By Anne Sullivan
“Why did you say no?” Sylvia asked as we walked home.
“Force of habit. I’m supposed to say no,” I answered, picking up my pace. “What have I said no about that bothers you?”
“You know,” Sylvia said, not wagging her tail, “just a few minutes ago when you said no to that hunter who wanted to pay $100 for me to show him where the deer are hiding.”
“Would you have shown him?”
“One hundred dollars is one hundred dollars. That’s a lot of moola.”
“So it is, but would you have betrayed your fellow animals?”
“Maybe,” said Sylvia after some reflection. “Or maybe I would have led him in the other direction.”
“Be that as it may, I’m not about to rent you out to any hunter. It would not only be a losing proposition, it would be dishonest. It would be accepting money under false pretenses. Besides, you need to stay home and finish your mystery book.”
“I’ve finished it, I think. All three chapters.”
“Will you read me the last chapter when we get home?”
“You bet,” said Sylvia, dashing up the porch steps.
And this is what she wrote:
I, Dog Detective Veronica O’Leary, and Cat Detective Fatso were in the
San Agustin Plains pasture staring at a small herd of cattle, all of whom wore a look of defiant ignorance.
“But how did the cattle get over the fence, darling Veronica?” asked Fatso.
“Darling!” I said. “What do you mean, darling? I don’t consort with cats. But since you asked, the strongest steers stood right next to the fence. The others climbed on top of them and jumped over.”
“How did you deduce that, Veronica?”
“Elementary, my dear Fatso. Look at the hoof prints. See how some of them are deeper than others.”
“That’s some detecting, Veronica. But I still don’t see how the Italian ended up hanging in our tree.”
“Thereby hangs a tale. It’s elementary, my dear Fatso. As I’ve surmised, some of the cattle got over the fence. The cattle that stayed behind passed the body under the fence, and the cattle that got over the fence dragged it to Swingle Canyon and put it in our tree.”
“Who can say? If I understood why cattle do anything I could earn a lot of money.”
“But who killed the Italian?”
“Elementary, my dear Fatso. Did you not look at his face?”
“What there was of it. It wasn’t very pretty.”
“That is because it had been trampled on by a herd of cattle.”
“The whole herd?”
“Enough of them to do the job.”
“So that’s how they killed him. But why did they do it, Veronica?”
“Elementary, my dear Fatso. They killed him because the cattle were thirsty and they were afraid The Italian would take all their water. They’d never be able have another drink.”
“Do you think they overreacted, Veronica?”
“Depends on which side of the fence you’re on.”
“Did the Italian have a name?”
“Evidently not. Even his lawyer doesn’t know.”
“Tres bizarre, Veronica.”
“You said a mouthful, my dear Fatso.”
“That’s all I wrote,” said Sylvia. “Do you think that’s enough?”
“Yes I do,” I answered. “You’ve solved the mystery but kept the way open for a sequel should there be enough demand.”
“That’s what Max said.”
Max? Always Max. Who was he? And when would he show his face?