They sat in silence for a moment. Then Harry Johnson said, "If you want a story, I'll tell you a story, I'll tell you a story - thought I can't explain it, or tell you the end; there isn't any end."
"Oh, it's intriguing, all right."
"It happened to a friend of mine. This person, who was the luckiest person I've ever known - you could almost say was hounded by good luck - lost everything overnight."
"Bloody hell. You mean in a market crash, something like that."
"No, no, not money. I mean he lost everything. He woke up one morning and found himself sans wife, son, even his dog. He did not know what had happened, and of course no one would believe him and he had no idea what to do. He considered going to the police, but what in hell would he say? They wouldn't believe him, I mean wouldn't believe the wife, the son, the dog had simply disappeared; well, you know how bloody minded police can be-"
"I do indeed." Jury smiled in a crazy kind of way.
"Right. Families don't all of a sudden disappear-I mean, unless some psychopath walks in and murders them all. He told me he felt he was living in a parallel universe, that his wife and son were in one and he was in another."
"Then what did he do?"
"He hired the best private detectives. They found nothing, not a trace. There was simply no trail." Harry stopped, took out another cigarette, offered the case to Jury again, and Jury again refused.
"That was a year ago."
"And--?" It struck Jury suddenly, the answer to the question he had glumly posed to himself earlier: what kept him going? Here was the answer: curiosity. He waited for Harry Johnson to fill in the blank after "And--?"
Harry lit his cigarette, blew out a stream of smoke and said, "The dog came back."
Jury stared. "This is a joke, right?"
Unsmiling, Harry Johnson said, "No, it isn't. The dog just came back." They were both silent for a moment while Harry Johnson seemed to be collecting himself. "So do you want to hear the rest of it?
Man walked into a pub ....
Excerpted from THE OLD WINE SHADES: A Richard Jury Mystery © Copyright 2011 by Martha Grimes. Reprinted with permission by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). All rights reserved.