Part 26

While I was contemplating an escape route, Olaf had filled up on water again. Now sitting back at his desk, he was watching me.

I suppressed a yawn. It had been a long day, and a bad one, and I could barely stay awake, but I didn’t want Olaf to notice it. He might be waiting for me to doze off and come up with yet another scheme. I would have rather gone for a role reversal.

When I saw his eyelids drooping, I asked, “What about camping out here and getting some sleep?”

Olaf mumbled something, opened one eye and said, “That’s a good idea. I often spend the night here.”

He curled up in his chair, and I soon heard him breathing evenly. Could it be that easy to get away from him, or was he just acting? Maybe he had pushed a secret button to kiddy-lock the doors and knew I couldn’t get out.

Cautiously, I slipped off my chair and around the desk and observed Olaf for a few minutes. He seemed to be fast asleep.

I tiptoed to the door, and with my front paws, I walked up the door as quietly as I could and stretched up high to have a good grip on the handle. I pulled it down.

To my surprise, the door flew open, and I tumbled out of the office. Without looking back, I hightailed it to the main door.

Throwing caution to the wind about making a noise, I took a jump at that door handle. It didn’t go down, and I jumped for it again. This time, it moved downward, but the door stayed closed.

I pounded at the door and the handle over and over again, and the racket I made grew louder and louder. As a guffawing came booming from the office, the door gave.

I rammed my body against it and catapulted outside. Behind me, Olaf shouted, “Run all you want, but I’ll always know where you are.”

I did run, Olaf’s words echoing in my head and following me through the dark like the chant of an evil spirit. I passed the warehouse and kept running until I reached the wooded area I’d always seen in the distance.

Exhausted, I collapsed behind a tree. A minute or so of rest cleared my mind, and I listened for Olaf’s pawsteps and panting, but apparently, he hadn’t given chase. Was it because he had managed to plant a tracking device on me so he could always find me, no matter what?

How could he have done it? It was one thing to attach a spy bug inconspicuously on an object, but to place it on a live body was a different story. I should have noticed it.

To make sure nothing stuck on my back, I rolled around on the ground, and nothing scraped or pricked me. I checked all my four legs and paw pads and scratched my neck and head with my rear feet and didn’t feel any bulges or knobs other than my old skin growths.

Hoping I was safe for now, and with nothing else to do until the crack of dawn, I moved a little bit farther into the woods for a more sheltered spot to hit the sack. As tired as I was I thought I would fall asleep instantly, but Olaf’s last words popped back into my head and haunted me.

Was it possible that the hacker of my Internet ID account had altered my dog tag into a tracking tool? … No. He or someone else would have needed to insert at least some kind of microchip into it, and nobody had touched my tag.

My mind kept churning, and I tried to remember what else had happened that would have put Olaf in the position of pinpointing my whereabouts. Nothing came up, and sleep was slowly getting the better of me after all.                      

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 28

My hope of digging up bites of a sandwich also started to go down the drain. Olaf should have taken a lunch break by now, and I wondered if he’d already eaten something he’d ordered someone to bring him. If so, he’d be prowling in front of the warehouse the rest of the day.

To calm my growling stomach, I chewed on a few blades of grass sprouting from under the rock. They were dry like straw, and I now wished it had rained the night before and moistened the grass. At least, I could have sucked up some of its moisture.

While I had the perfect place to hide and keep an eye on the warehouse and Olaf, I needed to get moving and find a way to get inside the building. With any luck, one of the dogs might be fed up with Olaf’s bullying tactics and take me piggyback into the Internet after all.

There had to be a backdoor to the warehouse or at least some kind of emergency exit, but who knew what the safety regulations here in Russia were, if there were any at all. Somehow, I had to get to the rear of the building and find out.

I could creep back quite a way and return in a large loop to the other side of the warehouse. Without giving it another thought, I knew it was a no-go because the scanty shrubbery would leave me exposed for most of both stretches.

My better option was to take the risk and make a run for the opposite side of the warehouse where Olaf was waiting. As soon as he intercepted the next courier dog and had his eyes on him while reading him the riot act, I’d bolt.

I girded myself, squatting, not standing up, and tightening my leg muscles, and I shifted my eyes in rapid successions from Olaf to where the courier dogs would make their way to the warehouse. They seemed to be meeting up with the cats to take over the packages of caviar closer to the packing house than specified in their job description. I guessed after the shooting, most of the cats were refusing to come near the warehouse.

It was a smart move on their part but made it difficult for me to watch out for a single dog approaching from far away. Had they transferred the packages a shorter distance away, it would have given me a head start for my getaway.

I squinted and blinked my eyes several times to make out a speck or some kind of movement far beyond Olaf, but nothing appeared or moved. No matter how much and how long I silently pleaded for another dog to arrive for a delivery run, nobody showed up anymore.

My legs started to cramp from squatting, and my eyes were tired from straining. Deliveries kept going throughout the day, but lull periods were common, too, according to what I remembered from my business records. The worst would have been if the packing house had already shut down for the day.

My fear of it grew when I saw Olaf halting his patrol. Without scanning his surroundings again, he sat down on a patch of grass next to the concrete entrance.

Seconds later, he dropped his head, jerked it back up and dropped it again. It sank lower and lower and finally came to a rest.

It hung stock-still for several minutes, and I could barely believe my luck. To seize the opportunity of Olaf’s catnap, I had to make a move, now. There was no time to weigh up if he was playing possum and it was a ruse to drive me out of hiding.

Hoping my legs would recover when I jumped up, I took a leap forward. The image of my racing my rabbit friends at a competition of our Rabbit Chasing Club flashed through my mind and wiped out any heaviness and tightness I’d felt in my leg muscles. With my usual vigor and agility, I sprinted toward my goal, the backside of the warehouse.

I careened around the corner of the building, still at full speed. The impact stopped me dead and almost knocked me out. Wobbling, I sat down on my haunches.         

To be continued

To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.

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Part 27

I dozed off, only to wake up with a start. I’d dreamed about devouring a big juicy steak, served on a platter surrounded by four giant potato chips, each one garnished with a black mike. 

OMD. I stared into the darkness. Could Olaf have planted a bug in the bag of potato chips he’d given me? Was I a walking GPS tracker?

Olaf had been smooth enough to promote those chips, stressing they came from the United States, but they could have come from anywhere. And it didn’t take a rocket scientist to reseal an opened bag. But it would have been a rather short-lived booby trap. Sooner or later, nature would have been on my side and taken care of it for me.

I shook my head, not so much as to dispute Olaf’s hypothetical scheme but as to shake off that stupid dream and focus on reality. Believing that the Russians would be far enough ahead of the game to spike the food with mikes bordered on hallucination. It was more likely that Olaf tried to bait me and had no idea at all where I was.

Having come up with a more plausible and less disturbing explanation, I passed out for good and slept throughout the night, deeply and peacefully. Bright daylight woke me up, and I kicked myself for having slept away the morning. I should have already been casing out the warehouse for a ride with someone on the Internet. 

I stomped off to the edge of the woods and peeked around the last tree. My stomach started growling again. It must have been close to lunchtime, and I was hoping to bum part of a sandwich from one of the humans working at the warehouse.

Looking across the rocky terrain at the building, I could make out its façade but got only a glimpse of something else next to it. I blinked my eyes several times. Yeah, a figure was moving back and forth in front of where the main door should have been. It was rather big but not a human.

With an uneasy feeling, I crept toward it. I had to duck to keep in the lee of the few shrubs, most of them grown together, but stumpy. The closer I came, the more the figure turned into a dog, and into Olaf.

Like a sentry, he paraded in circles along the entrance of the warehouse, his head up high and turning it in all directions after each round. Apparently, I had come to the right conclusion last night that he was in the dark about where I was.

Now, he most likely was on the lookout for me, and I didn’t like it one bit. If I could see him this clear, he could spot me by the slightest movement I made. I had to find better cover than this ground-hugging thicket in front of me.

There was a good-size rock to my right, but several jumps away. It would be a matter of timing to reach it without Olaf noticing me. 

I waited for him to make another circle so he’d have his back toward me. Just before he made the turn, he stopped, his face pointing at me. With my eyes glued to him, I flattened out on my stomach.

Instead of holding his gaze in my direction, Olaf jerked his neck to the left. My eyes followed what had captured his curiosity, and in the distance, I saw a dog heading toward him. It was one of the courier dogs, and he had riveted all of Olaf’s attention.

As fast as I could, I clambered to my paws and scurried toward the rock and scooted behind it. Panting, I took a peek around it. Olaf had not seen me. He was fussing with the other dog.

His tail between his legs and wildly nodding his head, the dog seemed to be paying heed to what Olaf was preaching. A moment later, he slunk away from him and slipped through the door into the warehouse.

My heart sank. By all accounts, Olaf had figured out how I would try to escape and gave the courier dogs a stern warning. As I watched the same spectacle played out between Olaf and each dog carrying a small package into the warehouse, my chances of hitching a ride were dropping and dropping.                     

To be continued