Secret Senior Sleuths Society Mysteries Book 2

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Chapter 1

A Body – Madame Sleuth

The Case of the Vanishing Vixen is now a closed book in what will certainly be the long annals of the history of the Secret Senior Sleuth’s Society of Peacock Perch.

With two successfully cracked cases to our credit, thwarting a theft ring and recovering a missing person, as presiding investigator, I’ve compiled a highly competent team and am confident our deductive prowess can handle any case that comes our way. And there will be more.

People are so myopic about the inner workings of active-adult retirement communities. They think all we do is play cards and bingo and lie by the pool in the warm Florida weather.

They have no idea what happens when you put a few thousand people from different backgrounds together every day with so much time on their hands. It’s an absolute hornet’s nest.

Senior communities are full of misdeeds and mystery; you just need to know where to look.

As I’m filing the evidence from the vanishing vixen case, Queens Quister comes bursting into my office, nearly out of breath from excitement.

“Madame, the police are at Pheasant Villas. The neighbor says someone found a dead body and a barking dog left on the lanai alone. I wonder if it’s a murder. Hurry!”

I grab my purse and head out the door. With an actual body this time, we can do so much more investigative.

I quickly send a group email to the other sleuths to meet me at the address in Pheasant Villas. It is thrilling to have a fresh case to crack.

When Queens and I arrive, we see the coroner’s van and two police cars. The police have the home taped off and the coroner’s team is loading a draped body on a gurney into the van. Unfortunately, we are a little late, but I want to get any information I can, so I leave Queens at the curb and march up to the officer standing at the front door.

“Officer, I am the president of the homeowner’s association. What’s going on here?” I ask.

“Nothing to see here, ma’am. The neighbor called us because a dog was barking day and night. Some guy just died of a heart attack. Please step back,” he orders with no inflection in his voice.

“Is there anyone else in the home?” I persist.

“No, just a dog. We put it in the bathroom,” the officer answers quickly.

“I’m his neighbor and I have a spare key. I’ll ensure that everything is locked up,” I insist, showing him a key.

Ma’am, I can’t turn this over to anyone,” the officer says.

“Anyone? I told you my credentials,” I step into the door and fold my arms so he knows I mean business.

He glances around for another officer and seeing none, shakes his head.

“Ok, lady, but I’ll call the security guys to make sure it’s locked.” He sighs and leaves.

Even though I had to fib about being on the board and a close neighbor, sometimes you must force your hand and assert dominance. It is like the animal kingdom; there can only be one queen.

I wait for the police to leave and wave to Queens Quister to come into the house.

“What did the police say, Madame?” Queens asks.

“They say he died of a heart attack,” I explain.

“Oh, what a shame. Then that’s it. No mystery here,” Queens says.

“On the contrary, my dear. Until we know that his depressing demise is indeed due to a myocardial infarction, heart attack in layman’s terms, we will pursue our investigation.”

Just as we walk into the house, Newshound comes through the door right behind us.

“I got the email. What are we doing at this house? I was just here a few days ago,” he says.

“What do you mean you were here?” I ask.

“For the Willow Wisteria case. I was tracking down people who hadn’t picked up their mail in a while. I came here to drop off a week of mail and ask questions, but no one answered the door. And when I walked around to the lanai door, a vicious dog drove me off.” He points to a plastic bag in the corner of the lanai. “See—that’s where I dropped the mail.”

“Someone died here. Get the mail—we may need it,” I order him.

Newshound stands still glancing around in all directions then slowly creeps out the sliding glass door and picks up the bag on the other side of the door and comes back into the house.

“Watch out. There’s a man-eating dog,” he warns as he toggles his head around again.

“Well, it’s a good thing we’re women; we’ll be fine,” I say succinctly.

“Madame, I don’t know what you think we’ll find,” Queens says.

“The first rule in detective work is to observe objects at the occurrence. It can be anything that doesn’t seem right. Take some pictures with your phone,” I direct.

We walk around the main room, not knowing where the police found the body. Since they thought the death was a heart attack, they didn’t leave any crime tape or trace the body out on the floor.

The home is a typical Florida design with pale yellow walls, tan furniture, beige tiles and white cabinets, decorated with the common beach theme of shells and pictures of water and sand, plus several personal pictures of family and some mementos. Not my taste, but I’ve seen worse. At least it’s not all rattan.

Some cabinet doors are open and the pantry is a mess, with boxes and cans strewn on the floor and dried food spilled everywhere.

Newshound says he was here a few days ago and no one answered the door, so our victim could have been dead for days.

“Here’s a wedding picture and a recent picture with his wife. At least she looks like the same person. Where is she?” Queens says, pointing to the pictures.

Then Inspector Instinct arrives through the lanai door.

“What’s going on? Where’s Bob?” he asks.

“You know who lives here?” Newshound asks.

“Yes, Bob and Laurie Spolarich. They’re friends of ours,” he says, puzzled.

“Sorry, the police found him dead of a heart attack,” Newshound says solemnly.

“Yes, and we’re foraging for clues to ensure there’s no foul play,” I state.

Instinct bows and shakes his head, speaking in somber, sad tones.

“That’s a real shame. He has been a little off lately, but I didn’t know he was that sick,” Instinct says.

“He may have been here for days. The police say the dog was barking night and day, so a neighbor called,” I explain.

“Wow, that’s strange. He never barks. We’ve been away for a few days and Laurie’s been up north for the last couple weeks. Her sister’s daughter just had a baby, so she’s helping out. She and Bob didn’t have any kids, so she’s very close to her niece. Where’s Tobacco?”

Inspector Instinct walks around the house yelling the dog’s name.

“The police put him in the bathroom,” I say.

“Look, Madame, the dog’s food and water bowls are empty,” Queens observes.

“If the wife’s been gone and the dog was hungry, he probably got into the cabinets and pantry trying to find food,” I deduce.

Inspector Instinct returns with a happy dark chocolate Labrador trailing him.

“Poor guy,” he says, scratching around the dog’s ears.

“Keep that thing away from me!” Newshound shies away from the dog. “That Cujo snarled his teeth and barked at me before.”

“No. He’s very friendly and completely harmless,” Instinct says as the dog’s tail wags furiously in delight.

“Hey, look at this. Is this one of those AI gadgets?” Queens asks, pointing to a small black ball on the bookcase with an electric eye.

Instinct and I walk over to her and decipher the device.

“No, it’s a doggy cam. It works on a phone app. They use it for when they’re away to ensure Tobacco is being a good boy,” Instinct describes. 

“Fan out. Let’s find his phone. Since we don’t have the body, that recording can rescue this case!” I exclaim.

We inspect all the rooms, scanning places people usually leave their cellphones. Finally, Instinct calls out that he found it and everyone runs to him.

“Bob’s not much of a techie, so I helped him put the app on his phone,” Instinct says, pushing a few buttons on the phone. “His password is 1234. I’ll go back a few days. Here it is.”

We gather around him and study the screen. It shows Bob smoking a pipe and then suddenly doubling over and falling to the ground. And the dog is licking his lips.

“Yuck. I’d hate the last thing I taste to be dog slobber,” Newshound says.

“Wait, can you go back to where he fell?” Queens asks.

Instinct rewinds the video, and then Queens leans in to get a closer peep. “He’s not clutching his chest or arm or anything. I’ve seen a heart attack, and that doesn’t look like it,” she suggests.

“Very perceptive,” I agree. “He’s doubled over and is holding his hand closer to his throat, like he’s choking.”

“Hey, what if he was poisoned?” Newshounds speculates. “Often it gives off a whiff of almonds, so the dog may have been licking Bob’s mouth as if he smelled food.”

“Wonderful—we have a case. Sorry, Instinct, but there’s evidence of felonious foul play here. We owe it to Bob to find out what happened. Back to work. I’ll call this case ‘The Peril at Peacock Perch,’” I announce.

Queens, Newshound and I leave the home. Instinct says he has a spare key so he’ll lock up and take the dog home with him until the victim’s wife can get back.

“I’ll contact the rest of the society and fill them in,” I say. “I’m calling a meeting at the recreation center. We need to get right on this.”

This work is copyrighted (c) 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, all rights reserved.

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