So a couple of nights ago, I had a strange and heartwarming dream. It was related to my Spooks Season 6 dream… it had only the edge of a hint of the danger element, but quite a bit of the absurdity.
* * *
I’m at my desk, when I hear the clinic door chime. It’s my lunch hour, and no appointments are scheduled. I assume someone is picking up medications or something, and am therefore surprised when I hear footsteps moving at quite a clip down the hall. I immediately stand, thinking an emergency has arrived. However, the look on the office manager’s face is anything but concerned.
“Richard is here to see you in Exam Room 1!” she says, flushed. Naturally, I know this is some kind of a joke. I don’t know what to expect… my husband, a blow-up Richard doll, a surprise party… anything could be waiting for me. So I sort of take my time getting there. And find a dead ringer for Richard Armitage, his chin shaven, dressed in jeans, button-up shirt and black leather jacket, alone in the exam room. No pet accompanies him.
My mind flashes to my previous adventure involving Adam Carter. I don’t know if the man in front of me is Richard Armitage, or Lucas North. As far as I know, Richard is still wearing a beard, so I suspect this is Lucas. I don’t have to ask, as he immediately launches into an explanation. His presence here is twofold. He wants to thank me for my part in freeing him from the Russian prison. The information on the Russian microchip I’d given to Adam Carter, as it turned out, gave Harry Pierce enough leverage with Lucas’ captors to negotiate his freedom.
(So it was down to me, everyone. The glorious Season 7 of Spooks, was thanks to me, and thanks to Milton. That’s pretty impressive egoism!)
I now know that Lucas is standing in front of me, and wonder if I am somehow involved in another covert operation. But before I can respond, or question Lucas about the events of that other crazy day at the office, he goes on to say that, in addition to saying thank you, he’s in the area to promote Into the Storm and to visit the areas destroyed in the May 20, 2013 Moore Tornado. Specifically, he wants to visit displaced pets from the devastating storm.
(Having to reassess whether this is Lucas, I meanwhile fail to point out that Into the Storm has already come and gone from the local movie theaters, and that the pets who were displaced last summer have long since been either reunited with their families, or re-homed with adoptive families.)
Remarkably, we do have two canine refugees in the kennel. I tell him he’s more than welcome to visit our storm refugees.
(That was very convenient. Magically appearing dogs!)
The man looks pleased, and mentions that he’s wanted to adopt a dog for a long time. I had been on my way to the door, to ask one of the girls to bring the first dog, but upon hearing he is in the mood to adopt a dog, I stop in my tracks. “I’m afraid that depends on who’s adopting a dog. Are you adopting as Lucas North, or Richard Armitage?”
(Apparently, I’m about to tell Lucas North he’s not a qualified applicant. Having him show up and wave a weapon around would be fine with me; in fact, I’ve yearned for it. But a dog adoption is another matter entirely. You never know when someone like Lucas might go all John Bateman, and where would that leave the dog?)
He smiles a very Lucas-like, mysterious smile, and does not answer. I close the door again, stubborn.
(I’m not sure why Lucas is now not even qualified to visit with my refugee dogs, but it seems I will not even bring a dog forward until I am certain of the man’s identity.)
Finally, he caves. He admits he is Richard Armitage, but asks me not to let on. I tell him his face is already known in this vet office, and he mutters that he has been debriefed about our fridge. However, I am now satisfied, and call for the first dog. The dog appears. She is a smallish white female, and I inform him that she’s a cross between a Bichon and a Westie. As soon as she is placed on the exam table, she timidly approaches Richard, and presses into his torso. He pets her for a few minutes, silently. She gazes into his eyes and presses closer. He sighs, and asks if she has any medical problems.
I tell him that she is a very timid dog, that she came from a hoarder situation before the tornado, and that she is very loving and sweet, but is easily scared and is prone to submissive urination. His head jerks up at this, and an odd light comes into his eyes. “Submissive urination?” I smile at him, and tell him it’s ok, I know he has a tendency for bathroom humor. Without missing a beat, he says he just didn’t want to piss me off. I let out a little laugh. He looks down at the dog again, continues to stroke her. Then he sighs again, and admits he was looking for something a little more manly than a fluffy white dog with submissive urination. But when I go to take her away, she presses closer to him again, and starts to tremble a bit. He says he wants to have a look at the next dog, but never stops petting the non-manly little candidate.
So I call for the next dog, and while we are waiting, I ask Richard Armitage what it is he’s looking for in a canine companion. He immediately confesses he wants a “dog like Dean’s” and I tell him I’m afraid I don’t know Dean, or Dean’s dog. He looks at me like I’m crazy, and tells me of course I know Dean’s dog, “Whisper”- she’s famous. I realize he’s not talking about his Hobbit co-star, but Dean Potter, a world-famous free solo rock climber who has recently taken to climbing with his dog, Whisper, in a special harness on his back. Whisper also does BASE jumps and wingsuit flying with Dean.
(I have a thing for free solo climbers. It’s a morbid fascination, plus some of them are hot. If your palms are not sufficiently sweaty on any given day, check them out.)
Richard assures me he’s no free solo climber, but he’s always wanted to go snow-skiing with a dog. He’s seen how Whisper rides in Dean’s harness, and that’s what he has in mind.
(Far be it from me to discourage Richard’s dream. If he thinks downhill skiing would be more fulfilling with a dog on his back, then by all means, let’s find the right dog for the occasion.)
I tell Richard that I believe I happen to have an outstanding candidate. This next dog is small enough to ride in a harness; he’s athletic, adventurous, and definitely more of an all-terrain dog. The dog enters the room; it’s a little Australian cattle dog mix, with a patchy coat and friendly, confident demeanor. I ask our vet tech to demonstrate the dog’s capabilities. What follows next is a fantastic sequence of dog tricks, real circus-level material, while she explains to Richard that the rough and ready little dog can fetch, swim, ride horseback, compete in agility, and is probably a great candidate for search and rescue, as well. She issues a command for the dog to find the biohazards, and he immediately opens the cabinet, sits, and stares at the sharps container under the sink. I make a little quip that the only thing this dog doesn’t do is speak Russian.
There is an immediate change in the atmosphere, as Richard looks at me sharply. The mysterious Lucas-smile flits across his features. He holds my gaze for some time, and I start to feel prickles. Then he issues a sharp command in Russian, and the dog immediately leaves the sharps container, goes to his side, and sits, watching Richard alertly. Another Russian command, and the dog performs a rapid roll-over. My skin prickles again. How does the dog know Russian?
Before I can think too much about this phenomenon, Richard redirects my attention to the little white dog, still snuggling as close to him as she can.
(Who can blame her? Any female with one iota of taste would love to have Richard Armitage take her home with him.)
He asks me to explain a little more about submissive urination, so I launch into my little blurb about that topic, hoping for the dog’s sake that he is not about to break her heart. I throw out the possibility that with his schedule so busy, two dogs might keep each other company a little bit, when he is gone. He starts to ask questions about dog husbandry, and we enter a pretty banal conversation about heartworm prevention and so on, and meanwhile, I begin to hear the front door chiming quite a bit. Aware that my lunch hour is almost over, I indicate to Richard that he is welcome to sleep on it, and return later if he decides to adopt one or both dogs.
(Really, doc? You tried to hustle Richard Armitage out the door? Yes, I’m afraid I did. I didn’t want to keep my afternoon appointments waiting.)
However, he’s already come to a decision. He doesn’t look particularly proud of himself, but he’s unable to separate himself from the fluffy animal plastered against him. He has tried to push her toward me once, as I lectured about flea prevention, but as soon as she started to tremble again, he had reluctantly drawn her back into his chest. I’ve been watching his hand language during my veterinary spiel, and I can tell that she’s getting under his skin. His strokes are becoming almost protective, and his lashes have been lowered as he watches her while listening to my veterinary advice. After I politely hint that it’s time for him to go, (somebody smack me, please!) he says, with another sigh, that he guesses he will have to adopt both dogs. I give him a delighted smile, and tell him he needs to fill out some paperwork.
We go to the lobby together, where I am astonished to find several ladies, who don’t belong in this setting, milling about. The office manager’s daughter is here, on the pretense of buying ear cleanser. She doesn’t have a dog. My Hubby’s cousin, a local physician who also has Not One Single Pet, is in the lobby holding a bag of cat food. Several other ladies, sans pets, are lined up at the counter with random pet supplies, and the entire staff is also in the lobby, dusting, pretending to reorganize the pamphlets, pretending to mop. The office manager starts to load Richard Armitage up with necesseties. Pretty soon he has a couple of bags of food, his own bottle of ear cleanser, a year’s supply of heartworm preventative, a thunder shirt for the timid dog, low calorie dog biscuits, and several other items. He looks overwhelmed. His forehead is very crinkled. I have to duck back to the treatment area before I start laughing at the lobby full of faux customers and the man with two new dogs and enough products to open his own pet store.
Lucas North, my nemesis.
From a window in the back, I watch him exit the building, his arms loaded. He makes his way to his car, and suddenly the driver’s door opens and Hermione Norris appears. Prickles start again. Is that Ros Myers? They exchange a conspiratorial smile, efficiently load the dogs and the supplies into the back seat, all the while scanning the area. Ros says something into an ear mic, gives him a meaningful look, and they both get into the car, fast, and speed out of the parking lot.
I think back to the Russian dog commands, the dog’s extraordinary intelligence, and realize his capabilities were always highly unnatural. I realize, too late, that the male dog was a Russian asset.
I have just been played by Lucas North.
* * *
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. And I really hope Lucas returns to the clinic soon. =)