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Here's a Sam Spayed Coton de Tulear Mystery from theSpring (May '96) issue (Volume 6, Number 2) of the CTCA's Cotonde Tulear News . Our club newsletter has the exclusive rightsto the serialization of these wonderful stories. Please enjoy:

The Case of the Maltese Frog

by Sherry Gottlieb

She sashayed into my office, herblack-and-white hair in a fashionably curly bob rather than the longsilky tresses traditional with Shih-tzus; I knew right away she wasno ordinary bitch.

"Are you Miles Archer?" she askedme.

"Who?" I'd never heard of him.

"Never mind," she said. "You're aninvestigator?"

"I am. Samuel Spayed, P.I., at your service; youcan call me Sam. What can I do for you, Miss--"

"O'Shaunessey. Sushi O'Shaunessey. I need you tohelp me avoid some dogs who want an ornament which is coming into mypossession."

I leaned against my desk. "Why don't you tell meabout it, Miss O'Shaunessey."

She got closer.

"Sushi," she said in a husky littlegrowl.

"The 'ornament' is raw fish?" I asked,confused.

She rolled her eyes impatiently. "I'm Sushi. The'ornament' is a Squeaky I've arranged to acquire. It's very rare, andit's taken me a long time to get it. There are some who would like totake it away from me. I'll pay you handsomely to protect me from themuntil I can get safely away with the Squeaky."

"How handsomely?"

"This is just a retainer," she said, plopping abagful of pigs' ears on my desk.

"That's good-that's very good. But I have to seethis Squeaky-I can't guard what I can't recognize," I toldher.

She looked down. "I don't have it yet-I'm gettingit tonight. It's a frog, about two mouthfuls big-"

Fortunately, we had about the same sizemouths.

"What makes this frog so rare?"

"Its squeak is as unique, as delightful, as theday it was made-even though that was many lifetimes ago. It belongedto the Maltese," she added. "Have you heard of him?"

Of course I had. The Maltese was legendary. Hisowners had spared no expense on his Food, Treats, and toys. Hissweaters were hand-knit to his measurements, his Squeakiescustom-designed for his bite; rumor had it that they were flavoredwith Chicken or Bacon, and never lost their flavor or theirsqueak.

"I heard that all the Maltese'sSqueakies were cremated with him," I told Sushi. "How did you getone?"

She sighed. "It's a long story, Sam. The MalteseFrog is the only one of his toys to survive the funeral. I've trackedit from Singapore to Istanbul to Cairo, obsessed by nothing else. NowI'm finally about to lay my paws on it and I don't want to lose it.Even as we speak, I've been followed. Look out the window," shesuggested.

I went over to the window and stood on my hindlegs so I could peer over the sill. On the street below was a skinnyyoung mutt leaning against a fire hydrant.

"You talking about the gunsel with thenotched ear?"

"That's him," Sushi hissed. "His name's Wilmer. Heworks for Kasper, the Fat Dog. Kasper and I were partners once. We'renot anymore."

I'd had a feeling this bitch couldn't be trusted,but I trusted her bag of pigs' ears. And if I helped her, maybe she'dlet me play with her Squeaky. "Where do you pick up the frog?"

"It's coming in on the Chien Andalouat sunset tonight."

"OK. I'm gonna go down and have a talk with Wilmerthere. When you hear me bark, you slip out through the back. I'llmeet you at the dock at sunset."

I snuck up behind Wilmer and barked loudly. Justas I'd suspected, he folded right away, went belly-up insubmission.

"Take me to the Fat Dog," I told him.Wilmer whined piteously, but didn't move. "Now!" I barked.

He scrabbled to his feet and started trotting downthe street, stopping every few blocks to glare back at me.

"Keep on riding me an' they're gonnabe pickin' my teeth outta your ass," he growled.

"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter," Igrinned.

The name "Fat Dog" didn't do justice to Kasper'sstature. He was the most formidable Shar-pei I'd ever seen, and histiny ears almost disappeared in the deep folds and wrinkles of hisbristly coat. He wasn't particularly large, but he radiated an auraof strength and self-confidence which brooked no challenge. When hesmiled, the temperature in the room dropped.

"You like to talk, sir?" he askedme.

"Sure, I like to talk."

"Well, sir, I'll tell you right out: I'm a dog wholikes talking to a dog who likes talking."

"Swell. Will we talk about the frog?"

"That depends. Are you working for Miss Shaunesseyor for me?"

"I'm working for myself. Say I can lay paws on thefrog, Fat Dog-what's it worth to you?"

"Well, sir, I think I can manage to trade, say,your weight in steaks. What do you say to that?"

Jeez, I had the wrong client--steaks beat pigears, paws-down.

"I'd like to taste one before Idecide."

"Certainly. Wilmer, bring our guest asteak."

Wilmer growled, but disappeared into the otherroom. He returned with a rib eye-no bone, but great flavor. I dug in,but was only partway through before I started to feel dizzy and myvision clouded. I realized that I'd been drugged just as I passedout. When I awoke, I was alone and the sun was almost down. I had toget to the Chien Andalou!

I ran all the way to the docks, but was too late:the ship was completely ablaze and there was no sign of SushiO'Shaunessey, Kasper the Fat Dog, or Wilmer the Gunsel. If one ofthem hadn't gotten the Maltese's frog before the fire started, it washistory now. Before I left, I overheard someone say the Captain'sdog, Jack, was missing in action. I went back to my office.

I was putting the bag of pig ears in the desk whenthe door opened and a wire-haired dachshund staggered in-anewspaper-wrapped package in his mouth-and died, right there on myfloor. It was obvious from his wounds that he'd been attacked by atleast one vicious dog. When I opened the package, I realized thedachsie must be Jack, from the Chien Andalou. I now had the frog, butthere wasn't time to taste or squeak it. Whoever killed Jack mighthave followed him here.

I re-wrapped the frog, took it out and buried itwhere it was unlikely to be found by a dog: behind the vet's office.Unfortunately, I'd been followed. I'd barely left the block when Ifound myself surrounded by Kasper, Wilmer, and Sushi. Wilmer hadblood on his muzzle; ten-to-one it was Jack's blood.

"Let's do some business, sir," Kaspersaid. "You have something I want."

"Maybe, but I'm not trading it for a bunch ofdrugged steaks," I told him. "And I'm not afraid of your gunsel,either. I'm not as easily killed as the Captain's dog was."

"What about getting it for me, Sam?" Sushi rubbedup against me. If I hadn't been neutered, it might have been moreeffective, but the point remained that I'd taken her retainer, so shewas my client, no matter what else was in the offing.

"If I give it to you here, these guys are gonnatake it from you," I pointed out.

"I want Kasper to have it, Sam. He's paying mevery well for the Squeaky."

So, she spent all those years looking for thefrog, only to trade it for a few pounds of steak. Well, it was herchoice. I took them back to the vet's office-noting with satisfactionthat Wilmer piddled on himself as soon as he smelled where wewere-and dug up the bundle.

Kasper tore off the newspaper and bit into thefrog. It didn't squeak. Not one bit. But Kasper did.

"It's a fake! This isn't the Maltesefrog-it doesn't squeak!" He dropped it, so I went over and tried. Hewas right-the frog had no squeak and it wasn't flavored, either.They'd all been scammed-maybe it had been switched in Singapore, orIstanbul, or Cairo, but now there was no way of telling if theMaltese frog actually still existed.

While they were fighting about who'd screwedup-and, more importantly, who owned the steaks-I picked up the fakefrog as a souvenir and left.

As I turned the corner to my office, Buri sawme.

"What's that you've got?" hecalled.

"The stuff that dreams are made of."

SHERRY GOTTLIEB is a brilliant and witty novelist, whose most recent book"Love Bite," anerotic police procedural with fangs, has been published by WarnerBooks (US & UK) and Transylvania Press (Canada). It wasostensibly the basis for the absolutely terrible 1995 TV movie"Deadly Love," starring Susan Dey and Stephen McHattie, which inactuality bears little relation to her wonderful novel, but the moneyenabled her to adopt Bunny, her Coton, which made it all worthwhile.She and Bunny live at the beach in Ventura County, California. ThisSam Spayed mystery is the first of a special CTCA serialization ofthe novel "Pup Fiction" © 1996-2002 by Sherry Gottlieb, all rights reserved.

You can see some of Sherry Gottlieb's craftdisplayed at her web site, . Writers and Cotons just love to have encouragement, sosend Sherry and Bunny an e-Mail at:

"The Maltese Frog" story© 1996 by Sherry Gottlieb, all rights reserved. Title andcontents of The Coton de Tulear News& Information Network © 1996,the Coton de Tulear Club of America, all rights reserved. Celebratingthe CTCA's 26th Anniversary in 2002.

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