Sparkle Abbey

May 2013 $11.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-292-7

The Pampered Pets Mysteries, Book 4

A killer has been unleashed.

Our PriceUS$11.95
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover

One of Laguna Beach’s best-known plastic surgeons may need a new leash on life. Unless he’s just taking a verylong nap on the bench outside Melinda Langston’s Bow Wow Boutique . . .

Dr. O’Doggle continued to give us the silent treatment. Fluffy eyed him intently. I studied him too. Tova Randall wasn’t my BFF, to say the least, but I didn’t wish her boyfriend any bad luck.

My neighbor, Darby, relaxed her grip on Fluffy’s leash. The big Afghan lunged toward Dr. O and knocked him over.

Tova’s handsome hunk rolled off the bench and dropped with a thud at our feet.

Darby gasped. My stomach knotted. "No, no, no.” I shook my head. "Not again.”

I knelt down and shook his shoulders. "Dr. O’Doggle?” I grabbed his suit lapels and yelled, "Jack?”

No response. No, "I’m fine.” No, "Stop yelling in my face.” No, "Get your hands off me.”

No, no, no.

I checked his throat for a pulse. Nothing. But he was still warm. My fingers brushed against something knotted around his throat, and I’m not talking about his tie. I pulled back his shirt for a better look. I sucked in a breath, my nose filled with a light female perfume I didn’t recognize. A thin dog leash was wound tightly around his neck. Identical to the kind I sold at the shop.

This was not an accident.

"Is he...?” Darby asked softly.

I looked up at her. "Dead. No more late night walks for him.”

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The Pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets – Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). They reside in central Iowa, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day, with either an iced tea or a margarita. Visit them at www.sparkleabbey.com


"…a fun book for a rainy afternoon." -- Lauri Rottmayer, Rott-I-Tude

"If you like animals, funny stories and characters with their over the top personality and mystery these books would be right up your funny bone." -- Rhonda Laney, Read A Lot Blog

"A really fun mystery!” --Doreen Alba, Netgalley



Chapter One

"HAVE YOU worked in retail before, Vera?”

Vera White, a fifty-something with steel-wool hair, sat ramrod straight, palms flat on her denim leggings.

"No.” Her thin lips flashed a skittish smile.

I waited for more details but none came. She reminded me of an overweight Yorkie at a six-year-old’s birthday party—a cute bundle of nerves ready to attack at the slightest provocation.

I shifted in my chair and pretended to review her application, hoping she’d elaborate. "Pretended” because there wasn’t much to read. Other than her current personal information, the form was blank—no job history, no skills, no references. Nothing to give me an idea if she was equipped to handle Bow Wow’s unique clientele—the pampered pooches of Laguna Beach. Trust me, there were a lot them.

"So, why do you think you’d like to work here?” I asked. Her hands fisted and then relaxed. "I’ve been in hypnotherapy for a year now. My therapist said I should consider a part-time job. I saw your Help Wanted sign last week.” She spoke slowly, as if she’d memorized her answers. Probably coached by her therapist.

Her gaze darted over my shoulder toward the checkout counter, then back at me. "I’ve researched you.”

Great. I could only imagine what she’d found. Melinda Langston, owner of Bow Wow Boutique, was a former Miss America contestant, disqualified in a humiliating scandal. Melinda Langston, runaway fiancée of local art gallery owner. Melinda Langston, recently "helped” Laguna Beach police find local drama queen’s killer.

"Your shop is clean.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, but her gaze roamed the store like a Nervous Nelly.

Obviously, her answer wasn’t the direction I thought she was going. However, I was happy to hear Bow Wow had a respectable reputation. I’d worked hard to make my pet boutique a success.

"Although,” she continued, "I don’t think you should allow animals inside. Do you know how many germs and diseases they carry?” She shuddered then looked at the counter again.

I couldn’t stop myself. I looked over my shoulder. I scanned the room quickly, trying to see it from her point of view. A variety of collars, leads, carriers, beds, toys, specialty items, and apparel, the locked glass counter was free of clutter and fingerprints.

Momentary panic gripped me. Had I left the cash register drawer out? Nope. I faced Wacky Vera. I had no idea what had grabbed her peculiar interest.

"I don’t see any antibacterial hand sanitizer, but that’s okay. I have my own until you buy some,” she said. "You’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Is that the dress code, or would I have to wear a uniform? I must wear my own clothing. No polyester. I have a doctor’s note.” She opened her black leather handbag. Head down, she pulled out three small bottles of hand sanitizer, a signed document, which I assumed was her release from communal polyester, and a sealed sandwich baggie containing a pair of purple exam gloves.

"You carry disposable gloves?” I suddenly understood the lack of work experience. I opened my mouth, planning to end the interview, but she continued before I could get the words out.

"Of course. I never know when I might need them. I’m allergic to latex. Horrible hives, itching, wheezing, difficulty breathing. You’d have to carry a non-latex brand just for me. I use a minimum of one box each month.”

She must have mistaken my look of frozen engrossment for confusion.

"When you clean, you wear protective gloves, don’t you? It’s not just about the bacteria carried by the animals, but the people, too.” She gasped, eyes bulging. "You clean up after them, right? Humans and animals? Do you have bleach? Hot water?” Her voice squeaked in alarm.

I didn’t use anything more than a doo-doo bag, disinfectant spray, and a mop, but I didn’t think she could handle the truth. I should have known this was going to be a bust when she’d opened the door with a disposable hand wipe and refused to shake hands.

I cleared my throat. A strand of hair fell from my ponytail. I tucked it behind my ear. "I really appreciate that you’d like to work here, but I’m not sure this is a good fit for you. Have you thought about one of the smaller boutiques downtown? There are a number of clothing stores looking for help.”

She recoiled. "No. I can’t pick up any item someone else has worn, however briefly. I can’t touch someone else’s food. Oh, and I cannot handle money. I have a doctor’s note for all of that, too.”

I’m sure she did. I wondered how many "doctor’s notes” she had in her magical bag. "This job would require you to handle money.”

She wrinkled her nose. "Your customers are rich. Don’t they pay with credit cards?”

There was something endearing about Wacky Vera’s obvious phobia, but there was no way I was hiring her.

"I’m really sorry, but I don’t think you’ll enjoy working here.”

Agitated, she wiggled in her chair. "I know what you’re thinking. You think that because I-I don’t like touching people, and I-I can’t handle germs, I won’t be an excellent worker. Well, you’re wrong. What about Monk? I’ve seen every episode. He had many more issues than I do. If Monk could work with the police, dirty suspects, and dead people, I can work here. With you.” She tugged the hem of her tunic sweater. Her round face had flushed in her passionate outrage.

"Monk’s a fictional character from a television show that went off the air years ago.”

Her dark brown eyes bulged in indignation. "And?”

Yikes. Thankfully, the phone rang, and I didn’t have to come up with a polite response. I excused myself.

"Bow Wow Boutique, this is Mel.”

"Jack O’Doggle,” the voice on the other end said.

"Hey, Dr. O. What can I do for you?”

Dr. Jack O’Doggle, plastic surgeon to the rich and richer of Orange County, was hot. I’m not talking temperature. Tall, dark-haired, and charismatic. Let’s just say he represented his profession very, very well. He was also Tova Randall’s boyfriend.

For those of you who don’t know, Tova and I don’t play well together. Mostly because she tried to sue me for giving her pup, Kiki, fleas. I hadn’t, but at the time, Tova didn’t believe me.

Ever since Jack and Tova hooked up, Tova’s been in my hair constantly. Dr. O seemed to enjoy showering Tova with extravagant gifts and trips. Heck, there’d been a steady flow of gifts for Kiki too. The way to Tova’s heart was through her dog. (I admit, I knew the feeling.) Expensive dog bowls, clothing, collars, barrettes, and just last week a new leather carrier.

"You know those pink booties under the glass counter?”

I looked down. "Sure. I’m looking at them right now.”

They were pretty adorable, if I did say so myself. Christmas was three weeks away. The soft pink booties with Swarovski crystals would make the perfect present.

"Wrap me up a pair. I...” A loud discussion sparked in the background. "I’m sorry, Mel. Hold on just a second.” There was some crackling noise as he covered the phone, but I could still hear pieces of his conversation. "Gwen, Annabelle’s chin implant shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Tell Mrs. Ides I’ll see her at four.”

Chin implant? As titillating as that topic was, I tuned it out and surreptitiously watched Wacky Vera pull a package of hand-wipes from the medical bag she called a purse and proceed to wipe down the chair she’d been sitting on. Once she finished, she tackled the front door with concise vertical strokes, making high-pitched squeaking noises—the glass, that is, not Vera. Disinfectant and bleach hung in the air.

I shook my head and chuckled. I was flanked by crazy people. Heck, maybe I was the crazy one. I tapped my fingers on the counter, waiting for Dr. O to resume our conversation.

"I’m sorry,” he apologized suddenly. "Mel, wrap ‘em up, and I’ll stop by after my last appointment. Remind me, what time do you close?”

"I’m open late for a private party. Ava Rose is launching her new doggie couture line. I’ll be here until at least nine.”

Vera carefully held her used wipes at arm’s length looking for a place to dispose of them. I pointed at the wastebasket next to me, behind the counter.

"Fine. Fine,” Dr. O said. "You have my credit card on file. Oh, and a card.”


"I need a card. And would you write on it? ‘I’m sorry we fought.’”

I rolled my eyes. Tova had probably picked the fight just to get make-up presents. "Sure. Did you want me to put Tova’s name on the envelope?”

He paused for a couple of seconds. I could hear his name being paged in the background again. "No. Kiki. I gotta go. I’ll see you tonight.”

I squeezed the phone. Did he just say Kiki? Seriously? He wanted me to address the card to Tova’s dog?

What kind of fight could he possibly have had with a five-pound Yorkipoo?

More importantly, who won?



Chapter Two

OVER THE YEARS, I’ve decided there are three kinds of people in Laguna Beach—art lovers, animal lovers, and everyone else. I’m firmly in the animal-lover camp. So were the twenty clients milling around Bow Wow Boutique.

Tonight I was launching a new environmentally friendly dog clothing line by Ava Rose, an up-and-coming designer. I’d invited a handful of my most loyal customers and their guests for a private showing and after-hours Christmas shopping.

Traditional Christmas music energized the room, and hot apple cider warmed the crowd. Twinkling white lights wrapped the trees lining the city streets, reminding us it was the season for giving. Or, for some in town, time to outspend their closest friends.

I’d dressed up for the occasion. Black, leather-kneed leggings, red cashmere tunic, and green plaid flats. To top it all off, I’d traded my daily ponytail for a blow out and soft curls. (Long hair and a ponytail went together like warm peanut butter cookies and milk.) My mama would say tonight’s look was a huge improvement over my typical jeans, T-shirt, and motorcycle boots. I might look more presentable, but I wasn’t as comfortable.

It was well after eight, and the crowd had thinned. My trusty sidekick, Missy, my English Bulldog, was sound asleep on her dog bed in my office. She wasn’t much of a party animal.

Kimber Shores glided to my side, her Pug, Noodles, trailing along behind her. "Mel, I love, love, love this sweater vest. When did you get it?” She brushed my cheek with a perfect air kiss.

Kimber’s naturally beautiful and genuinely nice. Always has a kind word to say and has attended every Bow Wow event with credit card in hand. She’s one of my most loyal clients. I adore her and Noodles, who always looks a little startled to me.

"Ava Rose brought me a sample a couple of months ago. Isn’t it amazing? All her clothing is made from bamboo fiber. I knew it would be perfect for Noodles. Brown and teal are his colors. And who doesn’t like argyle?”

"It’s so soft.” She rubbed the sweater against her cheek. "Thank you for thinking of us.” She squeezed my forearm in excitement. "Where is the designer? I just have to meet her.”

I pointed her in Ava Rose’s direction, relieved someone else would have to listen to her expound on bamboo, the "amazing grass stalk and renewable resource.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally on board with the Go Green train, but I can only spend so long talking about bamboo and how it’s used to make everything from houses to socks.

I noticed I was running low on lime-green leads, so I slipped into the back and grabbed a handful. I checked on Missy, who snored noisily, oblivious to the animated chatter out front. I kissed the top of her head then returned to my clients. As I hung the leads on an end cap, I overhead Tova and her assistant, Stacie, talking about the nail polish.

"Puppy Kisses Pink is perfect. It matches Kiki’s leash,” Tova purred in her sexy model voice. She really is a model. A lingerie model with all the curves that label infers.

My gag reflex reacted instinctively at her saccharine tone.

Kiki was a tiny bundle of excited puppy love on four short legs. I’m not a toy dog kinda gal, but Kiki makes me rethink my stance every time I see her.

"It matches your newest trinket from Dr. O’Doggle,” Stacie pointed at Tova’s left wrist. I caught a glimpse of the "trinket”—a beautiful pink diamond tennis bracelet that had to be worth a handful of nose jobs.

"Did you see the pink silk dress on the wall? Wouldn’t it look adorable on Kiki?” Tova carried her Yorkiepoo over for a closer look. "Wouldn’t you love this dress, sweetie pie?”

I went over to Tova. "It’s a flower-girl dress. It’s handmade, silk and organza. She wouldn’t have to wear it to a wedding, but that was the intention behind the design.”

Stacie shot a sly smile at Tova, her hazel eyes sharing some radical secret. "It’s purr-fect.”

Stacie was an athletic beauty with thick, honey-blonde locks that brushed her shoulders. Unfortunately, next to Tova’s statuesque height and long, auburn hair, Stacie looked short and average. Not a good look for any woman wanting to stand out from the desperate-housewives crowd.

Tova looked momentarily torn, but the look vanished as quickly as the bag of leftover Halloween candy I’d eaten before the first weekend in November. I have a thing for candy corn. The original—yellow, orange, and white. "If you’re interested, let me know. I only have the one left in Kiki’s size.”

As Tova was about to say something, her cell rang. She checked her caller ID. A take-me-now bedroom look swept across her face. "Hi, Jack,” she breathed into the phone.

I started to walk away and give her some much needed privacy when her perfectly plucked eyebrows furrowed. I halted in my tracks in a moment of shock. Her eyebrows actually moved. I mean, she is dating a plastic surgeon. He could fix that.

"I see. Are you going to the gym?” she snapped, her tone arctic. I knew that tone well, having used it occasionally on my on-again fiancé, Grey.

"I see,” she bit out.

She didn’t look happy. Nope. Her eyes hardened, and her collagen lips flattened. Even her curves looked dangerous.

She turned, narrowing her I’ll-make-you-pay-for-standing-me-up gaze on me, but spoke into the phone. "Jack darling, I’ll be waiting for you. Please don’t disappoint me.”

Yowser. I recognized that passive-aggressive tone. My mama’s famous for perfecting it. Why Tova needed to throw her visual daggers in my direction as she played the guilt card was beyond me, but I’d just as soon she left me out of it. I had my own issues with a no-show man.

As usual, Grey was currently out of town on business. Top secret, undercover, FBI-type business, but more about that later. Back to Tova and her daggers.

She tossed her cell in her handbag and wiggle-walked toward the counter. Her Diane von Furstenberg lace dress was a size too small, which meant it had to be a double zero.

"Melinda, Jack said he had you set aside a gift for Kiki.”

"Well, yes. This morning. He said he’d be here this evening to pick it up.”

"He’s running late and won’t be coming. You can just give it to me now.”

Okay, this was awkward. I knew the pink boots were for Tova’s dog, but Dr. O hadn’t told me to hand over the gift to her. What if he wanted it to be a surprise for Kiki? What if he needed it for a get-out-of-Tova-jail free gift? And if he really did want me to hand it over to her now, why didn’t he just ask to talk to me?

"It’s not that I don’t believe you...” I cleared my throat. Honestly, I didn’t fully believe her. "I’d feel better if I talked to Dr. O personally before I hand you his purchase. It’s Bow Wow policy.” Okay, not really, but maybe I needed to write up a policy just for these types of situations.

"He’s out of surgery and heading for the gym. He wanted me to have it. Now.”

"I think he wanted Kiki to have it. Just a small correction.” I smiled and reached out to pet the dog.

Tova pulled her away. "You’re being difficult. You’re always difficult with me. You know he bought Kiki a gift, and you know he was picking it up tonight. We’re here now. Just give us the present.” Out came the demanding hand and pouty lip I hated so much.

Well, when you ask so sweetly... "Give me a minute.” I flipped though my business card holder, looking for the doc’s information.

It was easy enough to make a quick call to Dr. O’s office. If he said it was okay, she could have the boots. Anything to get rid of Miss Bossy Pants and her assistant.

They roamed the shop while I hunted through my stash of business cards. I really needed to get these organized. No. What I needed was to invest in a software system that merged my client database with my cash register, but I was always too busy helping customers. I needed part-time help, but I hadn’t had any good candidates. Wacky Vera, a prime example of my options, wasn’t going to cut it. I made a mental reminder to look through the applications again tomorrow.

"Tova got stood up again?” Kimber appeared out of nowhere.

"It sounds like there was an emergency, and Dr. O’Doggle won’t be able to make it.” I wasn’t about to insinuate myself into gossip about Tova. I wasn’t her biggest fan, but that didn’t mean I had to share my unkind thoughts about her with other customers.

Kimber leaned against the counter and spoke quietly. "He stands her up almost every Sunday night. If I were her, I’d hire a P.I. and find out who the other woman is.”

"What other woman?” I asked before I could stop myself. So much for staying out of Tova’s personal life.

"I’ve heard he has another girlfriend in Newport. It could even be a wife. Either way, I wouldn’t stand for it.” Kimber set Noodles’ sweater vest next to the cash register.

Another woman? Highly unlikely. If that were true, Tova would have found a way to get rid of the competition. As for a wife, Tova was annoying and superficial, but she didn’t seem the kind to steal another woman’s husband.

Maybe the sexy Dr. Jack O’Doggle could take only so much Tova and needed a break. Just like the rest of us. After I rang up Kimber’s merchandise, I’d call Dr. O and get his okay to cough up Kiki’s gift. It was the least I could do.


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