Butch and Sundance stood guard outside the trailer. A feral cat wandered down the row of RVs, saw the Dobermans. The cat arched its back and hissed. The Boys whimpered and huddled at the trailer door.
Abby and Evelyn hovered over the dinette table where Abby flattened the wrinkles out of her crumpled drawing of the shoe bottom with the slash marks and the twig thing across the top.
Winifred and Murphy sat on the dinette bench making goo-goo eyes at their personal chef whipping up breakfast.
“You think Derek knows about your latest… accident?” Evelyn asked.
“Forget him. He’s useless,” Abby said.
“Who stood to gain the most from Knox’s demise?”
From the kitchen, Jerry lobbed, “If Walter Knox was going to testify and screw the pooch—”
Winifred and Murphy stiffened.
“Sorry. Poor choice of words.”
Abby studied the drawing. “The top of Winnie’s paw was damaged far worse than the pad which would explain the shoe bottom.”
“So, Winnie tried to fight him off…” Evelyn said.
“Maybe tore his pants before he threw her over.”
“The slash marks.”
Looking as though his best years were a distant memory, a small older Gentleman and his scruffy poodle mix entered the FHARP Benefit shop and checked out a table of dog coats and sweaters.
Coming out of her Receiving Room, Gladys caught sight of the Gentleman helping his furry companion try on different coats. Finding one both Man and Mutt agreed on, the Gentleman pulled out a couple of dollars from his pocket and a handful of change. He checked the price tag again, went to the cashier and bought the coat.
Gladys couldn’t take her eyes off them. She watched as the Gentleman and his dog headed out the shop, then stopped, the Gentleman gazing at a warm men’s coat on a mannequin.
The mirror in the Receiving Room was old and cracked, but the reflection of the Gentleman trying on the coat looked perfect to Gladys holding the Man’s dog in her arms. But Gladys was just getting started, grabbed a pair of pants off a table and pushed the Man and pants into a makeshift dressing cubicle.
When the curtain was pulled back, Gladys was pleased – coat and pants looking pretty good. Only one small problem – the pants a bit too long, cuffs dragging on the floor.
Gladys smiled. She could fix that.
Winifred, Murphy, and the Boys licked their bowls clean while Jerry and Evelyn cleaned up the kitchen. Abby sat at the dinette, breakfast untouched. She looked across to Winifred cleaning her bowl.
“Winnie… Help me, girl. That stick thing across the top. I know you’ve got the answer. Help me, girl… Please.”
Winifred gave Abby a look, then turned to Jerry. Man and mutt locked eyes.
They walked along the trail by the river. Both seemed to be waiting for the other to make the first move. Out of patience, Jerry stopped and sat on a big rock – the same rock where he confessed everything to Winnie.
“Okay, Sweets. Last time I did all the yapping. Your turn. I don’t know how this works, but… Talk to me.”
Winifred laid at Jerry’s feet, head between her forepaws, eyes boring deep into Jerry.
“Come on, girl. Give me something… You owe me.”
Abby helped Evelyn finish cleaning up the kitchen.
“I’m scared, Evie. Not for me. But if anything happens to Winnie or Murphy…”
The trailer door burst open scaring the bejesus out of Abby and Evelyn who shrieked and grabbed each other as Jerry and Winifred bounded inside.
“ROSE!” Jerry proclaimed with a big Bozo grin.
“Rose?” Abby and Evelyn questioned simultaneously.
“Rose. The pants and a rose are connected… somehow.”
“I don’t know.” Jerry fought for an answer. “I don’t know how you do whatever it is you do. Maybe you are Dr. Dolittle. Doesn’t matter. But something happened. Winnie and I were– I smelled a rose.”
“Sure it wasn’t a rat?” Evelyn asked.
“No. It was a rose. Something about a rose. Right Sweets?”
Winifred howled confirmation.
Sitting at the sewing machine in her Carmel cottage, Gladys checked her pins on the pants legs. Finding her sewing shears, she cut off the bottom of each leg just above Rosa’s mended tears, tossed the evidence in the waste can, and began to hem up the cuffs.
~ ~ ~