Icepick in the Ivy – Dale Mayer

THREE DAYS. ALL Doreen had wanted was three days of peace and quiet. At least that was what she’d thought she wanted. But by noon on day two, she was bored out of her mind. She had pulled one of her café table chairs off the veranda and onto her little deck, where she could bathe in the sun with a cup of coffee in her hand, but her foot kept tapping the floorboards. Finally she jumped up. “This is ridiculous,” she announced to Mugs, who was sprawled out on the deck in the sunshine beside her. “We have to get some work done. Either that or I’ll go stircrazy.” She bounded off the deck steps, wondering where her full-blown energy had come from. Yesterday she’d been dragging her sorry butt around the kitchen, trying hard to put all the random thoughts in her head into the right places. But now? Well, now she was full of energy and ready to go. She grabbed the shovel and headed to the backyard to start on the next section of garden bed. She kept looking back at the markers still in her lawn to show where the expanded deck was supposed to go. She hadn’t done anything further because, of course, it would not be just her working on this project; it also required Mack.

Was a project this size doable on a weekend or several weekends? Today was Friday, and normally she would be gardening at Millicent’s, but Millicent had again asked Doreen to come tomorrow, on a Saturday instead. After weeks of working on Mack’s mother’s yard, Millicent’s garden was looking pretty good. So, unless Mack and his mom had anything extra they needed Doreen to do, it would probably take about an hour tops of weekly weeding to keep that garden in perfect shape now. And she didn’t really want to drop her gardening income, but she also didn’t feel good about taking money for two hours’ work if she was only putting in one. With her first kick on the shovel into her backyard, she could feel that same satisfaction rolling through her. She loved working on her own land. She loved working on this place. She looked back at Mugs to see he hadn’t moved from the sunny spot on the deck. “You’re just being lazy.” Mugs opened his eyes, but he didn’t budge.

She spied Goliath sprawled on the grass behind her, his tail twitching. “Well, at least you’re here beside me,” she said. She bent down, lifted a clump of weeds, gave it a good shake, tossed it off to one side, creating a new pile, and kept working as she headed down the right side of her property. Then she stopped when she realized she had seen no recent sign of Thaddeus. She turned and looked around. “Thaddeus? Thaddeus, where are you?” Doreen heard a flutter of wings, and Thaddeus muttered, “Thaddeus is here. Thaddeus is here.” She spun around again and found him waddling toward her from the creek. “You know you’re not supposed to go to the creek on your own,” she scolded. “Not with it rising like it has been.

” He just squawked and gave a full-winged feathered ruffle. She laughed. “Like you care what I say.” Looking closer then, she caught a glint of something in front of him on the ground. “What did you find?” She stabbed her shovel into the dirt and headed toward him. But, instead of being cooperative, he picked up the small object and bounced backward. “No, no, Thaddeus. We’re not making a game out of this.” But Thaddeus wasn’t listening; he was too enthralled with whatever he’d found. She glared at him, knowing the more she chased, the more he would back up or fly away.

Goliath joined her, studying Thaddeus with great interest. “And you’re not allowed to go after him either,” she snapped at Goliath. He just gave her a sloweyed look, as if to say, Seriously? At that, Thaddeus stopped and stared at both of them. “Thaddeus, come here,” Doreen said, and she crouched in front of him. Thaddeus backed away. Goliath crouched down low, as if to pounce. She put a hand on top of Goliath’s back and neck and said, “We don’t do that to friends.” He made a weird chittering sound, arguing with her. She tapped him gently on the nose. “Goliath, behave yourself.

” Thaddeus hopped forward, as if willing to give her whatever was in his beak. It was metal and small. She didn’t understand, but it looked like a label. “That’s cool, Thaddeus,” she said, as she held out a hand. He looked at her, cocked his head to the side, and then dropped it. She snatched it up before he could change his mind. She looked at it, noting the little markings—it was like a nameplate or label for something. “I don’t have a clue what it means, but thank you.” She popped it into her pocket, got back up, and returned to her digging. Only Thaddeus wasn’t happy with that.

He squawked at her, “Thaddeus. Thaddeus.” “What’s the matter, Thaddeus?” He hopped away a few steps. She frowned, dug the shovel deep into the ground once more to prop it up there, and took another few steps toward him. He ran back toward the creek. “Oh, that’s not good,” she said. “Please tell me that you didn’t find any more bodies.” He just gave her that gimlet eye and kept on going. She walked around to the path, where the creek flowed, loving the trickling sounds. She asked, “So what were you looking at?” She noted how quiet Goliath and Mugs were as they joined her.

That was never good. Thaddeus hopped farther, like he wanted her to follow. With her heart sinking, she walked toward the little bridge, where he hopped across the wooden slats. “Thaddeus, be careful. We never fixed that side.” He called back, “Thaddeus is fine. Thaddeus is fine.” She laughed, and, with Goliath and finally Mugs’s attention, she carefully made her way across the bridge. “We’ll have to get Mack to give us a hand with this,” she said. “I know it’s city property, but surely they wouldn’t mind if we fix the broken boards.

” Since she was the one who had gone through the wood recently, she would at least like to stop herself from falling through a second time. On the other side of the creek, Thaddeus headed toward the lake. “Thaddeus, that’s not good,” she said. “I don’t want to take a walk right now.” But he continued on farther in the direction of the lake, and then he finally stopped. “You worry me, Thaddeus, when you wander off this far all by yourself. Something could have happened to you out here.” “Thaddeus is here. Thaddeus is here.” “But Thaddeus should only be here if I am with him.

Meaning, you.” She came up behind him and saw a second glint, spied another little nameplate. She frowned, bent down, picked it up, and studied it. Mugs and Goliath neared to take a look too. She then pulled the former one from her pocket and said, “Weird. They are the same.” One was slightly bigger though. Thaddeus hopped onto her foot. She reached down, placed her palm out so he could hop on, then rose and let him glide up to her shoulder. “I’m so glad you weren’t hurt on your scavenging hunt all alone.

” Once he had settled there, he crooned gently and rubbed his beak against her cheek. “Thank you for these shiny gifts,” she murmured, chuckling as she gently stroked his feathers. She studied the nameplates curiously. “What are these, and what the devil are we to do with them?” Of course she knew. Likely they had something to do with a new case—whether she was ready or not. Only she spoke too soon. As she headed back, Thaddeus securely on her shoulder, she turned at the bridge to make sure Mugs and Goliath were following along. Mugs ran past her and jostled her gently. It had been a slight contact, but it was enough. Her foot hooked the edge of the weakened and weathered board, and down she went.

Her leg slid inside the woodwork, even as she went over the edge into the rising creek. “Ack,” she cried out, arms flailing, as she fell halfway into the water, hanging over the side of her little bridge, her ankle and calf screaming in pain. “Squawk,” Thaddeus cried out, as he tumbled off her shoulder to land on the wood beside her— only to add insult to injury by calling out, “Body in the river. Body in the river.” Carefully righting herself, she gingerly unhooked her injured and bleeding ankle and sat on the edge of the bridge to catch her breath and to assess the damage. She splashed some creek water on her wound, and the bleeding was already contained. This will be swollen in the morning, she thought. “Woof, woof,” Mugs barked beside her, staring up at her with his huge sad eyes. “I’m okay, Mugs, honest. It was a stupid fall.

I’ll be fine.” “Woof,” he said, then shook his head, his great big floppy ears flying out on both sides. She sighed and smiled at him. “It was just a light tumble. It’s not your fault.” Goliath snorted—or was that a sneeze?—beside her. She reassured all three of them. “I’m fine. I’ll get up and show you.” In a moment of bravado, she hopped to her feet and cried out in agony.

Shuddering at what a moment of weight on her sore ankle had brought her in pain, she stood flamingo style on her good leg. Biting her lip, she attempted to take a small step with her injured leg, only to wince and to stop to breathe deeply for a long moment. The house was right there—but had never seemed so far away. Yet her options were limited. Mugs woofed at her again. She smiled down at him. “I’m fine. I’ll get there. But, if you could find a big stick, that would make my life much easier.” He raced away at the word stick, and she watched as Mugs grabbed a small one, more for his size than for her, from the back garden.

She groaned. “That’s not quite what I meant.” Her phone rang. Grateful it hadn’t ended up in the river with the rest of her, she tried to dry her hand quickly on her pants and then pulled it free of her pocket. It was Mack. As soon as she answered, he snapped, “Where are you?” Immediately her back bristled at his tone. “Why are you so suspicious?” she demanded. “You didn’t answer immediately.” Thaddeus flew up to her shoulder and leaned over her phone, shrieking, “Body in the river. Body in the river.

” Silence. “Please tell me that bird is joking,” he roared. “He is, … well, sort of.” Darn. She still couldn’t tell a lie. Not convincingly. “Sort of?” he asked in an ominous tone. “What’s going on, Doreen? What are you up to?” She gasped in outrage. “Nothing is going on—” and accidentally put her weight on her bad foot. And immediately cried out in pain.

“Doreen, what the …” “I’m fine. I’m fine,” she said, trying to breathe normally. “You just caught me at a bad time.” “What do you mean, a bad time?” “I might have just fallen through that little bridge across the creek.” “Might have?” He took a long, slow breath. “What does might have mean?” “Okay, so I did,” she said crossly, brushing her wet hair off her face. Standing on one leg was starting to hurt too. And she still had a long way to go to get home. “I don’t suppose you have any crutches, do you?” “Crutches?” His tone turned immediately businesslike and asked, “Where exactly are you?” “On the bridge,” she said in surprise. “Didn’t I just say that?” She shook her head.

“You’re getting as bad as Nan now.” He said something that made her straighten and glare into her phone. “That’s not required.” He snorted. “With you, sweetheart, it sometimes is. Stay where you are. I’m almost there.” “No—” But he’d hung up on her—again

.

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