Home > Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(9)

Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(9)
Mary Kay Andrews

“How in the world?” I asked, when I was able to speak again. “How did you get in that truck?”

Jethro licked my face in answer. I noticed for the first time that a frayed piece of yellow nylon cord was tied to his collar. Tucking my squirming dog under my arm, I looked inside the truck. A large, damp bone rested on the driver’s seat, beside my black velvet shawl, which, judging by the amount of dog hair clinging to it, had been used as a bed during his stay there.

I grabbed the shawl and carried both it and the dog inside.

As soon as we were in the house, he jumped out of my arms and ran into the kitchen. I followed him there and watched with relief as he scarfed down an entire bowl of chow. When he was done, I sat down on the floor and gave him a thorough examination. But he was fine. No scratches, cuts, not a mark on him.

He rolled onto his back and allowed me to give him a welcome-home belly scratch.

“You had me worried sick,” I scolded. “How did you get in that truck? Who found you and brought you home?”

Instead of an explanation, he went to the back door and scratched, letting me know it was time for a bathroom break. But before I let him out, I went into the garden first, making sure the gate was securely locked.

Satisfied that Jethro was safely fenced in, I ran upstairs and got dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. I was dying to know where Jethro had spent the night, but my investigation would have to be put on hold. I had a full day ahead of me, finishing my redo of Maisie’s Daisy window and getting ready for the open house tonight.

I was hanging up the cocktail dress I’d left in a heap on the bedroom floor when it occurred to me that I’d need to take the velvet shawl to the cleaners. I love my dog, but not his scent. I picked it up to see if there were any visible stains, and to remove the blue Christmas tree pin.

There were no stains, but there was also no pin.

I turned the shawl inside out, to see if it had come unattached, but it was definitely not on the shawl.

I went outside to the truck and ran my hands under the seats. I searched the floorboards. I even looked in the bed of the truck, which was uncharacteristically empty. Still no pin. But I noticed that the driver’s-side window had been cranked down about an inch. I knew with a certainty that I’d had the windows rolled up last night and the heater on, because it had gotten downright chilly once the sun went down. Had I locked the truck?

Usually I did keep the truck locked. An unfortunate side effect of living downtown was that crime was a nagging constant. Over the years, I’d had batteries stolen out of my car, potted plants stolen from my porch, and once somebody had even stolen the gas lamps outside my front door. But I’d been in such a state last night, I couldn’t say with a certainty whether or not I had locked the truck.

What was unquestionable was that somebody, sometime during the night, had tethered my dog to that makeshift leash, placed him in the truck, given him a bone for solace, and cracked the window so that he wouldn’t suffocate. That same guardian angel had also, apparently, decided to reward himself with my Christmas tree pin.

Fine, I thought. I’d have paid a real, and handsome, cash reward to anybody who’d brought Jethro back home. And I’d have gladly thrown the pin in as a bonus.

Before going back to lock up the house, I walked across the street to take another look at the Christmas decorations on Maisie’s Daisy.

What the hell? My daisy had been plucked! The topiary trees were virtually denuded of fruit. Apples, oranges, lemons, limes, even the cunning little kumquats I’d paid an indecent price for, were all gone. The garland around the front door was similarly picked clean. Pieces of popcorn littered the sidewalk, and I felt cranberries squashing under my sneakers. The only fruit left was the pineapple I’d nailed to the plaque above the door, and a couple of random pomegranates.

Without the fruit, the storefront looked naked and pathetic. Had the same thief who’d taken my pin also made off with my fruit? Some crime spree.

“Son of a bitch!” I muttered. Now I’d have to start all over again. With the open house tonight, and the decoration contest judges due at six, there was no time to waste.

Still I wondered if other businesses had also been victimized during the night.

I took a quick hike across Troup Square. Babalu was even more resplendent than it had been yesterday. It was a winter wonderland on steroids. New to the scene was a pair of eight-foot-high snowmen. I had to touch them to make sure they weren’t real. Although they glittered like fresh snow, they were actually made of some kind of cotton batting sprayed with iridescent sparkles. The snowmen held aloft shiny black snow shovels crossed over the shop’s doorway. Standing outside the shop, I could hear Chrismas music being piped out onto the sidewalk. And yes, as I sniffed hungrily, I realized these men would stop at nothing in their quest for world domination. That was undeniably the scent of fresh-baked gingerbread wafting into the chilly morning air.

The bastards! Manny and Cookie’s decorations were breathtakingly intact.

The shop door opened with a merry tinkle, and a small black powder puff with legs emerged. It trotted over to the fire hydrant at the curb, and daintily took a morning pee.

“Good Ruthie!”

Cookie Parker poked his head out the door and looked at me quizzically. “Yes?”

He was wearing a black satin bathrobe, and his chunky white legs ended in a pair of black velvet monogrammed slippers. His dyed blond hair stood up in wisps, and a black satin sleep mask had been pushed up over his forehead.

“I’m Weezie Foley. I own Maisie’s Daisy, across the square,” I said.

“I’m aware of who you are and what you do,” he said coldly. “But what do you want here?”

“Somebody vandalized my decorations last night,” I said. “Most of the fruit is gone. And my truck was broken into. I was just checking…to see.”

“If we’d been hit?” Cookie smiled. “Your concern is touching. But as you can see, nothing here has been touched.”

He clapped his hands smartly. “Come, Ruthie.” The little dog trotted down the sidewalk a few yards and looked back at Cookie, as if taunting him.

“Naughty girl,” Cookie said, shaking his finger at the dog. “Come along now. It’s cold out here. You need your sweater if we’re going to take a walk. And I need some pants.”

“You didn’t happen to see anybody suspicious last night, did you?” I asked.

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