Fifty Shades of Greyhound

Fifty Shades of Greyhound

Sparkle Abbey

May 2014 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-4-181

The Pampered Pets Mysteries, Book 5


 
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It was a killer party.

Caro Lamont, Laguna Beach’s favorite pet therapist, is thrilled to support the elite fundraising gala forGreys Matter, a SoCal greyhound rescue group. All the guests in the couture-attired crowd are clad in varying shades of grey, the champagne and donations are flowing, and there are fifty gorgeous greyhounds in attendance. But before the evening ends, a stranger in their midst is dead.

Caro sets out to help the rescue group find the identity of the mystery guest but soon finds herself in the doghouse with homicide detective, Judd Malone—oh, and federal agent, John Milner. When there’s a second death, Caro is convinced she’s on the track of someone who wants a secret to stay buried, but it’s a race to see whether Caro can uncover the truth before the killer decides she’s next.

 


Reviews

 

"Fifty Shades of Greyhound gives ‘roll over and play dead’ a whole new meaning!" —Ethel Merman & Ella Fitzgerald, canine companions to award-winning author, Holly Jacobs

 


Excerpt

 

Chapter One

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 D’Orange Maison, 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 cha-ching 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 D’Orange Maison 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.

Not Alana.

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 D’Orange Maison 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.

Eugene, the new foodie recruit, was the twin brother of Verdi, an über multitasker who’d we’d recently hired as a part-time receptionist for our shared office group. She’d been recruited after an unfortunate series of ill-suited temps.

Scanning the room again, I finally spotted Sam making his way toward me through the crowd with two plates of food. Thank heavens! I was famished.

He caught my attention, and I felt a little answering kick in my gut from the warmth of his gaze across the distance.

Even in this crush of people, the guy stood out. It hardly seemed fair. It was a gray-tie affair so it was a level playing field. Every man in the room was pretty much dressed the same, yet still, Sam’s air of relaxed assurance along with his Greek heritage added up to something that turned heads. At least female ones. Call it charisma or sex appeal or whatever you want, Sam had it in spades.

There was a sudden break in the chatter around me and I turned away from the sight of Sam and my food to see what had drawn everyone’s attention. There was some sort of a commotion over by the room’s service door.

I stood on tiptoes to see over heads. No small feat, let me tell you, in my new silver-strappy Jimmy Choos. Eugene and one of the guests were in a heated exchange. There was a collective gasp as one of the Greyhound signs fell into a stack of used silverware which hit the floor with a clatter. Both men were red-faced.

I’d vouched for Eugene to Dino, who’d needed extra help for the party, but I knew him only in passing. I knew Verdi and I’d figured if they were related, he had some of her work ethic and multitasking skills. And Dino had been in a tight spot.

I hoped Eugene hadn’t spilled something on the guy.

The man was bigger and towered over Eugene, but the young man did not back down. At least his body language said so. Finally with a shove to Eugene’s shoulder, the ruddy-faced fellow stalked off and Eugene continued through the service door.

After a slight pause, we all went back to our conversations. I worried about the argument and if there’d been damage, but not overly. According to Dino, there are always mishaps and disgruntled guests at every function. Dino was a pro—he’d sort things out.

I’d turned to look for Sam and those plates of food, when Blanche suddenly appeared beside me. I’m tall, but the woman had to be at least six feet, and she practically vibrated with energy. She was in her element and having the time of her life.

"Hi, hon, how’s the event going?” I asked.

"Great. Just great.” Blanche’s blue eyes snapped with excitement. "I think we’ll hit our goal before the night is over.”

"Everything looks wonderful. The signs were a brilliant idea. And I can’t believe the ice sculpture of the Greyhound.” I pointed toward the banquet table. "And the rabbit looks so lifelike.”

"Rabbit?” She frowned and turned toward the table. "There’s no—”

Just then the rabbit moved.

"Well, for cryin’ in a bucket.” The rabbit looked like a real bunny rabbit because it wasa real bunny.

The furry floppy-eared critter scampered the length of the loaded feast, honey-glazed carrot clamped in its teeth, leaving a trail of shrimp cocktail bunny tracks across the buffet. Then the rabbit went airborne onto the closest guest table.

Which was all it took. It was like the starting gun had been fired.

The Greyhound stationed near the table sighted the hare and began the chase. Instantly, chaos reigned.

Hound chased rabbit, hound chased hound, humans chased hounds. Leashes trailed, tables tipped, trays of glasses tumbled.

I could still see Sam, but he was carried backward by the wave of people and Greyhounds. Complete and utter pandemonium.

I surveyed the bedlam to see what I could do to help.

I decided one Greyhound at a time was the best tactic. I started toward the closest dog, a beautiful jet-black hound.

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.


 

 

Chapter Two

THE CROWD PARTED around us like the Red Sea.

I was tempted to yell out, "Is there a doctor in the house?” But I knew the answer. There were no medical doctors on the guest list. However, before I yelled anything, Dr. Daniel Darling, Laguna Beach’s premier veterinarian, hurried along the cleared marble-floor path to my side.

He handed me his cell phone and said, "Call 911.” Then he knelt beside the man and laid a finger against his neck.

I made the call, quickly explaining the situation and giving the location. The room was still mass confusion as all the dogs had not yet been rounded up. I could hear Blanche calling out to various helpers to take the dogs to an adjoining room so they could be matched up with their owners. The whole situation was out of control.

I stayed by the prone man with Dr. Darling, but I felt useless.

"Isn’t there something we can do?”

Dr. Darling shook his head.

It seemed like forever before the ambulance arrived, but I’m sure it was only a matter of minutes. The paramedics moved onlookers out of the way and dropped their equipment beside the man. I could see from Dr. Darling’s face, though, that it was too late.

Sam helped me up from where I’d been crouched on the floor. "Caro?” His dark eyes searched my face.

"I’m okay.” My hand shook as he held it, but, yeah, I was okay.

We moved out of the way so the paramedics could do their job.

Homicide Detective Judd Malone must have been nearby, because he arrived with a team of crime scene techs even before the paramedics had packed up their bags.

We were all herded to one side of the room and sorted into groups. Then, one by one, people were taken to another room for questioning. Poor Blanche was beside herself at that point. She paced back and forth. At least the police allowed Dino’s crew to serve water to the stunned guests.

This was not how people who pay five thousand dollars a ticket expected to be treated.

One tall thin man, his gray bow tie in hand, simply got up and headed out the door.

A young uniformed officer halted him. "I’m sorry, sir, you’re not cleared to leave.”

As the uniform stepped in front of the fleeing guest, I realized it was Officer Hostas whom I knew from a little broken taillight incident a while back.

"You can’t stop me,” the thin man snapped, his face pinched, his look disgusted, like he’d discovered he’d stepped in doggie doo.

They were at a standoff, like two prizefighters sizing each other up. Blanche stood by wringing her hands. My money was on Officer Hostas.

"I can arrest you.” Hostas looked like he thought that would be exciting.Without breaking eye contact, he shifted his hand to the police baton on his belt.

The errant guest sat back down. And the rest of us decided we would wait until we were cleared to leave. Whenever that might be.

They were doing the interviews in an adjoining banquet room and it seemed they’d broken us into three groups: those who were oblivious to what had happened, those who’d been running around chasing Greyhounds when the incident occurred, and those of us who were in the immediate vicinity when the man collapsed.

The oblivious group had been questioned first. Sam and Diana were in the second group as they’d been trying to help round up the dogs. I was, unfortunately, in the third and final group.

People were dismissed after they were questioned, and Blanche apologized profusely to each of the exiting patrons. The rest of us, who’d not yet been interviewed, sat on chairs we’d pulled up and talked about the evening’s events. I know it seems callous, but people handle shock in different ways.

I settled in to wait for my turn, only half-listening to the chatter. I tucked my silver-gray gown around my knees. I felt a little shaky, a little chilled, but mostly kind of out of it.

The conversations eddied around me.

I caught a gruff-voiced complaint from a man who fussed with whoever would listen that the police could not hold "innocent people hostage.”

Alana’s petulant voice came through, detailing who she’d been talking to and what designer they were wearing, and she didn’t know why she had to stay because she didn’t even see the man.

Finally, Alice Tiburon’s deep contralto answered with a "Would you please shut up?” which seemed to quiet Alana for a while.

Also, I wasn’t sure who first said it, but there was a buzz that one of the waiters had gone missing.

Alice said, "I saw the young man who’d argued with the dead man go outside and then I saw the man come in. So they’d been outside together.”

That got my attention. Eugene had been outside with the victim? I was in the same area but hadn’t noticed the two of them after the confrontation. Of course, I’d been pretty focused on Sam and those plates of food.

The ambience of an elegant fête had turned to post-apocalyptic cleanup as a crew picked up broken furniture and glass. A medical person checked folks for injuries, which thankfully appeared to be minor. I reached up to feel my cheeks and as I raised my hands I suddenly realized my brooch was gone.

I shot out of my seat and dashed over to where the CSI techs were gathering evidence. Where the man’s body lay, thankfully covered. I looked around on the floor and finally got down on my hands and knees.

"What do you think you’re doing?”

I knew that voice. Detective Judd Malone.

I looked up, still on my hands and knees, not willing to give up the search. He stood, arms crossed, typical Malone stance.

"I’m trying to find a piece of jewelry.” I hitched up my fancy gray dress and stood, teetering on silver-toned heels that’d seemed a good idea hours ago.

Malone reached out a hand to steady me. Like I mentioned before, I’m tall. Detective Malone is one of the few people who manages to make me feel petite. The unsmiling expression on his handsome face told me I was in for it.

"Why me?” He looked away and then looked back, pinning me with his hard blue gaze. "Tell me, what does your jewelry have to do with my crime scene?”

"The man,” I pointed to the sheet-covered body. "When he talked to me, he grabbed my shoulder and must have dislodged my brooch.”

"It’s that brooch, isn’t it?” he asked.

"What?”

"It’s the family brooch, right?”

"Well, yes.” I met his steely gaze. "Of course it is.”

"Was your cousin, Mel, here to see it?”

"No, she wasn’t.” I jammed my hair behind my ears.

"What a shame.” His expression said he didn’t mean it.

He turned to the crime scene tech who was painstakingly examining the area. "Did you see a piece of jewelry?”

"No,” the young man answered. "I didn’t.”

"There you have it.” Malone wiped a hand over his face. "You must have lost it somewhere else.”

"Could it... ?” I swallowed. "Could it be under... you know... him?” I pointed at the dead guy.

Malone motioned another tech over and the two of them lifted the man slightly.

Nothing.

"See, no brooch?” Malone shrugged. "I don’t know what to tell you.”

But when they’d moved the body, I could see the man’s right hand, and sure enough, there it was, clutched in his curled fingers. He must have held onto it when he grabbed me and then fell.

"Um, Detective?” I pointed at the brooch.

"Well, what do you know?” The crime scene tech touched the pin with his tweezers.

I wanted to tell him to be careful with the heirloom piece, but I knew I was already on thin ice with Malone. And I’ve always been told you should never venture on thin ice with a fancy skater.

"Okay, Caro.” Detective Malone put his hands on my shoulders and turned me back toward the chairs where the other witnesses sat waiting.

"But my—” I pointed to my brooch.

"Not now.” He was out of patience. "Right now, I need you to go sit down with the others. We’ll sort this out and we’ll talk to everyone as quickly as we can.”

"Of course.” It was a crime scene after all.

I went back and sat down and, true to his word, it wasn’t long before it was my turn to be questioned.

The uniformed officers who’d been taking guests’ names and contact information took mine, although I was pretty sure the Laguna Beach Homicide Division had me on file. There’d been a couple of cases in the not-too-distant past where I’d been involved, much to Malone’s chagrin, in the crime-solving.

Malone asked me to describe what I’d seen and what exactly the man had said to me. I explained he hadn’t been able to speak and recounted what I could remember of what had transpired.

"Did you know the victim?”

"No, I don’t think I’d ever met him before tonight.”

"Did you see him interact with other people throughout the evening?”

I hesitated. He’d had words with Eugene. What had looked like angry words. But I was sure there was a simple explanation for the exchange. Eugene would be able to clear it up. Perhaps the man had been unhappy with his food. Or maybe, as I’d thought at the time, Eugene had spilled something on him.

"Yes, I did see him talking with Eugene Perry,” I finally said. "They both appeared to be somewhat upset.”

"Really?” Malone stared me down. He waited silently. I knew it was a technique used to make people uncomfortable with the silence so they would talk. I had used it in counseling sessions back when I was a therapist to people, before my switch to four-legged clients. It seemed the police also used it in interrogation.

"Yes.” I kept my answer simple.

"Several people described it as a very heated exchange and said this waiter, Eugene, shoved the man.”

I shook my head. "It was the other way around. The man pushed Eugene’s shoulder.” I demonstrated on Malone.

He didn’t move. His leather jacket was soft but there was nothing soft about the muscle underneath.

I pulled my hand back. "Whatever happened, I’m sure Eugene can clear things up.”

"That’s part of our problem, Caro. This waiter, Eugene, is missing and the carving knife in the man’s back is the one from the buffet table where he was working. Do you know him?”

"Eugene is Verdi’s brother.” I explained. "You know, the barista from the Koffee Klatch. She’s also our new receptionist at the office.”

"Well then, you’d better give me your receptionist’s phone number because her brother has a lot of explaining to do.”

I reached in my evening bag for my cell phone and read off the number to Malone. He wrote it down.

"Hopefully, he’s been in touch with her and we can pick him up quickly.”

"I’m sure there’s a reason he left.”

"For his sake, I hope so.” Malone stood. "But it doesn’t look good.”

I also stood and moved to leave. "Are you done with me?”

"For now.”

I started toward the door and then remembered and turned back.

Malone was already mid-dial on his cell. Probably calling Verdi.

"Detective, my brooch?”

"Can’t give it to you, Caro. It’s evidence.”

"What do you mean, it’s evidence?”

"Found in the victim’s hand. Evidence.”

"But you know it’s mine.”

I was sorry for the dead guy, really I was. But the idea that Grandma Tillie’s brooch had anything to do with why he was dead was beyond belief.

"It will probably be released in a short time, but for the time being, it stays in police evidence.” Malone went back to his phone.

There wasn’t a thing I could do, and I guess it was as safe a place as any. But seriously, evidence?

No doubt Grandma Matilda "Tillie” Montgomery was rolling over in her grave.

IT WAS A SHORT trip from D’Orange Maison back to Laguna and to my house. Sam let the silence lay between us on the drive. He seemed to know I needed the quiet time. In addition to being the most eligible A-list bachelor, the charming Greek was also a genuinely nice guy. An irresistible combination.

As soon as I was inside, I slipped out of my gray frock and hung it in the front of my closet so I’d remember to take it to the cleaners. I was exhausted, but sleep did not come easily.

I kept thinking about the man who’d been stabbed at the Fifty Shades of Greyhound Charity Ball. I’d seen dead people before, but I’d never had one die right in front of me.

Who was this man? I knew a lot of people in Laguna, but I didn’t think I’d met him prior to the event.

And then there was Eugene, Verdi’s brother, who had seemed like a safe bet. He’d argued with the man, and then the man had shown up with a carving knife in his back. People had seen them both come in from outside. Maybe Eugene had nothing to do with the stabbing but, if not, why had he immediately disappeared?

And poor Blanche LeRue and the Greys Matter rescue. What a disastrous ending to the evening. The group would survive, according to Diana, but they’d really been banking on this event being a huge success.

 


 

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