot, the distinct impression he wasn't too keen on dogs!" to which Watson replied this time not insincerely "Really!" before Nelson quickly continued "So I can completely understand with Spot feeling justified in leaving him!"

As all three dogs continued with the conversation now around Spot and his American origins, meanwhile back at the bar with Daniel and George, their conversation now overwhelmingly around Bo!

"Well!" George began "This lady does seem to have more than captured

Your attention!" then smiling suggested "I'll try to soften the situation with your mother should it arise, while pretty positive that it will!" to which adding surprisingly "By suggesting perhaps that another lady would be good thing in your life! Then I'll add in assuming that proved the case and I'm sure personally that it will!" on which Daniel smiling nodded his approval, with George continuing "It would then allow me too stress, that Elsie and I could then get away for weekends more often!" ending confidently "I think that should do it!" This brought a broad smile to Daniels face with the comment "I think I now definitely owe you one, beyond much more than this next drink I"m about to buy you" then adding a proverbial wink signalling Billy for a refill.

The problem of mother should it happen in accepting Bo, seemed now to be solved, with the conversation then moving on to Daniels interest in George's life as a cowboy.

It began with George explaining his reason coming to England as he'd stated before, was to trace his predominately he believed Scottish ancestry. Although historically the surname Stewart revealed earlier in England! This fascination of discovering that past history was something he'd previously achieved with his American origins. Back there could trace his ancestry as far back to his Great Great Grandfather George Stewart; found living in Texas in the 1820's. And whose first name he eventually inherited! It turned out that George as an early settler traded amicably particularly with horses with the Sioux Indians. And with George also later credited amongst the ranks of those winning victory at Lynchburg Ferry! Which in turn began the journey he explained in creating independence for Texas from Mexico? It was just then George with both glasses empty again insisting before continuing his story while ignoring protests from Daniel, that he buys the next refill. It was then after toasting glasses George continued: - It was during that time with that ancestor in still being single decided then to marry. And as with a lot of early pioneers taking a Sioux woman as his bride! This George explained certainly with pride, how he came to have Sioux blood in his veins which he felt allowed that special relationship with horses.

While the following generation with the Civil war, painfully accepting defeat after fighting for the Confederacy. Although then unexpectedly with the demand for beef, with the family enjoying a period of prosperity right up till that First World War. When he emphasised with four brothers in joining the infantry all miraculously survived! After that the family went back successfully to ranching once more until the Wall St crash of 1929! It was then George Stewart 111, his father, with the family now bankrupt, continued then just as a ranch hand until his death aged 79 in the sixties!

It was then with showing some sign of concern on his face, he continued a little more seriously now with his story. In going on to explain with the loss of his wife a year ago now with sadly a childless marriage; he decided in making with what time available filling an ambition of his own. That in discovering his family history before America!

He was about to continue in completing his story when aware that Daniel had at sometime, succumbing to those extra drinks fallen asleep! George unperturbed by this smiling and fortunately seeing the funny side of this happening, and as deciding then to empty the remainder of the glass in his hand, when abruptly interrupted then by a now fully awake Daniel! Who began loudly apologising profusely of his behaviour when in turn, was then interrupted now by George? In assuring him under the circumstances as entirely unnecessary! This didn't prevent however Daniel continuing in stressing his good fortune in meeting George anyway. And then with no let up, bringing himself although shakily suddenly to his feet, raise his glass too announce "I think this definitely calls now for a toast to our good friendship! With then still the worse for ware continued "One, I like to remember as a particular favourite of my father's!" Then without hesitation with an amused George looking on cleared his throat and raising higher both his glass and then voice generating his best effort to recite!

"Here's to the man with his hand on her garter, he didn't get far but was a jolly good starter! " Which quickly brought a smiling George applauding now to his feet and laughing, then "Chinking" his own glass against Daniels! This followed with a robust handshake and clumsy bear hug!

So accompanied with other jolly events of that evening with that toast, cementing a firm friendship in guaranteeing for the future more of those same happy evening together. Which not surprisingly ran parallel too Watson's and Hector"s!! Except in their case after paws touching excluding the bear hug!

The following day and with the excitement of seeing her again, Daniel put in a number of additional hours to complete her accounts quicker! Which in the process was happy to see in showing a successful ongoing business! This enough for her previous accountant to certainly believe then to comfortably raise those fees! Although Daniel as one would imagine now jubilant with his attempt unsuccessful! It was on that following Wednesday he phoned Bo to arrange that return visit. But with the most frightening prospect imaginable in perhaps not getting the reception he'd hoped for! And nervous of this happening made the call without Watson present from the privacy of his office. This being one large custom made shed at the bottom of the garden.

With her answering at first, very relieved on her admission in looking forward to seeing him! This unfortunately followed however that at present so busy, would he mind awfully phoning back sometime the following week. As Daniel re entered the house his expression noted by Watson confirmed that the call been not altogether a total success.

But in still maintaining that dreamy expression as now not only unnerving but more frightening as possibly permanent! And on mother's suspicions in witnessing this convincing her enough that something definitely now was up! So with that guaranteed help from George now being absolutely essential!

With that urgency positively confirmed now by Daniel, Watson wisely suggested that this evening while George had that persuasive discussion with Elsie; would be safer for us both to take an extended walk to the park. Then with a quick visit to George's abode next door insuring mother still in her room, Daniel went on to update him on what had transpired. And with his now assurance in not to worry and after thanking him heartily, both hastily made off in the direction of the park! Leaving Daniels hopeful unheeded future with Bo, now in George's capable hands!

As it turned out that evening there was a pleasant surprise awaiting them in the park, in finding it returned to its old self again. One should add there was initially a fright in coming across from memory, the same troupe of ladies in exercise apparel that had previously included Hyacinth! Although after a hesitant look amongst their ranks, thankfully, on this occasion not amongst them!

Although now with Daniels interest shown, showing recognition from that group when all smiling broadly and others laughing, acknowledging his appearance with a wave!

Daniel took it as possibly a wave of thanks, with Hyacinth perhaps refusing at least in being part of the group when at that particular location! Daniel then felt positive it would then prove for all a more compatible afternoon.

On their return a surprise awaited them in the form of Mother, with George now smiling at her side. The first thing frightening about mother in determining her mood was when she's smiling under circumstances such as these; the soft smile expressed is no guarantee of success.

So when she began speaking it was listened too with caution. "Well!" she began "I understand from George that you have as a new client, one in fact you've taken a bit of a shine too!" pausing then with her soft smile becoming even more deceptive she continued "With both as I understand it as a client, and in HER case extending I'm told to a social level!"

But before Daniel could formulate as he saw it an acceptable answer, while taken back in her knowing this soon it was a women, and fearing now in expecting the worst. As Mother continued! "Well, although I'm surprised, nevertheless I'm pleased to hear it as well!" On appreciating this with less so Watson, Daniel heaved a sigh of relief. As she continued "I've thought for some time you need to get out more socially I mean, other than ALWAYS with just our lovable friend Watson" This confirming Watson's "less so" as him feeling quite sure had more to do with her relationship with George, rather than any concerned interest in Daniels social life! And to show his distaste with mother with her derogatory downgrading his valuable contribution to Daniels welfare and social life, chose, after a blatant disagreeable howl to leave the room!

As suspected his suspicion surrounding her real motive then proved correct. When on mother's insistence Daniel with little option after being seduced by mother's understanding approach, now subjected with little resistance on his part, in revealing everything about the relationship with Bo! Even in demanding, reveals his true feelings and aspirations for that lady should it progress in the future.

With his story over, mother, after a sweet glance at George, suggesting now with a less agreeable smile on her face and looking straight at Daniel, that under these enlightening circumstances on insisting then that the sooner she meets the lady the better! Daniel now defenceless, interoperating this clearly now as an unmistakable threat!

With mother now temporarily returning to her bedroom to feed her birds, and George still present awaiting her return, Daniel, grabbed the opportunity of a quick word with him.

"I think in attempting to get this grilling over quickly, I might have jumped the gun with mother!" he concerned beginning, in repeating a terminology popular with Watson "In not explaining clearly that Bo as yet to accept or worse, possibly unaware of my romantic intentions towards her. So if you don't mind I would appreciate you suggesting this as probably at present, a slight exaggeration on my part as to her true feelings towards me!" And with Daniel now looking sheepishly at him, surprised at George now taking on a more serious tone in stating

"As I'm sure your aware, she's quite a strong lady your mother, and would have made in another life a great cowhand and drover!" Then added with a soft chuckle, "I would suggest with both horses and men!" Daniel lightened at this smiled again, as George added a familiar wink to his comment. But then not wanting to destroy George's vision chose not to reveal that mother's terrified of horses! So with that unsaid George continued confidently with "But don't worry my friend, we are two of a kind your mother and I believe read her clearly enough to allow you safe passage to wherever your ambitions with Bo are heading. Daniel extremely touched with his dedication to the problem, grabbed his hand in thanks. Although moments after Daniel unsure himself with that heading bit! But mouthing a thank you anyway as mother was heard coming quickly back down the stairs!

After mother and George then left as he understood it for a romantic evening stroll to the "Holden". This left Daniel with the still annoyed and rather sad Watson sitting comfortably now watching television in Daniels favourite chair. And what made it worse, without showing any intentions of moving. Daniel at first annoyed then deciding to say nothing. Probably because of feeling guilty at the way he'd allowed his mother to treat his friend and in not correcting her when he should have.

With Daniel now seated in the less comfortable chair, neither spoke for what seemed ages until Daniel said. "There's both a Jeckel and Hide in my mother, which is for the most part excused by her known eccentricity. Which by now I thought you could deal with. But with her comment, could tell it had really upset you and understand why! So please without her ever knowing, accept my apology on her behalf!"

Watson, in not taking his eyes of the mastermind repeat he was watching answered "Thank you, that was very nice of you!" then rising turned to Daniel to quietly say "And here my good friend, is your chair back!" Daniel, his expression now taking on that appreciative look to his kind offer, and about to refuse but then changed his mind!

On that following week Daniel phoned Bo to confirm his coming visit. She did again he was pleased to note sound pleased to hear from him in offering now to accommodate that visit whenever it suited him! He found it very tempting then to suggest the following day. But eventually, settled for the day after that! Not wanting he thought wisely to appear too eager! When he explaining this all to Watson, Watson without voicing it aloud thought it a little late for that!

Two days later with Watson by his side, in having now a permanent claim to the passenger front seat, made their way through the familiar busy London traffic. Towards hopefully with both getting excited the pleasure of seeing Bo again! After searching with less difficulty for an unoccupied meter they parked the car. Then determined not to be late, set out with quite a pace towards Bo's premises. As Daniel on reaching the stairway first began enthusiastically bounding up on occasion stairs two at a time, Watson with his short legs struggled to keep up behind. Arriving at her door Daniel had already knocked before Watson joined him. Watson still in the throes of catching his breath managed then to point out in a most sarcastic tone "Perhaps you've yet to notice" he began although still puffing heavily "That my legs are somewhat shorter than yours, so I would appreciate you make a note of that, otherwise!" he emphasised before continuing and not surprisingly expressing a smug grin "I wont have you join me on my next visit!" this a reference to Bo's previous parting remark on her suggestion of "And please bring along your friend!" Before Daniel could conger up a suitable reply, a now familiar voice suggested they might enter!

They were both taken back on entering the room, for placed on the large familiar Victorian table before them now cleared of fabric's, was an assortment of food. A culinary mixture of cold meats, salads and fruit, including offered hot or cold, bread pudding and black pudding! And next to the table looking as attractive as ever stood Bo!

For a moment Daniel, a huge astonished look on his face was lost for words, partly because of the feast in front of them, but more so with Bo! Watson meanwhile showed his approval being unaffected by riming with, "an accelerating tail and appreciative howl!" Then she spoke! "I thought it might be rather civilised "she began that beguiling smile appearing "If we had a snack or two before starting!" Both guests then dreamily nodded in approval although in this instant Watson more so for the food, followed then unsurprisingly with an appreciative howl!!!

The conversation then between them flowed wonderfully well. Although perhaps helped along with a glass of wine or two! And happily with both glasses favourably joined by their host, which was nice! While Watson only wishing he could have joined them, but anyway now settling as one would unhappily, with a bowl of water. And from that conversation emerged a relationship that suggested to Watson, with or even without the wine, that Daniels ambition towards the lady certainly heading decidedly in the right direction. The first sign of that progress was when on ending the meal; Daniel saw an opportunity in reciprocating with undoubtedly help from the wine, in offering although still hesitantly, to take Bo out for supper one evening. The offer combined now with a soft smile, was readily accepted. This Watson concluded was indeed, one huge paw forward!

Later, on their way home with what Watson described ending the day on a high note, had both expressing enthusiastically their growing affection for the lady. And with that expressed, Watson cautiously in suggesting should the relationship blossom to a more permanent basis, perhaps Daniel would consider letting Bo into as he described it, "our little secrete!" With Daniel unenthusiastically replying that should that time arrive he would give it consideration. His probable reason sad to say, in being jealously aware would then allow on Watson's part, express his admiration for the lady in a more personal way!

On arriving home both with spirits high then quickly diminished on Daniels part when mother told him looking unusually dispirited rather than angry, that she'd received a phone call from Cousin Justin!

And with that said a noticeable curtain of gloom descended quickly over both mother, Daniel, even the house itself, as with just the mention of his name creating an almost doomsday scenario. Which was made sadder as the day up until then had been so uplifting! Watson now looking at them both, immediately inquired just how bad was this person, and was the call usually followed up dare he suggest, with an immediate visit

As mother her solemn face speaking volume's appearing now in shock, began then with difficulty in her way of shuffling back to the kitchen. A little later returning as Watson rightly assumed with a large teapot of her calming herb tea! Daniel, now with a similar expression, then slumped limply without appearing aware into his SECOND favourite chair, a bad sign in itself. This leaving Watson smiling now to slump comfortably into the favourite!

After a number of heavy sighs, well three to be exact, Daniel began.

"I believe now!" he sighed again making it four before continuing while looking straight now at Watson while repeating again! "I BELIEVE NOW cousin Justin warrants" !"then stopping just for a moment his voice now becoming strained "At the very least an explanation!" Watson deciding then just to nod in approval in trusting without saying so after Daniel's excessive "sighs; that if nothing else it should turn out to be an interesting one. It was then Daniel oddly squeezing his lips together as close as possible, as when on occasion finding oneself uncomfortably bloated, coupled strangely with his eyes now frantically searching around the room as though perhaps seeking relief elsewhere! This, coupled with the odd voice, had Watson having not seen him like this before, thinking understandably that "Even if the tea does do the job, I think probably its still safer too vacate his favourite chair!" And just about to move .., then changed his mind! Sitting back down in deciding to risk it!! As Daniel unaware of his decision continued!

"Cousin Justin Flake is after all, and unfortunately still is!" He stumbled on although appearing slightly better after making yet another sigh with! "What one would typically describe as the UNMENTIONED "black sheep" of the family?" With Watson already becoming confused as he had then just mentioned him! And only knowing a little about sheep through a sheepdog that lost them although temporarily in his sleep, and they all white, and animals?

As then Daniel raising his tone again continued "In being his mother's late brother Wilfred's son, and accordingly as it turned out even with a private school education, a very disappointing son at that!" Then continuing showing disturbing signs of confused deviation with "Although sadly for Wilfred, Justin was more like her other brother Fred, another Flake, who in having distanced himself from his parents Roger and Phyllis from an early age, largely after being described by his father then unfortunately as "not playing with a full deck!" Then after pausing to take a longish breath continued "And choosing then eventually to the whole families relief to immigrate to Australia!" then adding strangely! "While even there never expected to get married! Before Watson being naturedly curious at this odd prediction and just about to ask why? Was when Daniel answered the question with "The reason probably being!" pausing again while looking intently now at Watson before adding "In now feeling somewhat unsure of his gender?" Watson unsure of what expression would suit this situation decided then in just nodding his head. When Daniel suddenly continued "And what certainly didn't help, was his persistence in wearing long after they were out of fashion, extremely "short shorts!"

Although there was now of little surprise on Watson's face in failing to understand anyway the relevance of introducing others of this dysfunctional family's shortcoming, too include even worse the unknown gendered "short shorts" Fred. And in becoming extremely frustrated enough, about to question strongly the point of it all! That was until Daniel quickly in raising his hand prevented that happening! On returning once again to continue in a sadder tone, but perhaps a little quieter and slower with noticeable exhaustion showing, back now to the unpopular Justin! Continuing "And since the death of his father!" with Watson listening now loosing trace of exactly which one it was, "In.. only turning up.. to visit" continued Daniel now definitely slower "When things"have.. collapsed" then slowly emphasising. "Which unfortunately.. happens frequently" in his life!" On finishing hopefully the tale now he just didn't look well!

With this most unflattering picture emerging of Justin and other members of the family, Watson's first and deemed later expected question and at the time feeling it at least a practical one was "So what does Justin exactly do for a living?" Then feeling himself now exhausted, sat back comfortably still in the favourite chair waiting with great trepidation the answer.

Daniel, more himself again, although becoming annoyingly aware now that Watson was STILL in his chair, but initially dismissing his annoyance other than with a positive glare in Watson's direction, then answered quite decisively

"Well, that's a major question" with his hands now clasped tightly behind him, convincing Watson this answer was going take some time. "Amongst numerous disasters beginning as a choir boy" he continued with Watson now grinning, which Daniel noticing thought rather rude" "When on collecting donations unfortunately part of his duty on Sundays, and, just about that time mixing unfortunately with older wayward juveniles, resulting then into his first introduction to the world of gambling" It was then with Watson still grinning, Daniels voice rose in annoyance dramatically then with. "It was only then later when other discrepancies dealing with other people's money emerged, consumed we assumed then to the same fate as the church collection plate!" At this juncture Daniel's expression became rather self-righteous as he uttered we all thought justifiably "A man with no scruples, no compassion, and to make matters worse, tastelessly dressed and a member of this family! Then after bowing his head for a moment the smile returned, and after another deep sigh, which under the circumstances was certainly to be expected, he continued his tone lighter again

"His path or better described in his case as "his greyhound track!", a reference Watson took to his gambling particularly on dogs, as Daniel continued, "That led him then to everyone's surprise into the world of local politics, on seeking a position as a local counsellor!" with Watson thinking then a waste of time attempting to work that transition out. As Daniel then explained "For although there was something dreadfully lacking in his appearance, the one thing he did possess above most other less vocal applicants was!" pausing now to emphasise the point, "The gift of the gab! In plainer language! A very convincing, slippery well disguised tongue!" A description that certainly fascinated and impressed Watson!!

While up until now having listened most intently as the story becoming at least now more colourful, with Watson wondering if Justin could possibly be as badly interesting as described! But with Daniels scathing description it did seem more likely than not! Then sadly confirmed with Elsie, as never having seen her disturbed by anybody that much? His question then to Daniel he felt as a practical one, in reference to Justin's "greyhound track" mentality, in asking, "So, does he at least like dogs?"

Well!" Daniel first puzzled by the question then seeing the connection, said "It's strange you should ask that as coincidently he did at one stage have ambitions to become a vet, and applied for a job in a veterinary practice specialising in greyhounds!! Watson already felt he had a rough idea what was coming next. As Daniel continued "We found out later on his own admittance that he thought through owners, might obtain inside tips as to UNLIKELY winners! Of course then with nobody actually liking him he failed getting those answers or the job!"

Daniel now giving consideration to that first question, and now relaxed enough answered unswervingly

"Not at all, his sole and only interest in dogs remained when winning on the track!"

It was about then to everyone's relief, mother appeared from the kitchen with a very large teapot in hand. Watson again assuming quite rightly with confirmation from Elsie that this, only on special circumstances her calming herbal tea! Although suggesting by the size of the teapot, believing that everyone would at the very least need a second cup!

It was then as anticipated only a matter of time before Justin without invitation would call then make an appearance. The expected call a day later taken now by a fully prepared Daniel. Who's first delaying action in acting quite convincingly the role of somebody with a flue virus, from which then emphasising the whole family at present suffering from? In suggesting perhaps he calls again in a week's time. This initial if only temporary victory put everybody in a celebratory mood, only comparable to one knowing the worlds still coming to an end but now in a weeks time.

It was to the day a week later, that the inevitable second call brought them all back to earth. With Daniel valiantly attempting delaying further the arrival of this justly unloved cousin, using Elsie's age in suggesting that with her recovery sadly being slower, that perhaps another week would be a better time to visit. This unfortunately in underestimating our slippery friend then failed! This had come about after graduating with distinction a long apprenticeship in accumulating an extensive repertoire in answers avoiding being fobbed off! With this one proving easy for Justin, in suggesting or rather insisting in a sympathetic tone, that with the virus on the wane with all but Elsie, a visit by her concerned nephew could only help in her recovery. Daniel had no answer to that, other than to tell him of Elsie's true feelings towards him, which Daniel being Daniel a considerate person, could not bring himself at least at that moment to do!

Watson meanwhile sympathetic to the family's plight unfortunately defeated for the time being, decided then would give some thought after meeting Justin, in whether he could help in some way!

It took no time at all after Daniels defeat, for Justin to set a time and date for the following Sunday. The only empty day in his calendar with no dog or horse race meetings! The time set was midday, and usually being a Sunday a day to relax and one normally look forward too, with the exception on this occasion being the exact opposite!

Watson then put the first phase of his test into action, when seated just behind Daniel who after taking a deep breath opened the front door.

Justin Flakes appearance was if that were possible, worse than Watson imagined in being totally in a word". unsightly!

As being clearly short in statue, his badly fitting toupee was noticeably embarrassingly now obvious. With its colour either by design or accident matching his facial hair in the form of a badly cultivated tobacco stained moustache. With it now successfully probing upwards disappearing into the inviting turned up nostrils of a seemingly undeveloped nose! His beady eyes now only partly visible through the thick unattended overhanging bushy ginger eyebrows above! His mode of dress did nothing to help his appearance, with his charcoal grey suit questionably chosen intentionally, as it blended well with fallen ash collected from frequent cigarettes ignored too long between his lips. Watson, now aghast at this image in considering him as someone you would possibly vote for as a counsellor, fortunately he learned later that people no longer did. But then in forgetting on the supposed persuasion of that yet to be heard, persuasive well rehearsed tongue!

During the whole time Watson had taken in summing up the visitor still on the doorstep, neither party other than staring at one another had spoken!

One reason was noticeably Daniel's surprise and later agreed by the family, in the further deterioration now in Justin's appearance. It was eventually Daniel after offering a hesitant handshake that spoke first.

"Well it's nice to see you again Cousin Justin!" Daniel's lukewarm welcome, with Justin after nodding with an insipid grin now accepting the offered hand. Daniel then continued with as welcome as he could manage "And do please come in!"

As Daniel moved aside Watson became visible, prompting an immediate response from Justin in a surprisingly cultured voice completely detached from his present image, and appearing now his only saving grace with, "I can see you've acquired a new mutt since last I was here!" Then added sneeringly "By Jove, that's positively one lacking animal!" Then, with the dog dismissed turned instantly to Daniel to ask in as sincere a voice as he could make it "And how's Auntie Elsie, still hopefully on the mend I trust?"

It was at that moment that Justin would never know just how close he came to finding out how savagely a "lacking" mutt can bite!" Although at this time controlled his temper, but only just! With Watson now totally determined to put his utmost effort into insuring this would without doubt, be the last time at least whilst he remained in the household that Justin want ever to visit again. He wondered then what derogatory comments he'd previously passed on Elsie's birds. Although with Elsie Justin probably had learnt to tread more carefully, as in her case retribution would be instant and unforgiving!

As Justin then climbed the stairs to her room, Watson followed then close behind.

And although aware of his presence reinforced now and again with a swift look over his shoulder, Justin, because of the dog's size first ignored the occasional muted growl that accompanied that following. On reaching Elsie's room however with a now seated Watson just a few feet away, the growl's now from his pursuer he interoperated, becoming most decidedly louder and more threatening!

After knocking and receiving a "Who is it?" response from within, unfortunately, then in growing uneasy at that changed nature of the "mutt", chose unwisely without invitation to hurriedly enter the room. It was after a moments silence that Watson heard although muffled, the distinctly angry response from the other side of the door. Confirming the beginning of his plan edging towards fruition! A following celebratory chuckled howl was then added on behalf of that same "lacking mutt!"

It turned out for Justin his visit to Elsie room proved a short one. In both ignoring protocol always especially observed in the case of mother, and failing in underestimating Watson. For as the muffled angry now high pitched sounds from the room continued, ended on any future visit's now a forgone conclusion!

It certainly didn't help in regaining his composure, when Justin with ample encouragement from Elsie anxiously leaving the room, confronted once again by Watson. Now presenting as best he could an attack mode! In realising he couldn't sustain this image for long and after one or two growls accompanied with a show of small teeth made, his way then back downstairs. Leaving an uncomfortable Justin once sure he was out of sight, to gingerly follow! If anything discovered in this run in with Justin when challenged, it was being fearful of even small dogs off the track. With Watson's ultimate goal dispatching Justin for good, certainly made now definitely easier..

Unbeknown up until then, Daniel meanwhile had followed closely Watson's progress. As having been witness to the derogatory remark made to his house guest earlier in feeling sure a response from Watson would quickly be in the making. So the episode on the landing both before and after Justin's encouraging dismissal by mother, witnessed with great satisfaction. But to test what that would determine with Justin now reaching the bottom of the stairs, offering graciously "Will you be joining us then for supper?"

Justin at first seemed not too hear the invitation. With his sole attention on covering as best he could, anywhere in the vicinity that the dog could be hiding. Then satisfied no sign of him, turned to Daniel with the answer! "No, but thank you anyway, I think I best be getting along, lots to do!" With clearly now his bombastic attitude evaporated, and still anxiously glancing in all directions for the dog, continued then softly "My prime reason for the visit as your probably aware was to pay my respects to Auntie Elsie and yourself of course and with that take leave of you!" And in confirming his desperation in leaving grabbed Daniel in a quick handshake with Daniel shuddering then as with his added threat of "Perhaps I will stop in again when she's completely recovered, and take up your kind offer then!" Daniel frightened even at this stage with the prospect of him taking up the offer now, lessoned that chance by quickly opening the front door, allowing him little other option then but to leave. Then worryingly Justin stopped for a moment, with Daniels fear re-emerging, but what followed thankfully was one large accolade for Watson, when he turned and asked hesitantly "Are you planning then on keeping that animal?" this combined with that wishful expression of hopefully "no", or possibly "maybe!" It was what Daniel would describe later as one of his most dreamed of answer's, perfectly fitting in Justin's case in replying "Well!" he began whilst already savouring the last part "At first personally I wasn't sure!" Justin's face brightened just for a moment until! "But then mother strongly insisted that we keep him!" There is only one way to describe the visitors face as you've probably guessed, as one of bitter disappointment. But thoroughly enjoyed I'm embarrassed to say by both Daniel and more especially Watson. Although this wholly encouraged by Justin, being just Justin!

Then after offering a "Goodbye Justin, take care of yourself and do have a safe journey home!" this from a smiling Daniel with Watson now sitting happily at his side. While deliberately adding even more upset to that person still present on the doorstep, was after Daniel smiling slowly closed the door an outburst of laughter with additional howls from Watson that unmistakeably, Justin only interoperate as a celebration of him leaving.

But only time would tell as a deterrent whether it would be enough!

That evening after relating the full story to mother, all three celebrated with drinks at the "Hoden". Mother was in fine fettle, insisting that she alone allowed in conveying the story to Billy. While at the same time Nelson was enjoying the same with a little more graphic detail from Watson. Although having finished the tale on a high note, Watson still had that gut feeling that this not the last seen of Justin, and as he predicted turned out to be the case!

With the business of Justin temporarily dealt with for the present thanks almost exclusively to Watson, Daniel turned his full attention to the impending dinner date with Bo! Although still nervous, would he decided phone her later that week. His reluctance to phone her that very day, came about partly through his fear still of her since changing her mind, coupled hopefully with things they might share of in common. For example, her taste in music, food and other things! His lack of this information was he felt, the key to a positively unsuccessful evening! But it was then he had an idea!!!

He would confide in unaware until now of his closer friendship with Bo with whom else but Roland! Who he felt sure might be able to provide him with an answer too one or two of those tastes! And although it did appear their relationship was primarily about art rather than the alternative, he was sure with Roland's natural social graces the distinct possibility he would have gleaned more from the lady than would normally ensue. He also felt in knowing him well enough not to feel embarrassed on asking. The worst that could happen was he predicted get ribbed about it at times in the future. But that was no cause for concern, as he'd found nothing mean in Roland's nature. So, decided as now late in the day phone him the following morning. To ensure first with a visit he'd be open and confident if anybody, Roland, able to provide him with at least one or two of those answers.

On arriving at Roland"s STUDIO, after being greeted with a quick handshake, Daniel wasted no time then in explaining his dilemma. While awaiting his friend's response with great optimism! He began as one would expect with a chuckle. "I'm not so sure!" He continued still grinning "Of being too much help in that area, as our conversations rarely moved on from art." Then quickly adding "That regrettably being her choice, rather than mine!" Another smile followed by an enthusiastic "But would have been most emphatically I admit, more than interested should it have been otherwise" Daniel was about to thank him irrespective anyway, when Roland suddenly continued "Ah!.. Although, wait a minute yes! There was one thing that might be of help!" then pausing appearing certain of being an important contribution with "I do remember her saying how her favourite destination was the "Taj Mahal", in Agra India! So it goes without saying she MUST enjoy Indian food!" With Daniel though smiling appearing unexcited at this, replying never the less, in a somewhat jocular voice "Well, that's a good start because so do I!" This as it happens wasn't quite true, as he would as a polite guest, eat Indian food if placed in front of him, but found it difficult if too much spice! But reluctant to see that undoubted look of disappointment on Roland's face, in realising this not one he wanted to hear, came up with that answer! More especially as Roland his face now beaming presumed to have answered successfully one of those choices! It was then Watson close by listening intently also appeared uncomfortable at his answer and certainly disappointed and puzzled in having known Daniel's food preferences, against the lie he'd just told! His only other objection in listening to this exchange although understandably, was not being allowed verbally his own suggestions in finding those answers! Although with a gestured verbal encouragement from Daniel in his direction, at least encouraged to voice with any practical answers a confirming howl!!

Daniel after little knowledge gained of Bo's preferences in making the journey worthwhile, spent time then looking around the studio. With Roland now and again praising the merrits of particular paintings that both liked. Needless to say however, unfortunately none at present depicting either dogs or more importently clocks! Or even better both in one canvas!!

Watson meanwhile was particularly puzzled at the number of works portraying nude women. In contrast that day with just the one nude man shown. Although with both in similar no doubt popular positions he questioned with this thought continuing, why humans wear clothes in the first place? While in understanding the practical reasons, the weather, lack of body hair, shyness, or, could it be also, just an obsession with clothes!!! After all without the last one he presumed, Bo wouldn't be in business!!

On the drive home Watson considered but only for a moment, bringing up the subject up of nudity with Daniel. But in sensing his thoughts would still be occupied with Bo, decided with Daniel being of a conservative nature that might prove somewhat embarrassing.

So, in adopting the motto "when in Rome?" they discussed the weather.

It was a couple of days later he eventually bucked up enough courage to ring her, and then only after Watson's goading!

Her phone rang enough times for Daniel; almost deciding to hang up rather than leave what he felt would be an awkward message. But just before having to make that decision she answered.

"I'm sorry, are you still there"? Was followed almost shouting with

"You caught me in the loo!"

In being unsure just how you respond to this, Daniel answered as best he could with "No problem, well, not at this end!" then quickly after being sure of hearing laughter, wishing he'd replied with something else.

Anyway with her voice sounding welcoming enough, he decided to go ahead with the invitation.

He began awkwardly but straight to the point "I would like now to follow up with my invitation to take you out for a meal one evening!" followed quickly with "Erm.. That is of course if you're still interested?"

"I'd like nothing better! "She answered without hesitation "I was beginning to wonder if you'd forgotten!"

I'm sure then she would have picked up that relieved sigh from Daniel as he exclaimed, "No, not at all, that's great! Are there any evening's that's not good for you?" Following hesitantly with "And, is there any food in particular you like?" In replying to his first question she answered

"No weekdays, other than Friday!" to which Daniel immediately suggested this coming Friday "And what time?" came her prompt reply!" and before he could answer she said "Oh, and by the way, my preference would always be Italian!"

"And so is mine!" he replied happily and this time honestly, with Watson listening contributing a warm doggy smile in his direction, accompanied then with an approving howl! It was with relief at her suggestion of food preferred, that he'd forgotten to state a time in meeting.

"Is 7.30 good for you?" he suggested to which she replied now laughing into the phone "I shall be ready, "suited and booted!"

This odd description coming from a woman had Daniel thinking.

And that unexpected expression most likely he decided acquired from her father, with possibly him being either a city gent, or military man. The answer to that came much later!

So that following Friday found Daniel minus Watson, himself now "suited

and booted" knocking at her showroom door. A bunch of red roses clutched firmly in his hand while patiently awaiting permission now to enter.

"Come in Daniel!" that expectant eventual reply

Daniel savouring his eager entrance, now opened the door slowly.

His first sight of her took his breath away! She looked stunning!

It must have showed not only in his face, but with his dreamy smile. He did manage however in composing himself enough to say in the softest of voice his inhibitions gone if only temporally! "Bo! You look absolutely wonderful!" At first she just smiled, then after a moment answered

"Thank you Daniel, you don't look half bad yourself!" With that, both burst into laughter continuing through most of the evening.

The evening at that Italian restaurant situated in close proximity on the street below, went better than ever have hoped for. With Daniel now totally relaxed, revealing nay boasting, that one of few dishes he could create well was a "Bolognese" sauce. It that case she said she would reserve judgment on the one she was about to order, until the opportunity arose to sample his own. Daniel could only interoperate this optimistically, as her personal invitation to his kitchen

On leaving the restaurant with the evening drawing to a close, Daniel deciding then had been an evening impossible to improve on. That was until after accompanying her back to her showroom followed with a radiant smile in thanking him profusely for a wonderful evening, the unexpected kiss happened, just the once to his lips. Before Daniel had reopened his eyes, she'd vanished back into the showroom.

In deciding then been proved wrong, accepting only now had it become THE most impossible evening to improve on!!!!

AS THE STORY THEN CONTINUES.

---------------------------------------

Rate this submission

Plot:
Dialogue:
Characters:
Wording:

You must be logged in to rate submissions