Read In Dog We Trust (Golden Retriever Mysteries) Online

Authors: Neil S. Plakcy

Tags: #Mystery & Crime

In Dog We Trust (Golden Retriever Mysteries) (10 page)

BOOK: In Dog We Trust (Golden Retriever Mysteries)
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“What brings you down here?” he asked.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“It’s my job,” he said. “What about you?”

I told him about what I’d learned about Caroline’s predecessor, and this time he didn’t ask how I’d found out. We walked down a musty hallway, and he said, “I spoke to Evelina Curcio a couple of days ago and she didn’t say anything about a previous boss.”

“That’s why I think she might talk to me,” I said. “Nothing personal, Rick, but you’re a cop.”

“You noticed.”

“Let me give it a try, all right?”

He shrugged, but after pulling a bottle of cold water from a tray I walked over to Evelina Curcio and introduced myself. “Your remarks were very moving,” I said.

“Thank you. Even though Caroline was my boss, I thought of her as my friend.”

“I wish I’d known her better,” I said. We talked for a few minutes, and I told her that I had adopted Rochester.

“Oh, Caroline would be so happy,” she said. “She loved that dog.”

“He’s very lovable.” I paused. “I just wish I knew more about what could have happened to her,” I said. “It haunts me, you know? Seeing her like that, and then living next door to her house, and having her dog—she’s always on my mind.”

I looked at Evelina. “Do you have any idea who wanted to hurt her?”

She shook her head. “She didn’t tell me much about her background,” she said. “Just that she’d moved around a lot. And she was still trying to get settled here, and maybe to find herself a guy.”

“What about at work?” I asked. “I understood there was some bad blood about her promotion.”

She squirmed a bit, and cast a guilty look around us to see who might be listening. The rest of the bank’s employees were talking together in a group, though, and so Evelina lowered her voice and said, “Mr. Hemminger—Caroline’s boss. He was the manager of financial planning and analysis, and her title was senior analyst.”

“What does that mean?”

“Every company has financial assets,” she said. “Cash, securities, real property, and so on. Caroline would study interest rates and make decisions about how to invest the bank’s money. Sometimes she would look at decisions Mr. Hemminger made and she wouldn’t agree with them. But he wouldn’t listen to her.”

She looked around again, just to make sure no one was overhearing us. “She got suspicious and started looking into his decisions. She asked me to help her.”

“It’s obvious she trusted you.”

She smiled weakly. “We found what Caroline thought was a suspicious pattern. Mr. Hemminger had been buying corporate bonds from a real estate development company, but they weren’t the right grade.”

“Grade?” I asked.

“We only bought double-A bonds or better. These were BBB—it just means they weren’t as safe as double-A. There was more chance that this real estate company would default on paying the bonds and then the bank would be stuck.”

I nodded. “OK. I get it.”

“Caroline did some searching, and she discovered that the company was run by Mr. Hemminger’s brother-in-law, and they were in some financial trouble. She thought it was unethical for him to be investing in those bonds, and she reported him to the president of the bank.”

We were getting somewhere. “I’ll bet he didn’t like that.”

She shook her head. “No, he didn’t. He was suspended, and as the security guards were escorting him past Caroline’s office he stopped to yell at her.”

“You were there?”

She nodded. “He told her that she would be sorry she messed with him.” She shivered with the memory.

“Wow. That must have upset her.”

“It did. Afterward, she was crying in her office. I had to sit with her and keep telling her that she did the right thing.”

“You were a good friend to her.”

She smiled. “I owed her so much.”

“What happened?” I asked. “To this guy Hemminger?”

“He filed a lawsuit against the bank. The lawyers said Caroline was going to have to testify.”

Rick was going to love this, I thought. Here was a motive wrapped up with a red ribbon. “I’ll bet that scared her,” I said. “Especially after he threatened her.”

One of Evelina’s coworkers, a man in a navy suit with a red tie, came over to say something to her, and I shook her hand and walked away. The rest of the employees were walking out together, and I ended up leaving with Rick Stemper.

“You drive in or take the train?” he asked.

“Drove. You?”

“Train. You can give me a ride back to the Yardley station.”

In the car, creeping up I-95 at rush hour in the commuter lane, I told him what Evelina Curcio had told me. “I’ll check it out,” he said.

“He could have been the one who shot her.”

“Don’t go all Miss Marple on me, Steve. I said I’ll check it out.”

“But I did pretty good, didn’t I?” I asked. “I got all that information when you got nothing.”

“Information that’s probably going to be irrelevant.” He looked over at me. “What? You want a gold star for your forehead? An honorary sheriff’s badge?”

“I had one of those when I was six.”

I thought I had done a good job, and it made me cranky that Rick didn’t seem to recognize that. Suppose I’d found the key piece of information that would lead to the crime being solved. I thought I deserved a little commendation.

When we pulled up at the Yardley railroad station, Rick said, “Look, you did get the Curcio woman to talk. And I appreciate that. But don’t go getting any ideas. I’m the cop here, and I’m the one who does the detecting. If you find anything out, you bring it to me.”

“Message received,” I said. That didn’t stop me from spraying gravel as I peeled out of the railroad station lot, though.

Chapter 9 – Ten-Digit Number
 

 

I’d been home for an hour when my doorbell rang, and Rochester began barking. As I tramped down the staircase, I could see Ginny Pryor through my sliding glass doors. Then I remembered Irene’s suggestion that Ginny get the listing on Caroline’s townhouse.

“Hi, Steve,” she said. “Rick Stemper told me you have a key to Caroline’s house. He hooked me up with her great-aunt and I’m going to list it.”

“Sure, come on in.”

 “I see you decided to keep Rochester.” She reached down to rub behind the dog’s ears. He jumped up and down like a crazed marionette, only settling once Ginny was sitting at the kitchen table across from me.

“What can I say? I’m a sucker. Nobody else would take him and I couldn’t just drop him off at the pound.”

“Caroline would be happy,” she said. “If I can borrow the key from you, I’ll get a copy made. I’ve got to get a cleaning service in before I can advertise it.”

She said she’d take a cup of coffee, and as I started grinding the beans she said something I didn’t hear. When I’d finished, I asked her to repeat it.

“Have you heard anything more about what happened?” Rochester had curled his big golden body around her feet, keeping her from getting up.

“Nothing since the night after she was killed.” As I poured the grounds into the coffee maker and set it, I reminded her about the break-in at Caroline’s, though I didn’t mention that I’d been in the house afterward to pick up Caroline’s laptop. “I’m afraid you’re going to have a lot of cleaning to do.”

As I poured the coffees and we drank, we speculated about what was going on, but neither of us had much to offer. I gave her the key, and she said she’d be back after a trip to the locksmith. I spent the next half hour playing with Rochester. I couldn’t motivate myself to go back to grading papers after reliving what had happened to Caroline.

Ginny returned and said, “You were right, the house is in terrible shape. There’s no way I can get it ready to show without taking everything out. There’s just too much damage. I’m going to arrange with a thrift shop to come and pick up the furniture, but I want to pack up Caroline’s personal things for her aunt.”

She reached down for Rochester, who placed his big head in her lap. “You know Caroline’s model doesn’t come with a garage, and I’m going to need a place to store those boxes until her aunt can have them shipped up north.”

“Let me guess-- you want to use my garage.”

“It would save her aunt some money,” she said. “And it wouldn’t be for more than a couple of weeks.”

I planned to keep my Beemer in the garage during the summer, and to do that I needed to sort through the boxes and other debris left over from my move. “Sure. That’ll give me a reason to clean the garage up, and then I can get the car in there once Caroline’s boxes go.”

“Great. I’ll let you know when I get the cleaning service. I’ll have them carry the boxes over and stack them for you, so you won’t have to do anything. ”

“Any afternoon is good for me,” I said. “I’ve been coming home right after my classes finish because I don’t want to leave Rochester alone for too long. I can’t afford to keep replacing cell phones and eyeglasses.”

“You’re so good to take care of him.” She reached down and scratched his belly, and he sighed with contentment. I was starting to get accustomed to him, though I still didn’t think I had room in my life for a dog.

Rochester was settling in to life with me, but there were certain behaviors that the amateur psychologist in me couldn’t help but diagnose. Whenever there was a loud noise – a gate banging shut on someone’s courtyard, a trash can lid flipping shut, an insistent car horn—Rochester was alert, and sought me out. Even once he’d established I was still alive and breathing, it was hard for him to settle down again.

He didn’t like thunder, and as soon as the first crack rang out he scurried for the safety of the dark area under my bed, and I had to get down on all fours, grasp a handful of hair at the back of his neck, and drag him out when the storm passed.

He didn’t like fireworks or motorcycles either, and when a delivery van pulled up anywhere in the neighborhood he began to bark. Reasoning with him did no good. “He’s three houses down, Rochester,” I’d say. “Thank you for warning me but you can go back to sleep now.”

Instead he would pace around for a while, all his senses on alert on the off chance that some evil UPS driver would be delivering a package to me. The nerve of those guys in brown.

I didn’t know if he’d had any phobias before, but he sure did now. He always had to know where I was in the house, and even if he was asleep on the carpet at the foot of my bed, and I tiptoed downstairs, he woke and followed me.

It was particularly annoying when I was trying to clean up or organize—I’d be moving things between office and bedroom, or trying to make the bed, and there would be this huge golden retriever underfoot. “Settle down, Rochester!” seemed to have no effect. Only when I stayed in to one place in the house—the bed, the kitchen table, the computer—could Rochester do the same.

The next day, the two Puerto Rican women Ginny had hired to clean Caroline’s house stacked a dozen boxes in my garage, all labeled by the room where the things had come from. Rochester was very eager to sniff each box and I had to manhandle him back into the house to get ready for his evening walk.

Even after we returned, Rochester was determined to get into those boxes, so I opened the first one he sniffed, just to show him there was nothing there for him.

It was a box of books, and the one on the top was called
Befriending Your Golden Retriever
. I picked it up and flipped through sections on weaning, feeding, and training. Rochester was very interested in what I was doing, and nosed the book as I turned the pages, until I saw a picture that looked so much like him he could have posed for it.

The dog in the photo was the same honey-gold color, with the same squarish head. They both had a couple of curlicues of golden hair mixed into an otherwise straight coat, and the same large, alert brown eyes. The other photos showed that there was a lot of variation within the breed—some goldens were thinner, with narrower faces, and they ranged in color from ivory to deep red. But Rochester was the star, what the book called “the breed standard.”

“Hey, boy, that’s you,” I said, pointing. He sniffed the page.

Caroline had made some notes throughout the book, in margins, particularly in the section on training, and I’d been able to understand what she meant. But here, she had written a cryptic series of numbers above the picture that looked like Rochester. I wondered if it was a phone number—there were ten characters in the sequence. Could it be a golden retriever owner, or breeder? Maybe whoever it was knew something about Caroline that would help Rick understand what had happened to her. I decided I wanted to show him that I could investigate, too.

I carried the book with me to the office and turned on Caroline’s laptop. I was still nervous about doing anything regarding Caroline, however legal, on my own computer, because I worried that Santiago Santos wouldn’t approve. I Googled the number—but it turned out to belong to an industrial cleaning service in Terre Haute, Indiana. Oh well, so much for showing Rick. I wasn’t done investigating, but that number was a dead end.

By this point, Rochester had given up on sniffing at me, and gone to lie down on the carpet behind my chair—locking me in place, because I couldn’t move the chair backwards without running over him.

BOOK: In Dog We Trust (Golden Retriever Mysteries)
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