The Barking Dog

Detective Inspector Kalt was not typically in his office on Friday evenings. He preferred to be home with his wife, having a nightcap and reading the paper. On this particular Friday evening, when light from the streetlamps shone on the grubby rug in horizontal lines, Detective Kalt rubbed his temples with tired hands. What a week. He found himself saying that a lot lately. Serena van Dawson remained missing while infamous criminal Tommy Stokes was still on the run, leaving nothing but a monogrammed handkerchief in his cell. Unconnected, the police had deduced, but it worried the detective all the same. The handkerchief didn’t even have Tommy Stokes’ initials, Detective Kalt noticed, squinting at the blurry photo in the police report. L.W. Who was L.W.? And on top of all that, the dreary clouds that had hovered ominously for days had finally unleashed an onslaught of rain. This was not especially important, but it put the detective in a gray mood.

Detective Kalt shifted the file to the side of his desk and flipped instead through the pile of mail. He was in the midst of opening a telegram when the voice interrupted him.

“Detective Kalt?”

The detective looked up. There was a shadow in the doorway. “Enter.” The shadow stepped forward. “What do you want?” Kalt said, extracting the telegram. 

“Something simple.” A gun pointed directly at Detective Kalt’s forehead. The stranger’s hat lay low, obscuring his eyes.

“Who are you?” The detective rose from his chair, his hand inching towards his pistol.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The stranger gestured with the gun. “I’m a friend, Detective. You just gotta follow me.” The detective was wary, understandably. He was also exhausted. “No time to lose, Detective.” The stranger had an appealing voice, bright and cordial, but there was a note in it the detective didn’t like.

“My partner will know I’m gone,” Detective Kalt said.

“Ah, let him,” said the stranger. He extracted a silver cigarette case from inside his jacket and lit it in one smooth moment. He offered a cigarette to the detective, who declined. “Won’t take long, but I suggest we move quickly. Doesn’t like to be kept waiting, you see.”

“Who?”

The stranger flicked ash onto the carpet. “Let’s get a move on, Detective.” He walked back toward the office door. The detective didn’t move. The stranger sighed and raised his gun. “I thought you’d be smarter than this, Kalt.” The shot echoed around the small office and the detective slumped to the ground, a smear of blood coloring the wallpaper behind him.

Two things could have made this interaction go differently. Had Detective Kalt elected to go home early and dine on the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas prepared for him by his wife, he would have lived. And two, had Serena van Dawson not sent an incriminating telegram that the stranger plucked off the desk, the stranger need not have paid the detective a visit. Bad luck, the stranger thought, shaking his head at the corpse. No use in getting caught up in something bigger than you. He perused the file on the desk for a moment.