Trick or Treachery

Trick or Treachery by Jessica Fletcher Read Free Book Online

Book: Trick or Treachery by Jessica Fletcher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jessica Fletcher
where it hung from a set of moose antlers, then headed for the door.
    “Mind if I tag along?” I asked.
    “Wouldn’t matter if I did. Come on.”
     
    When we pulled up in front of the Wandowski cottage, the parents of the child were waiting in front of a compact car, the motor running. Mort and Wendell got out and approached them. I remained in the squad car with the window down.
    “Afternoon,” Mort said. “What’s goin’ on, folks? Got a report says your youngster is missin’. Fill me in.”
    Bob and Lauren started talking at once.
    Mort held up his hand. “Easy, now,” he said. “One at a time.”
    The father spoke. “Julie is gone. That’s our daughter, she’s eight. My wife called me at work. I just got here. School let out early today. Kids had just a couple ’a hours this morning.”
    “A teacher conference,” Lauren said.
    “Julie never made it home,” Bob said. “She’s disappeared. She’s been kidnapped.”
    “Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Mort said, reaching in the window and turning off the engine of the compact. “Might be she decided to stop off someplace, see a friend.” He handed the keys to the father.
    “Julie wouldn’t do that without telling me,” Lauren said, glancing at her husband.
    “She knows better,” Bob Wandowski added sternly.
    “Well, then,” Mort said, “let’s take a walk, backtrack along the route your daughter always takes to school, and see if we can learn anything. One of you stay here in case she comes back or calls.”
    A teary Lauren Wandowski agreed to remain behind as Mort, Wendell and Bob set off on foot. I got out of the car and joined them. The trail we took passed through a small spruce grove. When we emerged into a clearing, the Rose Cottage came into view, a hundred yards ahead. A black car was parked alongside it. A five-foot-high wall curved toward the cottage, the remnants of summer roses clinging to its red-brick facade. Artie Sack, the gardener, was spreading mulch at the base of the rose bushes in preparation for a cold winter. I waved, and he waved back. A black cat—probably the same scary animal I’d seen in the back of Matilda Swift’s car—was curled up atop the brick wall, its yellow eyes following Artie’s labors.
    “How are you, Artie?” I called.
    “Doin’ good, doin’ good,” he replied. The cat jumped onto his shoulders as I approached.
    “Ooh! Doesn’t that hurt?” I asked, watching the cat dig its paws into him.
    “This little guy? This little guy?” Artie Sack had a habit of saying things twice. He pulled the cat into his arms and stroked the black head, scratching behind the cat’s ears, eliciting a loud purr. “He couldn’t hurt anyone, even if he wanted to. This is a nice cat, nice cat, not like them barn cats.”
    “What are we doing here?” Bob growled, drawing my attention away from Artie.
    “That’s Ms. Swift’s home,” I said, pointing to the Rose Cottage and moving back to our little group. “Maybe she’s seen your daughter.”
    “That witch!” Bob muttered.
    “Witch?” I said.
    “Just ask around. Nothing but trouble in town since she came,” he spat. “We’ve been thinking of leaving for some time now. Cabot Cove isn’t what it used to be. Too many upstarts and weirdos moving in—like her.”
    The venom in his voice took me aback. I was about to ask whether he had a reason for his obvious hatred of Matilda Swift, a tangible problem to cause him to speak so ill of her, when the door to the cottage opened. The woman in question stepped outside, followed by a little girl eating a large cookie.
    “Julie!” her father shouted, breaking into a run toward them. The girl came around from behind Matilda and waved. “Hi, Daddy,” she chirped, running to him. He scooped her up in his arms, grabbing the cookie and flinging it to the ground.
    “ ’Morning, Ms. Swift,” Mort said, tipping his hat.
    Wandowski lowered his daughter, keeping a hand on her shoulder, and glared at

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