From the author: Anthropomorph isn't just any place. So its local police force aren't just any cops....
THEY ARE OURS 2545 words
By David Perlmutter
Cate was waiting for me when I got off the bus, just as I suspected she would be. And she was frowning, very deeply, when she saw me, in typical cat-like fashion.
That didn’t necessarily mean she was mad at me. We were, after all, fellow Gennett police detectives partnered for a long period of time by this point. But, me being a dog, I knew there were deeply seeded resentments still brewing between her race and mine, even after all our efforts to put a united front on in public and show them that we don’t really hate each other, after all.
Even still, caution is always better than jumping right into things, be it just saying hello, or trying to conduct an investigation. Like we were now trying to do.
I tried to conceal my frustration at being pulled off duty when I thought I was going to have some time off that day. And, as usual, my frustration was aided by the fact that my mode of transportation had made me later to the scene of things than I wanted to be. Transit, not up to the best of standards even in normal time, had been thrown off schedule completely by this little incident downtown that now compelled my involvement.
Gennett, where I live and work, is the capital city of Anthropomorph, known erstwhile as the place where everything that is the product of the dreams of the people of Earth, such as yourself, lives and breathes, and is not a figment of somebody’s imagination. So it is that we have a thriving population of anthropomorphic beings, of all kinds and shapes. Many of them either commute to Hollywood to work in the moving images business, or they used to, and have settled back in with whatever small amount they made stored in the bank. Or they never left, because Hollywood didn’t want them at all.
Naturally, for any law-abiding society to function, a police force of some kind must exist to control the negative aspects of the society and prevent them from taking over. This is where I and my associate come in.
I, Darius Mongrel, have been a detective of the Gennett force ever since I was promoted several years ago. For all of that time, I have been partnered with Cate Manx, as feline as I am canine. A lot of people think that it’s somehow humorous that we got paired together, especially if they somehow manage to get here from Earth. There, apparently, cats and dogs are mortal enemies. Which came as a total shock to me and Cate when we learned of that, because our relationship is completely the opposite.
Anyway, I’m getting off track filling things in. I better concentrate on the main line of this story….
What had happened was the usual sort of freak-out that happens when any sort of “real world” (i.e. Earth) problem comes to call in our neighbourhood, as it does much more often than you think. A downtown building had been hit with a mysterious package containing a white powder. (Sound familiar?). This led to the building being evacuated and the entire area around it being closed to all traffic except a small quadrant, which was being controlled manually by actual officers as opposed to the lights. In turn, this led to chaos on the roads, as everyone, being forced to turn to alternative routes in order to motor around, clogged up certain areas which normally have very little traffic whatsoever.
So, consequently, the bus that normally gets me downtown lickety-split was over half an hour late. Which, for a habitually punctual person like myself, is ridiculously unacceptable.
As a result, when Cate faced me with her frowning face, I gave her one back, for once.
“Where have you been?” she demanded, pointing to the watch on her wrist.
I dramatically gestured to the bus I had just gotten off of, as well as the several others parked behind it.
“I was detained,” I answered.
“Well, at least now that you’re here, you can get the chief to curse at you loudly. Like she’s been doing with me ever since this started.”
“It’s that bad, huh?”
“Why else would we have called you in here, away from the precious jazz CDs you keep sequestering yourself away with when your presence isn’t needed?”
“I value my privacy,” I answered, through gritted teeth.
She’d hit a sore point. We’re different that way. I come in and work in the office when I have to be there, and nothing more. But, as far as I know, she doesn’t have a life apart from being a cop.
However, she quickly realised the wound she inflicted, and became friendlier.
“Sorry, Darius,” she said. “I need to stop being so presumptuous about other people’s lives. Particularly yours.”
“No matter,” I said. “So: what about the powder?”
“Usual stuff,” she answered, switching back to business. “Somebody sent this package in here, with the typical exotic postmark. Someplace in Canada I never heard of before, name of Winnipeg. But that’s not the point. It had white powdery stuff inside of it. You know we can’t take any chances when that kind of thing’s involved. So that’s where you come in.”
“To do what?”
“You gotta smell it.”
For a second after that, I must have had some sort of look of confusion and outrage on my face, because Cate reacted like I was going to bite her. Which I would never do, but still….
“Listen,” she said. “The chief said you had to do it.”
“Why do you think?”
“You know that the enhanced sense of smell thing only applies to certain breeds. Bloodhounds, for instance...”
“Of which we have none amongst the detective ranks,” she reminded me. “No dogs- apart from you.”
“I’m aware of that. I’m also aware that, in the tangled, confused web of my ancestral lineage, there aren’t too many of the breeds with good noses that I just mentioned in there.”
She rolled her eyes.
“For crap’s sake, Darius!” she snapped. “I know you like playing the urbane, sophisticated, intelligent, non-moronic dog card whenever you can. But it won’t work this time. You know as well as I do why you got picked to be a detective in the first place. What sort of particular skills they value you for having, and, without which, you wouldn’t be here. So can you just do this one stereotypical dog thing, for once? I swear, if you do, I will never mention it again, if that helps.”
“It does,” I said. “Lead me to where the action is.”
So we went past the yellow tape barring entrance to all outsiders, and found the small cordoned off area where the package had been discovered. Someone had gone so far as to trace the package’s outline in chalk, like it was a murder victim. Totally unnecessary, by the standards of any Earth police, but par for the course among us anal-retentive non-humans.
Chief Toad was there, of course. As usual, she was suspended above things in her motorised hover-chair, which was the only way, as an amphibian, she could really keep up the pace with the mammals who made up the majority of her force. She cut a particular figure in her uniform, which was like that of a British “bobby”: all in blue with copper buttons on the jacket, and a conical helmet with a yellow star in the centre. It made her a figure of fun to the officers who rarely interacted with her, but Cate and I and our fellow detectives interacted with her more regularly, and knew she detested that frivolous conception of her intensely. So we knew better than to mock her- at least while we were in her presence.
She saw me, pointed at me with one froggy appendage, and asked me the same question Cate had.
“I was travelling on the bus, as I usually do,” I said. “Only today, conditions were less than ideal…”
“That’s neither here nor there,” she said, dismissively. “You know why we called you in.”
“Yes. But couldn’t you have done some sort of toxicological study on it? I mean, surely…”
“If we had the means to do a toxicological study on site,” she interrupted, “don’t you think we would have done it already? The problem is that kind of stuff is not portable. Besides, do you really want to overburden those poor fellows in the lab with more work? They’re stacked up with things as it is.”
“But how do you know that my nose would be a more effective way of dealing with this?”
“Are you trying to disobey me?” she growled.
“Nonsense,” I answered, with dignity. “I just want to make sure we do this the right way, that’s all.”
“This is the right way.”
There was no arguing with that line of reasoning. Not if I wanted to keep my job, anyway. So they gave me the stuff, sealed tightly in a plastic bag, and I went off to the nearest john to test it out.
I went through all the routines I had been taught at the academy, and the general practices for handling substances in the nasal passages that I knew from growing up and learning things as a dog in Anthropomorph. All of what you humans call your senses were involved, along with other more canine practices I can’t really go into here. It was a lengthy process that took some time. I smelled it, I tasted it and I touched it in multiple ways. I put it on my paws and my pelt, my lips and my fangs. I stained all the parts of my suit with it. And-of course, since it was utterly insisted upon, and something that apparently only I could do without side effects- I snorted it.
Nothing. Not at first, at least.
I ruled out all the white substances I could think of based on that heavy investigation. It wasn’t sugar, or flour. It was neither baking powder nor baking soda. It wasn’t powdered chalk, or limestone or mortar. And it was certainly not cocaine.
For any of those items, I would have seen, heard or felt its effects upon me when I ingested them, touched them or otherwise interacted with them.
But this was different.
For one thing, despite the Earth postmark, this was clearly something that had not originated there. It came from our world, Anthropomorph. That much was clear.
For another, I soon felt the effects of what it really was after I ingested it. It made me go dizzy, and then feel the need to vomit. (Good thing I was in a bathroom.) Besides which, I soon began to feel the effects of a powerful hallucinogen that can screw your mind up bad even with a little taste. Your LSD has got nothing on this stuff, believe me.
But the effects are temporary and less toxic the less of it that you have, and I’d only ingested less than a gram, so it passed and I was all right.
And I suddenly realised what was going on. Which then made me leave the john to tell the others.
“Mudroo?” said Cate, uttering the name of the offending substance, with great incredulity.
The stuff, thankfully, isn’t found outside of Anthropomorph. So why would it be sent back here from Winnipeg? Which is what the chief then asked me.
“Because it didn’t come from Winnipeg,” I said. “This is home-grown stuff.”
“How did you know it was Mudroo?” asked the chief.
“The rushes started in after I took a pinch. It could be nothing else.”
“So,” mused Cate, “there are some Anthropomorph beings out in Winnipeg, who are manufacturing Mudroo out there, since they know it’s not legal to do so here, or anywhere, and they’re shipping it out of there to sell in here…”
“Winnipeg’s got nothing to do with this,” I said.
“Why would they put the name of the place on the package, then?” said the chief.
“To fool us,” I answered. “To make it appear as if there were people, not necessarily non-humans, who were busy cooking the stuff up to sell to the poor schmucks here who overdose on it daily. That way, whenever or wherever they got arrested here, they could blame Earth for it, and get off the hook for it.”
“Why would they want to blame Earth for our drug problem?”
“That speaks for itself. You know how much raw material and labor Earth has taken out of Anthropomorph over their lifetimes. Especially Hollywood.”
Cate and the chief both nodded comprehendingly.
“Certainly,” said Cate. “We’d be out of a job if it weren’t for all the idiots who commit crimes here and then say that they wouldn’t have done it if Hollywood hadn’t ripped off Anthropomorph for one thing or another.”
“It did happen that Hollywood has been unfair to us,” said the chief. “But that’s no reason for them to go and blame something that has nothing to do with their crime for the fact that they committed the crime in the first place. That’s just an abdication of responsibility. And the fact that it’s entirely internal forces within Anthropomorph, people with nothing to do with Hollywood whatsoever, makes it even more of a tragedy.”
“Exactly,” I said. “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”
It wasn’t too hard to solve things after that. We targeted all of the illegal Mudroo operations in the city- of which there are a lot more than you might think- and got the suppliers booked and questioned by me and Cate. Most of them had nothing to do with the attempted mock smuggling from Canada, and we let them go with the proper warnings. But the one who confessed was really sick in the head. He’d been sampling too much of his product, if you get my meaning. He said he was going to make sure that all the “stupid” animators and other people in Earth were going to “pay” for “screwing” Anthromorph for such a long time, and he was the one to do it. Naturally, we locked up the guy tight and threw away the key.
Finally, I was able to go back home. But not before Cate cornered me.
“I bet you’re glad you used your nose now,” she said.
“I thought you weren’t going to mention that again,” I said.
“After this one time.”
“Well, yeah,” I admitted. “I mean, anything to get the job done.”
“Look, I know you’re kind of sore about the whole thing. I would be, too, if it was some sort of stereotypical cat thing, like hunting down a bird or a mouse. But you can’t let that get you down. These things just happen once in a while.”
“Of course. But it doesn’t mean it’s not demeaning.”
“You just go back to your solitary livelihood for a while. You earned it. But I’ll probably have to call you out here again, if something else comes up.”
“Undoubtedly”, I said, with some regret. For I knew she was right.
This story originally appeared in Strange Mysteries 8 (2019).