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The Nose Sees AllA Spunky Murder Mystery
By Holly L. Lewitas
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Holly L. Lewitas
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Spunky, where are we going?"
"Heck if I know, Fearless. Mom said something about old people."
"Well, see if you can get her—(breath)—to tell us something."
"Okay, I'll give it a shot."
Getting a human to talk about a specific subject is not an easy assignment, but after almost thirteen years together, I've learned a thing or two about this woman. The fact that she's driving makes the task more difficult, but we terriers do love a challenge. I nudged her with my nose.
"Hi there, sweetheart."
I nudged her again.
"Okay, baby, that's enough. I'm driving now."
I nudged her again.
"Spunky, what do you want? The window wider? There, I opened it a little further, but you know I'm not going to let you hang out too far."
Hang out too far! Geeze woman, my head can barely fit through that opening. Ain't nothing hanging out except my nose and ears!
I nudged her again.
"Spunky, stop it, and go lie down." The next move was tricky. Mom was getting angry. I nudged her again, but before she yelled, I whined softly. She knows I'm a tough gal, so a whine was unusual and warranted attention.
"What's the matter, baby? Do you have to pee? We'll be there in a few minutes. I'll try and take your mind off it ..." She started to babble. Now we were getting somewhere. We might just learn something.
"I think you two are going to like this place. It's a nursing home and there'll be a lot of nice people there who'll love seeing two cuties like you. Our friend Judy volunteers there and she suggested we do this. She talked to somebody on their board of directors and got the okay for us to come. Now you both must be on your best behavior, okay? Fearless, no claws, and Spunky, no face licking unless someone specifically asks for a kiss. And old people can be herky-jerky, so be patient when they pet you. No hissing, no growling, no ..."
"Spunky,—(breath)—this doesn't sound like much fun."
"I agree, my friend, not a romp in the park. But I bet there'll be a lot of smells we can investigate."
That turned out to be an understatement. The moment we walked into the place our noses were bombarded with odors. Within the first twenty feet, I smelled fish, air freshener, brownies, urine, blood, Pine Sol, Old Spice, bleach, mice, and dirty socks. Since Mom didn't cover her nose, I concluded she had not detected this buffet of aromas, but then you humans do rate much lower in olfactory proficiency than us critters. Mom took a deep breath and whispered, "Boy, hard to guess this is a nursing home! This place doesn't smell bad at all."
Wow! I wonder what a "bad-smelling" nursing home is like?
I walked beside Mom while she carried Fearless in his carrier. I was on my leash and when she stopped, I stopped without any pulling. I wanted her to be proud of me. We went to a desk where a lady was sitting, and she told Mom she needed to report to the Director of Nursing's office. She gave Mom directions and we walked down several long halls. It took us a while because there were so many people in chairs with very large wheels. They all wanted to say "Hi" and pet me, although I was hard pressed to call what they did "petting." I learned real quick, old folks don't pet—they pat.
"Spunky, why do you keep ducking—(breath)—your head like that?"
"Fearless, wait until you get out of that cage, you'll see. That lady just patted my head like it was a ripe melon. She plunked me really good! Her hand felt more like a paddle. Guess her old fingers don't bend so well anymore."
"Spunky, this doesn't sound very promising.—Maybe I'll start hissing—(breath)—then Mom will leave me in my cage.—I don't want anyone plunking me!"
"Don't you dare hiss! You'll embarrass Mom. You can be nice to these folks, just duck your head. You'll be fine."
When we reached the Director's office, Mom pushed open the door. Thank goodness, no more big-wheeled chairs. As Mom introduced herself, a tall woman rose from behind her desk and welcomed us to Lakeland Manor. She said her name was Ms. Harrington and, yes, she was the Director of Nursing. She wore a white lab coat over a plain, dark grey dress. Her silver hair was wrapped tightly in a bun. Her spectacles were perched at the end of her thin nose, which in turn, was perched in the middle of her thin face. The skin was tight across her bones, and her lips were held in what might have been a permanent sour pucker. She stood straight and held her body rigid, as if someone had run a ramrod up her ...
"I'm told you want to show your animals to our patients. May I see their health certificates and proof they're certified for therapy? We have to be very careful, you know."
What did she mean by "show your animals to our patients?" I thought we were here to visit people. I sniffed from afar. The woman smelled medicinal. She'd bathed with a pungent disinfectant soap and had recently wiped her hands with alcohol. A little lavender would've gone a long way. One thing was certain: she had not touched a single critter—not even the two-legged variety. She had no living smells on her clothes.
Mom pulled the necessary papers from her purse and handed them to her. Last year Fearless and I completed a good citizenship class and we graduated with honors. The final exam consisted of proving we could tolerate different kinds of stimuli, including people, cats, dogs, toddlers, noisy fans, honking horns, and even a parrot. The toddlers were the worst part. They had one mode—grab and yank. It took skill to avoid their grip and yet act like a friendly dog. I did a lot of gentle licking. It distracted them and made them laugh, but I also learned—never lick their face—they loved it, but their mothers had a hissy fit.
After Ms. Harrington scrutinized our papers, she handed them back to Mom. I noticed she held them using only two fingers; maybe she thought they were contaminated.
She said. "They seem to be in order. I for one don't support the notion of animal therapy. Plain old physical therapy is all these people need. But the President of our Board, Mr. Delaney, thinks it's wonderful, so I'm required to cooperate."
She studied me for several moments. Her brow furrowed and her nose elevated slightly as she said, "And what kind of dog is that?"
Mom was quick to answer. "Why she's a Terrierdoor, of course. It's a rare breed—a very rare one, and a very expensive one, too."
My head jerked toward Mom. "I'm a what?" Mom was struggling to contain a smile.
Fearless meowed. "Spunky, Mom called you a Terrierdoor—What's that about?—(breath)—If you get to be a Terrierdoor—then I want to be—(breath)—a Tilted Headed Tigerback!"
"Fearless, hush a minute, Mom's just pulling the old scarecrow's leg."
The old scarecrow, a.k.a. Ms. Harrington, escorted us out of her office and told us how to find the recreation room where the patients could "see us." We headed back down the hall.
Once Ms. Harrington had shut her door, Mom blew out big breath, "Whew. What a stuffy old battleaxe. She sure is uppity. Spunky, she looked at you as if you were covered in mud. I bet right now she's in there spraying her office for fleas! I'd be danged if I was going to tell that snooty-balooty you were a mutt. She'd never understand why mutts are so great."
Then Mom giggled. "A Terrierdoor! Where did that come from? Not bad, huh, Spunk? Did you know you were a Terrierdoor? Good thing she didn't ask me about you, Fearless. Who knows what name I might have come up with?"
"A Tilted Headed Tigerback—(breath)—would have been an—excellent choice,—(breath)—don't you agree, Spunk?"
I snorted. "Fearless, you're a hoot! It's perfect for you."
Fearless has always been cool about his handicap. When he was a baby, a man wearing heavy boots kicked him in the head. The injuries caused a permanent head tilt and shortness of breath, but all that never stopped Fearless from being like any other cat. And I'll be the first to warn you—never underestimate the courage or strength of my friend Fearless. The scar on my nose is an ever-present reminder that this boy isn't afraid of anything, except men in boots and fighting cats. The latter causes flashbacks to the time a mean tomcat hurt his momma. But if you take those two things off the list then I can attest I've never seen anything make this eighteen-pound-big boy back down.
But as we turned into a large, open room, I thought, I might have to eat my words.
Chapter Two"Whoa, Spunk, there's an army of wrinkled people coming at us!"
Sure enough, a line of chariots was coming right toward us, and each one had a grey-haired, wrinkled person propelling it. Now, I have plenty of my own grey hairs, but I'll tell you one thing—dogs age a lot better than humans!
Mom was very brave—she stood her ground. We looked like we were in one of those old westerns I've seen her watch on the television. The chariots circled us like the Indians around the wagon train. We were trapped.
"Hello, folks, it's wonderful to see all of you. My name is Dr. Hannah Richards, and this here is Spunky; she's a twelve-year-old-terrier mutt. And this is Fearless, a five-year-old tiger-striped tabby cat. They'd love to meet each one of you, but this is their first time around this many people, so please don't crowd them. If all of you could push back and line up, then they can see you one at a time. I think that would work better for everyone."
The chariots moved back. Mom unhooked my leash and let me go on my own. She took Fearless out of his cage, but held on to him as she knelt in front of the first person. That way Fearless wouldn't have the stuffing squeezed out of him.
I walked from one chariot to the next, meeting, and greeting everyone. If I lifted my chin right before they plunked my head, then most of them got the message that a chin scratching was preferred. In fact, I can confirm boney fingers make excellent chin scratchers.
Everyone was very nice. We heard lots of stories about their own beloved cats and dogs. Some people cried when they told us about having to leave their four-legged sweethearts with friends when they came into the nursing home. I gave those folks extra licks. I did jump onto several laps, but only after receiving the proper invitation. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Fearless was now freely moving from one lap to the next, giving face rubs and purring loudly.
"Ahoy, there! Out of the way you landlubbers."
A patient said, "Oh, for heaven's sake. I thought the nurses had sedated the Captain."
Another responded. "Obviously, they didn't give him enough. We'd better move out of the way before he rams us like he did last time."
With a lot of grumbling, the chariots parted, and a man sailed through the opening, riding in a chair that seemed to move by magic. He was a plump man in a black velvet jacket with satin lapels and an abundance of food stains. The left side of his jacket held an elaborate array of shiny medals. As I studied him and his chair, I realized that, unlike the others, his hands weren't touching the wheels. Instead, they rested on the arms of his chair. "Fearless, how is that chair moving?"
It headed right for us and I quickly jumped back.
"Whoa, Fearless, get out of the way!"
Fearless stood his ground. "I don't how it's moving,—but a lap that plump shouldn't be wasted."
As the chair went past, Fearless gracefully jumped onto the man's lap. The chair abruptly stopped.
"Ahoy there, mate! I didn't give you permission to come aboard. Your mast is a bit crooked but I like the cut of your jib so—welcome aboard. Batten down the hatches, and we'll set sail!"
Fearless lay down on the man's lap and the chair moved forward. The magic chair was amazing to watch. Fearless and the man sailed around the room, and everywhere they went people scooted out of their way. From what I could hear, the man's name was Captain Skinner, and he was renowned for his lousy steering skills. In fact, no one seemed to have anything good to say about the Captain whatsoever.
"Crazy as a bed bug."
However, Fearless seemed to be enjoying the man immensely. The Captain finally parked his magic chair over by the television. All the non-magical chariots moved back into place and I resumed greeting people.
"Shiver me timbers! The enemy has breached the stern. Stand and fight, you scalawag!"
"There he goes again, yup, crazy as a bed bug."
All eyes turned toward the Captain. He and his chair were now over by the window. He was yelling at another man, who was also in a wheelchair.
"Blackbeard, I know your secrets. I'll run you though, you slippery weasel!"
The man had a few words of his own. "Listen, you old coot, you're as crazy as a loon. Now go away before I pop you one."
"Old coot? Crazy? Listen, you old barnacle, you'll regret the day you called me crazy. Mark my words, you scoundrel, your days will end inside the belly of a whale."
Then the Captain started swinging, as if he was holding a sword, albeit it an invisible one. Fearless ducked his head and opted to vacate the plump pillow.
Two women in uniforms ran in. One of them talked to the Captain, while the other one flipped a switch on the arm of his chair. She then pushed the chair and the Captain out of the room while he continued to yell and duel with his now invisible enemy. The remaining woman stayed and spoke to the man at the window.
He brushed her away saying, "I'm fine. Just keep that old loony away from me. One day he is going to hurt someone!"
The nurse then came over and spoke to Mom.
"I'm sorry about that, Ma'am. Captain Skinner has some problems, and sometimes he can get pretty agitated. We'll take him back to his room and he'll be fine. I hope your cat is okay."
Mom smiled. "Fearless is fine, but thank you for checking. Was Captain Skinner in the Navy?"
"He sure was. He was a Corpsman, a medic, in the Navy during World War II. He was quite the hero and saved a lot of men. All those medals on his chest are real and he always wears them. Unfortunately, now that he is almost ninety he gets confused at times." She smiled. "I'm afraid that lately he thinks he's a pirate on the high seas."
Mom said, "That's sad. I hope he'll be all right. My cat seemed to like him a lot. Too bad they couldn't have more time together. It might do the Captain some good."
"Maybe another day. It's not safe to be around him when he's agitated." She smiled and tickled Fearless's chin. "He might mistake you for a pirate and run you through with his sword."
Another patient interrupted. "That's for sure, one time I got in his way and—"
"Now, Millie, Dr. Richards is our guest. I'm sure she doesn't want to hear all about that. Just go on now and hush."
Muttering to herself, Millie moved her chariot away and soon everything settled back down.
"Spunky, that was so much fun. His chair is great—(breath)—it rides just—like a car. He pushed a little stick on the arm—and off we went. It was fun—(breath)—at least until he started swatting at things and yelling at that man.—(breath)—But it was weird,—I know he was yelling very loudly,—(breath)—but his body wasn't tense or angry—Did you see his jacket?—It was so beautiful—and soft.—(breath)—He must be very rich to wear such fancy velvet."
"I don't know about rich, Fearless. That jacket of his seemed old and stained."
"But did you see all those medals?"
"Yeah, he sure had a lot of them."
Fearless's eyes glazed over as he purred. "They were so beautiful and shiny—(breath)—so very shiny."
"I know, I know. You love shiny things. In fact, I've been meaning to ask you, have you seen that new gold tag Mom bought for my collar? I can't find it anywhere."
"Huh? Gold tag? Well ... Hey, Spunky, look over there,—(breath)—you missed saying hello to someone."
"Over there in by the window,—the guy that the Captain was yelling at—(breath)—I'd go see him myself,—but I promised Millie I'd come back."
Sometimes Fearless can scamper away so fast, I think he's part goat!
Chapter ThreeI looked toward the window. The man was still there, but now a different woman in a uniform was trying to pull his wheelchair away from the window. He was hanging onto the window ledge and refusing to budge.
"Kenneth, you've been sitting here for over an hour. You know she's not coming. Please, come on and let me take you back to your room. I'll get you a nice cup of tea and we'll talk awhile."
"Alice, I said leave me be! Barbara will be here. She promised. Now go on and leave me alone, please!"
Excerpted from The Nose Sees All by Holly L. Lewitas Copyright © 2012 by Holly L. Lewitas. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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