It’s time to act, decided Bethany, as she reflected on the preponderance of silver which cast a gloomy pall over her bursting trophy cabinet.
She summoned the detective.
“It’s impossible,” declared detective inspector Gordon G. Wilson, before offering an explanation.
“The problem is Sapphire’s collar. It has heat, fingerprint, voice and retina activation. What’s more, the replacement collar would have to avoid detection from Sapphire’s first groomer, psychologist, stylist, brand manager, second groomer, nutritionist, physical trainer, photographer, massage therapist and third groomer before the dogs even enter the arena.”
Bethany was unmoved.
“You fail to understand detective, that this is my last chance to beat Lady Hamilton. There are strong rumours of ill health at Hamilton Manor.”
“It simply can’t be done,” Wilson reiterated.
The hand that had been lovingly stroking Argenta now reached for a photograph. Bethany slid the single polaroid across the lavish suite’s ornately finished table.
“I’m sure you’ll find a way detective,” she stated, fixing him with a cold unflinching stare.
Wilson sunk in the chair. The colour could be seen draining from his face even in the faint light of the flickering fire. He excused himself and set to work. He would need 12 months and all of his police smarts to accomplish this task.
Bethany was bursting with nerves and excitement. She clasped her clammy hands as she positioned herself behind the judges in the hotel’s elaborate auditorium. Her heart pounded as the parade of pampered Bichon Frises elicited gasps of adoration from the audience.
“Sapphire!” beamed the announcer, and the audience burst into rapturous applause. Bethany’s stomach churned with familiar disgust until she remembered her clever ruse. Her beloved pet was wowing the audience and the judges.
“Argenta!” strutted in to the arena and Bethany’s conflicting emotions resurfaced. Her breath shortened and her mouth dried.
‘Argenta’ paraded brilliantly and camera flashes lit up the auditorium.
Then something happened. Something almost imperceptible. Sapphire lacked her customary rhythm, her famous je ne sais quoi.
Had the judges felt it?
Had Bethany felt it, or was she simply intoxicated with the overwhelming emotions of this daring subterfuge?
The wait for the judge’s decision was torturous.
“The winner of the gold medal, category Bichon Frise, 2020, is…”
Bethany couldn’t breathe.
Wilson now found himself in the same chair, in front of the same fire. The detective’s eyes settled on the photograph sitting next to another silver medal on the ornate oak table.
The detective pleaded his case.
“The switch was made. The task was completed, as per your orders.”
“Then where is my gold medal?” demanded Bethany, who had banished Argenta to the pound.
“It confounded us too,” testified Wilson, “until we swapped the collars back after the competition and discovered that the rumours of ill health were well founded,” outlined Wilson.
“But how? Lady Hamilton was alive and well and gloating pompously on the dais yet again,” protested Bethany.
“The Lady was always healthy,” Wilson paused,
“but Sapphire wasn’t.”
Image: Gabriel Crismariu