I tapped Olaf on his rear end with my paw. Nothing. I tapped again and again, each time harder until I gave him a good kick. Olaf didn’t budge. I clambered on top of him and pulled myself along to his neck, and holding my muzzle close to his ear, I opened my mouth and gave out a bark.
The sudden shaking of his head made me slide from side to side, and growling, I dug my paws into his fur to stay on top of him.
“Psst, be quiet,” Olaf hissed. “I want to hear what those people are saying.”
The nails of my paws dug deeper. Unfortunately, Olaf didn’t seem to feel it, but it gave me some satisfaction because I was mad at him for having ignored me. At the same time, I was relieved that he was very much OK.
With my nerves calmed down, I whispered at him, “What’s going on?”
“Didn’t you hear the man’s announcement?”
“I heard him shouting all right, but it was all Greek, I mean Russian, to me.”
“Oh … I forgot you don’t speak Russian. Wait just a second, and I’ll fill you in.”
Quietly, I pushed myself inch by inch backward to slide off Olaf. Before I reached his butt, he leaped forward, and I tumbled down.
“Hey, wait,” I hollered as he disappeared in front of me.
I scrambled onto all fours and staggered past the end of the row of boxes. Olaf was already at the open door, and without looking back, he scurried through it.
Everybody else must have left in a hurry, too. I didn’t see, hear or smell any humans, and I headed for the door, looking around me. Bullet holes were all over the warehouse, in the walls and in the floor, but the computers seemed to be undamaged. At least I hoped so because the moment I found Ludwig, we’d need one of them to get back home.
I sneaked a glance at the outside. Nobody was in the vicinity, but I could make out humans and even a couple of dogs at the fish house in the distance. Not sure if the shooters were still lying in ambush, I slunk through the door and along the building, almost touching it, to the nearest corner.
With my nose up in the air, I sniffed for humans. They were somewhere at the other end, but their scent was drifting away. In front of me, however, I got a good whiff of a dog, and a familiar one. Without giving him time to detect me, I leaped around the corner.
Caught by surprise, Olaf lurched forward and lost his footing, and I grabbed him by his rear leg.
Holding on to it with a firm pressure of my teeth for a few seconds and then letting go, I barked, “What are you doing? Running away from me? I don’t have time for these games. I have to know what happened here, and I have to find Ludwig.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable inside, all closed up,” Olaf said, turning around. “Sit down, I’ll tell you.”
I nodded. “But you better don’t take off on me again.”
Olaf gave his leg baring my tooth marks a good lick and sat down across from me. “The man you heard shouting coming into the warehouse was the overseer of the caviar processing facility. He told everybody that the men in black suits had come back, caught the shooters and hauled them off and that everything was clear again.”
I waited for more details, especially about the shooters, but Olaf remained silent. My fur bristled. This was turning into a nightmare. Instead of pulling Ludwig out of harm’s way, I felt as if I’d sunk deeper and deeper into the quagmire myself.
I poked my nose into Olaf’s face. “Listen, I know you’re not telling me everything. I thought all the time you were holding something back. Now, spit it out, who were those last shooters?”
Olaf turned his head right and left and then hanging it, he said, almost whispering, “They were a mob of four or five angry local customers who didn’t receive their orders of caviar.”
I cocked my head. “So, they just went on a shooting spree? Why didn’t they complain to the people in charge here?”
“They did.” Olaf looked up at me and back down again. “I’d heard their complaints and threats for some time now and saw the invoices. The packages of caviar in question were all the ones the cats intercepted and gave to the courier dogs to be sent to the customers in your country.”
To be continued
A bark hit my ears from far away. The closer it came, the more it sounded like gobbledygook. Then, something wet dabbed my nose, and I realized I could breathe without gasping for air.
To get away from the slobber around my face, I carefully moved my head, and it again turned easily. I gave my legs a tryout, and they were working again, too.
The barks now became familiar, and straining my ears, I made out the words.
“Hobo? … OMD … What are you doing here?”
Slowly, I opened my eyes, and I opened them wider and wider. Finally, I found my voice. “Olaf? Wow, I’m glad to see you. Is this the Russian way employees greet their boss?”
Olaf chuckled. “Barking out loud, no. If anything, it would be the other way around. Sorry about attacking you, Hobo. I thought you were a drone that they were releasing through one of the chutes, the way you came flying through the air, and I wanted to put it out of action before it exploded.”
“Drone? Chutes? What are you talking about?”
“They’re shooting through the chutes, you know the one where the packages of caviar come in onto the conveyor belt and the four outgoing ones that send the package onto the trucks going to the local customers.”
I squinted at Olaf. “But the chutes are too small for a human to crawl into.”
“It’s easy to take the chute off on the outside. So, they’re standing there and aiming the guns through the inside chutes and firing away.”
“Wait, that doesn’t make much sense, they won’t hit anybody that way.”
“I guess that’s their objective, just to frighten people and do a lot of damage. That’s why those people in here are still alive. Maybe you noticed them when you arrived.”
“Yeah, it struck me as odd to see them crouching under the open computer stations.”
“That’s where the bullets can’t reach them.”
“Who the hell is doing the shooting?”
Olaf pricked up his ears. “Listen … I think the shooting has stopped. I haven’t heard anything all the time while we were talking. Let’s get out of here and find a safer place.”
“What if they come charging in through the door just as we’re leaving, or wait outside for whoever comes out?”
“I doubt they’ll shoot at us dogs, they’re interested in the people employed here.”
“So, tell me, who are they?”
For a second time, Olaf dodged giving me an answer, and he only shook his head.
I stared at him. “You don’t have any idea? I was expecting to see the men in black suits you were mentioning earlier raiding the warehouse and doing the firing.”
“You’re right. Those suits have been here. They came charging in here, gave out two or three warning shots …”
“That must have been one of the shots I heard on the phone just before it went dead.”
“Probably. I dropped it when I ran to safety. Anyway, they shouted something about breaking up a planned riot and frisked all the employees for weapons. We have a very strict gun law here. They didn’t find any and left as quickly as they’d come. But then …”
Without finishing his sentence, Olaf climbed over me with his long legs, and stepping to the end of the row of boxes, he peeked in the direction of the door.
Before I could turn around to follow him, he bounced backward, almost squashing me again. I slithered forward to give us more room, but the shouts of a man, stifling Olaf’s heavy panting, stopped me short.
Not understanding a single word of the man’s tirade, I ducked my head and braced myself for another salvo of gunshots. It never came, not even one single shot.
Instead, after the man’s shouting had died out, there were a lot of feet shuffling and noises like chitchatting and happy laughter. I wiggled around to face Olaf.
He wasn’t panting any longer. In fact, his body was still as if it was lifeless. OMD, he didn’t have a heart attack, did he?
Olaf was no spring chicken anymore. All that excitement could have been too much for him, or he might have seen something peeking around the box that pushed him over the edge. For all I knew, I could have misinterpreted the good cheer, and it was the bad guys’ hullabaloo.
To be continued
Hobo: Living forever through his adventures
To read the story from the beginning, click here or go to Fable on the menu.
Foreign business affairs
A fable by Bruny Hudson
The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
I glared at Olaf with my mouth open. A blatant oversight in my caviar delivery operation had caused an unforeseen domino effect. Having the Russian government on my back and the Russian security forces breathing down my neck was the last thing I needed, and from the beginning, I had taken extra precaution to avoid it.
Swallowing hard, I finally yelled at Olaf, “And you didn’t bother to tell me about it then? Why in hell do you think I hired you? Did you even try to remedy the situation?”
“I didn’t think it was a big deal. Those customers would have paid for the caviar on delivery, so they didn’t lose anything. Their only loss was the enjoyment of a luxury.”
“That’s not the point.” I was still yelling. “We’d arranged it so the cats would only intercept the original orders of caviar for the local customers and leave any replacements alone. Did you make sure about that?”
“I thought I did. But maybe the caviar company stopped refunding the lost orders.”
“You just don’t get it,” I screamed, having lost my patience. “It’s not about screwing the seller or the buyer, it’s all about the black market, about cutting into its profit. Half of the caviar going through all these facilities has to do with the black market, and a bunch of the people in charge here play a role in it, all under the cover of a legal business. Did I make myself clear?”
“All right, all right. I had no idea it would escalate, and not this way.”
“But the suits were hanging around here for a while. Why didn’t you …”
“No, no. Today was the first time, just as I told you on the phone. They showed up here a few hours before they raided the warehouse.”
I knitted my brow. “I wonder if someone bullshitted them and gave them the wrong info.”
“Yeah, that was also my thought.” Olaf was looking straight at me. “Those security guards were mostly looking for illegal weapons and less prepared to prevent a riot, and they were barking up the wrong tree. I could have told them that all the employees here were clean.”
“One of the courier dogs is a retired sniffer dog. He would have told me if he detected a gun or ammunition around here at any time.”
My ears perked up. Pushing my outrage at Olaf aside, I switched gears.
“Whoa. Do you think that dog could sniff out Ludwig? There has to be a way to find him.”
Olaf squinted before he answered. “I doubt it. His training was very specialized. Besides, he would need something with Ludwig’s smell on it if he could do it.”
“I might still have some of his scent on me. I met with him only a couple of hours ago. But I think you’re right. It would be out of his expertise to find someone who vanished into thin air. What about the employees in the warehouse? You said you were listening to them when they talked with the overseer, what did they say?”
Olaf’s lips twitched. After moving his butt from side to side, he asked, “You mean what they said about the …?”
“BOL, did any of them mention a dog they’d never seen before?” Despite my biting off his head, Olaf’s jaw relaxed, and he gave me a swift answer.
“The overseer was merely telling them that he and his crew and the people from the packing house were watching the drama unfolding while they were ready to scoot the moment the shooters would come their way.”
“So, they might have seen an unfamiliar dog come running out of the warehouse.” Then as an afterthought, I said more to myself than to Olaf, “That doesn’t help me much. There’s no way I could make myself understood by humans through barking at them if they’d seen Ludwig.”
To be continued