Crime Beat: A extract from Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs
An extract from the first chapter of that highly controversial novel Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs.
From the reviews:
Napoleon Bones is lighthearted, frothy entertainment. If you like canine company (and who doesn’t?), a happy ending and a sly dig at a few local targets along the way, this is for you. – Margaret von Klemperer in The Witness
Not your avarage pavement special, Napoleon Bones is known as an avid police dog, gourmet expert and Cape Town crime fighter. – Looklocal
This is a delightful book, packed with humour, compassion and wry observation. It’s robustly South African, rich with slang, skollies, and bergies, and paints a vivid picture of Cape Town’s leafy boulevards and dusty townships. Napoleon is absolutely convincing as a narrator – his mighty intelligence and deductive powers had me wondering what my own dogs might be capable of (although I suspect they may be stoepkakkers). Read this book with your hounds nearby – you’ll want to reach out and cuddle them every couple of chapters. – Kerrimcdonald75
The perps jack-hammered ahead of us down the alley, two skinny guys in metal-capped bikers’ boots that struck sparks off the cobbles. Big G and Spike panting behind me. Rubbish bins stinking of prawn shells, duck guts, grey blobs of pâté, rotting salads, tangles of slimy squid too long out of the sea. This was the smart part of town, with the restaurants and fat wallets and champagne vomit. Parties erupting onto pavements with cheery goodbyes. Easy prey for pickpockets.
The three of us had been stationed at a strategic corner, tipped off by the part-owner of Chez Pamplemousse. Bertrand gets madder than a puff adder when his expensive eatery is compromised. Hence our regular patrols are rewarded by foil-wrapped lucky packets of leftover spécialités de la maison. Bertrand’s real name is Bertie Schoombie and he used to teach mathematics, but he says restaurants have a more interesting clientele and pay better.
I get my fair share of the loot, which says a lot for Big G and Spike, who are always hungry, though not as discriminating as yours truly.
Big G had spotted the perps sidling out the back entrance and jabbed Spike with his elbow. Both of them yelled, ‘Stop! Police!’ and ran down the street towards them, with me baying behind.
The perps took off doing a four-minute mile. Those guys were jet-propelled and aiming for getaway hot rods at the far end of the alley. Beyond was the highway on-ramp, lit like a desert sunset.
Human conformation isn’t designed for speed. I caught up with them in a few bounds, then had to make a decision. A lunge to the ankles can send a runner flying and is less bloody than going for a thigh or hand. But bikers’ boots have a hefty kick. I’ve collected a few in my time. Cracked ribs and a bruised backside have taught me to be cautious.
‘Tumbler! Trackstop!’ Big G bellowed.
It’s command shorthand for ‘Trip the nearer one and send him flying against the other. Stop them in their tracks or they’ll be gone.’ Big G and Spike aren’t shooters unless their lives are threatened, so quite a few perps get away.
Not this time, though. I aimed for an isosceles triangle about half a metre in front of and five centimetres below the knees. (Bertrand has taught me the rudiments of geometry.) The nearest runner cannoned into the other one and they skidded into a rubbish bin which leant over like a gagging drunk, disgorging pale green goo. Vichyssoise is nasty when it goes off.
Big G and Spike scored seven cellphones, four wallets, a wad of cash, two stolen Yamahas and a habitual offender. We all got a recommendation for those arrests.
Though I say it myself, I’m the thinking woman’s answer to the ideal companion. Intelligent. Great bod. Noble head. Well-mannered. Keen sense of humour. Quick learner. Protective. Faithful. And affectionate to the point where I’d put my head in her lap at every opportunity and gaze up at her with undying adoration.
Which is not to say I’m perfect. Acute hearing makes me ultra-sensitive to noise. I’m claustrophobic. Have my gnarly moments. Garlic and onions and dry biscuits make me fart. And aggro makes me bristle.
The name’s Bones, Napoleon Bones. It started as a bad pun in the whelping box – Napoleon Bones-Apart, because I’d growl at anyone who came near when I was gnawing – and just stuck.
My biggest drawback is that I don’t have a thinking woman in my life. Just a boss who might be a good cop but is so awkward with women that he gets tongue-tied every time he meets a new one. Which limits my operations to street bitches who are nothing to bark about. Pavement specials, mostly, since we live in an old part of Cape Town.
Big G is now Inspector Rusty Gordon, one of the top officers in the Western Cape K9 Unit. We’ve been together since I chose him at Dog Training School, when he was still a constable. Inspector Spike Davids is his colleague and friend, and has cozening ways with the liver biscuits he keeps in his pocket, but I’m a one-man dog. When Big G is off shift, so am I.
This is not too convenient when we’re on night shifts. Bitches aren’t around much during the day, so there’s no frolic factor. Hot afternoons really take it out of me. All I want is a cool spot with my head on my paws and drinking water close by. The stoepkakkers in the neighbourhood reckon that police work makes you dog-tired, arf arf. What do they know beyond a lazy scratch as they wait for the next tin bowl of pellets?
I’m in my element when we’re on day shifts and I’ve got the whole evening to hit the streets until my curfew at ten. There’s nothing like the silver cone of light under a neon street lamp and a gleam in the eye to make a female frisky. Trouble is, too many are getting fixed these days and they lose interest after that. No heat, no hormones, no let’s get knotted. Some nights I only score one or two. Willing bitches are in short supply now.
Mother was one: she had six litters in six years. All highly pedigreed until my father scaled the security fence of the kennels and taught her about real dogs. Until then she’d been serviced by pampered golden retrievers like herself: pukka breed stock with shampooed and brushed coats, manicured claws and dainty ways of trotting like show ponies.
But Mother had grown tired of posh dogs by the time my father came barrelling in and changed her life. When her seventh litter was born with an assortment of patches, dubious brindling, quirky smiles and variable ears, she was banished. Sullied bitches could not have kosher puppies. After the owner had called in the SPCA to find homes for the brats, and the vet to have her fixed, she was retired to a friend’s garden. I often heard her say that her travellin’ man was the best thing that ever happened to her, even though she had only known him for one stolen night of bliss. He was in his prime, a real six-gun stud, she’d murmur. Potent as hell too. There were fifteen in the litter…
Dates to remember: Bloody Book Week runs in Johannesburg from 31 July to 3 August.