Friday, February 13, 2015

Dog Have Mercy (Golden Retriever Mysteries Book 6) by Neil S. Plakcy


Barnes and Noble

In the sixth golden retriever mystery, Dog Have Mercy, Christmas approaches and reformed hacker Steve Levitan tries to help a fellow ex-con now working at the vet’s office in Stewart’s Crossing. His curiosity, and the crime-solving instincts of his golden retriever, Rochester, kick in when liquid potassium ampoules are stolen from the vet and Steve’s new friend is a suspect.

Is this theft connected to a drug-running operation in North Philly? Or to a recent spate of deaths at the local nursing home? And can Steve continue to resist his computer-hacking impulses or will his desire to help others continue to lead him into trouble?


Sunday morning my golden retriever Rochester didn’t want to walk very far, which was unusual for my happy-go-lucky dog, and he seemed to be favoring his back right leg. I was attuned to his moods and I’d learned that he could be very skilled at hiding pain. When we got home, I sat down on the tile floor and pulled him over to me. “Let’s see what you’ve got going on, puppy,” I said.
He squirmed and wiggled but I immobilized him and shifted so I could see check each of his paws. He had torn a toenail on one of his back paws, and the nail bed was red and swollen. “What did you do? I trimmed your toenails last week.”
He looked up at me with a woeful face. We had a regular grooming routine. I cleaned his teeth every couple of days with turkey-flavored toothpaste; I groomed him with a special brush that pulled dead fur from his undercoat; I swabbed his ears with medicated pads and whenever his toenails got too long I trimmed them with an electric gadget.
“What’s up?” Lili asked as she walked downstairs.
“We’re going to have to go see Dr. Horz first thing tomorrow morning,” I said. “Rochester has an infected toenail.” I cleaned the wound and squeezed some antibiotic ointment onto it, and then sat on the floor scratching Rochester’s belly.
My old piano teacher Edith Passis called later that day to thank us for visiting her at the Crossing Manor rehab center and nursing home. “It was so wonderful to see you,” she said. “I admit, I get a little depressed here. Sometimes it feels like God’s waiting room, that people come here to die. My roommate, that poor Mrs. Tuttle? She passed away right after you came to see us.”
“I’m sorry, Edith,” I said.
“I’m sure it was her time, dear,” Edith said. “It was very sweet that she reached out to Rochester just before she died. He might have been the last being who touched her.”
I shuddered. Rick had occasionally referred to Rochester as “the death dog,” because he had a knack for finding dead bodies, or clues in the solution of who killed them. I didn’t want to believe that he’d moved on to initiating the deaths of people who petted him.
I chatted with Edith for a few minutes and promised to bring Rochester for another visit soon. Lili went out to take some photographs around River Bend, our townhome community, and I went up to the office. Rochester followed me, and once I was in my chair, he slumped down at my feet.
I opened the desk drawer and pulled out the laptop I had inherited, along with Rochester, from my late next-door-neighbor Caroline Kelly. It was close to four years old, at least, and didn’t have as much power as my desktop computer, but I kept my hacking tools on it. I didn’t have any plans to break in anywhere I didn’t belong, but I did want to keep my software updated.
The online hacker support group I had joined would have called that a red flag – simply thinking about hacking was enough to trigger an alert. But I was trying to channel my impulses to snoop in protected places—recognizing that I’d always have those urges, and that if I tried to ignore them completely I’d only get myself in trouble.
Hackers are an elusive bunch, and the sites where people uploaded new and improved tools were always changing, so I had to keep up. As it was, several of the sites I’d bookmarked had been shut down, and I spent an hour following coded messages and encrypted links before I could find where my tribe was hiding.
I read blogs and posts about updated port sniffers and password-breaking programs, and downloaded a couple of programs. While I waited for the last of them to come through, I remembered our conversation with Rick and Tamsen the night before, that an ex-con with a long record had been arrested for the break-ins at Crossing Estates.
There but for the grace of God go I, I thought. I had been incredibly lucky in my online forays. I had only made one major mistake, and I had paid for that. But I had done many other things, almost all with good intentions, and hadn’t been caught.
I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, that if I got too cocky I could end up in trouble again. And this time I had so much more to lose. Lili knew about the laptop, and my struggles to keep from hacking, but what if I got caught again? Would she see my actions as a betrayal of her trust, and be terribly hurt? Would she stand by me, or would she dump me the way Mary had?
I had to be strong enough to resist temptation. But just updating my tools wasn’t illegal – or at least that’s what I told myself.
Rochester sat up and sniffed me, and when my download finished I shut down the laptop and lowered myself to the floor to rub his belly.
Rochester was a constant reminder of what was important in my life. His love and devotion had helped me climb out of the despair I had felt after I left prison, and I was determined to do everything I could to take good care of him.
I checked his nail and dabbed more antibiotic cream on it, and when he dozed off I Googled as many sites as I could find about what might have happened and how I could help him heal. One site scared me – a vet blogged about a dog whose owner had ignored an infection, which had then spread to the dog’s vital organs, eventually causing its death. That was not going to happen to Rochester.

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