Friday, March 18, 2011

FICTION: BOX 13 By David Perlmutter

Sunnuva Gun, private investigator extraordinaire, found herself in a tight spot. A tight spot that she didn’t seem able to get out of, at least not right away.

She wiped her head with sweat from her paw (for she was, as were nearly all the people in this brave new world, a dog) to straighten out the crease in the top of her hair, straightened the lapels of her blue suit (which she preferred to more conventional feminine wear), pulled out her small black “rod”, and emerged from behind the waterfront packing crate where she had hidden herself from her three pursuers.

“I got ya, ya mugs!” she warned them with a vicious snarl. And she emphasized this fact with a shot that knocked one of them to the ground. “Whatcha gonna do now, huh? Whatcha gonna do?”

The two remaining thugs jumped out from behind their place of concealment. One of them picked Gun up and held her tightly by the wrists, as if he had some nefarious purpose in mind for her. But it wasn’t at all what you might expect, as he said:

“We’re gonna…..DANCE!”

And they began a bizarre display of show business performance such as the world had never seen. Such singings, such dancings, such lovin’...


She woke up as soon as the bucket of cold water splashed into her face. Sputtering indignantly, she fell off the couch in the lounge of her private eye office and landed with a thud on the ground.

David Sealyham, Gun’s preteen private secretary and office manager, as well as the only dog she trusted with her private affairs, stood over her with an empty bucket of water. His modest outfit of grey tweed and red bow tie did much to disguise his brilliantly analytical mind, which made him an invaluable asset to her, though she, with her feminine machismo, would never admit to that.

In any event, Gun, having fallen off her couch, moved her face and body upward until it met her young associate’s gaze.

“Hey, Dave!” she said churlishly. “Next time I’m sawin’ wood, you mind just givin’ me a shove?”

“I tried that,” David replied. “You were out like a light!”

“I sleep heavily,” said the detective. “You know that!”

She regained her feet, and with her full greyhound form she resumed her normal statuesque figure, towering over the little terrier. Bur she was a friend, so she held no fear for him.

“Who is it, Dave?” she asked.

“A visitor. Might be a client.”

“Well, we can’t know that unless I talk to him.”

And, just as in her dream, she slicked back her head fur and strolled jauntily into the front office. It was typical of her to assume a position of sexual dominance with male clients, in case the potential for romance existed. But most of the time, male clients were too grossed out by her make-out techniques to even consider the possibility of union with her. David could have warned her not to do it, but he chose not to warn her this time. Instead, he simply rolled his eyes.

He needn’t have worried about Gun molesting some innocent boy. For the male in the office was an old friend- an old friend who needed her help.

He was a Canadian Eskimo dog named Stefane, who spoke with a mild but prominent French accent that, while commonplace in his native country, stood out like a sore thumb in these now heavily divided United States of America. So, too, did the blue turtleneck sweater he always wore, which added to his reputation among the neighborhood wits as a “wimp”. But those who knew him in the civic political scene in which he excelled, including Sunnuva Gun herself, knew that this was not the case. He had ambitions to be Mayor of Hugopolis, the city they lived in, and, this being an election year, he had decided to take the plunge and run for the office. But he still had some concerns that he now wished to confide to his friend the detective, as she sized him up behind her desk.

“Evenin’, Stefane!” Gun said to her acquaintance. “So how is the new Mayor doing?”

“It hasn’t happened yet, Sun!” Stefane said bashfully, blushing. Then he became more serious. “But the way things are, I doubt it’s going to happen at all!”

“How do you figure that?” the detective asked. “You’ve been representing the ward for as long as I can remember. No way the folks around here would turn their back on you if they had the chance. That includes a certain private detective whose career you happened to jump start, by the way.”

“I know,” he answered. “I did you that favor, so, possibly, you could do me one as well.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have competition for the chair of the Mayor. Big competition.”


“The Harper machine.”

“Lyndon W. Harper and his boys?”

“Yeah. They’re threatening to rub me out if me and the Grits run against them. I’m not sure what I should do.”

The Democratic and Republican parties having vanished with the human beings who created them, the canines of this new world had reverted to the gangland warfare that had characterized politics in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two gangs, the Grits, who favored centrist economic policies benefitting the civic centers, and the Tories, who favored stimulation of rural communities and suburban neighborhoods, had been fighting viciously with each other on a regular basis through biased “elections” held at intervals which were not beneficial to the voters, let alone the “politicians” who headed up the gangs in the various cities where the elections were contested. The Grits currently held Hugopolis, but the Tories, having now called an “election” in the city, looked to change this. Which was why Stefane was now fearful of losing his life. And why he was now asking Sunnuva Gun for help.

She had an answer for him, and she gave it fast.

“Sure, I’ll help!” she said. “LWH has done enough damage in this country for somebody without a brain in his head. No way he takes over Hugopolis without a fight. What do you need? A gunsel? An investigator? A bodyguard?”

“All three.”

“Then you’ve got all three. For the price of one.”

Gun and Stefane shook paws. Theirs had been a fateful alliance and would continue to be so. Gun called David into the room.

“I’m going to be out campaigning with Stefane for a few days, ‘til the election’s over.” she told him. “If I need you, I’ll call. Think you can keep the office running while I’m gone?”

“Like clockwork.” the youth said. And she knew he meant it.


The first major test for the duo came a few days later, as a multi-party political rally converged on the main square, in the courtyard of City Hall in downtown Hugopolis. At first, when Stefane arrived, and Sunnuva Gun came typically loaded for bear with her arsenal of weaponry, it seemed as if nothing truly important was going on. The only sparks in the air occurred when Stefane delivered a rousing speech excoriating the mistakes of the previous Mayoral administration and vowing that he and the Grits would do better if elected to office, especially regarding the poor quality of the air and environment. This pleasant scene lasted for only a few seconds longer, for that was when the Tories showed up and ruined everything.

Their interruption consisted of a helicopter that began hovering over City Hall at the exact moment when Stefane finished his speech, effectively denying him any extended response from the audience. So, too, did the loud rock music by the ancient human rock ‘n’ roll band Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose leader bellowed out some bizarre lyrics about a 737 and the state militia. To cap this disruption off, Lyndon W. Harper, in typical politician gray and a Stetson hat and assisted by three associates- tall, medium and short- dressed the same way, ran out of the landed helicopter, pushed Stefane away from the podium, and rustled some papers in his German Shepherd paws. Fortunately, Sunnuva Gun was there to catch her friend before he fell off the wooden platform to which the podium was attached.

“Hello, insert town name here!” said Harper, obliviously and stupidly reading from a prepared script as he waved his oversized hat in the air, which he promptly placed back on his head. “You ready for change?”

He got a lukewarm response, at least until his three aides un-holstered pearl handled revolvers and shot them at the crowd, wounding a couple of dogs who unfortunately came into contact with the stray bullets. At which point, a strong but clearly forced burst of applause came from what was left of the crowd.

“Now, you must be wondering what sort of things I have in mind for this town when I win your little election,” LWH said, as if it were an eventual certainty. “Well, I got a few ideas. First of all, y’all are going to have to start wearin’ hats in public. Even you that don’t like wearin’ ‘em- you’ll get used to it! Second of all…”

At this point, a swift gust of wind, as if on cue, blew the hat off of Harper’s head and sent it flying down the street. For Harper, this was a catastrophe, as he had almost a psychological obsession with his wardrobe, especially his hats. Especially since they covered up the premature mange on his head, and especially because they cost him a lot of money. For this reason, when the hat blew off Harper’s head, he quickly turned to the youngest and smallest member of his entourage, a preteen mutt named Jimmy Pickles, with an order forming in his head. That order quickly came ushering out of his mouth:

“Get mah hat!”

Pickles, who was relatively new to the LWH organization, stood and observed the hat rolling down the street.

“It’s just a hat,” he said to Harper.

“It ain’t just no hat!” LWH answered, now fuming with rage and towering over his young aide. “I needs that hat! That hat cost me fo’ hundr’d dolla’!”

“You can buy a new one.” answered Pickles.

“You get mah goddamn hat, boy!”

“Why I gotta get your hat?”

“’Cause you an irritating little shrimp whose ass I’m-a gonna kick if you don’t get back mah hat! Now get mah goddamn HAT!”

Pickles ran off the platform to fetch LWH’s “goddamn hat”, which had now come into the possession of a puppy no older nor bigger than himself. A fight ensued, but he eventually got the hat back. In the meantime, Harper was unable to continue his speech, which made it easier for the next Mayoral candidate to enter and replace him at the podium.

His name was Danny Dilly, and, like Stefane, he was a Canadian, albeit from the province known informally as “The Rock” and formally as the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He was, appropriately, of the Newfoundland breed, stocky and black furred. And one accustomed to shoveling up as much trouble as he could, as he was going to do now.

“Dis dog…” he said in his customary Newfoundland patois, pointing to Harper as he did, “…is a liar. I, Danny Dilly, is considerably more qualified to be your Mayor. I is not only more intelligent than he is, but I knows more about treatin’ people wit’ kindness dan dis jerk…” again pointing to Harper “…ever t’ought about givin’ to people in his whole life…”

“Gimme back that mic-ore-o-phone, Dilly!” demanded Harper. “I ain’t done my speechifyin’!” He now sported his hat, which Pickles had now firmly inserted on the back of his head.

“You ain’t qualified to do no speechifyin’, let alone talking to people intelligent like!” answered Dilly. “Dat’s MY department!”

The two would-be Mayors fought with each other verbally, with loud and profane words on both sides, and physically, in the process smashing down the podium and platform and electrocuting themselves with the split microphone cord. The public scattered as the platform fell down in a haze of dust.

Fortunately, Stefane and Sunnuva Gun were nowhere near the platform, having backed away from it as soon as Harper and Dilly began their argument. They were thus able to observe things from a distance than the others, with their lack of intelligence, could not comprehend.

“Do you see now what I am dealing with here?” Stefane said to the detective. “They are so busy fighting with each other that they don’t consider me a viable candidate.”

“But that should be an asset, don’t you think?” said Sunnuva Gun. “I mean, you’re the dark horse. If they’re so busy fighting each other, then they won’t take you seriously, and then it’ll be plenty easy for you to move in and take over.”

“You don’t know these people the way I know them,” replied Stefane. “They won’t stop until I’m out.”

“Of the race?”

“Not just in the political sense.”

“I see.”

The melee at the platform now finished, the police began the slow but steady process of dispersing the crowd. Bur some of those people would not leave. In fact, they headed straight for Stefane and Sunnuva Gun.

Lyndon W. Harper, surrounded by his attendants, approached the duo. Gun reached for one of the numerous weapons in her coat, in case they tried anything smart. Danny Dilly also tried penetrating this session, but Harper’s largest aide picked him up and threw him away before he could say anything.

“Hello there,” Harper said, with fake warmth. “I’m just checkin’ out the competition, what little there is of it.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” asked Stefane.

“I just mean that you ain’t the type who can run a city wit’ the efficaciousness people expects!” Harper replied. His associates laughed, as if on cue. Fortunately, Sunnuva Gun made herself known by stepping between the politicians before anything bad could happen, at least at that moment.

“You aren’t doing any of the stuff you had in mind to him or to this town, Lyndon W. Harper!” she snapped. “Not if I have anything to say about it!”

“And just who are you?” Harper demanded.

“Sunnuva Gun’s the name, and I am a private detective!” she answered. “I’ve been hired to ensure that nothing of an illegal nature is done by you to eliminate the other candidates or fix the vote! That means, in case your tiny little Southern brain is unable to understand, that I will personally keep an eye on you and your goons if I have to and make sure that this election is fought fairly, with no gerrymandering, vote rigging or candidate murders. If I remember correctly, that’s how you’ve been installing your puppets in the cities of what is left of the United States of America so far, but this time it won’t work! And be warned…” and here she displayed an oversized Magnum with an elongated nozzle to Harper’s eyes “…I have a large collection of this and other shooting type machines on my person at all times, and believe me, I know how to use all of them!”

“Okay,” Harper said, sweating. “I get it. Let’s cut it, boys!”

The Harper entourage departed as soon as they had arrived, leaving Gun and Stefane alone in the town square.

“Well…” Gun said, putting her gun in her pants pocket. “That was easy!”

“That time it was easy,” Stefane said. “But the Tories don’t usually give up this fast.”

“Ah, what are they gonna do?” she answered. “Blow something up?”

Sure enough, on a nearby block, an explosion occurred. They rushed to the scene, and found that Stefane’s scooter, on which they had ridden into town, was gone. All that was left was a pile of rubble, and a mysteriously undamaged note, which simply said:




Following the explosion, Gun determined that it was necessary to keep her friend the candidate safe from harm for the remaining time allotted to the campaign. While he would continue to make personal appearances under the detective’s protection, he would stay with her in her office until such time as she felt it was safe to go out on his own again. Therefore, when David returned to the office the following day, he was surprised to find his employer and her associate occupying the spot as living quarters.

After Sunnuva informed him of the change in their plans, he understood and volunteered to put his brain to work for their good.

“We can’t take any risks!” David said. “We’ll have to find some way to keep Stefane safe for the remainder of the campaign!”

“But how?” said Stefane. “I am expected to do so many campaign events. If I don’t show up at them, my credibility will surely be damaged.”

“What do you think I’m here for?” Gun inquired. “You brought me in to have your back, didn’t you? Well, that’s what I’m doing. They won’t be able to hurt you if they don’t know where you are, will they?”

“Right.” answered Stefane. “But where…”

“We take you out to the cabins on the outskirts of town, you worry wart!” the detective answered. “They wouldn’t think of looking for you there, huh, Dave?’

“Sure!” said David. “Those cabins are mighty comfortable any time of the year. I know ‘cause I live in one with my Mom.”

“And he can keep an eye on you there and make sure you’re safe,” added Gun. “Come on, Stefane! You’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Except perhaps the election,” Stefane answered. “And my life.”

“Oh, don’t you worry about that!” said the detective, hustling him out of the room with David at her heels. “We’ll take care of the details. You just relax.”

They would not have felt as comfortable had they actually turned around and noticed the mysterious stranger who had been at the window the entire time.


That evening, a small fleet of scooters left the main drag of Hugopolis and headed towards a grove of trees and miscellaneous plants located near the city. This was the location of the cabins mentioned in the previous section of this tale, and the occupants of those scooters, obviously, were David Sealyham, Sunnuva Gun and Stefane. The three scooters slid easily down an overpass into the seclusion of the grove, where their owners disembarked and removed the helmets they were wearing.

“We’re here!” said David, stating the obvious. Gun and Stefane followed him as he walked into the main courtyard, where the cabins were laid out around them in a semi-circular pattern. Half of them were occupied all year, the others taken only for seasonal periods. Gun and David intended to have Stefane work out of one of the vacant cabins during the campaign, coming back into town for speeches and other events under the strict protection of the detective at all times. And, in the interim, Stefane would be free of further attempts on his life. Or so they thought.


Earlier assessments of the safety of the cabin grove from outside invasion would soon prove to be erroneous.

Just as Gun and Stefane went to join David at Stefane’s cabin, a shot rang out. Then another. Gun knew what to do.

“Duck!” she instructed to David and Stefane. “Somebody’s found us out!”

With a powerful blast from her oversized Magnum, Gun shot at where, with her advanced canine senses, she perceived the shots were coming from. The gunman in the shadows shot at her three more times, and each time she returned his fire. Finally, while taking time out to admire herself in a compact mirror, Gun fired her last shot. It was a direct hit. A cry of pain emanated from the bush, and the previously unknown gunman fell out onto the ground. The gunman was immediately identifiable. It was Flaherty, the medium sized one of Lyndon W. Harper’s sycophantic aides.

Without a moment lost, Sunnuva Gun raced over towards Flaherty, put her foot on his white mongrel back, and directed another one of her copious guns at his head.

“Okay, buddy!” she growled. “You better explain this- and but quick!”

“Put the rod down and I’ll talk!” said Flaherty.

She let him up and he explained. LWH was determined to eliminate his competition, all of it, by tracking their every movement through radio communications and then assigning members of his team to kill them so they wouldn’t be running against him any further. This was the reason he had won every election he or his chosen candidates had entered; it was entirely a matter of blood and bullets. Flaherty had been assigned to kill Stefane, and he had been tracking the trio ever since they left the city. What LWH and his team had failed to anticipate, though, was the tenacity of the detective Stefane had hired to help him out during the campaign.

“Well, you’re not getting him as long as I’m around!” the detective warned. “Now go ahead and tell your boss, if you’re not afraid of fetching his goddamn hats for the rest of your life!”

Before Flaherty could do that, however, another shot rang out from behind the bushes. Flaherty was shot in the back and fell to the ground, dead. Just afterward, a piece of paper, carried by the wind, blew into Gun’s face. Picking it up, she read it. It said:



The implication was clear, but it was not enough to scare them off. It simply made them more determined to achieve their stated goal.


For the next two weeks, except for the obligatory public appearances, Stefane was kept tightly and completely out of sight, courtesy of Sunnuva Gun and her young charge. There was some expected flack from the press, who criticized the fact that Stefane was becoming more aloof from the people who could make or break his career- the voters. But if they had been in complete possession of the facts- and their senses- things would have worked out differently.

Finally, election night came. And with it, the resolution of our little drama.

Under the protection of Gun and David, Stefane made his way from the cabins outside of town into the hall his supporters had rented for the event. And there were plenty of these, since LWH, despite his flamboyant style, had not caught on with the electorate as he might have hoped. The polls and voters on the street suggested he had very little chance of winning the election, unless some sort of chicanery occurred at the polls. And this was exactly what Sunnuva Gun feared.

The returns began coming in, and fast. The sixteen wards that comprised the city of Hugopolis each had capacity turnout, so the numbers were unquestionably large. As it progressed, things looked good for Stefane and Danny Dilly, who split the majority of the vote and had supporters elected to City Council, and not as well for Lyndon W. Harper, who had a smaller vote share and no support on Council. He was shown via closed circuit TV gnashing his teeth and beating his paw into one of his “goddamn” hats. Sunnuva Gun looked into his eyes, and knew she would have a fight on her hands if he chose to contest the results- or to attack Stefane.

But then the lights went down…


“Sunnuva! Wake up, damn it! WAKE UP!”

Sunnuva Gun slowly opened her eyes. No longer in the hall, but still in her usual clothing, she had now assumed the position of a bum in the street, it appeared. She was inebriated, with a hangover, and now David Sealyham was standing over her, slapping her face and trying to get her up.

“Okay, okay!” she said, waking up. “I’ll get up. Just get off me first.”

David did, and then she did. Looking around, Sunnuva immediately questioned her surroundings.

“How the heck did I get here?” she asked David. “Last thing I remember I was in the hall, protecting Stefane. Where is he? No doubt in the chair at City Hall, right?”

David shook his head.

“The election was three days ago,” he said. “There’s still no results.”

“THREE DAYS?” exclaimed the detective. “How drunk was I at that thing?”

“Pretty bad. But that’s beside the point. Box 13, which has the votes for the 13th Ward, has gone missing. And so has Stefane. He just vanished when the lights came on. The word is that Harper and his boys did it, but there’s no proof of that yet.”

“What about Dilly? He had more votes. And he would benefit more from somebody rigging the votes.”

“No. He says he had nothing to do with it. And there’s no evidence connecting him with any potential rigging. All that there is points directly to Harper.”

“Has Stefane got in touch with you?” Gun asked.

“Constantly.” said David.

“And is he mad at me?”

“No. He knows what’s up with your little…”problem”. “

“But he still wants me to find him?”


“And did he say where he was?”

“No, but….HEY!”

Gun had shoved her young associate’s face into the ground, but he got up sooner than she expected.

“What’s the big idea?” David snapped. “My Mom’ll be pissed if you end up making me wreck my suit!”

“The big idea is that you’re going to help me track him down!” said the detective. “Sealyhams are natural hunters.”

“Yeah, but I’m supposed to dig for stuff in the ground!” David answered. “You can’t dig through asphalt! And besides, all dogs are hunters. Even you, if you want…”

“I DON’T HUNT!” she said, slapping his face. “I can run, sure, but my hearing and vision are CRAP, and you know it! Now, Dave, I hate playing my paw with you like this, but if you don’t help me out here, there’s a little matter of that back pay I owe you…”

“Objection withdrawn!” he said cheerfully. “Come on, Sunnuva! We have to go quickly if we don’t want to lose his scent!”

And so, he led on the search for Stefane’s scent, and she followed.


Unfortunately, they were too late to search for Stefane via scent and, finally, after David had exhausted his sniffer looking for a lead, they had to find another way to find him. Which was not long in coming, for Stefane called David on his cell phone once again. This time, David was able to turn the phone over to Gun, who, after enduring a round of French accented profanity, politely calmed him down and informed that she had been looking for him but, as yet, no progress had been made. So he calmed down and filled her in on what had been going on since she had blacked out three days before.

He had been kidnapped by Harper’s thugs just as the returns began to come in, and they had spirited him out after overpowering him. Along with that, they had removed Box 13 from its heavily guarded place in the 13th Ward, with a clear intent to kill him and disrupt the election returns in favor of Harper. The nefarious nature of the scheme was confirmed when Harper himself ripped Stefane’s cell phone out of his paws, and began talking to Sunnuva Gun himself.

“Look, dee-tective!” he said to her. “Get off my back!”

“Not a chance!” answered Gun. “You get him back here now! And don’t even think about dumping the votes, wherever it is you are!”

“The dam above the river!” Jimmy Pickles unexpectedly shouted into the phone.

“Will you SHUT IT?” Harper said to him. “You done gave us away!”

“I hope so!” Pickles said. “’Cause I hates you!”

The line went dead. Sunnuva Gun turned to David.

“Time for us to come to the rescue,” she said to him. He nodded his assent.


Sunnuva stopped briefly to change and load herself up with some more guns. Then she met David and they took off for the dam.

It was getting dark, but they were still able to make their way via senses other than sight. That, and the portable flashlight David always carried in case of emergencies. Strolling along the top of the dam, they soon encountered Lyndon W. Harper, trying and repeatedly failing to light a stick of dynamite, along with his two aides and their two captives: Box 13, bound with a tight lock, and Stefane, bound and gagged with robe and fabric. Unexpectedly, Jimmy Pickles ran towards the detective and her associate, clearly seeking protection.

“I need help!” Pickles exclaimed. “I’ll help you! I can turn State’s Evidence on everything we done. Just help me! He’s gonna kill me!”

“I won’t just do that!” Harper said. “I’ll matriculate you!”

He stalked towards Pickles but Gun blocked his path, pulled out her largest weapon, and aimed it at his face.

“You wanna negotiate…” she snapped “…or you wanna get your head blown off?”

“Let’s just remonstrate about this!” said Harper, taking a switchblade from his pocket, walking towards David, and holding the weapon at his throat. Two could play the blackmail game, it seems.

And so, Sunnuva Gun emptied the pockets of her coat and pants of enough firearms to arm the entire population of a Mississippi town in order to protect the life of her young charge. But, unlikely as that might seem, this one action ended up saving the day for the forces of good!

As the detective placed her final gun, a derringer with a pearl handle, on top of her pile of weaponry, the safety catch broke and the gun went off. The bullet caught Harper’s only remaining assistant in his leg. As the lummox staggered towards his doom over the side of the cavernous dam, he grabbed his employer and pulled him, too, towards the dam.

“Got dang it!” shouted Harper. “Releasify me momentously!”

But it was the end of them. They tripped over the prone body of Stefane on the ground and fell down to their doom as Harper continued complaining, shouting and protesting.

“That was easy,” Gun said to David.

With the aid of Jimmy Pickles, permanently converted to the side of good, they released Stefane and brought him back to town. Along with him, they brought back Box 13, which helped reveal the ultimate winner of the Hugopolis Mayoral election….


“I can’t believe you lost!” Gun said to Stefane the next day as they reviewed the returns.

“Well, I didn’t lose to Harper, at least!” Stefane replied.

“I know, but that Danny Dilly guy being Mayor- I just don’t know!” Gun said. “I mean, suppose he tries to make me give up all my weapons?”

The gun she was fondling in her paws went off, making her barely miss David’s head as he came into the room.

“I would say that would be an improvement!” David cracked.

They laughed. And then Sunnuva Gun punched David in the mouth.

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