"I have the body of a Chihuahua, but the mind of a master sleuth."
Aspiring P.I. Geri Sullivan's new case has got her talking Chihuahua, Pepe, hot under the collar. Wealthy widow Lucille Carpenter left her entire fortune to her beloved dogs, and someone is trying to poison them. Anyone who would hurt a perro is lower than a cucaracha in Pepe's book. But when Geri and Pepe investigate, they discover that it's not just the coddled canines who are in danger. Now there are human targets too.
At the lavish Carpenter manor, Pepe digs for clues among the pampered pooches, bitter relatives, suspicious staff, and larcenous lawyers. But there's only one diminutive detective smart enough to save the day--and the dogs. . .
Praise for the Barking Detective Mysteries
"This series is hilarious! The antics of Geri and her talking dog make the reader laugh out loud." --RT Book Reviews
"Move over, Scooby-Doo, there's a new dog in town!" --Jennie Bentley
"Pepe is one cool P.I."--Leslie Meier
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About the Author
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
The Chihuahua Always Sniffs Twice
By Waverly Curtis
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Waverly Curtis
All rights reserved.
It was a sunny day in July—the kind of beautiful summer day that makes living in rain-soaked Seattle worthwhile. My Chihuahua, Pepe, was lying on the top of the sofa, sprawled in a sunbeam that lit up his short white fur. He's like a cat, the way he likes to perch in the sun—which doesn't go over well with my actual cat, Albert, who used to be able to soak up sunshine anyplace he chose. Instead, Albert now has to share his domain. They were getting along for the moment, anyway, and I'd taken a seat on the front porch with a glass of iced tea and the latest Sparkle Abbey mystery. Then the phone rang.
I jumped up and went back inside, hoping it was Felix, the handsome dog trainer I was dating. We were supposed to get together for dinner, though sometimes he had cancellations in his busy schedule. But when I looked at the caller ID on my phone, I saw the name Gerrard Agency.
"Hi, Jimmy G," I said. Pepe perked up. Jimmy G is our boss; he owns the private detective agency that Pepe and I work for.
"Hey, doll, Jimmy G needs you at the office. Toot sweet!" Jimmy G added. He always talks about himself in the third person.
"What for?" I asked. I was reluctant to give up on my plan for a lazy afternoon. I had signed on with Jimmy G thinking he was going to train me to be a PI. It turned out to be a little bit more involved than just getting hired. Private eyes in Washington State need to complete a training course and take a test. I was registered for an upcoming class at the University of Washington. Meanwhile, Jimmy G called me his girl Friday and kept me busy picking up his dry cleaning and fetching coffee.
"Jimmy G cannot explicate over the horn," he said. "Shake a leg!" And he hung up.
"Do we have a case, Geri?" Pepe asked, standing at my feet and looking up at me.
Yes, my Chihuahua talks. It was a shock to me when he began speaking, a couple of hours after I adopted him from a Seattle shelter, but I've gotten used to it. Unfortunately, no one else can hear him.
"Sounds like it," I said. "The boss wants us to meet him at the office."
"Vamonos!" he said. Then he glanced over at Albert the Cat, who'd already jumped up on the sofa and taken Pepe's former spot in the sun. "Enjoy it while you can, gato," he told Albert. "If you are still in my place when I return, we will have words."
Jimmy G's office is in an old brick building on the edge of downtown Seattle, near the Greyhound bus station. The building is always deserted even in the middle of the day. Pepe and I strolled down the long hallway, past the frosted-glass windows of offices where the lights were always out. Jimmy G's office is at the end of the hallway.
When I knocked, I heard Jimmy G talking to someone, but when he opened the door, the office was empty.
"Who were you talking to?" I asked, looking around. The place was a mess, as usual. Candy-bar wrappers, crumpled cellophane from cigars, and wadded-up pieces of paper covered the desk and floor. The latest goldfish was floating belly up in the swamp Jimmy G called an aquarium. The air reeked of cigar smoke and tuna salad.
"Client. On the phone," said Jimmy G. He glanced at the old black rotary phone sitting on a corner of his desk. He seemed uncharacteristically jumpy. He actually cleared a place on the small black-leather sofa beside his desk so I could sit down.
"I have seen better dumps at the dump," said Pepe. (The rips in this couch, a thrift-store find, had been "fixed" by our boss with Xs of silver duct tape.) I was longing to do a makeover—before I became a PI, I was a stager, making houses for sale look appealing to prospective buyers—but Jimmy G said he liked his office the way it was.
Jimmy G took a seat behind his desk. He has a rugged face, with a nose that looks like it might once have been broken, and big brown eyes that bulge out more than Pepe's. He was dressed, as usual, like a 1940s private eye, but he'd outdone himself this morning. He had on a blue-and-white-striped shirt with red suspenders. A brown fedora clung to the back of his head. His pencil-thin moustache finished off his retro look with perfection.
Pepe headed for the overflowing wastebasket and began rooting around.
"So, I suppose," said the boss, "you're probably wondering why Jimmy G wanted you in the office this morning."
"Yes," I said.
"The thought has crossed our minds," said Pepe, looking up from his scrounging.
"Jimmy G has a case for you!" Those were the words I had been waiting to hear ever since I started working for Jimmy G, private dick, as he likes to call himself. (Sometimes Pepe and I call him a public dick, but only to each other.) "You and your rat-dog." He looked at Pepe, who was sniffing something he had found in a corner.
"Yum!" I heard Pepe say.
"Don't eat anything you find down there," I warned him. "I don't want you getting sick."
"Funny you should say that," Jimmy G said. "That's the case. Someone tried to poison some dogs. They had to be rushed to the vet."
"Oh, my God! That's terrible!" I said. "Who would do such a thing?"
"Sí!" said Pepe, coming over to me, quivering with indignation. "A poisoner of perros! Lower than a cucaracha! Such a person would have to possess a heart of ice-cold stone!" Pepe is given to overly melodramatic statements, possibly derived from the Spanish telenovelas he loves to watch.
Jimmy G spoke up. "Whoever did it obviously wants the old lady's money."
"Tell him to start at the beginning," said Pepe, who has a keen sense of propriety. "What old lady?"
"An old lady hired us?" I asked Jimmy G.
"No. Our client is Barrett Boswell. He's the trustee of the old lady's estate," said Jimmy G. "The old lady died and left her entire fortune to her dogs. The house. The money. Everything. We're talking a whole pile of moola. Millions."
"The senora was someone who truly appreciates and rewards the loyalty of her canine friends," observed Pepe. "Too bad she is no longer around. I think she would enjoy my company."
"So is Boswell meeting us here?" I asked.
"No, you've got an appointment with him at his office," said Jimmy G. "Three-thirty this afternoon. He's up in Port Townsend. You better get a move on, doll."
"What about you?" I asked Jimmy G. Technically, I wasn't a private investigator yet.
"Jimmy G has another case," he said in a hurry. Jimmy G always has another case, yet he's always in the office.
"Do not worry, Geri," said Pepe. "We are seasoned detectives. We can handle this on our own." It is true we had managed to solve two murder cases, but more by getting in the way of the murderer than through our detecting skills.CHAPTER 2
As soon as Geri and her Chihuahua left the office, Jimmy G picked up the phone again.
"Bickerstaff here," said the voice on the other end.
"Jimmy G reporting in," Jimmy G said. "Just wanted to let you know that Jimmy G has assigned his operatives to the case. They're on their way to meet with Boswell as we speak."
"Excellent," said Bickerstaff. "I want an update immediately as soon as you hear anything from them."
"Will do," said Jimmy G.
"No one would be stupid enough to leave a million dollars to a bunch of dogs," said Bickerstaff. "There has to be something else going on."
"Agreed," said Jimmy G, pouring himself a few fingers of bourbon.
"Can't win a war without intelligence," said Bickerstaff.
"Agreed," said Jimmy G, putting his feet up on his desk. This action tipped his desk chair perilously far back, and his fedora dropped to the floor. He swiveled around to pick it up.
"Have you considered a raid on Boswell's office?" Jimmy G asked, clapping his hat back on top of his head.
There was a long silence on the other end. Jimmy G polished off the bourbon.
"I like the way you think," said Bickerstaff. "Devious means are necessary when there is so much at stake."
"Devious is Jimmy G's middle name," said Jimmy G. Actually, his middle name was Francis, but he never admitted that.
"I'll see what I can do," said Bickerstaff. "Meanwhile, I need you here. How long will it take you to get to Port Townsend?"
Jimmy G straightened up. "Jimmy G doesn't usually handle cases personally."
"I need feet on the ground," said Bickerstaff.
Jimmy G was about to suggest that there must be private detectives in Port Townsend when Bickerstaff added. "I'll double what I offered earlier."
"Ah, now we're talking," said Jimmy G, thinking of the fat retainer he had already deposited in his bank account. He started calculating his course. A short hop on the ferry over to Bremerton, then a drive up the Kitsap Peninsula to Port Townsend. Maybe he'd stop and see an old buddy of his who lived in Bremerton. "Jimmy G can be there in three hours."
"We can't meet at my office," said Bickerstaff. "It's right across the hall from Boswell's office, and your operatives might still be there."
"Doubt it," said Jimmy G.
"Still better to be safe than sorry," said Bickerstaff. "There's a bar on the main street called the Windjammer. Let's meet there."
"Jimmy G is on the way."CHAPTER 3
To get to Port Townsend from Seattle, you have to cross the water—the deep waters of Puget Sound that cut a long channel separating Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula, home to one of the last old-growth forests in the Northwest.
You can get there several ways. We chose the scenic route, driving north from Seattle to the little seaside town of Mukilteo, taking the ferry across to Whidbey Island, driving up the highway through the still mostly rural island, and then crossing over to Port Townsend on another ferry.
Since dogs aren't allowed on deck on the Washington State Ferries, we stayed in the car.
"It is nice that you chose to stay with me, Geri," said Pepe.
"Well, I didn't want to leave you all alone in the car."
"That is bueno. Muy bueno," he told me. "Perhaps I should entertain you with some sea chanteys."
"Do you know any?" I asked, always amazed at my dog's wide range of experience.
"No, I do not," he said. "But it is the thought that counts, is it not?"
We got into Port Townsend around two. No matter how many times I take a ferry, I always have a moment of panic when I drive off the boat. Because our Washington ferries come into the dock nose first to load and unload, the only thing holding them against the dock is the power of the aft engines. I always have a nagging fear that the ferry will drift back as I drive off the metal gangplank to shore and dump me into the drink. (It actually happened to somebody once at Seattle's downtown ferry dock.)
"You should not have told me about that," said Pepe as our front wheels rolled onto the metal gangplank with a loud clunking sound.
"Sorry," I said. I concentrated on making sure the tires didn't swerve on the metal grate.
"How well do you swim?" he asked me.
"I'm an excellent swimmer," I said. "You're the one who's afraid of water. But neither of us will do much swimming if we go down in the car."
"Is that supposed to be reassuring?" Pepe asked, with some degree of tension in his voice. He stood stiff as a board in the passenger seat as we disembarked.
Well, I thought, if the only thing my fearless pooch feared was getting off a ferryboat, that was pretty good.
"I was not afraid," Pepe told me as we drove up the dock toward the main street. "Quite the opposite. It is well known that perros and their humans pick up on each other's emotions. I was merely reflecting your vibes—my own vibes were rock steady and muy calm."
"Sure," I said.
"Geri?" he asked me. "Just out of curiosity. Is there another way home besides the ferry?"
"Yes, but it would add about an hour to our trip."
"But we are not in a hurry to get home," Pepe pointed out.
"Perhaps you aren't," I said. I was thinking about my plans to have dinner with Felix Navarro. We had met when Pepe tried to attack his Great Dane. Pepe did not approve of the match. He thought Felix was too controlling. Frankly, the way I saw it, Pepe wanted to be the only person bossing me around.
A sandy bluff, about fifty feet tall, ran parallel to the only road into town from the ferry dock. It was topped with huge Victorian mansions. Most were wooden structures that were beautifully preserved; they still displayed the original fish-scale siding and gingerbread embellishments. They were painted in bright colors with complementary trim work: purple and orange, olive green and maroon. These, and many others, had been built by the town's movers and shakers just before the turn of the century, when it was thought that Port Townsend, not Seattle, would become the main shipping terminal for northwest Washington.
"This city is muy old, is it not?" said Pepe as we drove into the downtown proper, only six blocks or so from the ferry dock. The ancient brick buildings were similar to those in Seattle's Pioneer Square.
"Yes," I said, thinking that it was like Pioneer Square in another respect—crawling with tourists on a sunny summer day. All the old buildings, most three or four stories tall, had restaurants and shops catering to the tourist trade on the ground floor. It was hard to believe that the majority of these old, red-brick buildings had originally been saloons and cathouses way back when.
"Gato houses!" said Pepe in horror. "Which ones? Stay away from them!"
"Not that kind of gato," I told him, having forgotten about my fearless dog's only other fear—that of cats. "Not real cats, Pepe," I said. "Cathouse is just slang for a whorehouse."
"Oh, that is not so scary," said Pepe. "I spent many happy hours in a whorehouse in Tijuana. Those women have hearts of gold."
"Really?" I said. Pepe is always full of colorful stories, most of which I don't believe.
"Yes, when I worked for the DEA, the agents would leave me there between assignments, and the women would dress me up and feed me treats."
About halfway into town, I spotted the address I'd been looking for. It was a narrow, two-story building on the water side of the street. We found parking half a block away and walked back, Pepe trotting by my side, and both of us enjoying the salty breeze that tempered the heat of the sun.
The double doors were open and led into a small foyer with a white tile floor, dark oak trim, a twelve-foot ceiling, and the same exposed, red-brick walls in the interior as on the building's exterior. A big ceiling fan whirred overhead, providing a little ventilation. A brass plaque by the wide stairwell leading upstairs read, BOSWELL & BICKERSTAFF, ATTORNEYS-AT-LAW—2ND FLOOR.
"I think I will like this attorney," said Pepe as we climbed the stairs.
"Because he cares enough for perros to represent them."
At the top of the stairs was an oak door with an old-fashioned, smoked-glass window in it. BOSWELL & BICKERSTAFF was stenciled in gold on the glass. I knocked on the door, but no one answered, so I turned the knob and walked in.
We were in a small waiting room, with two chairs and a table. A neat fan of magazines was splayed on the table: Smithsonian, House and Garden, and Sunset. There were two doors leading off the room. One bore the name BARRETT BOSWELL, the other BERNARD BICKERSTAFF.
Boswell's door was slightly ajar.
"Hello," I called, pushing it most of the way open and giving it another knock. Still no answer. I opened it all the way and took a step inside. It was a luxurious office, with a fine Persian carpet on the floor and a stunning view of the water. I could see the ferry, like a floating white wedding cake, heading back out across the dark blue waters of Puget Sound.
But there was no sign of Mr. Boswell.
"Geri!" said Pepe. He had trotted around the desk. "Geri! There is something you should know—"
"What?" I asked, coming around the desk. And then, "Oh my God!"
A man lay sprawled on the carpet between the desk and the back wall. He was wearing a gray suit. His face was bright red and all contorted like some medieval gargoyle. His eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling. And his hands were curled like claws.
"Not this again," said Pepe. "Why do we keep meeting muerte people on our cases?"
"Good lord!" came a man's voice from behind us.
I turned and saw a middle-aged man, slightly balding, clutching a briefcase in one hand. He was peering over the desk at the body on the floor.
Excerpted from The Chihuahua Always Sniffs Twice by Waverly Curtis. Copyright © 2014 Waverly Curtis. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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