Authors: Sparkle Abbey
The crime was doggone sinister. Soon, the police would be barking up the wrong tree.
All at once, a man popped up in front of me. It was the big ruddy-faced man Eugene had fought with earlier. His face was now pale as he tried to speak, but he gasped for air instead.
Thinking perhaps he had claustrophobia or was having a panic attack of some sort, I laid my hand on his arm and asked, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
He opened his mouth, but still nothing.
The man reached out to me and grabbed my shoulder. I winced as his hand leaned on Grandma Tillie’s brooch and pushed it into my flesh. He lunged forward against me, knocking me off balance.
“Sir? Sir, what’s the problem?”
As he fell at my feet, my question was answered.
The problem was there was a very large carving knife sticking out of his back.
“Catnip for mystery fans!”
—Maggie, the cat of Donald Bain (MURDER SHE WROTE SERIES)
Kitty Kitty Bang Bang
Fifty Shades of Greyhound
The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo
Bell Bridge Books
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.
Bell Bridge Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-453-2
Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-418-1
Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.
Copyright © 2014 by Carter Woods, LLC
(excerpt) copyright © 2011 by Carter Woods, LLC
(excerpt) copyright © 2012 by Carter Woods, LLC
Printed and bound in the United States of America.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Girl (manipulated) © Aleutie |
Dog (manipulated) © Dawn Hudson |
Collar © Roughcollie |
Paw print © Booka1 |
To all the animal rescue groups, the staff and the volunteers, who not only love animals but put that love into action with hard work and dedication.
IT WAS A KILLER party.
Blanche LeRue, CEO of Greys Matter, barked orders for more seating, more native California bubbly, and more gourmet shrimp appetizers. I’m sure Blanche hoped the overflow crowd translated to big donations for the Greyhound rescue.
Her dress was a formal length charcoal satin that complemented her tall, reed-like figure. A commanding woman, she wore her chin-length silver hair in a way that framed her narrow face yet still managed to look more regal than severe. But make no mistake, Blanche LeRue was a regal with a cause. And that cause was Greyhound rescue.
I know it must seem to y’all that I’m always at some big fancy schmancy party. You’ve probably also noted that it’s usually an animal-related fancy schmancy deal. You’d be right. That’s me, Caro Lamont, pet therapist and big-time subscriber to the there-are-no-bad-pets-just-uneducated-pet-parents philosophy.
My Laguna Beach pet therapy business is called PAWS, which stands for Professional Animal Wellness Specialist, but, in truth, I work more with problem people than problem pets.
Invitations to charity events abound in this pet-friendly southern California haven, but tonight’s gala was a special one, the Fifty Shades of Greyhound Charity Ball, at
, a gorgeous historic ranch estate just outside of Laguna Beach. The main house had recently been spiffed up, the huge rooms used for wedding receptions, political affairs, celebrity functions, and events such as this five-thousand-dollar-a-ticket fund-raiser.
The room was shades of gray everywhere. Pale gray skirting and deep gray brocade tablecloths, slate-colored vases filled with silver floral arrangements.
I know what you’re thinking: they were playing off the mega success of a book that started with the same phrase. Well, you’d probably be right, but you have to admit it was for a great cause. And there were truly fifty, count them, fifty real live Greyhounds of varying shades staged at strategic places around the room. Most sat at attention at the feet of their owners or handlers. Though all the dogs were not gray—some white, some black, and still others fawn or brindle—all were adorned with gray leather collars. Blanche LeRue was nothing if not a detail person.
There were many wonderful Greyhound rescue groups in California, but Greys Matter was, in my opinion, one of the best. I hoped the clink and clatter of the crystal and china as waiters refilled champagne glasses and people filled their plates was echoed by the
of hefty contributions to the rescue group.
Speaking of details, Blanche and her event committee had come up with the idea of silver-framed signs around the room printed with factoids about Greyhounds. It was a superb idea. What a great way to convey important information to attendees without some talking head standing at a microphone. I’d seen it time and time again—people who’d paid a pricey admission impatiently waiting for a speaker to be done so they could resume their conversations. People were still waiting, but they were waiting in line to pile gourmet food on their china. And the Greys Matter crew had made sure the buffet tables were placed strategically close to the framed signs. Brilliant.
Part of the fun of attending events like this one was the people-watching. There’s always more to people than what you first noticed. Ever a student of human behavior, I loved the opportunity to observe.
Which was why I stood watching people while Sam Gallanos, my—well heck, what was Sam?
My friend? No, we’re more than friends. My lover? No, less than that one? My escort? Now that just sounds wrong, doesn’t it? My man? My main squeeze? Hmmm. What we were to each other was complicated. So for now, let’s just call him my date for the evening.
Sam, my “date” was off fighting the crowd for a plate of food. While I enjoyed the people-watching, I hoped he’d be back soon. Partly because I enjoyed his fabulous company, and partly because I’d begun to get hungry.
I looked around the spectacular ballroom. Several of my PAWS clients were in attendance. I spotted retired news tycoon Davis Pinter standing near a sign that said, “The origin of the Greyhound name has nothing to do with color. In fact, gray is not a common color among Greyhounds.” That was true.
Davis is a lovely man, always well-dressed, and he looked snappy tonight in his gray tux. Davis has an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Huntley. A smart man and a smart dog, but sometimes there ensued a battle of wills between the two, which was how we’d become acquainted.
Each of the signs had an artistic outline of a Greyhound at the top. The one closest to me said, “Before the 1980s, many racing Greyhounds were put down at the end of their careers. Now, thanks to rescue groups like Greys Matter, more than 20,000 are adopted each year.”
I knew the stats, but still seeing them in black and white was sobering. I could understand why Blanche and the other volunteers were so passionate about Greyhound rescue.
I saw my friend, Diana Knight, across the way and a smile welled up inside me. Her elegant, perfectly-coiffed, blond head bobbed up and down as she talked. She’d cornered a California congressman near another sign which stated, “Most Greyhounds are at the end of their racing careers at two to five years of age, but they still have a lot of life to live. The average lifespan is twelve to fourteen years.” Diana pointed at the words on the sign and pointed at the congressman.
What Diana Knight is to me isn’t at all complicated. Diana is my very best friend in the world. She’s eighty-something and old-school Hollywood at its best, having starred in a number of golden age romantic comedies as the perky heroine who always got the best of the guy.
Well, perky had morphed into feisty. Based on the distance of her perfectly manicured finger from said congressman’s nose, Diana was definitely getting the best of the politician. I couldn’t hear the conversation because of all the chatter in the room, but I was willing to bet it had something to do with animal rights. With Diana it was always about the animals. You always knew where you stood with her and she unapologetically lived her passion. I aspired to be Diana Knight when I grew up.
Diana was dressed in gray like the rest of us, though her dress was a soft, silvery-gray chiffon, the perfect foil for her delicate coloring. I knew she’d want to do lunch soon so we could dish on who was with whom, and which designers made the best show.
The main door opened and the last few arrivals hurried inside, victims of a steady rainfall. We could use the rain, but maybe
should think about a covered portico.
Tova Randall sashayed into the ballroom with the new man in her life. I’d heard she’d been out of the country. Tonight, all eyes were on her as she made an entrance in a gray-toned sheath that hugged her silicone-enhanced curves. Tova was sprinkled with raindrops which looked good on her flawless skin. She’d been a very successful lingerie model and, on her, the rain almost looked like an accessory in a photo shoot. I was thankful I’d arrived before the rain as the moisture would not have been as kind to my naturally-curly red locks.
Tova’s previous significant-other relationship had met with an unfortunate end. I’d not been much of a fan of the woman, but no one deserved what she’d been through. I was glad to see Tova was getting out.
My cousin, Melinda Langston, who owned the Bow Wow Boutique, an über-fancy pet shop in downtown Laguna Beach, had been involved in solving the murder of Tova’s boyfriend and plastic surgeon, Dr. O’Doggle.
Speaking of Melinda—where was she?
I scanned the room of high-steppers. They were all tricked out in gray and black and silver fashions, but dark-haired Mel with her striking good looks would be easy to spot. I didn’t see her.
It wasn’t like her to miss a rescue event. I’d heard she and Grey Donovan, local art gallery owner and her on-again-off-again fiancé, had been seen around town. So the current future wedding status must be “on.” I think it was a sure bet I could count myself out as a bridesmaid.
Mel’s mama and my mama were sisters. We’d been childhood best friends, even up through our teen years and into our twenties. We shared a background of over-achieving high-competition mothers. We shared a love of critters. We shared a loathing of the pageant circuit.
But then things had happened, words were said, and, well, it’s beyond complicated and partly involves the brooch I wore tonight.
You see, our Grandma Tillie had left the bejeweled basket of fruit pin to her “favorite granddaughter.” She only had two granddaughters. Clearly, only one could be the favorite. That would be me. I’d recently retrieved the brooch from Mel’s possession and I sure as shootin’ did not want her to miss seeing me wear it tonight.
“Hello, Caro.” Alana Benda appeared at my side. “Isn’t this awesome?” Her voice was a little too bright. A little too loud. Either too much excitement or her champagne glass had been refilled a few too many times.
“It is,” I agreed. “A great turnout, and the venue is absolutely stunning.”
“Speaking of stunning, is your dress a Jenny Packman?” Alana tapped the peplum skirt of my silver-gray satin gown, her heavy diamond tennis bracelet winking in the lights.
“It is.” I could have worn something I had, but I didn’t really own anything formal in gray. Not a great color for a redhead. Besides, why pass up an excuse to buy a new dress? Right? Especially something from the newest hot designer. I loved the simplicity of her designs, although I’d worried the delicate beading would be damaged by the brooch prominently pinned to my left shoulder.
“I thought so.” Alana looked like she thought there might be a prize involved for the correct guess.
Also, I got the impression I’d suddenly been raised a few notches in her who-might-possibly-be-important list. Leave it to Alana to be into the haute couture label on what everyone was wearing. Not that Diana and I wouldn’t be doing a designer debrief when we got together for lunch, but we weren’t picking our friends based the status on their closet.
Alana had picked a silver and black Roberto Cavalli animal print that accented her toned-to-the-max body. I didn’t know Alana all that well except for talking to her at functions like this.
She was married to Dave, the accountant who had an office in the group where PAWS was located, but come to think of it, I didn’t really know Dave that well either. He wasn’t around the place a lot and when he was, it seemed he was always busy. During tax season, there was a steady stream of wealthy Laguna residents coming through the office. I imagined the guy needed to work long hours if his wife had a penchant for designer dresses and diamond bracelets.
I glanced over Alana’s shoulder at the silver-framed placard behind her. “Greyhounds are bred and built for speed but they are often referred to as 40 MPH couch potatoes. They are exceptionally calm dogs.”
That was true. Greyhounds were great family dogs. Gentle and good-natured.
I clearly didn’t know much about Dave because I hadn’t realized he and his wife were interested in Greyhound rescue.
“Do you and Dave have Greyhounds?” It didn’t necessarily follow, though many attendees at the event did.
“We do.” She flipped bleached blond bangs out of her eyes. “We have two Italian Greyhounds, Louie and Lexie.”
Italian Greyhounds are extremely slender and the smallest of the sighthounds. They looked like miniature Greyhounds, but a lot of IG owners didn’t care for the term. The American Kennel Club sees them as true genetic Greyhounds, with a bloodline going back more than two thousand years.
The main thing as far as my PAWS clients go is, while they’re incredibly sweet and well-behaved, an Italian Greyhound, like any Greyhound, should not be trusted off leash because they have an extremely high predator drive. That means, you may be walking with your dog and suddenly he takes off after a small animal. Not good at the dog park.
“They’re great dogs.” I waited, expecting her to pull out pictures of her fur kids, or point them out if they were in the room. Most of the pet owners I’d talked to did once the topic came up.
Her fake eyelashes fluttered. “And David is the CFO for Greys Matter.” She gestured with her champagne glass toward the corner of the room where Dave stood talking to Alice Tiburon and her husband, Robert.
I knew CFO meant Chief Financial Officer, but Alana’s tone implied it meant Dave and Warren Buffett were pals.
I glanced over at the trio. Alice Tiburon was the chair of the board of Greys Matter and she definitely was no trophy wife. In fact, she was the one with the money in that pairing. She was a very successful businesswoman. The Tiburons had recently moved from their mansion in Ruby Point to a bigger mansion in the even more exclusive gated community of Diamond Cove. On the coast, and in Laguna in particular, it’s all about the view, and this Diamond Cove property was purported to have the best view in Orange County. Certainly it was one of the most expensive.
Dave and Robert wore gray tuxes like the rest of the men. Alice was striking in a gray crepe ribbon-striped gown that perfectly accented her slender height and her shoulder-length dark hair. I wondered if Alana had asked her who the designer was.
I should say hello to Dave and the couple. I’d known the Tiburons had Greyhounds, but apparently not problem ones. Or, if so, they used a different pet therapist. Alice and Robert Tiburon were regulars at Laguna Beach events and a solid supporter of pet causes. I knew the latter because she was often on Diana’s donor list.
I turned back to speak to Alana, but she had moved away, obviously spotting another potentially important person in designer dress. I looked around once again for Sam, and my glance caught Blanche LeRue’s silver head as she surveyed the crowd and the lavishly decorated
ballroom. I could see a slight frown form as she noted the gaps in the sumptuous platters of food surrounding the towering Greyhound dog ice sculpture.
She waved over Dino Riccio. The dapper Italian caterer hurried to her side and, in turn, motioned to Eugene, the latest addition to his catering team. Dino owned the popular Riccio’s Italian restaurant and was also the current leading man in Diana Knight’s life.