Frankie the dog’s owner arrived on the scene shortly after the police had—she was a pale, willowy woman with tufty gray hair and bloodshot eyes, and she practically fell over herself in relief the minute she spotted her pet.
“Frankie,” she wheezed. “Frankie, darling, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” She bent and threw her arms around the dog. Frankie went wild wagging his tail and licking her cheeks.
I grimaced, if only she knew what had been in his mouth just twenty minutes earlier.
“Miss Holmes,” Detective Wilkes said. “Try not to get distracted. I need a clear statement from you before I can let you go for the evening.”
The minute the police had arrived, Cassidy and I had been separated by police officers and questioned about what was going on, all while another officer held onto Frankie’s collar like he would bolt.
“I’ve told you what happened,” I said, trying not to come across as impatient. Bee had come out to find me and stood next to the restaurant door, arms folded, and eyes narrowed. “I got a phone call and stepped out to take it and then I saw Cassidy and the dog. And the bone.” I tried not to think too much about it.
The police had already taken it into evidence.
“Is this going to be a murder investigation?” I asked.
Wilkes gave me an expression that said he’d suffered enough under the prodding and interference from Bee and me. I didn’t blame him. We’d inserted ourselves into almost every investigation he’d had in Muffin in the last six months. I had no doubt that he’d be happy to see the back of our food truck one of these days.
“I’m not at liberty to give you that information,” Wilkes said, at last.
Bee snorted nearby.
“But you’re asking me questions that make it seem like…”
“I’m doing my job, Miss Holmes,” he snapped. “And my job doesn’t include listening to your deductions, reasoning or anything other than the facts of what happened this evening. I’d like you to come by the station and give your full statement this evening.”
I nodded. “That’s fine. I just—”
“You!” The dog’s owner had risen. She glared at Cassidy. “I trusted you to look after Frankie. What happened?”
Cassidy froze, mid-stride—she’d just finished with talking to an officer. “Uh… Greta. Hello.”
“You were meant to make sure he never gets off the lead.”
“The lead… I—”
“That was our agreement,” Greta, the dog owner, continued. “You reneged on our agreement.”
“What agreement?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of my manners.
“That’s none of your business,” Cassidy cried.
“She’s my dog walker.”
I clamped my lips together to keep from interfering again, but the cogs were already turning. If Cassidy was Greta’s dogwalker, why had she pretended that she didn’t want Frankie anywhere near her and that she’d been terrified of him? Had she wanted the bone to be discovered?
And why on earth had she been walking Frankie so late at night?
Before I could say anything, Greta marched over to Cassidy and grabbed hold of her arm. “You’re not going anywhere,” she said. “You’ve done something.”
“Let go of me!” Cassidy yelled.
“Ma’am, you need to calm down,” Detective Wilkes said, stepping toward the tense situation. His palms out. “You don’t want to cause any trouble, do you?”
Police officers in uniform had erected the cordon, and they were still on the scene, the lights of their police vehicles off, now. They stood nearby, straightening and suddenly alert.
Greta released Cassidy, but the tension didn’t ease. Frankie barked and wagged his tail.
“What are you doing with my Frankie?” Greta hissed at the dog walker.
“I wasn’t with him,” Cassidy snapped. “I was going for my evening run, that’s all.” She plucked at her clothes. “It’s the only chance I get.”
“Then how did he get out?”
“I don’t know. Your gate was open when I ran past, and he chased me.” Cassidy folded her arms.
“Why didn’t you bring him home?”
That was a good question from Greta. I would’ve followed up with why had Cassidy feigned being afraid of a dog she walked every day but tensions were already high. The women glared at each other like their looks could kill. Not ideal, given that Frankie had been carrying a human bone.
Eugh. Who did it belong to?
I backed toward the front of the restaurant and joined my friend, Bee.
“Why didn’t you bring him home?” Greta repeated.
“It’s not my place,” Cassidy said. “I just walk your dog. I’m not a full-time employee!”
“You careless woman!” Greta pushed Cassidy, two palms straight to her shoulders.
Cassidy stumbled back and gasped. She straightened her track suit jacket. “How dare you!”
“Ma’am!” Wilkes started forward and the police did too. But it was already too late.
A bar-style brawl broke out between Greta and Cassidy, and Frankie leaped to his paws and barked frantically, leaping and nipping and wagging his tail in the excitement. He ran between two police officers and knocked them over, eliciting yells, and made for the women—who were now slap-fighting.
Bee and I stood frozen, eyes wide and fixed on the fray.
Frankie took a running jump and knocked into the women. Greta stumbled, but Cassidy fell, flinging her arms outward, grasping for purchase that never came. She landed ‘oof’ on her backside and set of keys dropped from her pocket.
Greta gasped and pointed at her. “That’s my… that’s my ‘I heart Muffin’ keyring! Those are my keys.”
Cassidy opened her mouth to respond, but Frankie leaped onto her and started licking her face.
“She stole my keys!” Greta shrieked. “She stole them. Arrest her! Arrest her. Wait, no, what are you doing? I said arrest her, not me!” The police officers slapped Greta in cuffs, then got Cassidy off the floor and did the same with her. They were escorted to two separate cars, while Frankie was collected, placed on a lead and taken off as well.
“Public nuisance and assault if one of them decides to press charges,” Bee muttered, shaking her head. “They won’t hold them for long, I think, but they’ll need to talk to them anyway. What on earth is going on?”
“Another murder,” I said. “An old one.”
“And one you’re not getting involved in,” Detective Wilkes spoke next to us and I nearly jumped clean out of my skin. “I’m not kidding around this time, ladies. One hint of trouble…” He narrowed his eyes at us.
“No trouble here, detective,” I said, sweetly. Bee glowered at him until he’d gotten into his car and started the engine.
We probably wouldn’t investigate. Oh, who was I kidding?
An old bone had been dug up, maybe a skeleton even. If that wasn’t fuel for a mystery, I didn’t know what was.