If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Penelope followed the pizza delivery driver up the path to Jake’s front door. Her feet hurt and all she wanted to do was soak in the bathtub, but she needed to pack her travel bag and head off to a client’s house for three nights.
When the driver shifted the insulated box to his other hand he saw her. “Oh hi, Ms. standing. How are you this evening?” He paused with his finger on the doorbell as Brutus started barking on the other side of the door. “Did you and the chief get a dog?” He took a step back. “Wait, I know that bark. That’s Ms. Taylor’s big Mastiff, isn’t it? We stopped delivering to her because of that dog.”
Penelope reached into her bag. “Why don’t I just pay you now and we’ll just keep the door closed. How much is it?”
He handed her the receipt. “I just need a signature.”
Penelope signed the slip of paper, adding a hefty tip. The last thing they needed was a pizza delivery boycott. “We’ll make sure he’s restrained while he’s here, I promise.”
“Have a nice night.” He handed her the pizza box and ran toward his car.
Penelope counted to ten before opening the door. “Brutus, down.” She waited until the dog settled on the floor before going into the house. “Jake, I’m home,” she called out. She went into the kitchen and put the whole box inside the oven to keep it away from the dog.
Jake came in from the back yard and washed his hands. “No pottery yet, but there’s some crime scene tape and a business card from one of the detectives, so assuming things come out in the same order they went in I think we should be good.”
Penelope set her bag down on top of the refrigerator where it would hopefully be out of Brutus’ reach. “Pizza’s sitting in the oven. Weren’t we going to have that leftover casserole tonight?” The rice, green beans, and ham casserole hadn’t been a success, but they’d agreed to stick to the budget in order to save for a camping trip the next month. Or rather Jake had agreed to stick to Penelope’s budget so she didn’t feel like she wasn’t contributing equally to the household expenses. Working out who paid what with such disparate incomes required a balancing act.
“We were, but I took it out to heat it up and then…” Jake tipped his head at Brutus. “My fault, I should have been watching him better. I’ll pay for the pizza.”
Penelope looked at him skeptically. “Did he eat it off the counter or did you accidentally leave it on the floor and walk out of the room while you ordered the pizza?”
“Would I do that?” Jake looked down at the dog. “She’s questioning our motives, big guy. What do you think of that?” He reached down to scratch the dog’s head.
The doorbell rang before Penelope could respond. She grabbed Brutus’ collar as he scrambled on the linoleum. “Here, hang onto him while I go see who’s at the door.”
Finding Brian at the door wasn’t out of the ordinary, but he usually had a six pack of beer or some chips with him. This time he stood stiffly on the step, still wearing his suit. “Hi Pen. I need to talk to Jake about work. Is he here?” He didn’t meet her eyes.
“Come on in.” She led him into the kitchen. “I’ll just take Brutus upstairs with me to pack, and you guys can talk.”
Halfway up the stairs she’d overheard enough to know that Brian had found out whose identity she’d been hiding, and he was offering to take himself off the case. She closed the bedroom door to give them some privacy.
Jake slipped into the room a few minutes later. “Brian’s going to stay in the spare bedroom for a few days.”
Penelope crammed another pair of socks into her gym bag. “Maybe I should have just not said anything.”
“It wasn’t anything you did. Jezza and her husband hadn’t separated their cell phone accounts yet.
Brian was looking through all the calls on the account and saw Anne’s number on one of the lines. He put it together on his own.” He enfolded her in a hug. “You’re off the hook. He’s a little pissed at me because I didn’t say anything.”
Penelope zipped her bag closed and hefted it. “Get him drunk and let him cry on your shoulder.” She paused at the door. “You probably want to lock up the guns first, though, so neither one of you shoots the dog when he eats all the pizza.” She jogged down the stairs, gave Brian a quick hug as he sat staring at his folded hands, and headed out the door.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)