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March 2012

Book 13 in the Foxglove Corner Mysteries



Chapter One

The bush was moving, impossibly alive in the still woods where no breeze stirred the leaves.

Candy, securely attached to her long leather leash, growled a low warning. Sky, the gentle blue merle, whimpered in alarm and pressed her body close to mine. I reached into my skirt pocket for the can of Mace I always carried these days when walking with the collies.

A pack of wild dogs ran in the woods of Foxglove Corners, living on small game, bringing down deer, and on occasion threatening humans. They were crafty and dangerous, potentially deadly. The alternative to arming myself with Mace was to stay at home, which was unthinkable on these glorious summer days.

The bush moved again, and a spill of red berries drifted down to the forest floor. Quickly I revised my perception of the landscape. Some creature hid behind the trembling branches, creating an illusion of motion. A creature acting in an unnatural way spelled danger. It could be one of the feral dogs, a coyote, or a rabid raccoon. Anything.

Candy growled again and shook her head violently as if to break free of her leash. The air thickened with tension. The can felt cold in my hand. For a moment I wished it were a gun.

Sky cowered behind me with Candy in full protective mode. Black fur bristling, lips curled high, she was ready to defend her person and her timorous sister.

I didn’t want Candy to tangle with whatever waited behind the bush. But it was too late.

Without a sound, the creature leaped into a meager patch of sunlight, about six feet from us. It stood its ground, defiant and menacing. We were facing a large dog, black with white markings. Another collie.

I gasped and stepped back, stumbling over an exposed root and momentarily losing my balance. Grabbing the slender trunk of a maple seedling, I stared in disbelief.

I knew this dog.

Of all the creatures that roamed the woods across from Jonquil Lane, the one I least expected to encounter was the bi-color collie who had bitten me last month. He should be dead.

The horror from the past returned in lightning strike images. A collie with a dull coat and glazed eyes obliterating the daylight as he tore the flesh from my arm. A memory of blood and pain and the longest walk of my life. And the rabies shots, every one of them.

The dog had been rabid. Why wasn’t he long since dead?

“Get!” I shouted. “Go away!”

I aimed the Mace at its eyes and braced myself for the attack, for fangs sinking into my throat.

It didn’t happen. Not this time. In a flash of black and white, the bi-color turned tail and ran into the sheltering darkness of the close-growing trees. The woods were quiet once more. I could hear my heart pounding and my ragged breath and Sky panting.

I laid my hand on Candy’s quivering head. “Good girl, Candy. You scared him off.”

She wasn’t happy. Candy had wanted the confrontation. She still pulled on her leash, trying to take me with her on a merry chase through the woods.

“It’s all right, Sky,” I added to the whining blue merle. “Everything’s all right now.”

But of course it wasn’t. Not if the bi-color collie still lived.


My green Victorian farmhouse shimmered in a soft haze, the stained glass windows under its twin gables welcoming me home. Still, the distance seemed interminable now that I’d come to a stop at the lane’s edge.

The house across the lane, a vintage yellow Victorian with elegant gables and turrets, was closer.

Camille Forester Ferguson, my neighbor, good friend, and aunt by marriage, knelt in one of her perennial gardens, contemplating a row of maroon-streaked peach foxgloves that were a near match for her silver-honey hair. Goldcrest, she called them. They were new, ordered from a catalog. She wore a long denim jumper and red gardening gloves. A grocery store box overflowed with unsightly weeds.

The dogs flopped down at my feet, not especially eager to join their three sisters who were waiting inside our house for the grand reunion.

Camille shifted her gaze to my face. “My goodness, Jennet. Did something happen?”

“I saw that dog again,” I said.

Now, with the danger over, I was shaking, unable to escape the memory of the black and white collie’s attack and his shocking reappearance so long afterward. It could all have happened again.

“What dog?” she asked, pulling off the gloves, rising.

“The collie who bit me.”

“Oh my Lord. Not the one who had rabies?”

“Yes, that one. He should be dead.”

I had to stop thinking that. He wasn’t dead. I’d just seen him. He had to be dealt with. Somehow.

“Let’s go inside, and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea,” she said with a surreptitious glance at the woods. “It’ll settle your nerves.”

Across the lane, my other collies began to bark. At least one of them would be looking through the kitchen window with its clear view of the yellow Victorian.

“I should go home,” I said.

“You will. First, I want to hear more about this remarkable dog. I didn’t know an animal could survive rabies.”

Camille’s black Belgian shepherd, Twister, and her tricolor collie, Holly, were waiting impatiently on the other side of the front door. They greeted my two as if they hadn’t seen them for years.

I followed Camille into the house, through the living and dining rooms to her blue and white country kitchen where problems and concerns had a way of shrinking, where sunlight streaming through the cobalt glass collection on the windowsill illuminated hitherto hidden solutions.

The dogs lay down in a row alongside the table. Adhering to her principle of taking care of the animals first, Camille gave each one a large biscuit, then filled the teakettle with water.

“I have iced tea,” she said, “but hot tea will be better for you. And there’s a chocolate angel food cake and cherry muffins from this morning…” She trailed off and spooned loose tea in the mugs. “What did the dog do?”

“He just looked at us. Candy was growling. I had my Mace but didn’t use it. Then he ran away.”

Stripped of the drama and terror, how simple the incident seemed in the retelling. How easily the slender story could have had another ending.

“Thank heavens for that,” Camille said. “But I don’t understand. If the creature was rabid, why isn’t he dead?”

“That’s what I’ve been asking myself.”

They’d never found the dog’s body, which wasn’t surprising with all the woods around us. In the hours after I’d been bitten, my husband, Crane, together with our friend, Brent Fowler, and Lieutenant Mac Dalby of the Foxglove Corners Police Department, had searched the area around the vacant Queen Anne Victorian where the dog had savaged me. To no avail.

I’d driven him off with the handle of my umbrella. That was how I’d escaped further injury.

Brent had expressed what we were all thinking, what seemed logical. “You know how easy it is for a dog to disappear in these woods. This one is sick. He’ll probably find a quiet place in the woods to lie down and die.”

No one saw the bi-color after that day. We had all grown complacent. I’d had a series of rabies shots, dreading every one. The summer sped by, a parade of golden days, bringing us inevitably to the hot and stormy month of August. The dog days.

Complacency can be dangerous.

“The dog didn’t look sick today,” I said. “Maybe he never had rabies after all. Maybe I didn’t need those shots.”

“But you thought he did. My goodness, Jennet, you couldn’t afford to take a chance.”

“No,” I said. “When a strange dog bites you for no reason and can’t be found, you have to assume the worst.”

There was no point in wishing the past had been different. I’d endured the rabies shots, survived the incident, and in time stopped seeing the dog’s distorted features in the faces of my own beloved collies.

The teakettle’s shrill whistle brought me back to the present.

“Well, it’s a mystery,” Camille said. “I’ll bet Doctor Foster over at the animal hospital could clear it up.”

She set a large piece of chocolate angel food cake sprinkled with powdered sugar in front of me and added fresh strawberries.

“Eat this,” she said. “It’s the star of my new cookbook, Light and Lucious.”

I did, and it was indeed good, a simple dessert that brought a dash of normalcy back to my life. Cake and mint tea and Camille’s wisdom. Already I felt stronger. At least I wasn’t trembling.

I still intended to consult Alice Foster but thought I’d found the answer.

“The dog might have been sick, but he never had rabies,” I said. “It just looked like he did. That’s the only explanation that makes sense.”

“But he bit you! He shredded the skin on your arm.”

“Yes, moments after he offered me his paw to shake. That’s bizarre behavior, one of the signs that an animal is rabid.”

“Even if he isn’t, he’s still dangerous.”


But not today. Now there was the mystery. Could Candy, the most aggressive of my five collies, have made the difference? I glanced at her. She’d finished her biscuit and was eyeing my cake expectantly. I’d have loved to give her a bite, but chocolate was toxic for dogs.

“I’ve never ever been afraid of dogs,” Camille said, “but that pack that set up housekeeping in the woods unnerves me. Of course I don’t go for walks by myself, and they wouldn’t come near the house with Twister on guard. Still, they’re out there. I don’t feel as safe as I once did.”

Neither did I, but I refused to be intimidated.

“I won’t give up walking. Crane wants me to, but I can’t. School will be starting next month. Every one of these days is precious.”

“And you have a gun now,” she added.

I did, and it stayed locked in a special cabinet with Crane’s guns. Crane and I had had several past disagreements about my owning a gun. Finally, after the attack, he’d capitulated. In fact, he was the one who had suggested it. By this time, I’d changed my mind.

“The problem is I could never shoot a dog,” I said.

Not even in a life-or-death situation? Not even if I were again set upon by a rabies-maddened canine?

No, I loved dogs. I wasn’t a killer.

Then I remembered the rabies shots and the pain in my left arm that still bothered me at times.

Don’t be so sure, I told myself.

“I hope you’ll never have to,” Camille said.




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Jennet Greenway Ferguson's life and happiness are entwined with the lives of her husband, Deputy Sheriff Crane Ferguson, and their collies.  But Jennet can never resist helping any dog in distress--even if it puts her own life in danger.  When she finds a beautiful blue merle collie muzzled, bound with duct tape and left to die along a deserted road, she vows to save the dog and bring the abuser to justice, whatever the risk to herself.

Soon Jennet finds herself taking many risks as a missing teen-aged girl, another abduction and an out-of-season ice cream truck insinuate themselves into her hunt for the monster who abused the collie.  Add to that Crane's worry over Jennet and the general spookiness of the days surrounding Halloween, and you have a  book to keep you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last.

THE DOG FROM THE SKY is the ninth book in Ms. Bodoin's Foxglove Corners mystery series.  It can easily be read as a stand-alone, but don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading the whole series, especially if you love dogs and great writing.  Highly recommended!

--Donna (D.H.) Parker


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