“You have got to be kidding me,” I said, staring at the small hole in the chain-link fence. The little bit of grass on the other side was mostly dead, and the yard was full of debris. There was an old building not far from the fence that appeared to have been a small barn at one time. An abandoned pickup truck was nearby, but there wasn’t a house or other livable structure. The ground was damp and muddy as it had recently rained. I glanced down at my new, expensive tennis shoes before looking at my companion.
“Are you sure?” I asked. The only response was a sharp bark and pawing on the ground. Hero is a trained search-and-rescue dog, and he is very good at his job. He barked a second time and sat by the fence. I leaned over and gave him a brisk pat. “Okay, give me just a minute.”
Retrieving my cell phone from the pocket of my jeans, I placed a call. Although the property looked deserted, I wasn’t about to go traipsing around without verification. Claire answered on the first ring.
“Lost and Found Pets. This is Claire. How may I help you?”
Claire is my complete opposite. She is short and just a little chubby. She has long blond hair, pretty blue eyes, and a sweet smile. Her bubbly personality comes through with every word she speaks. She is friendly, kind, and supportive. How the two of us became friends is still a mystery to me.
“I need you to do a property search,” I said as soon as she finished her greeting. “Hero found Mr. Fluffy’s trail, but it leads to a fenced property.”
“What’s the address?”
I gave her the particulars and waited while she performed the search. Mr. Fluffy was the lost cat that I was currently trying to locate. The Lost and Found Pets agency tries to live up to its name. We attempt to find lost pets.
I have always loved animals, and I discovered that there was a need for someone to look for lost pets. People love their animal companions. They are willing to pay a great deal of money to find their furry friend. Our clientele consists mostly of those who have money to burn and prefer someone else do all the work. They may be young, up-and-coming professionals who want someone to come home to but don’t have the time to search for them should they get lost, or the elderly whose loss of a pet upsets them so much they have difficulty navigating a basic search for an animal. We also get clients who have exhausted all their own resources and turn to us as a last resort. Lost and Found Pets is a licensed private investigations firm. We are just very specialized.
“It looks like the last owner died about three years ago, and the property hasn’t been claimed. There are a couple of years of back taxes on the books but nothing else. I’m surprised no one has claimed it yet. It’s in a prime spot.”
“Okay, that’s what I needed to know. Thanks, Claire.”
Hero and I were standing on what was probably once a gravel road. Now it was just a large opening dividing several acres of land. I couldn’t see a gate or opening anywhere. It was probably on the other side of the property. If we went around, Hero might have lost Mr. Fluffy’s scent so I reached into my backpack and pulled out a pair of wire cutters. Searching for lost pets often takes me to hard-to-reach places. I carry a whole arsenal of tools. I made quick work of the fence. Hero bounded through first. He is a large brown German Shepherd, but I had to cut the fence even more before I could squeeze through.
After stepping through the fence, I gave Hero the command, and he took off running. I followed a little more slowly, hoping to avoid the muddier areas. Hero headed to the back of the barnlike structure. It was small and falling down. Whoever had owned the place hadn’t done any work on it in years. I heard Hero bark and sped up my pace. When I rounded the corner, I saw at once that I didn’t need to hurry.
“Damn it,” I said softly as I approached the doorway to the barn. The poor cat was dead. His collar had caught on a nail, and it looked like he might have choked to death. There were signs of a struggle. His collar was torn in places, but he hadn’t managed to tear it completely. Mr. Fluffy had been an indoor cat, and his collar was pretty but not designed to break away or stretch. He hadn’t been dead long as his body was still intact. The owners had only realized he was missing that morning. They contacted me midday after a brief search. It was a very typical scenario.
About fifty percent of the time, we are able to find the lost animal. Unfortunately, sometimes we find them too late. Like now. I blinked back tears as I pulled a plastic container from my backpack and gently placed Mr. Fluffy inside. Most of my clients don’t want to see their dead pet, but sometimes they need proof that the animal is actually gone. Hero whined softly. I handed him a treat, which he took but ate slowly, giving me a sad look. I rubbed his head.
“I know, boy. Me too.”
The Lost Great Dane is the first novella in the Lost and Found Pets series. Alexandra Prescott is a licensed private investigator specializing in finding missing animals. Reuniting pet and owner is more than just a job.
While searching for a lost cat, Alex finds a weak and injured Great Dane. The dog has no collar, no tags, and no microchip. And the only person looking for him is a man who might have murdered his own wife.
Within 24 hours, Alex has a hunted dog, a cryptic message, and a hitman on her tail. She realizes the only way out of this mess is to solve the mystery of the lost Great Dane.