"If I say so myself, I am muy foxy!"
When novice P.I. Geri Sullivan first heard her adopted Chihuahua talk, she thought she'd gone barking mad. But it turns out Pepe is a savvy sleuthand if he has his way, he'll soon be a bone-a-fido celebrity, too, as Pepe and Geri are Hollywood-bound to star in the reality show Dancing With Dogs. So far, so bueno.
Then Nigel St. Nigel, the judge everyone loves to hate, becomes the judge someone wanted dead. Pepe and Geri are hot on a killer's heels but between perfecting the paso doble and protecting Pepe's Pomeranian lady love, both have their paws full. If Pepe's new status as a Beverly Hills Chihuahua goes to his head, it may be the last waltz for Geri's crime-biting compadre. . .
"Pepe is one cool P.I." Leslie Meier
Praise for Dial C for Chihuahua
"A fun and breezy mystery." –Jennie Bentley
"A fun twist on the typical P.I. partnership." Simon Wood
"Readers will sit up and beg for more." Sushi the Shih Tzu, canine star of the Trash ‘n' Treasures mysteries by Barbara Allan
About the Author
Waverly Curtis is the joint byline for the mystery writing team Waverly Fitzgerald and Curtis Colbert. Visit them at visit www.thepepenovels.com.
Waverly Fitzgerald is the author of four historical romances under the name Nancy Fitzgerald. She has taught writing classes at the UCLA Writers Program, the University of Washington Extension, and regional conferences. She currently teaches at Richard Hugo House, the literary arts center in Seattle. She lives in Seattle with her daughter, Shaw, and Shaw's Chihuahua, Pepe.
Curt Colbert is the author of the Jake Rossiter and Miss Jenkins mysteries. A Seattle native, Curt is also a poet and an avid history buff. Curt and his wife, Stephanie, live in a Seattle suburb under the thrall of their cat, Esmeralda.
Read an Excerpt
By Waverly Curtis
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 2013 Waverly Curtis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy counselor insisted I come in for an appointment before I left Seattle. She wanted to discuss my talking Chihuahua, Pepe.
I could totally understand her concerns. There were times when I questioned my own sanity.
Two hours after I adopted a cute white Chihuahua from a Seattle shelter, he started talking. And he hasn't stopped since. Even as we drove to the appointment, Pepe was chattering away about all the things he wanted to show me when we got to L.A.
He claimed he had once lived there, as the pampered pet of Caprice Kennedy, the ditzy blond starlet famous for her love of small dogs.
I really didn't believe this story. He had dozens of stories, all preposterous. He claimed to have fought a bull in Mexico City, raced in the Iditarod in Alaska, and wrestled an alligator in an Alabama swamp. It pained him that I didn't believe his stories. And I could appreciate that, since no one believed me when I said my dog talked.
If anyone was going to believe me, I had high hopes for my counselor. Susanna is the sort of woman who sees auras and talks about chakras. Her waiting room is cluttered with crystals (to channel energy) and overflowing with plants (to detoxify the environment). She dyes her hair a shocking shade of red and wears chunky jewelry.
"So, Geri," Susanna began, after waving me and Pepe to a seat on the dark gray velour sofa in her office, "is your dog still talking to you?"
"Of course I am still talking to her," said Pepe. "Who else would I talk to? She is the only one who can hear me."
"That's not true," I pointed out to him. "There is one other person who can hear you." "It is of little merit," Pepe said. "That ladrón is in jail."
Susanna was quick to jump in. "So you believe he spoke to you just then?"
"Yes," I said, "and he pointed out that we met another person who could hear him talk." "Oh, really?" Susanna asked. "I would like to meet this person."
"Well, unfortunately, you can't," I said. Because the only other person who could hear Pepe speak was a murderer. I had already told Susanna about getting a job at a private detective agency. Pepe had insisted on going with me to my first appointment, where we stumbled over the corpse of David Tyler.
Susanna looked disturbed. "That's quite a story, Geri."
"You say that as if I made it up."
"Now you see what it is like when you scoff at my stories," said Pepe, with some satisfaction.
"I heard the police made an arrest in the Tyler case," Susanna said, "but they didn't mention you."
"What do you expect?" I asked. My counselor knows the story of my life. I've been going to her ever since she started seeing clients at the clinic associated with the college where she got her master's in counseling. The clinic offered a sliding scale, and I needed that after my divorce since I was only making enough money to make ends meet. So she knew that after I put my husband through business school, he left me for his secretary at his first job. And that just as my career as a stager was taking off, the real estate market crashed. I never get credit for my accomplishments.
"What does she mean, Geri?" Pepe asked. "Are we not heroes?"
My dog loves the limelight. Perhaps he once lived in Beverly Hills after all. It was theoretically possible since he was one of a group of Chihuahuas who had been flown up to Seattle because the shelters in Los Angeles were overflowing with them.
"The Seattle police wanted to take credit for the arrest," I said. Actually they had threatened to arrest me for practicing as a PI without a license.
"That is outrageous!" declared Pepe. "When it was I who felled the foe!"
"It's OK with me," I said. I really don't like center stage. Which is why it was so annoying that my dog kept putting me right in the middle of the most ridiculous schemes. For instance, we were about to leave for L.A. to participate in the pilot episode of a reality TV show called Dancing with Dogs. Rebecca Tyler, David's widow, was producing it and said it was going to be a cross between So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. Pepe was thrilled but I was terrified.
"By the way, I'm going to have to cancel my appointment for next week. Pepe and I are going to be in L.A., filming a TV show."
Susanna shook her head. "You should be checking yourself into a hospital, not going on a trip."
Pepe, who had been lying down, sat up abruptly.
"No way, Geri!" said Pepe. "I need you as my partner." It was unclear whether he meant for dancing or for investigating. He has this delusion that we are partners in a detective agency called Sullivan and Sullivan.
"I can't abandon my dog," I said.
Susanna's eyes grew dark with worry. "Geri, this is all so unlike you. Stories about catching a murderer. An invitation to perform in a reality TV show. A sudden trip to L.A. Do you realize what this sounds like?"
"No," I said. "What does it sound like?"
"Mania," said Susanna.
"Fun!" said Pepe.
* * *
My dog, like most dogs, knows how to have fun. And there's something contagious about being around that kind of joy. Which may be why we adopt dogs in the first place.
And Pepe was definitely enjoying himself. He spent the two hours of the flight from Sea-Tac to LAX running around the private jet with Siren Song, the golden Pomeranian belonging to Rebecca Tyler, who had chartered the plane. Pepe and I met Rebecca after her husband was killed, and we helped her locate the missing money she needed to fund Dancing with Dogs. This was her pet project: a reality TV show featuring dog owners dancing with their pets for cash prizes. Rebecca spent most of the flight on her phone, talking with her casting director and her agent. She was busy trying to line up sponsors and celebrity judges for the show.
In the Los Angeles airport, everyone stared at our entourage. Rebecca looked stunning as usual, striding through the terminal in a chic black dress and sparkly high heels, with Siren Song trotting at one side, her hunky gardener-turned-bodyguard, Luis Montoya, at her other side, carrying her luggage.
I trailed behind with Pepe tucked in the crook of my elbow. I felt very self-conscious in an outfit that was perfect for Seattle's rainy climate—black jeans, a violet-colored sweater, and a black velvet jacket. It was apparently all wrong for L.A. Most of the women in the airport were wearing low-cut, brightly colored, tight tops and tiny skirts that showed off their long tan legs and strappy high heels. Their hair was sleek and styled and mostly blond (or highlighted if not blond) while mine was curly and messy and very dark. And their nails gleamed in various shades of red and pink and even orange. Mine were bitten down to the quick.
Still I held my head high as I passed through the gauntlet of their stares. I assume they thought I was Pepe's handler. He certainly acted like a star, gazing out over the crowds with a little smile on his lips and a proud tilt to his head.
"Ah, Los Angeles," he said. "The City of Angels."
A white Hummer limo was waiting for us at the curb and we settled in. Rebecca got back on the phone while Pepe positioned himself at the window, gazing out and keeping a running commentary on various landmarks we passed.
"There is Century City, Geri," he said, pointing out a cluster of skyscrapers. "I attended a big premiere there with Caprice. Those were the days when she took me everywhere with her. She dyed my fur to match her gown."
"Geri?" asked Rebecca. She and Siren Song and Luis were sitting in the back of the limousine, which was about half a mile from where we were sitting. "Is Pepe all right? He's making quite a racket."
"He's fine," I told her. I tend to forget that nobody can understand him but me. "He's just excited, Rebecca," I added. "For that matter, so am I."
"Well," she said with a smile, "you'll be even more excited when you find out who just agreed to be our last celebrity judge."
"Really?" I asked. "Who?"
"Sí, who?" asked Pepe, his long ears pricked forward.
"Caprice Kennedy!" Rebecca said, and she practically squealed, which is unusual for her, as she is one of the coolest characters you will ever see. She didn't even cry when she found out her husband was murdered.
"Yes," Rebecca continued. "Isn't it wonderful? Having such a famous movie star and dog lover on our show is going to guarantee that the networks will pick it up!"
"Dog lover," mumbled Pepe. "Or dog discarder."
Poor Pepe. Caprice had ditched him for another dog. I'd been ditched myself a few times and could understand how he was feeling.
"And she'll be meeting us at the hotel for a photo shoot," Rebecca went on.
"Yes. Isn't it exciting?"
"I wonder if she will remember me," Pepe said softly.
"Of course she will," I told him.
Rebecca leaned toward me. "It's great publicity for Dancing with Dogs. The best! And great publicity for Caprice, too. She needs it! After the troubles she's had. All those DUIs. That impulsive wedding in Las Vegas. Then dropping out of rehab. This will cast her in a much better light. That's part of the reason she agreed to be on the show. Her agent said as much when I talked to him."
"Caprice is young," said Pepe. "It is only natural for her to sow some wild oats."
"Why, Pepe," I said, "sounds to me like you still have a soft spot for her."
"Everyone makes mistakes," he told me.
"Wake up, Siren Song." Rebecca gave her sleeping Pomeranian a shake. "We're almost there, my little darling. You've got to be at your best."
The limousine rolled to a stop under a striped awning. Someone opened the door from the outside, and before I could stop him, Pepe hopped out.
"Pepe!" I jumped out after him, afraid he would run into traffic. He was always doing this to me, getting me into all sorts of predicaments. If it hadn't been for him running into Rebecca Tyler's house, I wouldn't have gotten mixed up in her husband's murder. On the other hand, if Pepe hadn't antagonized a Great Dane in a parking lot, I wouldn't have met the handsome animal trainer Felix Navarro, whom I reluctantly had to leave behind in Seattle.
I had only a few minutes to take in my surroundings: the blue sky full of puffy white clouds, the palm trees swaying above, the towering gray bulk of the old hotel, and, on the steps of the hotel, a phalanx of photographers, all grouped around a pretty blond woman in a pink sundress.
It was Caprice Kennedy. Her hair was so blond and so teased it looked like cotton candy. Her nails and her lipstick matched the exact pink of her dress. She clutched a small white and brown Papillon with pink ribbons on its fluffy ears.
Pepe had gone charging into the midst of the photographers and now skidded to a halt right at Caprice's polished pink toenails.
"Caprice! Caprice!" He was squeaking. I had never heard him so excited.
She looked down at him and frowned. "Get that strange dog away from me!" she said, kicking at him with her sandaled foot.
Pepe's big brown eyes got even bigger.
"But, Caprice ...," he said. "It is I, Pepe!"
"Shoo, dog!" said one of the photographers, flapping his hands at him.
"You're my little Princess," Caprice cooed to her Papillon, holding it up to her lips and giving the dog a kiss, which incited a round of camera clicks. "Mommy won't let that ruffian get near you!"
Pepe came back to me, wobbling a little. His ears were down and his tail curled between his legs. He seemed to be in shock. I picked him up.
"Geri, she does not remember me!" he said.
He sounded so pathetic I thought my heart would break.
Chapter TwoPepe was quiet during the photo shoot, which was unusual for my blabbermouth of a dog. He did seem to know how to handle the publicity, though. He managed to work his way into the front of every picture; I did my best to stay in the background. Unfortunately, Caprice's little Papillon did not appreciate Pepe hogging the limelight. At one point, she snapped at him, which made Caprice chide her.
"Be nice, Princess," she said with a little wag of her finger. It made for an adorable photo. Even more so when the paparazzi snapped photos of Pepe gazing up at Caprice with longing. I heard one of them say, "That Chihuahua has real star quality."
The little star was not so happy with our lodgings. While Rebecca swept Luis and Siren Song off to a bungalow by the pool, Pepe and I were ushered into a room on the fifth floor of the hotel at the end of a long hallway.
I thought it was rather charming, furnished with a shabby chic aesthetic that evoked the old days of Hollywood: faded gold satin draperies, a gilt-edged mirror on the wall across from the bed. But Pepe grumbled as he inspected the tiny bathroom and the contents of the small refrigerator tucked into a corner. According to him, he and Caprice had always stayed in the penthouse suite.
"Do you miss living with Caprice?" I asked, expecting an answer that would crush me.
"Oh no, mi amiga." he said with a straight face. "I far prefer our rather cramped and humble condo in chilly Seattle to living the life of luxury in Los Angeles."
Rebecca didn't even give us time to unpack before she herded us back into the limousine for a trip to the soundstage to check out the set. Caprice drove off in her low-slung convertible red Ferrari, saying she'd meet us at the studio.
"I remember that car well," said Pepe. He sounded wistful.
"Perhaps you would rather ride with Caprice," I said. I couldn't stop myself from sounding sulky. I was flashing back to my childhood and arguments with my sister about who would ride in the front passenger seat. Being the one riding beside Mom or Dad meant they loved you best.
"Not if it means being in the same car as that bitch," Pepe said. For a moment, I hoped he was talking about Caprice, but then I realized he was probably referring to Princess. "Anyway, a Hummer limo suits my style." He jumped up onto the back of the seat and curled up behind me, where he could see out the window and keep an eye on his true love, Siren Song, who was snoozing on the seat beside Rebecca.
In Seattle, if you drove down the street in a Hummer limo, most people would stop and stare. (Some of them might even throw eggs.) In L.A., no one batted an eye as our long white limousine cruised down the crowded streets.
"What is all that racket?" asked Pepe as we turned down Santa Monica Boulevard. We had made slow progress through the midafternoon traffic-sometimes it took three lights before we could proceed through an intersection.
"I don't hear anything," I told him.
"You are not a dog," he said matter-of-factly. He had made that statement more than once since we'd been together, and I sometimes wondered if he was just stating a simple fact or if he was being patronizing: like someone explaining a complicated theoretical formula, and when you say you don't understand it, they say, "Well, you're not an astrophysicist."
"I believe we are approaching the cause of the disturbance," said Pepe, craning his neck forward as our limousine slowed down. "It appears to be a protest."
"Sí, a protest," Pepe continued. "Many people carrying signs and yelling and blocking our way."
The limousine had come to a complete stop as it attempted to turn right into a driveway. There was a little booth at the edge of the sidewalk and behind it a barred gate. The archway above the gate read METROLAND STUDIOS. A lot of people were marching back and forth on the sidewalk, carrying signs that read NO DOG SHOULD DANCE! and STOP CANINE SLAVERY.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"It must be that damned PETA!" said Rebecca. "What does the Greek bread they use in making gyros have to do with any of this?" Pepe asked me.
"It's not that kind of pita," I told him.
He gave me a quizzical look.
"This is PETA," I explained. "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
"Oh," he said. "Well that is a good thing, is it not?"
"Not in this case," I told him. "I think they might be trying to stop us from doing Dancing with Dogs." I turned to Rebecca. "Why are they doing this?"
"They think making dogs dance is cruel and unusual," she said.
"Why would they think that?" Pepe asked.
"I can't believe they organized this fast!" Rebecca said.
"Did you know this was going to happen?" I asked.
"Oh, we started getting threats as soon as the Hollywood Reporter mentioned we were going to begin filming. These people are fanatics!"
The chauffeur pulled as far as he could into the driveway, and we could see the demonstrators better. Most were in their twenties. Some of the young women were almost nude and had painted their bodies to make them look like dalmatians and springer spaniels. They wore dog collars around their necks with leashes dangling down.
Excerpted from Chihuahua Confidential by Waverly Curtis Copyright © 2013 by Waverly Curtis. Excerpted by permission of Kensington Publishing Corp.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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