Shelter in place, p.31
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       Shelter in Place, p.31

           Nora Roberts

  “I put together the information Sunday afternoon, and fully intended to pass it to you Monday morning. I did, in fact, advise Lowen to contact you. Gave him your name and number. I would have done the same with Devlon had I reached her. And had I reached her, maybe she’d be alive. So don’t come into my house, Agent Xavier, and try to bullshit me. You’re in charge of the Hobart investigation, but I’ve got skin in this—literal skin.”

  “Which is exactly why you were taken off the investigation.”

  “Again, I don’t work for Portland PD. I work for the people of, and the visitors to, this island. And, as far as I know, there’s no law or regulation saying as such—or as a private citizen—I can’t gather information or contact individuals I believe might be in jeopardy.”

  Xavier just looked down his blade of a nose. “Let me make this clear. The FBI doesn’t need the dubious assistance of some obsessed LEO who’s playing big shot on some bumfuck island and spends his time out catching stray dogs.”

  Reed glanced down at the dog now snoring at his feet. “It didn’t take that much time. I’ll say this, then we should both get back to work: I’m not looking to get in your way, and we both know I haven’t been in your way. You’re pissed because it’s now in the files that some obsessed LEO on some bumfuck island contacted Hobart’s next victim—or tried to. And you, Special Agent, with all the punch of the FBI behind you, didn’t.

  “I’d be pissed, too, in your shoes. But Emily Devlon is still dead, and there are people I care about who fit Hobart’s victim pattern. So you’re wasting your time trying to scare or intimidate me.”

  “What I’m doing is warning you. The Bureau has control of this investigation.”

  “Warning me isn’t going to do dick-all, either. I hope you get her. I hope to Christ you take her down before she kills the next on her list. When you do? I’ll send you a case of the beverage of your choice. Until then, I’d say we both know where we stand on this.”

  “You’ll cross a line.” Xavier got to his feet. “When you do, I’ll see to it you lose this cushy job you’ve got here, and any chance at a badge anywhere.”

  “I’ll keep that in mind. You know, you haven’t asked how I determined Hobart was in Florida and would go for one of the two people I contacted. You don’t ask,” Reed continued, “because you’re pissed. I’m going to send you that information, and hope you’ll look into it when you’re not as pissed. It’s relevant because if you haven’t confirmed that Hobart’s responsible for Devlon as yet, you will. She’ll have left something because she wants credit for it.”

  “Just keep out of my way.”

  “We’re still off-season,” Reed said as Xavier went to the door. “So you’ve got a couple hours before the next ferry back to Portland. The coffee and pie are damn good at the Sunrise Café.”

  Xavier strode out, leaving the door swinging open behind him.

  Reed looked down at the snoring dog again. “That, my friend, was a man who managed to be a dick and a tight-ass simultaneously.”

  He looked up again when Donna came to the door. “Your visitor didn’t look too happy when he left. Rude, too, slamming the door. We figured you were in trouble with the feds for something, but you don’t look worried.”

  “I’m not, because I’m an obsessed LEO playing big shot on a bumfuck island. And that works out pretty well for me.”

  “Big shot.” She snorted.

  “Hey, I’m chief of police. That’s pretty big for any shot.”

  “Did he really call the island ‘bumfuck’?”

  “He did, but we’re not worried about that because we know better.”

  “Did you cut that asshole down to size?”

  “He didn’t leave happy, did he?”

  She gave a sharp nod of approval. “Doc Dorsey said you can bring the dog in.”

  Reed wondered if he should let sleeping dogs lie. But when he rolled back a couple of inches in his chair, the dog’s head shot up. His eyes stared into Reed’s with fear and longing.

  “I guess I’ll do that then.”

  He opted to walk, hoping the dog would stop shaking every time he saw someone who wasn’t his arresting officer. But every time he did, the dog leaned on Reed’s leg and trembled.

  The vet had his office attached to his house, less than a quarter mile out of the village proper. He lived in the bright yellow house with his wife and their youngest son, now a high school senior.

  Doc Dorsey—even his wife called him Doc—kept regular hours two days a week, with a third morning reserved for surgeries. He’d open otherwise for emergencies, even if he was out fishing or working with his three hives of bees.

  When Reed walked in, the vet’s wife sat at the desk in the waiting area. A kind of animal parlor, Reed observed, with a scatter of mismatched chairs and tables on a floor of pale blue vinyl.

  “Mrs. Dorsey, I appreciate you opening up for me.”

  “Oh, that’s no problem.” She waved that away, a woman with a long brown ponytail pulled back from a pretty, fully made-up face. “So this is our stray. Poor lost baby.”

  She hopped up. The dog cringed back and hunched behind Reed’s legs.

  “People spook him.”

  “You don’t.”

  “Well, I gave him a hamburger and a ride in the cruiser.”

  “He’s bonded with you.” She flicked a finger at Reed, then crouched down to dog level. “I bet he was hungry. He’s definitely underweight. That’s a sweet face he has. He needs a good wash. I think there’s some red under that brown, but he’s one dirty dog. Did you bring a stool sample?”

  “Ah … We haven’t gotten to that end of things.”

  “Well, we’ll need one. You take him around the back. Plenty of dogs have pooped and peed there. The scent could get him going. How long ago did he have that hamburger?”

  “A good hour I guess.”

  “Then you should have some luck. Take this.”

  She pulled a doctor’s glove and a widemouthed plastic bottle out of a drawer. “I’ll let Doc know you’re here.”

  Resigned, Reed went out, but before he could lead the dog around to the back, said dog squatted and did what dogs do right on the concrete walkway.

  “Well, shit. Literally.”

  Reed put on the glove, did what he had to do.

  “That was quick,” Mrs. Dorsey said when he came back in.

  “He went on the walkway before I realized … Sorry.” He handed her the sample, which he swore moved. “I got most of it.”

  “Don’t worry, it’s not the first time. Take him on back. Straight back through the doorway, first left.” She handed the sample back. “You’re going to give this to Doc, but I can tell you that poor baby’s got intestinal worms.”


  He went back to the exam room with its counters, long, raised padded table, scales.

  The dog trembled again when he saw Doc. The vet had a long brown ponytail like his wife, but gray streaked through his. He wore John Lennon glasses, a beatific smile, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, cargo jeans, and Doc Martens boots.

  “Now, who’ve we got here?”

  “He won’t give me his name, but I’ve got this.” Reed, happily, handed over the sample.

  Doc said, “Um-hmm,” and, like his wife, crouched down. “Hasn’t been getting regular meals for a while by the looks of it. Scared of people, is he?”

  “Shakes a lot. I felt scars on the back of his neck.”

  That beautiful smile vanished, and the eyes behind the glasses went hard. “We’ll have a look. He’s not full grown, I’d say. See if you can get him to stand on the scale.”

  It took a little convincing, but if Reed knelt down beside him, the dog stood still and trembled.

  Doc noted the weight, told Reed to lift him up on the table.

  “You stand in front of him, so he can see you. And you talk to him. Just keep your voice calm.”

  “Nobody’s going to hurt you, but we’ve got to have a look.” He kep
t looking at the dog, talking in that same quiet voice, while Doc gently ran hands over him.

  “People reported a stray just yesterday. He chased Ida Booker’s cat up a tree, yesterday and again this morning. Dug in her garden, ran off when he saw her. I found him chasing birds on the beach down that way. Lured him in with a burger. I had to sit for a while first.”

  As he spoke in the calm, easy voice he’d use for an assault victim, he kept his eyes on the dog’s eyes. “He liked riding in the car. Kept his head out the whole time. He seems okay with me, but he spooks around anybody else. So far. If you move too fast or raise up your arm, he jerks down.”

  “Classic signs of abuse.”

  “I know it. It’s pretty much the same in people.”

  “These scars? They’re probably from a choke collar. Yanking and yanking on it until the metal cut him.”

  “Motherfucker. Sorry.”

  “No sorry. It takes a motherfucker to do that to an animal. I need a look at his teeth, his ears, and so on.”

  Reed kept talking. The dog shook harder, but with Reed holding him, Doc examined his teeth, eyes, ears.

  “He’s got infections in both ears. Teeth are good. I’m going to estimate he’s between eight and nine months old, which means you double the ‘motherfucker.’”

  Doc pulled a couple of dog treats out of his pocket. He put the first on the table, waited for the dog to track his gaze from treat to Reed to treat, then gobble it.

  The next he held out. The dog looked at Reed again.

  “Tell him it’s okay.”

  “Don’t be an idiot,” Reed told the dog. “Somebody offers you a cookie, you take it.”

  The dog did, eyed Doc.

  “I can do a test to see if he’s had his shots. I’m betting against. He’s still got his balls, too, and that needs to change. I’m going to take a look at the sample. So just keep him on the table.”

  Doc went into a little alcove.

  “We can keep him,” Doc said, “treat him here, but you’re his person. If you can handle it, he’d do better with you until he’s healthy. Whoever owned this dog can’t have him back. If you find who did, they need to be charged with abuse and neglect.”

  “Since I’m not home all day, shouldn’t…”

  The dog licked the back of Reed’s hand, looked up at him with that same combination of longing and fear.

  “We’ll take it a day at a time.”

  “He’s got worms. I’m going to give you medicine for that—and we’ll need a follow-up stool sample. I’ll give you an ointment for the ears, and an antibiotic. We’ll write up instructions. I’d recommend you feed him a good puppy brand. Three times a day until he hits his normal weight.

  “I need to draw some blood from him, so keep him distracted.”

  Reed kept them both distracted. He’d rather face a fist than a needle.

  “What do you think he is? I mean, what kind of dog?”

  “I think there’s some coonhound in there.” Doc pinched some skin on the dog’s flank, slid the needle in. “Might be some Lab, and a lot more of this and that. He’s not full grown. I’m going to give you some shampoo. He’s got some fleas, and that’ll take care of them. You need a bath, boy.”

  Doc came around, stroking the dog. The dog didn’t shake as much, but he watched Doc, as if waiting for the gentle hand to turn mean.

  “Somebody did a number on him,” Doc said. “In time, with patience and good care, he may get over it. Some do, some don’t. I’m going to put the medicine together for you, and Suzanna’ll print out instructions for all of it. Should we bill the island PD?”

  Reed thought of the budget. “No, go ahead and bill me.”

  Back came the smile. “In that case, I’m going to charge you cost for the medicine, and we’re going to consider the exam a public service.”

  “I appreciate that. A lot.”

  Doc offered the dog another treat. The dog just looked at Reed, judged it allowed, and took it.

  “If you can’t keep him, we’ll find a home for him. Right now, he trusts you, and he’s had enough trauma in his short life.”

  Suzanna, as they had progressed to first names, added a list of items he needed for basic puppy care, and walked him through the first application of ointment, gave him a little bag of treats and what she called pill pockets—in a variety of flavors.

  He walked back to the station with the dog and the bag from the vet.

  “Cecil and Matty just headed to the high school. A little dustup—just off school grounds. A couple of boys punching each other. Probably over a girl.”


  Her eyes narrowed at his tone. “Chief.”

  “I know the rule about no personal errands, but I can’t take this dog into the market, and right now he’s stuck to me like Velcro. Suzanna Dorsey gave me a list of what I need to get for him.”

  “You expect me to leave my post, go down to the market, and buy stuff for a stray dog?”

  “He’s got scars on the back of his neck from somebody yanking him on a choke chain so hard and so often it cut him. He’s got infections in both ears, and is stuck to me because everybody else in his life so far has hurt him. Doc says he’s only about eight months old.”

  Her chin pushed up so high her bottom lip almost disappeared. “Doc said that about the choke chain?”


  “Give me the damn list.”

  “Thanks. Sincerely.”

  “I’m not running a personal errand for you. I’m running one for that dog. Now give me your credit card as you don’t know how much this is going to cost.”

  He handed it over, decided he’d think of his own budget later.

  When he finally locked the station for the night, he decided to give himself and the dog a break and drove home in the cruiser.

  “You’re on parole,” Reed told him as he led the dog into the house. “Crapping and pissing in the house, chewing on anything but what I give you violates the terms of your parole. Take that seriously.”

  The dog sniffed around a little in the bedroom, always with one eye cocked at Reed as Reed changed into his most ragged sweatpants, an old sweatshirt, and a pair of sneakers he hadn’t gotten around to tossing out.

  Because, of the two of them, Reed knew that what came next would be messy.

  He led the dog back outside, got the hose, the shampoo. And spent the first ten minutes of the project wrestling a wet dog who whined and shook and tried to escape the nightmare of soap and water.

  The dog finally submitted, just staring at Reed with eyes that spoke of the pain of betrayal.

  They were both soaked and not particularly happy with each other when Simone drove up.

  “Better keep back. We’re a mess.”

  “Suzanna Dorsey told Hildy who told CiCi you’d taken in a stray dog. I see the grapevine rings true yet again.”

  “He’s on parole.” Reed ruthlessly ran the hose over the dog to wash off the shampoo and dead fleas. “And right now skirting close to the edge.”

  “He has a sweet face.”

  “Yeah, everybody says so. He’s also flea-bitten and has worms.”

  “Abused, Suzanna said.”

  “Yeah. That, too.”

  Simone walked over to sit on the steps because the dog watched her as if she might throw a rock at his head. “I’m supposed to take a picture of him and text it to CiCi.”

  “You should wait until he’s more presentable.”

  “He’s a pretty color, sort of like a chestnut horse.”

  “Apparently he’s got some coonhound in him, whatever that is.”

  “Do you like dogs?”

  “Sure. We had one when I was a kid. My sister named it Frisky before my brother and I could veto. She was a good dog. We lost her right before I left for college.” He glanced over. “How about you?”

  “We couldn’t have a dog—or cat. My mother’s allergic. Or says she is. I never really believed her. But, yes, I like dogs. Are you
keeping him?”

  “I don’t know. I’m not here most of the time. Doc said they’d find him a home. He’d probably be better off, once he gets used to being around people who don’t smack him around.”

  He let go of the dog to grab one of the old towels he hadn’t gotten around to tossing out—and the dog used the opportunity to shake off the water. It flew up, out, and all over Reed.

  At Simone’s laugh, Reed used the towel on his own face. “Now I need a damn shower.”

  “Looks like you just got one.”

  “Har.” He began rubbing the dog briskly with the towel. “How do ya like that?”

  The dog responded by wagging its tail and licking Reed’s face.

  “Sure, sure, now we’re buddies.”

  Simone watched the man rub the dog and grin while the dog wagged and licked his face.

  Though she knew she’d been slipping and sliding, in that moment, with that image, she fell in love.


  When Patricia decided she wanted to document her story, professionally, only one person fit the bill. And really, Seleena McMullen had been right there at the DownEast, had ridden the wave of the videos she’d taken of that idiot Paulson.

  Who better?

  Besides, Patricia felt Seleena had treated her with some respect when she’d done that anniversary interview. She even liked the way she’d looked and sounded; though, of course, she’d put on that poor, shy, sad-me face.

  This would be different. This would be real. And when this hit cable and the Internet, people would finally know who had the damn brains, who had some damn grievances.

  Patricia even wrote up a kind of script and practiced. In so doing, she was so impressed by her own skills she decided that when she settled down to the good life in Florida, she’d write a screenplay on her life and times.

  When she had it set, when she had everything in place, when she believed everything was perfect, she made contact.

  “This is Seleena.”

  “Don’t hang up,” Patricia whispered in a shaky voice. “Don’t call the police.”

  “Who is this?”

  “Please, I have to talk to somebody. I’m so scared!”

  “If you want to talk to me, I need a name.”

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admin 22 September 2018 10:55
new Nora Roberts book
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