Hounded:A Steamy Shifter MysteryBy: Tasha Black
“Well, he died,” Seth said immediately.
“The owner of the estate,” Dulcie murmured.
“Exactly. Hugo was so set on wealth for his family, he didn’t stop to question the wording - rather than cursing only himself, he had cursed every future owner of the estate. In doing so, he ruined my great-uncle as well, and… well, as soon as the estate is settled…” Henry trailed off.
“You,” Dulcie breathed.
Van listened intently.
All the talk of ghostly white hounds hit a little too close to home.
The door swung open, and Wenderly pushed in a cart with a bunch of tea party stuff. Van had smelled him coming, but was still a little startled. He found his hand going protectively to the back of Dulcie’s chair.
“Your tea, Henry,” Wenderly said.
“Thank you, Jack,” Henry replied.
The older man left the room and Seth busied himself handing out tea. Much to Van’s satisfaction, his hand shook a little when putting Van’s cup in front of him.
“One lump or two?” he asked Dulcie.
“Two, please,” she said.
Van knew that two lumps of sugar were not going to be enough for her. But she seemed to be embarrassed to ask for more. Odd.
When they were all situated, Dulcie leaned forward to Henry.
“I know the story seems like it could be true,” she said. “And the paw prints near your great-uncle’s body make it seem more real. Pardon me for saying, but you’re a writer. And so far, this all seems like the product of a creative imagination under a great deal of stress. There has to be more for you to be taking this so seriously.”
Henry placed his cup back on the saucer.
“I knew Mr. Cho brought you here for a reason,” he replied. “You’re absolutely right. There is something more.”
As Henry pulled out a leather journal and began to rifle through the pages, Van surreptitiously put three more lumps of sugar in Dulcie’s tea.
She turned her head slightly to smile at him and finally picked up the cup for a sip.
He couldn’t help but wonder about her sugar kick. She seemed to be a pretty healthy eater, but when it came to her beverages, the sweeter, the better.
Of course, he wasn’t without his own vices. And Dulcie was quickly becoming one of them.
“Here it is,” Henry said, as he pulled an envelope from the between the pages of the journal. He began to read aloud:
“I hunger for souls,
Rudolph’s wasn’t filling.
I’m coming back for you, Henry.
Prepare for a killing.”
He passed it around to them and they looked it over in silence. A large paw print graced the bottom of the letter. Van held it close, pretending to be examining the details, and breathed deeply.
Not nothing, like a smell he couldn’t identify. Nothing like it had no scent at all. Not paper, not ink, not the oils from the fingers of whoever wrote it. Not even the residual odors from the people he had just watched handle it.
He didn’t know how it was possible, but suddenly, he was very interested in finding the person who wrote the note.
“Does this actually match the prints that were at the site?” he asked Henry.
“I… I think so,” Henry said, surprised. “I didn’t really stop to think about it.”
“We should check it out,” Van said.
“You would come with me?” Henry asked.
Van realized the man was scared, actually scared. If anyone knew that impossible things could be quite possible, it was Van.
“Sure, man, glad to,” he said.
“We’ll all come,” Dulcie added.
Henry smiled, as did Seth, who looked more than a little nervous.
They all returned to the front hall. Henry opened the closet door and grabbed a boot. Then he knelt to look for the other.
As far as Van could see, the closet was pristine and well-organized. It smelled clean, like fresh strawberries instead of musty clothes. Even the single boot showed only the slightest trace of the dark, loamy forest soil.
“That’s odd,” Henry said. “Jack, where’s the other boot?”
“Will the mysteries never cease?” Dulcie joked.
“My apologies,” Henry said. “I’ll go track down some shoes and be back in a moment.”
“Seth, stay with him,” Van instructed in a way that didn’t leave room for debate. “Dulcie and I will head out to the Preserve now and see what we can find.”
He turned and grabbed Dulcie by the hand before she could protest. He pulled her quickly to the front door and stepped into the crisp autumn air.
“What the heck?” Dulcie asked, wrenching her hand away as soon as they were off the porch. Van really had some nerve.
“Those two are a mess,” he replied calmly. “You’re the detective, I’m the K-9. We’re going to solve this.”
Dulcie couldn’t hold back a smile.
“Ok, K-9, let’s go for a hike,” she said lightly.
The fall air brushed Dulcie’s hair against her shoulders. She felt good, so engaged in what was happening today. A smile tugged the corners of her lips.