Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner are on the lookout for a convict who has been unleashed. . .
PAW PATROL IS ON THE CASE
Megan has her sights set on finding a convicted burglar who’s broken his parole, and she has the perfect partner to help sniff him out. Unfortunately, her shepherd-mix Brigit’s dog bowl is already full. A Peeping Tom has been spotted in an affluent Fort Worth neighborhood—and concerned citizens are looking for a few good watchdogs…
TO COLLAR A CRIMINAL
To catch the creep, residents start enlisting volunteers to beef up their Neighborhood Watch group. Which is fine with Megan. She needs to focus on catching a burglar who’s still at large. But when the Peeping Tom patrol grows into a virtual vigilante mob, Megan and Brigit have to jump in paws first—before some very angry people take the law into their own hands…
Against the Paw is the fourth book in Diane Kelly's series featuring Fort Worth Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 dog partner Brigit.
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About the Author
Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. Diane combines her fascination with crime and her love of animals in her stories. Diane now lives in North Carolina, where she spends her days catering to her demanding cats or walking her dogs in the region’s beautiful woods.
Read an Excerpt
Against the Paw
By Diane Kelly
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Diane Kelly
All rights reserved.
She was looking the other way when his eyes locked on her long, dark hair. He imagined himself hot and naked and sweaty, tangled in those soft, silky tresses.
But she'll never be mine.
I know it.
And if she can't be mine, well, I'll do what I have to do ... Quickly and quietly, he steadied himself, sighted, and took aim. She tossed her hair and turned his way, a look of surprise flickering across her face. There was a blinding explosion of light as he contracted his finger and took the shot.CHAPTER 2
Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz
"Up on the scale, Brigit." I led my black and tan shepherd-mix partner over to the large scale on the floor of the veterinary office and motioned for her to step onto the device.
Brigit placed a tentative paw with red-tipped nails onto the black rubber mat covering the metal surface. Satisfied it was safe, she climbed aboard. Once she was centered on the scale, I directed her to sit, pointing with my own red-tipped nail. I'd given us both mani-pedis the night before. While her manicure set contained different tools than mine, at least we could share the polish. Fortunately, we both looked good in Bodacious Rose.
She plunked herself down on her fluffy haunches and looked up at me and the vet tech expectantly, her mouth hanging slightly open as she lightly panted.
The tech consulted the scale's readout. "One hundred and three." She jotted a note in Brigit's paperwork and reached down to ruffle the dog's ear. "You're a big girl."
Brigit was indeed a big girl. Smart, too. She'd been a standout in our K-9 training class, besting all the others, putting them and their handlers to shame. I was proud to be paired with such an outstanding, if excessively hairy, partner.
Brigit and I had been together for just about a year now. Not to brag, but we made a kick-ass team. Despite our occasional head-butting, we complemented and completed each other. While my skills tended to be more mental, Brigit was a physical powerhouse, able to run like the wind, tackle a target, and leap tall buildings with a single bound. And while I could accumulate and process verbal and visual clues, she put her superior senses of hearing and smell to work, tracking fleeing suspects or searching for hidden ones, sniffing out drugs, alerting me to approaching dangers. Together, we were unstoppable.
Unfortunately, while Brigit's size and special skills made her the perfect partner on the beat, they made her a pain in the butt when it came to our personal lives. Not only did the dog eat kibble by the ton and shed fifty pounds of fur a day, she could be insistent and defiant. She behaved impeccably on the job, but after hours, she and I continued to vie for the alpha position in our two-member pack. She seemed as doggedly determined to claim the prominent position as I was. So far, it was a draw.
Despite being different species, Brigit and I had quite a few things in common. Both of us were mutts with mixed heritage, Brigit being a shepherd mix and me being an Irish/Mexican-American with a few drops of Cherokee blood tossed in, not uncommon here in Texas. Both of us could be very stubborn, but both of us were extremely loyal, too. We also tended to overlook each other's faults. She didn't mind my sporadic stutter, and I forgave her occasional bouts of flatulence.
The tech led us back to an examination room, closing the door behind us. "Has she been eating well? Having regular bowel movements?"
"I can vouch for both." As I'd mentioned, the dog consumed enormous quantities of kibble which, naturally, led her to litter the backyard of my rental house with turds the size of cow patties. I had to perform poo-poo patrol every couple of days lest the yard begin to smell like a feedlot. "She's healthy as a horse."
"Nearly as big as one, too," the tech noted. "I won't bother trying to get her up on the exam table. She'd probably break my back." The woman knelt down to take Brigit's temperature and look at her teeth, lifting the dog's black jowls for a closer peek at her chompers. "Her teeth look nice and clean."
As well they should. The dog was a master chewer. She'd eaten virtually every pair of shoes I owned before I wised up and began storing them in the top of my closet where she couldn't reach them. I bought her a never-ending supply of nylon bones to chew, as well as crunchy biscuits. I even brushed her teeth with a specially designed doggy toothbrush and beef-flavored paste. Heck, I took better care of the dog than myself. Here she was, getting her annual checkup right on time, while I was two months overdue for my women's exam. Not a big fan of the scoot and spread.
The tech finished her preliminary review, notated the file, and tossed Brigit a dog treat from a glass canister on the counter. "Catch, girl."
Brigit was on her hind legs in an instant, leaping to snatch the treat from the air with the grace and skill of a prima ballerina.
"Dr. Wickham will be in shortly." With that, the tech slipped through the back door and dropped the paperwork into a plastic bin mounted on the reverse side. The file slid to the bottom of the bin with a thunk.
I sat down on a green vinyl chair and held the dog's lead loosely in my hand, allowing her to snuffle her way around the room. She put her nose to the floor and took baby steps forward. Snuffle-snuffle. Snuffle-snuffle. She stopped at the corner of the examination table, paying particular attention to the base. Snuffle-snuffle. No doubt many a patient who'd preceded her had marked the spot. Snuffle-snuffle.
Her curiosity satisfied, she returned to me, virtually bending in half so that both her butt and face were aimed in my direction. She wagged her tail and gave me a soft woof that said, Scratch my ass, would ya?
"What have you done for me lately?" I asked.
She failed to respond, of course, but nonetheless I reached out and dug my short nails into the fur at the base of her tail, giving her butt a good and thorough scratch. The things we humans do for our animals. Sheesh. She raised her snout, her eyes closing halfway in pure canine bliss.
"You're spoiled rotten," I told her, as if she were at fault. Really, I had no one to blame but myself. When it came to my fuzzy-wuzzy partner, I could sometimes be a pushover.
A noise at the door alerted me that the vet had removed Brigit's file from the holder. A moment later, the door opened and the doctor, an attractive gray-haired man in his early fifties, stepped inside.
After we exchanged greetings, he glanced down at Brigit with admiration. "Hey, there, Sergeant Brigit." He bent down to her level and allowed her to sniff his hand. "Remember me from last year? I'm okay, right?"
Brigit's nose twitched a couple of times before she pulled her head back and raised a front paw. Dr. Wickham laughed and took her paw in his hand, giving it a shake.
The vet looked up at me. "According to the notes in the file, she's gained six pounds since her last visit."
She wasn't the only one. Sitting on my rear in a police cruiser all day didn't exactly burn a lot of calories.
"That extra weight isn't good for her joints and bones," the doctor continued. "You'll need to cut back on the food and treats."
On hearing the word "treat" Brigit wagged her tail, obviously thinking she was about to get another goodie when instead the doc had sentenced her to a diet.
"Will do." Looked like I'd have to be a little less generous with her favorite liver snaps.
He looked into the dog's ears and eyes, then gave her body a once-over. "Her coat looks healthy and shiny."
That pretty shine was precisely why I used Brigit's peach-scented flea shampoo on my own hair, too. But let's keep that between the two of us, shall we? My long, black locks were one of my best features so I did what I had to do to maintain them. My boyfriend Seth, a bomb squad officer with the Fort Worth Fire Department, enjoyed playing with my tresses. I, in turn, enjoyed the way Seth looked at me while he fingered my hair, as if he were burning for me and only I could put out the fire.
The vet proceeded to feel along Brigit's ribs and abdomen, spread her back legs to test her hips for dysplasia, then used a stethoscope to listen to her heart. "Strong ticker. Everything else looks fine, too."
Good to know. Although I hoped to make detective someday, Brigit and I would have several more years together before then.
The tech reappeared with three syringes for Brigit's shots. "Here you go, doc," she said, holding them out.
The vet took the syringes and motioned for me to join him on the floor. "She trusts you. See if you can hold her still while I give her these shots."
Wrapping my arms around Brigit to immobilize her, I murmured to distract her while the vet administered the inoculations. "Be a b-brave girl, Brigit. You can do it. Nothing to worry about."
As the doctor inserted a needle into the dog's hip she turned her head toward him and whimpered, but thankfully made no attempt to bite the man.
"Good girl!" the vet praised her when he finished, stroking her shoulder. He instructed me to continue holding her while he retrieved a long plastic stick with a narrow loop on the end. "Now for the fecal sample."
He circled around behind her, wrapped his hands under her abdomen, and lifted her to a standing position. "In we go."
He gently inserted the stick into Brigit's rear. Her eyes went wide and she emitted a Ruh? of shock before giving me a look that said she'd never, ever trust me again.CHAPTER 3
NO WAY TO TREAT A DOG
As soon as the vet removed the stick from her backside, Brigit plunked her hindquarters down firmly on the cold tile. If that sicko had any other plans for her rectum, he better just forget it.
She cast a glance at her partner. For the most part, she trusted Megan. But why her partner allowed this man to put Brigit through such an indignity the dog would never know. And she hadn't even given Brigit a liver treat afterward! If it wasn't for the fact that Megan let Brigit sleep in her bed with her at night as well as took her to the dog park on a regular basis, Brigit might consider putting in for a transfer.CHAPTER 4
A row of well-established azaleas sat alongside the single-story stucco house. Given that it was now early May, the blooms had come and gone, leaving behind only thick, leafy bushes that did their best to block access to the window.
But he was determined.
At nearly eleven o'clock, the night was fully dark. With no outdoor lighting along the side of the house, he blended readily into the shadows. The few drivers who passed by on the street overlooked him lurking in the bushes. Just as I'd hoped ...
He slowly forced his way between two bushes, the branches cracking as they gave way, the sound seeming as loud as fireworks in the otherwise quiet night. He hesitated a moment, his heart pounding like a war drum, but the sounds seemed to draw no attention. He inhaled a deep breath, taking in the cedar scent of the bark chips under his feet, and willed himself to relax.
He took another step forward, his face now only inches from the window. The miniblinds hung slightly askew, leaving a two-inch triangle of glass uncovered in the bottom right corner and providing him a clear view into the woman's bedroom. The bright overhead light in the room made it easy for him to see her moving about inside.
Gotta love those high-wattage energy-efficient bulbs.
Unfortunately, those bulbs also attracted moths, which fluttered around the window, occasionally thumping softly against the pane as they tried in vain to get closer to the light source. He waved a hand, temporarily dispersing the fluttering pests, and leaned in for a closer look.
The woman was tall and full-figured, with long, dark hair he'd loved to stroke and bury his face in. When she kicked off her stiletto heels, he knew he was only seconds away from his payoff. His anxious breaths came in quick succession, verging on hyperventilation. Easy now, he told himself. Slow down and savor this.
A moth ricocheted off his forehead as the woman tugged her clingy red dress up over her head and tossed it onto a nearby chair, revealing round curves and inch after luscious inch of bare flesh. She'd also revealed a plain beige bra and faded cotton panties, not at all like the black lace he'd visualized her wearing in his fantasies. He felt a twinge of disappointment, but got over it quickly. After all, he wasn't here to see lingerie. If that was all he wanted he could have simply pored over the Victoria's Secret catalog he kept in the top drawer of his night table.
As he waved the moths away again, the woman reached her hands behind her back to unhook her bra. His pulse throbbed as he put his face to the window, moths be damned.
She moved toward the front of the room as she wrangled with the clasp.
No, no, NO!
Just as the hooks released, setting her breasts free, she disappeared through the door of her bathroom and out of view.
He stomped a foot in the bark chips, releasing both his frustration and the woodsy scent of cedar. The bathroom windows faced the street. He couldn't risk attempting to spy on her from such a visible location. He could only hope she'd be bare when she returned to the bedroom.
But she wasn't.
When she emerged a half minute later, she wore a wrinkled, powder-blue nightshirt covered in cartoon sheep. If that wasn't unattractive enough, the robe bore a large coffee stain on the front and hung well past her knees. She plopped down on the edge of her bed and proceeded to trim her toenails with a pair of silver clippers, little half-moon pieces sailing through the air. Yuck.
So much for getting any gratification tonight. His balls felt as deflated as the ones Tom Brady had used in the 2015 Super Bowl.
He took a deep breath to calm himself. Unfortunately, along with the oxygen, he inhaled a small bug, one that was now lodged in his nostril, frantically flapping its tiny wings in an attempt to escape.
He wriggled his nose and exhaled sharply, but to no avail. The bug was stuck.
The sneeze came on like a runaway freight train, allowing him no time to back away from the window before it blasted from his nose. The best he could do was cover his face with his hands in an attempt to muffle the sound.
The woman's head snapped to face the window. Thank goodness he'd worn running shoes because he was definitely going to need them.CHAPTER 5
Tuesday morning, I dressed in my police uniform, buckled my belt, and left the bedroom Brigit and I shared to go in search of my K-9 partner. I found her in the living room. She lay sprawled on the couch next to my roommate, Frankie, a blue-haired, blue-eyed Amazon who stocked groceries by night and played roller derby for the Fort Worth Whoop Ass, also by night.
I greeted the two with a "good morning."
Frankie responded with a "'mornin'" while Brigit responded with a tail wag.
Frankie and I had met a few short weeks ago when I'd taken a detour into the South Hemphill Heights neighborhood. She'd skated right in front of my moving cruiser, the bumper missing her by mere inches when I screeched to a stop. I'd pulled Frankie over — it was my first and only time to stop an eight-wheeled offender — and learned that only minutes before she'd been unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend. Thus, her erratic, bordering on suicidal, behavior.
Lest she end up becoming roadkill, I gave her a ride home. Feeling empathy for her and realizing the bedroom her ex had used as his "man cave" now stood vacant, I'd suggested I take over his lease. Luckily for me, she agreed. I gave notice to the paunchy and pungent property manager at the seedy apartment complex where Brigit and I had been living, and moved our meager belongings into this relatively spacious bungalow.
The place was painted a light mauve with ivory trim, the front door a contrasting navy blue. A giant magnolia tree loomed over the front yard, preventing the grass from making any headway, but an ivy ground covering had creeped over from next door and did a fair job of hiding the dirt. A prefab one-car detached garage sat to the back and right of the house, added after the house was originally built. A six-foot wooden privacy fence enclosed the backyard, giving Brigit a safe place to play, chase squirrels, and do her dirty business.
Frankie and I had been roommates only a short time, but so far things had been going great. Brigit even got along with Zoe, Frankie's fluffy calico cat. Or perhaps "tolerated" was a more precise word. Zoe was like a pesky kid sister to Brigit. Even now, as Brigit wagged her tail upon seeing me, Zoe crept out from under the couch and swiped at my partner's moving tail with her paw.
Excerpted from Against the Paw by Diane Kelly. Copyright © 2016 Diane Kelly. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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