I kept an eye on my incoming email for Ludwig’s reply while I explained to Wylie how to do any updates at the computer and what to watch out for. Much faster than I had expected, Ludwig answered me. He was ready for a meeting right away.
I cut off my instructions to Wylie, and he gave me a blank stare.
“What?” I asked.
“You can’t leave me hanging like this. I have a lot of questions.”
“You can handle it, and I won’t be gone long. Just make sure Thomas and Tiger do their job. Don’t let them dawdle.”
“You’re always on their backs. If they just take a short snack break and you notice it, you bark at them to go back to work. But Sabrina can snooze all day, and you don’t say a word.”
“I told you, she’s still wet behind the ears. I’m trying to break her in gently. But I don’t have time to argue about this now. Ludwig might already be waiting for me.”
I pushed Wylie out of the way so I could reach the computer’s USB port and got ready to upload myself. I logged on to the Internet, punched my ID code into the address bar and jumped back down to the computer. I held my tag close to the USB port, called out to Wylie, “See you,” and was on my way.
As usual, a wind with the force of a hurricane made me close my eyes and battered my ears. Feeling like a beach ball tossed around and around, I lost all sensation of direction but landed smoothly only a minute or two later in the Internet tunnel in front of my door.
I couldn’t remember ever having experienced a hard landing on the one-of-a kind floor all the Internet tunnels had. Ludwig always went bonkers over its surface, firm and soft at the same time while providing the perfect traction for our paws. I hoped he had resisted his urge to run back and forth through the tunnels and I didn’t have to chase him down this time.
It was the reason why I suggested meeting him in the relay station, the one close to Ludwig’s and my doors. Even though more and more relay stations had sprung up lately, there weren’t enough by far to serve the whole Internet. The improvements to them, however, were enormous. The Internet traveler now could also use them to move around inside the Internet instead of having to walk through tunnel after tunnel to find the wanted exit door. And compared to a roller coaster ride through hell traveling through the Internet to the outside, an inside trip felt like a heavenly boat ride.
I trotted to the fork of the tunnel which led to the left to Ludwig’s door and to the right to the relay station. Looking each way, I didn’t see a sign of Ludwig, but I could have sworn there was a noise somewhere. I held my breath and listened.
All I heard was the normal sound inside the Internet, the sound of silence. I looked in both directions in front of me again and also behind me, squinting my eyes to pick up anybody in the distance, but nobody was there.
With my ears pricked up, I made my way to the relay station. The big red X on its door became visible the same moment as I heard a noise, this time for sure. It sounded like some kind of croaking, coming from straight ahead.
I slowed down to a snail’s pace and approached the relay station door. The closer I came the louder the noise became, and I finally recognized it as the barking of two dogs. It came from inside the relay station. I couldn’t tell if it was friendly or hostile, but one of the voices was Ludwig’s.
Why was Ludwig fussing with another dog inside the relay station? He usually didn’t talk to other travelers in the Internet tunnels, seldom even acknowledging them at all, and everybody using the relay station kept quiet and without speaking to each other.
I wished I could hear what was going on behind the closed door, but it was too well insulated. I started to put my ear against it, but quickly stepped backward remembering a good friend’s advice to always stay at a safe distance from any door in the Internet if you don’t want to enter it.
I had to open it, and I had to do it fast. Ludwig was in there, and he might be in danger. I took a jump at the door handle.
To be continued
Hobo: Living forever through his adventures
Foreign business affairs
A fable by Bruny Hudson
The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.
The dog at the other end of the phone was Olaf, my company’s general manager in Russia in charge of collecting the caviar orders and sending the cats out to pick up the delivery. He notified us about unfamiliar humans, clothed in black suits and wearing dark glasses, visiting the caviar processing area and inspecting the invoices.
“What about your place, any strange things happening there?” I asked Olaf.
“Early this morning, two courier dogs took off into the Internet, each with one order heading for your country. That was routine. But we still have one shipment sitting here. We’re waiting for one of the couriers to return from the Internet.”
“Hold on, you don’t have couriers as standbys? There should always be a dog available to leave right away as soon as a cat shows up with the merchandise. I thought I made that clear.”
“We worked it that way until this morning when we never received the latest shipment. Then, no other dog reported for duty. I thought it was just a coincidence, but I kept having this crawling feel in my fur. That’s why I called you.”
“OK, let’s not discuss it any further. All you need to know for now is that there’s another shipment coming. Process it as fast as you can, so there won’t be any inquiries from the buyer’s side. I’ll be in touch with you.”
I waited for Olaf to hang up and then disconnected my phone.
“Wylie, get up. I’ll show you what you’ve to do here.”
“Why? What are you up to?”
“I have to go to …”
“You’re not going to Russia, are you?”
“You heard Olaf, something is going on over there, and I don’t like it.”
”This manager of yours, he’s Russian, isn’t he?”
“Why in the world did you hire a Russian instead of sending one of our dogs to do the managing job over there?”
“A business friend of mine highly recommended this guy, and he looked smart and streetwise. I scrutinized his résumé, and I personally interviewed him when he came over here and checked out his past. He was clean. I even had Thomas vet him and consult with Tiger, and both of them agreed with my findings.”
“That was a good move, asking for both their help. Cats have kind of a seventh sense and can feel instantly if someone tries to double-cross them.”
“Yeah, and Thomas is also excellent in detecting the slightest flaws in whatever we deal with. I knew he was a gem the moment he moved in with us.”
“So, there was nothing fishy about that Russian guy?” Wylie grinned. “Except for having his paws in the caviar trade?”
“I liked what I saw and what we found out about him. But still, trusting 100 percent … trusting anybody from over there …"
“So why didn’t you hire a dog from here to work over there?”
“As you know, we needed someone who would be familiar with the Russian law. Nobody I could have found here would have known anything about it.”
“So, when are you leaving?”
“I’ll try to get Ludwig to meet me in the Internet as soon as possible. I’ve decided to send him to Russia after all.”
“Why do you have to meet him then? Why not just tell him over the phone?”
“It doesn’t work with Ludwig that way. He has trouble intercepting any phone calls at home, and it would take too long to explain our situation in Russia over the phone.”
Slowly, Wylie stretched and shook himself before stumbling over to me. As he put his nose on my shoulder, I emailed Ludwig asking if he could take off and see me for something important in the Internet tunnel. To make it easy for the both of us, I suggested we meet at the relay station located between both of our Internet doors.