Extract 'Somebody's Doodle'

Here’s an extract from chapter 9 of ’SOMEBODY’S DOODLE’, which tells the story of how Annie (aka ‘The Dreadlocks Detective’) set up the Happy Tails pet detective agency. In this extract she gets her big break by discovering who poisoned one of the canine contestants at a fictional dog show, ‘Crofts’.

Our plot was inspired by the true story of Jagger, an Irish setter who was poisoned shortly after competing at the world’s most prestigious dog show: CRUFTS. In our version, a Yorkshire Terrier with the stage name: ‘Big-Ben Prince Great-Balls-of-Fire, The Elder’ (or just Snooty for short) dies in suspicious circumstances, just after he’s won Best-in-Group. Annie investigates and discovers that one of the human contestants had a motive, means, and opportunity to murder Snooty.

We have conflicting views about dog shows like Crufts. On the one hand, the agility competitions etc are great fun, and the TV coverage does encourage people to adopt a rescue dog, but we’re uncomfortable with the idea of breeding a ‘perfect’ dog in order to win a canine beauty competition.

…….Annie’s big break came when she was asked to investigate an unsolved crime at the world’s most prestigious dog show, Crofts. One of the contestants, a Yorkshire Terrier with the stage name: ‘Big-Ben Prince Great-Balls-of-Fire, The Elder’ (or just Snooty for short), had died in suspicious circumstances, just after he’d won Best-in-Group. An autopsy later revealed traces of poison in his body.

Snooty’s owner, Mrs Ashley-Turner, was convinced he’d been murdered by a rival breeder, but the police hadn’t been able to find any evidence. The CCTV footage showed that the only person who’d fed the dog was Mrs Ashley-Turner herself. They concluded that Snooty had been poisoned, or had accidentally eaten something that had killed him, after the show. In any case, they weren’t prepared to commit any more time, or manpower, to the investigation.

Crofts were relieved. They were horrified by the negative publicity and had been doing their best to limit the damage. Mrs Ashley-Turner was convinced they’d pressured the police to close the case and hush things up. So she contacted Annie, hoping the private detective could find the killer.

Coincidentally, she and Jack had visited the show the day Snooty died. They’d seen the victim paraded in the ring and they might even have been there when the crime was committed. When Annie saw the story on the news, she remembered how tense the atmosphere was when the dogs were being judged. The human contestants were obsessed with winning and perhaps some of them would do anything to win. Crofts was their Olympics. She could imagine the despair, bitterness, and envy if their star pooch lost.

The story soon faded when the police failed to solve the case, but Annie hadn’t forgotten about it. She asked her brother why they weren’t doing more to find the culprit. He shrugged, said they had more important criminals to catch, and joked that she might be better qualified to investigate a dead dog herself.

Then Mrs Ashley-Turner commissioned her. When Annie told Robert about the generous fee and the four-figure reward, he was rather less sarcastic. “Blimey, I had no idea a dog was worth that much,” he gasped. “Maybe I should forget about chasing bank robbers and go into business with my little sister.”

“Actually Rob, perhaps you can help me catch Snooty’s killer. I’ll need access to the CCTV tapes, the interviews, and the statements. Is there any way you could get your hands on them?”

He wasn’t sure. It wasn’t his team—they were busy pursuing a gang of international drug smugglers and it wasn’t a good time. They were expecting a shipment at any moment …

“What about the hamsters?” she countered, reminding him he owed her a favour and might need a hamster-sitter again.

He sighed. “You’re as dogged as a dog with a bone, sis. I’ll see what I can do.”

A few days later she had the tapes. She went through everything, painstakingly, but there were no new clues or leads (it’s crucial for a pet detective to have plenty of leads). She was on the point of admit- ting defeat, when she noticed something strange about the final CCTV tape—something the police hadn’t spotted.

She re-checked the penultimate days’s footage, fast-forwarding to the end of the afternoon. Then the final day’s tape again. There it was: three minutes were identical. Not just similar (hours of footage were extremely repetitious), but identical in every detail. The only explanation was that someone had copied three minutes from one tape and edited it into the other.

It was hardly surprising no-one had noticed the anomaly. The hundred-and-twenty hours of video were mind-numbingly boring: dogs sleeping, peeing, licking themselves … Intermittently, a human appeared—to groom, or feed a pooch. These moments had, of course, been carefully scrutinised and the police had concluded that no-one had interfered with Snooty’s food. But someone had tampered with the CCTV footage and there could only be one reason for doing it.

Now she had the modus operandi and she just needed means, motive, and opportunity. She showed the incriminating tapes to the officer in charge of the investigation and persuaded him to interview the only people who had the means and opportunity to tamper with them: the security guards. One of them also had a motive. His wife, Rita, was a competitor in the Terrier group. The police interviewed her and she confessed to having a longtime grudge against Mrs Ashley-Cooper.

Rita was convinced her rival had friends in high places, connections at Crofts, judges who favoured her. In Rita’s mind, it was why Snooty had made it through to the Best-in-Show final, instead of her own Yorkie, Rosie Lee (show name: ‘I-Am- Who-I-Am-Not-a-Drama-Queen’). After twenty years of showing dogs and always being pipped at the post, it became an obses- sion, eating away at her. Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. She and her husband came up with a plan to exact revenge on their rival, “that stuck-up Sophie Ashley-Whatsit bitch.”

He was working as a nightclub bouncer and had no trouble getting a job as a security guard at Crofts. Once he was in charge of monitoring the CCTV cameras, it was easy to find a moment when Snooty was alone. Rita put poison in his food and her husband replaced those three minutes on the video with footage from the previous day’s tape.

After several hours of interrogation, Rita admitted she’d poisoned Snooty, but she insisted she’d never meant to kill the dog, just to “make him a bit sick.” In floods of tears, she confessed that she’d made a mistake and used too much poison. She was devastated when Snooty died. She’d wanted to give herself up, but her husband had stopped her.

“I don’t know what came over me,” she sobbed. “There’s just so much pressure to be a winner. I lost the plot. I love dogs, but I ended up killing poor little Snooty. It wasn’t his fault. I hate myself and I deserve to be punished.”

She and her husband were arrested and Rita pleaded guilty to all the charges. The magistrate believed her testimony: she’d made a dreadful mistake with the poison and never meant to kill the dog, and she was clearly full of remorse. He gave her a suspended sentence and ordered her to do six months community service at the London Dogs Refuge.

The case attracted plenty of attention. Rita made a short, but heartfelt statement outside the court: “I’m truly sorry for what I did. It’s made me rethink my life. I’m giving up breeding, dog shows, that whole world. There are too many screwed-up people in it and I was one of the worst. From now on, I’m going to help the rescue centres look after abandoned dogs, instead of chasing prizes in stupid beauty contests.”

Rita’s statement was widely reported and Annie was also in the news, briefly. She appeared on TV for a few seconds and the tabloids ran headlines like: ‘It’s a Fur Cop!’ She was labelled the ‘Dreadlocks Detective’ and compared to Ace Ventura (Hollywood’s version of a pet detective).

The publicity brought plenty of new clients to Happy Tails. She had more work than she could handle on her own, so she employed Tommy, the reformed teenage hooligan, to do some of the spade- work. He was a quick learner, adept at persuading shady types to divulge information and great at watching her back. Currently, he was her unpaid apprentice, repaying his debt to society—“a kind of community service” as she called it, but they really were the Dynamic Duo now.

If you would like to read more do purchase Somebody’s Doodle from Amazon