"Cook it," she said. "Cook it good."
No-one said a word, though we were all wondering who was going to be eating it, and Martin gave the nod to his niece who was tending bar that afternoon as well, so she gets a page of newspaper, wraps the squirrel up all careful like and takes it back to the chef. Twenty-minutes later the squirrel's back out, on a plate now and shaved or somesuch; there's a pickle shoved in each eye socket and some fries and a bit of spiky salad on the side, and Martin sets it down in front of Ma Dodd as careful as you please, and she picks it up and takes it outside.
Hell if we weren't all dying to go and look and see what she did with it. But none of us would move, and so the rest of us were all sitting still, not wanting to be the first, not wanting to be the one out of place when she came back in. She came back in with the plate, though the fries were all missing, and puts it back down on the bar.
"He'll stop crying now," she said. "It's food. He understands about food."
A few years later I was a bit further out of town dealing with little jobs and bigger jobs, some of which needed other jobs that kind of wrapped around them and kept them from prying eyes, the kinds of jobs that need doing but need doing quietly, in shadows and becurtained rooms with people who're somehow slightly allergic to light, as they like to tell it. I was sitting out at the front, minding my own business and watching the world go past, waiting for it to deliver a little package to me, when Dodd pulls up in a battered old car, the kind of thing that'll run forever because when they made it it was all iron and steel and chrome and they didn't have anything better or lighter. When he stopped I could see it start to sink into the gravel.
"Merry afternoon," he said gravely, getting out of the car and picking a hat up off the seat next to him. He put it on; it was a hunter's cap, with the ear-flaps and the peak, and it looked a little odd on a guy I was used to seeing in shorts. He was wearing a jacket and trousers that were all taupe, and I was impressed with myself for knowing what that colour was, even if I didn't think it was a colour a man should be wearing.
"Dodd," I said, not too friendly but definitely not hostile. I'm not a hostile kind of guy unless I'm provoked. "You got yourself a nice car?"
"My car," he said, patting the hood and wincing when he left his hand there too long. "My car. It takes me home, to Mummy."
"I bet it does," I said. Dodd wasn't that easy to talk to. "It brought you here too, right? Why did it do that?"
"We're looking for people," said Dodd, trying for serious now. I made myself stop smiling and forced myself to listen. "I've got a job, and I look for people. Have you seen any of them?"
"I don't think I rightly know who you're looking for," I said, thinking that I rightly knew everyone he might be interested in talking to. "There's only me and you here right now, Dodd. I reckon you've found both of us."
"It's my birthday tomorrow," said Dodd, but it was always his birthday tomorrow. "For my present you could just tell me where the people are."
"That sounds like a mighty good present to give you," I said, "but I still don't know who it is you're looking for, Dodd.."
"There's a woman–"
"Hah!" I laughed. "If it's a woman you're after Dodd, you've come out of the wrong side of town. You want Katerina's, but there's a membership fee."
"No, I'm looking for a woman. She steals children."
That gave me a pause for a moment, I don't have anything to do with that kind of illegal. Children are strictly off-limits as far as I'm concerned, but it also meant I didn't know who he was after.
"Children?" I said, now curious.
"She steals children," said Dodd again. "And she takes them home with her, and then she makes them leave her again so she can do it with others."
"She sounds bad," I said. "Shouldn't you let me deal with that problem, Dodd? I can have a word with the Sheriff, see what he wants to do about it all.
"He appointed me!" Dodd sounded very proud now, and produced a badge. "See? I'm a bounty hunter!"
I stared at the little badge, wondering where our Sheriff's sense of humour had come from.