Lenny Parker shook the old man’s hand carefully. His hand looked brittle. The old man sat down at Lenny’s usual table at Mister Janpong’s Thai restaurant. Lenny had been using it as his office for a few years now.
“Can I get you something to drink, Mister Janson?” Lenny asked the old man.
“Some iced tea would be good,” Janson said. He was in his early eighties, dressed impeccably in a beige jacket and matching tie.
Lenny ordered the tea and a bottle of Singha beer for himself.
“What can I do for you?” he asked Janson.
“I want to hire you to look for my Ozzy. He’s been missing for weeks now,” Janson said.
“All right. How old is your son?”
“Ozzy is my dog, not my son.”
Lenny had to admit he didn’t see that one coming. “Eh… All right…”
Mister Janpong put the iced tea and beer on their table. Lenny and Janson nodded in thanks. Mister Janpong made a little bow and left.
“Ozzy is pretty much the only thing I have left. I want him found.”
“I can understand that, I guess. If I wasn’t on tour so often as a roadie I probably would want a dog as well. They’re pretty loyal creatures. But I must tell you I have no experience tracking down missing pets. Missing person, yes. Pets, no.”
“I haven’t got the stamina to go look for him myself. And I have no family left to help me. My daughter died in a car crash five years ago. She was all the family I had left. Now, Ozzy is the only thing I have. I’m afraid I can’t pay you much, but I once heard you took on a case for two bottles of Jack Daniel’s and a concert ticket.”
“Yeah. But it was a Slayer ticket.”
“I’ve got a collection of Black Sabbath albums. The original ones. I think they are worth quite some money. And I know you’re really into metal…”
“What gave me away, the battle jacket, the Megadeth T-shirt or the long hair?” Lenny said, smiling.
“Your reputation,” Janson said.
“Good to know I’m building one. Not sure if the fact I work dirt-cheap is one I want to spread around too fast. Did you name your dog after Black Sabbath’s singer?”
Janson nodded. “I used to enjoy some heavy metal back in the day. Can’t stand that new crap, though. You know with the grunging and all.”
“That’s what I said, yeah. So, can I hire you?”
The next tour would be a month from now and right now Lenny had no other cases. So he figured why not. And he was a big Black Sabbath fan. He shook Janson’s hand. “You just hired yourself a private eye, Mister Janson. Now tell me some more about Ozzy. How did he get lost?”
“That’s the bloody strange thing. He was in the backyard one moment while I was on the crapper. At my age that can take a while. When I came back from it he was gone, the gate unlocked.”
“Did you forget to lock it?”
“I’m old, not damned senile.”
“Any idea how it got unlocked then?”
“Hell if I know. It doesn’t unlock itself. And Ozzy can’t do it either. Almost has me thinking someone dognapped him.”
That sounded a bit unlikely to Lenny. “What kind of dog is Ozzy?”
“A Rottweiler. Here, that’s him,” Janson said and took a picture from his jacket. It showed a huge Rottweiler lying in the grass.
“Nice animal,” Lenny said.
“You got that right.”
“Didn’t your neighbors see anything?”
“One of my neighbors is a pot-smoking kid who never opens his curtains, the other is a nurse who works nights. I’m afraid they haven’t seen anything.”
“Too bad. Well, I guess I can ask around, see if anybody saw Ozzy. Any distinguishing characteristics?
“What? Like a tattoo? He’s a big dog. That’s it.”
Sarcasm. Not Lenny’s favorite character flaw. “It would be good if I had a way to make sure it’s Ozzy.”
“You call his name, and he will react,” Janson said.
Lenny shrugged. “Guess that might work. Okay, Mister Janson… I will see what I can do. Don’t get your hopes up, though.”
“After the life I’ve led I never do.”