No good deed goes unpunished. Leaving a Minnesota winter and a divorce behind is no great sacrifice when Callie Sue Davis agrees to help in her uncle’s California print shop while he’s ill. When she arrives in San Diego, she finds her uncle conveniently forgot to mention she’ll also be caring for his big, black, blind dog. How hard could that be? But when a human arm turns up in his recycling barrel at the print shop, Callie’s uncle is suspect number one.
The print shop employees behave suspiciously and Callie finds herself getting deeper into trouble all the time. The only plus is that one of the police detectives is a charmer, and sparks start to fly. Well, that and the dog.
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Rain drizzled down the side of the cement building like tears from an aging elephant, the windows in front of me were dark, empty and lifeless. Tension sizzled though my body like lightning in a summer storm and the shop keys almost slid out of my sweaty fingers. It took me three tries before I managed to get the lock to turn. I pushed open the heavy door and immediately regretted it. The smell oozing out reminded me of the time I'd gone on vacation and forgotten to refrigerate some eggs. Before I could turn and escape back outside, a phone rang somewhere in the dark recesses of the shop. I followed the sound into a small office off the lobby.
The jingling rotary phone squatted on the battered desk like a fat, black toad. I've always been intrigued by a ringing telephone. Who will be on the other end? Friend or foe? Good news or bad? Life ... or death? There was only one way to find out, so I answered it.
"Good morning, the Print Shack. May I help you?"
"Let me talk to Oly," a male voice demanded.
"I'm sorry. Mr. Torgelson isn't here. He's indisposed."
Silence, then, "What's that mean?"
"Oh. Listen, when he gets his ass back to work, tell him to call Joe. Tell him I done tole him and I done tole him. Only white paper in the bins. Can't have nothing but white paper to recycle." A deep, phlegmy cough rumbled through the receiver temporarily deafening me. "Can't have no more weird shit in the barrel. You got that?"
"Yes, Joe. Only white paper, no weird stuff." With the phone captured between my ear and shoulder, I pawed around attempting to locate a pencil stub under a pile of newspapers. The only blank space I couldfind was the edge of the desk calendar, so I scribbled a note there. In the middle of a print shop full of paper, there should be at least one notepad. I tried hard to keep the amusement out of my voice, but I had to ask.
"Exactly what type of funny stuff did you find in the bin, Joe?"
"An arm, dammit. I found some poor fella's arm in the bottom of the barrel and it ain't a bit funny. Now I got a big drum full of white paper soaked in blood. What the hell am I gonna do with it? You tell Oly, next time I find body parts in one of the bins, I stop picking up.