Read To Catch a Treat Online

Authors: Linda O. Johnston

Tags: #fiction, #fiction novel, #mystery, #mystery novel, #mystery book, #animal mystery, #dog mystery, #bite the biscit, #linda johnston, #linda johnson, #linda o. johnson, #bite the biscuit

To Catch a Treat

BOOK: To Catch a Treat
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Copyright Information

To Catch a Treat: A Barkery & Biscuits Mystery
© 2016 by Linda O. Johnston.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Midnight Ink, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

As the purchaser of this ebook, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on screen. The text may not be otherwise reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or recorded on any other storage device in any form or by any means.

Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author's copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

First e-book edition © 2016

E-book ISBN: 9780738748115

Book format by Bob Gaul

Cover design by Ellen Lawson

Cover illustration by Christina Hess

Cover images by iStockphoto.com/40574532/©Kannaa
iStockphoto.com/27515577/©Larry Rains

Midnight Ink is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Johnston, Linda O., author.

Title: To catch a treat/Linda O. Johnston.

Description: First edition. | Woodbury, Minnesota : Midnight Ink, [2016] |

Series: A Barkery & Biscuits mystery; 2

Identifiers: LCCN 2015049005 (print) | LCCN 2016003074 (ebook) |
ISBN 9780738746272 (softcover) | ISBN 9780738748115 ()

Subjects: LCSH: Dog owners—Fiction. | Murder—Investigation—Fiction. |

GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3610.O387 T63 2016 (print) | LCC PS3610.O387 (ebook) |

DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015049005

Midnight Ink does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher's website for links to current author websites.

Midnight Ink

Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

2143 Wooddale Drive

Woodbury, MN 55125

www.midnightinkbooks.com

Manufactured in the United States of America

I dedicated
Bite the Biscuit
, the first book in the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series, to people who love their dogs and want to feed them the best and healthiest treats, as well as to people with a sweet tooth—and mystery readers who enjoy stories involving pets and food. But I think the
entire
series should be dedicated to them!

In addition, I particularly want to dedicate
To Catch a Treat
to those who read and enjoyed
Bite the Biscuit
, especially readers who told me so!

Plus, as I always do, I dedicate this book to my dear husband Fred, in gratitude for his patience with my murdering people so often.

one

I ignored the cell
phone vibration in my front pocket. That was the rule, both for myself, Carrie Kennersly, and my employees at my two adjoining bake shops, Icing on the Cake and Barkery and Biscuits. Customers came first.

I was currently serving a woman dressed in a fashionably casual outfit. She appeared to be in her early thirties, same as me, and had a leashed Great Dane mix sitting beside her on the portion of the shop's blue tile floor that was decorated as a large beige biscuit in the shape of a dog bone.

We were in the Barkery part of my shops. Dogs were more than welcome here, although not so much on the people side, Icing.

I glanced toward the corner where my own dog, Biscuit, a wonderful golden toy poodle–terrier mix, lay on her rug in her large open-topped crate. She watched the other dog with interest. As always, I stifled the urge to go hug her for being so well-behaved.

The customer kept telling me to add more dog cookies and biscuits to the box I'd been filling for her and her dog. No way would I interrupt that.

I kept on the move behind the glass-fronted refrigerated display case, pulling out the selected dog treats while inhaling and loving the combined scents of sweetness and meat that wafted from the kitchen behind me. Over on the Icing side, which I could see through the wide doorway that connected it to the Barkery, the aromas were always sweeter—since they were generated by human treats.

After more than two months, I still adored having turned the original Icing bakery into two stores, and baking and selling both dog and people products. I'd been told often by purchasers that both kinds of treats were wonderful, which always delighted me.

“That'll do it,” my customer said, just as the phone in my pocket
vibrated again. I totaled up the order on the electronic cash register and accepted the woman's credit card without peeking at who'd called.

“Thank you.” I gave her dog a freebee farewell treat, a small carrot-flavored biscuit.

“No, thank
you
,” she responded. “We'll be back.”

I grinned as she picked up the bag into which I'd slid her box of dog goodies, and she and her pup left. I reached into my pocket for my phone just as the door opened again and four customers, with one dog each, poured into the shop.

I backed toward the door to the kitchen and opened it. Dinah Greely stood by the long, waist-high counter of shelves that divided the Barkery side of the kitchen from the Icing cooking area. My young-looking, highly competent full-time assistant wasn't baking, fortunately, but sorting already prepared items. “Can you help me?” I asked.

“Sure thing. Icing is busy, but Frida has it under control.” Frida Grainger was one of my new part-time assistants. “What do you need?”

Dinah took over waiting on customers at the Barkery while I hurried toward Biscuit, patted her softly frizzy head, and at last pulled my phone from my pocket.

The first call was from Dr. Reed Storme, one of the veterinarians at the Knobcone Veterinary Clinic where I still worked part-time as a vet tech. He was also a guy I'd been dating. I'd been expecting his call, so I returned it immediately, sitting down on a chair at one of the small tables located off to the side of the tile bone. I let the latest customers flow around me.

“It's a go, Carrie,” Reed said. “Hugo and I will meet you at the resort. We're really looking forward to going with you on Neal's hike.”

I was, too. Reed's presence with his dog would make my brother's tour that evening even more fun.

“See you in an hour.” I hung up.

The second call had been from my brother. “Are you still planning on coming tonight?” Neal asked when I called him back.

“Absolutely. And Reed just confirmed he'll be joining us.”

“Very good.” As Neal paused, I watched Dinah do the same thing I'd done—give the dog of her latest customer a treat sample as the guy and his pit bull mix prepared to leave after paying. “Any chance of your coming a little early?” Neal finished.

“Maybe.” The tour started at seven, and I closed my shops at six. “Should I?”

“Janelle said she'll be here any minute, so it wouldn't hurt if you got here early, too.”

In other words, my bro hoped to introduce me to his latest love interest—whom he'd apparently met all of two days ago—before incurring the distraction of the tour he was hosting.

“Okay,” I said. “See you soon.”

It was six thirty, and Biscuit and I had just entered the lobby of the Knobcone Heights Resort.

My gaze panned the posh, vast lobby with its tall, slanted ceilings. Multiple seating areas in the middle surrounded tall stone fireplaces. Offices lined the wall nearest me, opposite the bar, restaurant, and spa overlooking the lake at the far side. The place was crowded, with the hum of multiple conversations filling the air. I've seldom seen it otherwise.

I quickly spotted Neal, standing near the spa by the rear doors that opened to the concrete walkway down to the beach. A young lady was with him, with wavy, light brown hair that reached below the shoulders of her gray hoodie.

“Come on, girl,” I said to Biscuit. She was also looking around, probably for other dogs, who were welcome here at the resort. I pulled gently on her leash, and she easily kept up with me on the hardwood floor as we wended our way through the crowd toward Neal.

“Hey, Carrie.” My brother smiled and held out his arms for a brief hug, which told me the impression he wanted to impart to the lady with him. Neal and I were close, but we didn't always hug in public.

Neal is twenty-eight, four years my junior. He's six feet tall and, like me, has the Kennersly light blonde hair. We also share the Kennersly longish nose and blunt chin, as well as fairly sharp cheekbones. He keeps his hair a lot shorter than I do, though, and, fortunately, I don't have the shadow of a beard on my face that he generally does. In case you can't tell, I really love my bro, even if I don't always agree with him.

I was reserving judgment on his new romantic interest—particularly since they had apparently just met.

As we backed away from one another, Neal said, “Carrie, this is Janelle Blaystone. She's from LA. Janelle, meet Carrie. And that's her dog, Biscuit. Hey, Bug.” That was his nickname for my pup. He petted her on the head.

A strange look of pain seemed to flit across Janelle's pretty features, quickly replaced by a large smile that revealed lovely white teeth between full lips. Had I been mistaken about the fleeting expression? “Hi, Carrie.” She held out a slender hand with short manicured nails. Her eyes were large and blue and friendly, her brows well arched, her complexion perfect.

In short, she looked like a good possible match for my brother. But was she? Looks weren't everything.

As I shook her hand—her grip was firm and quick—I thought briefly of Neal's prior romantic interest, the resort waitress Gwen Orway. I didn't know Gwen well either, nor was I aware of what had happened between her and Neal. He'd seemed utterly smitten with her, despite being hurt that she apparently had another boyfriend somewhere off the mountains. If Gwen had truly been interested in Neal, she hadn't acted on it. Even so, that hadn't stopped Neal from going after her—before. I'd figured that if Gwen didn't start reciprocating more, he'd move on. My handsome, personable bro had never had any trouble attracting women.

So now there was Janelle.

“Good to meet you, Janelle,” I said. “I assume this hike with Neal will be a first for you. For me, too. Neal's invited me a lot, but hiking isn't my thing.”

“I like hikes,” she said. “Neal's told me a little about you, and I figured from what he said that dogs, not hikes, are your passion.” Once again, that strange expression rushed over her features, to be replaced by friendly blankness. What was going on here?

“Very true.” I kneeled down to pick Biscuit up in my arms. My little dog looked at me and licked my cheek. “I'm sure, if Neal talked about me, he mentioned that I'm a veterinary technician as well as the new owner of a dual bakery. It has one side for dog treats and the other side for people. And, like Neal said, this is Biscuit.”

“Hi, Biscuit.” Janelle's voice sounded hoarse. Even stranger, her eyes filled and a couple of tears escaped down her cheeks. Again I wondered what she was thinking. Could I get her to explain?

“Are you a dog-lover, too?” I asked, not sure how to approach this.

“Yes, she is,” Neal said. “In fact—”

But whatever he was about to say was interrupted as four people approached and greeted him. Fellow hikers, I presumed—those of the paying sort, unlike me. All were dressed in jeans, sweatshirts, and athletic shoes, which is what I'd changed into, too. Two had dogs—a golden retriever mix and a Rottweiler mix, it seemed.

This hike was one of the outings sponsored by the resort, though Neal also freelanced as often as he could, taking visitors out independently on walking tours or boat tours—and even skiing expeditions of the water or snow sort, depending on the time of year and weather conditions here in the San Bernardino Mountains. I was happy that he got paid not only to staff the resort's reception desk but also to do what he loved—work outdoors.

The timing of the arrival of these folks was not ideal for our conversation, though for Neal's pending expedition it was perfect. But I couldn't complain about the timing of the next person who joined us: Reed. Beside him was his gorgeous, smart Belgian Malinois, Hugo.

“Hi, Carrie,” Reed said. He waved toward Neal, who remained with the others. That group was growing, including the number of dogs. I wondered how many people—and canines—would be with us on this scenic hike around Knobcone Lake.

Too bad I hadn't brought leftover treats to entice my fellow hikers to visit the Barkery tomorrow. But I still could do that verbally.

“Hi, Reed. Hi, Hugo.” I bent to hug his dog, even as Hugo and Biscuit traded nose sniffs. As I straightened up, I realized Janelle had backed off. Despite the hint of a smile on her face, she looked lost.

Was Neal's interest in her because he was a gallant gentleman, hoping to ease some pain from this lovely woman's life? He was a good guy, sure, but that would be something new for my devil-may-care brother. My curiosity was definitely stoked. Who was this woman, and what made her tick?

I grabbed Reed's free hand and pulled it slightly in Janelle's direction. “Reed, I'd like you to meet one of our fellow hikers, Janelle. Janelle, this is Dr. Reed Storme, a veterinarian at the clinic where I work. And this is his dog, Hugo.”

I shuffled the fur on Hugo's head. Both dogs were starting to pull on their leashes—apparently they wanted to go meet nearby canines. I didn't loosen Biscuit's leash, though. She'd have plenty of time to meet the others on our hike. Plus, I wanted to get some sense from the owners about how friendly their dogs were before I let Biscuit get too close. I assumed Reed felt the same way about Hugo, although the Malinois was probably big enough to scare any aggressive canines off with a growl.

“Glad to meet you, Janelle,” Reed said. “So's Hugo.” By then, Hugo had gotten the message of Reed's gentle pull on his leash and had taken up sniffing Janelle's leg instead.

“Thanks.” Was that moistness in her voice again?

Best I could tell, whatever brought on her emotionalism apparently had to do with dogs, since it had come out when she'd been introduced to Biscuit and Hugo. Clearly this group wasn't going to tiptoe around the subject of dogs, though—not with a small pack of them walking with us.

Consequently, I decided to just ask, although I'd start out with a touch of subtlety.

“So do you have a dog, Janelle?” I inquired. At the same time, I noticed that Neal had walked away from his group of hikers and was approaching us, behind Janelle. Was it time to leave? But instead of waving us forward, he was moving his hands in the air in front of him—in a gesture I read as an attempt to erase what I'd asked, and perhaps to make sure I knew to drop the subject.

If so, it was already too late. “Yes.” Janelle's voice was soft and moist and unutterably sad. Her expression, as she stared down at Biscuit, also looked lost. I understood why immediately, though, when she added, “No. Not now. But I did. I should.”

As she looked up at me, almost defiantly, Neal joined her. He put his arm around her shoulders. “Let's get ready to go, okay?”

But my curiosity wasn't going to dissipate unless I had answers. “What do you mean?” I asked Janelle. “You had a dog? Where is it?”

“Yes, I had—have—a dog. He's the most beautiful, smartest Labrador retriever you ever saw. But—”

She stopped and took a deep breath, looked again at Biscuit and then Hugo, and then back at me.

“But … ?” I prompted. Poor lady. Had her dog died? But the last thing she'd said indicated she still had the dog—didn't it?

“Go has been dognapped,” she finally replied, in a soft voice that wailed with despair.

BOOK: To Catch a Treat
4.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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