Hair of the Dog.
2nd book in "Fish" Fishbein's Adventures in La-La Land series
News of Mr. Foo’s disappearance must have traveled fast.
Because the obese and servile, almost tragically nice Charlie Kipniss had rocketed back from parts unknown before the new and improved, take-charge version could even wring his hands and mutter a silent, “Oy gevalt!”
“Don’t worry, darling,” he stammered into the phone. “We’ll find him. I promise.”
His answer was met with a few seconds of unintelligible wailing and blubbering on the other end of the line.
“I know, dear. I know how much he means to you. To me, too.”
More incoherent wailing and hysteria from the former Hoop Cheese Queen. At this rate, she could end up undoing several grand worth of bovine botulism injections.
“Just try and calm down. I’ll be home in ten minutes. Then we’ll go out and find Mr. Foo.”
Still beside herself at the disappearance of her diminutive canine companion, Bryana sobbed into the phone one last time, and hung up.
Charlie quietly set the phone back into its cradle.
Then he put his head in his hands and began to weep, almost as inconsolably as his cuckolding, former small time beauty queen and roommate, displaying a level of emotion most men rarely – if ever – show.
Then again, most men aren’t forced to endure the mental picture of a couple of million bucks worth of their hard-earned stolen diamonds disappearing into the bushes after a cat or a squirrel, or something.
Half an hour later, Charlie pulled into his driveway, a much more composed nebbish.
Naturally, Bryana was way too upset, too bereaved to ride along on the search for her wayward pooch.
So, Charlie went solo, spending the rest of the afternoon and long into the evening haunting a particularly curvy section of Sunset Boulevard, crashing through the well manicured underbrush in his business suit and loudly calling, “Mr. Foo…Here, Mr. Foo! Here, boy!”
To which there was no answering bark.
Not even a yip.
No black and white miniature ball of fluff came flying out of the bushes with fangs bared, doing its best to shred the cuffs of yet another pair of Charlie’s slacks.
In fact, the only action he received from anything sporting that particular color scheme was a drive-by from two Beverly Hills police officers in their patrol car.
They were investigating a call from a neighborhood housekeeper, regarding some suspicious looking gordo loco in a business suit, tromping around her employer’s bucolic splendor and yelling a lot of weird things to some cabron named Foo.
“Mr. Foo! Here, boy!”
“Excuse me, sir.”
One of the officers approached Charlie while his partner stood back with his hand resting on his holster, just in case this well dressed little cherub should prove to be dangerous. Or in violation of some local zoning ordinance.
“You mind telling me what you’re doing here?”
“Sorry, officer. I’m looking for Mr. Foo.”
“Mr. Who?” the officer looked up from his note pad.
“Not who, officer. Foo…Mr. Foo.”
“Well, can you give me a description of this Mr. Foo?”
“He’s a dog. Belongs to my girlfriend, Bryana St.Cloud.”
Charlie then described how Mr. Foo had jumped out of Bryana’s Mercedes convertible close to this spot a couple of hours ago. Which was how he happened to be loudly exploring this particular neck of the woods at this point in time.
The notepad wielding officer looked away toward his partner, rolling his eyes.
Instead of the possible terrorist, B&E or stalker of celebrities they were hoping for, what they had here was common to Beverly Hills.
An overweight and eager to please husband, boyfriend or lover of some local trophy babe, searching high and low for her missing lap dog.
“I thought you said his name was Mister—“ the officer took a moment to refer to his notepad. “Poo.”
“Foo,” Charlie corrected the police officer. “Mr. Foo. Bryana is my girlfriend.”
“Well, can you describe the dog?”
“He’s about this big,” He held up his hands to illustrate. “Black and white male Lhasa Apso. He’s three years old and weighs ten, maybe eleven pounds.”
The officer looked up from his notes.
“Any distinguishing marks, scars or tattoos?”
Everyone’s uncle in the diamond business shrugged.
“Well, he’s got a brand new collar. Black patent leather and studded with, uh —.” Charlie caught himself in the nick of time. “--Rhinestones.”
Whether it was from the exertion of beating around the bushes just East of UCLA or a case of nerves from almost inadvertently spilling the beans to those sworn to protect and defend the citizenry of Beverly Hills, to say the man was merely sweating would have been a massive understatement. Charlie Kipniss had already soaked through his undershirt and his dress shirt, and was now darkening sections of his wool suit jacket.
“You have a picture of this Mr. Foo?”
Charlie shook his head and shrugged. Why in God’s name would he carry around snapshots of his girlfriend’s puppy from Hell?
“No, but Bryana and the dog were in an ad a little while ago. Big sun glasses, convertible with the top down, and Mr. Foo in her lap.”
His answer drew a blank from the cop asking all the questions. Not so with his partner.
“Yeah,” the other officer called out. “I think I remember. The dumb bitch is the one in the sunglasses, right?”
“Animal,” Charlie corrected the man. “The dumb animal is the one in the sunglasses.”
“And the dumb animal,” notepad man looked up from his scribblings. “That was Mr. Foo?”
“Actually,” he answered with a shrug and a sheepish smile. “It was supposed to be my girlfriend.”
“This little dog must mean a lot to you and her.”
Charlie nodded and then shrugged. “You have no idea.”
Finally satisfied with both Charlie’s story and his identification, the officer wrote down Charlie’s address, phone and driver’s license numbers, and then wished him good luck on his search.
Before climbing back into their patrol car, they suggested that instead of just ransacking the bushes and panicking the Hell out of the local domestic staff, that Charlie ring the doorbell and explain himself and his mission before diving into another property owner’s flora.
And who knows, maybe someone in the neighborhood picked the little guy up and is waiting to turn him over to his owner.
Charlie waived his thanks as the police officers drove away.
He should be so lucky.
* * *
Dinner and a fruitless search -- the perfect end to a day that had started out so freakin’ well.
It was almost eleven when Charlie got back to his house, not really sure what he was going to tell Bryana about not being able to find Mr. Foo.
Over the years she had gotten used to hearing only happy things, only good news. Thanks to Charlie, she had ‘people’ to handle the bills and expenses; the minor, boring and petty details; the no’s that could possibly be massaged into yesses.
Not that he couldn’t use someone like that right about now; someone to whom he could just say, “Oh by the way, my two million dollar dog collar? It’s gone, along with the dog. Be a dear and find them for me? Love you, babe”.
He breathed a huge sigh of relief as he noticed that the lights were all out in the house behind the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Sure enough, his little wannabe starlet must have lulled herself to sleep with a little Xanax and Merlot. Good.
Giving Bryana the bad news could wait until the morning.
But in the meantime, he couldn’t just sit there, doing nothing.
Not when his solvency was out there somewhere, running around Holmby Hills in the dark.
Charlie waddled quietly down the hallway and closed himself into his home office.
Then he turned on his computer and went to work.
Two hours later, he shut off the computer, removed the page from his printer, and went out to the garage.
A short time after that he was standing at the counter of a 24-hour Kinko’s just outside UCLA’s Westwood Village entrance, where he ordered a thousand copies of his document and spent the next ninety minutes impatiently waiting.
Ten thirty the next morning, Charlie unlocked his shop and politely held the door open for his employees, looking like anything but the successful jeweler for whom they all worked.
To begin with, he was sporting the bloodshot, thousand-yard stare of a man who hadn’t slept the night before.
Or arranged his few remaining follicles into their traditional comb-over.
Plus, he was still wearing the same suit as yesterday, creased, snagged in places and spotted here and there with burrs, bits of dead leaves and mud.
And we won’t even talk about his formerly new Ferragamo’s.
Had this been the ‘70’s, the era of disco, easy sex and Columbian marching powder, one look would have convinced anyone that even a yutz like Charlie Kipniss occasionally got lucky.
Clutched in his hand were the remaining hundred and twenty-six copies of his document, a lost pet circular.
He had spent the rest of the night stapling or taping a copy to every shop window in Westwood Village, every telephone pole throughout the business section of Beverly Hills, and the bulletin boards in every Starbucks from Brentwood to West Hollywood. He even wedged a hundred or so circulars under the windshield wipers of all the Accords and Camrys parked along the ever so slightly meaner streets, south of Wilshire in Beverly Hills.
The circular was the product of the two hours Charlie had spent in front of the computer in his home office, brow knitted in resolute concentration as he wrestled with completely new and unfamiliar software programs in an effort to create a notice that, once read, couldn’t fail to produce results.
“GIGANTIC REWARD!” The headline screamed.
At first, it simply and tastefully whispered, “Please Help Us.”
Then, Charlie decided the situation called for a touch less subtlety, so he amended the headline to politely call out, “Reward”.
Then the retail businessman in him staged a coup, wresting control of Charlie’s internal propaganda ministry and falling back on some of the tried and true approaches retailers have always employed to capture the public’s attention. But, since “LOST OUR LEASE”, “INVENTORY CLEARANCE” and “MOONLIGHT MADNESS SALE” didn’t quite seem to fit the bill, he settled on his stentorian appeal to the reader’s avarice and greed.
And the wording for his circular gave Charlie the opportunity to let the wordsmith inside really come out and play.
“Please help us! Mr. Foo, our adorable and much loved Lhasa Apso has vanished, leaving us heartbroken and grieving. He is black and white, three years old and wears a rhinestone collar. Mr. Foo disappeared on Sunset Blvd near the intersection of Beverly Glen. He is the light of our life and we would do anything to have him back with us, where he belongs. If you find Mr. Foo please call us, any time, day or night. He is worth more to us than money could ever buy, and if you find him, we will generously reward your kindness.”
However, the biggest problem with his homemade wanted poster came down to showing a picture of just whom it was that was wanted. The way he felt about Mr. Foo, there was no point in searching his own possessions for a photo of the dog. And since he didn’t want to chance waking Bryana by turning on the bedroom lights to look for one of her snapshots of her little barking psychotic, he was stuck.
Then he remembered the one photo he could get his chubby little fingers on – the one that captured both the dog and its mistress.
Unfortuantely, his expertise only extended to the kinds of computer programs and applications a small businessman might make use of. He could navigate his way around an Excel spreadsheet with the best of them and if pressed, could even process his own words.
But Photoshop? When it came to manipulating the digital photos stored on his computer, Charlie had less than no clue. And no way to edit out all the extraneous elements that would compete with Mr. Foo for the reader’s attention.
Which was how his lost pet wanted poster ended up carrying both an offer of a gigantic reward and the headline, “THE DUMB ANIMAL IS THE ONE IN THE SUNGLASSES.”