Jewels in the Juniper – Dale Mayer

Friday Morning … IT HAD BEEN two days since Doreen had been at Ed Burns’s house. She’d kept her head low and had stayed out of sight since then. It was Friday morning, and she was back at Millicent’s place. Millicent hadn’t stopped talking since Doreen had arrived to weed, but that was okay. Doreen was more than happy to listen while Millicent reminisced about the Jude and Ed Burns family drama and then about Frank and Fred Darbunkle. “You, my dear, are an absolute marvel,” Millicent said. “Not at all,” Doreen said. “Who knew I would find out all this just from finding one ice pick in the ivy?” Millicent chuckled. “Did I ever tell you about the jewels I found?” Doreen sat back on her haunches. “Jewels? Where?” “They were in the juniper,” Millicent said. “It was years and years ago. I never did find out who they belonged to.” “Did you ask Mack to find out?” “Mack wasn’t even an officer back then. Not sure I have mentioned them to him since he joined law enforcement, now that I think about it.” She frowned.

“You know what? I’ll see if I can find them.” “Especially if you want to find who they belong to,” Doreen said. “It might take time to find the owners.” Millicent looked at Doreen and smiled. “Not with you, my dear. You are so darn fast. I’ll take a look now because I want you to have the jewels, and I want you to find out who they belong to.” “Oh, but …” Doreen started. However, it was too late. Millicent was gone.

Doreen laughed. Apparently she now had a new cold case. Prologue Friday Morning … IT HAD BEEN two days since Doreen had been at Ed Burns’s house. She’d kept her head low and had stayed out of sight since then. It was Friday morning, and she was back at Millicent’s place. Millicent hadn’t stopped talking since Doreen had arrived to weed, but that was okay. Doreen was more than happy to listen while Millicent reminisced about the Jude and Ed Burns family drama and then about Frank and Fred Darbunkle. “You, my dear, are an absolute marvel,” Millicent said. “Not at all,” Doreen said. “Who knew I would find out all this just from finding one ice pick in the ivy?” Millicent chuckled.

“Did I ever tell you about the jewels I found?” Doreen sat back on her haunches. “Jewels? Where?” “They were in the juniper,” Millicent said. “It was years and years ago. I never did find out who they belonged to.” “Did you ask Mack to find out?” “Mack wasn’t even an officer back then. Not sure I have mentioned them to him since he joined law enforcement, now that I think about it.” She frowned. “You know what? I’ll see if I can find them.” “Especially if you want to find who they belong to,” Doreen said. “It might take time to find the owners.

” Millicent looked at Doreen and smiled. “Not with you, my dear. You are so darn fast. I’ll take a look now because I want you to have the jewels, and I want you to find out who they belong to.” “Oh, but …” Doreen started. However, it was too late. Millicent was gone. Doreen laughed. Apparently she now had a new cold case. Chapter 1 Friday Late Morning … DOREEN WALKED HOME slowly, her three animals at her side.

She had just left a very rattled Millicent, who couldn’t find the jewels she had been talking about. Doreen didn’t know whether Mack’s mother was serious about her story or if her memory was starting to go and maybe she was imagining it all. Doreen hoped not because it sounded like a fun new mystery and likely to be something completely harmless. She was getting tired of being attacked on these jobs. On the other hand, Mack wouldn’t like it if his mother was involved in one of Doreen’s cases. As Doreen and her animals hit the creek, she turned to see Goliath dragging behind. She crouched and called him to her. He stretched, looking toward her. She smiled as she reached an arm around him, picked up the big orange Maine coon cat, and continued along the path on the creek’s edge. Goliath was perfectly content to be carried.

Only then Thaddaeus wanted up too. With Thaddeus secured on her shoulder, he stared at Goliath, clearly unimpressed at having to share some of Doreen’s love and attention. She reached up a hand and patted Thaddeus too. “You’re fine, Thaddeus.” He crooned in her ear, gently rubbing his head against hers. Then Goliath reached up and nudged her with his head, which was his way of mimicking that he loved her too. Mugs took note of that but was clearly assured of her love for him as he seemed to smile at them. She chuckled and, with her hefty armload, continued toward her place. The river was higher than it had been, but she wasn’t up on the details of the fluctuations in water levels. She knew sometimes it rose with the water coming down off the mountains—with the highest levels in the wee hours of the morning—then receded and sometimes rose again, depending on the temperature and the snowmelt.

But now it was definitely higher, and the sound of the river babbling beside her was lovely. Although named Mission Creek, it was river-sized, and no way would she try to cross it right now. With the water’s force and flow, she doubted she’d make it without being swept out to the lake. And that thought reminded her of another case she’d previously worked on, where a little boy and a handyman had gone missing. She was grateful she’d managed to find their bodies in the lake and to bring the families closure. She didn’t want to think about the ice pick scenario she had just dealt with. She wanted to enjoy days of gardening and visiting her grandmother and maybe finding a secondhand bookstore to take the place of the library, so she didn’t come under the gimlet eye of the librarian on the night shift again. Back home, she lowered Goliath to the ground as soon as she came around the corner. “You can walk the rest of the way, pudge.” Mugs barked at Goliath, then ran a short way forward before slowing down, dropping his big nose on the path and sniffing.

She stopped and spied some new boards stacked on the ground by her house. She frowned and headed around the side of the house closest to her neighbor, Richard de Genaro. Everything was still here—all the big cinder blocks and the beams she and Mack had stacked there—but now a bunch of slowly, her three animals at her side. She had just left a very rattled Millicent, who couldn’t find the jewels she had been talking about. Doreen didn’t know whether Mack’s mother was serious about her story or if her memory was starting to go and maybe she was imagining it all. Doreen hoped not because it sounded like a fun new mystery and likely to be something completely harmless. She was getting tired of being attacked on these jobs. On the other hand, Mack wouldn’t As Doreen and her animals hit the creek, she turned to see Goliath dragging behind. She crouched and called him to her. He stretched, looking toward her.

She smiled as she reached an arm around him, picked up the big orange Maine coon cat, and continued along the path on the creek’s edge. With Thaddeus secured on her shoulder, he stared at Goliath, clearly unimpressed at having to share some of Doreen’s love and attention. She reached up a hand and patted Thaddeus too. “You’re He crooned in her ear, gently rubbing his head against hers. Then Goliath reached up and nudged Mugs took note of that but was clearly assured of her love for him as he seemed to smile at them. She chuckled and, with her hefty armload, continued toward her place. The river was higher than it had been, but she wasn’t up on the details of the fluctuations in water levels. She knew sometimes it rose with the water coming down off the mountains—with the highest levels in the wee hours of the morning—then receded and sometimes rose again, depending on the temperature and the snowmelt. Although named Mission Creek, it was river-sized, and no way would she try to cross it right And that thought reminded her of another case she’d previously worked on, where a little boy and a handyman had gone missing. She was grateful she’d managed to find their bodies in the lake and to She didn’t want to think about the ice pick scenario she had just dealt with.

She wanted to enjoy days of gardening and visiting her grandmother and maybe finding a secondhand bookstore to take the place of the library, so she didn’t come under the gimlet eye of the librarian on the night shift again. Back home, she lowered Goliath to the ground as soon as she came around the corner. “You can walk Mugs barked at Goliath, then ran a short way forward before slowing down, dropping his big She stopped and spied some new boards stacked on the ground by her house. She frowned and headed around the side of the house closest to her neighbor, Richard de Genaro. Everything was still here—all the big cinder blocks and the beams she and Mack had stacked there—but now a bunch of two-by-fours had been added. As she carried on to the front of the house, she heard another big clattering noise. It was Arnold, the older cop Doreen had met on her first day here, delivering the two-by-fours. “Hey, Arnold. You got those to spare?” “Sure do. My wife has been on me about cleaning out that shed,” he said.

“I don’t know how many of these at this length you can use, but Mack said to bring it all, and he’d take care of getting rid of what you don’t need afterward.” He grinned at her. “Best deal yet. I can save myself ten bucks not taking it to the dump.” “Right,” Doreen said, as she looked at the wood. “And hopefully we’ll have a use for them all.” Then he brought out two very long and fat boards. “Wow, what are those for?” “They’re perfect for stair stringers,” he said, “depending on how many steps you’ll cut in.” She nodded as if she knew what that meant, though it made no sense to her. Why would you have string and stair in the same sentence? Surely steps should be made from something solid.

But then, as she studied the boards, they looked like they were pretty solid, at one and a half or maybe two inches thick. And they were really long. She didn’t know what length for sure. Still, she was happy to have them. “Do you know how long they are?” “They’re about four and a half feet each,” he said, “and I’ve got four of them.” “What were you doing with them?” “I was supposed to put steps off the deck, but then my wife changed her mind and wanted railing all around the top.” Then Doreen understood. “Got it. That’s what these are for, the steps off my deck.” “It will cost you a little bit more money,” he said, “but, if you can get some more spare pieces, you’ll be doing fine.

” “I sure hope so,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out what to put on the surface.” “Well, if you get that forever stuff, you won’t have to maintain it or repaint every ten years. But wood decking is much nicer. We put wood on, then figure we can paint it once. After that it’ll be somebody else’s problem,” Arnold said with a hoarse laugh. She smiled. “I think wood is just fine for now.” She didn’t know why he’d bring her bad wood though. The beams were, … well, … green.

Were they supposed to be? “And, of course, we pretty much used up all the railings we had,” he said. “I might have a few of the metal rails but not likely too many.” “I can talk to Mack and see what he thinks.” As Arnold dropped the last beam on the ground, he said, “Tell you what. I’ll talk to him when I go back to the office next.” “You’re not working today?” “Nope. I took the day off. The wife’s planning on having the family come around this weekend,” he said with a grimace. “Wanted me to clean up all this stuff first.” Doreen grinned at that.

“Don’t you just love honey-do lists?” He glared at her. “Nope, I don’t.” And, with that, he walked to the end of his truck and snapped his tailgate closed, then gave her a partial wave and hopped into his truck and drove off. Delighted, Doreen raced back around to the stack of supplies; it was so much bigger. Not only that but boards she hadn’t seen delivered lay stacked in front of her. Someone else’s contribution. She As she carried on to the front of the house, she heard another big clattering noise. It was Arnold, the older cop Doreen had met on her first day here, delivering the two-by-fours. “Hey, Arnold. You “Sure do.

My wife has been on me about cleaning out that shed,” he said. “I don’t know how many of these at this length you can use, but Mack said to bring it all, and he’d take care of getting rid of what you don’t need afterward.” He grinned at her. “Best deal yet. I can save myself ten bucks not She nodded as if she knew what that meant, though it made no sense to her. Why would you have in the same sentence? Surely steps should be made from something solid. But then, as she studied the boards, they looked like they were pretty solid, at one and a half or maybe two inches thick. And they were really long. She didn’t know what length for sure. Still, she was happy to have “I was supposed to put steps off the deck, but then my wife changed her mind and wanted railing “It will cost you a little bit more money,” he said, “but, if you can get some more spare pieces, “Well, if you get that forever stuff, you won’t have to maintain it or repaint every ten years.

But wood decking is much nicer. We put wood on, then figure we can paint it once. After that it’ll be She smiled. “I think wood is just fine for now.” She didn’t know why he’d bring her bad wood “And, of course, we pretty much used up all the railings we had,” he said. “I might have a few of As Arnold dropped the last beam on the ground, he said, “Tell you what. I’ll talk to him when I go “Nope. I took the day off. The wife’s planning on having the family come around this weekend,” He glared at her. “Nope, I don’t.

” And, with that, he walked to the end of his truck and snapped Delighted, Doreen raced back around to the stack of supplies; it was so much bigger. Not only that but boards she hadn’t seen delivered lay stacked in front of her. Someone else’s contribution. She pulled out her phone and started talking the moment Mack answered. “Arnold was just here, delivering stair stringers and some two-by-fours.” “Perfect,” he said. “How does the wood look?” She hesitated. “Like wood? Only green. I don’t understand why you would bring in bad wood.” “Bad wood?” “It’s green,” she said, as if that should have been explanation enough.

He sputtered with laughter at the other end of the phone. She glared at it. “You’re doing it again,” she warned. “What?” he asked between the chuckles. “You’re laughing at me.” “Laughing with you,” he said. “Except I don’t seem to be laughing, nor do I see anything funny to be laughing about.” She glared around her, looking for other green wood. “The green means it’s treated,” he said. “Treated how?” she asked, and a phrase popped out of her mouth.

“With respect?” At that, he started off again with great big guffaws of laughter. “No. Treated so it won’t rot.” “Oh,” she said, her voice lowered to a sigh. Of course they didn’t want the wood to rot. But then why weren’t the two-by-fours treated too? “Besides,” he said, “once it’s all in place, those stringers will be hard to see because they’ll have steps on top of them.” She studied the boards and nodded, though in complete confusion. “Good.” Then she strengthened the tone of her voice. “As long as you know what you’re doing.

Will it be a green deck?” “We can get treated boards in brown too,” he said. “It all depends on what you want to do. We can put decking boards on top, and they’ll look like natural wood. You’ll have to stain it with Varathane or put some other preservative coating on it. Or we can get boards already treated that look more natural.” “More natural would be nice,” she said. “We’re not there yet.” “No, but we’re getting a lot of lumber,” she said in surprise. “Arnold brought four of those stringer boards.” “That’s great,” Mack said, “because that will do two complete sets of steps or a heck of a long one.

” “You need two for a set of steps?” “Imagine that we’ll notch out triangles on each of the boards and rest steps on them,” he explained. “So you need two per set. But, if we’ll do one all down the long side of the deck, we’ll have to space those stringers every three feet across, or maybe four, and then you can put long boards all the way across the steps.” She nodded, but she didn’t have a clue what he meant about notching triangles. Still, she figured she’d given him enough to laugh at for the day. “So what else do we need?” “Decking boards,” he said, “and railings, then the hardware to put it all together.” “Right,” she said, “and the railings are pretty expensive, aren’t they?” “They are,” he said, “which is another reason to consider just doing steps all the way around.” She walked around where the deck would be built. “Particularly if we already have four stringers.” pulled out her phone and started talking the moment Mack answered.

“Arnold was just here, “It’s green,” she said, as if that should have been explanation enough. He sputtered with laughter “Except I don’t seem to be laughing, nor do I see anything funny to be laughing about.” She glared “Oh,” she said, her voice lowered to a sigh. Of course they didn’t want the wood to rot. But then “Besides,” he said, “once it’s all in place, those stringers will be hard to see because they’ll have She studied the boards and nodded, though in complete confusion. “Good.” Then she strengthened “We can get treated boards in brown too,” he said. “It all depends on what you want to do. We can put decking boards on top, and they’ll look like natural wood. You’ll have to stain it with Varathane or put some other preservative coating on it.

Or we can get boards already treated that look “No, but we’re getting a lot of lumber,” she said in surprise. “Arnold brought four of those “That’s great,” Mack said, “because that will do two complete sets of steps or a heck of a long “Imagine that we’ll notch out triangles on each of the boards and rest steps on them,” he explained. “So you need two per set. But, if we’ll do one all down the long side of the deck, we’ll have to space those stringers every three feet across, or maybe four, and then you can put long boards She nodded, but she didn’t have a clue what he meant about notching triangles. Still, she figured She walked around where the deck would be built. “Particularly if we already have four “Not sure that’ll be enough yet,” he warned. “Okay,” she said. “Whenever you get a chance, you can always come by, take a look, and see what else we might need.” “I was talking to one of the guys here. He’s got a bunch of anchors and some of the hardware.

He finished his deck, and he’s still got a lot of screws, so I was hoping to snag leftovers from him too.” She smiled in delight. “Wow, this is quite a process you’ve got going here.” “Everybody has leftovers after these projects,” he said. “The trick is making sure you get enough of what you need and don’t end up taking too much of the stuff you won’t need.” “Right, but, if the decking boards are all different kinds and colors, chances are we won’t get enough of one kind to do the whole deck, will we?” “Not likely,” he said cheerfully. “It’s a matter of seeing if we can find any, and, if we can’t, that becomes the cost you’ll bear.” “Right,” she said, wincing at the loud cha-ching in her mind. “But, after we gather up all these leftovers, I’m pretty sure we can get a quote for close to one thousand to top off what you need.” At that, she brightened.

“Seriously?” “Yep,” he said. “I’ll stop by and have a look but not today.” His words came on a heavy sigh. “We’re a little busy with paperwork and interviewing various people.” “Sorry about all the extra work,” she said in a cheery voice. “I get to walk away now, whereas you don’t.” “Isn’t that the truth.” His words were a half growl. “On the other hand, we can hardly be too upset when you’re helping us close all these cases.” “You know that it does make me wonder just what you guys have been doing for the last decade or two.

” Her words were delivered in a bland tone. “Considering I just arrived and the number of cases we’ve closed …” “Hardly sitting on our butts,” he said. “Believe me. Plenty of jokes have come our way about the lack of police effort on some of these cases. And it’s hardly fair, with you working one case at a time, while we have tons of active cases.” She winced at that. “You’re right. It isn’t fair, and I know I’m not doing anything you guys wouldn’t do, if you had the spare man-hours.” “If we had spare man-hours,” he repeated, “we could do all kinds of stuff.” She could hear the fatigue and the frustration in his voice and knew it wasn’t fair for her to egg him on.

She was only doing it because he had laughed at her earlier. Then again, she still wanted to ask questions about stringers and decking but didn’t think it would work out so well for her. “We were talking about dinner,” she said cautiously. “I can’t do it tonight,” he said regretfully. “I’ll be lucky if I get out of the office today at all.” “You’re not sleeping there, are you?” “It won’t be the first time,” he said, “although it’s typically more like catnaps in my chair. Then I get up and walk around, clearing my head.” “You’d be much better off to go home and to get at least four hours of sleep and then go back refreshed,” she said, with just enough of a tone of authority in her voice to make him chuckle. “What is this?” he asked. “Are you worried about me? And when did you become such an expert on sleepless nights anyway?” “Okay,” she said.

“Whenever you get a chance, you can always come by, take a look, and see “I was talking to one of the guys here. He’s got a bunch of anchors and some of the hardware. He “Everybody has leftovers after these projects,” he said. “The trick is making sure you get enough “Right, but, if the decking boards are all different kinds and colors, chances are we won’t get “Not likely,” he said cheerfully. “It’s a matter of seeing if we can find any, and, if we can’t, that “But, after we gather up all these leftovers, I’m pretty sure we can get a quote for close to one “Yep,” he said. “I’ll stop by and have a look but not today.” His words came on a heavy sigh. “Sorry about all the extra work,” she said in a cheery voice. “I get to walk away now, whereas “Isn’t that the truth.” His words were a half growl.

“On the other hand, we can hardly be too upset “You know that it does make me wonder just what you guys have been doing for the last decade or two.” Her words were delivered in a bland tone. “Considering I just arrived and the number of “Hardly sitting on our butts,” he said. “Believe me. Plenty of jokes have come our way about the lack of police effort on some of these cases. And it’s hardly fair, with you working one case at a time, She winced at that. “You’re right. It isn’t fair, and I know I’m not doing anything you guys She could hear the fatigue and the frustration in his voice and knew it wasn’t fair for her to egg him on. She was only doing it because he had laughed at her earlier. Then again, she still wanted to ask questions about stringers and decking but didn’t think it would work out so well for her.

“We “It won’t be the first time,” he said, “although it’s typically more like catnaps in my chair. Then I “You’d be much better off to go home and to get at least four hours of sleep and then go back “What is this?” he asked. “Are you worried about me? And when did you become such an expert “Well, that was my life,” she said. “Not that I was working, but I would sit up and worry.” “Worry about what?” “My future, my marriage, my lack of children, what I was doing with my life, and how I got into such a loveless marriage, for starters.” “Sorry.” A note of surprise was in his voice. “I wasn’t expecting to dredge up bad memories.” “No, I’m sure you weren’t. I was thinking I do need to talk to your brother, since my second fall through my little bridge canceled our first attempt.

” “Good,” he said with hearty satisfaction. “I’ll set it up.” “Fine,” she said, “and it better be soon, otherwise I’ll wish I hadn’t brought it up.” “Calling him now,” Mack said with a chuckle. “I’ll let you know how the call goes.” “Good enough,” Doreen responded. “I have a few other things I can work on today.” “Work on?” “Yeah, work on,” she repeated. “Nothing to do with ice picks or any other cases.” “Good.

How about you just work on your garden and leave the rest of this criminal work to us?” “Sure, as apparently you’ve got places to go and things to do on your criminal cases,” she said with an airy tone of voice, “maybe I will.” Mack snorted at that and hung up. Doreen grinned and looked down at her phone, realizing just how much she liked talking to him. She placed the phone on the counter, then put on a pot of coffee, and said to her critters, “You know what? It’s lunchtime.” She was kind of bored and restless, but, at the same time, she was happy. She’d done her day’s work at Millicent’s, and Mack would owe her money again for the gardening she’d done. Millicent had tantalized Doreen with the thought of another case, but she was happy to put it all off to one side and just rest for a bit. Maybe a secondhand bookstore would be a good idea. She’d love to grab an armload of books, then come back and chill on her deck. Speaking of her deck, … maybe she should mark off the accumulated materials from her supply list, so she knew what she would still have to buy.

Or maybe it was really just a time to do nothing and to relax. She could visit Nan. She leaned against the counter as she contemplated her afternoon. It was hard to imagine it could be a bad afternoon when it was a beautiful sunny Friday. As soon as the coffee was done, she grabbed a cup and walked to her kitchen table, putting down the cup for now because it was too hot to drink. She stared at the papers and files all over the small room and snatched up the basket of newspaper clippings. Bob Small. She went through the clippings. She hadn’t done anything about that serial killer yet. She didn’t want to think of it as something that could wait, but it was a big project, and she needed to be at her best to find the clues.

And apparently he was suspected of killing over a dozen people, so she didn’t want to get into something so horrific without having a fresh notepad and her brain at least turned on. Right now, it felt like her brain sat on the back burner on simmer, humming away, not doing anything useful. With her cup of coffee in hand, she grabbed her deck supply list, stepped outside, and marked off what she now had for materials versus what she would need. As she studied her list, they didn’t have even half the materials yet, but they were a good one-third in. Which meant the cost, as far as she could recalculate, would probably be somewhere around $1,700 now. That was getting a little bit closer to doable. “My future, my marriage, my lack of children, what I was doing with my life, and how I got into “No, I’m sure you weren’t. I was thinking I do need to talk to your brother, since my second fall “Sure, as apparently you’ve got places to go and things to do on your criminal cases,” she said Doreen grinned and looked down at her phone, realizing just how much she liked talking to him. She placed the phone on the counter, then put on a pot of coffee, and said to her critters, “You know what? It’s lunchtime.” She was kind of bored and restless, but, at the same time, she was happy.

She’d done her day’s work at Millicent’s, and Mack would owe her money again for the gardening she’d done. Millicent had tantalized Doreen with the thought of another case, but she was happy to put Maybe a secondhand bookstore would be a good idea. She’d love to grab an armload of books, then come back and chill on her deck. Speaking of her deck, … maybe she should mark off the accumulated materials from her supply list, so she knew what she would still have to buy. Or maybe She leaned against the counter as she contemplated her afternoon. It was hard to imagine it could As soon as the coffee was done, she grabbed a cup and walked to her kitchen table, putting down the cup for now because it was too hot to drink. She stared at the papers and files all over the small . She went through the clippings. She hadn’t done anything about that serial killer yet. She didn’t want to think of it as something that could wait, but it was a big project, and she needed to be at her best to find the clues.

And apparently he was suspected of killing over a dozen people, so she didn’t want to get into something so horrific without having a fresh notepad and her brain at least turned on. Right now, it felt like her brain sat on the back burner on simmer, humming away, not doing With her cup of coffee in hand, she grabbed her deck supply list, stepped outside, and marked off what she now had for materials versus what she would need. As she studied her list, they didn’t have even half the materials yet, but they were a good one-third in. Which meant the cost, as far as she could recalculate, would probably be somewhere around $1,700 now. That was getting a little bit The decking boards would be pricey; plus she still needed a few more of the big crossbeams. And, of course, the railing was a horrific cost. The steps did alleviate the need for a railing. She would still put a railing down one side of the house for Nan, in case she needed it to get up and down in later years. With that, Doreen walked back inside, tossing the pad of paper on the kitchen table. Then she went back outside, sat down on the edge of the deck, and just stared out at the backyard.

Now that she’d told Mack it was okay to contact his brother for a meeting, she was already wishing she hadn’t. It would bring up something she just didn’t want to deal with. But she still held so much anger and outrage that her husband, soon to be ex-husband, had treated her as he had. And even more so her own divorce lawyer. Even if Doreen didn’t get anything from her husband, which was less important now that she was possibly getting a lot of money from the auction of Nan’s antiques, Doreen didn’t think her divorce lawyer should get away with doing what she’d done. That wasn’t fair. But then, not everybody looked at life the way Doreen did. And it was a little difficult to get people to understand her perspective too. Still, enough time had gone by that she could look at her marriage, and divorce, a little more objectively and see just what a fool she’d been. She’d been so caught up in her cloistered world that, when it had come time for her husband and her divorce attorney to pull their little shenanigans, Doreen hadn’t seen it coming.

Just then Thaddeus walked beside her, hopped onto her knee, and stared up at her, his head tilted. “What’s the matter, buddy?” He tilted his head to the other side, looked at her again, and then cocked his head the other way. “Don’t you worry about me, sweetie.” She smiled, reached out, and gently brushed the feathers on his neck and along his back. “We’re doing just fine.” “Thaddeus is here,” he said gently. “Thaddeus is here.” Her phone rang, but she didn’t recognize the number. “Hello?” “Doreen, it’s Millicent,” Mack’s mother said. “I found the jewels.

” Doreen straightened. “Seriously?” “Yes,” she said, her tone wild with excitement. “Do you want to come and have a look?” “Do I ever! We’re on our way.” Doreen reached down and picked up Thaddeus, tucking him up onto her shoulder, and said, “Come on, big guy. Let’s go for another walk.” When he heard her say walk, Mugs jumped up and down. She put him on the leash just because, and the four of them walked over to Millicent’s place. It wasn’t that far away, and now she had a reason to be returning, and it wasn’t for gardening. As she walked up to the front door, Millicent opened it and said, “Come in. Come in.” “You said you never told Mack about this, right?” “I don’t think so, but honestly I don’t remember. It’s also why I had so much trouble finding where I’d been keeping them all these years.” “Exactly where did you find them?”

.

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