If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Stopping at the home to let Chewy the Chihuahua out before heading over to Jake’s for dinner, Penelope opened the door and heard muffled barking. “Chewy, how did you manage to close yourself in here?” she asked as she opened the bathroom door. The ability of certain animals to get themselves into trouble never ceased to amaze her. Case in point, Chewy had managed to get up on the vanity and knock over his owner’s aspirin bottle. Luckily the cap was still in place. “Fine, next time you get crated, even if I’m only leaving for a bit.”
Chewy had raced past her to the kitchen, and only when she followed him down the hall did she notice that the glass on the back door was broken, shards of glass littering the kitchen floor. Penelope felt her blood pressure rising. Losing one client in a week was bad enough. Losing another because someone broke in while she was house-sitting was unacceptable.
Armed with a hammer from the junk drawer in one hand and Chewy in the other, Penelope stomped around the house. “If you’re still in here you’d better drop whatever you have and hustle out the door!”
Everything downstairs looked untouched. She went up the stairs, Chewy wagging his tail and trying to lick her face. The air in the master bedroom tasted stale, as if nobody had been inside in a couple of days, and nobody was lurking in the closet. The only evidence Penelope could find that someone had been upstairs was the contents of her duffel bag upended on the canopy bed in the spare bedroom. She’d left it neatly packed as she always did. All her belongings looked like they were still there, not that there’s been anything worth stealing. Her wallet and phone had been with her.
She doubted the burglar had been after a glimpse of her decidedly unsexy clothing, which meant she was going to have to call her client and find out what might have been taken. Gritting her teeth she called Jake first. “Can you bring one of those property damage forms home with you?” She explained about the broken window.
“The responding officers should have it with them,” he said. When she didn’t say anything his voice sharpened. “You did call the police, didn’t you?”
“What are you, chopped liver? Whoever it is was gone before I got back here.” Penelope looked at the hammer she’d set down on the arm of the couch and decided it might be better if she didn’t mention how she knew there wasn’t anybody in the house.
“Go straight out the front door and wait by the curb. I’m on my way.”
“Jake, don’t make a huge…” Penelope stopped talking as she realized he’d hung up on her.
One hour later, after two patrol cars had arrived with sirens blaring, scaring the dog and alerting the neighbors, Penelope was fuming. Four officers with guns had confirmed what she already knew — the house was empty and the only sign of a break-in other than the glass on the kitchen floor was her underthings strewn around the guest bedroom. When she’d reached the owners by phone they’d described the location of the valuables in the house, and everything was still there.
Since there’d been nothing else to document and the acting chief of police was still present and waiting, the officers had decided that they needed to take pictures of the mess. The longer Jake stood and watched without comment, the more nervous his officers got, and subsequently the more pictures they took, until Penelope took a swing at Jake’s Kevlar-protected stomach. “I know you think this is funny, but if you don’t stop this soon Brutus is going to be the only one snoring in your bed for a long, long time.” A policeman putting the hammer in an evidence bag distracted her. “Stop. Where are you going with that? It belongs here.”
“We might be able to get prints off it. It was probably what the perp used to break the window.”
Penelope recognized the voice and looked closer to see Dolan, the same one whose attitudes had irritated her so much after she’d found Jezza’s body. “If so, he was considerate enough to put it away afterward. I was the one who got that out.”
Jake coughed. “So… you didn’t call 911 but you were going to, what, do a little home repair before calling me to get the forms?”
Penelope decided anything else she added would just be digging the hole deeper. “Yes.” She crossed her arms and waited for him to comment.
Jake took a deep breath. “You’re going to be the death of me.” He turned. “Dolan, don’t worry about the hammer. The glazier should be here to fix the back door in a few minutes. I need you to stick around until he’s done. If there are any problems, call me. I’m going to take Ms. Standing to dinner before there’s a second homicide this week.”
Penelope let Jake take her arm and lead her out the door.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)