Read Animal Appetite Online

Authors: Susan Conant

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women dog owners, #Women Sleuths, #Winter; Holly (Fictitious character), #Dog trainers, #Dogs, #Maine, #Massachusetts, #Indian captivities, #Women journalists

Animal Appetite (9 page)

BOOK: Animal Appetite
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Her right arm hung at her side. The hand had once held a hatchet. The blade remained. The handle was broken. Most of Hannah’s nose was missing.
On the four sides of the pillar beneath this Hannah were rectangular slabs with rounded tops. The panels looked like tombstones. There were no pictures on them, just words. The one on the front started out in Latin and switched to English:
MARCH 30, 1697
“Something about fidelity and justice?” I said to Steve. “Heroism?”
He shrugged.
On the tombstone under Hannah’s right side was carved DONORS. Beneath was a list of names. Under Hannah’s left arm and the scalps was what was evidently intended as poetry. It was all in capital letters and had no punctuation.
At the bottom were five more names.
“‘Glorious colors’?” I said. “It’s totally gray.”
“Doesn’t mean a thing to me,” Steve said.
But the really weird inscription appeared on the back of the pillar, and before I present it, let me comment that there’s nothing like real weirdness to heal a troubled relationship, so if you, too, ever find that the harmony between you and your lover has been marred, severed, or otherwise disrupted by mothers, fathers, national holidays, car sickness, or anything else, take a visit to Boscawen, New Hampshire, make your way around to the back of Hannah’s statue, and read, just as we did:
15 1697 30
I subsequently learned that on June 17, 1874, the day this monument was unveiled, between three thousand and six thousand people attended the ceremony, which was cut short by heavy rain. The reporter for the
Concord Monitor
who described the aborted festivities complained in print that the monument was “disfigured with some doggerel and other evidence of bad taste.”
Steve and I gaped. I read the inscription aloud.
“It isn’t English,” he said.
“But ‘faggot’?”
“Bunches of sticks. Firewood. Death by fire. They burned people alive.” “Not here. But I can’t think what else it could mean. ‘Infanticides’ means her baby, I guess. Martha, her name was. But the rest? It’s amazing that she isn’t missing more than her nose and the handle of her hatchet. You’d think someone would’ve dynamited the whole thing by now.”
“‘Are here,’” Steve read. “Are they?”
“An Indian woman and child escaped. The woman survived. There’s a record of it. Maybe she sent people back.” I wondered aloud about the burial practices of Hannah’s captors, the converts to Roman Catholicism who had prayed three times a day. In the soggy ground beneath us, perhaps, were the bones of murdered children.
, indeed.
Monday morning was rainy and dreary. Armed with the title of the book that had a chapter about Jack’s murder and, thanks to Kevin Dennehy, with the date of Shaun McGrath’s death, I went to the Brookline Public Library. As I approached, I noticed near the front of the building a Civil War memorial that I’d taken for granted in the happy days of yore when my professional interests had centered exclusively on dogs. Like most other public monuments in the United States, this one depicted a male Caucasian. He wore a uniform and rode a horse. The only public statue of a dog I’d ever seen was the one of Balto in Central Park. And Balto was a male. Men of color? On a frieze in Boston, a Civil War memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers. Women? One. Hannah Duston. Twice. In Haverhill. In Boscawen. I was in a good mood to read obituaries.
Shaun McGrath’s was short. He’d grown up in Arlington, which is just north of Cambridge, and his funeral mass had been celebrated at a church there. The survivors were listed as his parents, James and Shirley McGrath, six brothers and sisters, and a variety of nieces and nephews. After graduating from a local business college, McGrath worked for a computer firm and then joined Damned Yankee Press. Interestingly enough, from his high school days on, Shaun McGrath had been an avid chess player. At the time of his death, he’d been the president of a local chess club. And this was a man who’d supposedly made no backup plan in case Jack’s murder failed to pass as suicide! I also located the account of McGrath’s fatal accident on Memorial Drive. It was a paragraph long and said only that he’d run his car into a tree. It didn’t mention Jack Andrews, the police, or the Siberian husky Shaun had died to avoid hitting. It didn’t say that this man, in whose presence Chip had supposedly been tied, had taken the dog home after Jack’s corpse was found.
According to the catalog, the main branch of the Brookline Public Library owned
Mass. Mayhem
. The author was, as Brat had said, one Randall Carey. The publication date was ten years earlier. The book was supposed to be available. The call number, MASS 364.15 C something, sent me to the section about true crime in the commonwealth, the same section that I’d checked on my last visit. The book was not, however, in its allotted place on the shelf. I returned to the terminal and checked the entire Metro-Boston system. Eight local libraries owned, or at least had owned, the book. It was, however, listed as missing from six of the eight, including the main branches of the Boston and Cambridge public libraries. Brookline’s copy, supposedly available, was, as I’d just discovered, not on the shelf. Newton’s main branch was supposed to have a reference copy, one that did not circulate.
Before I left the Brookline library, I asked a librarian about what seemed to me the odd disappearance of
Mass. Mayhem
from so many places. She was a plump, intelligent-looking woman. When I told her the call number, she smiled knowingly. “So you’re one of those three sixty-four fifteen types, huh?”
Momentarily flustered, I felt like explaining that I was actually a wholesome type whose professional interests focused on dog training and the polar regions, and whose recreational reading consisted mainly of novels by Charles Dickens, Barbara Pym, Elinor Lipman, and the inimitable Jack London. As I turned red and began to sputter, the librarian took pity on me. Many of the library’s most irreproachable patrons, she assured me—upstanding members of the community, civic leaders, socially prominent mothers, even—never checked out anything except true crime. Hearing the news, I had to wonder what kind of place Brookline really was. Were comparable suburbs all across America also populated by citizens of guileless, upright appearance and demeanor whose true passion was true crime?
As I drove along Route 9 from Brookline Village to Newton, the image stayed with me, and I viewed the innocent-looking mock-Tudors and Victorian arks with freshly alarmed eyes. Indeed, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of suburban men and women? No, not the Shadow. How would the Shadow know? The one who really has the scoop on our foibles is the local librarian.
As I’ve mentioned, the main branch of the Newton Free Library is my summer pick because of its superb air-conditioning. Its bright central atrium also made it a good choice for this gloomy late-autumn day. Just off the atrium, which housed the reference room, was a wall of books about Massachusetts, books that couldn’t be checked out. But could, of course, be lost or stolen. As in Brookline, the copy of
Mass. Mayhem
was missing.
Mass. Mayhem
didn’t appear in
Books in Print
; I’d be unable to order it unless I went to a search service far out-of-print books. Again, I consulted a librarian. This one didn’t rag me about reading true crime. Rather, she clucked her tongue, called up the title on her screen, and advised me that the only available copy of the book was at the main branch of the Brookline Public Library.
“That one’s missing, too,” I told her.
I felt relieved when she agreed that the situation really was odd.
I had more luck in finding material about Hannah Duston than I’d had in locating Randall Carey’s book. Among other things, in a rather recent article in
magazine by someone named Sybil Smith and in an old book about the history of Haverhill, I read that the statue of Hannah Duston in the center of Haverhill was believed to be the first monument in the United States erected to a woman. So much for supposed expertise. I already knew that in 1861, Haverhill had erected a hefty marble monument, not a statue, in Hannah’s honor, but that because of the Civil War, its sponsors had been unable to pay for it. Repossessed, the monument was later installed as a soldiers’ memorial in Barre, Massachusetts. The Boscawen statue went up in 1874, Haverhill’s bronze Hannah in 1879. The
article gave repulsive details about scalping, but pointed out that Hannah Duston must certainly have wrung the necks of chickens and helped to slaughter pigs and cows. On-the-job training. Since I was already immersed in revolting subjects, I thought about trying to find some practical volume about rodent invasions (
How to Shoot Rats in the City Without Getting Caught?
), but my stomach turned, and I gave up and went home.
When I got there, my answering machine had a message from my cousin Leah, who reported the good news that Harvard owned
Mass. Mayhem
and the bad news that it had been checked out by a professor who’d be entitled to keep it indefinitely. There were three other messages. Two were from dog people who said that they had no recollection of a tall girl named Tracy who used to handle goldens for someone named Jack Andrews. The last was from Mrs. Dennehy, Kevin’s mother, who doesn’t really like me, but loves dogs and approves of what she calls my “kindness to God’s creatures.” She is very religious. “Holly, dear,” her voice said, “I have to tell you that when I went to take out the garbage this morning, a rat went scuttling away from the trash cans! O-o-o-o-h! It gave me the willies! Watch out! They’re right here on Appleton Street!” And not exactly God’s creatures, I took it.
I wondered whether rats liked dank weather. In the late afternoon, when I walked the dogs, the rain had stopped, but a combination of dark clouds and evening filled the sky. Rowdy insisted on detouring around the puddles, and he and Kimi kept coming to prolonged halts to sniff city smells intensified by the dampness. Because the construction on Huron Avenue was supposed to be the source of the rats, I headed in the opposite direction, down Concord, around the observatory, back up Garden Street, and, eventually, to Donnell, which meets Concord across the street from my house. When the traffic finally let us cross, we hurried, but as I made my way down the short stretch of sidewalk next to the spite building, the dogs’ ears suddenly went up, the hair on their backs rose slightly, and they hit the ends of their leads. Ahead of us, just beyond the Dennehys’ house, a small animal scuttled across the sidewalk and slithered under a parked car. Although I’d been reading and hearing and talking and thinking about the invasion for weeks, it took me a second to realize exactly what the small animal was. Once I knew, it didn’t seem so small anymore. Rowdy and Kimi had known right away. The dogs had smelled a rat.
Ah, Cambridge! I love you! Across the street firom Emma’s Pizza—The New Emma’s Pizza: new owners, but the same fabulous crust and peerless sauce—is what has officially been rechristened the Bryn Mawr Book Store, but for at least the next decade will still be known throughout Cambridge by its original name, the Bryn Mawr Book Sale. Although “Sale” suggests a one-day fund-raiser, the store is a permanent used-book shop run by alums for the benefit of the college. Whenever I’m in danger of having my entire living space taken over by books, I enter the Bryn Mawr Book Sale with a couple of bags or cartons of literary discards, receive a little slip proving that I’ve made a tax-deductible contribution, and promptly buy the precise number of books I’ve just given away. I’ve found some great bargains on dog books there, and I always scan the works on Antarctica, which reside directly across a narrow aisle from a little notice that reads.
I can never decide whether the news is heartening or depressing.
So that’s where I finally got a copy of the elusive
Mass. Mayhem:
at the Bryn Mawr Book Sale. If you’re a book on the lam, avoid Cambridge. Around here, you can run, but you can’t hide for long.
By the time I got my hands on it Tuesday morning, I’d convinced myself that its chapter on the murder of Jack Andrews held the key to the identity of his real murderer. At Marsha’s bat mitzvah, of course, when I’d first heard of the murder, Claudia had told me that the book named and blamed Shaun McGrath. I didn’t care what the author, Randall Carey, had pronounced in print or what Claudia Andrews-Howe or anyone else believed. Sprinting home from the Bryn Mawr Book Sale, stopping here and there to peek at the chapter, I was confident that it contained a hidden clue. With luck, it would also expose the whole story of Jack’s secret life in dogs and reveal the last name of the tall girl, Tracy, who’d dropped out of dogs and whose last name no one remembered. So excited was I that when I got home, I delayed the thrilling moment of discovery by making a pot of coffee and setting out on the kitchen table a pen and the fresh yellow legal pad on which I, Holly Winter, the Nancy Drew of dogs, would inscribe the name of the real murderer.
BOOK: Animal Appetite
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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