Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 2 - Stellium in Scorpio (7 page)

BOOK: Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 2 - Stellium in Scorpio
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I
picked up the room phone and called maid service myself. I asked for the
supervisor, quickly told her what had occurred, and said that if her entire
crew would search all the hotel rooms, I would gladly pay several hundred
dollars to whoever located my dog. The women on the phone said she would
contact the maids right away.

"I'm
feeling we should find that woman—at the front desk—I see her face when I close
my eyes—dark hair—older, trim, well dressed."

I
headed for the door, willing to follow any lead, do anything to see Elmo again.
We were in the elevators in no time, not saying a word to one another as we
rode, afraid we might voice our fears that Elmo was gone forever.

Is
there some hideous group working at the hotel who eats dogs, or sacrifices dogs,
or maybe it’s just some horrible guy who steals them and sells them to biology
labs or...

"Stop
that!" Callie said as if reading my mind. "We're going to get him
back."

Fear
was turning to anger in me, a male trait, my mother often reminded me. Regardless,
it had the advantage of turning a passive emotion that caused weakness and
trembling into an active one that produced results.

"I'm
fully capable of killing anyone who hurts Elmo," I admitted out loud, my
jaw clamped shut.

"I
know," Callie said, and I heard no condemnation in her voice.

I
launched myself from the elevator across the sun, moon, and stars of the lobby
floor like a meteor headed for the front desk. The stars were aligned. The
tense and impeccably dressed front desk manager, wearing a name tag that said
Ms. Loomis, was standing at attention in conversation with another guest. She
looked exactly like the dark-haired woman Callie described. I interrupted.
"My dog is missing from my room. Someone has taken him!"

"Just
let me finish with this guest and—" she began.

"No,
this is an emergency. My dog has been stolen from my room, and I want this
entire hotel to begin a search and find him!"

The
woman guest whom Ms. Loomis was helping stepped back out of reverence for an
animal in distress and for fear of being trampled by an out-of-control pet
owner.

"If
you'll just step over there to the concierge, she will help you." Ms.
Loomis tilted her thin, black-rimmed glasses down her long, narrow nose and
waved to the small, silky-haired Asian woman at the concierge desk.

"Did
I hear you say you lost your dog?" the Asian woman asked as I dashed
toward her, fear making it difficult for me to breathe.

"I
didn't lose him. He was taken from my room—stolen! Who had access to my room
today? Who has a master key? I want to see those people."

"We
can't, of course, let our guests interrogate staff for legal reasons. It would
be inappropriate—"

"Get
everyone who has a key to my room out here now, or I'm calling the police and
my attorney!"

Ms.
Loomis realized that the concierge didn't have me under control. She darted out
from behind the marble counter, waved her off, and personally herded me back to
the front desk.

"Ms.
Richfield, we want to help you, but you must keep your voice down—" Her sentence
snapped like a twig when I grabbed her by both forearms and held her in my
grasp so that she could feel my agony.

"Find
my dog!" My voice cracked, and I could feel tears falling over the edge of
my eyes.

"Let
go of me or I will call security."

"Call
security, that's who in hell I want to see!"

As
she moved a few yards down to pick up the phone, Callie, who had remained
silent and removed from the dialogue, suddenly dashed behind the desk, pushed
the door open, and shouted loudly, "Elmo! Elmoooo!"

"You
can't go back there!" Ms. Loomis called after us, but I was already
through the door, following Callie down the rabbit hole of the hotel's interior
offices.

There
was a low, muffled bark. I whirled. Ms. Loomis froze. People in the corridor
turned and stared. It was an EF Hutton moment. Callie was moving rapidly past
row after row of offices shouting Elmo's name. His barking had become louder
and incessant. At the very last office, she flung open the door, and there was
Elmo standing in the middle of the room. Callie fell to her knees as he rose up
on his hind legs and put his short, stubby front paws on her shoulders. She
threw her arms around his big middle and tears ran down her cheeks.

"Who
took this dog and put him back here?" I demanded loudly of the staff at
large.

One
of the clerks seated behind a mound of paperwork said, "A guest complained
that he was howling, so the assistant manager brought him in here to avoid any
conflict and to keep him safe until you arrived back in your room."

"We
just had a shift change. I assure you, Ms. Richfield, that we had only his, and
your, best interest at heart," Ms. Loomis apologized. "Our assistant
manager should have left a note in your room, or a message on your phone. He
will be reprimanded. It seems you've had a very difficult stay, what with the
situation in your bathtub, and now, thinking your dog had been kidnapped. We
would like to comp your meals and bar tab for the remainder of your stay and
offer you complimentary show tickets, and of course, Mr. Elmo is more than
welcome to complete his stay with us, although, in the future, he might be more
comfortable at home."

It
was that last comment that set me off. "I'm going to give you my cell
phone number. If anyone feels compelled to put anyone
in
my room or to
remove anyone
from
my room, I highly recommend that they phone me
first."

"Of
course," she said with a polite bow that, in contrast to my own explosive
anger, made me appear to be a maniac.

I
leaned over and gave Elmo a big kiss on the snout and rubbed his head.
"Let's get him out of here," I said, ignoring Ms. Loomis, who was
standing in the doorway.

We
talked, and cooed, and patted Elmo during the entire elevator ride up to our
room. Several guests who'd been caught up in the drama said nice things to him
as we walked past. By the time we got to our room, I felt weak and exhausted
from the realization that I could have lost Elmo for good.

"You
found him, Callie. If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what would have
happened," I said, my voice shaking.

Callie
held me in her arms and kissed me without saying a word, seeing that I was
getting more upset after the fact. Elmo nudged the plates of what was now limp
and uninviting food. We plopped down on the bed, unwrapped the food, and
quickly handed it over to him. He gobbled it down voraciously. We both agreed
that what we all needed was a good night's sleep.

The
front desk's explanation of why they took Elmo bothered me almost as much as
their having taken him. They said he was howling and someone had reported it,
and they'd removed him until they could find us. I knew for a fact that Elmo
didn't howl at just anything. It made no sense.

"Somebody
wanted him," Callie said. "At least that's what I'm getting."

"You
mean like a hotel employee who just wants to own a basset hound? That means
he's not safe here at all. I wish I'd taught him to bite the hell out of
people!" Elmo let out a low growl as if to assure me that should the need
arise, he was up for the challenge.

"They
won't bother him again," she said. "Too many people in the hotel have
been alerted."

"How
did you know to go back there?" I asked.

"I
knew that's where Loomis's office must be," Callie said.

"But
why Loomis?"

"It
was her face I saw when I meditated. She called you Ms. Richfield. She knew
your face. How? She wasn't there when we checked in."

I
was silent for a moment, thinking about that. "You're right. She said,
'Ms. Richfield, I want to help you.

There
was a knock at the door. The front desk had sent a bellman up to our room to
move us. Callie balked, saying she was too exhausted to pack, but I wasn't
spending another night in a room from which someone had tried to steal my dog.
I packed everything and helped the bellman load it up.

We
followed him down the hallway with all of our belongings hanging off the side
of his clanking metal cart. I thought about the bag lady who lived in L.A. and
pushed her metal grocery cart filled with bags of clothing from street corner
to street corner. Now our metal cart filled with bags of clothing was being
pushed from room to room. And I realized that the only difference between a bag
lady and a lady with bags is the person pushing the cart.

Room
1250 was a newer version of our last room. Every room in the hotel had a
different theme. This room was snowy white from top to bottom, and fit Callie
to a T. She swooned over it. All the furnishings were Italian Provincial, which
was really French Provincial with improved posture, the delicately curved chair
legs having been replaced by straighter chair legs exhibiting slight thigh
muscles. The bed was covered in white quilted brocade, and I made a mental note
to pull back the bedspread on Elmo's bed since, when stressed, he was capable
of sleeping in a drool state. The bathroom was done up in rich browns, and the
TV was the finishing touch that gave it the look and feel of a small den
sporting a tub and shower.

I
tipped the bellman, slung our luggage onto the racks, and set up Elmo's wire
playpen.

"I've
been in more rooms than a hooker," I groused.

Callie
cocked her eyebrow at me and yanked my shirt out of my pants, kissing me on the
back, derailing the task at hand. I turned and wrapped my arms around her,
returning her kisses.

She
pushed me away playfully in favor of getting ready for bed and I wondered if
Callie's sex drive had been impaired by so many years of abstinence or if there
was something else she wasn't telling me. Spontaneous lovemaking didn't seem to
be on her agenda, just spontaneous foreplay. We were in dress rehearsal with
absolutely no opening night in sight.

Callie's
idea of getting ready for bed was far more complicated than mine. Hers involved
face scrubbings that bordered on Rolfing, and vigorous brushings of the head to
stimulate hair growth, not to mention the slathering of face creams and body
lotions. Then there was the issue of getting the blinds drawn just right and
creating subdued lighting, but not total darkness, assessing the direction in
which the heat or air was blowing, and examining the bedclothes for possible
vermin. It made me realize that for forty-odd years I had never really
"gotten ready" for bed but had merely fallen into it.

Callie
disappeared into the bathroom. After a few minutes I heard the water shut off
as she no doubt toweled off and dried her hair before peering around the corner
at me and Elmo, just to see if we were both still there. She didn't want to
admit it, but Elmo's disappearance had upset her, evidenced by the fact that
she insisted we lift Elmo up on the bed and allow him to wedge himself between
us.

"Could
you move over, Elmo? You're getting all the soft spots that, frankly, I
consider mine. I can't believe a woman of your overwhelming fastidiousness is
allowing this!" I said as he burrowed down into the covers.

She
laughed good-naturedly. "He was traumatized, so we have to make an
exception."

"I
was traumatized too," I replied, "and I'm getting nothing."

"Not
true," she said and leaned across his body to kiss me warmly on the lips,
pressing up against Elmo in doing it. Elmo let out a couple of short grunts,
flopped over, put his big nose in Callie's cleavage and his paws against her
chest, let out a sigh, and went fast asleep.

"I
am going to need another bath," she whispered, giggling.

"He
loves the way you smell. I have to say, I agree." I draped my arms over
Elmo to reach Callie. "This wasn't what I had in mind for tonight," I
muttered.

"We'll
let him stay for a little while longer, and then we'll get up and—"

"Hose
off!" I finished her sentence. "Do you think it's true that someone
complained about him?"

"They
could have," Callie said.

"But
did they?" I pressed.

"No,"
she said softly. "Ms. Loomis said the assistant manager should have left
us a note or a message. How did she know that he hadn't?" Callie asked.

"She
assumed he hadn't because we were in the lobby screaming at her," I
offered.

"Maybe,"
Callie replied, more suspicious than I.

I
sat up in bed unable to take another close-up whiff of Elmo, whose basset
glands had been working overtime due to the stress of his harrowing ordeal.
He'd secreted enough basset oil in his skin to make him as shiny as a seal and
as smelly as one. Callie sat up and asked Elmo to hop onto his bed, giving him
one last pat. He let out a disgruntled groan. Callie got up to strip the
bedcovers and shake them before disappearing into the bathroom again. I could
hear the valves in the showerheads squeal as she turned the water on.

BOOK: Richfield & Rivers Mystery Series 2 - Stellium in Scorpio
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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