Word Count: 4,240 words.
Summary: Lassiter is staring at you with a smirk. If you decide to wrap your arms around him, turn to page 24. If you decide to take a step back and hold your hand up for a high five, turn to page 70.
You’ve been working on a case that’s trickier than tricky. ‘Puddinpop’, a golden Pekingese dog with apparently large soulful eyes and a green bow atop his head, was last seen at The Happy Chump Dog Walking Park six days ago. Ordinarily, you don’t take such trivial cases, but not only is the client hot, there’s a reward of $7000 cash.
Gus disagrees on taking the case until he hears about the money reward. He’s mostly just happy you’re finally working on another case for money instead of tickets to concerts (you didn’t know it was an opera) and items such as a first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (it’s a great book!)
Gus discovers that Puddinpop is not the first Pekingese to go missing within the past six months. Puddinpop is the nineteenth Pekingese to go missing within the past six months. None of the other dog owners had the genius thought of going to a psychic detective agency in order to find their beloved ones. There’s definitely a pattern, and through extensive interviewing, you reveal that this is connected with a shady-sounding company by the name of Johnson Industries. You do more research, and try to discover Johnson Industries’ base of operations, but keep coming up with dead ends.
The dog of fu is testing your google-fu, and though you’re usually extremely resourceful, you’re starting to think you’ve got to get some outside help.
If you decide to ask Carlton Lassiter (Head Detective for the Santa Barbara Police Department) for help, turn to page 51.
If you decide to ask your father (a former police officer) for help, turn to page 39.
Lassiter is signing off on reports when you whirl into the station, clicking your fingers at Buzz McNab and that cute uniformed cop with the awesome red hair and sparkling green eyes. You think about momentarily suspending your mission and talking to the young officer, but Lassiter has now seen you and is walking your way. He pulls himself to full height and forces you to look up into his face. Already, he looks unimpressed to see you there.
“Bonjour, Lassie,” you say, placing a hand on his arm, just because you can. “Comment allez-vous?”
“I don’t speak French,” Lassiter states, looking down at your hand with an arch of his eyebrow. The eyebrow of doom, as you like to think of it.
“Neither do I. For all I know, I could’ve just asked if you’d like to talk about my alley.”
“What do you want?”
“A great big pale blue Cadillac --- pink is such a cliché --- and a pony! Oh, oh, and definitely a fruit salad with extra pineapple. But what I need is your help.”
“No.” Lassiter goes to move away, but you grip on tight.
“Pretty please with a cherry on top? And whipped cream? And Lucky Charms?”
Lassiter gets this resigned look on his face, as if he’s realised that you’re not going to leave him alone until he at least listens to your request. You have his cellphone and house numbers, and have been known to call him up at four in the morning.
It was for an emergency, but you’re not going to deny you liked hearing his sleep-relaxed voice, all gravelled and low.
“I’ve hit a dead end with this missing dog case I’m working. The auras are fuzzed, the spirit world is shockingly silent. Every time I try to search for the answers, I’m blocked by a giant grey wall. I think there are dark forces at work. I need some tips on how to find a company called Johnson Industries.”
“And to think, once upon a time, you were solving actual murders.”
“And to think, once upon a time, you had no idea who I was, but now I can psychically divine the security code to your home alarm system.”
Lassiter grumbles, but sits down at his desk and begins rifling through the folders placed there. You catalogue the labels of these quickly in your mind, Kelly Westbrook, Tip Top Laundromat, Andy Berman, Rosario Roday; Johnson Industries leaps out at you.
“Johnson Industries, a low-end cosmetics company, wanted on accounts of fraud. I have a last known address here that I’ll give to you, as long as you stay out of my hair.”
“You should really think about putting some more product in that,” you say, carding your fingers through Lassiter’s hair with an evaluative glance. He glares up at you, his expression darkening when you play with the fine hairs at the nape of his neck.
You pull away, snapping out of your trance and knowing you’re about to cross a line if you’re not careful. “Thanks for this Lassie, I’d say we’re now nearing towards even.”
“Even? Even for what?”
“The multiple times I’ve helped you with my charm and wit? And, you know, stunning ability to look into the future and the past for the good of humankind everywhere? Also, my talent in making patterned shirts look good?”
Lassiter stands again and inclines his head. “Tell me, is this case worth the hassle?”
“Seven thousand big boys? Totally worth it.”
“Tell you what, if you succeed in this case of yours, I’ll add in $1000 of my own cold hard cash.”
“And if I lose?”
Lassiter cracks his neck to one side. “You don’t talk to me for a month. Not even if you’re working on a case for the department.”
You try not to feel hurt that a month of your silence is worth $1000. You leave the station with the address on one of Lassiter’s post-it notes in your pocket, even though you can remember it from the file. Now you have to decide if you’re going to run in, metaphorical guns blazing, as soon as possible, or devise an action plan.
If you decide to devise an action plan, turn to page 56.
If you decide to run in, turn to page 7.
You arrive at your father’s place, but he’s nowhere in sight. There’s mail piling up in the mailbox and the oil stains on the driveway look at least four days old. It appears he’s not been here for a while. This worries you at first, but you go home just in case he’s tried to get in contact with you.
Your father has left you a message on your answering machine, telling you he’s going to be out of town for two weeks. You’re annoyed that he didn’t tell you before (conveniently forgetting that he did and you suck at checking your messages), and even more annoyed because you really need his insight on leads you could follow.
It seems, very much, that you have no choice but to ask Lassiter for help. This will be difficult, because Lassiter treats you with contempt most of the day and night. To be fair, that’s with good reason; you’re invariably deliberately obnoxious and have convinced the SBPD that you’re psychic, even though your actual abilities make Uri Gellar look like the real deal, spoon-bending and all.
Very rarely, Lassiter seems to forget he’s meant to hate you and gives you a small, reserved smile that heightens the lightness of his eyes. You look forward to those moments. Still, working with Lassiter is always hard, because whilst he’s super efficient and dedicated to his job, he also believes in playing it by the book. Whether or not he will even help you is yet to be discovered.
Turn to page 51.
“What do you want to do?” Gus asks when you tell him the information you got from Lassiter.
“I want to rescue Puddinpop from those fiends. They’re probably experimenting on him as we speak!”
Gus narrows his eyes at you. “You do remember I have a hot date with Azaria in two hours?”
“Come on, Gus,” you say with a whine. “This is a two person job. Listen, I’ve already got our code names. You go by Desiderio, I go by Babalu.”
“I’m not going.”
“What do you mean, you’re not going?”
“Exactly what it sounds like. I can’t go.”
“But... bros before hos, dude.”
Gus’ left eye twitches. “Oh snap! You did not just say that.”
“I think I did. Actually, no, no... I know I did.”
Gus lets out a deep, long sigh. “Good luck.”
Realising you’re in this by yourself, and that you work best flying by the seat of your pants, you decide you’re going to let fate take you where it wants to. You put on a warm jacket for the bike ride and set off.
Turn to page 7.
It’s dark by the time you get to Johnson Industries. This has the benefit of giving you the cloak of darkness and the downside of being unable to easily see. You take out all of your stealth skills from your arsenal and apply them. By using your sharp observational skills, you determine that the only employees left in the large grey, decidedly non-industrial looking building are two security guards; one who drives a 1983 Ford Mustang GT and another who drives a rust-bucket FSO Polonez with Chilean licence plates that’s clearly lost its doors over three times.
You scale the fence and slip into the shadows, shuffling along the wall until you make it to a door. The hinges creak loudly and you wince, but hear nothing further. Nothing that sounds like big hefty guys with bats are coming to get you, at any rate. Inside, you’re confronted by a long, thin corridor. There is a soft sound coming from a door at the end of the corridor --- it kind of sounds like snuffling.
You creep along, aware that if someone came now, you’d be done for, but unsure of how you’d react. Maybe you’d scream really loudly and run backwards. Maybe you’d go badass on your assailant. You’ve been watching a lot of ninja movies lately.
The inside of the room is pitch black. Now you’re really regretting not bringing a flashlight. You stumble around, cursing under your breath, about to give up hope.
And that’s when you see it. A Pekingese. Not just any Pekingese, but Puddinpop, green bow and everything. The little guy’s locked up in an ugly and frankly ill-advised cage, if he had any survival instincts at all, he’d have squeezed through those bars like delicious icing from a piping bag. You move forward stealthily, your eyes and ears on the look and sound out for a security guard.
The dog weighs around thirteen pounds and is aggressive with added ‘grr’. It wriggles in your grip and tries to bite your hand off. You know that you cannot, absolutely cannot fail at this task now that you’ve made the mistake of making a bet with Lassiter, but you also value your fingertips.
If you decide to set the dog down on the ground and hope it doesn’t run away, turn to page 13.
If you decide to grin and bear it, turn to page 43.
Puddinpop runs away immediately, his stocky little body gathering quite a speed. He runs straight into the path of Joe, the nightly security guard, who appears to be brandishing his gun. Joe picks up Puddinpop. He squints into the gloom. Having been told by his bosses that he would lose his job if he made any more mistakes, Joe shuffles forward cautiously.
You want to stay absolutely still, but when Joe appeared on the scene, you were already teetering on one foot. You wobble and waver, finally having to set your other foot on the ground. Little do you know, there’s a phial directly underneath you. It shatters with an ominous cracking sound that reverberates throughout the room.
Joe fires randomly into the air, a bullet catching you in the shoulder, and you yowl in pain just as the light flicks on.
You’ve failed, you big fat failer.
Your fingers are chewed unremittingly, to the point where you think you may no longer have fingerprints (and hey, that could be kind of handy one day), but you’ve made it out of the laboratory alive, and most importantly, alive with the dog. Puddinpop may not be as sweet as his name suggests, but that cool eight grand is looking pretty awesome right now.
You’re not sure whether you should go straight to the Psych office, or straight back to the police station.
If you decide to go to the Psych office, turn to page 11.
If you decide to go to the police station, turn to page 61.
It turns out Lassiter is at your office, sitting across from Gus. He raises his eyebrows in surprise when you appear with Puddinpop, and looks even more shocked at your injuries.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he says, almost sounding impressed. You’re proud of yourself. Lassiter’s looking especially good in an open-necked shirt and casual dress slacks. His arms are folded across his chest and it highlights the width of his shoulders. “Good going,” he continues. “I’ll take Puddinpop here off your bloodied and bitten hands and return him to his owner right away.”
“What? No! You can’t!” you exclaim, frowning. You would be gesticulating wildly, but you’re still holding Puddinpop and the last thing you need is dog vomit on your new shoes. They’re great shoes.
“Yes I can.”
Gus interjects. “It’s okay. We’ll still be getting our reward money, won’t we, Carlton? Especially since you made me stay here waiting instead of letting me go on my once-in-a-lifetime-date with a bikini model?”
“Of course you won’t. Any and all reward money goes straight to the SBPD. This became an official SBPD case the second you asked for my help. That money will be donated to charity.”
“That’s not fair!” you cry. “I never wanted to say this out loud, Lassie, but you can sometimes be a jerky mcjerkhead. I know this sounds harsh, but seriously, man. I asked you for one favour. And I asked you. Not Carlton Lassiter Wonder Cop, but the dude who once came in here asking us to work pro bono because he needed us on the inside of a low-level cult.”
Lassiter ignores your spiel, moving forward purposefully. “Hand over the dog.”
You backtrack deftly, spinning around twice, imitating the hot shoe shuffle. “No.”
Lassiter looks like he’s going to throttle you. “Do it.”
“I reiterate, with added fervour, En Oh. No, Lassie, you’re not taking Puddinpop away from me.”
“Um, guys?” Gus asks. He’s staring worriedly at the dog in your hands. “I think this is going to be a moot point in about twenty to twenty-nine seconds.”
Unbeknownst to you, the laboratory was not testing cosmetics on its stolen animals. It was, in fact, testing new sexual dysfunction medication that simulates orgasmic bliss. Puddinpop has overdosed, and is rapidly lapsing into a catatonic state. Within twenty-nine seconds he flops, boneless, within your grip. As yet, you cannot know if this is temporary or permanent, but you know something has to be done.
If you decide to call Janice Baranski, hoping for the best, turn to page 19.
If you decide to attempt mouth-to-mouth, turn to page 25.
If you decide to call a 24 hour vet, turn to page 57.
Everything is go, go, go at the station. It’s hopping like a club on a Saturday night --- minus the alcohol, the dance lights, and the drunk chicks who’ll latch onto you if you so much as smile in their direction. Okay, so it’s almost nothing like a club on a Saturday night, but it’s busier than usual. Lassiter is nowhere to be seen, but Juliet is sitting at her desk, poring through paperwork.
She looks confused when you stand by her side with Puddinpop, a frown creasing her pretty forehead. “Hey there.”
“Hey Jules. Have you seen Lassie?”
“Nope, sorry. Why? I didn’t think you were working on a case for us at the moment?”
“I’m not. We’re going out on a date,” you say offhandedly, as if this is perfectly normal. Puddinpop is struggling and it’s taking some effort to make it look like you’re being nonchalant.
Juliet’s frown deepens. “Together?”
“Yup. So, still haven’t seen him?”
You feign fear, trying to ignore that Puddinpop is jittering around in your hands at ninety miles a minute. “I think I scared him off when I kept going on about the butterfly.”
“What butter --- Oh. Oh.” Juliet blushes. You can tell she’s still unsure if you’re joking or not. The disturbing thing is that you’re not sure yourself. “Sorry I couldn’t be much more help. Maybe he’s out talking to an informant?”
You wave goodbye, gratified that Juliet did not bother to ask you about the dog. But now you don’t know what you want to do.
If you decide to go searching, turn to page 33.
If you decide to go back to the Psych office, turn to page 11.
You go to all of Lassiter’s favourite places. The restaurant that caters to singles every night of the week, with private booths and meals just for one. The torture exhibit at the museum. In the general region of all of Lassiter’s informants. But, despite searching high and low, you don’t find him.
Hours go by and you’ve regretted your lack of foresight in getting Puddinpop a collar and leash, although that doesn’t seem to matter much, as the dog has appeared to calm down. It’s another half hour before you discover the dog isn’t only calm, but has, in fact, slipped into a catatonic state. Those weren’t cosmetics they were testing at that laboratory, they were sexual dysfunction medications, intended to aid in giving the recipient an orgasm. Puddinpop has overdosed. You do the sensible thing and buy a fake Louis Vuitton for $15 to carry the dog in.
Rounding around the corner as you head back towards the Psych office, you barrel into someone. That someone is Lassiter. He sees that you have the dog in a bag, and then he sees that the dog looks dead. You refrain from stammering. But only just.
“Look what I got for you, Lassie. I like to call it ‘love in a box’.”
Lassiter is staring at you with a smirk.
If you decide to wrap your arms around him, turn to page 24.
If you decide to take a step back and hold your hand up for a high five, turn to page 70.
You lunge forward and wrap your arms around the trunk of Lassiter’s body, burying your face in his neck. He smells like soap and hair product. You smile against his skin, knowing he added some more just for you.
“I’d really like you to let go of me now.”
“Do I have to?”
“If you want to keep all of your limbs and appendages intact, yeah.”
“Are you absolutely positively one-hundred-and-eighteen percent sure?”
Lassiter heaves out a deep breath and you suddenly realise his hands are coming to rest just above the small of your back. He’s reciprocating the hug. He gives you a tight squeeze, tilting his head in towards you. It’s awesome.
You stand there for at least five minutes. This is quite possibly the most still you have ever been in your entire life.
If you decide to continue the hug, turn to page 44.
If you decide to end the hug, turn to page 78.
After a moment, you realise Lassiter’s hands are sliding down and hooking into your waistband, you move to look at him, but soft lips are pressed against your own. The kiss is much more subdued than you usually go for. Normally you’re all teeth and tongue. But this is something different, something meaningful, and so you let it take its own time. It feels amazing, Lassiter’s hands against your skin and his tongue in your mouth.
After an extensive make-out session Lassiter suggests you both go back to the Psych office and contact Janice Baranski.
Turn to page 19.
You let Lassiter go and give half a shrug. “Sometimes, a guy just needs a hug, you know?”
Lassiter gives you a strange look and then nods. He suggests you both go back to the Psych office and contact Janice Baranski.
Turn to page 19.
You take a step back and raise your hand for a high five, the international symbol of ‘rock on!’ Lassiter stares at your hand blankly. You’re disappointed. It’s awkward. You suggest you both go back to the Psych office and contact Janice Baranski.
Turn to page 19.
By the time Janice knocks on the office door, Puddinpop has still not revived. He lies, limp, in a nest of tissues within a four-day-old pizza box. His breathing is shallow, but regular.
Janice flips the hell out. She blames you for maiming her precious Lion Dog and refuses to pay you, even when you go through everything that has happened. Even Gus’ usually surefire charms are no use as she carries the dog out of your office, left with only sore fingers and a keen sense of failure.
Lassiter sits on the edge of your desk looking smug.
You’ve lost the game, set and match. You’re sucktacular. The thought of not being able to talk to Lassiter for a month physically hurts you.
If you decide to mope, turn to page 4.
If you decide to pretend it doesn’t bother you, turn to page 40.
You don’t know what they’ve been feeding Puddinpop at that place, but Ye Gads its disgusting. As if thinking about the fur wasn’t bad enough, you have to also put up with something that smells like you imagine sixty day old cottage cheese in gym socks to smell like. Lassiter and Gus both make “ew, gross” sounds and that puts you off even more.
You decide that there are many things in your life you shouldn’t have done, and this isn’t going on that long and involved list. You call Janice Baranski.
Turn to page 19.
The vet says that Puddinpop is in a catatonic state and that she can’t tell if it’s a temporary or permanent deal. When asked what she thinks the cause was, she says it’s similar to a case she saw of another dog who had accidentally chowed down an entire bottle of Prozac.
You realise you may as well cut your losses. You call Janice Baranski.
Turn to page 19.
You realise you look petty and childish as you fold yourself into your chair, but, dammit, you’ll pout if you want to pout.
Gus tells you he’s sorry, but that there was nothing you could do. You know he’s right, but you still think it’s unfair. He leaves, saying there’s a possibility he might be able to catch Azaria if he hurries.
It’s just you and Lassiter alone in the office. This excites you, but you do your level best to ensure it doesn’t show.
“Don’t worry about it too much,” Lassiter says. “So you lost $7000. Well, plus another $1000. That’s not too bad. You know you could make that kind of cash playing poker, if you really wanted to.”
You don’t say anything. You give Lassiter time to realise you’re repaying what you owe him. He seems to get it after a couple of minutes of talking about how they can take down Johnson Industries without Janice Baranski and Puddinpop.
“Sometimes, I amaze even myself,” Lassiter says with a contented sound. “This was probably one of my best ideas yet. Second only to taking up Taekwondo.”
He does something that surprises you. He links his arm through yours and drags you towards the door. You want to ask him what’s going on, but that would be breaking your parole.
“You know,” Lassiter says, smiling in your direction. “There are all kinds of communication that have nothing to do with talking.”
This sends a shiver up your spine and you catch yourself grinning back at Lassiter, suddenly feeling a whole lot better. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
You shrug, giving a half-hearted chuckle. Your general demeanour exudes an air of “win some, lose some”. You haven’t said a word, but you have done some interpretive dance and mime to get your point across.
Gus tells you he’s sorry, but that there was nothing you could do. You know he’s right, but you still think it’s unfair, even if you act like you don’t give a damn. He leaves, saying there’s a possibility he might be able to catch Azaria if he hurries.
“I’m gonna strike a deal with you,” Lassiter says, his eyes glittering with humour. “Most of the time, I’ll let you talk, but if there’s ever a moment I want you to zip it, I can use a word of our choosing as indication. Sound fair?”
“You can talk.” Lassiter rolls his eyes.
“Can the word be Babalu?” you ask as soon as you open your mouth.
“I like it and it’s easy to remember.”
Lassiter does this little scrunched up face that you find entirely too endearing. “Okay.” He tilts his head to one side. “Do you wanna go grab some beers?”
This warms your heart and you catch yourself grinning back at Lassiter, suddenly feeling a whole lot better. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.