Chapters 11, 12 & 13

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Chapter 11

November 24, 2000

"A dog?" Preacher asked incredulously, his mouth slack in disbelief.

Sighing to myself, I nodded in response.

"An award-winning Bluetick Hound to be precise...a Coonhound."

"What the..."Preacher started before reigning himself in, shaking his head in frustration.

"This is the important first case we are assigned? This is worth being lined up in the laser sight of a rifle? A dog?"

I nodded as I pulled the car out of the driveway and onto the one-lane road.

"It's pretty important to the man I just met," I started, nodding toward a folder on the seat between us. "All of the pertinent information on the animal is in there by the way."

Preacher picked up the folder, but his frustration kept him from opening it.

"What kind of man is this guy anyway? Lives in a fortress...but can't keep track of a mere dog?"

"I get the impression that the missing dog is just a symptom of his current problems," I started while accelerating toward the highway. "I have a feeling that the beefed-up security may be a fairly new addition to his life. Before I entered his office, I noticed a man stepping out of a doorway down the hall to see what was going on. By his apparent disposition and dress, I would hazard a guess that he is the butler of the house...or had been. When he saw the man with the assault rifle leading me, he quickly stepped back into the room he had come from."

Preacher was quiet for a few moments, but I could see that his mind was quickly gearing up on the case. After another minute, he opened the folder on his lap.

"Taylew Montenegro's Freedom...that's a mouthful...says they call her Monte. This dog has won a lot of honors," he mumbled as he continued to scan the pages in the file. "She's probably worth a lot of money to the right person."

"Who's the right person?" I asked next, glancing at Preacher.

He shrugged, "Other dog breeders or show people I suppose."

We were silent for a few minutes as we both digested the new information until a thought struck me.

"I don't know much about breeding and showing dogs, but I have a friend that breeds Thoroughbred horses. From what he has told me, pedigree is everything. For that dog to be valuable, people would need to know its pedigree. If they knew that..."

They'd know who the owner is!" Preacher finished my thought. "It'd be the same for showing her then...everybody in that business would know who she was."

I nodded in reply but kept silent, trying to make sense of what we knew.

"You thinking this is more like a kidnapping then?" Preacher finally asked, "If the man doesn't have any kids, it'd be the next best thing."

"Could be," I mumbled as I braked for a stoplight and glanced toward my partner. "Does it say in there what this guy's name is?"

Preacher looked back at the page before him. "Horace Castile...sounds like he has his own pedigree."

"I'm not so sure about that," I muttered while starting off again when the light changed to green, "At least he hasn't been in his current residence for long."

"How do you know that?" Preacher questioned suspiciously. "That palace he lives in looks older than dirt."

I shrugged, "It is old, but nothing inside is old. I was in a book-lined study that had all newer furnishings...including the built-in bookcases. None of the books had that old look either, most were new leather...the gold lettering crisp and bright. The huge hallway I was in was all stone, so all of the electric was in shiny metal conduit. Modern lighting everywhere, the furniture there wasn't old either. I'd guess everything there was less than two years old."

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