February Prompt #20 Property
There are two meanings to the word property. One definition
is a thing or things belonging to someone (eg., chattels, movables, assets);
the other is an attribute, quality, or characteristic of something (eg., the property
of heat expands metal at uniform rates)
“Are you sure this is legal?”
John deserves the glare that
Sherlock aims in his direction. “Legality is not the issue, John. The dog
gets to choose.”
They are in Hyde Park on an early
morning in the first week of March. Sherlock is down on one knee, patting a handsome
black Labrador dog, who is sitting in a relaxed way, enjoying the attention.
It had all started three days ago
when Sherlock had admitted Skylar, the dog, and his owner, Roger Miles, to
221b. Miles was grateful; “No murder involved, Mister Holmes, so I am
grateful that you could find the time to help me.”
John has always known that
Sherlock has a special rapport with dogs, especially Labradors, ever since he was
first introduced to Bella, an aged chocolate Labrador at Parham, the country estate
in West Sussex owned by Mycroft.* So it had not surprised him that Sherlock was
willing to take the case.
Miles had come to own Skylar when
he agreed to re-home the dog from the South East of England Labrador rescue charity.
The dog had been found wandering loose in Maidstone, Kent, in a terrible
condition. Dehydrated, emaciated, with several nasty wounds, the dog had
obviously been feral for some time. It was terrified of any human, and had been
caught stealing food from a rubbish can behind a takeaway chicken restaurant.
The retired accountant who had
re-homed the dog said that he’d accepted the challenge of rehabilitating the
dog in part because he’d lost his own Lab years before, but didn’t want to
start all over again with a puppy. “I’m too old now; I just want a
companion to keep me company. Skylar doesn’t like long walks, do you boy?”
Sitting quietly by Roger’s side,
Skylar was the picture of health. Roger had explained, “It took quite some
time to coax him out of his fear. Good food, paying the vet bills to get him
healthy again, lots of affection when he was ready for it — turned out well.
I’ve had him for four years now. He still runs with a limp; permanent tendon
damage on his front left paw, but he’s not in pain anymore. We’re suited for
each other, as my hip’s starting to wear out. Then three days ago, I received
this through my letterbox.”
He handed over a typed letter,
with a solicitor’s address at the top. Sherlock had scanned it and passed it
over to John, who read it. A demand from someone claiming to be the dog’s
previous owner, saying that it had been stolen from their premises. The owner said
that they’d spotted the dog on the UK Labrador Association’s facebook page,
where Roger was a member and had posted photos of Skylar. The owners were the
Wenbury shoot, a large pheasant shoot, and claimed the dog was one of theirs,
trained to work the five thousand acres during the corporate syndicate days.
Kennel bred-and-trained, the pedigree dog had been stolen by “persons
unknown” but the implication in the letter was that Roger himself might be
prosecuted if he didn’t return their property immediately. He was a valuable
gun dog with field-champion bloodlines that they considered to be their
property for breeding purposes.
Miles had been distraught.
“They’re right about the law; dogs are just property, and even if they are
lost, stolen or re-homed, the original owner has the right to claim him back. But
it doesn’t seem fair, not to me or to Skylar. We’ve become great pals, and I’d
hate to lose him. Is there anyway you can help us?”
Not every crime Sherlock solves is a murder. Read how he solves this one on Ao3 here.