-- Written by Anne
An original story by Anne (akd10_1999) – finally, she’s writing about something she actually knows a little about!
and I still cannot for the life of me understand what you find so enamouring about the
month of October.” A friendly debate was
in full swing as two close friends walked down
“Look around you! See those wispy, high clouds, feel that fresh, cool breeze!”
“Ahhg. You mean the frost that’s going to do in my roses!”
“Admit it, Jessica! You are one of those people who perpetually see the glass as half full!”
“Seth, sometimes half a glass of water is half a glass of water,” Jessica said with good-natured exasperation. “Anyway, do you really mean to tell me that you don’t enjoy the sight of the trees turned all to gold in the sunlight?”
“I never said that,” Seth retorted. “I have always appreciated the sight of sunlight touching gold.”
Jessica didn’t respond; she was watching as a young woman came out of the grocery store balancing two heavy bags in her arms. Without warning, one tipped over and gave way, spilling its contents all over the sidewalk.
Jessica was at her side in two steps, reaching for the scattered groceries.
“Oh, thank you,” the woman sighed, setting down her other bag and making a grab for some fruit that was trying to roll away. “I always try to do everything in one trip, and it doesn’t always work out.”
Seth had come up to them by this time, and looked down. “Cat food? Kitty treats? You have an unusual diet, Miss …”
Seth was surprised. “Doctor?” he asked.
“Veterinarian,” she said with a smile. “My friends call me Tipper. And the cat food and kitty treats are for my cats, Shakespeare and Dante.”
“Well!” said Seth. “I’m Dr. Hazlitt – people doctor – and this is Mrs. Fletcher.”
“Jessica,” she amended. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Dr. Henderson.”
“Oh, please, just Tipper,” she said. “I’m fairly new around here – only been around since the beginning of the summer.”
“Yes, I heard Dr. Murphy had taken on a new associate,” Jessica said. “I’m surprised we haven’t bumped into each other long before now.”
“Well, the clinic does keep me pretty busy,” said Tipper. “Anyhow, I should run along before the boys get into too much trouble at home. Nice meeting both of you!” She hoisted her grocery bags, and headed off down the street, trying to keep them in better balance.
“Been wondering when Harry was going to hire someone,” Seth said as they continued on their walk. “That practice keeps him busier than a one armed paper hanger. She looks awful young to have children, though.”
Jessica laughed. “I think that by boys she meant the cats, Seth,” she said.
“Now this will just be a little skeeter bite.” Tipper pinched a bit of skin between her patient’s shoulder blades, and had the needle in and out before the cat even knew it.
“That should hold Socks for another year, Mrs. Malloy,” she said, marking down the date of vaccination in the medical record. “Her rabies isn’t due until next year. We’ll be sending you a reminder card when the time comes for that. Otherwise, your cat’s in the bloom of health.”
“Oh, thank you, Dr. Henderson,” Ideal Malloy said, gathering up the black and white cat in her arms. “Isn’t that good news, Socks baby?” she cooed to it.
“Janet will take care of your paperwork up front,” Tipper said, holding open the door of the exam room. “You take care, now, both of you.”
“Oh, we will, Doctor,” Ideal assured her. “Say good-bye to the nice vet, Socks!”
Tipper smiled to herself as she followed them up to the reception area. The folder was up for her next appointment, she took a minute to glance through it. Something outside the doors of the clinic caught her eye, and looking up she saw a man in a suit get out of a dark car. He approached another man, a largish man with a dog, and showed him a badge. The client grew angry; they seemed to be exchanging words.
Tipper and Janet exchanged glances; the receptionist had seen it too.
“Who’s that?” Tipper asked quietly.
“The big guy with the skinny dog? That’s Jack Turow,” Janet replied in a low voice. “Not a pleasant man under the best of circumstances. I don’t know what’s going on out there, but Jack’ll be in a right foul mood for it.”
“Just as long as they keep it outside,” Tipper murmured. Then in a louder voice she called, “Hunter Rawlings? You’re next!”
When Jack Turow came in with his dog, his mood wasn’t just right foul, it was positively nasty. Dr. Harry Murphy, the senior veterinarian at the clinic, marked this when he came in.
“Richard,” he said to one of the technicians standing nearby, “I may need a hand with this one.”
Richard Pembleton, a big fellow who was as gentle as a lamb, nodded and disappeared into an exam room.
Dr. Murphy picked up the record and reviewed it, using the chance to appraise the situation. Jack was in an awful mood, but the dog, a golden retriever, seemed nice enough. There was next to nothing about her in the record; apparently this was a new pet. Harry sighed and called Jack into the exam room.
“Well, Mr. Turow, I see you’re here for a new pet check-up,” he said. “What’s her name?”
“She don’t have a name,” Turow said.
“When did you get her?”
“’Bout a month ago.”
Harry got down on one knee and ran his hands over the retriever’s coat. “She’s awfully thin,” he said. “How much have you been feeding her?”
Turow shrugged. “Can’t really say. Gets fed with my Rotties. Has to do the best she can for herself.”
Harry exchanged looks with Richard, who stood silently near the door. “Mr. Turow,” he said, “we have spoken before about the conditions in which you keep your dogs …”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Turow shouted. “You are not going to tell me how to keep my animals!”
Harry Murphy’s patience was at an end. “Jack, if you don’t treat your dogs any better than this, I’m going to report you to the SPCA, and let them take care of this!”
Jack made as if to lunge at the veterinarian, but before he could take a step, Richard stuck out his arm and held him back.
“You’ll do no such thing!” he shouted. “If you or any of your minions set foot on my property, I’ll kill you!”
“You threaten me,” Harry replied, “and you’ll be the one who’s sorry.”
Jack grabbed the dog’s leash, and jerked her out of the room behind him.
Harry came out of the exam room while Richard cleaned up, rubbing his temples. Tipper was at the pharmacy desk, pretending to write a prescription.
“Everything all right?” she asked.
“Just fine,” he replied.
The wind came up in the night, swirling the leaves that had fallen off the trees as shredded clouds passed across the face of a Harvest moon. Jessica was in her dining room, trying to finish a chapter on her laptop computer before bed. It was slower going than she would have liked, and so after deleting another whole paragraph that she just wasn’t happy with, she put the screensaver on and went into the kitchen for a break.
She had just put the kettle on for some tea when she heard the faint sound of scratching at the back door followed by a whine. She paused in what she was doing, listening intently, but finally dismissed it as a trick of the wind.
Then she heard it again.
Jessica was never one to walk away from a mystery. She opened the kitchen door, crossed the back porch, and pushed open the screen door, stepping out into the windy night.
At first she didn’t see anything, but then something stirred the dry leaves, and a pair of glowing red eyes approached her. Then the eyes came into the light spilled from the kitchen, revealing a very thin, mournful looking golden retriever.
Jessica’s heart was moved with pity; she went down on one knee and offered a hand for the dog to sniff. The dog came forward tentatively, put a paw up onto her hand, and looked up at her with sad puppy eyes.
That did it.
“Oh, I suppose you could come inside for a little while,” she said at last, and stood aside to let the dog into the kitchen.
Inside, Jessica appraised the situation. The retriever was in serious need of a good meal and probably a good grooming as well. She found some ground beef in the refrigerator, cooked it up together with some rice, and offered it to the dog, who accepted it with delight. While she wolfed down her dinner, Jessica sat beside her and went about picking out the dry leaves from her coat and untangling it with an old hairbrush.
“I can’t bring myself to let you back out into a wild night like this,” she said when the dog had finished her dinner, “so I guess you’ll be spending the night right here. What’s your name, anyway?”
She searched around the dog’s neck for a collar, and found nothing.
“Well,” she said, “I’ll have to call
you something, so I think I’ll call you
Seth came to Jessica’s house early the next morning, and breezed into the kitchen without knocking.
“Jessica, I - good Lord above!”
Jessica rushed into the kitchen, and found Seth in a chair with the golden retriever standing with her front paws on his knees, licking his face.
“Sorry,” said Jessica.
“That animal nearly scared the life out of me! Jess, since when did you have a dog?”
“Since last night,” she replied. “She’s a stray.”
“You can say that again,” Seth said. “It looks like she hasn’t seen a square meal in weeks. Well, what are you going to do about her?”
“I haven’t decided,” said Jessica. “I imagine that somebody somewhere is looking for her. I’ve called Dr. Henderson; she’ll know what to do.”
“Ay-yuh, I imagine she will. Now then,” Seth said, standing and straightening his jacket, “I was going to ask you if you had any coffee left over from breakfast. I seem to have run out.”
“Of course,” Jessica said, reaching for a pair of mugs. “Sit.”
After Seth had left, Jessica settled
back down to do some work. She typed while
the dog sat attentively beside her chair, and periodically would toss a ball of
wadded up scrap paper in the direction of the kitchen for
They were so engaged when the
doorbell rang, and
“I know, I heard it,” Jessica said as she pushed back her chair. “I’m going as quickly as I can.”
“Morning, Jessica,” Tipper Henderson said when Jessica opened the door. “I came over as soon as I got your message. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”
“Oh, no!” said Jessica. “Please, come in. I didn’t mean to take you away from your office appointments.”
“No trouble,” Tipper said. “It’s our surgery morning, but it’s a light day and Dr. Murphy is covering for me.” She looked down at the dog and caught her breath. ”This is the stray you called me about?”
“Yes,” said Jessica. She looked closely at the veterinarian and said, “You know this dog?”
“Actually, yes,” said Tipper. “I saw her just yesterday at the clinic, in the company of her owner, Jack Turow.”
“Oh!” Jessica exclaimed. “Well, then I should take her back to him immediately. This was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
Tipper put a hand on her arm. “Jessica, wait,” she said. “I wouldn’t do that right away.”
The young veterinarian sighed. “It’s like this,” she said. “Jack has neglected this dog terribly. Well, I’m sure that’s obvious enough to you from how thin she is. Anyhow, Jack came in with her yesterday. Harry – Dr. Murphy – saw the condition she was in,. and he confronted Jack about it.”
Jessica listened with wide-eyed attentiveness. “How did Jack take this?”
“Not well. Harry wanted to take the dog away from him – turn her over to the SPCA – but Jack wouldn’t hear of it. The scene between them got pretty ugly. Jack left without paying his bill.”
“I see,” said Jessica.
“I really shouldn’t be telling you this,” Tipper said. “It violates client confidentiality and all that, but I thought it was important that you know, so that you would see how important it is that the dog remain here with you.”
“But Tipper!” Jessica
protested. “I can’t take this dog! I’m going back to
“I know,” she said. “But it would only be for a few days, just until we collect the evidence we need to file a cruelty to animals charge against Turow. We know he’s got a whole pack of dogs he keeps behind the barn; working with the SPCA, it won’t be hard. Then we can go from there.”
The retriever whimpered pathetically. Jessica sighed. “All right,” she said, “just for a few days.”
Tipper looked relieved. “Good,” she said. “What have you been calling her?”
“She doesn’t have one, actually,” said
Tipper. “Jack never got around to giving
her one. She’s listed in our records as
‘Female Golden, Spayed.’ You go right on
It was well after hours; everyone had gone home from the clinic for the night. But the hospital was not quite deserted – the dark figure of a man came in through the back door and peered around in the gloom, broken only by a dim bulb over the door. He checked his watch, and sighed impatiently.
And then another figure leaped forward, and stabbed swiftly with a syringe. A dog yelped in alarm as the first man reacted to the surprise of the needle’s pain, then slumped and fell to the floor in a heap.
The shotgun blast, when it came, went unmarked in the night by any except the cats and the dogs.
Tipper was the first to arrive at the veterinary clinic the next morning, hoping to get her morning treatments and some paperwork done before the first appointments of the day. Dawn was just breaking; she got out of her car, flipped through her keys, and unlocked the back door.
“Hey, guys,” she said cheerfully as she came into the dog runs. “What’s hopping? Everyone sleep okay?”
Instead of the usual excited barking she was used to, she was greeted by an eerie quiet, broken only by anxious whines. Tipper’s stride slowed; she looked into the first run, and found its occupant, a German Shepherd, cowering in the back, his tail between his legs.
“Hey, Shadow, what’s the matter?” she asked in concern. “Come on, boy, what’s got you upset?”
Then she turned around, and shrieked.
Jessica arrived at the clinic as the
“Seth,” she said, “who was it?”
“Hard to say,” said Seth grimly. “His face was blown off by a shotgun. But by the look of his clothes we’re guessing that it was Jack Turow. See, on his hand there, that’s Jack’s class ring. Never seen him without it.”
“When do you think it happened?”
“Um, somewhere around midnight, I’d guess. But why here, I haven’t the faintest idea.”
Mort Metzger had been talking with Tipper a few paces off; now he came forward to where Seth and Jessica were standing.
“Not a great way to start the morning, Mrs. F,” he said. “How did you get down here so fast?”
“Well, Tipper called me right after she called you.”
“Figures. Okay, boys,” he said to the EMTs, “you can bring him out.”
The ambulance workers got on either end of the body board holding the shrouded corpse, and lifted. As they did, an arm flopped down, and the chunky class ring slipped off its finger and bounced on the floor.
“Andy,” Mort said, “would you grab that and bag it? We’ll add it to Jack’s personal effects.”
Jessica went over to where Tipper was standing in a corner by herself, her arms wrapped around herself.
“Tipper,” she said, putting a comforting hand on her arm. “Are you all right?”
The veterinarian managed a wan smile. “I guess so,” she said. “It was a pretty big shock. And he was just here two days ago!”
“Yeah,” said Jessica, thinking. “Tipper, you told me yesterday that Jack had an argument with Dr. Murphy and stormed out of the clinic without paying. Was there anything else unusual about his visit?”
“Well … I wasn’t actually in the room, you see. I was kind of listening from the pharmacy,” Tipper said. “But before, when Jack was coming in, I remember seeing a man in a suit approach him in the parking lot. He had some sort of badge – looked like a fed. Whatever they were talking about, it didn’t make Jack happy.” Tipper bit her lip and sighed. “And to top everything off, now Richard’s disappeared.”
Jessica raised an eyebrow. “Richard?”
“One of our technicians,” Tipper explained. “He loves animals, he never misses a day of work. But he hasn’t shown up today, and we can’t raise him at home. I already told the Sheriff.”
Mort swung by Jessica’s house when he had finished the initial paperwork, and found her in the kitchen, cleaning up the breakfast dishes she had abandoned.
“Hey, Mrs. F,” he said. “Hiya, Pooch.”
“Oh, come on in, Mort,” Jessica said, hanging up her dishtowel. “I don’t think you’ve met Jack Turow’s dog.”
“Jack Turow’s dog?” Mort said. “How did you get hold of Jack Turow’s dog?”
“Well, believe it or not, she ran away from Jack and ended up here as a stray,” Jessica said.
“Speaking of Jack, I was just heading over to his place. Want to come?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. Then she looked down at
Mort bent down and scratched the retriever behind the ears. “A canine unit, huh? Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt.”
Jack Turow lived on a small farm that had fallen into shambles, and now produced little more than weeds. Most of its outbuildings had fallen down, though the barn was still fairly sound. The house was in need of paint; weathered steps led up to a front door that was unlatched.
Jack had lived alone, but though he
had not been the paragon of housekeepers, it was plain to see that someone had
been there before them and ransacked the place upside down. Jessica let
“A bunch of bills,” Mort said from the desk, “but not a whole lot else. What did you find?”
“Nothing,” said Jessica, disappointed. “You would think that in all this mess there would be something.”
“Well,” said Mort, “I’ll call Andy to get the forensics guys up here. Maybe they can lift some fingerprints.”
Jessica looked down and said, “What have you got there, girl? Here – give it to me.”
The dog willingly let her take the paper, her tail wagging. Jessica smoothed it out and looked at it.
“What’ve you got?” Mort asked, looking over her shoulder.
“It looks like a notice from the
Internal Revenue Service,” Jessica said.
“It was mailed from
“Well, hopefully forensics will turn up something,” the Sheriff said as they came out of the house.
“Look,” said Jessica.
At the foot of the long driveway there was a black car, with a balding man in a suit leaning against it. When he saw them, he got in and drove away.
“Who the hell was that?” Mort asked.
“I don’t know,” said Jessica, “but I would bet a royalty check that it’s the same person Tipper Henderson said talking to Jack two days before his death.”
“Sheriff,” said Andy when Mort and Jessica returned to the sheriff’s office, “the autopsy report came in.”
“Great, let’s have a look,” said Mort, taking the folder and scanning its contents. “Whoa, take a look at this,” he said, and passed it to Jessica.
Jessica took it and frowned. “It says that there was pentobarbital in Jack’s bloodstream exceeding lethal levels.”
“Must have been some syringe,” Mort commented.
“Well, not necessarily. But what strikes me as odd is that according to the coroner, the cause of death was due to the pentobarbital, not the shotgun blast.”
“So if Jack was already dead from the pentobarbital injection, why go through the trouble of shooting him with a shotgun, and risk somebody hearing it?”
Mort shrugged. “Maybe they wanted to make sure he was dead.”
“Possible, though with this level of barbiturate that was hardly in doubt,” Jessica said. “It makes me wonder …”
Mort sighed. “I know what’s coming,” he said, “but I’ll ask anyway: makes you wonder what?”
“Whether the body Tipper found really was Jack Turow’s.”
“Dr. Murphy,” Mort said when he and Jessica returned to the clinic, “the autopsy report showed high levels of pentobarbital in the victim’s blood. Now, that’s the sort of thing that could be found around an animal hospital, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” Harry said. “We use it commonly for pet euthanasia. It’s a very powerful, fast acting barbiturate.”
“Who has access to it?”
“Well, any of the staff members,” Harry said. “We keep it locked in a cabinet, so anyone with a set of keys to the clinic could get at it.”
“What about someone without keys?”
Harry thought about this. “The lock is old, I admit,” he said. “We’ve been talking about getting it changed. I suppose it’s not impossible that someone was able to break it.”
“Maybe someone didn’t have to,” Mort said.
“Sheriff,” said the veterinarian, “it’s hardly a secret that I had an argument with Mr. Turow when he came in with his new dog two days before he was killed. Frankly I’d be surprised if the entire waiting room didn’t hear the whole thing. But I didn’t kill him.”
“You did threaten him, though.”
“With legal action, yes, after he threatened me. But I was only interested in the welfare of his animals, not in revenge.”
“Dr. Murphy,” Jessica asked suddenly, “do you have any idea why he adopted this new dog?”
“I have no idea,” Harry said. “His chief interest is in Rottweilers, not retrievers. Frankly, I’m surprised he even bothered to bring her in. He’s not stupid; he knew she was in poor shape, and that I would have to say something about it.”
“Almost as if he were looking for an excuse to quarrel,” Jessica said, half to herself.
That night it rained, one of those wind-swept nights that come in Autumn. Jessica sat up in bed, trying to read, but the weather and her mixed-up thoughts distracted her, and she couldn’t concentrate. After reading the same paragraph over again for the third time, she gave up, and tossed the book aside. She sighed, took off her reading glasses to lay on her bedside table, and gave herself over to the rain and to her thoughts.
Jack Turow had many people with possible motives to kill him, that was for sure. But the fact that the body had been so disfigured for no reason and the “coincidental” disappearance of the burly veterinary technician continued to make her question whether it really was Jack who had been murdered. What if it was no coincidence at all? What if the victim was, in fact, the missing tech?
Who, then, she thought to herself, would want to kill such a gentle person as Richard Pembleton? The technician had no enemies, no reason to be hated to the point that he invited violence upon himself. The killing could hardly have been a mistake, happening where it did. But no ready answer to her plaintive “Why?” came to mind.
A gust of wind shook the house, driving the rain against the windowpanes. Jessica shuddered; the lonely sound of the howling wind made her feel cold, despite being wrapped in quilts.
She heard the sound of toenails
clicking on the wood of the stairs, and presently
Jessica laughed as the dog licked
her face. “Stop,
She sat back and listened as the rain beat against the windows and drummed on the roof, stroking the sleeping dog, no longer cold, but wrapped in the warmth of contentment.
The phone rang on Mort’s desk early the next morning.
“Metzger … Yeah. … What? You’re kidding me. … You’re sure about that. … Okay, thanks.” He hung up and looked at Andy, who was working at the computer. “Would someone like to explain to me how she knows these things?” he asked rhetorically.
Andy merely smiled, shook his head, and went back to his data entry.
“Okay, Mrs. F, you were right,” Mort
said when he brought the news to Jessica at home. Seth was there having breakfast, and
“I think it’s probably Richard Pembleton, the clinic’s technician,” Jessica said, handing Mort a fresh cup of coffee. “He’s been missing now for over twenty-four hours.”
“We’re checking up on that,” said Mort.
“So what are you saying, Jess?” Seth asked, spreading raspberry jam on a biscuit. “That the killer used the gun on his victim to hide who he was killing?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” she replied. “The shotgun blast to the face, the victim being dressed in Jack’s clothes – it all points to someone trying very hard to make us think that it was Jack who was killed.”
Seth put down his biscuit. “But if you’re right …” he began.
“It brings us to an interesting question – where is Jack Turow?” Mort finished for him.
Jessica nodded mutely.
The thoughtful silence was broken a moment later when Seth looked down at his plate and let out an exclamation. “Hey!” he said. “My biscuit! What in the name of …”
Mort and Jessica stared at the empty
plate and broke into laughter, while
“Very funny,” he growled at the dog.
Tipper’s description of the “fed” she had seen Jack Turow talking to was more than enough for Andy to locate him and invite him over to the sheriff’s office for a chat.
“So let me get this straight,” Mort said to Agent Todd Fuller of the Internal Revenue Service. “The IRS knew that Turow was cheating on his taxes for five years, and it took you this long to track him down?”
Fuller looked affronted. “A thorough investigation takes a certain amount of time, Sheriff,” he said loftily. “In the case of Mr. Turow, the methods of his tax evasion were intricate enough to require more time to collect the evidence we needed. But however long it takes, the Internal Revenue Service always gets its man.”
“I thought that was the FBI,” Mort said.
Fuller smiled thinly. “Far be it for me to criticize another government agency,” he said, “but if the FBI had half the tenacity of the IRS, there’d be no such thing as a Ten Most Wanted list.”
Meantime, Jessica was sitting in her kitchen, pondering the envelope she had brought with her from Jack Turow’s house.
She counted back on one hand, ticking off the days. “Sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth … oh, my.”
Cana, who had been lying at her feet, raised her head. Jessica bent down to pat her.
“Cana, my dear, I have to go,” she said. “Be a good girl, hm?” And she grabbed her denim windbreaker and headed out the back door.
Cana got to her feet and watched her go. Jessica had left the kitchen door open; it was a warm day. The retriever whined, then nudged open the screen door and left on an errand of her own.
A dog’s frantic bark made Tipper look up sharply from her leaf raking. She looked over her fence, and was surprised to see Cana racing up the street,
“Come here, girl! Come here!” she said, opening the gate as the golden retriever dashed into her yard.
Cana came skidding to a stop in front of her, panting heavily.
“What’s wrong?” Tipper asked. “Where’s Jessica?”
Cana lifted a paw into the veterinarian’s hand, and whimpered. Tipper looked into the dog’s mournful eyes, and understood.
Mort was surprised to see Tipper burst into his office unexpectedly, Cana following close upon her heels.
“Sheriff,” the veterinarian said breathlessly, “we have a problem.”
Jessica came to Jack Turow’s farm as the sun’s rays were beginning to level in the late afternoon. She walked her bicycle up the rutted driveway, looking carefully for any signs of life, but to all appearances the place was deserted. She approached the barn, leaned the bike up against the weathered boards, and headed for the double doors. Suddenly she looked down – in the mud there were a set of fresh footprints, definitely made since the rain the night before. At the door, muddy prints could be seen on the cracked concrete, leading inside.
“Interesting,” she thought, and followed them in.
The barn itself held nothing remarkable, only rusting farm machinery, bales of musty hay, and cracked plastic buckets holding a variety of smaller tools. Finding nothing of interest in the main area, she moved toward the back, where Tipper had told her Turow was accustomed to keeping his animals.
The dog runs were housed in a shed built onto the back of the barn. It was dark, and dusty, and littered with cast-off rags, rusting tin cans, and other debris. The runs themselves were enclosures about six feet long, made of varying sizes of rusted chain link fencing running from floor to ceiling; none of them were currently holding any dogs. Jessica cast the narrow beam of her flashlight around the area, taking all of this in. At one end of the shed was a work bench covered with papers and boxes, and she tentatively took a step toward this to have a closer look.
She had scarcely taken three paces when a shape loomed up beside her, and strong fingers wrapped around her wrist. Jessica gave a cry and tried to pull away, but the vise-like grip only tightened, twisting until she dropped the flashlight to the dirt floor. Her attacker did not let her go, but flung her into one of the empty dog runs and slammed the door shut with a loud clang.
“That should hold you,” a harsh voice said. Jessica turned to face him as he raised the flashlight to his face.
“Jack Turow,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “What a surprise.”
“Oh, it’s hardly that, Mrs. Fletcher,” Turow said. “I know you a little better than that. The fact is, you’ve suspected for quite some time that I was actually alive.”
There was really no point in attempting any sort of pretense. “Yes.”
“And once that became plain, it then became obvious who killed the unfortunate technician,” Turow went on. “I’m curious – what led you to believe that the murdered man was not who he first seemed to be?”
“It was the way the body had been dressed,” she said. “It was plain that it was nothing more than a disguise put on for diversion.”
“But how could that be? The disguise was so complete, so perfect!”
Jessica shook her head. “Not quite,” she said. “When the body was picked up by the EMTs, your characteristic class ring fell off the man’s finger. Not only was the ring surprisingly loose on his hand, but his finger bore no impression from it – which it certainly should, if, as everyone knows, you had worn it since high school.”
“Very clever,” Turow said, impressed despite himself. “It’s really too bad you won’t have a chance to tell anyone else about it.” And Jessica’s heart skipped a beat as he pulled a loaded gun out of his pocket.
Just then a flash of gold burst through the door and intervened, tackling Turow and knocking him flat on the ground. When the dust settled, there was Cana standing over him, her teeth bared and her golden fur all on end. Turow tried to sit up, but the sound of a sharp click from the doorway gave him pause: Tipper Henderson stood there with a loaded tranquilizer gun in her hands, leveled straight at him.
“You’ve got a choice, Mr. Turow,” she said in a cold, icy voice as Mort and Andy came up behind her. “You can leave with the Sheriff on your feet, or he can drag you out of here fast asleep. Up to you.”
Turow sat sullenly in a chair in Mort’s office, handcuffs on his wrists.
“You’re a real piece of work,” Mort said. “We’ve got you for murder, attempted murder, and tax evasion, not to mention a few counts of cruelty to animals. But what I want to know is, what did you have against Richard Pembleton?”
Turow refused to answer, so Jessica spoke up. “Nothing,” she said, as Seth and Tipper looked on. “Richard Pembleton was a convenient pawn that Mr. Turow used toward his own purpose.
“The IRS had caught up with Jack over his tax evasion, and he needed to disappear. What better way to throw everyone off the track than to be found dead? He contacted Richard, probably with an anonymous phone call, and arranged to meet him at the clinic. The locks are old; he had no trouble getting there first and picking his way inside and into the clinic’s drug cabinet. He used pentobarbital for two reasons: because it would immobilize his victim so he could get a clean shot at the face, and because it would cast suspicion on Dr. Murphy or one of his staff.
“When Richard was dead, Jack dressed him in his clothes, right down to the characteristic class ring, then used the shotgun to disfigure him. He thought confusion over identification would buy him enough time to ransack his own house and disappear.”
“And it would have, too!” Turow snarled, breaking his silence, “if that damn ring hadn’t slipped off the guy’s finger.”
Jessica shook her head. “That wasn’t the only thing,” she said. “When the Sheriff and I went to your farm the first time, we found an envelope from the Internal Revenue Service regional office in Boston. It was postmarked three days earlier, and it was opened. Now, it takes at least three days for a first class letter to get here from Boston, so it must have been delivered that day – several hours after your alleged ‘death.’ Who had brought it in? For that matter, who had opened it?”
Turow’s face now turned red with rage. “I got rid of that letter!” he said. “Where did you find it?”
“We didn’t,” said Jessica mildly. “Cana did.”
Turow looked at the golden retriever in shock. “The dog?”
“Yeah, Jack, you were outsmarted by a dog,” Mort said. “Kind of sad, isn’t it. Andy, get him out of here, would ya?”
“Now that that’s over,” Seth said as Andy led Turow away, “the only question remaining is who is going to provide a home for this lonely, orphaned dog? I think she’d be perfect for you, Jess.”
Jessica held up her hands. “Oh, no, Seth,” she said. “Not with me still going back and forth to New York. I love her, but it just wouldn’t be fair to her.”
“What about you, Sheriff?” the veterinarian asked. “You have room, and you don’t travel much.”
Mort got down on one knee next to the dog. “I don’t know …”
Cana whimpered and lifted a paw into his hand.
“Seems to me you may not have much choice in the matter, Mort,” Seth observed. “Young Cana seems to have chosen you.”
Mort smiled under the deluge of affection and gave in. “All right,” he said. “Adelle’s wanted a dog ever since we moved up here anyway.”
Jessica was delighted. “I think she’ll be very happy with you,” she said.
“Well, Sheriff,” said Tipper, “she’s your dog now, choose a name for her.”
Mort rubbed the dog’s head and thought about it, while the others looked on in anticipation.
“Jessie,” he said at last, grinning.
Jessica’s eyes blazed. “WHAT?”
“Oh, not after you, Mrs. F,” Mort said, but from the twinkle in his eye she knew full well he was lying.
Jessie licked Mort’s face with enthusiasm, endorsing her new name wholeheartedly, and the bond was sealed.