It had taken Dinah a little time to settle into the job and to adjust to Shaw’s more eccentric work practices, which he claimed were based upon the Chaos Theory, but were in fact, way more chaotic than that. He could be very grumpy at times, although he could also occasionally be very sweet. On balance, she preferred grumpy. When he was being sweet he brought her things that she could never possibly want – last time it was a four-legged star fish that he had just found on the beach (explanations were requested as he was supposed to be looking for a hamster in Birmingham, but none were forthcoming) together with a bowl of water, a sachet of salt from the café below and the instruction to ‘See if you can make it better.’ It didn’t get better. It got smelly. At least when he was grumpy, she wasn’t given decaying invertebrates to resurrect.
Shaw was generally grumpy when he had a case to solve. Although most of the time he was employed by people hoping to relocate missing pets, what he generally found were lost people, most of whom had no idea they had ever been misplaced in the first place.
Whenever they were out together, Dinah found herself tagging along at distance, either struggling to keep up or asking passer’s-by whether they’d seen where he’d gone. It didn’t help that he would never tell her where he was heading. It didn’t help that he never actually went there anyway. She grew tired of tramping the streets with the photograph of a misplaced ginger cat only to find that Shaw had spent most of the day in the pub chatting to a man from Builth Wells who had no idea his wife was looking for him – in fact, had no idea he had a wife. Often that did at least give him one thing in common with the woman to whom he was subsequently introduced, who either had no idea she had a husband or, if she did, mistakenly thought it was the man with whom she had been living for the past forty years. A grumpy Shaw would waft away any discussion – he knew that they belonged together and if they claimed never to have met before, well, they were obviously mistaken and, by the way, had either of them seen a ginger cat? By the time that Dinah found him, Shaw had normally mellowed in the face of the liquid hospitality of the happy couple and persuaded his cat-less employers to accept that they were not suited to cat ownership in the first place, which often left Dinah with a homeless moggy and blisters that made her extremely tetchy.
‘You really should relax more,’ he would say. ‘Take things as they come. Why don’t you go and buy yourself a drink.’ Shaw never had money. He never got paid and he never paid for anything. Dinah found that she spent most of her time trying to persuade clients who were searching for a precious pooch to accept that they should pay the bill for a service that far from reuniting them with a beloved pet, had merely introduced them to the son that they had never had. They were seldom persuaded by Shaw’s admonition that ‘You can get a dog anywhere’ and quite often unhappy to find someone they had never met before living in their spare bedroom. Dinah tried to remind herself not to get too obsessed by it all, it was just a job – except it wasn’t, was it? You get paid for a job. You have regular hours and days off. Your employer seldom, if ever, asks to borrow your shoes so that he can go down to the corner shop in the clothes he has slept in to get milk. Particularly since the shop’s owner had threatened to set the dogs on him if he didn’t pay his tab. A normal employer does not wander out to get milk on Monday and return on Friday with a packet of flatbreads and a chinchilla. Without your shoes…
…It was no use in asking him where he’d been, he never answered. He just handed over a matted clump of bills and muttered, ‘Pay these will you?’ before falling asleep in the chair. Dinah sighed, ‘With what, Shaw? With what?’ She unfolded the papers and laid them out on the desk, attempting to find some kind of chronology to them, except that they were not bills. They were merely scribbled notes in Shaw’s erratic hand, each detailing in one word or two the failings that she regularly attributed to him. On the last one he had written ‘I will repay you somehow. Would you like to adopt an elderly gerbil?’
Against every screaming instinct, Dinah allowed the faintest of smiles to flicker across her lips. She shook her head and flicked the switch on the kettle. ‘If you’re making tea,’ said Shaw without opening his eyes, ‘We’ll need milk…’
Dinah and Shaw first appeared in January and I liked them. I feel that I might return to them again, but first I have to decide what to do with them. If I think of anything, I’ll let you know…