The Mystery of the Dogman
A Jenny & Pete Mystery
A Children’s Mystery Series
A story of adventure and friendship
for kids who love dogs, ghosts,
angels and best friends
Copyright © 2011 Hays Williams
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Printed in the United States of America.
Although the town of Hamilton is loosely based on a real town, this book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Beaver Bayou Publishing
Jenny stood in the second floor hallway wondering which way to go. She saw a staircase going up, and two going down, and was certain one more led to a dark basement. The raging storm beat rain against the windows. Thunder rumbled in the distance, growing louder...moving closer.
“Jenny, come here...I need you.”
She barely heard her mother’s cry for help, and didn’t know where it came from. She ran from one staircase to the other, but couldn’t find her. She looked up toward the attic.
Her mother cried every day since Jenny’s father died. She tried to hide it, but Jenny knew. Her soft, heart-wrenching sobs tore at Jenny's soul. She had to find her.
“I'm coming, Mom...”
She started toward the front stairs and lightning shot across the sky. Thunder rocked the house and the hallway lights flickered. Jenny crossed her fingers and hoped the electricity wouldn’t go out, but thick darkness swirled around her. She raised one hand to her face. All she saw was a velvety blackness.
She moved to her right and found the wall. Slowly she felt her way toward the stairs. One hand found the banister and gripped it. She stepped down, but there was nothing there. She felt herself falling and tried to scream, but her voice wouldn't come. Her mother cried, “Jenny...”
Jenny woke up when the van hit a bump in the highway. She blinked in confusion and then remembered. They were on their way to Hamilton; tonight she would sleep in a strange bed in a room that wasn't hers. In two days she would walk into Hamilton High School and face a bunch of strangers. She hated the discomfort of napping in the back seat, but it had provided a brief escape. Jenny swallowed hard and tried not to cry. She wanted to stop the bad dreams, but more than that she wanted her father back and she wanted to live in Boston. She wanted to go ice skating with him at Frog Pond and have hot chocolate at The Cottage. She wanted him to walk in Mallard Park with her and Sam.
Jenny pulled herself up and looked around. The view was the same in both directions. Sprawling fields of cotton and soybeans stretched for miles across the Mississippi delta. She'd seen it all before, even thought it was pretty. The annual visits with her grandparents were fun, but she never thought of the South as a place to live.
Sam looked up and thumped his tail against the van floor. He placed his head on her leg and nuzzled her hand. Jenny reached out and ruffled the black and gold hair on the German Shepherd’s neck. She envied him. He accepted the changes in their lives as if he possessed some sort of mysterious wisdom. But she hated it, all of it, especially moving to Hamilton.
Her mother loved Hamilton, and that enormous house where she was born. It belonged to them, and she promised Jenny that moving there would give them a fresh start. A new life, she'd called it. The thought of starting a new life terrified Jenny; the unfamiliar people, the big house, the endless staircases, and...the woods.
“Where are we, Mom?”
“Almost to the bridge. Did you have a good nap?”
“I guess so.” Jenny sat up and then leaned close to the window, startled by the sight of a sprawling group of brightly colored buildings.
“Look, Jenny. That must be the casino. I heard last year they were building one,” her mother tried to make conversation. Another effort to cheer Jenny up and take her mind off of Boston.
As the van moved onto the bridge, Jenny glanced back at the casino, thinking how out of place it looked at the edge of the river.
The Mississippi River was high in its banks and wider than she remembered. She liked the way the sunlight danced on the surface, creating silvery highlights in the brown water. A towboat struggled to push a row of barges against the current. After a few seconds, Jenny decided snails moved faster.
The van left the bridge and a weather-beaten sign welcomed them to Hamilton. Jenny gazed at the tree-covered ridge on which much of the town was built. An old southern town, her mother called it. It was too far south to suit Jenny, and she hated the thought of living there. She looked back at the bridge and wished she could sprout wings and fly back to Boston. Back to her home and the places she loved. She knew Hamilton might have a park, but there would be no ice rink.
She leaned back, remembering her last visit to Frog Pond. Her dad said she was his favorite partner and he took her skating whenever he could, even after he became sick. Her mother took a vacation day and went with them on their last trip. She watched Jenny and her dad skate to some of the slower music. Jenny didn't know which was worse, her mom dabbing her eyes as she watched, or the weariness in her dad's face. In spite of that weariness, he mustered enough strength to skate one final waltz with her mom, and then enjoy hot cocoa before going home. Jenny cried whenever she remembered how her parents looked at each other and the way her dad caressed her mom's hands. It was their last family outing together.
The van rounded a curve and hit a pothole. Swept back to reality, Jenny stared into the darkest woods she’d ever seen. She remembered the woods, but she didn’t remember the trees being so thick and tall. No sunlight reached the ground, and a person would disappear if he wandered a few yards from the road. Something else caught her eye and she gasped.
“Mom, look!” Jenny pointed.
They were halfway past the woods when she saw the sign. Made from an old rough board, it was nailed to a large tree and impossible to miss, even in the late afternoon shade. Jenny swallowed hard as she read the huge black lettering: BEWARE OF THE DOGMAN!
Her mother laughed. “I guess Hamilton hasn't changed much. Boys still play pranks.”
Jenny hoped it was a prank. If not, what could it mean? She wrapped her arms around Sam's neck and looked back at the sign. It had to be a prank. Whoever heard of a dogman? She turned away from the woods.
Her stomach growled. “Mom, I'm hungry. When do we eat?”
Sam's ears perked up and Jenny laughed.
“A better question would be where do we eat. Hamilton isn't exactly like Boston, you know.”
I know, Jenny sighed and closed her eyes. Please don't remind me. Her mother turned the van into the winding driveway of a huge two-story house. Jenny gazed at her new home as they drove around to the back porch. She longed for a way to fast forward her life to adulthood, or at least say some magic words and make her fear vanish. “Want to go out for sandwiches after we unload the van?”
“Sure, Mom. Okay by me.”
She preferred pizza, but the past year had taught her that sometimes it was easier just to go along than argue. Their last big argument was a few weeks ago when her mom blindsided her with the decision to move to Hamilton. It had been a desperate act, like a drowning person reaching for a life preserver. Jenny wasn't convinced it would work. And she now realized even small disagreements seemed to throw her mom.
The house reminded her of one she'd seen on a magazine cover, and like the one in her dream, the size of it frightened her. She'd never seen a house with so many staircases. And she'd never seen such gigantic oak trees. They lined the property and surrounded the house on three sides like a protective cloak.
The original owners gave the house its name and Jenny wondered what the Bonner family was like. Her grandfather loved Bonner House and made certain Jenny knew its history. It was built before the Civil War and served as a military headquarters because of its wide view of the river from the east windows. Now the tall oak trees blocked the view, and the river could only be seen after the leaves fell. Jenny looked at the trees and wondered what winter in Hamilton would be like. There would be no snowmen and no sledding, and no snowball fights with her dad. She'd never have another white Christmas.
She looked back toward the woods, glad to see the trees thinned out a little near her home. Why do they have to be so close to the house, and on my only route to school?
“Well...we're home, Jenny.”
“Looks that way, Mom.” Jenny didn’t move.
“It'll be okay, sweetheart, you’ll see. We have to give ourselves time.”
Jenny watched her mother head to the back door with Sam close behind, before picking up a small box close to her feet. Its old mailing label with the Christmas tree printed in one corner was now a segment of her history. The box was addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Evans and daughter. Now it's Mrs. Elizabeth Evans and daughter. Nothing will ever be the same.
She heard the crunch of footsteps and looked up. Rudy Mitchell, a neighbor and lifelong friend of her grandparents sauntered into view.
“Hello there, Jenny girl. It's been a long time.”
Uncle Rudy looked like Santa Claus, and he laughed like Santa when she first told him so. Jenny wondered if he remembered.
He held out his arms. “Come over here and give old Santa a big hug.”
She laughed and got out of the van. “Uncle Rudy, you haven't changed one bit.”
“Well, young lady, I sure can't say the same about you. You've grown into quite a young woman. And a pretty one too.” Uncle Rudy spoke with so much emphasis on the word “pretty” that Jenny wondered what her mother told him before they arrived.
Jenny thought of the small dinner party her parents hosted four years ago to welcome a new doctor and his wife. She was supposed to stay in her room, but she went downstairs for a snack. She was about to walk through the kitchen door when she heard her name.
“Poor child. Doesn't look a thing like her mother.”
“I know. Isn't it a shame? Elizabeth's so lovely, and that auburn hair is divine.”
“I wonder how someone so beautiful could have such a plain child.”
Jenny ran back up the stairs with tears pouring down her cheeks. She didn't look like her mom, except for her deep blue eyes, but she'd never felt ugly before.
Her dad could always tell when something wasn’t okay. Two days later he caught Jenny studying herself in the mirror. She never forgot what he said.
“Sweetie, you’re one of the lucky ones...what I call a late bloomer.”
When Jenny looked at him quizzically, he explained. “Think about the flowers, Jenny. Some of them blossom and are gorgeous in the spring. Then they wither away. Others don’t bloom until summer, but they continue to bloom until frost. And they’re the best.”
“Hi, Uncle Rudy.” Jenny's mother hugged the big man. “Thanks for taking such good care of the place. It looks wonderful.”
“No trouble at all, Elizabeth.”
“Looks like a lot of work to me, Uncle Rudy.” Jenny looked around the neatly manicured yard.
“That's okay, sweetheart. Having you and your mother living here is worth all the work in the world.” He paused and dug around in his right pocket. “I almost forgot something,” He pulled out two sets of keys and dangled them in front of Jenny and her mom. “You might need these.”
“So that's why I couldn't get in.”
“That back door lock finally played out, so I got a new one. Went ahead and installed new dead bolts on all the doors too. Can't take chances nowadays.”
“You're a darling, Uncle Rudy. Thanks.”
“By the way, Elizabeth, I've rented the garage apartment to a nice lady and her son.” Uncle Rudy nodded toward the garage. “The mother works at the hospital, and I think the boy must be close to Jenny's age. Thought it might be nice for Jenny to have another young person here.”
“That's great, Uncle Rudy. Don't you agree, Jenny? I was a bit worried that you would be lonely out here, after living in the city.”
“Sure, Mom. Sounds great.” Jenny smiled.
“I think it'll work out okay,” Uncle Rudy said. “They seem like good people. I can tell Connie and her boy have never had much. She has a second job at the Country Club. Waits tables in the evening, I believe. Goes there straight from the hospital job.”
“Sounds like a difficult life,” Jenny's mother shook her head.
Uncle Rudy patted Sam on the head. “The boy worked for me some this summer. Good kid, but I know he must get mighty lonesome. He and Jenny have something in common. Like Jenny, he skipped fifth grade. I guess that’s good in a way, but it makes them younger than their classmates.”
“I know, and that worried me for a while, until I realized Jenny was okay with it. I just hope she copes as well at Hamilton High.”
“I don’t think it bothered him either. That boy has a good head on his shoulders. He and Connie want to move in on Saturday, if that's okay.”
“That's fine. Our moving van is due on Saturday morning, so it looks like we'll all move in together. I guess we'll store our furniture in the attic.”
Jenny wanted to use her own bedroom furniture from Boston, but she said nothing. Her mother wanted to leave the house unchanged, since the antique furniture suited the place. Jenny was glad the den was furnished comfortably. Her grandparents managed to find big stuffed sofas and chairs that went well with the antique tables and other pieces. It was the only room where she felt a little bit at home.
She looked toward the garage. Another girl living that close might have given her a good friend, but the boy might be okay. Jenny's thoughts were interrupted when her mother asked about the dogman sign.
“Who in the world would put up such a sign?”
Uncle Rudy laughed. “Sounds like some kids want to hide their secret clubhouse. Most boys go through that stage. I'm sure that sign is meant to keep the younger kids out of the woods.” He gave Jenny a reassuring look.
“Nothing to worry about. Now, why don't I help carry these boxes into the house?”
After Uncle Rudy said goodnight, he winked at Jenny. “Found a good buy on that cider you love. The basement fridge is full. Now, you must excuse me, I’ve got to get ready for bingo night at the senior center. There’s a mighty pretty lady, new to Hamilton, and I’m hoping she’ll be there.”
Uncle Rudy’s comment made Jenny giggle, but she knew he’d been lonely since his wife died years ago.
Jenny tried to ignore the dogman sign when they drove into town for dinner, but she could feel it. Her imagination got the best of her and she tried to turn it off by thinking about Boston. That didn’t help.
If she tried for the rest of her life, she couldn't imagine anything worse than losing her dad, although moving to Hamilton came in second place. A few weeks earlier, her mother came home from work and made the announcement.
“Jenny, we’re going to sell this house and move to Hamilton.”
Jenny was too shocked to reply.
“We need a change, and this place has too many memories. Your grandparents left us their house and property, so we'll have a nice place to live. And Uncle Rudy's there. He's been like a father to me, and I know he'll be just like a grandfather to you.”
“Mom, no...what about your job? And my school?”
“No problem, sweetheart. A nurse can get a job wherever she goes. In fact, I've already got one lined up, but I didn't want to tell you until I knew for sure. I'll be second in charge at the Belmont Clinic, and you know Hamilton has a perfectly good school.”
“Please, Mom. You can’t do this to me.” Jenny buried her face against Sam’s thick fur.
In a matter of minutes Jenny's life turned upside down again, and her future was planned. She had no say into the matter. Her mother was set on leaving Boston and nothing Jenny said changed her mind.
Jenny confided her feelings to her school counselor, Mrs. Orwell. Mrs. Orwell explained how difficult it could be to stay in the same home, or town, after losing a spouse. She suggested Jenny keep an open mind for her mother's sake. “It might be the right thing for you too, Jenny.”
Jenny tried but she still had her doubts. Changing her attitude might be the solution, but she didn’t want to change.
Since it was a weeknight, Bo’s Drive-In wasn’t crowded, so dinner didn’t take long. When they arrived home, Jenny took Sam outside. They were going down the back steps when a huge raccoon scurried across the walk at her feet. She screamed and sank down on the bottom step. Sam barked twice before realizing the raccoon was harmless. Then he ran back to Jenny.
“Jenny...what's wrong?” Her mother called from the back door.
“I'm fine, Mom. It was only a raccoon.”
Light from the tall streetlights filtered through the oak branches, creating strange shadows. A light breeze made the shadows move, giving the yard an eerie atmosphere. The shadows didn't bother Sam. He took his time and enjoyed being outdoors, while Jenny waited on the steps.
Uncle Rudy had changed all the outside lights around the house and garage to security lights, and then he’d called the power company to install special streetlights across the front of their property. Jenny wondered what happened in Hamilton that made him feel such precautions were needed. Or was he only being protective of them? She glanced around, then went inside.
“Jenny, wouldn’t you like to explore the house? It’s been a while.”
Jenny nodded and Sam trailed behind them. She remembered the happy times with her grandparents. When she was small, her grandfather played hide-and-seek with her and she ran up and down the staircases searching for him. Even then she was overwhelmed by the size of the house. She wondered why people wanted such enormous houses, but the big rooms with the high ceilings and all those staircases fascinated her.
Hide and seek in Boston was no fun, but her grandparents came every Christmas and they had a great time decorating the tree, shopping, and visiting Santa. The year Jenny turned nine their plane crashed, killing everyone aboard. Instead of learning to bake chocolate chip cookies with Grandma that Christmas, Jenny spent her nights crying. Now their house felt empty without them. And much too quiet.
Jenny noticed they had gone into every room, except her mother's old bedroom. She was about to ask why, when her mother took her hand and led her down the hallway.
“Come on, Jenny, I've got a surprise for you.”
They stopped at the bedroom door.
“It's your room now. Go ahead and look.”
“But this is your room, Mom,” Jenny said.
“Not any longer. It's time you had a larger room with your own bath. I've decided to use your grandparent’s old bedroom. I think they'd like that.”
“I think so too,” Jenny said.
“Oh...” For a moment Jenny felt like she'd stepped into the bedroom of a stranger. The ivory walls and carpet were still the same, but now the room reflected the color of her eyes. It was a young lady's bedroom, all done up in blue antique satin and ivory lace. An arrangement of silk flowers sat on top of the chest of drawers, completing the picture. The air smelled faintly of fresh varnish and cinnamon potpourri, her favorite.
“It's beautiful, Mom.”
“It was finished yesterday, Jenny. Uncle Rudy found these bookcases to match your bed and dresser. He even found a rug for Sam.” A thick blue rug lay close to the bedroom door.
Her mother was trying to help, but she had no idea the massive furniture made Jenny feel small. The bed sat so high off the floor Jenny would have to jump to get in and out of it, and she wondered if the tall headboard could fall and crush her. The size of the room matched the size of the furniture, and that frightened her.
“Your desk can go over there by the window when it arrives.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Her old desk from Boston would help. She could set up her computer and have a good place to study.
Her mother looked around the room and smiled. “All it needs now is your collection of books and bears and it'll be perfect.”
Jenny nodded. She knew she was too old for her bears, but her two favorites, H.B. and Boo, were like family and she’d brought them in the van. The others would remain packed away for now. H.B. was a huge brown bear and, before Sam, he was her guard. Boo was gray and small, just the right size for cuddling. Both of them would look lost sitting in the middle of the big bed. Will they feel as out of place as I do? Jenny felt ridiculous, but she didn't care. Maybe stuffed bears don't have feelings, but they sure help mine.
“Why don't we save the attic and basement for another time,” her mother said. “Right now we both need a hot bath and a good night's sleep. I'll start your bath water.”
“You go on, Mom, I can do it.” She hugged her mother and said goodnight.
After her mother left, Jenny looked around the bedroom and tears welled up in her eyes. She started her bath and found her pajamas, then pulled her long brown hair up to the top of her head and pinned it. Her image in the mirror, blurred by tears, looked like the face of a sick doll.
Wiping away her tears, Jenny picked up some bubble bath and poured it into the running water. Gripping the edge of the deep claw-footed tub, she got in and sank down into the bubbles. She soaped and scrubbed herself, wishing she could wash away her problems. By the time she pulled the plug and watched the water swirl down the drain, she knew there was no magic available. I’ll just have to handle this myself, she sighed, as she pulled on her pajamas.
She looked around the room, then walked over to her window and turned on the old floor lamp, the one her mom used for a night light years ago. The light was dim. Jenny peeped under the shade and saw a small wattage bulb, and she felt a bit sheepish. Uncle Rudy knew she was scared. Finally, she flipped off the ceiling lights and climbed into bed. She blew H.B. a kiss, then pulled Boo into her arms and let exhaustion take over.
Jenny woke to the loud crowing of two roosters. Sam had never heard a rooster before and she laughed when he jumped up and ran to the window. She lay in bed for a few minutes, wondering if the roosters belonged to Uncle Rudy.
After breakfast Jenny and her mother went to the new Benson’s Supercenter and picked up school supplies. Then they got reacquainted with Hamilton. She memorized the route to school, but tried not to think about going there. The signs in front of the school indicated that Hamilton High and Junior High occupied the same building.
“Hamilton is a small place and it saves the town money by combining the two,” her mother explained. “It’s really two buildings connected by a new addition that houses the cafeteria and the library.”
During their lunch of soup and salad at The Big River Deli, Jenny saw her mom reminiscing. Hamilton might be a little different, but it held memories. After lunch, they drove down Cherry Street. Both sides were lined with turn-of-the-century lighting, green lampposts topped with big frosted globes. The river walk on the levee was visible from Cherry Street and its black colonial lampposts reminded Jenny of Boston. It made her homesick, but she knew the effect would be enchanting at night.
“Looks pretty, doesn't it, Jenny? When I was a teenager this was the place to go on Saturday night. We really had some good times.”
Remembering the old days agreed with her mother. Jenny hadn't seen her look or sound so content in a long time. She liked it and wanted the moment to last.
“What do you mean, Mom?”
Her mother smiled. “On Saturday night all the teenagers piled into cars and cruised up and down Cherry Street. We'd start at Cassie’s Restaurant and drive down to the doughboy. Then we'd circle back and do it over, again and again. And we'd honk the car horn when we spotted a friend.”
“We thought it was great fun. Cherry Street was our place on Saturday night, and everyone knew it.”
As she talked, her mother turned the car at the doughboy. She pointed out the courthouse and Echols Drugstore on the opposite corner. Jenny wasn't interested in either place, but she remembered the doughboy statues from history class. They were erected to honor World War I soldiers.
After a brief visit to the library, they stopped at the tourist office and picked up a map of Hamilton. The map was designed for newcomers, with every point of interest marked and listed, including the old army surplus store they passed at the edge of town. Uncle Rudy said the store had been there for decades and it never changed. Jenny thought the window mannequin dressed in camouflage made the store look like a shop for hunters.
They hurried through the supermarket shopping, then headed home. When they passed the woods, Jenny got a good look at the dogman sign.
Her mother read her mind. “Don't let that sign worry you, Jenny. The boys here in Hamilton have always pulled stunts like that, and Uncle Rudy is probably right about the clubhouse. Or it's just another way to get attention. Best to ignore it.”
Jenny couldn't ignore it. She'd have to ride her bike past those woods to get to school. With her mother's job schedule, she had no choice. Thinking about it made her stomach weak.
At bedtime, she found her diary where she’d tucked it into her tote bag. Writing in it used to be a ritual she enjoyed, but she stopped doing it when her dad died because her thoughts were all sad. Right now she needed a diversion and her diary would have to do.
This place is supposed to be a whole new life for Mom and me, but I'm so scared. I know life will never be the same as it was in Boston, and I'm afraid we'll never be happy again. Those woods scare me, and there's nothing I can do about it. What does that sign mean?
She put her diary away and wrestled with the bed covers. Unable to get comfortable, she crawled out of bed and went to the window. She spotted her star above the oak trees—one brilliant star among thousands of tiny ones. She found the star a few days after her father died and she imagined the star was her dad watching over her and her mom. She looked for it every night until they left Boston. It blinked now, acknowledging her presence.
Jenny felt a terrible loneliness for her father. For the first time since he died, she knelt down and said her evening prayers. “Dear God, please watch over my dad and take care of him. And please help me and Mom and Sam to be happy here.”
She wiped her tears on her pajama sleeve and climbed back into bed. That night she dreamed she was being chased by a man with long shaggy hair and floppy ears. And Sam was no longer there.
Jenny heard the wind howling and rain hitting the windows before she was fully awake. She thought about the dream and the way the man looked, and she felt ridiculous. The weather reminded her of the dream she had in the van on the way to Hamilton, a dream she'd just as soon forget. She went to the front window of her bedroom and watched big fat raindrops splash in the driveway puddles below. Then she glanced toward the woods. They were dark and in the early morning rain they looked ominous. She hated rain, but today it brought blessed relief; her mother would drive her to school.
Her dad knew how to calm her fears, and she felt like such a coward remembering his secret signal. He held up two fingers in a v-shape. “This is for victory, kiddo. You can do anything. Remember that.” Her mother caught on and started using the signal, and Jenny wished she wouldn't. It was something special between her and her dad, and she wanted to keep it that way.
She climbed back into the bed and turned on her radio. The seven o'clock news blared into the room and Jenny reached to turn it off, but her hand froze on the button.
“...and the police concluded their investigation yesterday. It's believed the suspect may have killed dozens of dogs in the past two years...”
Jenny sat up and grabbed Boo, while the reporter continued his chilling story. “The man is charged with raising dogs to eat.”
Jenny slapped the radio off and tried to block the news report from her thoughts. She wished she could forget everything that worried her, but it was impossible. She couldn't push a button and make them go away. It was all around her.
School was waiting. She got out of bed and brushed her long brown hair, before pulling it back into a ponytail. Then she leaned close to the mirror and examined the freckles that ran across her nose. She reached into her tote bag and pulled out an ad she clipped from one of her mother’s magazines: Fades Freckles and Age Spots – Guaranteed to work or your money back.
She'd been saving for something special, and getting rid of the freckles was about as special as anything she could think of. For the one-millionth time she wished she looked like her mother.
At least her eyes were pretty. Sometimes Jenny wished she could hide the rest of herself, like she did one Halloween. She dressed in one of her mother's silk robes and put on tons of costume jewelry. Then she pulled a scarf across her face so that only her eyes and forehead were visible. When she looked in the mirror, a tiny blue-eyed princess looked back. It gave her hope, for a while.
If only I looked like that. She gazed at the painting hanging over her headboard. The girl in the picture was pretty, and dressed all in blue, even her shoes.
“Shoes...!” Jenny ran into the closet. My favorite shoes...where are they? One look at the stack of unlabeled boxes and she groaned. They could be anywhere. Her mother had suggested they wait and do the main unpacking over the weekend. Now Jenny wished she hadn't.
“I should have listened to Mom and labeled my boxes with more than my name,” Jenny scolded herself. "And I should have put those shoes in my suitcase."
She grabbed a nail file from her dresser and started ripping through the packing tape that sealed the boxes. When she squatted down to get to the last boxes, her mouth dropped open. Lying on the floor behind a box was a page torn from a newspaper. Jenny picked it up and stared at the rough-looking man standing beside the hanging carcass of a dead animal. In the background was a large pen full of dogs and doghouses. Several of the dogs were German Shepherds. The bold headline summed up the story: MAN ACCUSED OF RAISING DOGS FOR FOOD.
Jenny crumpled up the paper and threw it into the wastebasket. Then she ran to the bathroom and tried to throw up. Someone had a sick mind; she was sure of that. She walked back into her closet and looked at the boxes. She'd carried them up and stacked them herself. There was nothing on the floor then, or she'd have seen it.
Someone had been in the house since she and her mother arrived. Jenny shivered, and felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Someone doesn't want us here.