Going To The Dogs
by Elle Druskin
eBook ISBN: 9781927361849
Detective Sam Kendall is determined to find his partner’s killer. Dog-hating Sam is stuck with a junk food addicted poodle as his new partner and stuck on dog trainer and suspect Jodie McBride. It’s dogs to the rescue! Two smart canines decide to catch a killer and make sure Sam and Jodie figure out they’re made for each other.
Note: Prologue omitted.
Sam hesitated at the door, gazing through the glass window. Detective Dave Jordan, his personal nemesis and a world class pain in the butt, deflected a fist from some tattooed guy with a Mohawk haircut in between a shouting match. Every other word qualified as “Expletive deleted.”
Detached from the action inside the large, open station room, Sam studied the scene as if he sat behind the one-way mirror rooms used for criminal interrogations. Phones jangled, and the fax machine spit out enough papers to load a landfill. Cops starting the morning shift pecked computer keyboards, taking statements from distraught civilians. From a superficial glance around the squad room, everything looked the same, although that seemed impossible.
One difference. A big one even if it not readily apparent. There would be no more early morning homemade flaky apple strudel bursting with plump, juicy raisins, sweet enough to guarantee a whopping case of hyperglycemia. No more dumb blonde jokes to ensure the morning shift began with a laugh because the last thing anyone could call Chris would be dumb, and everyone knew she was a bottle blond.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut with the futile hope that when they opened, Chris would miraculously appear at the corner desk and turn the past week into a bad dream from indigestion. Fat chance. He blinked but no Chris, and there never would be again.
Sam plodded into the room, and the noise level plummeted as people noticed his arrival. Conversations stopped mid-sentence, and Sam lowered his gaze to avoid eye contact with anyone. Awkward small talk would only make things worse. A wave of silence followed like high tide at the beach. He trudged to a desk piled up with unfinished reports, a New York Yankees mug filled with inkless pens, and a framed photo taken at a baseball game he attended with Chris, both decked out in Yankees’ caps and jackets. Another stark reminder of the great loss. Sam opened a drawer and shoved the picture in face down, deep inside where it wouldn’t stare him in the face ever again. Migraine pain thudded in his head, and Sam didn’t need to look up to know every pair of eyes in the room stared at him.
“Sam Kendall, get your butt in here!”
Grateful for the escape, Sam shuffled into the chief’s office and slammed the door.
“Sit down.” Bill O’Mara pointed to a rickety chair opposite a metal desk overflowing with papers. O’Mara’s hand raked over a bald head as if he sported a thick crown of hair while slurping a steaming mug emblazoned with bright red letters that said “World’s Greatest op.” Sam wondered if the word signified Cop. Maybe it had been Pop, a gift from the kids. Not that it mattered, only the aroma of fresh roasted beans filled Sam with desperation for a caffeine hit. Another loss to add to the mounting toll. Chris always brought the morning coffee.
O’Mara shifted his girth, and the chair tipped from the strain. Stubby fingers flexed and unflexed on the desk, and beady eyes narrowed on Sam. Creases in a wrinkled forehead deepened as the boss leaned forward.
“You sure you’re up to this? Maybe it’s too soon. Take another week off.”
Sam shook his head. “I’m fine. One week away is plenty.”
O’Mara grunted and shoved a folder over the desk. “Here’s the file. Read it carefully. It has the last of the notes Chris filed on the missing diamonds and surveillance.”
O’Mara guzzled more of the coffee and didn’t bother to mask obvious doubt. The boss stared at Sam for what seemed an eternity until Sam fidgeted under the intense scrutiny. Clearly, O’Mara didn’t like this idea, but persistence or plain stubborn insistence eventually wore the boss down. Skepticism shadowed O’Mara’s face, but he coughed; then proceeded to issue instructions.
“I’ve put you on this case for one reason. Only one, and don’t forget it. I respect your need to find your partner’s killer. Killing cops is bad for all of us. That doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate any poor judgment, or emotional behavior. If you can’t distance yourself, I’ll pull you off.”
Sam gulped. He had to have this case. It was personal, although O’Mara expressed legitimate concern. It didn’t matter. Personal made it an obligation. “No problems. I can be objective.”
O’Mara grunted and shot him a wary look dripping with doubt. “I’m gonna hold you to that promise. I’ll be watching. Keep that in mind.”
The chair springs creaked, and Sam thought for one second it might collapse from the strain.
“You know anything about blue diamonds?”
“Nope. What’s to know? Diamonds are diamonds, aren’t they?” Sam asked. How the heck would he know about expensive gems? Detectives weren’t in the market for diamonds unless they were dumb enough to get engaged, and Sam wasn’t that stupid. He didn’t want or need commitments. Dates, some great sex, a few laughs with a woman who felt the same way suited him fine. No relatives, pets, or anyone else making demands on his time and attention. Not even a goldfish that he’d probably forget to feed.
O’Mara dug through stacks of files on the desk and shoved another one toward Sam. “Have a read. You better understand what this is about.”
Sam grabbed the documents and leafed through all the notes, while O’Mara swiveled the chair and dialed the combination on the safe behind the desk. Sam thumbed through the file containing general notes, reference clippings, and notations in Chris’ familiar scrawl.
Blue diamonds. The rarest, colored gems were worth a fortune. Familiar names that detailed the history of the stones never meant much until they appeared in the file. The Transvaal Blue. The Hope Diamond and its legendary curse after the gem was stolen from an idol in India. It sounded like an Indiana Jones movie. Sam read on and sat up when he got to the part about bad luck. Misfortune didn’t limit itself to the diamond’s owner. Anyone who touched it would die.
Sam couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between the legend and his partner’s death, as silly as it seemed.
Nah. Superstition. Nothing to do with bad luck. This wasn’t the Hope Diamond and solving this case had nothing to do with hocus-pocus superstition and everything to do with patient, old-fashioned detective work. Methodical, meticulous, and careful planning. That was the key, and nothing would stop him.
Sam gazed at O’Mara who cupped a black velvet pouch in his beefy palm.
“I get it. They’re big time money. How come? I don’t know much about gems, but aren’t sapphires blue?”
O’Mara pursed his lips. “Yeah, but it’s not only the color. They don’t have the same sparkle as the diamonds, and they aren’t as hard. Take a look, and be careful. That stone is worth a quarter million.”
O’Mara opened the pouch. A tiny pale blue stone nestled against the black velvet. Rainbow light sparkled on the wall as O’Mara shifted the gem against the delicate material. With infinite delicacy, he returned the diamond to the pouch and locked it in the safe.
“That’s nothing compared to the stolen diamonds. This one is light blue. The stolen ones were darker, kind of peacock blue and worth a lot more.”
Worth more. This pebble-sized stone cost a quarter of a million dollars. This case was a big time heist, but as far as it concerned Sam, the diamonds meant nothing. Anyone with big bucks could buy another one. In all likelihood, with an insurance payout. The real price was Chris who couldn’t be replaced.
“Kendall, you listening?”
Sam straightened in the chair, knowing this case demanded full attention. From his perspective only one objective mattered, and it didn’t have much to do with the diamonds. That was a side issue. Sam was going to get the killer. If that meant solving the theft as well, fine.
Aware that O’Mara would yank him off the case if he could read his mind, Sam didn’t mention his priorities.
“Harry Werner is socially prominent, and by coincidence, Chris said he was at all the parties where a robbery took place.”
O’Mara glared at Sam. “I don’t buy coincidence, never did. This is a delicate situation so you better be discreet, and don’t do anything stupid. He’s pals with the mayor and lots of politicians.
One dumb thing, and you’re screwed, and that means I’m screwed, you got that?”
Sam swallowed hard. He got it, loud and clear. He didn’t know much about Harry Werner. The guy’s name made regular appearances in the society columns in the paper, not that Sam bothered with that section of the paper much. Most of the time, he turned straight to the sports section. What interest could a cop have in society parties?
Several newspaper clippings with Werner’s photo were included in the research compiled by Chris in the file. The guy was a dapper gent, dressed in designer suits or Abercrombie and Fitch clothes according to the type of function.
Werner attended all kinds of charity functions; debutante balls, museum fundraisers, and dog shows. It was a no brainer that Werner was a big shot. No idea where the guy had made his millions. But he was one of those society guys who looked like they never ate a hot dog, or broke a sweat on a humid day like normal people.
“Chris was working her way through a list of Werner’s regular contacts. She had big red question marks next to the name on her last entry. Jodie McBride. This dame goes to his house at least once a week. Find out what she knows, if she’s involved and how. Chris seemed to think Jodie is the courier and the link between the missing jewels and Werner because she’s a regular at his place. Turns up like clockwork, and that might help nail Werner as the thief, or maybe the fence.”
Sam skimmed the notes in the file next to the name. Jodie McBride. Employed in an all-purpose grooming parlor down in Greenwich Village.
Sam smirked. Harry Werner had an interesting hobby. Grooming parlor. Sam knew what that meant, a nice euphemism for a massage parlor and “adult services.” A pretentious society guy would never turn up at a joint like that. Harry Werner’s dough could buy home visits. Nice and private, no photographers around to catch him at a dive that was a far cry from high society functions and not like that jerk from the IMF caught with pants down with a maid at a ritzy hotel. No wonder the McBride woman visited Harry on a regular basis.
Jodie McBride. Sam already formed a mental picture of the slut. A bimbo who was mixed up with Harry Werner. Blond with a cover girl body, decked out in a mini-skirt, that barely covered an enticing backside, with an assortment of adult toys to please her clients. Oh yeah, he’d check out Jodie McBride and nail the floozy.
“I’m on it,” Sam said and rose from the wobbly chair.
“Not so fast,” O’Mara said. “You don’t handle this alone. You’re getting a new partner.”
Sam groaned. A new partner? Not this soon. The funeral was only last week.
“So soon?” Sam plopped back on the chair. He willed himself to remain detached, but a huge lump formed in his throat.
“You know how it works, and no, you can’t work this case alone. Take it or leave it.”
In the back of his mind, Sam knew there’d be a new partner assigned. It was standard practice on the police force, but this soon? His heart balked at the thought, and a trickle of sweat dripped down his back. Nobody could replace Chris, the world’s best partner. Street smart. Wicked sense of humor. A Yankees fan. He recalled her first words of introduction almost four years ago.
“Get one thing straight, Kendall. I’m married, and I don’t mess around.”
Chris, her husband Paul, and their two kids were the closest thing to real family Sam ever knew.
“You listening, Kendall?”
Sam forced himself to sit up and pay attention. “Yeah. New partner.”
He silently plea-bargained with the Almighty. Please, not a rookie. Please again. Not another woman. It would be too tempting to compare another woman to Chris and find fault.
O’Mara pressed a buzzer on the desk. “Estelle, lay off those doughnuts, and bring him in now.”
Sam exhaled in relief. A guy. Good. They could talk football and baseball. If the new partner was single, maybe they’d double date, or have a beer together after work. Tension seeped out of his shoulders. This would work out. It would be fine.
The door slammed against a file cabinet with an almighty crash. The glass window that opened onto the station room cracked down the middle from the impact.
“Hey! Get over here!”
A giant cotton ball streaked past Sam. Estelle, the chief’s secretary, chased after a beast with a tail that resembled an oversize Q-tip. Estelle skidded to a halt and teetered on purple spike heels before hitting the floor. Cotton-ball jumped at O’Mara and knocked over the coffee mug. Brown liquid overflowed the desk of papers, stained them, and dripped onto the floor.
The animal padded around the desk and sniffed Sam’s crotch. Before Sam could swat the pest away, it jumped up and slurped its pink tongue all over his face.
“Argh. Get down!” Sam batted at the animal. If there was one thing he hated, it was dogs. If you could call this thing a dog. Sam’s nose twitched at the yeasty scent of baked goods.
“That pig ate a whole box of doughnuts,” Estelle complained. “And I broke a nail trying to stop him.” Violet painted fingers waggled in O’Mara’s face. The boss grimaced and addressed the dog in a gruff tone.
The dog wagged its pom-pom tail at O’Mara.
“I said, sit!”
The tail beat like a metronome.
“Real obedient,” Sam mumbled.
O’Mara made a sour face. “That’ll be all, Estelle.”
“Is that so?” Estelle boosted up on one knee, braced herself on the desk, and stood with hands on generous hips encased in purple lycra. “Who’s gonna clean that puddle next to my desk?”
“I said that’s all for now.” The chief’s curt tone made it clear he was in no mood to discuss any gifts Vanilla deposited to replace the stolen pastry.
Sam’s head angled toward the door. “Where’s my partner?”
O’Mara beamed. “Meet Vanilla. He’s your new partner.”
Sam’s jaw dropped. “This is a joke, right?”
O’Mara shook his head but avoided Sam’s eyes. “Top class credentials. You need him for your undercover persona.”
Vanilla’s head followed the exchange like a tennis match. Without warning, the poodle shot out the door.
“Better go catch your partner. See? He’s raring to go.”
With that, O’Mara picked up a file and turned his back on Sam.
Shouts echoed into the office from the outer room.
“Hey! That dog just grabbed my pastrami on rye!”
Sam mentally counted to ten. This couldn’t be happening.
“Who owns this mutt? He scarfed down the pizza!”
Sam shot a glance at his boss. No response to the beast gorging his way through the Petty Crimes, Homicide, and Assault Departments.
Sam gazed skyward. “Chris, I hope you’re watching. If you are, you’re wetting your pants with laughter.”
* * * *
Human beings were not meant to juggle pet kennels, boxes of grooming paraphernalia, and two Hungarian Pulis. Famous for their coats, the purebred dogs’ fur formed dreadlocks, not unlike Bob Marley’s. A groomer’s nightmare. Jodie struggled to unlock the back door of The Whole Kit and Capoodle.
She patted a pocket for the keys, while the ringing phone inside notched her frustration higher by the second. One of the Pulis lunged forward, and Jodie lost her grip on the leashes. Everything crashed to the pavement as a string of curses escaped her mouth.
“Where is that lazy Francine?” Exasperated with the shop assistant, Jodie unlocked the door, dumped, kicked, and dragged the port-a-pet crate inside. Metal clippers and scissors clattered to
the floor with a resounding bang, and the dogs started to howl.
“Quiet! I’ll get another visit from the police about the barking,” she said, holding a finger to her lips and trying to maintain a stern expression.
The hyper dogs ran around in circles until Jodie was hopelessly ensnared by the leashes cutting into her shins. Jodie hit the floor as each dog pulled in opposite directions. She bounced off a display basket of squeaky canine toys that set off another dog concert.
The answering machine clicked on, and Jodie strained to catch the message.
“Hi Jo. This is Francine. I’m going to be a little late for work.”
“Hmph. What else is new?”
All Francine had to do was open the shop in the morning, wait on the few customers that wandered in until Jodie arrived, and answer phone calls. Francine had a different set of priorities starting with filing her nails and progressing to making dates on the phone. The message blabbered on, and Jodie’s heart sunk.
“Very late. Remember Dean? The guy I met at the Happy Hour?”
Francine made a career out of meeting losers at Happy Hours. At least she had a social life with other humans.
“Guess what? We eloped to Vegas. Isn’t that romantic? As soon as we get back in a few weeks, we’ll work on you. There must be some guy out there for you.”
Wasn’t this perfect timing? Jodie had to mate the two Pulis today, or she’d lose the fee and be forced to wait another six months until the female would be in season again. Now there was nobody to mind the shop, a list of grooming appointments from here to eternity, and Francine’s pointed dig at her non-existent social life. Could things get worse?
* * * *
“Shut up! For God’s sake, shut up!” Sam snapped at Vanilla who was strapped into a doggie seat belt on the passenger side of the car. Sam gritted his teeth, unable to control a temper rising with the day’s humidity. Despite all the protests he could muster, O’Mara insisted the dog was part of the undercover persona. It didn’t make any sense. Why did he have to drag around a giant poodle? It made him look like a wimp.
“Can’t I at least have a guy kind of dog? A boxer. A German Shepherd.”
O’Mara maintained a steadfast claim that the poodle had top class credentials for police work. Instead of talking batting averages with a new partner, Sam was stuck listening to Vanilla
howl along with Garth Brooks on the car radio. Both were interested in calling Baton Rouge.
“That’s it. No more. I can’t stand anymore.” Sam steered the car into a drive-through. Maybe a greasy burger would settle his stomach which felt more knotted than a Boy Scout merit badge.
The car advanced in the line to a pimpled attendant, and Sam shouted into the microphone.
“One burger, one cola, and a large fries.”
Sam ignored Vanilla’s yips and turned his back on the animal to focus attention on the attendant.
Yip. Howl. Bark.
Sam shifted in the seat and narrowed his eyes. Patience was hitting at an all-time low. “What now? I’ve already stopped for you to visit every fire hydrant in town.” The howling revved up in volume as Sam snatched the bag with the order. Jet black eyes gazed up with pure longing, and the pink tongue drooled saliva.
He sighed. “Okay, but shut up. That’s the deal, take it or leave it.”
Sam had to be losing his mind. There couldn’t be any other explanation because he was talking to a dog as if the pooch understood. Sam turned back to the attendant who didn’t bother to hide a smirk.
“One kiddie meal.”
“Want the toy that goes with it, too?” the kid asked with a glance at the dog.
Sam glared. Metal braces gleamed as the kid grinned but handed Sam another bag along with the drink. Vanilla whimpered in anticipation. Razor sharp teeth tore through the paper as the poodle wolfed down the burger and fries, faster than Sam could get the car in gear. Yearning black eyes gazed at Sam’s bag with an expression that made it clear, what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is also mine.
Vanilla growled to emphasize the point, but Sam refused to be swayed. “No way.”
He bit into the burger, but Vanilla was too fast and managed to snag the bag of fries. Sam cursed under his breath. What a day, and they still needed to find Jodie McBride. Sam guzzled the drink and drove off, punching the radio button again, hoping Vanilla wouldn’t decide to sing two part harmony.
Faith Hill’s voice blasted through the car as Vanilla picked up the tune and yipped along. Sam turned off the radio and glared at the dog who stared back.
“Why me?” Sam halted for a red light and like an urban Tevye, rolled his eyes upward waiting for the answer that never came. Maybe this was the curse of the blue diamonds. He was being punished for any number of reasons, and Vanilla was the retribution. At least the dog was going right back to O’Mara as soon as he checked out the McBride woman. One day with this dog was enough for a lifetime. The sooner they tracked down the slut, the better, because the dog had to go.
Sam parked around the corner from the address in Greenwich Village copied from the file and peeled his police decal from the windshield. No sense in alerting Jodie on the off chance the woman passed this way.
“Let’s go, Rin Tin Tin, and see some of those ace police skills.”
Sam unhooked the seat belt and clipped the leash to Vanilla’s collar. Black nose to the ground, Vanilla zigzagged down the street. The black nose twitched, and the fluffy head popped up to sniff under several women’s dresses.
“What a nerve! Get your dog off me!”
Glares and a variety of rude remarks marked their progress down the street as women sidestepped the pair. Sweat drenched Sam’s shirt by the time they reached The Whole Kit and Capoodle. Someone hadn’t won the spelling bee on that one. Shades were drawn on the front door and windows. That figured. This was a nice neighborhood, not the Red Light District. He peered at a handwritten sign out front that listed services.
Grooming, training, and obedience.
Jodie was one tough babe. Cute euphemistic words for sex and massage. Obedience. Hah. She probably got herself decked out in a military uniform, cap, and jackboots with a whip in her hands for panting, pathetic men who were into bondage. Sam couldn’t wait to bust the slut.
He sidled past rubbish bins and a Dumpster in the alley beside the shop and edged along the wall, listening for any overt noise. At last, Sam reached the back door and flattened himself against the wood. Vanilla imitated his posture and whimpered.
“Yep, there’s something’s going on,” Sam mumbled.
Sam gripped the leash of the dopey dog in his left hand and shoved the door with his right shoulder. Good. Not that it required any big effort since the door was unlocked.
His right hand poised to grab the pistol from the shoulder harness hidden by his jacket. He advanced in the dim light past a heap of stacked cartons toward the sound of grunts and pants. If his hunch was right, he’d catch the slut right in the act and bust her for prostitution. When they hauled her into the station, she’d spill the dope on Harry Werner to cut a bargain. Sam couldn’t suppress a grin because this was going to be a piece of cake. And not a piece that the dumb poodle would snatch and grab.
He beckoned with a finger to Vanilla who nodded back as if he understood which was ridiculous. They halted in front of a curtained entry.
“That’s it, don’t be shy. It’s going to be so much fun.” The low urgings of a throaty woman’s voice lit a fuse on slow burn inside Sam’s gut. He flushed in embarrassment while eavesdropping on Jodie and her current client.
“You big stud, you really have what it takes.”
Sam inched closer. It would be a little embarrassing to burst in on the naked bimbo and the client of the hour but tough luck. Besides, they were the ones who should be mortified. It was part of his job, and he couldn’t resist confronting the amorous couple when they least expected it.
“You’re so big and hard. Hold still, and I’ll help you get it in.”
Geez. What a performance. Jodie laid it on as thick as a triple cheese pizza. Sam’s mouth tightened in a grimace. He debated if he should bust in on the couple right away, or hold off until they were in the middle of the Horizontal Hora, which should be in about ten seconds, from the sounds of things, but Vanilla had other ideas in mind.
The dog strained at the leash, lunged, and tugged Sam forward. Vanilla cannonballed past the curtains so that Sam lurched against the stacks of boxes, which in turn tumbled to the floor. He skidded and then crash-landed on top of one furious redhead and two barking mops.
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