Take a peek into the thoughts of Bella, the lovable golden retriever who might just be the smartest dog in Dogwood Springs!
Bella Finds a Clue
At long last, Thursday afternoon arrived. Time for my checkup with the vet. Libby drove, and I rode shotgun, ready to warn her if a squirrel crossed our path.
As I expected, the vet said my ear was fine. Thankfully, there was no more discussion of those horrible eardrops. I walked to the lobby, ready to celebrate with all the vet techs, but almost as soon as Libby paid the bill, she hurried me to the car.
With a sigh, I settled into the front passenger seat. But I kept my nose pressed to the window, in case one of the vet techs popped out to say goodbye once more.
“Okay, Bella, I have to be in the office to make a call because I need to reference some data that I don’t have on my phone.” Libby patted my back, as if to apologize for curtailing my celebration. “You can come with me, but you’ll have to be quiet, because the museum is still open for another hour. Can you do that?”
Well, of course. I looked back at her with my tongue hanging out one side of my mouth, hoping she would see how happy I was to go to the museum. I’d never been there before when it was open.
She seemed to understand, and she turned up the radio and sang along to an ABBA song.
At the museum, I started toward the main door, eager to greet museum visitors, but Libby took me up the back stairs to her office and led me behind her desk.
“Good girl, not barking.” She rubbed my head. “You lie down here, and I’ll check on the volunteers, then I’ll make my call.”
I obliged. Perhaps we’d be greeting museum visitors later.
I was lying there, enjoying the rich mixture of smells that lingered in the museum, when Libby returned to her desk, put her enormous tote on her lap, and dug deep inside.
Apparently, she didn’t find what she was looking for. She dumped everything out of her purse onto the desk. Wallet, keys, phone, makeup, a notepad, three pens, six receipts, and a charging cable for her phone came out with a clunk. She gave the bag another shake, and a slip of paper, a pack of gum, a half-eaten granola bar, her pepper spray, and a collection of what could only be called trash fell out.
Along with a tiny bit of checked paper that wafted through the air and landed on my nose.
I sneezed, sending the little bit of paper onto the carpet.
Odd. That bit of paper smelled almost like apple pie.
I’d smelled that exact scent before. But where?
Libby picked up the little scrap of paper and threw it away.
Then she put everything but the trash back into her purse and dialed the phone.
To be honest, the conversation was dull. I’d already heard Libby talk about how wonderful the museum was and how nice it would be if they had an elevator. I drifted off, only waking when Libby hung up, packed her big tote, and left the room.
When she returned, she picked up her coat. Drat, I was not going to get to greet visitors.
She was sliding on her coat when someone knocked at the office door.
I leapt to my feet, eager to say hello.
“Sorry to stop by as you’re closing up.” A woman walked in and handed Libby a stack of papers. “I wanted to drop off these plans for the foundational plantings in front of the museum. We can, of course, replace the boxwoods with more boxwoods, but I’ve got photos and drawings of two other options for you.”
“Thank you, Cheryl.” Libby put the papers on her desk.
Now I knew the woman’s name. Cheryl! I trotted over to her, sniffing at her navy ballet flats and her long, navy-and-green striped sweater.
Cheryl looked down, and her head jerked back. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting a dog.”
And I wasn’t expecting to meet someone I didn’t like. I liked almost everyone. But I could smell a decent human when I met one. This Cheryl woman made my fur crawl.
“This is Bella,” Libby said. “She had to go to the vet late this afternoon, and things ran long. I had to bring her with me in order to get back to my office in time for a call. But she’s very well behaved, just sitting here in my office, not going down in the display areas.” Her words tumbled out as if she felt guilty for bringing me to the museum.
Really, she was being ridiculous. I’d been in the museum before, and I was always on my best behavior. Libby loved her job, and I would never do anything to jeopardize it.
“Nothing to worry about. I was just surprised,” Cheryl said. Despite her words, her tone held a note of disapproval. And she didn’t even smile at me as she bent down to scratch my ears.
At that moment, on the hem of Cheryl’s sweater I spotted a tiny square of checked paper, exactly like the one that had fallen from Libby’s purse.
My nose twitched.
Suddenly, the fur along my spine stood on end. I knew where I’d smelled that apple-pie scent before.
And I knew who’d killed Karl Wellston.
I had to warn Libby.
I rubbed my nose at the hem of Cheryl’s sweater and barked. The tiny square of checked paper drifted to the ground.
I looked back at Libby. Did she get it?
Her body stiffened, and she glanced toward the door. “Thanks for dropping off the landscaping ideas. But I guess we should discuss them another time.” Then her voice wobbled. “I’ve, uh, got to take Bella home.”
My muscles tensed. Oh, Libby, didn’t you ever watch cop shows on TV? I used to watch them with my former human. If you don’t act more natural, Cheryl’s going to figure out that we’re onto her.
Quickly, I moved to the side of Libby’s desk, putting my body between Cheryl and Libby. Hopefully, Cheryl hadn’t noticed how nervous Libby seemed.
No such luck.
Cheryl’s eyes clouded, then narrowed. She stepped closer.
And Libby froze, her entire body rigid, all pretense of normalcy gone.
My heart sped. The jig was up.