The Case of the Lost Sausage
by Akhmetzyanova Landysh
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year, and you're the same person,
but everything else is different.
She had a dog. But sometimes she wondered whether it was the dog that had her. Black. With a black nose, black eyes, black paws and black ears. Black as night. Black as pitch. Black as ink. As soot and as hell. Although there was nothing hellish about her behaviour or lifestyle. A perfectly normal, well-natured dog that liked to eat, sleep and run around joyfully and with no particular purpose. But the thing was that it was the only dog that solved crimes. Lola the Crimefighter was a P.I. with all the necessary credentials.
When you saw this couple on the crime scene, you might think it’s simply an officer with her dog. Nothing odd here. But it was Lola who was the Sherlock with Asia as her Doctor Watson, a sidekick, an accessory but mostly a medium to the world of stupid people. They communicated on some profound level. I am sure Lola could speak and write. But why would one reveal it, provided that in this case they would definitely pester her with questions, telephone calls and general human talk (the small talk being the worst kind) to her death. She wanted to be left alone with her thoughts and occasionally speak with Asia. As they did. On some profound level. You’d wonder how it happened so that the existence of this unique animal was never widely reported and broadcast all over the planet Earth (with all the bothersome consequences in the end)? But it was part of the initial deal. One word – Lola was out of the game. And the police was not in the position to argue, given the crime situation on the streets.
And New York was known for its crime situation. It was a sort of a landmark on its own. Like Statue of Liberty or Times Square. It was a strange place for a man to be born to and a risky place to stay afterwards. Lola liked it. It was everything she could want in a places: vast streets suddenly turning into tiny dark ones, constant movement of crowds with evil lurking in between, inscrutable unpredictability and last but not least the smells. The smells of pizza, urine, rats, people, the smell of crime. She was Dexter of her own field. The creature who was able to recreate the crime by smells alone. And common sense actually. Something so many people lack to be honest.
That night Asia was awakened by the shrill of her phone. Lola was sitting on the window sill contemplating the night city scenery.
“Hello,” Asia croaked into the phone receiver. “Copy that. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
The night was filled with the monotonous sound of drizzle. Lola hated it. She had found out that there were different types of rain. And each type had its character. This one she’d call “irritating scambag of a rain”. As they approached the crime scene the sound of sirens, agitated human talk and general distress were added to the annoyance of the night dribble. As if it hadn’t been enough already.
“Asia Vilden, P.I.” Asia said to the policeman guarding the yellow tape. “Lola, P.I.”
It always bugged Asia that it was Lola they saluted to and showed their acknowledgement and appreciation to. I also play some part in all this, thought Asia, feeling pangs of injustice.
“Asia,” – a courteous nod from Detective James Cooper, - “Lola,”- and he gave the dog a sort of a salute you reserve for the president, noted Asia. “We have a situation here.”
“This much I guessed, Detective,” Asia said, moving with Lola towards the entrance of the building accompanied by Cooper. “Have you summoned all New York police force to this God forsaken place?”
“You’ll see, I kinda had to.”
“Hang on,” she had just noticed where she actually was, “Isn’t it…? I know this car.”
Lola looked wearily at her. She had known it from the very beginning.
New York mayor, or shall I say “ex-mayor”, or actually what’s left of him, was lying on a bed in the middle of an overly furnished room. The stench of the place was nauseating. The bed linen hadn’t been in its “cleanest” self even before the whole thing went terribly wrong. But that’s sort of expected from the dodgy motel that provided them. Rats, rats poison, rats excrements, anything a rat can leave behind. But to everyone present the fact that New York mayor could have been found in this motel room out of all possible locations did not come as a shock. As it wouldn’t to anyone within the city borders. He had been both charming and destructive in his bonhomie, a perfect puppet for bigger puppeteers. And he definitely had had his vices. One of them was frequenting the local brothels or meeting their usual inhabitants in similar to this stinking motel places. This visit had proven to be his last.
“What sort of beast could shred him like that?” Asia wondered.
“A big one, I presume,” said Detective, “or it might have been a chainsaw, but that they should have heard below in the reception.”
Lola was already at work, Asia saw. Sniffing and observing. Taking mental notes.
“We want post-mortem,” Asia said after Lola communicated her thoughts in that inexplicable manner with which they talked to one another.
“There’s hardly anything left to examine, Asia,” Detective Cooper noticed.
Asia looked at Lola, checking if she understood her right.
“Yes, we DO want post-mortem,” she said finally and added. ”We want an especially thorough examination of his stomach, Detective.”
Lola turned her gaze from her friend to the untouched meal that had been brought to the room by room service before the murder. There stood an unopened bottle of wine and two plates with what had to be Italian sausage with peppers. The plates were untouched and identical safe for one thing: whereas one plate had two sausages, the other plate had one.
“Do they know who was with him that night, Detective?” asked Asia.
“We questioned the man at the reception. He says the girl was tall blonde with heavy make-up and looked like quotes “your average Brooklyn hooker”.”
“That’s very helpful,” said Asia. ”Just what we need, Detective, I’m sure your guys have already found her and are on their way here, cos she sounds so conspicuous.”
“Hookers are hookers, Asia,” replied Detective Cooper to this outburst of sarcasm. “It’s part of their job.”
“Is it mentioned in their resume?” said Asia and left with Lola who looked at her enquiringly. “Oh, I know he’s stupid,” she said. “But he’s got enough wits not to forget to send us everything they’ve found. We’ve already been through that. Do you think he’s force us to go to his office again? Even Cooper is not so hopeless.” To this Lola only shook her head and continued down the hall with her friend.
The room which was supposed to be a think-tank of the NYPD department where Detective Cooper lived each of his miserable 24 hours a day was thoroughly and irrevocably filthy. Contrary to the common stereotype Cooper despised donuts and actually anything that came with a hole in it including bagels (which for any proud New Yorker is equal to blasphemy punishable by public beheading). He thought it was the bakers’ conspiracy to give less stuff for the same amount of money and cheat honest American citizens of their well-deserved everyday treats. So he refused to buy those under any circumstances, however hungry or sugar-deprived he was, just out of pure spite and decided to stick with muffins and subway sandwiches. So the whole office seemed to be drowning in leftover bags, napkins and crumbs. The first time Asia and Lola came to this stinking place, they were utterly disgusted. Now it seemed normal. On the contrary if it were not dirty, that would be a sign of an upcoming apocalypse, no more, no less.
“Are you telling me you have found no DNA other than that of the poor halfwit of a mayor?” Asia carefully removed the suspiciously looking paper bag and an already yellow newspaper page from the chair and sat down. “Doesn’t it sound unusual to you, keeping in mind what he was up to.”
“I see your point, Asia,” replied Cooper. “But we got nothing. According to the analysis he was alone.”
“That’s insane, James,” exclaimed Asia, “A hooker who left no DNA? Perhaps she didn’t enter the room after all,” Asia was lost in thought for a moment. “Ok, what about the post mortem?”
“Ah, that’s where the things get interesting,” said Detective and handed her the report.
The more she read, the more acute her astonishment became.
“And I thought I have seen it all,” muttered the girl. “And you’re telling me there was no one else in the room with him.”
“I agree it’s unusual, but hey, when did we ever have anything not unusual. The whole city is a bunch of lunatics,” he sounded weary but continued all the same. “Some of the internal organs are missing, but mostly it’s just one big mush. The stomach and intestines are intact,” Detective looked strangely at the dog and added. “I hope he had enjoyed his lasagna.”
Lola was already at the door. Asia gave him a curt nod with meaningless “Thank you, Cooper” and followed suit.
The moment the door to the Cooper’s office close behind their backs Asia and Lola started their typical weird-for-any-onlooker conversation, which indeed sounded like a one-way talk but that was just what outsiders heard. In reality Lola always dominated their conversations, though it was only natural, for she was the smartest, no one ever dared to deny it. Sometimes Asia regretted that people would never be able to appreciate the eloquence of her most unusual dog but immediately decided it was for the best. There were times Asia got the impression she was winning an argument, but it was never even close to reality. In fact most of the time Lola played her like a fiddle just to prove herself right again and again. However it was more convenient that for mortals Lola was just another cocker spaniel, maybe a bit silly and light-minded but what do you expect from a creature named after Nabokov’s empty-headed nymphet.
They got into their battered minivan, the colour of which was almost indecipherable so many times was it painted and repainted. But it was definitely somewhere in the red spectrum. Some brats once scratched out words “Kids welcome” on its rear doors but they too faded away as flakes of paint peeled off the raw metal surface. Though if anyone actually cared to look inside, they would find nothing but some old garbage namely empty soda cans, beer bottles, dog food packaging and misshapen pieces of stale sandwich bread. At first that is. For all this was there for a reason. The reason being to disguise the elaborate equipment used by the two in their shady business of spying, wiretapping and hacking. But overall it was a typical – by New York standards – minivan ignored by naturally indifferent locals. Now this four wheeled old trout was moving towards a dilapidated house in the heart of Brownsville.
“Wow, who do we have here if not Agent J and Agent K,” one of the three almost absurdly geeky men greeted Asia and Lola.
“Want some?” the second man offered a joint. He wore his long blonde hair in a ponytail fastened by a pink sparkly rubber band.
“No, Bob, we’re on business,” snapped Asia. “But thanks for sharing. It means a lot coming from you.”
“Hey, you’re my buddy bud,” Bob said, “Lola wants some though; I can see it in her eyes.”
“She’s temporarily laid off recreational drugs,” Asia made herself comfortable in a huge armchair.
“Moving on to something more serious, ay, sister?” Bob joked. But Asia could not help noticing a glimmer of interest in the eyes of her dog.
“We know about the sausage,” interrupted the third man, who looked the scruffiest of all: his face seemed to be nothing but one big beard and his t-shirt one big stain, whose origin Asia did not want to know.
“Sausage?” she asked and again that look of comprehension and annoyance in Lola’s eyes that said “You are really slow to grasp things, aren’t you?”
“Someone or something was definitely in the room with our poor mayor fellow, tore him to pieces, left us his carcass and intestines and as if that hadn’t been enough for one day shamelessly gobbled one of the sausages leaving almost no DNA or fingerprints,” the bearded man summed up. “Almost but not quite,” he smirked.
“Spit it out, Dick, I don’t have the whole day,” Asia felt anger mounting up her throat. Then she felt Lola poking her in the ribs telling to shut up.
“You will have to start paying us for this, Asia,” said the first man, who looked almost normal with his glasses, a striped shirt and a neat tie. Safe for an ugly scar that stretch all over the left side of his face scarfing up half of his ear and disappearing beneath the shirt. He claimed the scar went right down to his very heel but no one ever cared to check that. Asia doubted anyone ever would, especially a person of the opposite sex. Or any sex to be honest. And not necessarily human.
“You do your job, Erik,” she replied. “You work for the police, police works for me, hence you work for me.”
“Cooper would hang you from your nonexistent balls for saying he works for you,” remarked Erik.
“Whatever, cut to the chase.”
“Ok,” Dick shrugged his shoulders. “As you say, milady. The post mortem that Erik here so graciously performed showed the wounds had likely been inflicted with hands and teeth. But you can imagine the force it would require. This makes it a bit improbable for the official report, so it just says “torn wounds.” This sounds like it could shed some light onto the whole affair, but… no saliva, no clear teeth marks, no nails. All well and clean. Until we found this beauty.”
The light reflected from the metallic surface of the small object Dick held out in a gloved hand.
“You can see why we decided to conceal it from the officials,” his voice suddenly serious.
Asia put on a plastic glove and took it from him. The object turned out to be a strangely shaped piece of metal with uneven edges. The engraving read “LITA” with a set of numbers placed below.
“Impossible,” was the only thing that came out of Asia’s mouth.
“You know the protocol,” said Erik. ”We cannot withhold that information forever. You gotta act quickly.”
“Impossible,” exhaled Asia. Lola squinted at her friend having repeated this word at least five times already. Asia gave no heed to that. From time to time she threw glances at the bone-shaped medallion hanging from the dog’s collar that said “LOLITA” with the phone number engraved below. It was intact. Unlike the metal piece she was carrying in her front pocket. Was someone plotting to frame them by tossing in a fake piece of evidence? That seemed to be the only sound explanation. All of a sudden the dog nudged Asia to increase the volume of the radio that was about to spit out its daily dosage of the news.
“Haven’t we had enough of this shit already?” demanded Asia but did what was asked nonetheless. Lola’s ears made a characteristic move, the one she reserved for things and situations that caught all her attention. A sort of a twitch, roots of her ears lifting a little bit, eyes concentrated on one spot.
“Reports are coming that a man killed in Queens has been identified as John Clovers who was running for the US Senate this year and was considered one of the most influential figures in American politics,” the spokesman’s voice came through the noise of the traffic and the rattling of the old van. “Details are unclear yet. But there are rumours the circumstances of this incident coincide with those that accompanied the murder of the late mayor of New York City. We remind you that two days ago he was murdered in a Brooklyn hotel. The police have yet to issue the autopsy results. For now the city mourns the premature death of our ex-mayor who was a good citizen, a family man and…”
Lola angrily interrupted the outpouring of prepared sentiments. “Find out the exact location,” her eyes said. “Okay-okay, calm down, stop yelling at me!” exclaimed Asia picking up the radio set. “What on earth is wrong with you, turning full psycho on me like that!” The moment the police officer gave them the address where John Clovers had popped his clogs, albeit involuntarily, Lola started to forcefully scratch the door of the van.
“What is the matter, Lo? Quit it!” asked Asia but the dog refused to abide. A single soul-piercing glance she shot at her human friend was enough to make Asia stop and let her out.
The wind was strong and chilly. But Lola hardly noticed it, as she did not notice the thickening darkness and the mounting danger that went hand in hand with the night. The strangeness of this particular case kept her mind awake and her body restless. And restlessness was the best feeling there could be, she thought. The times when the city had no puzzles for them to solve were the worst possible torture that resulted in gut wrenching boredom and general meaninglessness of existence. Thankfully New York never ceased to amaze. Insomnia had only sharpened her thoughts. She knew she was close. She could sense it, she could smell it, she could almost touch it.
Dogs were undoubtedly more superior beings, Lola had never been so sure of it than right now when she was following the tracks that led from another dodgy motel where the senator-to-be had found out how it felt like to be turned into meatloaf. The tracks were raw and virtually steaming. The smell was so familiar it seemed she was pursuing somebody she had known for a lifetime, like she had known Asia or like she had known herself. These thoughts made her uneasy. The tracks brought the dog to the very core of the city, dark as a pit. It felt like standing in a freshly dug out grave. The black silhouettes of houses appeared to be closing in, slamming shut the trap door behind her. But the houses were not the only ones who surrounded her. She felt the shadows lurking and observing. But fear did not come, it didn’t try to seize her throat and urge her to cross the line between rational thinking and pure instinct. She was not afraid because what was happening was not all together unexpected. The sausage. The key was in the sausage.
“I didn’t know it was possible for me to have so many friends,” Lola said into the darkness. “Always considered myself more of an introvert.”
“Shut up,” snapped one of the shadows. “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
“Surprise me,” Lola snapped back. The tension between them was almost tangible. “You and your whory friend come waltzing into our universe and embark on a killing spree without even saying so much as hello how are ya,” continued Lola no less angry than the monster whose fur was as black as her own.
“So you know,” said the creature.
“Oh, trust me, you couldn’t have made it more obvious,” replied the dog. “I had one hope that if I ever met my other self it would not be the idiot me. And you dashed it away, you filthy bag of interstellar maggots.”
The shadow no longer moved. It just stood there, bearing its teeth, ready to shout a command to its crawling friends.
Asia heard footsteps the moment she finished watering her beloved six plants that guarded the windowsill like six brave little photosynthetic soldiers. But now they were of no use to her, for footsteps meant bad news, and that meant generally bad people. And bad people brought all sorts of bad things. Lola and Asia did not like people; that’s why they had chosen the building that eliminated any chances of there being a lot of them. In fact they assumed most of their neighbours on the floor where they lived either were bed-ridden jossers and hopeless hermits that ordered everything on the Internet or had died and were halfway into becoming a nice pile of compost. So rare was the occasion of hearing any movement in the hall.
She had hardly enough time to duck down when the door exploded and showered the room with hundreds of splinters. The thunder of gunshots deafened. Pieces of wood were steadily chipped away from the furniture by the incoming flood of bullets. Asia scraped herself from the floor and hid behind the overturned metal table. Shards of glass fell over her as bullets hit the shelves. The bag of dog food tore apart and spewed its contents on the floor. Asia’s own gun was far out of reach, so she hunched behind the table, covered her head and waited. It took at least 10 minutes for the gunshots to stop. What followed was the sound of dog food cracking beneath the shooter’s feet.
“Come, kitty-kitty,” the voice startled Asia. It was female, deep, and throaty and so…
“Come’ere, baby, I won’t hurcha,” the intruder continued. With every second she was closer and closer to the Asia’s hiding place. Suddenly another shot rang out. Then came the thud of a body falling on the floor, more footsteps but already not menacing but somehow comforting in their loudness, determination and quantity.
“Detective Cooper,” replied the girl standing up, brushing pieces of glass off her shoulders with her hands and gazing curiously at an entire police squad that were elbowing each other in the narrow hall and entering her now utterly destroyed apartment.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m ok, Detective,” she said. “But why kill? Do the rules mean nothing to you?”
James Cooper looked at her sourly as if he was unjustly accused of stealing someone’s lunch from an office fridge.
“She was pointing a gun at your head, she was right atchya!” he said. “One moment – you’d be dead meat.”
“Good to know you value my life so highly, Detective,” Asia smiled warmly and turned her attention towards the body lying on the floor. The woman’s head was unnaturally twisted, her face turned to the left; her eyes blank and a dull shade of metal, void of any glimmer of life. Fingers holding a rifle were screaming with the blood red nail polish. Fishnets, high heels and a blond wig that was now oddly pulled off to the right side of her head.
“Say, Detective, shouldn’t there be a daily limit of madness?” asked Asia and having received no answer to that went out leaving the body, the shattered plant pots, the destroyed Fender and the whole mess that was now her apartment behind. The streets turned black and white again. The light morning drizzle felt pleasant on the skin. You could sense this one was a persistent bugger and it would keep on going for the next twenty four or so hours. The air was rich with scents of autumn and a big city. Scents characteristic of the Big Apple: pizza and urine, magnified by the humidity. Asia turned round the corner and soon was joined by a black shadow.
“It was you who sent Cooper and Co. to my apartment, wasn’t it?” it was merely a statement of the fact, in no way a question, but she definitely had too other real ones that were splitting her head open at that moment like “how did you know?” and “what exactly did you know?” Still the biggest one remained: would Lola answer those questions?
“They’re gone,” Lola ignored her; it was useless to ask her things she wouldn’t want to explain. Especially when she had that look in her eyes: a faint flicker that was indicative of a deep thought and self-absorption as well as a commencing melancholy that always followed the unraveling of a mystery.
“The freak in my room isn’t!” said Asia. “First, I thought it was a mask…”
“I just wanted to know one thing,” interrupted Lola. “What were they doing here in our world? Why kill these stupid politicians? It seems so meaningless.” Asia saw all the manifestations of what she called Lola’s self-monologue: an outpouring of thoughts and speculations which weren’t spoken out loud for anyone, not even Asia, but herself. At least sometimes they helped Asia grasp what was going on in her dog’s head; that much she was thankful for. “And they didn’t intent to kill you,” Lola continued. “Not tonight anyway. I was on their way, hindering the mission; they had to have something to blackmail me with. Or someone for that matter. I am glad Cooper was in time, otherwise you’d complicate too many things, Asia.”
This remark evoked a judgmental look on Asia’s face and a feeling of strange inferiority.
“She said our universes are interwoven. People’s actions here influence their actions there and vice versa. So we are in fact a sum of our many-many selves scattered all over the millions of parallel universes.”
“Who said that, Lo?”
“But connections are twisted. Sometimes what you decide to do here can make your other self want to do the exact opposite. You save a man in our universe and you kill him in the other. Even if you are a shy ornithologist here but in another universe you are a ruthless serial killer who collects his victims’ scalps. Doesn’t matter, you are tied up. So this was the case with our friends, one of whom made such an unusual but I suspect unforgettable entrance into your life, Asia. The three were brutal dictators with beards, cigars, long robes and the rest, you know, the complete I-am-the-Supreme-ruler-obey-me-or-I-will-get-you-killed package.”
“Hang on,” Asia interjected. “Have I misheard it or you said ‘three’? And most disturbingly you said ‘were?’”
“You heard me right,” replied Lo to Asia’s surprise. “The idiot couldn’t do it alone, said they didn’t have elevators. The morons simply did not invent them. So she was scared off her wits. Getting to the penthouse with no stairs provided was not something she could have anticipated evidently. Weird, isn’t it? The ugliest part was the ritual. That’s what they needed the organs for. Sound like savages, I know. But at least they have a teleport and they can travel to parallel universes, so it kind of compensates. Oh, don’t worry. It’s just Cooper who is going to tell you the body has disappeared.”
The phone was squalling in her pocket calling for her attention through the voice of Aretha Franklin. She listened politely to what Detective had to say and ended the call with a curt “copy that”. Cooper sounded distraught. It was understandable.
“Plus the damn bonehead developed a real sausage-addiction. They don’t have sausages there. Can you imagine it? Man, a universe without sausages…”
They were slowly making their way through the street that was starting to come to life. People were leaving their warm apartments that smelled like coffee and biscuits. They were out to catch a train or getting into their cars because they had jobs to do in well-defined places during well-defined periods of time. Their universe as all others continued its existence. Nothing disturbed its steady flow. Except for few minor changes. But they were all drops in the ocean, weren’t they?
Written and illustrated by Akhmetzyanova Landysh ©