Insatiable (Cloverleigh Farms #3) - Melanie Harlow

One

Noah

Her name was Dottie, her age was somewhere north of ninety, and she was what we at the sheriff’s department called a “frequent flyer.”

It was nearly seven P.M. on Friday night as I pulled up in front of her house. It had been a slow shift so far, mostly routine traffic stops and a few non-emergency calls, but in a small town like Hadley Harbor, that was the norm.

Dottie was definitely a non-emergency.

She’d called 911—this time—because she was positive someone had broken into her home this afternoon while she was grocery shopping, and while the intruder hadn’t stolen anything, he had switched her living room furniture around. I hadn’t even bothered with the lights on my vehicle.

“Be right back, Renzo.” Leaving my faithful Belgian Malinois in the back of the Explorer—and the expression on his face told me he wasn’t happy about that—I got out from behind the wheel and headed up the walk. From the window, Renzo watched me like a hawk, as he always did, but there was nothing dangerous about this call.

Still, it was good to know he had my back, no matter what.

I knocked on the front door of the traditional, two-story brick home, and less than ten seconds later, Dottie Jensen opened it and beamed at me, her dentures on full display. She’d probably been peeking out the window. “Oh, hello, Deputy McCormick. I was hoping it would be you.”

“Hello, Mrs. Jensen. It’s me.”

She looked over my shoulder toward the street, where my K-9 unit was parked. “Didn’t you bring your doggy with you?”

The same questions every time. I took a breath for patience and answered them. Again. “Yes, he’s always with me. But he’s in the car.”

“Won’t it be too warm for him in the car?”

“It’s a cool evening, and we have temperature control in the unit.”

“Wouldn’t he like to come inside?”

“Why don’t I come in and look around, and then once you’ve told me what happened and I have all the info, I’ll let him out so you can say hello.”

“That sounds lovely,” she said eagerly. “Please come in.”

“Thank you.”

She pulled the door open wider and stood aside as I entered the front hallway. The house was silent and smelled like a combination of furniture polish and whatever she’d made for dinner.

“Can I get you anything?” she asked. “A lemonade? Some cookies? Or how about dinner? I got some beautiful pork chops at the butcher this afternoon and fried them up for supper. Do you like them with applesauce?”

“No thank you, ma’am.” Although hunger was gnawing at my belly, I had to stick to routine. Lonely old Mrs. Jensen would keep me here for hours if I let her. I felt sorry for her—her husband of sixty-plus years had died only a few months ago—and I always gave her a little extra time if I could, but I was off duty in about twenty minutes and wanted to get home in time to watch game three of the World Series.

From the front entryway, I glanced into the living room on my right, then the dining room on my left. Each room looked exactly the same as it had the last time I’d been there. “I understand you believe someone broke in?”

“Oh, yes. I’m just sure of it.” Mrs. Jensen clasped her gnarled fingers together and opened her eyes wide. Her forehead wrinkles multiplied.

“Want to tell me what happened?”

She nodded and smiled as if I’d just crowned her Queen of England. “Yes. You see, I was in town shopping for groceries—I was picking up a roast because my son George is coming to visit, and his wife, Sue, never did learn to cook a pot roast like I taught her, but Sue was one of those career girls, you know, and I don’t think she cared much about what sort of meals she put on the table at night.” She lowered her voice and spoke conspiratorially behind the back of one hand. “Sue wasn’t much of a housekeeper either, truth be told, but there isn’t much we can do about the people our children choose. Do you have children, dear?”

“No, ma’am.” I braced myself for the inevitable follow-up.

“Why not? Doesn’t your wife want any?”

“I don’t have a wife, either, Mrs. Jensen.” Which I’d told her at least fifty times, and every single time, she reacted the same way.

“No wife?” She recoiled. “Why, you must be close to thirty already, Deputy McCormick.”

“Thirty-three, ma’am.”

“Thirty-three! Mr. Jensen and I had already been married twelve years by the time