A Life Less Ordinary

 

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The End

The next day was looking like a big one. According to what Mona told me when she got back from the audition, she’d find out in the morning of that day whether or not she got the role. Apparently it was to play a guest spot on a long-running television series about a man on the run or something. Funny the way art reflects real life sometimes, isn’t it?

After the funeral at two, we’d have about half an hour to get to the church for the bridal ceremony. Although the idea seemed strange at the start, I began to think that it would work quite well -- after all, what better way to distract Argyle from his Dad’s funeral than to have him married and off on his honeymoon? They were going to a five-star hotel about two hours’ drive from the location of the ceremony. I agreed to put Dog into his own little canine hotel before going on my way.

Most of the wedding was already planned, right down to the music to be played and the words to be spoken. The whole thing was expected to take about half an hour and then I was free to get out of the outfit as quickly as possible. We’d have a drink together before they left and everything would be wonderful. It was about at this point that I began to hope that it all would run that smoothly, because if it didn’t, after the stresses of the last few days, then you’d better book a place for me in the nearest mental hospital. Again.

Stresses? You’d better believe it. I’d taken all three of them -- including Dog, of course -- to dinner the previous night. We’d just walked out when they walked in. It was the same when Argyle and I went out for a walk during the time of Mona’s audition. If Argyle hadn’t been so wrapped up in his own thoughts, he’d probably have thought I was losing my mind and I know that thought definitely crept into Dog’s mind at least once.

* * * * * * * * *

I must say that this Jarod fellow, a friend of Master Argyle's, has completely cracked. Lately, each time we have gathered for a meal or an evening constitutional, the man grabs, pushes, and shoves us all in a different direction. Granted, it is generally as a direct result of seeing those four strange people from earlier -- the one missing a thumb, the bald skittish one, the older, distinguished one, and the bitch, no, please forgive me, the woman who is now in need of a bandage for her nose; or not, I might not have nipped her that hard. Anyway, Jarod has lost all his faculties and is in dire need of mental stabilization. Too bad none of my canine friends has a place in one of those lovely mental institutions.

* * * * * * * * *

The Capital Hotel
Long Beach, California

“Look, Andromeda’s obviously not here,” Lyle snarled. “What are we still hanging around for?”

“The funeral, remember?” Miss Parker rolled her eyes. “Believe me, none of us are too keen to be here either.”

“Why don’t we just give the whole operation the thumbs-down and you three can go back to Blue Cove?” he suggested.

“Didn’t you say your father wanted you back when we came, Lyle?” Sydney reminded him.

Lyle muttered something inaudible and turned to stare out the window.

“Look, we’ve only got another twenty-four hours,” Miss Parker told him, surprising both herself and Sydney by the calmness of her tone. “Then we’ll be able to give up on what seems to be a complete goose chase that we’ve been sent on, simply in order to amuse the Triumvirate, and head back to the Centre.”

“Fine,” the man growled, storming over to the door and pulling it open. “But there had better not be any disruptions to that plan. I don’t want to find myself running all over Long Beach, chasing after loose ends.”

* * * * * * * * *

The big day dawned with the nicest weather that could be hoped for at that time of year, and I went out for an early-morning walk to try and clear my head. No, we hadn’t been drinking the night before or anything like that. At Argyle’s insistence I’d tried on the tuxedo again instead. If that isn’t enough to give a person a hangover, I’m not sure what is. Apart from a quick duck into an alleyway when I saw Lyle out for a jog, it was quite an uneventful outing, so I got to Argyle’s apartment just in time to hear the phone ringing.

* * * * * * * * *

Argyle's Apartment
Long Beach, California

Argyle let Jarod in and hustled him into the kitchen where Mona had just picked up the phone to find out if she had been given the role. As the two men watched, she listened silently, thanked the person on the other end and then sat down at the kitchen table and began to sob. Exchanging worried glances, Argyle and Jarod moved to either side. Finally she looked up.

“I got it.”

They looked at her skeptically.

“Are you sure?” both men asked simultaneously.

”That’s what they said.”

She began to sob again happily as Argyle hugged her. “I knew you would!” He ginned at Jarod. “I told you, Jay-man! My Mona…”

Smiling, Jarod stepped back and let them celebrate. He also made a very firm decision not to turn on the television in any of his future lairs, should it happen to have one, just in case…

* * * * * * * * *

The Capital Hotel
Long Beach, California

Miss Parker blew her nose and then dropped the tissue into the bin that, despite being only ten o’clock in the morning, was already full to overflowing. Muttering a curse, she walked over and shut the window that some overly helpful maid had left open after cleaning the room while the four people had been at breakfast. Impatiently she began to pace the length of the room. Sydney looked up from the sofa, where he was reading.

“Time passing slowly?”

”It’s like having teeth pulled,” she growled, sitting down in the seat opposite him.

“Only a few more hours, Parker.”

“Great, thanks,” she muttered, getting to her feet again and continuing to pace. A moment later, the door opened and Broots walked in, a can of drink in his hand.

“Don’t you knock?”

“Well, I…I didn’t think that…I thought that with Syd being here…”

Even as the psychiatrist looked up, the man dropped the can onto the floor where it popped open, the contents fizzing out all over the carpet. Rolling her eyes, Miss Parker was about to snap out an appropriate response when Lyle marched through the doorway. Stepping on the can, where it lay on the floor, he skidded, causing the mug of coffee in his hand to fly through air, landing with a tinkle of broken china on the floor. Stifling a laugh at the look on both men’s faces, Sydney turned back to his book while Miss Parker simply shook her head.

“Well,” she commented loudly to the room in general. “We’re certainly all fingers and thumbs at the Centre, aren’t we?”

* * * * * * * * *

So, despite the excess emotion, the day was off to a good start. The funeral that came next was a quiet and somber affair. As I expected, there were only three of us there -- sorry, four. The whole thing lasted about half an hour and then, after seeing Benny laid to rest beside his beloved Adela, we all made our way to the church. Thankfully, I didn’t have any nerves to calm in Argyle. With Mona being in the vestry, he could hardly worry about her not being on time, or not turning up at all. Once we were dressed, I made a determined effort not to look in a single one of the mirrors we passed on the way into the church.

* * * * * * * * *

I cannot cease the laughter. Have you seen the get-up Argyle put Jarod into for this wedding? Though, I suppose I should not be laughing too loudly; Master Argyle has tucked my doggy-self into an orange bowtie. ORANGE. Firstly, I am a dog; dogs do NOT wear bowties. Second, the thing is orange; no one wears orange bowties. Well, with the possible exception of Argyle, but he’s not mentally stable, therefore excused in this case. This wedding had better not break into my napping time.

* * * * * * * * *

Funeral Home
Long Beach, California

Miss Parker gazed superciliously around the room at the assembled mourners, a slight smirk on her face as she looked around at the group. To one side Broots stood, trying not to sniff to loudly after the warning glare that she had shot him earlier and Sydney, on her other side, was sitting with no expression on his face whatsoever. At this point she was forced to suppress a sneeze, making her eyes water, and she took out a tissue to wipe them. This caused a woman along the row to give her a sympathetic look, which, much to her annoyance, Miss Parker was completely unable to explain the non-necessity of. She contented herself with glaring around the building before beginning an in-depth examination of the new six-inch stilettos that she had purchased the day before.

* * * * * * * * *

Despite the fact that the only taste the two of them had was in their mouths, their ceremony itself -- once I could forget the outfit I was wearing -- was actually kind of nice. Once Argyle and I were in position, Dog began to make his way down the aisle in time to the music that was playing. In his mouth was a basket in which sat a ring that Mona would give Argyle when the time was right.

* * * * * * * * *

Okay, not to step on Jarod's toes here, this is his story, but what the…? Not only am I obligated to don this horrific orange bowtie, but I am now, also, required to cart this basket down the aisle of a church. I do not recall this being one of my duties as a dog or a pet. Argyle's book must be an out-dated copy or missing a few key pages.

Now, back to Jarod.

* * * * * * * * *

Following him was the bride herself. Okay, so the dress might have been a little overdone. A lot overdone. But we’re not too surprised by that, are we? No, I didn’t think so. Still, it was obvious from the look in Argyle’s eyes that he was still just as in love with her as he had been when she walked into Dick Dixon’s office and traded his heart for a bucket of quarters. Just watching the two of them, I could almost forgive them for the outfit they were making me wear. Almost.

As soon as the ceremony was over, I shot off to the back room and got out of the tuxedo as fast as possible, making a firm mental decision at the same time not to let anybody else choose my clothes for a long time. Coming out of the room, I found all three of them waiting near the church exit. This was the nice part -- a nice, stress-free chat before waving them goodbye and finding my next challenge. At least that was the way it was supposed to be…

* * * * * * * * *

Funeral Home
Long Beach, California

Miss Parker was the first person out the door when the funeral ceremony was over. Impatiently, she stood by the church doors, waiting for the other three to appear, and seriously considering leaving without them if they didn’t hurry. As soon as they did appear, she hustled them over to the vehicle.

“Right, we go back to the hotel, grab our things, head straight for the airport, get rid of the car and jump on the jet. Any complaints, objections, whatever, you can save them for when we get back to Blue Cove.”

The car shot out of the parking lot so fast that several people had to move out of the way to avoid being run over. They made record time back to the hotel and she glanced at her watch.

“Five minutes.”

Glaring at the three men, she stormed into the building without giving any of them the chance to say a word, and was back at the car herself in less than two, both hands impatiently tapping the steering wheel. As soon as they were ready, she left the parking lot as if the police were after them. They got two blocks before a stretch-limousine, parked outside a church, blocked their way.

* * * * * * * * *

Neither Mona nor Argyle had bothered to change their clothes. I think both were so pleased with the color scheme that they decided to stay in them until they got to their hotel. Just as we were finishing our drinks, the stretch-limousine that had been ordered to take them to the hotel where they would spend their honeymoon pulled up, blocking traffic as it reversed into the driveway of the church. With Dog at my side, I waited until Argyle had given his pet one final hug and turned to me.

“Jay-man…Jay-dog…”

It wasn’t often that Argyle was truly speechless, but I guessed, on this occasion, that he had good reason to be. I accepted a warm hug from Mona and also one from Argyle.

“Take care of yourselves. Have a good time.”

“Thanks, Jay-man.”

“No problem, Argyle. Just go and enjoy your honeymoon.”

I waved as they got into the car and saw it pull out into the traffic before looking down to where Dog was pulling on my trouser leg. Bending down, I picked him up, gently removing the bow tie that, despite stringent efforts, he hadn’t been able to take off before.

“What is it?”

That was when I saw it.

Them.

All four of them.

Less than a hundred yards away.

And I saw them see me.

And that was when I started running.

Go to Epilogue

 
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