Where’s the Dog?

Reader advisory:  This story discusses a film plot without a plot spoiler. 

Photo: Getty Images

Here at the Delta Detective Agency

we have an abundance of mysteries on hand

to keep us in business indefinitely, thanks to a troubled clientele 

afflicted with the woes of wandering husbands, restless wives,

reckless children and missing pets. That’s for starters. 

Add to that, scammers and schemers milking the gullible  

with offers for nonexistent advantages and benefits,  

dangling the lure of “golden opportunities” (wanna buy a bargain bitcoin?)

or the fear of disobeying demands for confidential information

by imposters claiming to be agents of the FBI, SSI or IRS.


The grievances run a familiar gamut, which is the reason

I appreciate an occasional case with a novelty factor

such as the one that walked into my office recently

with Delta business exec Cyrus (“Cy”) McCracken,

creator of the PIF (Paid In Full) Credit Service

and president of the local VEMC (Very Early Morning Club).

VEMC members meet for coffee chats and gourmet doughnuts,

with each assigned on a revolving basis to present a talk

dealing with issues of commerce, politics or pop culture.


“They want me to lecture on a movie that makes no sense!”

Cy grumbled as he took a chair, accompanied as always

by Mimi Ambler, the kind of personal secretary and assistant 

who does your thinking, ordering and shopping for you

when you’re too busy or neglectful to do it yourself

and hurries you right along to get you out the door

before anyone notices she’s acting like a wife.


 I reacted to Cy’s urgent complaint with appropriate sympathy,

“Say what? Isn’t that out of your league, old sport?” 

“I’ll say it is,” Cy shook his head, “Seen it twice and still don’t get it.”  

“No, I mean, why did they select you, of all people?”

“Because he’s given up going to the movies,” Mimi explained.

“That’s hardly a qualification,” I said.

“It is in this case because this is the kind of movie 

that represents a shift to intelligent filmmaking

designed to appeal to older, more discriminating patrons

and lure them back to theaters or pay-TV contracts,

thereby revitalizing the market–and the money. Get it now?”


“Got it. Well, of course I’d like to help you, but I’m running—“

“A little late this morning?” Mimi asked with a charming smile. 

“–running a detective agency here, not a seminar in–uh–in–?”

“Problematic cinematics?” Mimi suggested. 

“On the other hand, being a detective might just enable and empower me 

 to provide  you with a few useful pointers on how to master and conquer—-“

 “The riddles of modern movie making,” Mimi concluded.

 “Despite any reservations I might have about your ability,” I added.


 “Maybe this will help convince you,” Cy said,

 floating a crisp hundred dollar bill across my desk

and promising another if I was able to decipher  

the meaning of a mystery film that was a mystery in its own right.

But the issue at the heart of his visit was far more personal.


“My reputation is at stake,”  Cy confessed, “”I don’t want to look like 

 a complete idiot when I get up there to present my opinion,

even if I had one, and that can be bad for business because—-“

“Because at seven in the morning,” Mimi took up the cause,

 “thinking and persuading an audience that you know

 what you’re taking about can be a hopeless endeavor

 unless you’ve sobered from cups of strong Colombian 

 and sought expert counsel from a film-wise detective.”


I revealed that I had the advantage of seeing the film in question

because a certain lady friend of mine had the exact same complaint

as my visitor, imploring my help to make the meaning clear

by fitting together the random pieces of a challenging puzzle.

“Of course, that’s what I did for her, but this time around

it’s on a purely professional basis, you understand, 

so all you have to do now is slide another Franklin

 my way and I’ll tell you how to go about it.”


“Another?” Cy asked. “Didn’t I just give you one?”

“That was the advance. This is the service charge.”

“Service charge?”

 “So you can be fully paid up and  we can proceed to business.”


When Cy stalled, Mimi gave him a discreet nudge

and tactfully whispered the magic words,

 “Get cracking, McCracken! Time is running short 

 and you’re quibbling about the consultation fee

 of the only man who can get you up to speed.”

 “To be perfectly blunt about it,” I nodded,

 with a wink at the persuasively wise woman.


With his account prepaid in full, Cy revealed

his frustrations and uncertainties concerning 

“The Power of the Dog,” a prize-winning film study of male toxicology

infecting the inhabitants of a Montana ranch, with stern foreman Phil  

bullying and insulting anyone he doesn’t like or respect, 

which happens to be everyone. 

Why does Phil act this way? That’s the mystery.

The answer can be found by applying a close eye and ear

to find the secret he’s hiding and the role he’s playing,

hoping to conceal his true self from others.


Trouble begins when the bully’s good guy brother

brings home a wife. Phil lets the newcomer have it in ways

that trouble her, nurture fears and wreck her confidence.

Something sinister is brewing in this troubled household

and the worst may be yet to come.

So where does a film detective begin?


He may wonder to what dog the film title refers

and what power that canine (real or metaphorical) may unleash.

He may try to identify the real victim of this plot. Bad guy or good? 

Frail new wife or her gentle son, the farthest thing from a cowboy? 

The best thing an investigator can do is skip the guessing game 

and seek the necessary clues as to motive and method.

Will intimidation go unchecked unless someone finds the courage

and the means to put an end to the prevailing darkness?

But neither the benevolent brother nor his trembling wife 

nor her unworldly son seem up to the task.


“So what’s this film really all about?” Cy asked impatiently.


“About you keeping  your eyes sharp and ears open

 to details that allow you to play a role of your own.”

“A role? For me? Who am I supposed to be? A cowboy?”

“A detective.”

“How on earth do I do that?”

“He just told you,” Mimi said softly.


Since Cy’s understanding needed refreshment (and probably recharging), I repeated what I’d said about the fine art of investigation, subtle clues that shouldn’t be ignored and the viewer’s role in interpreting a movie that plays its cards as craftily as a poker pro.


“And now, sir, may I ask what you’ve learned here this morning that will equip you to explain the film to your club and impress its members with your shrewd insight?” I asked as my visitor glanced at his watch, grumbled that he was running late to a meeting, and rose to go with the briefest of thanks.


“Well,” Cy said hastily, “the bottom line is that when you take risks, there is a possibility that you will humiliate yourself and fall flat on your face.”


“That’s not exactly what—-,”  I started to say as he hurried to the door—“what I meant,”  I called out after him as he bolted down the hallway.


 “Fooled you, didn’t he?” Mimi asked. 


“I guess his mind was elsewhere.”


“That’s where it’s usually parked. You gave him a good lesson, but you know how it is with Cy. He wants advice, but he’s not the most attentive student. Hope you don’t feel he wasted your time.”


“Not with you around. When a guy comes in here with money in hand and a lovely lady to interpret for him, it’s not a waste. It’s a refreshing departure from business as usual.”


“I was listening even if he wasn’t. He’ll want me to make it plain to him later. You know I have to do most of his thinking for him. That’s the way it works.”


“For you, too,” I said, handing her the second hundred. “It isn’t the first time you’ve steered him my way. I’m grateful for your service.”


“Glad we could help each other,” she said, depositing the Franklin in her handbag and hastening to join her employer. “See you next time.”


“Just one more thing, honeybunch.  Do I get an invitation to consume a gourmet doughnut and hear Cy’s marvelous movie musings?”  


  “Not on your life! The last thing I want to hear is you chuckling in your coffee cup when you see him moving his lips and hear me doing the talking. Adios, amigo!”  

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One Comment

  • This is a wonderful story! It was easy to follow along and you always manage to squeeze some humor in your short word limit. I never read a fictional story that also was a film review at the same time. It was a unique read for sure. You made the movie seem really interesting! Keep on writing.

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