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Part 55

I was ready to jump into the air with a howling hooray, but considering all the setbacks I had, I didn’t want to jinx Ludwig’s and my reunion. Besides, I still had quite an ordeal ahead of me. I had to single him out among all those people trampling along or standing around and to push through to him. I turned the Searcher off and gave it a pull to return it to my collar.

When I reached the corner, the bazaar came into sight. It was huge, not in height, but in length. The building appeared to cover almost a city block, and I knew there was more of it outside where the entrance was.

Cars, trucks, carts, bicycles and whatever else had wheels haphazardly filled up the area adjacent to the building. At the faraway end in the corner opposite the building, I could make out a couple of horses, standing next to a tree as if waiting for no one in particular.

I trotted to the building and alongside it, looking for the doors the cow had talked about. There were none. All I saw were roll up doors in the width of a two-car garage. About halfway to the end, I finally came to a regular door, but it was shut and locked with a bulky padlock.

I stopped, stepped backward several feet and scanned the back wall of the building. There were only wide door openings closed by rolling doors. I was ready to blame the cow for not knowing what she’d talked about, when something caught my eye.

Underneath one of the rolling doors was a gap. I sprinted to it. Yes, the door was hanging above the ground. That was what the cow had meant with being ajar. I might have already passed some others like this, but fixated on finding a side door, I had failed to pay attention to the overhead ones. 

I assumed the door was heavy, even too heavy for the cow to lift up with her nose. That must have been why she’d said she couldn’t fit through it. Her remark should have made me ask questions. She could have easily nosed open a side door all the way, and while she was a heavy girl, she wasn’t overweight and should have been able to walk through a regular doorway.

I squeezed through the shallow opening. There were no lights on, but the small crack behind me let in enough daylight for me to see where I was. I had been afraid I’d enter directly into a vendor’s stall, albeit at the back, crammed with people upfront.

Instead, I found myself inside a big storage unit. A long corridor, lined right and left with stalls partitioned by iron bars and padlocked, was stretching out straight ahead toward what looked like a double door. Each stall contained some kind of merchandise, some things tossed in, others organized.

Without bothering to get a closer look of what they were, I trotted toward the end of the corridor. It was a double door I’d seen, and I pulled down the Searcher, turned it on and held it snug against it.

What the heck? I heard one beep, and then nothing. I waited, but the Searcher didn’t emit another signal. Although Henry had emphasized how powerful the device he’d given me was, I wondered if the door was interfering with the reception.

Hoping nobody would come bursting into the storage unit, I crouched down and pointed the Searcher at the barely noticeable clearance between the door and the floor. Again, I only heard one beep. No, Ludwig was not inside the bazaar, and I had been so sure of it.

If he wasn’t there, he had to be somewhere outside, maybe at the front of the building. Even if I could open the double door to take the shortcut through the bazaar, a better option was to go around outside the building and avoid the crowd inside.

To be continued

Foreign business affairs

A fable by Bruny Hudson

The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
Vladimir Nabokov

Part 56

I jumped to my paws and backtracked along the corridor. The Searcher, dangling under my neck, emitted regular beeps at shorter and shorter intervals. 

A sudden thought hit me a few feet away from the roll-up door, and I dived underneath it and into the open. What if Ludwig had become the victim of abuse, chained down at the tree where the horses were?

I pawed at the Searcher, almost ripping it off my collar, and pointed it toward them. It returned an instant beep. I held my breath. It took almost two minutes before the second beep came on, too long for a close-up signal from Ludwig’s tag.

Breathing normally again, I turned sideways toward the end of the building. The signals picked up again, one after another. I turned the Searcher off and trotted alongside the building to the corner again.

I wasn’t surprised by the whiff of humans that entered my nose as I came closer, knowing about the hordes of people at the front of the bazaar. The screams of children marching around the corner before I reached it, however, knocked me off my paws.

I leaped backward. Five boys, about 9 or 10 years old, stopped the moment they saw me, and their screams died. Unnerved by their wild stares, I backed up some more.

They had to be accustomed to seeing stray dogs, I was certain about that, and I couldn’t have been a novelty to them. Even though I had a more polished appearance than a street dog, it didn’t merit their eyes being ready for the kill.

Just as one gang member approached me, I understood. The Searcher was still dangling down my neck. I’d forgotten to let it snap back to my collar, and those punks were out to get it. They had instantly recognized it for what it was, an electronic device, but couldn’t have even imagined that is was nothing but a piece of crap for humans.

Like a rattlesnake flicking its tongue, the goon thrust out his hand at me, again and again. I bared my teeth and snarled. He remained unperturbed, keeping up with what he was doing, his dirty little fingers reaching for my neck. 

Before I had time to turn around and run, a second goon had come forward and tried to pin me down. With out-stretched arms, they both danced around me, the tips of their fingers striking my fur.

Still snarling, I now bit at them, but they were on their toes and dodged each single attempt I made to stab them with my teeth. Somehow, I had to get away before the other three bastards, who were cheering on their cronies, joined in the attack. I raised my head and let out a bone-chilling howl.

Caught off guard, the two attackers halted their merry-go-round. I pivoted and raced toward the parked vehicles. Yells and the thud, thud, thud of footsteps followed me. I ducked under the first car and crawled as fast as I could from vehicle to vehicle.

When the noise of feet trampling ebbed, I took a break just long enough to give the Searcher a swift pull to hide it at my collar. If the bastards caught sight of me but didn’t see the Searcher any more, they might comb the parking lot for it instead of chasing me.

To be continued

Part 57

The sedans and some pickup trucks gave me enough cover to escape underneath, but other four-wheelers were standing on their tires high above the ground and left me exposed as an easy target. Unfortunately, there were many of them.

So far, I was able to outrun those punks, being a better crawler and able to get through the tighter spaces. But to lose them for good, I had to outsmart them. They might have already split up, and some of them might be waiting at the end of the parking area I was heading to.

The moment I heard them cursing behind me again, I aimed for a low-sitting car and scooted underneath. Out-of-reach, I twisted around and slithered under scantier and scantier cover in the direction I’d come from. 

Once I made it to the last one of the parked vehicles, I bolted, not looking back or even listening for footsteps following me. I raced through streets, back alleys and yards, jumping over fences and careening around whatever was in my way.

I had to take a breather at a Dumpster. It hadn’t been of my own free will, but there was no way to climb over it, and I couldn’t go around it either. I’d arrived at a cul-de-sac, closed off by a wall, even higher than the monstrous garbage container. 

Afraid the dead-end would become the road of no return if those punks had seen me escape and followed me, I squeezed underneath the Dumpster to its farthest corner and waited.

Not hearing anything and smelling only garbage but no humans, I crept out of my hiding hole after a few minutes. The street looked deserted, and except for a shed and a silo standing side by side, there were no other buildings around.

I sniffed again several times and still didn’t pick up any human odor. On the double, I rushed out of the blind alley, watching like a hawk what might be coming toward me.

Unharmed, I reached the end, which forked off to the right and left. I pulled out the Searcher, turned it on and pointed it in each direction without getting any signals.

It remained silent even after I took a few steps each way, and I had completely lost my bearings as to where I was in relation to the bazaar. The only thing I knew was that I had to be far away from it for the Searcher to let me down.

OMD, what if Ludwig was on the move? I refused to believe he’d merely passed through the bazaar earlier because I’d tracked him all afternoon. Now it started to get dark, and if Ludwig had hooked up with one of the outdoor vendors who would be heading home for the night, he might be too.

I had to hurry back to the bazaar before I’d lose Ludwig’s paw marks but was incapable of recalling which way I’d come earlier. No matter how hard I made my brain work, it was a futile effort. Going by trial and error was the only option I had.

I chose the right fork. It was slow going because I had to be on the lookout with my eyes and ears for any of the five kid gangsters while at the same time listening to the Searcher. It continued to remain silent.

After walking a bit longer, I stopped and cussed. I’d missed the telltale sign of being on the wrong track. I was coming up on a residential neighborhood. As far as the eye could see, there were only small houses with front yards all around me and not even a blur in the distance of a busy commercial center where the bazaar was.

To be continued