Cat's Claw (A Pecan Springs Mystery)
the bluest hair, arranged in springy curls over her ears. She got it done every Wednesday at Bobby Rae’s House of Beauty, just off the square in downtown Pecan Springs.
“His name is Glen Vance. He’s her boss at the library.” Ethel leaned across the quilt, her blue eyes sparkling. There was nothing Ethel liked better than a bit of extra-juicy gossip. “But it mustn’t go outside this room, girls. It’s extremely hush-hush. I wouldn’t know it myself, except that my niece’s daughter-in-law works at the library. Mr. Vance and Dana Kirk are plannin’ to get married as soon as she gets her divorce.” Because she was hard of hearing, Ethel spoke very loudly—loud enough to be heard on the front sidewalk, if anybody was out there listening. So much for hush-hush.
Mildred Ewell sighed. “Well, poor Mr. Kirk is all I’ve got to say.” Mildred, who was on the pudgy side, lived at 1114 Pecan, across the streetfrom Ethel and Jane. She was five years younger than Jane and ten years younger than Ethel, but she was already having trouble with her ankles. “He is such a nice young man, so handsome. And always has a smile.” Mildred frowned down at the fat white poodle that trotted into the room with Mr. Wauer’s well-chewed leather slipper in his mouth. (The slipper had outlived its owner by at least ten years.) “Ethel, I wish you’d put that wretched little dog in the kitchen. You know he doesn’t like me. He has never liked me.”
As if to prove Mildred’s point, the poodle dropped the slipper, planted his feet, and growled at her.
Ethel sighed. “I really hate to shut Oodles in the kitchen, Mildred. It makes him feel left out. He loves to be part of the party.” She leaned over, crooning at the dog. “Don’t you, my precious little boy?”
“Poodles have a long memory, Mildred,” Hazel Schulz remarked. Hazel lived on the other side of the Kirks, at 1119. Of the four Stars gathered around the frame, she was the youngest, at fifty-five. “He remembers when you swatted him on the rear with a newspaper that time you caught him pooping in your iris bed.” She picked up a pair of scissors to clip a thread. “He’s had it in for you ever since.”
“That’s right, Mildred,” Ethel agreed. “If you’d be nice to Oodles, he’d be nice to you.”
“That dog doesn’t have a nice bone in his body,” Mildred said fiercely, as Oodles’ growls escalated to a barrage of high-pitched, teeth-bared yaps. “He is a menace to the neighborhood.”
“Do something, Ethel,” Jane pleaded. “We can’t hear ourselves think with all that noise.”
With a put-upon sigh, Ethel got up. “Come on, Oodles. You can take your slipper out to play on the front porch.” She unhooked her cane fromthe back of her chair and started for the door. The dog picked up the slipper and followed her out, casting a baleful glance back over his shoulder at Mildred.
“Peace at last,” Mildred muttered under her breath. She wiped her perspiring upper lip with a lace-trimmed hanky. “I despise that dog.”
Jane pushed her tortoiseshell reading glasses up on her nose. “It’s too bad about the Kirks,” she said thoughtfully, going back to the subject. “Mr. Kirk is really very nice. My grandson’s laptop computer got sick with a virus and he came over and disinfected it.”
“How much did you have to pay him?” Hazel asked. “I hear it costs a lot to get those silly things fumigated, or whatever it is they do to kill the bugs. And even then you can’t be sure they’re all dead.” She paused. “Something like bedbugs, I guess.”
“I offered to pay,” Jane replied, “but he wouldn’t take it. I know he owns that computer shop and I would’ve been glad to give him a little something for his time.” She pushed her glasses up on her nose and bent over her stitching. “But he said he was just being neighborly.”
“Well, Larry Kirk may be nice and neighborly, but he’s got a woman friend, too,” Ethel said, coming back into the room. She hung her cane over the back of her chair and sat down at the frame. To Mildred, she added. “I hope you’re satisfied, Mildred. Oodles hates being out there by himself. He’s barking at Mr. Kennedy down the street. He’s out there trimming his hedge.”
Jane sighed. “That poor hedge. Mr. Kennedy trims it within an inch of its life. Looks like a square green box.”
“It’s better than being in here, barking at us,” Mildred said, plying her needle
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