Why Was the Man with the Fancy Cars Waiting for a Bus in the Rain? (Northside)

Article excerpt

I am writing a historical detective novel, and one of the by-products of this is that I have begun to see the whole world in terms of clues and mysteries, the whole of London especially. London is a vast disjunction, a constant series of ellipses, interspersed with occasional, blinding revelations of truth. But let me get down to facts, and The Case of the Man with the New Dog.

A man who lives very near me, but about whom -- this being London -- I know absolutely nothing, always used to walk around with a Jack Russell. The dog wasn't a puppy, but it wasn't that old. It was well trained, and would follow at the man's heels. About three weeks ago, however, I saw the man walking down our high street with another dog: a brown Labrador. It was just as well trained as the jack Russell, and, like the jack Russell, it was following about a foot behind the man. He wasn't paying it any particular attention, as you might expect a man to do with a new dog, and, moreover, the Labrador was not a puppy.

After one of those typical London interludes of coming to a stand in the street and thinking: "What the hell is going on there?", I decided that the jack Russell must be back at his house, and that he must be walking someone else's dog. But I have seen him several times since, always with the brown Labrador, and without the jack Russell, which I suppose must be dead, in which case I must express my disapproval of the unseemly haste with which it was replaced. …