Run, Robby, Run
Part 4-The Conclusion
By Kenneth James Crist
To say that the work was
not interesting would be an outright lie. And
being squired around in federal cars and airplanes and fed for free and living
in a free house wasn’t a bad deal, either.
Fuzzy and I solved
crimes, or pointed agents in the right direction, so that their efforts weren’t
wasted. We streamlined investigations by talking with rats, squirrels, birds,
snakes, dogs, cats, and horses. Sometimes we had a lot of slack and Alice Ann
and I did what we could to fill that time and not get too bored. A constant
supply of nookie was a pretty good deal.
But at the same
time, Fuzzy and I both chafed under government ownership. We made our plans at
night, when we were alone, always aware that when we were in the house, we were
most likely under surveillance. When Alice and I were alone in our bedroom,
they turned the cameras off. At least that was what they said. I wondered often
if it was the truth. Alice was enough of an exhibitionist that I figured she
might go for having the cameras on when we were banging each other’s brains
Fuzzy and I only
talked when we went out for walks. The agents were always there, a short
distance away in their car, but we were good at talking to each other without
anyone being aware. Much of what we said was non-verbal, a look, a glance, a
sniff, a tail held just so, a finger scratching an ear.
Three months after
we made our decision to get out, we botched our first case. We did it
intentionally and made it look like an inability to perform. We were flown to
St. Louis, Missouri on a missing child case. The child’s body had already been
recovered and the suspect was in custody. Local police had only the family’s
cat as a witness. The NSA volunteered our services.
We were met at the
airport by the St. Louis P.D. Homicide Commander and a Lieutenant and whisked
away in an unmarked car. Alice and I sat in the rear, with Fuzzy between us. He
curled up and parked his head on my knee. I wasn’t sure how much help he’d be
this time around, as cats weren’t his favorite people.
We drove for forty
minutes, chatting with the homicide guys and finally arrived at a gray and
white, two-bedroom bungalow on the south side. I walked Fuzzy for a few
minutes, while he marked his way around the area and set off every pit bull in
Riley brought us to the door and introduced us to Calvin and Margery Laughlin,
the parents of the girl. We were welcomed into their home and eventually, the
cat came wandering in from wherever she’d been hiding when we arrived. I had
asked that, after we met her, each of the other humans gradually get up and
ease out of the room. Surprisingly, Fuzzy and Thomasina got along great.
Another hurdle conquered.
Talking with cats
is never the same twice. Some cats tend to be reticent, others aloof. This
fucking tabby would not shut up. She was so distraught over the loss of the
girl she’d grown up with, she told us the whole story, not once but many times.
It kept getting better. At some point, I began to realize she wanted so badly
to see this maniac who stole her mistress punished, she was embellishing the
We gave her a
while to run down, long enough that we knew the cops had the right guy, beyond
any doubt. Then I went back to the homicide guys and had them step outside with
Riley looked me up
and down while Fuzzy was off, checking the privacy fence again, just to see if
he might have missed a spot.
“Okay, what’d the
cat have to say?” He had about half a smirk on his face and I really wanted to
wipe it away so badly, but instead, I just said, “Nothin’. Not a goddamn
“What? I thought
you were some kinda big whiz-kid at talkin’ to animals. . . .”
“Yeah, I know. I
don’t know what it is. I just couldn’t get a thing outta that cat. I’m sorry,
Commander Riley. This really doesn’t happen very often.”
The smirk was
back, big-time, but he was gracious. He drove us back to the airport and put us
back on our Gulfstream and we flew back to Virginia. It sucked having to write
the after-action report and make up a bunch of shit about our abject failure to
perform at getting information out of a kitty.
Fuzzy and I got a
decent night’s sleep and in the morning, I was called on the carpet.
Clyde Jensen, the
project manager, was not a happy man. I was pretty sure he had visions of
failure of the project and of that in turn, damaging his career.
fluorescents shone on his bald head and there was sweat there. His complexion
was red and he looked like a heart attack waiting to happen. There were sweat
marks under the arms of the white shirt. He got right to the point.
“Robby, then. What
“No idea, Sir. I
found a cat I couldn’t talk to. Or, maybe it just wasn’t in the mood. . . .”
“Look, don’t fuck
with me, Metcalf. . . .”
“No, goddamn it.
We’re not on a first-name basis here. Not until you get your shit together and
start performing again.”
“So, as long as I
put out for you, I’m fine, but if I can’t, I’m fucked.”
“No, Metcalf, un-fucked would be more like it. Agent
Ackerman has been reassigned, temporarily. At least, we hope it’ll be
temporary. If you get my drift.”
“Oh, yeah, I got
“You need to think
about your position here. You were hired to do one job and one job only. . . .”
“I wasn’t fucking
“I was kidnapped
by my country and forced into servitude. I wasn’t given a choice.”
“Robby, we have
tried to make things as comfortable for you as possible. . . .”
“But I’m still a
prisoner of sorts.”
“Nothing I can do
about that. I’m sure you understand.”
“Yeah, I get it.
So, no talkee, no pussy. That about it?”
“Get outta here,
I was dismissed
and taken back to my house by a burly male agent I’d never met before. When I
got back, I flopped down on the sofa and thought about the situation.
It was a good
thing, I reflected, that I wasn’t in love with Alice. It would have been easy
to allow that to happen, but when it was all said and done, she was still a
government agent. I remembered her telling me about the agent who was married
to her surveillance target and how Alice said the agent would kill him in a
heartbeat if it became necessary. How do you fall in love with someone that
ruthless, when you know exactly what she is? I’m not that big a fool. I got up
and grabbed Fuzzy’s leash and said, “Let’s go out and walk, Big Guy.”
When we were clear
of the house, I said, “We did good, Buddy.”
“How much trouble
are ya in now?”
“Well, they’re not
happy. They’re not gonna let Alice come visit for a while, until I shape up.”
“Shape up? What’s
“Get my act
together. Start performing again. Start being their pet animal talker.”
slumped a little and his tail drooped. “So, I guess we’re not goin’ home, huh?”
“Wrong, ol’ Buddy.
We’ll be goin’ home soon. I’ll just have to get worse and worse at my job.
Until they no longer feel it’s economically feasible to keep me.”
“Until they get
tired of payin’ me for doing nothing.”
He sighed and
said, “I hope that’s soon, Boss. I miss our special place. I almost miss that
snake. . . .”
A week later, I
had Fuzzy commit what for him was almost a felony. I told him to take a dump in
the hallway when we were headed out for a mission. This kind of thing never
happened ordinarily, and I knew it would get someone’s attention.
The thing that
made it priceless was when one of the agents stepped in the mess and almost
slipped and fell.
Can’t you control your goddamn dog?” He was pissed. His Italian loafers were
gonna need a clean and polish.
starters, he’s not my dog. . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, shit!
Heard that before. . . . I’m not too impressed with your communication with
him, if yer gonna let him shit all over the place.”
I chastised Fuzzy
sternly, just as I had told him would happen. “Fuzzy, dammit, you know better
Fuzzy just wagged
his tail and grinned at me like we shared a secret, which we did and like he
was the dumbest dog on the planet. It was hard not to burst out laughing, he
did such a good job. I started looking around for something to clean it up
with, but the agent said, “Leave it. We’re gonna be late for our plane.”
Just to top things
off, when we got to the plane, Fuzzy casually walked over to the main landing
gear and pissed on one of the tires. The pilot was fuming by the time we took
off. I hadn’t told Fuzzy to do that last part. He dreamed that one up all on
When the agent
went back to clean up his shoes in the lavatory, I leaned over to Fuzzy and
said, “Nice job, Big Guy. I think the message is coming through.”
Alice was already
on the plane, and her demeanor was cool and somewhat aloof. That was okay with
me and more than okay with Fuzzy. We were headed to Florida, specifically to
Key West, to talk to a dog that happened to be in a bank with its owner when a
robbery went down. The robbers had killed four people before the shit was over
and they left with their measly $46,000. Among the dead was Morton’s owner.
Morton was a beagle. In my opinion, beagles are the most scatter-brained of all
dogs, and I didn’t figure it would be too hard to pull a bad performance out of
this one. I was wrong.
Morton was being
kept at a shelter, and the plan was to adopt him out, once we had gathered as
much information as we could. When we landed, it was the usual drill, a ride in
an unmarked Ford Explorer Interceptor to the animal shelter, and a quick
briefing from agents working the case.
FBI Special Agent
Muncie was the team leader and he was okay. His partner was named Williams and
he was a bit of an ass. I could tell he would rather have been anywhere else in
the world than doing this doggie bullshit. To his credit, though, he took a
liking to Fuzzy right away. Apparently, he’d been a K-9 handler somewhere in
his career. We decided not to even go inside the shelter. The introduction of a
new dog would only stir things up. Morton was brought out to us, and Muncie and
Fuzzy and Morton and I all took a walk around the neighborhood.
Fuzzy and Morton
got acquainted and soon, Fuzzy said, “Boss, this good dog here is a pretty sad
guy. He lived with his man and there was just the two of them. Now, he’s gotta
go to a new family.”
“Yeah, I know. And
that’s if he’s lucky.”
“Lucky?” Now Fuzzy
and Morton were both sitting, looking up at me.
“Yeah. If somebody
doesn’t take him, well . . . it won’t be good. . . .”
“They’ll kill him,
right?” Fuzzy dropped his head as soon as he said it, and I wished he hadn’t.
“Well, that could
happen. So, the better job we do here, the more valuable he will be.”
I handed Fuzzy’s
leash to Muncie and told him, “I’m gonna have Agent Muncie walk ya for a while,
Fuzz. I need to talk to Morton alone.”
I took Morton and
we moved off by ourselves and soon we were down close to the water. “Tell me
about the thing that happened at the bank, Morton.”
“My man got shot.
Bad guys came in with guns and people got shot. I don’t know why.”
“Money is why,
Morton. It’s all about money. What can ya tell me about these guys?”
“Well, there were
two black guys and two white ones. The one white guy did most of the shooting.”
“Okay, what else?”
“One of the white
guys worked there at the bank.”
“How do you know
“His smell was all
over the place, before he even came inside. As soon as he came in, I knew him.
He’s helped my man before.”
“Helped him with
“Something he had
to sit at a desk for. And write on some papers.”
“Did he shoot
“No. He kept
tellin’ the other guy to stop. But he didn’t stop. That other guy just wanted
to kill people.”
When we returned
to the shelter, I pulled out all the cash I had and left it to feed and house
Morton as long as it would last. I briefed the detectives on what Morton had to
say, and they were very interested in the idea that it was an inside job. They
would check to see what transactions Morton’s owner might have had to take care
of and that should give them a line on which employee was involved. We got back
on our plane and headed home.
I could tell Fuzzy
was worried about Morton. I told him it would be okay, but I wasn’t sure he was
buying it. It helped when I told him about the donation I’d made to keep Morton
as long as they could.
He settled in for
the plane ride, again being sullen and uncommunicative, as was the plan. We
couldn’t just suddenly stop doing what we did. It would look too suspicious. We
needed to do this gradually, over a period of months. But Fuzzy’s lack of
patience and normal doggie attention span would make it difficult.
As it turned out,
it took another three months before the NSA project failed, and my “lack of
perceived communications skill with animals” became so sporadic and
undependable that the government opted to stop wasting money on “an
experimental project with no redeeming factors” and the powers-that-be finally
pulled the plug.
I was called in to
the director’s office on a Monday morning and asked what I wanted to do. Rather
than being fired, I would be retired with a stipend paid monthly into my bank
account. I asked for a ride home and was met with questioning looks. Clyde
Jensen’s eyebrows travelled clear up to where his hairline should have been.
“Home? You mean . . . back to where we found you? Under a fucking bridge?”
“Yessir, I believe
so, if it’s all the same to you. Fuzzy and I lived there for several years
before you guys got interested. We’d like to go back.”
evening, we were outfitted with a new sleeping bag and some camping gear and
dropped off with a quick handshake from an agent I had never met before. We
curled up and slept the night in peace, and for the first time in almost a
year, Fuzzy was happy.
In the morning, as
the sun was coming up over the bridge, Fuzzy moved around a bit and said, “Boss,
that damned snake is back. . . .”
I reached down
inside the bag and felt the smooth dry scales of my friend, Lucille.
Lover. Where you been?”
Fuzzy snorted in
disgust. “Been workin’ at a job I hated and now we’re back.”
“Are you back to
“That’s the plan.”
She snuggled down
lower, toward my feet and said, “That’s good. Really missed you.”
I heard the crunch
of tires on gravel and Fuzzy was suddenly up and on alert, his hackles raised,
and his tail blown out. He was in fight-or-flight mode, until I calmed him. A
federal car was pulling in under the bridge and I thought, Well, here we go
It parked and when
the car door opened, Alice Ann Ackerman stepped out. She was dressed in a navy
skirt and low heels, light blue blouse and her Glock .40. She looked good.
Back to your old haunts, huh?”
“This is not a
haunt, Lady, this is home. So, what’s up?”
“Well, I knew they
took their cell phone back and I didn’t know if you had a new one. And I
wouldn’t have the number anyway. . . .”
“So ya drove half
the night just to come see me?”
“Well, I didn’t
like the way things ended with us, so yeah. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at
three and lit out.”
“You didn’t like
the way things ended? You were my control. You were agent in charge. And we did
a lotta boinkin’, but we never got around to using the “L” word, so . . .”
“I’m sorry, Robby,
but you can’t do all that we did and not have some feelings for the person
you’re involved with. Am I right?”
I found myself
looking down at the ground, and just then, Lucille slid out and made her way
toward her den up under the bridge.
“Holy shit! Did
that come outta your sleeping bag?” Alice was wide-eyed, not with fear, but
“She’s a friend.
Her name’s Lucille. . . .”
“So I’m playin’
second fiddle to a snake? Is that how it is?” I could hear amusement in her
voice and when I looked up, that old mischievous sparkle was back.
“No, but I don’t
imagine you’re the kinda girl who would wanna crawl into a sleepin’ bag on the
ground and go for it.”
“No, but I might
be the kind who would come up on her days off and get a nice room somewhere to
spend time with you.”
“Okay. I wouldn’t
mind that at all.”
“Gimme your cell
phone number. I gotta get rollin’. I’m on duty later today.”
I gave her the
number and then took her in my arms and kissed her. It was good, but it didn’t
last nearly long enough. As she got in her car, she said, “Oh, hey. I almost
forgot. Morton got adopted. You’ll never guess who took him home.”
“No, probably not.
. . .”
“Agent Muncie. His
kids fell in love with that dumb dog. . . .”
“Got news for ya.
That dog’s a canine crime fighter.”
She snapped on her
seat belt, shut the door, and dropped the window. I leaned in and got another smooch
and then she rolled out, headed back to the grind and all the bad juju that
goes with government service.
against my knee and said, “Are we up for the day, Boss?”
“Shit, no. I’m
goin’ back ta bed for a while.”
As I settled back
into the sleeping bag, he curled up against me and sighed. It sounded like he
Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing
a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and has since written four more novels, several novellas
and a butt-load of short stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories,
Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The
Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, and
Kudzu Monthly, to name
a few. Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at Dead Guns Press
He also has four books up in Kindle
format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming of
Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie
Having turned 73 last June, he still rides his big
Harley every day that weather permits and is now officially “retired”. He also
operates Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama.