Twist #023 – On Guard! by Bill Pronzini and Michael Kurland

At seven-forty that night I called Gregg from a telephone booth in the Golden Mandarin Chinese restaurant. “How are you getting along with Sam Boy, Mr. Gregg?” I asked him.

“Beautifully,” he answered. “What a marvelous animal.”

“Isn’t he? I was wondering, sir, if I could drop out to see you again one of these evenings? I’ve just picked up an excellent new book on dog handling and I thought you might enjoy reading it.”

“That’s good of you, Ferguson,” he said. “Come by any night but tonight. My wife and I have a late dinner engagement with friends.”

After we said good-byes, I went back to my table and sipped a final cup of tea and broke open my fortune cookie. Early preparations make for early rewards, the fortune said.

I drove around St. Albans for a while, killing time; then, at ten-thirty, I went to Melrose Place. When I saw that Gregg’s house was dark I pulled the van into his driveway and parked in the shadows of one of the hedges. I went over and rang the bell a couple of times. Not a sound inside but the padding of a dog’s paws coming to the door.

“Hi, Sam Boy,” I whispered, and then I blew two short blasts on my silent dog whistle. Inside, as he had been so patiently trained to do–and as he had done so many times before, in a score of towns like St. AIbans in eight different states–Sam Boy stood up on his hind legs, with his forepaws on the wall near the door, and used his teeth to flip the lever switch on the burglar alarm box to Off.

When I heard him come back to the door and bark once, I knew that he’d done his job. I hurried around the side of the house to the nearest window, used my glass cutter, and then reached in and opened the window and slid up the sash. Sam Boy was sitting on the floor inside; I leaned in and patted his head.

Yes, sir, I thought, you really can’t beat a good, well-trained guard dog. Satisfaction guaranteed. Then I climbed over the sill and began teaching a valuable lesson in home security to another of On Guard’s burglar-conscious customers.


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