“See you then.” Jean hung up and got up to put the water on to boil. Karen would want a cup of tea when she came.
They took their tea out to the patio where Karen read what Jean had written. “Hmm.” She dunked the teabag in her cup. “A good list. But I had a different idea.”
“We ask Summer and the kids if they know about it.”
“About dog fighting?”
Karen nodded. “Summer still has those links to her old life. She may be able to find out.”
Jean chewed her lower lip. “It won’t get her in trouble, will it?”
“I don’t think so. If she thinks it will, we won’t let her do it.”
“Okay. When she gets home from school, we’ll ask.”
Karen grinned. “Good. Finish your tea and get your hiking boots on. We’re going to go out looking for Sandy again.”
“I’m good with that.” Jean fished her teabag out of her mug.
They spent the hot, sunny morning traipsing around every pond, pool of water and stream bed with water in it but no Sandy. “It’s not looking good, Karen.”
“True.” Karen wiped the sweat from her forehead. The car unlocked and she got inside. “Ahh. Feels good to get off my feet.”
“Yep.” Jean cranked the air conditioner. The car was stifling. “Ready for lunch?”
“I am. Dog hunting is hungry work.”
Jean laughed. “Okay. Where to?”
“Sammy’s? We were just at the Highway Diner.”
“Sounds good to me.”
At the diner, they discussed garden clean-up for the end of the year until their food arrived. As they ate, they could overhear four men in the back-corner booth.
“Yeah, it was a good take last week but we need better dogs.”
Jean froze, fork halfway to her mouth and she stared at a wide-eyed Karen. She started to turn to see the men when Jean put her hand on Karen’s arm and shook her head. Karen nodded. They listened, Jean’s eyes on the table.
“You gotta get bigger dogs. Those 30 pounders just don’t cut it. The people want to see big dogs fighting it out.”
“They’re the warm-up rounds. They get bets.”
“No, they don’t. No one bets till the big dogs come out.”
One of the men lowered his voice. Jean couldn’t make out the words. It must have been a joke because at the end they all laughed. She realized she had a death grip on her fork, her nails had dug cuts into the palm of her hand.
“I’ve got a guy comin’ Saturday. He’s got a Rottweiler that will take out Morgan’s German shepherd for sure.”
“Way. You wait and see.”
“I gotta get back to work. You boys keep it clean.”
They all laughed and got up from their booth. Jean and Karen pretended to eat as they passed. It wasn’t until the men paid and left the building that Jean dared to breathe. “Oh, my God!”
Karen nodded, face white as her napkin. “They just talked about it like it was no big deal.”
“We need to find out where the ring is. Saturday is in two days.” Jean dabbed at the cuts on her palm with her napkin dipped in her glass of water.
“Do we tell Paul?”
“What do you think?”
“I think we should. These are not nice guys.”
Jean nodded despite wanting to track it down. “When he gives us his missing dog report, we’ll tell him.”
She picked up the check the waitress had left on the table. “I’m not hungry. Are you?”
Karen shook her head. “Not anymore.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
When they got to Jean’s house, the phone was ringing. She dashed to pick it up. “Hello?”
“Jean, it’s Paul Oliver.”
“Hey Paul.” Jean waved Karen over. “I’m putting you on speaker so Karen can hear. Okay, go ahead.”
“Glad I caught you two together. Let me say, I didn’t realize there were so many missing dogs.”
“How many?” Jean asked as she nodded to Karen.
“Just this year, fifty-three. All kinds of dogs.”
“That’s more than one a week, Paul!” Karen said.
“It is. Here’s what gets me. Many of these reports say they don’t know how the dog got lost. They were in a secure back yard or in a kennel in the back yard or like your missing dog, at the dog park. I went over to the dog park and checked out the fence. No dog is getting through there.”
“Dog-napping. Margaret over at the Humane Society was telling us. The thieves dress like workers, walk right into the yard and take the dogs. No one pays any attention to those vans parked in the neighborhoods.”
“I’ll talk to Margaret. I thought you two were being over-dramatic.”
“Not this time,” Karen gave Jean a glance. “We have some more news for you.”
They could hear him sigh. “What is it?”
“We overheard four men at Sammy’s diner at lunch. They were talking about dog fighting.”
The line was silent for a moment. “In what way?”
“Like there was a fight last Saturday, with betting. One of the men said the betting could be heavier. He has a guy coming this Saturday with a Rottweiler that would take out the current reigning German Shepherd.” Karen looked to Jean, who nodded.
After a pause, “You don’t know the men?”
“No,” Jean said. “We did our best not to draw attention to ourselves.”
“Probably for the best. Don’t you two go sticking your noses into that. These guys are dangerous.”
“Do you hear me? I’m taking this to Nick. He will not like it if you two get involved.”
“Okay, Paul.” Jean rolled her eyes.
“I hear you,” Karen said.
“Good. I’ll email the report on the missing dogs to you. There’s nothing classified about it.”
They hung up.
“Well. Isn’t that a fine thing. We bring him this news and he shuts us out.”
“Don’t you think we’ve been attacked enough?”
“I suppose.” She put the phone back in the cradle. “But let’s see what Summer can find out, anyway.”
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