Authors: Chloe Kendrick
Animal Instincts, Book 1
Copyright © 2014
Published by: Rascal Hearts
All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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Book Cover By: Rosy E. Fisher
Animals have always had a special place in mystery stories. I don’t have to tell you about the fictional dog that did nothing in the night, the Speckled Band, or that infamous hound of the Baskervilles. Even Agatha Christie had a dog named Bob in one of her books. Of course, it’s not easy to interrogate a pet about a crime. For starters, they can’t talk to you.
That’s where I come in. I talk to animals. Some people like to tell me that’s impossible. People say that animals don’t experience things in the same manner that we do. They say that animals don’t communicate in the same way that we talk to each other. Believe it or not, I’m keenly aware that they don’t “talk” to us. However, I can tap into the language that they have and speak to them in their language. It’s a gift I’ve had since I was young.
Of course, no parent wants to hear that their child is speaking to the pet dog. Trust me. So besides talking to animals, I spent a lot of my childhood talking to shrinks too. They’d take notes and tell my parents that I had a harmless delusion. It’s not like I thought I was Superman or something. So they would take me home, and I would talk to the family dog some more.
Mainly, I didn’t talk much about this skill to the world. About six months ago, I began to think that talking to pets might be a career for me. I accidently happened to be on the scene of a homicide and learned all I needed to know about the killer from a stray cat. The press, like it always does, played it for all it was worth.
Before I knew what happened, people were contacting me to talk to their pets as well. Not about murders, but about why their cat wouldn’t play with yarn any more, or why Fido had stopped sleeping on the bed at night. Most of these cases were simple things that I could easily deduce from a talk with the owners and a visit to the home.
I had created a viable business inside of three months. I didn’t quite pull off PT Barnum’s “a sucker born every minute,” but I was only a few days away from that. I’ll never be rich from talking to animals, but I won’t be poor either.
While I’d been able to begin a new life from the experience, the police had not been as thrilled as I was with the conclusion of the case. They had missed the clues and the obvious inferences in trying to make a case against a homeless man in the area. The press had been less than kind to the police, and the detectives had a long memory where things like that were concerned.
I’d steered clear of the police since then, limiting my cases to things that did not involve crime.
Ruby Jenkins was a friend of my mother. She’d apparently gone missing last night, leaving her front door open and her two Scottish terriers inside the house. Since there were dogs involved, my mother had contacted me to chat with Ruby’s pets and find out what had happened to her. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in contact with the police again, but a pushy mother is far worse than incarceration in my book.
I’d driven out to Beverly, which is on the South side of Toledo, near Lake Erie in northern Ohio. The blasts of wind and snow from the Great Lakes created what was called the lake effect. In layman’s terms, it means we get too much cold and snow. Winter is no fun when a normal storm can dump feet of snow on you.
We’d been having a hell of a winter so far. Piles of snow lay on either side of the road, and thin wisps of ice rested along the double yellow line. I preferred staying at home, but I also preferred eating to starving, so I’d done what my mother asked. She’s a good paying customer, and I don’t come cheap.
Ruby’s house was a boxy middle-class structure that had been built just after the Big War. The sidewalks were tilted from the roots of overgrown trees, and Ruby’s house could have used a good coat of paint. The neighbors had two Beagles that wagged their tails like they were attempting lift-off. I surveyed the house while I tried to learn what I could about the crime, if this disappearance really was one.
The snow was piled so high against the fence that it appeared to just be a snow fence instead of chain-link. The Beagles had to jump to see over it, but I waited for them to figure that out, and I patted each of them. Since I wasn’t on the job, I didn’t bother to learn what they were saying. That would be like a psychologist listening to people’s problems on his off-time.
The Jenkins house had a couple of patrol cars in front of it, but nothing else. No police tape, no press. So at least I was still keeping a low profile here.
The snow had been dutifully shoveled from the sidewalk and front walk. The rest of the yard was a sheet of unblemished snow. It was odd, considering that my own Corgi would have considered the yard to be a challenge. My yard had a crisscross of little footprints across it.
I approached the front door and was stopped by a large officer in blue. I tried to read his nametag, but he asked what I wanted. I decided it was better to answer the question and look later. He was tall and brawny, or at least the thick coat he wore made him appear to be. He had dark hair and eyes, and his cheeks were ruddy from the blistering wind that morning.
“I’m here to see about the dogs,” I said. I’d learned that providing too much information to the police was never a good thing. I saw it as openness, and they perceived it to be a guilty conscience.
The officer eyed me intently for a moment. “You don’t look like an Ida Jenkins.” Apparently he was smart too.
“I’m not,” I replied helpfully. I filed the name away as someone I might want to talk to. I doubted that she would be as antagonistic about the whole dog-talking thing as the police were. I figured that Ida had to be some relation to Ruby, who had no children of her own except for her pets.
The man’s face went through a transformation. The bland look was quickly replaced by a low level of hostility. “You’re that guy.”
“Last time I checked. Now about the dogs.”
A woman dressed in a plain brown pantsuit walked around the man and looked at me. “What’s going on here?” She was faster on the uptake than the man behind her. She recognized me within seconds. “What exactly do you want?”
“I was hoping to talk to the dogs.” I was more polite than I’d normally be. She was breath-taking. Despite her less than stylish attire, she had eyes the color of silver and a complexion that most cosmetics firms would kill for. Her lips had been painted a pale shade of pink, and I had a hard time trying to remember my goal here.
“Dog,” she said, obviously not sharing my moment of rapture.
“Dogs. Plural, as in two, as in –”
“Believe it or not, Toledo’s finest can count to two. There’s one dog here.” She held up a finger to show me how many one was. It was not a polite finger to hold up.
Even her fingers were worthy of admiration, so I didn’t mind that she was flipping me off. The nails were painted a shade of pink as well, and some primordial urge within me wanted to know what the color was called.
“Ruby had two dogs. Perry and Della. What can I say – she liked mysteries. Two Scottish terriers. Got them two years apart from the same breeder.” I held up two fingers giving her a peace sign.
“Well, Mr. –” She stumbled around trying to remember my name.
“It’s Griffin Fitzpatrick, but you can call me Griff.” I held out a hand.
She shook it quickly and withdrew it like I was trying to administer poison through contact. “Well, Mr. Fitzpatrick, there’s only one dog here now. As I said, we can count.” I noticed that she didn’t introduce herself.
“May I see?”
She rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue. That tacit agreement likely meant that she had absolutely no idea what happened to Ruby. While Beverly was not a terrible neighborhood, I’m not sure I’d leave my house open anywhere these days. Locked doors were the best bet every time. Otherwise, you might as well put your valuables on the front lawn for people to take.
I found the Scottie cowering under an end table in the living room. The police were not bothering her as they searched the rooms, but the constant presence of strangers in her home must have been frightening. When I leaned down to talk to her, she was shivering. It broke my heart.
I’d brought some treats, because Scotties can be very territorial. I didn’t want to have this interaction with the police with a Scottie clamped to my hand. I pulled out a piece of microwaved hot dog and proffered it to the dog. She ambled over, sniffed the hand, and ate greedily. I gave her another, and she ate it just as quickly. After that, she ignored the one at a time business and headed for the baggie in my pocket. Scotties are anything but dumb.
I was able to pet her at this distance, and some of the shivers disappeared. She was obviously hungry, which meant that likely Ruby had disappeared before dawn this morning. There hadn’t been a morning feeding. I stroked her sleek black hair and stopped when my hand ran into a mat. Closer inspection made it look like blood. In the name of my investigation, I checked out everywhere I could think on the dog, but she seemed fine. That meant that the blood had either come from Ruby or the other dog. I was glad it wasn’t this little one, but I worried what that meant for Ruby.
I cleared my throat. “If you’d like to hear what Della has to say about the disappearance, I’d be happy to assist you.”
The woman in the pantsuit, as I was now referring to my next ex-girlfriend, tried to appear nonchalant, but she was at my side in a few seconds. She rolled her eyes just to let me know how she felt about my investigation. I liked feisty women, so the gesture didn’t bother me at all.
“You just got all this from inspecting the dog. I knew it,” she said accusingly. She eyed me and then the dog as if we were in a grand conspiracy here. I found that I got this quite often; people tried to figure out my trick, much like they’d do for a magician. Still, just like the magician, I never told my secrets. The truth never impressed anyone.
“How so? I don’t see anything that you don’t see – unless you think I have X-ray vision as well,” I shrugged. “Do you want to hear what Della said, or should I just go?”
Another eye roll. “Fine, tell us what the dog said,” she said, giving me several air quotes as she spoke. She wasn’t using them correctly, but that was okay with me. I wasn’t looking for a genius to date. I wanted her to be beautiful and to have a life outside of trying to find a man.
“Okay. First of all, Della has blood on her coat. She seemed very worried about Ruby and Perry, but she seemed unclear on who exactly the blood came from. So that’s one thing to look at. You can take the blood from her coat and have it analyzed.” I pointed to the spot where I’d found the blood.
“Great. You have eyes. Is that it?”
My turn to roll my eyes. I didn’t want her to think that I was a pushover. “Of course not. After the blood was spilled, there was a gunshot. Scared the crap out of Della here. I don’t think that’s a good thing in terms of the disappearance.”
“And how do you know this? What type of gun? When was this?” Her eyes, those lovely pools of silver, had widened, and for a second, I thought she might actually believe my routine.
I didn’t want to explain to her that some dogs are frightened by loud noises. I’d watched Della as the door slammed shut earlier. She’d visibly winced. A louder noise, like a gun, would create a louder noise and a more frightened reaction. Given that there were Beagles next door who hadn’t uttered a peep in the middle of the night, it was fair to assume that it was a gun since most hunting dogs don’t worry about gunfire. They’re used to it. Most of them are trained to ignore it. Of course, all this I kept to myself. I just smiled at her.
I looked at her with pity in my eyes. “She’s a dog, not a forensics expert. She just knows about the loud noise and that the blood came before the noise, which could give us some leads. She didn’t extract the bullet and run a series of ballistics checks on it. Geez.” I kept a smile trained on the woman, thinking I might earn some brownie points for sounding reasonable, but it didn’t work. She stomped off in the opposite direction.
I sat on the hardwood floor, still stroking the dog and trying to calm her. It wasn’t easy because of the amount of noise in the room. After a few minutes, I saw a pants-suited leg in front of me, and I looked up. “Miss me?” I asked coyly.
“Move, we want to get a sample of the dried blood you say is on the dog.” She tapped a foot against my leg. I scooted back and the dog followed me out of her hiding spot. A crime scene tech saw the spot, and he used a pair of scissors to trim out a piece of the hair. He dropped it into a clear plastic bag and closed it.
“Hard to tell against the black hair, but it’s the right color. We’ll run some tests and find out.”
“Don’t you have one of those black light thingies you can use?”
The woman waved a hand in my direction as if it wasn’t worth even answering my question. I wondered what I’d said that was wrong. Most of my police information comes from television, and I was guessing that my shows had been incorrect for the sake of staying within the 48-minute parameters.
“What are you doing with this little girl?” I asked, fearing that leaving her alone would further traumatize her. I didn’t want to see her so upset. I have a soft spot for animals, and I didn’t want any further evidence to be destroyed. She would have been a very cute Scottie if she weren’t freaking out.
“A family member is picking her up soon,” she responded, actually deigning to lean down and pet Della. I was glad to see that I was leaving this little girl in good hands. “Is she going to tell you anything else, or can you leave now?”