Mary finally agreed to meet with me after I solved the fifth mystery for her. I needed to know - did her heritage-listed, wedding-cake styled 19th single storey terrace have a 'map of Australia' or an unravelled sock as a deterrent?
Never, ever underestimate the power of good coffee, or the offer to buy someone some. On my way to Pepper cafe to meet Mary, I soon found out my answer. The map of Australia or unravelling sock that protects her home is an Airedale Terrier who is coincidentally also called Milly.
My Milly was then turned around and taken home because despite her friendliness towards humans, she's not very kind towards other canines - especially if I show an interest in them. It's a shame actually, because the moment she sights another dog she turns from a genial orange Jorgi into an angry walnut with hackles who snaps and yells and refuses to be cajoled into friendliness, let alone acceptance or tolerance.
As such, my Milly was left howling behind our Gates of Hell in voluble indignance and I started walking back to Mary and Milly's (now to be abbreviated to M-and-M) house.
I needed to know:
Is my neighbourhood so lawless and dangerous that she needed a dog sign to scare off any rapists, looters or potential pillagers?
Are Airedale Terriers aggressive?
Has her Milly protected the M-and-M house from danger?
If so, is Milly's innocent 'Ugg Boot with a tongue' appealing looks merely a clever disguise to lure criminals or overly-keen leaflet distributors into feeling a false sense of security?
Milly was surprisingly difficult to get an answer out of that didn't involve licking my face as I bent down to pat her, or sniffing my jeans in intimate detail. Luckily she was soon engrossed in the leftover breakfast sausages a waitress gave her at the cafe.
It turns out that Milly is only two years old but is already a media celebrity and local icon so maybe the 'mystery' was only in my own relatively-new-to-the-area mind. As Mary is the coordinator of the locally produced and written newspaper 'The Flemington Kensington News', Milly has already featured in a story about her vital role in helping Mary through a range of personal blows that would challenge Dr Phil and Frasier combined as well as appearing in a local fund-raising calendar put together by Mr P's mother. Small world, isn't it?
Turns out too that M-and-M haven't been traumatised by crime or dog nappers or anything worse than the occasional drunken reveller winding their way up the street to or from the police station. The scary sign was earned by Milly when she won third prize in an Airedale dog competition. She was the smallest of her litter and Mary is an Airedale fan from way back: "Our previous dog used to let my son grab his tail and slide him along the wooden floors."
Milly's only chomping have involved upholstery, producing some big holes in a couch - "a retro classic I'd just had re-covered" - but none involving any human appendages.
As we chatted, a gorgeous lady embodying Melbourne came up to us and asked if she could pat Milly. You know the type - sleek black bob, a slick of red lipstick, groovy clothes and spunky shoes and handbag. "I have an Airedale too," she cooed, "called Audrey." Audrey too has been a celebrity, as Julia revealed that she was one of a litter of eleven who survived the February bushfires at St Andrews. Her human owners shifted the mother and the pups from room to room of the old stone house as the fires raged outside, wondering if, as the house burned around them, any of them would survive.
They all did, cowering together in the last room of the house with the fire inexplicably and mercifully moving away from the house and towards bushland instead. Audrey's mum works at a boutique around the corner from our caffeine supplier and sometimes accompanies her. Mary and Julia started talking about arranging a playdate for Milly and Audrey. (Milly and Audrey sound like two spinsters crocheting antimacassars to me!).
Mary and I enjoyed the winter sunshine talking about local issues, writers living in the area, her career in nursing and night shelters and the joy of buying a house in the nineties before prices went ridiculously skyward.