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A Canine Christmas
     

A Canine Christmas

4.0 2
by Jeffrey Marks (Editor), Joe Blades (Editor), Jeffery Marks (Editor)
 

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Waggish tales of dogs, Christmas, and murder—
by sixteen of today's best-loved crime novelists!

Deborah Adams - Melissa Cleary - Mark Graham - Patricia Guiver - Jane Haddam - Parnell Hall - Jeremiah Healy - Dean James - Virginia Lanier - David Leitz - Jeffrey Marks - Taylor McCafferty - Leslie O'Kane - Anne Perry - H. Robert Perry - Lillian M.

Overview


Waggish tales of dogs, Christmas, and murder—
by sixteen of today's best-loved crime novelists!

Deborah Adams - Melissa Cleary - Mark Graham - Patricia Guiver - Jane Haddam - Parnell Hall - Jeremiah Healy - Dean James - Virginia Lanier - David Leitz - Jeffrey Marks - Taylor McCafferty - Leslie O'Kane - Anne Perry - H. Robert Perry - Lillian M. Roberts

A temperamental Yorkie provokes Yuletide mayhem at an English country house . . . A puppy forgotten in Santa's bag helps quell a coup at the North Pole . . . During a snow-white Christmas, a Portuguese water dog noses out murder at a Vermont inn . . . and many more!

These thrilling tales of canine derring-do give dog lovers the treat of celebrating Christmas with sleuthhounds of many breeds—as they sniff out crime and render holiday justice.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Two paws up. Canine Christmas provides as much pure pleasure as a good old-fashioned belly rub."
—DAVID HANDLER
   Edgar Award-winning author of
   The Man Who Loved Women to Death

"A witty, deliciously mysterious romp through Christmas in Dogland."
—ELLEN HART
   Lambda Award-winning author of
   Murder in the Air

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345436573
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/07/1999
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.93(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The policeman paused, shook his head. "Don't you hate a crime where snowy footprints are a clue? I certainly do. So far, the only snowy footprints belong to Mr. Stanley Hastings, who, after finding the dead body, saw fit to walk his dog."

Here the policeman fixed me with a steely gaze, which I thought was undeserved. I had called the police first, and Zelda had needed to go.

"At any rate, we are not going to rely on snowy footprints. We are going to determine the truth the old-fashioned way, by interrogation. I am going to question each and every one of you, and I am going to take you one at a time."

I went last, which hardly seemed fair, seeing as how I'd been the one to find the body, but it did have two advantages. It meant by the time he got to me he'd already heard everyone else's story. And it gave me time to talk to Alice.

"So," the policeman said. "You're a private investigator?"

I smiled, in my best self-deprecating way. "Not so you could notice. I'm actually an actor and a writer. I don't get much work, so I support myself chasing ambulances for a negligence lawyer. I interview accident victims and photograph cracks in the sidewalk. It's mostly trip and falls."

He frowned. "I thought it was slip and falls."

"It is. I say trip and fall by force of habit."

"What habit?"

I blinked. I couldn't believe he'd asked that. "The habit of being wrong," I said. "I'm frankly a poor detective, the last one on earth I would personally hire."

"Yet your wife says you've assisted the police on occasion."

"I wish she hadn't. I wish you'd treat me like any other witness."

"Or any other suspect?"

"If youprefer."

"All right. Would you care to tell me how you came to find the body?"

"You already know that. I got up to walk the dog."

"This was standard practice?"

"What do you mean?"

"For you to walk the dog and not your wife."

"I very seldom walk my wife."

He blinked.

I put up my hand. "Sorry. I know this is serious. We share the duty of walking the dog. This morning it was my turn."

"Why?"

"Because Zelda woke me."

"Zelda is the dog?"

"That's right."

"What time did she wake you?"

"Six-fifteen."

"Was that earlier than usual?"

"I'll say."

"Why do you suppose she woke up?"

"I don't know. I suppose it was being in new surroundings. Oh, I see. You mean did she hear something? It's a possibility. Did you pin down the time of death?"

"Not with any accuracy. But I doubt if it was six-fifteen."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"You shouldn't be. If you were here in the house just like everybody else, you could have killed him at any time. In point of fact, I would find it very unlikely you killed him in the presence of your dog."

"Thank goodness for small favors."

"Again, that doesn't let you out."

"No, but common sense should. Why would I drive here all the way from New York with my wife and dog to kill a man I never met?"

He shrugged. "Why would anyone?"

"They wouldn't," I said. "Obviously the killer has some connection. You have only to find it."

"That's what I'm trying to do."

"Really? How you doing so far?"

He frowned. "Mr. Hastings, I find your manner insolent."

"You're right," I said. "I'm sorry. I've had no sleep, and a considerable shock. But that's no reason to take it out on you. I'm just getting impatient with your preliminary questions which I happen to know have no bearing on the crime."

"Oh? And how do you know that?"

"Because they're all tangential, and they don't relate to the actual killing."

"You want me to ask you questions about the actual killing?"

"I thought that was the point of your investigation."

"It is. And you are a key factor in that investigation, having found the body."

I winced. "I wish I hadn't found it."

"Because of the shock?"

"No. Like I say, because it clouds the issue. All you want to ask me about is finding the body."

"Oh, is that right?" he said, ironically. "And what is it you'd like me to ask you about?"

"I told you. The killing."

"I see. You feel you could shed some light on the matter?"

"Yes, I do."

"Very well then, Mr. Hastings. What do you know about the murder?"

"I know who did it."


We were once again assembled in the living room, just as we had been the day before when Alice had given the demonstration with the dog. With a few exceptions. Alice and I shared a couch with Abercrombie this time, our chairs having been taken by Mr. and Mrs. Stone Inn, who had been invited to join the proceedings. Zelda lay curled up at our feet.

Aside from that, everything was pretty much the same. The young couple were on their love seat. The middle-aged couple were on a couch. The bearded man sat in an overstuffed chair.

The elderly gentleman wasn't there, of course, but the policeman was. He stood on the chalk outline in front of the Christmas tree and addressed our little group.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have talked to you all. And I am happy to say I have made some progress. That has been largely due to one man, Mr. Stanley Hastings, who, as you know, found the body because he happened to walk his dog." Here he bowed to Zelda. "That was at six-fifteen this morning when the alarm was raised."

He paused, smiled. "By a happy circumstance, he also happened to walk the dog during the night. I'm going to let him tell you what happened then."

All eyes turned to me. Not that anyone knew the name Stanley Hastings, but they all knew the dog.

I didn't bother getting up. I sat on the couch, patted my dog. "Last night Zelda went to sleep early," I said. "Which is not surprising. It's a new environment, it's new people, it's overstimulating, and she doesn't get her normal naps. At any rate, she went to sleep early and didn't get her usual last walk. Which is why she woke me in the night. She woke up and needed to go out. So I pulled on my clothes and hurried downstairs. I was not fully dressed. Because, frankly, I wasn't going to take her out, I was going to send her out. I was cold and half-asleep and didn't want to wake up any more than I had to. Anyway, I didn't have her leash on, since if I wasn't going out with her, there was no point. I brought her downstairs, let her out the back door.

"Only she didn't go right out. Instead, she trotted over and looked in the living room door." I pointed. "Right over there. Stuck her head in, looked in the direction of the Christmas tree. I called her, and after a moment or two, she trotted over and went out the back door."

"Uh-huh," the policeman said. "And what do you conclude from this?"

"There was someone in the living room who attracted her attention. Most likely the decedent and his killer."

"Did you hear sounds from the living room?"

"No, I didn't. Frankly, I didn't hear a thing."

"And what makes you think they were there?"

"Zelda's actions." I shrugged. "And the resultant corpse."

The policeman held up his finger. "Aha. The corpse. How do you know that wasn't what attracted the dog's attention? The body could have been lying there, and the murder could have happened some time before."

"I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"Zelda's actions. This morning, when we found the body, she trotted right over to it, sniffed it. If it had been there last night, that's what she would have done. But she stopped in the doorway. Cautiously. Which is what she would have done if there had been two people in there not on the friendliest of terms. Dogs are very sensitive. They read body language well. It is my contention that Zelda got a look at the decedent and his killer very shortly before the deed."

"Oh, that's ridiculous," said the bearded man I thought was a sailor but who had turned out to be a life insurance salesman. "It means nothing of the kind."

"Oh, you think not?" the policeman said. "Well, I think it might. Mr. Hastings has a theory, and a very interesting one." He gestured to me. "Why don't you tell them what it is?"

"It's very simple," I said. "Zelda is very smart. She saw two people arguing. Then she saw one of them dead. She can make the connection one person harmed the other."

This time it was the middle-aged man who spoke. "I think that is a little much. Mr. Hastings, are you telling me the dog knows who committed the crime?"

"I wouldn't go that far," I said. "She doesn't know she knows it. All she knows is two people didn't like each other and one is dead. She doesn't really know the other person killed him. That is a leap we have to make. But she knows who that other person is."

"Oh, for goodness' sake," Abercrombie said. "You expect us to believe that?"

"No, I don't," I said. "But I can prove it."

For once I silenced Abercrombie. He gaped at me, his mouth open.

I stood up and took a little metal clicker out of my pocket.

"Zelda," I said, "go round."

Zelda got up and circled me.

"Sit," I said.

Zelda sat at my side.

"Down," I said.

Zelda lay down.

"Stay," I said.

I walked to the middle of the room, turned around. Zelda was still lying there.

"Zelda, come," I said.

Zelda got up, trotted over to me.

"Sit," I said.

Zelda sat and I clicked. I reached in my pocket and handed Zelda a puppy biscuit. She chomped it gratefully, looked up at me expectantly.

"Zelda," I said. "Walk with me."

Zelda walked at my left side back across the room.

I stopped, said, "Zelda, sit."

Zelda sat at my side.

I said, "Zelda. Touch killer."

There was a stunned silence in the room.

Zelda looked up at me expectantly.

Raising my voice slightly, in a high pitched tone dogs like, I repeated, "Zelda. Touch killer."

Zelda's eyes traveled around the room. Then she got up, turned, trotted over to the love seat, and put her head in the young man's lap.

But it was the young woman who sprang up. "No! Stop it!" she cried. "Get her away from him! Danny didn't do it! It was an accident!"

I must say, Danny no longer looked like the all-American boy. From the expression on his face, and the daggers he was darting at the young girl, I got the impression if it weren't for the others in the room there might have been another "accident."


Of course, it was just a trick. Zelda didn't see the young man arguing with the old one. Because I never took her out during the night. She slept straight through till six-fifteen. No, I must admit that was a slight fabrication for the purposes of trapping a killer. Which worked pretty well, I might add.

You're probably wondering how I knew Danny was the killer. Actually, I didn't. I didn't even know he was Danny.

But Alice told me. Alice is good that way. She told me and then refrained from telling the policeman, in order to make me look good.

Actually, she would have told the policeman, had he bothered to ask her. But he didn't, and Alice made up her mind if he was as obtuse as that, she wasn't going to volunteer it. She said she thought he would take it better coming from a private eye. But I know better. At any rate, that's what she did.

But how did Alice know? Well, her powers of observation are as acute as mine are virtually nonexistent. And while the policeman was telling us all about the crime, she was watching the people in the room.

Danny, to his credit, betrayed not a thing. Alice knew he was guilty from watching the girl. From the way the girl was watching him. Just the way she looked. Of course, there was nothing specific.

Which is another reason Alice didn't want to tell the policeman. She figured he'd put it down to women's intuition, vivid imagination, flight of fancy, what-have-you.

And as for the motive, we didn't have one. I made it up. Turned out it was right on the nose, but then even I can't be wrong all the time. I figured most likely the old man and the girl were related in some way the old man would never have dreamed to suspect. And that Danny and the girl had followed him here deliberately in the hope of making something out of the connection.

I don't believe murder was ever intended, at least not by her. But when the opportunity presented itself, Danny took it. Not being particularly smart. Not figuring the relationship, though tenuous, could be traced. Particularly if the young woman presented herself as an heir. Though, to be fair, had they survived questioning, gone home to New York, and months later accepted a behest, probably nothing would have come of it. Because the actual connection, grandniece twice removed, whatever that means, was not particularly likely to come out.

Except for Zelda.

And how did Zelda identify the murderer?

Clicker training, of course.

Alice and I spent a half hour with her alone in the living room training her what to do. Of course, we didn't teach her to touch the killer. She had no idea who the killer was. Or Danny, for that matter. No, we clicker trained her to touch the love seat. As soon as she learned it, we added the command, "Touch killer." Which was fine with her, and she learned it well. Any time we want a love seat touched, that's all we have to say.

I doubt it will come up often.

But it certainly saved the day.

And it certainly made a big impression on the other guests.

Abercrombie was exuberant. "Would you believe it?" he said, triumphantly. "The poodle solved the crime!"

I didn't bother to correct him.

Meet the Author

A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Jeffrey Marks is a freelance writer and interviewer whose work has been published in The Armchair Detective, Mystery Scene, Mystery Readers Journal, and other magazines devoted to crime fiction. His own short stories have appeared in Kracked Mirror Mysteries and other periodicals. Mr. Marks's biography of Craig Rice, one of the most popular female authors of the World War II era, was published in France by Librairie des Champs Elysées. A graduate of Miami University and Xavier University, he lives in Cincinnati. He is also the editor of Canine Crimes, a previous anthology of dog-related mysteries.

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