Against the Paw: New Excerpt

Against the Paw by Diane Kelly is the 4th installment of the Paw Enforcement series (Available now!).

Megan has her sights set on finding a convicted burglar who’s broken his parole, and she has the perfect partner to help sniff him out. Unfortunately, her shepherd-mix Brigit’s dog bowl is already full. A Peeping Tom has been spotted in an affluent Fort Worth neighborhood―and concerned citizens are looking for a few good watchdogs…

To catch the creep, residents start enlisting volunteers to beef up their Neighborhood Watch group. Which is fine with Megan. She needs to focus on catching a burglar who’s still at large. But when the Peeping Tom patrol grows into a virtual vigilante mob, Megan and Brigit have to jump in paws first―before some very angry people take the law into their own hands…

ONE

HEAD SHOT

Peeping Tom

She was looking the other way when his eyes locked on her long, dark hair. He imagined himself hot and naked and sweaty, tangled in those soft, silky tresses.

But she’ll never be mine.

I know it.

And if she can’t be mine, well, I’ll do what I have to do …

Quickly and quietly, he steadied himself, sighted, and took aim. She tossed her hair and turned his way, a look of surprise flickering across her face. There was a blinding explosion of light as he contracted his finger and took the shot.

TWO

CHECKUP

Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz

“Up on the scale, Brigit.” I led my black and tan shepherd-mix partner over to the large scale on the floor of the veterinary office and motioned for her to step onto the device.

Brigit placed a tentative paw with red-tipped nails onto the black rubber mat covering the metal surface. Satisfied it was safe, she climbed aboard. Once she was centered on the scale, I directed her to sit, pointing with my own red-tipped nail. I’d given us both mani-pedis the night before. While her manicure set contained different tools than mine, at least we could share the polish. Fortunately, we both looked good in Bodacious Rose.

She plunked herself down on her fluffy haunches and looked up at me and the vet tech expectantly, her mouth hanging slightly open as she lightly panted.

The tech consulted the scale’s readout. “One hundred and three.” She jotted a note in Brigit’s paperwork and reached down to ruffle the dog’s ear. “You’re a big girl.”

Brigit was indeed a big girl. Smart, too. She’d been a standout in our K-9 training class, besting all the others, putting them and their handlers to shame. I was proud to be paired with such an outstanding, if excessively hairy, partner.

Brigit and I had been together for just about a year now. Not to brag, but we made a kick-ass team. Despite our occasional head-butting, we complemented and completed each other. While my skills tended to be more mental, Brigit was a physical powerhouse, able to run like the wind, tackle a target, and leap tall buildings with a single bound. And while I could accumulate and process verbal and visual clues, she put her superior senses of hearing and smell to work, tracking fleeing suspects or searching for hidden ones, sniffing out drugs, alerting me to approaching dangers. Together, we were unstoppable.

Unfortunately, while Brigit’s size and special skills made her the perfect partner on the beat, they made her a pain in the butt when it came to our personal lives. Not only did the dog eat kibble by the ton and shed fifty pounds of fur a day, she could be insistent and defiant. She behaved impeccably on the job, but after hours, she and I continued to vie for the alpha position in our two-member pack. She seemed as doggedly determined to claim the prominent position as I was. So far, it was a draw.

Despite being different species, Brigit and I had quite a few things in common. Both of us were mutts with mixed heritage, Brigit being a shepherd mix and me being an Irish/Mexican-American with a few drops of Cherokee blood tossed in, not uncommon here in Texas. Both of us could be very stubborn, but both of us were extremely loyal, too. We also tended to overlook each other’s faults. She didn’t mind my sporadic stutter, and I forgave her occasional bouts of flatulence.

The tech led us back to an examination room, closing the door behind us. “Has she been eating well? Having regular bowel movements?”

“I can vouch for both.” As I’d mentioned, the dog consumed enormous quantities of kibble which, naturally, led her to litter the backyard of my rental house with turds the size of cow patties. I had to perform poo-poo patrol every couple of days lest the yard begin to smell like a feedlot. “She’s healthy as a horse.”

“Nearly as big as one, too,” the tech noted. “I won’t bother trying to get her up on the exam table. She’d probably break my back.” The woman knelt down to take Brigit’s temperature and look at her teeth, lifting the dog’s black jowls for a closer peek at her chompers. “Her teeth look nice and clean.”

As well they should. The dog was a master chewer. She’d eaten virtually every pair of shoes I owned before I wised up and began storing them in the top of my closet where she couldn’t reach them. I bought her a never-ending supply of nylon bones to chew, as well as crunchy biscuits. I even brushed her teeth with a specially designed doggy toothbrush and beef-flavored paste. Heck, I took better care of the dog than myself. Here she was, getting her annual checkup right on time, while I was two months overdue for my women’s exam. Not a big fan of the scoot and spread.

The tech finished her preliminary review, notated the file, and tossed Brigit a dog treat from a glass canister on the counter. “Catch, girl.”

Brigit was on her hind legs in an instant, leaping to snatch the treat from the air with the grace and skill of a prima ballerina.

“Dr. Wickham will be in shortly.” With that, the tech slipped through the back door and dropped the paperwork into a plastic bin mounted on the reverse side. The file slid to the bottom of the bin with a thunk.

I sat down on a green vinyl chair and held the dog’s lead loosely in my hand, allowing her to snuffle her way around the room. She put her nose to the floor and took baby steps forward. Snuffle-snuffle. Snuffle-snuffle. She stopped at the corner of the examination table, paying particular attention to the base. Snuffle-snuffle. No doubt many a patient who’d preceded her had marked the spot. Snuffle-snuffle.

Her curiosity satisfied, she returned to me, virtually bending in half so that both her butt and face were aimed in my direction. She wagged her tail and gave me a soft woof that said, Scratch my ass, would ya?

“What have you done for me lately?” I asked.

She failed to respond, of course, but nonetheless I reached out and dug my short nails into the fur at the base of her tail, giving her butt a good and thorough scratch. The things we humans do for our animals. Sheesh. She raised her snout, her eyes closing halfway in pure canine bliss.

“You’re spoiled rotten,” I told her, as if she were at fault. Really, I had no one to blame but myself. When it came to my fuzzy-wuzzy partner, I could sometimes be a pushover.

A noise at the door alerted me that the vet had removed Brigit’s file from the holder. A moment later, the door opened and the doctor, an attractive gray-haired man in his early fifties, stepped inside.

After we exchanged greetings, he glanced down at Brigit with admiration. “Hey, there, Sergeant Brigit.” He bent down to her level and allowed her to sniff his hand. “Remember me from last year? I’m okay, right?”

Brigit’s nose twitched a couple of times before she pulled her head back and raised a front paw. Dr. Wickham laughed and took her paw in his hand, giving it a shake.

The vet looked up at me. “According to the notes in the file, she’s gained six pounds since her last visit.”

She wasn’t the only one. Sitting on my rear in a police cruiser all day didn’t exactly burn a lot of calories.

“That extra weight isn’t good for her joints and bones,” the doctor continued. “You’ll need to cut back on the food and treats.”

On hearing the word “treat” Brigit wagged her tail, obviously thinking she was about to get another goodie when instead the doc had sentenced her to a diet.

“Will do.” Looked like I’d have to be a little less generous with her favorite liver snaps.

He looked into the dog’s ears and eyes, then gave her body a once-over. “Her coat looks healthy and shiny.”

That pretty shine was precisely why I used Brigit’s peach-scented flea shampoo on my own hair, too. But let’s keep that between the two of us, shall we? My long, black locks were one of my best features so I did what I had to do to maintain them. My boyfriend Seth, a bomb squad officer with the Fort Worth Fire Department, enjoyed playing with my tresses. I, in turn, enjoyed the way Seth looked at me while he fingered my hair, as if he were burning for me and only I could put out the fire.

The vet proceeded to feel along Brigit’s ribs and abdomen, spread her back legs to test her hips for dysplasia, then used a stethoscope to listen to her heart. “Strong ticker. Everything else looks fine, too.”

Good to know. Although I hoped to make detective someday, Brigit and I would have several more years together before then.

The tech reappeared with three syringes for Brigit’s shots. “Here you go, doc,” she said, holding them out.

The vet took the syringes and motioned for me to join him on the floor. “She trusts you. See if you can hold her still while I give her these shots.”

Wrapping my arms around Brigit to immobilize her, I murmured to distract her while the vet administered the inoculations. “Be a b-brave girl, Brigit. You can do it. Nothing to worry about.”

As the doctor inserted a needle into the dog’s hip she turned her head toward him and whimpered, but thankfully made no attempt to bite the man.

“Good girl!” the vet praised her when he finished, stroking her shoulder. He instructed me to continue holding her while he retrieved a long plastic stick with a narrow loop on the end. “Now for the fecal sample.”

He circled around behind her, wrapped his hands under her abdomen, and lifted her to a standing position. “In we go.”

He gently inserted the stick into Brigit’s rear. Her eyes went wide and she emitted a Ruh? of shock before giving me a look that said she’d never, ever trust me again.

THREE

NO WAY TO TREAT A DOG

Sergeant Brigit

Pervert!

As soon as the vet removed the stick from her backside, Brigit plunked her hindquarters down firmly on the cold tile. If that sicko had any other plans for her rectum, he better just forget it.

She cast a glance at her partner. For the most part, she trusted Megan. But why her partner allowed this man to put Brigit through such an indignity the dog would never know. And she hadn’t even given Brigit a liver treat afterward! If it wasn’t for the fact that Megan let Brigit sleep in her bed with her at night as well as took her to the dog park on a regular basis, Brigit might consider putting in for a transfer.

 

Copyright © 2016 Diane Kelly.

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Diane Kelly is the author of the Paw Enforcement series, which includes Paw and Order and Laying Down the Paw. She is a former CPA and tax attorney, who had several brushes with white-collar criminals during her career. When she realized her experiences made excellent fodder for novels, her fingers hit the keyboard and thus began her Special Agent Tara Holloway romantic mystery series. A recipient of the 2009 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, she has received more than two dozen RWA chapter awards. Diane's fiction, tax, and humor pieces have appeared in True Love Magazine, Writer's Digest Yearbook, Romance Writers Report, Byline Magazine, and other publications. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizen Police Academy.

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