Miles Kington: Dog-walkers united against a hostile world

They see so much and are taken for granted. They go where other people do not go, at times when other people go nowhere
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The Independent Online

Time for another crime yarn in the company of the Sixty Second Sleuth, I think. I refer, of course, to Inspector Keith Braid, who has never been know to take more than a minute to solve any crime, thus ensuring that his adventures can never be turned into television dramas and he can never be played by John Nettles. Today's little tale is entitled...

Seeing a Man About a Dog

"That'll teach him to go camping," said Braid, as he and Sergeant Comfort looked down at the dead man.

He had been found in the tent that morning. It was a small tent by the riverside, just big enough for one. A pair of jeans lay across the tent ridge, drying in the sun. A pair of boots sat forlornly on the grass, like a patient dog waiting for its master to return.

"As if it wasn't bad enough being cold and hungry," said Braid. "Then you get killed as well. I can't imagine why people go camping. Any idea who he is?"

"Yes, sir," said the constable who had been waiting for them. "Apparently he's a wanted man called Dud Sheraton. A crooked antique dealer."

"So the nickname is a joke, is it?" said Braid.

"Pardon, sir?"

"Dud Sheraton."

"I wouldn't know, sir."

"Trouble with kids today," said Braid to Comfort softly. "They think Sheraton is a hotel."

"Yes, sir," said Comfort, who thought the same.

"Who found the body?"

"A dog-walker, sir, called Mrs Bentley. At least her dog found him. He was sniffing round the tent and she went to apologise, and found him. She's here now."

"Good, good," said Braid. "One of the great army of dog-walkers, that band of unsung witnesses who see so much and yet are taken for granted. They go where other people do not go, at times when other people go nowhere. How I love them. How I love you, Mrs Bentley."

"Do you, sir?"

"Yes, Mrs Bentley, I do, for I feel you are about to solve the crime for me. Tell me, did you see many other people on your walk this morning?"

"Mostly just the usual crowd. The Colonel and Monty."

"Monty?"

"His labrador."

"Ah. Carry on."

"Mr Williams from Three Gables. Miss Anstruther. All with their dogs. And a man with a poodle. I've no idea who he was."

"A poodle? Unusual."

"It's most unusual to see someone walking a dog round here who I don't know," said Mrs Bentley. "Always the same crowd."

"Did you get a look at him?"

"He was quite big, "she said. "Black, with close-cropped hair."

"Black, eh?" said Braid.

"And he pulled at the lead a lot, as if he wasn't used to it."

"No, not the dog," said Braid. "The owner!"

"Oh, I didn't get a look at him," she said. "He had his hat pulled down, and didn't say anything, even when I said hello. I thought it was a bit odd at the time, because dog-walkers tend to stick together. We feel united against the world."

"Is the world against you?"

"Oh, yes. We have been branded as a pollution threat, because dogs produce droppings. Many of us are cowed into collecting them in plastic bags. Which is stupid, because left alone dog droppings rot down like any other animal excrement, but they won't if trapped inside a plastic bag."

"Quite so," said Braid, who felt the conversation was drifting away from the matter in hand. "Incidentally, the man with the poodle must be the murderer. He has been trailing the man in the tent seeking revenge, and wanted to creep up on him unspotted. What better disguise than a dog-walking pose? Nobody suspects a dog-walker. You would no more suspect a woman with a pram of being a murderer, yet I have seen prams in my time which were full to the gunwale with explosive."

"And who is the murderer?" said Comfort.

"He is a man with a poodle. He should not be hard to pick up. I have solved the crime. Let others arrest the criminal. Come, Comfort."

Another Sixty Second Sleuth story coming soon!

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