The name’s Barkalot, Benjamin Barkalot. Ben, to my friends. Benji to people who don’t want to be my friends.
I’m a detective. To those of you who read Raymond Chowndler books, that makes me a dick. To the rest of you, don’t even think about it.
It was April, it was hot, and I was behind with my rent. In other words it was just like last month, and the one before that, except for the bit about being April. And hot.
It was nearly midday, when she came in.
This was one classy broad. Hair like ginger and white silk, and eyes a guy could drown in. She moved like Bailey’s over ice.
“You Barkalot?” her voice was as smooth as her moves, and just as intoxicating.
“That’s what it says on the door, lady.”
“Yeah? Well it says Otis on the elevator, and I’m sure you ain’t him.”
I poured myself a milk, semi-skimmed with a dash of water.
“So what’s the problem, Mis…?”
“Bumble. Queen Bumble. That’s Queen as in Bee, and Bumble as in Bee.”
“OK Miss Bumble, what’s the problem?”
“I need a detective Mister Barkalot.”
“That’s good, ‘cause if you needed a window cleaner I’d have to buy myself a ladder.”
“Cute Barkalot, real cute. So tell me, what do you know about the Sapphire Collar?”
“Only what I know from the papers. It was made by Faberge for the Tsarina. Turned up in America a few years after the revolution. It’s changed paws a few times since then, and is now with some rich dame up in the hills, who’s obviously got more money than she knows what to do with.”
She raised an eyebrow at that.
“It isn’t ‘with some rich dame up in the hills’ any more, Mister Barkalot; it was stolen from me this weekend. Find it, and I’ll know what to do with some of that money.”
I took a mouthful of milk.
“So what happened? How did it get taken?”
She sighed, making her fur shimmer like a field of sun ripened perfection,
“I was holding a bit of a soiree; one of those awful charity functions.”
“Oh, some human rescue thing.”
“Forgive me for saying so, but you don’t seem the type to be helping stray humans.”
She barked a short, cynical laugh:
“Lord no, Barkalot. Filthy things, humans, they never wash properly and they always smell of soap. I won’t have them in the house, but you know what it’s like. Humans are the latest ‘cause’ in society , and a lady must be seen to be doing her bit.”
“OK, so you had your fancy bunfight, and then what?”
“Then nothing, Mr Barkalot. I woke up Sunday morning, to find the collar had gone missing, and so had the maid. It hardly takes a genius to work out what happened.”
“Have you informed the police?”
“Of course, but you know what the police are like in this city,” she looked me up and down, one delicate eyebrow arched, “…better than I do, I’d say.
“The cops round here couldn’t find a steak in a butcher’s. Besides half of them are on the take, so I thought I’d hire someone myself. I’d read about you and that Topaz case last year, so I thought you’d be the dick for me.”
I choked on my milk. Damn Raymond Chowndler!!
I tried to look professional, which ain’t easy with milk dribbling out of your nose.
“OK Miss Bumble. I’ll need a description of the maid, with a recent photo if you have one, a list of people at the party; and my fees are…”
“…not going to be a problem. That is a very valuable collar, Barkalot. Get it back and you will be well rewarded. Now if you’ll excuse me, as interesting as your office smells, I have business in cleaner surroundings.”
I checked the switch after she left, she hadn’t turned the lights out when she left the room: it just felt that way.
About the dog behind the story
The real Benjamin Barkalot was awaiting death when he first came to the attention of the author. Old, emaciated and neglected, he had been deemed “unrehomable” by the dog charity to which he had been surrendered, and he had been passed on to a veterinary practice for euthanasia. Years of malnutrition had left him with a malformed lower jaw and only five teeth. He was only half the weight of an average Shih Tzu, and almost half his body was bald. His tail, normally the proud glory of any Shih Tzu, was quite literally as bald as a stick.
Fortunately for Ben, one of the veterinary nurses at the practice refused to give up on him when everyone else had. She contacted the author and his wife, and they agreed to rehome him. Sir Benjamin Barkalot, as he was soon renamed, flourished in his new home. He soon put on weight, and grew stronger and fitter. His coat thickened and darkened, although it would never be as thick as a normal Shih Tzu, and he would have some bald patches until the end of his days.
There was nothing clever about Ben’s rehabilitation. All it took was a sensible diet, gentle exercise, occasional grooming, and plenty of love; all of which were repaid tenfold by his love and devotion to his new family. Benjamin’s lopsided expression and exuberant nature made friends of everyone he met; and as his progress was charted on the internet, he soon made friends all over the world. This story was inspired by a chance comment on one internet forum, and most of the characters are fictionalised versions of the dogs on that forum.
One of the author’s proudest moments came a year after Benjamin’s rescue when he was described by an official at Crufts as “the poster boy for Shih Tzu rescue.”
In October 2011, after five happy years in his new home, Sir Benjamin Barkalot finally passed away from old age.
This story The Case of the Sapphire Collar belongs to the original author we are sharing it with our readers with the express permission of the author. Please do not copy it in any form. The manuscript is going to be used to raise money for rescue as soon as drawings are completed of each of the characters. If you see this story appear anywhere other then Two Little Cavaliers please contact us so we can remedy the situation.