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Nothing to Lose (J.P. Beaumont #25)
Author:J. A. Jance

Nothing to Lose (J.P. Beaumont #25)

J. A. Jance


To Niesje, the judge who almost lives next door


“Hey, babe,” Mel called to me from the bathroom doorway, “the shower isn’t draining, and neither is the toilet.”

At six thirty on a cold, dark winter morning, those were ominous words indeed, and for more than one reason. In some relationships being addressed as “babe” might be regarded as a term of endearment. Coming from Mel Soames, however, the word landed with the same impact as when, without ever raising her voice, my mother used to address me as Jonas Piedmont Beaumont. In those instances, and in this one as well, it was time for me to wake up and smell the coffee.

I didn’t make the strategic mistake of getting out of bed to go see for myself or of asking, “Are you sure?” If Mel said that was the situation, that was the situation. Nor did I caution her to avoid flushing again. My wife happens to be a very smart woman, and my offering her unneeded advice is never a good idea.

Her words were worrisome for another reason, and that’s this: I am not now nor have I ever been a handyman. Yes, I’ve seen all those America’s Funniest Home Videos clips where the kids yell, “Hey, Dad, there’s water coming out of the bathroom!” The panicked father races to the scene only to discover that his rug rats have set out a long line of plastic water bottles marching in single file from an open bathroom door and out into a hallway. The disgruntled father is left muttering a series of bleeped-out words while the happy pranksters double over with laughter. That joke might be funny on TV but not in my own bedroom and certainly not at that ungodly hour of the morning.

With Mel still occupying the bathroom, I crawled out of bed and headed for the kitchen. When Mel and I purchased and remodeled our sixty-five-year-old Mid-Century Modern home, I had no idea that the house came with radiant heat throughout. As I padded from the bedroom to the kitchen, I was grateful for the comforting warmth of the heated flooring on my bare feet. A check of the kitchen sink showed no sign of a backup there, and so, with a thankful heart, I turned on the coffee machine.

While our DeLonghi Magnifica put itself through its morning warm-up exercises, I turned around expecting to find Sarah, our recently adopted Irish wolfhound, at my side and ready to go do her morning necessaries. She was nowhere in sight. When I went looking, I found her still in the bedroom, curled up in a ball and snoozing away in her toasty nest next to my side of the bed.

Before I go any further, a word about dogs. I’m not a lifetime dog lover. The dog that had dragged me into this new and relatively unfamiliar territory was another Irish wolfhound named Lucy. Mel serves as the chief of police in Bellingham, Washington, north of Seattle. She’s still gainfully employed while I am a not-so-happily-retired househusband. Lucy came into our lives in the aftermath of a domestic-violence incident in Mel’s jurisdiction. When the battered wife took her children and fled to a shelter situation, they were unable to take Lucy with them, so Mel ended up bringing her home.

After years of chasing bad guys first for Seattle PD and later for the attorney general’s Special Homicide Investigation Team, aka SHIT, I have now become the person tasked with keeping hearth and home in order. As a consequence Lucy became my responsibility, a job I grudgingly accepted but only with a good deal of griping and a singular lack of grace. All that changed, of course, when the abusive husband from the domestic-violence incident got out of jail on bail and came gunning for Mel—knifing for her, actually, rather than gunning. When the chips were down, Lucy had come racing to Mel’s defense at considerable harm to herself. If that isn’t enough to turn a guy into a dog lover, I don’t know what is.

I would have been happy to keep Lucy permanently, but that wasn’t in the cards. Mel and I might have fallen for her, but once Lucy met our new granddaughter, Athena, Lucy voted with her paws and made her preferences clear. We might have loved Lucy, but Lucy loved Athena, and that’s where she is now, living with Athena and her other grandfather in Jasper, Texas. But by the time we gave up Lucy, Mel and I both knew there was bound to be another dog in our lives sooner or later. When “sooner” arrived, we took pains to locate another wolfie.

Sarah is a former mommy-dog rescued from a now-shuttered puppy mill outside Palm Springs. Lucy was coal black. Sarah is a whitish gray—white when she’s dry, gray when she’s wet. The first time I saw her, I thought I was seeing Lucy’s ghost.

We had adopted Sarah in early October, but since she’d spent most of her life living in a metal shed giving birth to one litter of puppies after another, she had no social skills and almost no muscle control in her hindquarters, leaving her rear end so weak that she could barely stand. After arriving in Washington, Sarah had spent six weeks at the Academy for Canine Behavior in Woodinville, regaining her physical strength and learning how to be a family dog with some basic command training thrown in on the side. She finally came home to live with us only a couple of weeks earlier on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

As with Lucy, since I’m Sarah’s primary caregiver, she’s now clearly my dog as opposed to our dog—and her side of the bed happens to be my side of the bed, so that’s exactly where she was when I went looking for her. Lucy always bounded up and out the moment my feet hit the floor. Sarah is your basic slugabed and has to be coaxed into rising and shining, especially on cold winter mornings.

“Out,” I ordered, pointing at the door. Sarah delivered a series of sleepy-eyed blinks before slowly unfurling her very long legs. Once upright, she gave me a floppy-eared shake of her head as if to voice a personal objection on being rudely awakened before sauntering reluctantly out of the bedroom. Due to her Southern California roots, Sarah does not like the cold, so I followed along to make sure she didn’t take an unexpected detour somewhere along the way. After all, at that very minute it was cold indeed in our corner of western Washington, even for people who are relatively acclimated to winter weather.