Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 28

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Eight
Four months later...
From the Newtown Gazette:

Former Police Officer Sentenced To Seven Years

Former patrolman Alan Dolan was pled guilty and was sentenced to seven years for second degree murder under a plea deal worked out by the prosecutor on Friday.

Under the terms of the plea deal Dolan read a statement in court expressing his regret for his actions. At the time of the murder he was in a relationship with the deceased, the wife of the former mayor. The victim’s husband fled the country to escape prosecution in an unrelated matter.

The son of the victim was in court for the sentencing. He had no comment.

Standing-Colby Marriage

Penelope Standing, age not given, married Jacob Colby, age not given, in the backyard of the Colby residence on Saturday. The Reverend CJ Miller, a long-time friend of the couple, presided.

The bride wore a vintage purple silk dress with a bouquet of wildflowers picked from the yard by her grown son who also walked her down the aisle.

The bride promised to love and honor the groom and “try to not argue with armed people”. The groom promised to “love and honor Her Honor”, a nod to the bride’s status as the newly sworn-in mayor.

The reception was held in the house immediately after the ceremony. The couple did not disclose their honeymoon plans.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 27

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Seven

With the shot ringing in the ear already deafened by the smoke alarm Penelope threw her hands up to protect her head, one arm knocking the gun out of Dolan’s hand. She felt more than heard the gun clatter on the hardwood floor and dove to the ground to cover it with her body. With it safely digging into her stomach she looked over to where Jake had been standing, but he wasn’t there. She scrambled forward with the gun cradled against her body to check the floor where he’d been.

Only when she saw the empty space did she notice the commotion behind her, and by then Jake already had Dolan on the ground, using the younger man’s own handcuffs to restrain him. She sagged to the floor in relief, only then realizing that blood was dripping onto the floor from her head. Indignation overwhelmed her. “He shot me.”

Jake was already on the phone calling for backup and an ambulance, yelling to be heard over the alarm and trying to fend off the excited Brutus with one arm. He finished restraining Dolan and crouched down next to her, reaching out to touch her head as if she were delicate porcelain. “You okay?”

“I think so.” She lifted the hand pressed against her wound. “How bad is it?”

His relieved smile told her everything she needed to know. “Just a scratch.”

They didn’t even have time to silence the smoke alarm before the first police car arrived.

A little while later Penelope sat on the couch, snuggled into Jake while a paramedic finished putting a butterfly band-aid on her head. Through the front window she could see the fire truck backing out into the street, threading a careful path between almost every police car the city owned and a gaggle of pedestrians. Brutus howled his displeasure at being locked in the back yard, Dolan was sobbing in the back of a squad car, and the whole living room was being documented as a crime scene. The room smelled of overheated oil and burned bread, but at least the smoke alarm was no longer blaring.

“This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” she said and winced from the additional pressure as gauze was applied. “But if you were looking for a big production, I’m not sure I could have managed anything bigger. So… Will you marry me?” She snuck a glance back at him and found him staring at her in disbelief.

“Really? You want to do this now?”

“Well, I was going to ask earlier but I didn’t want you to try to wiggle out later and claim that it wasn’t fair because someone was holding a gun to your head. Even though technically the gun was to my head not yours.” She tapped the bandage.

“You’re insane.”

“Is that a ‘you’re insane, yes’ or a ‘you’re insane, no’?”

“That’s an ‘I love you, yes’, but I swear if you ever start arguing with someone holding a gun to your head again I may kill you myself.” His arms tightening around her belied his words.

With a contented smile Penelope relaxed into his embrace and watched the chaos around her.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome, but you'd better make it quick because tomorrow is the end...)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 26

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Six

Penelope froze, watching the blood drain from Jake’s face across the room.

“Put your hands where I can see them!” the officer growled at her ear.

She lifted her hands to eye level before realizing he was talking to Jake. “Oh, sorry,” she said as the man behind her moved his head to see around her arm.

Jake held his hands out to the side. “Take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing.”

“Why do you always screw up everything?”

“Well, you said to put my hands…” She trailed off as Dolan’s breathing got harsher. “Oh, you mean the other stuff. That was mostly on accident”

“I spent hours making sure that everything about that scene pointed to her husband, and you went and cleaned it up.”

“Put the gun down and we’ll talk,” Jake said, his voice perfectly level.

“In my defense, that was mostly Brutus who messed it up.”

Dolan kept talking, the gun unmoving at her head. “I even made footprints with an old pair of his shoes that she kept for gardening. And then you destroyed it all.”

Penelope took a breath to defend herself and closed her mouth when Jake looked at her. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time to force him to accept her point of view. “You didn’t mean to kill her, though, did you?” she said. At least if he was talking he wasn’t shooting her. “I mean, strangling someone with a leash doesn’t scream premeditation.”

“She laughed at me.”

The whirr of the kitchen fan was the only sound for a few seconds.

Penelope reached up to pat the arm restraining her. “I’m sorry. That must have hurt.”

“I thought she loved me. I did things that would have ruined my career for her. It started out with just fixing a few tickets, and then she wanted me to find out things about people and cases, but that was okay because we were going to go away and start again somewhere else where nobody knew us.” He choked out the last few words.

Penelope tried to read the signs from Jake’s face. Was he encouraging her to continue, or was that a look telling her not to make the guy with the gun start crying? While they’d worked out a signal that they needed to be rescued from a conversation at a party, they’d never worked out a hostage strategy which seemed like a grave oversight at the moment. “What’s your plan now? Too many people know you came over here tonight. Jezza was an accident and a good lawyer will be able to work something out. Why don’t you put down the gun and we’ll talk about it.” The smell of overdone bread wafted out of the kitchen.

His voice took on a dreamy quality. “There’s nothing left for me anymore. Everything’s ruined.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Penelope said, calling on what her son called her “mom tone”. “We’ll get you a lawyer and everyone will sit down and talk and you’ll get a good night’s sleep and things will look better in the morning.”

She could feel him wavering. His arm loosened and the hand with the gun moved slightly away from her head. “Do you really—”

At the sudden blast of sound from the smoke detector above his head, Dolan started and Penelope felt a pain in her forehead as the gun went off.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 25

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Five

Penelope looked around at the kitchen and ran through her mental list. Table set with the nice tablecloth, candles, and flowers — check. Wine open — check. Chicken breasts pounded, rolled up with butter, breaded and in the refrigerator awaiting frying — check. Broccoli (to magically counteract the hardening of their arteries from the Chicken Kiev) washed and ready to be steamed — check. Dog fed and bribed to stay in the other room with treats — check. Bread in the oven, waiting to be warmed — check. Only evening dress she owned, black velvet with an apron pulled over it to keep it clean until she was done cooking — check. No Jake yet, but it was still ten to seven and he hadn’t called or texted to say he’d be late so she had started heating the oil.

Her phone rang, an unknown number. “Hello?”

“Pen, it’s Brian. Sorry to bug you but Jake went to go work out a while ago and his admin needs him to sign something tonight for the payroll so it can get faxed before midnight. If I call him he’ll come back here and then we both know he’ll never get home on time, so I’m just going to send it over with one of the patrolmen. Don’t panic if a uniform knocks on the door before he gets there.”

That last sentence explained the call.  “No panic, I promise. And thank you.” She hung up and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window. Her hair was all over the place and there was something on the shoulder of her dress where the apron didn’t cover it. She dashed to the mirror and found that she’d managed to get butter smeared on one spot while the left elbow had been breaded. So much for the evening dress.

Penelope jogged upstairs, yanking the dress off along the way, slipped into a skirt and pulled on a blouse, buttoning it as she went down the stairs. It wasn’t until she was at the bottom of the stairs that she saw the patrolman standing on the other side of the clear glass panes of the front door. His frozen deer in the headlights stare made her wonder how much of that journey he’d been present for.

Penelope decided she’d just have to brazen her way through the awkwardness. She opened the door. “Officer Dolan, isn’t it? Come on in. You have some papers for Jake to sign?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He took off his hat and came through the door, hugging the wall the furthest from her. Brutus came out from the spare room, sniffed the policeman’s shoes for a second, then trotted back to his treats. “If the chief’s not here I can go wait out in the car.”

“Nonsense, have a seat. Would you like something to drink?” Penelope didn’t really want to entertain someone when she was trying to get everything ready, but she didn’t want to be rude. That thought reminded her of their conversation a few days ago. “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you who I was when you took all my information after Jezza was killed. I hope it didn’t cause too many problems when you called the chief to confirm my whereabouts that morning.”

“No, ma’am. Everyone thought it was funny.”

She might have believed his even tone, but a muscle twitched on the side of his mouth. And if he didn’t stop kneading his hat with those beefy fingers he was going to destroy it. “Well, I apologize anyway.” A silence strained the room as he sat gingerly on the couch.

The front door opened, saving her from further awkwardness. Jake came in, scratched the dog’s ears when he trotted over, and put down his bag. Penelope leaned into his embrace, enjoying the smell of soap and sunshine. “You forgot to sign some papers before you left the office.”

“So I see.” He looked her up and down. “Looks like I should have hurried straight home.”

Penelope left the two men in the living room and turned the oven on. “At least now we know how to keep Brutus calm,” she called back to the living room. “He was more interested in his Kong than he was about a stranger coming into the house. I thought he was going to tear down the door to get to the UPS guy yesterday.” The oil bubbled slowly when she dropped a cube of bread in. Another few minutes and it would be at the right temperature.

She wandered back out to the living room where Jake was handing over the freshly signed papers. Penelope moved to the door, hoping to hurry the officer on his way. She thought he’d likely leave quickly anyhow. Clearly she made him nervous, although at least he’d stopped mangling his hat. Those fingers reminded her of something though…

Dolan got up and picked up the sofa cushion that had tipped over and she had it. The picture from Jezza’s service, the only one taken in the new house, with a man’s face covered by a pillow. The man in the picture had those hands. Brutus hadn’t reacted to a stranger because Dolan wasn’t a stranger.

Penelope’s eyes widened and she accidentally made eye contact with Dolan as he walked toward her. With just a slight catch in her movements she plastered a smile on her face. “Thanks for bringing —”

The breath was knocked out of her as he grabbed her and spun her around, pulling her against his chest. Penelope saw Jake freeze at the same time she felt a cold metal barrel touch her temple.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 24

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Four

The more she thought about it, the more Penelope liked Esther’s idea, at least the dinner and candles part. True, the department was in the middle of a homicide investigation that had snowballed to include bank robbery, extortion, and possibly an involved policeman, but if it wasn’t that there would be something else. There were always reasons to procrastinate if one looked for them.

First things first — if she was planning a romantic dinner for two she had to make sure both people would be there and nobody else. Penelope scrolled through the contacts on her phone and frowned. She had Anne’s number but not Brian’s. Given her last conversation with Anne, she didn’t want to go through her, even if the couple was back together, which wasn’t a given. The guest bedroom door had been closed when she’d left in the morning.

Luck was with her. Brian was at his desk typing on the computer when she went to the station. “I have a big favor to ask,” she said when he looked up.

“I’ll warn you right now, I don’t have the key to the evidence locker,” he said. “But anything other than that is yours.”

Penelope sat down at the chair next to his desk. “I need a couple hours alone with Jake this evening,” she said in a voice low enough that it wouldn’t be overheard. Nothing secret ever stayed hidden long in the station.

“No problem. I’ll go out for a drink with the guys. You can text me when it’s safe to come over.”

“And I need you to make sure that Jake makes it out of here on time.” She saw his doubtful expression. “I know, but can you at least try to make it happen? I’ll leave you some Chicken Kiev and cherry cobbler if you come through.”

Brian leaned back in his chair and played with a rubber band. “Bribing a cop has some serious penalties, but if you promise to make lasagna some day soon, I’ll overlook it. What time do you want him home by?”

“Seven.” She stood up.

“I’ll do my best.”


Knowing that Jake would wonder about her visit if she didn’t stop in, she went back the hall to his office where she found him on the phone. He covered the lower portion with one hand. “Do you need me?”

She shook her head. “Just passing by. Dinner at seven?”

He glanced at the chaos on his desk. “I’ll try. I’ll text you if I’m running late.”

Penelope blew him a kiss and left.

Jezza’s son, Steven, was in line in front of her in the grocery store, buying a sandwich and chips. He glanced at her when she got in line and grinned. “Penelope! I’m glad I ran into you before I left.”

“Heading back to school?”

He nodded. “Yes, but I’ll be back when they release my mom’s things. I guess it might be a while, with…” he waved with the arm not holding his items, “well, everything.”

Moved by the impulse to be a better friend to Jezza in death than she had in life, Penelope gave him her phone number. “Let me know when you’re coming back and I’ll arrange things on this end.”
They chatted until he had paid and left.

“That was her son, wasn’t it?” The cashier paused with the package of chicken breasts in one hand as she watched Steven walk out of the store. “I still can’t believe everything his mother was getting up to. She made a joke a few weeks ago about having a get-out-of-jail-free card, but I thought that meant she was dating a cop. I didn’t realize it meant she was blackmailing half the men in town.” She started scanning Penelope’s purchases. “Big night with the chief, hm? Can’t go wrong with candles and wine.”

Penelope smiled and nodded and hoped that Jake would be the last person in town to find out about their dinner.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 23

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Three

Penelope straightened up after cleaning the last litter box, maneuvering around Esther’s chair to get to the kitchen sink without interrupting Esther’s story. Things at the service had gone from bad to worse at the service after Penelope had left, with one couple screaming at each other and another having to be separated by the younger Morley brother.

“Did anyone ever figure out who the man in her bedroom was in that one picture?” she asked when Esther paused. “I’m pretty sure I recognized the rest of them.”

“I thought almost all of them were in her bedroom.”

Penelope grabbed a paper towel to dry her hands. “No, not the house she shared with the mayor. The house she was living in when she died.” Belatedly she realized that Esther might never have been inside since it hadn’t been retrofitted to accommodate a wheelchair. “The one with the twining ivy wallpaper.”

“Ah, the one with the very young man with his face hidden by the pillow. No, I didn’t hear anything about who he might be.” Esther wheeled over to the kettle. “Maybe he was an actual boyfriend. He certainly couldn’t have been old enough to be worth blackmailing.”

Penelope made a face as she accepted the mug of chamomile tea and sat down at the tiny formica table. “Can you imagine? You’d have nothing to talk about.”

Esther settled in across the table with her own drink. “Perhaps she didn’t talk to him much. But I agree. It takes half a century to civilize them to the point of being good company.” She blew across her mug and raised her eyebrows as she looked at Penelope.

“Jake’s excellent company, yes.” Penelope tried for a look of innocence as she looked up at the ceiling.

Esther sighed and shook her head. “Rumor has it he’s waiting for you to propose to him. I suppose it’s a sign he’s enlightened or something.”

A few drops of tea splashed onto the table when Penelope put her mug down. “Since when do you and CJ gossip about people?”

“Since the two of you need a swift kick in the pants to make it official. What are you waiting for? You’re crazy about each other and the finances would work out better for both of you.”

“He wants a big production. I’m trying to figure out what that means.” Penelope sipped her tea. “On a budget,” she added as Esther opened her mouth.

“What’s wrong with dinner, candles, wine, and wandering hands?” Esther’s laugh was drowned out by the roar of a car racing down the street.

Penelope hid a smile as she glanced over to the window facing the street. “These older houses really let the noise in, don’t they?”

“That’s one thing I won’t miss about Jezza. She used to race her Mustang out of the neighborhood like a bat out of hell. She must have had a stack of tickets.”

Penelope finished her tea and got up to wash out her mug. “Do you need anything else before I go?”
“No, but if you don’t have a good plan for this big production by tomorrow, I swear I’m going to arrange something myself.”

Penelope choked back a laugh. “I’ll figure it out, don’t worry.” She let herself out the side door and walked to her next client, watching the cars as they drove by.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Death Walks A Dog: Chapter 22

An explanation of what I'm doing is here.
If you missed the first chapter, start here!

Chapter Twenty-Two

Penelope had her third cup of hot cocoa in front of her as she sat on the couch, Brutus asleep on her feet, when Jake opened the front door. He left the lights off and removed his shoes before he noticed her sitting there.

“You’re still up?” He came into the living room. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

Jake pushed the dog out of the way and sat down next to her. “Eleven o’clock at night, fire in the fireplace, and hot chocolate with marshmallows. You’re brooding.” He eased an arm around her. “I know you.”

Penelope leaned into him and rested her head against his neck, breathing in the scent of him that reminded her of everything good in the world. “I was sitting here hoping that Jezza’s son didn’t have anything to do with her death even though it means that it was probably someone who lives here. And Brian went to have dinner with Anne again this evening and didn’t come back and it’s none of my business, but…” She made a noise between a groan and a growl.

“With you on that one.” Jake picked out a marshmallow and ate it. “But I have good news for you. Steven was still in Georgia when his mother died. We checked the flights and there’s no way he could have done it.”

“That’s something, anyway.” She sighed. “I’m beginning to think Jezza just wasn’t a very nice person. She used her son in her cons while he was growing up, abandoned him, took advantage of anyone who stood in her way, stole, cheated, blackmailed… I think the wonder of it is that nobody killed her before now.”

“I’ve certainly had to ask a whole lot of people where they were that morning.” He stole another marshmallow. “A surprising number of them were not where they should have been.”

Penelope raised her head to look at him, interest in her eyes. “Anything interesting?”

“Did you know that there’s a swingers group in town that meets once a month?”

A laugh escaped her. “I know there used to be one that met at Sondra Gillespie’s house, but that was years and years ago. I can’t imagine that’s still going on.” She looked at his impassive face. “It is? What, do they have a Costco bottle of Viagra next to the bowl of keys?”

Jake raised his eyebrows. “You seem to know an awful lot about this.”

Still smiling, Penelope shook her head. “Only second-hand. Sondra used to sit in the back row of the PTA meetings and whisper with one of her friends. I learned more than I ever wanted to know.” She drained the rest of the cocoa in the mug.

“Are you done brooding, or should I make you another cup?” Jake stood up and held out his hand.
Penelope let him draw her to her feet. “I think the only thing left on my brooding agenda was how many circus animals I could afford to import.” She smiled at his confused expression and twisted to bump him lightly with her shoulder. “I want to make sure the production is big enough.”

“Oh, I see.” He nudged her backward toward the stairs to the bedroom. “I might have some notes on that I could give you if you’re interested.”

“Really? Well, if it’s not too much trouble…” She took his hand and led him up the stairs.

 (Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)