Ten Little Bloodhoundsby Virginia Lanier
A Matter Of Life And Death
There's a lot of excitement down at Jo Beth Sidden's kennel. A full litter of ten baby bloodhounds is due any day. Though pressed for time, Jo Beth still agrees to do a favor for a friend -- finding a reclusive, wealthy matriarch's missing cat. But soon afterward, her client is murdered. Now, Jo Beth is looking for a killer. There's a… See more details below
A Matter Of Life And Death
There's a lot of excitement down at Jo Beth Sidden's kennel. A full litter of ten baby bloodhounds is due any day. Though pressed for time, Jo Beth still agrees to do a favor for a friend -- finding a reclusive, wealthy matriarch's missing cat. But soon afterward, her client is murdered. Now, Jo Beth is looking for a killer. There's a slew of suspects to choose from, too -- all potential heirs to the matriarch's fortune. The quicker Jo Beth can solve this case, the soon she can get home to her dogs and get her life in order. But she's in for a surprise, and a fight she'll never forget.
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"Cast Your Bread on the Waters"
October 2, Monday, 7:00 A.M.
There's nothing better than a temperate morning in southeast Georgia. The air was cool enough at this hour that I didn't need the paddle fans turning on the back porch to be comfortable. I was draped on the chaise sipping my first cup of coffee and breathing in the aromatic fumes rising as steam. My craving for nicotine had faded into infrequent nudges I could ignore. My house and business were in order.
Rudy, my large black cat, was curled by my feet at the end of the chaise. Bobby Lee, my large handsome bloodhound, was stretched out on the twelve-inch pegged board floor. They were my housemates and had returned just minutes ago from their morning ran. I glanced across the tarmac at the kennel and admired the bright sunlight reflecting from the large picture windows of the common room. Occasionally a muffled adult bay and the yips of a playful puppy competed with the cheerful background of birdcalls coming from the rose garden to my left.
Wayne Frazier, my kennel manager, had tossed the morning paper on the coffee table after unlocking the two security gates, an early morning ritual. The newspaper was yet unfolded. I preferred to savor the morning.
The first security gate's harsh signal shattered the tranquillity.
"Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water," I grumbled as I quickly stood, walked to the door to my office, and waited for the second gate signal that would announce the arrival of whoever had entered my compound. The reason for the alarm-wired gates and me poised and ready to make a fast dash for an equalizer was my ex-husband, Buford SiddenJr., known to all as Bubba. He has an ever-abiding desire to break every bone in my body with his favorite baseball bat. I protect myself the way all stalking victims should, with a restraining order that isn't worth spit and eternal vigilance, and back up both with a handy loaded gun.
I recognized the battered yellow compact and its occupant, Bertie Thompson, when she turned into the courtyard. She's Balsa City's delivery person. I walked to the edge of the porch and looked up. Jasmine Jones, a dog trainer and my right hand in all matters, was framed in her kitchen window. The security alarms are also wired into her apartment. She knows Bertie, and we exchanged a casual wave before she left the window.
Bertie is short, stout, and pear shaped, with an enormous rump. We grew up together. She had spotted Jasmine.
"Nosy, ain't she?" she called loudly as she approached the steps. Her mother is hard-of-hearing and since they live together, Bertie talks louder than a drill instructor. She also cusses like a sailor, is always cheerful, rescues more SPCA dogs every year to go with her present brood of more than two dozen, and has always been my friend.
"She helps me watch out for Bubba," I explained.
"Shit!" she said in disgust. "When you gonna quit pussyfooting around that turd and blow him to kingdom come?"
"Any day now," I answered easily to divert a tirade. "How 'bout some coffee?"
"Sounds good! Here, let me give you your delivery, a telegram, no less!"
I finished filling the cup that I had brought out for Jasmine, who usually joins me about this time, and gave Bertie a surprised glance.
"A telegram? Who could be sending me a telegram?"
She shoved it in my direction and snorted.
"Only way I know to find out is to open it, dummy!"
I tore open the envelope, read the short message, and smiled uncertainly at Birdie.
"Is this a joke, or maybe one of your tricks?"
"I haven't puffed a joke on you since the sixth grade, dammit!" she yelled.
She silently eyed me, but not for long. Curiosity killed the cat.
"What does it say?"
I read aloud, "YOUR PHONE IS OFF THE HOOK. CALL ME IMMEDIATELY AT 712-5595. CELIA CANCANNON."
I didn't recognize the name.
"My phone is never off the book! I'm subject to be called out on a search-and-rescue by three counties, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I'd never"
I suddenly remembered Rudy's anger at being startled by my cellular phone's penetrating chirp last week during one of his frequent naps. He not only knocked it off the bed; he nosed it underneath, where I had to crawl to retrieve it. I thought it was an aberration, but if he was still holding a grudge ... I glared at his sleeping form, and spoke loudly.
"If a certain CAT that answers to RUDY has rendered my phone inoperable, he's in a lot of TROUBLE!"
He sat up quickly, artistically wrapped his tail around his paws, and stared out at the sunshine, avoiding my eyes.
I groaned. "Excuse me," I told Birdie, "I'll be right back."
Moving through my office, I stopped by my desk and replaced the receiver that was lying on its surface and not in the cradle where it belonged. I continued to my bedroom, where I saw that my cellular was missing from the nightstand. It was under the bed, near the headboard. I retrieved it and carried it to the back porch.
"So is Rudy in trouble?" Bertie was grinning.
"He's due for a refresher course on telephone manners." I was grinning myself. "I'm proud of him, however. He figured out the way to keep both of them from ringing. He's one smart cat."
Bertie was stroking Bobby Lee's long ears.
"It's still hard to believe that this dog is blind."
"But he isn't any longer!" I exclaimed. "Has it been that long since you were here? He's had vision for months now." I counted on my fingers. "Six months exactly, today. It was April second, and suddenly he could see."
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