She was small, blonde, and very confused. I could tell that before she opened her mouth. But just how confused was a surprise even to me, and it takes a lot to surprise Samantha Spayed.
I should’ve known it was going to be one of those days even before the confused blonde showed up. All afternoon I’d had an itch on my nose. That itch always means trouble.
Besides my itchy nose, there was Barlowe working on those slogans again. Whenever we get broke enough, Barlowe starts entering contests. He’s always hoping to win big bucks. The only thing he’s won so far is thanks from the post office for shelling out so much dough on stamps.
A word about Barlowe, in case his name doesn’t ring a bell, which it should because he’s been in the papers a lot. Philip Barlowe’s a detective. They say he solved a lot of cases, including The Fido Frame-Up. But if you were smart enough to read my account of the story, you’d know who really did the job. That’s right–yours truly.
After The Fido Frame-Up, I decided that I was going to sit back and let Barlowe try to solve our next case by himself. I was tired of not getting any credit. I promised myself I’d hang around as a bodyguard just in case things got sticky, but otherwise I’d take it easy. The problem is I figured we’d be on another case right away. I didn’t guess we’d both be taking it easy for so long. For two long months nobody banged on our door except the landlord. Nobody called us at odd hours. And nobody’d given us any money. Hence, Barlowe’s contest binge. What contest he was entering this time I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know.
But Barlowe told me anyway. “What do you think of this, Sam? ‘Elegant ladies used Eggelant (Egg-Rich) Shampoos.’ Nah. How about this one: ‘Eggelant (Egg-Rich) Shampoo is no yolk.’ Ha-ha. Get it?
I wondered if Barlowe used the stuff himself and it had scrambled his brains. I left him laughing to himself and went to the kitchen for some chow–lousy, cheap stuff, but better than nothing. Just then, the buzzer rang. I immediately went into my watchdog act.
“Who is it?” Barlowe asked through the intercom.
“Me. Roper,” a voice answered
I stopped the watchdog number. Barlowe didn’t need protection from Mandy Roper. She’s a pal, a zookeeper and, in Barlowe’s own words, “one swell dame.” Roper hadn’t been around in a while. She took a trip to Europe and sent us a couple of postcards. She’d wanted Barlowe and me to go with her, but he’d turned her down. He’d said we needed a rest, and that traipsing around Europe wouldn’t be one. I wouldn’t have minded going alone with her, but nobody’d asked me. Roper was hurt that Barlowe refused. She didn’t say she was, but I could tell. Noticing things like that is part of my job.
When Barlowe opened the door for Roper, I gave her the Big Greeting. I jumped up and down, licked her hands and face, barked happily, the whole bit. I only do the Big Greeting for a couple of people, and Roper, knowing that, had the good sense to be flattered. “Whoa, whoa, Sam, old buddy. It’s good to see you, too,” she said.
Barlowe was cooler than me. “Hello, Mandy,” he said.
“Have a good trip?”
“Very good. How’s work been?”
There they were, two old friends acting like near strangers. Then, Barlowe said, “I missed you, Mandy.”
“I missed you too, Phil.”
They hugged each other. I gave them a small woof of encouragement.
They broke apart and Roper handed Barlowe a pile of envelopes and said gruffly, “Don’t you ever collect your mail? The postman said he couldn’t fit any more stuff in your box.”
“Who needs a bunch of bills?” Barlowe said.
An envelope slid to the floor. I gave it a sniff. There was something familiar about the smell. Familiar and delicious. One thing I knew, it wasn’t a bill. I picked it up with my teeth and nudged Barlowe’s leg. My nose was itching like crazy, but I tried to ignore it.
Barlowe took the envelope. “What’s this? La Maison de Beauté? Never heard of them. I sure don’t owe them any money.”
I’d never heard of them either, but I liked that smell, so I nudged him harder. Roper took the envelope from him. “La Maison de Beauté. They make cosmetics. I use their bath oil. It’s good stuff. She opened the envelope, took out a single sheet of paper, and read:
“Dear Mr. Barlowe,
“Word of your talent and discretion in solving cases has reached me via a mutual acquaintance, Lady Binghampton-Nuggets. I require your assistance in a matter both urgent and delicate. Please come to my office at 500 Garson Boulevard on Tuesday, June 4 at 5:30 P.M. If you cannot make it, then call me at 555-1357.
Roger de France, President”
Tuesday, June 4 at 5:30! I let out a howl. I could almost smell real meat again.
“What’s eating you, Sam?” Barlowe asked.
“Barlowe, do you know what day this is?” Roper asked.
“Right. And what time is it, Barlowe?”
He looked at his watch. “Five-fifteen.”
“Five-sixteen to be exact,” Roper said, looking at her own. “It takes twenty minutes to get to Garson Boulvevard. If you leave right now you’ll be only six minutes late.”
I howled in agreement. I’d said I’d stay out of Barlowe’s next case. But there at least had to be a case for me to stay out of.
“Five-thirty. I have another appointment at five-thirty.”
I knew about Barlowe’s “other appointment.” It was at Rex King’s bar. I picked up a hard rubber bone some relative of Barlowe’s bought me for Christmas, and which Barlowe used as a doorstop, and pitched it at him. It hit his shin.
“Owww. Take it easy, Sam. Okay, okay. I’ll postpone my other five-thirty appointment. Let’s go.”
Thinking about porterhouse steak, I bounded out the door ahead of him.
On the drive to La Maison de Beauté, Barlowe kept working on his slogans. And I kept my head out the window so I didn’t have to hear him. We were just approaching Garson Boulevard when he stopped the clunker of a Buick dead in the middle of the street (at least, I hoped he’d stopped it; the Clunker, as I called it, which we bought with the money from the last case, has been known to die by itself at the worst possible moments). I fell back onto the seat. “I’ve got it!” Barlowe yelled. “Sam, you’ll love this one. Here it is: ‘A man’s best friend is his dog, but a woman’s best friend is her Eggelant (Egg-Rich) Shampoo.’ Isn’t that great…”
I didn’t hear the rest of what he said because just then the blonde staggered into view. And coming at her from the other direction was a big, black sedan.
“Whoo!” I howled, meaning, Watch out! I leaped out the open window and heard Barlowe yell, “Hey!” The black sedan screeched to a halt, and the car behind it smashed into its fender. I dashed up to the blonde.
“Come on. Follow me,” I said.
“Come on!” I ordered.
She gave me a blank look, but she followed me, weaving in and out of traffic that had piled up on Garson Boulevard.
We reached the Clunker. Barlowe opened the door. “Sam, are you okay?” You could’ve been hurt.”
I gave him a quick woof to let him know I was fine. Then we both looked at the blonde. She was hobbling a little, but there wasn’t a scratch on her.
Barlowe opened the back door. The blonde stumbled onto the seat.
I scrambled up behind her.
“What’s your name? Your address?” I asked.
She gave me that same blank stare. Then she opened her mouth and said, “Yoghurt.”
I stared at her, and then it hit me. The blonde was more than confused. The blonde had amnesia. No good-looking, self-respecting blonde cocker spaniel would let herself be called Yoghurt.