Peggy Gaffney – The Kate Killoy Mysteries

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Chapter One

Thursday

 

“Kate, did you get an email from Krystyn Machnicki this morning?” Kate’s phone had interrupted her work. Since it was not quite eight o’clock eastern time, the call meant Cathy Harrison in Idaho was up early. Kate hooked the handle of the pressure hose she’d been using to clean the runs in her boarding kennel on the chain-link fencing and headed for her office.

“I haven’t checked my emails yet. Give me a moment to boot up my computer. Not to get off topic, but what are you doing up so early?”

“I’m bathing puppies. I’ve got new owners coming to pick up their puppies from my litter today.”

Kate opened her emails. “Here it is, just let me read it.” She began to skim the email, stopped, and then began again, reading more carefully.

Dear Fellow Members,

It is with regret, but I feel it is necessary to state the following members must not be elected to responsible positions on the board of directors of the club due to their unethical breeding practices. They are not worthy of holding positions where they might influence important decisions. They are Natacha Grunsfeldt, Tracy Nikas, Cathy Harrison, and Sherman Wiel.

Krystyn Machnicki

“Is she nuts? What the hell is this? How could Krystyn accuse any of you of being unethical? This is ridiculous. Have you called her?”

“I did. She says she didn’t send the email. Kate, she was crying. Apparently, her phone has been ringing off the hook with people yelling at her. The email must have gone to the entire membership. Since this is the first year the club has used online voting as well as mail-in ballots, many people have left it to the last minute. This email could affect the final vote. I don’t understand how someone else could send an email from Krystyn, but she swears on the lives of all her puppies she didn’t send it.”

“Unfortunately it’s not hard for a hacker with talent to do this, and it can often be difficult to trace them. Let me talk to Harry and my brothers, and I’ll call you back.”

Kate finished her morning routine in the boarding kennel, checked on her dogs who were playing or sleeping out in the exercise yard then headed across the lawn to her grandparents’ home, also housing the offices of Killoy and Killoy Forensic Accountants. Her older brother, Tom, had moved into the house with Grandma Grace after their grandfather’s death from cancer. When their father died of a brain aneurysm several months later, Tom was left with the responsibility of running the company.

She ran up the steps onto the porch but, instead of heading for the door to the house, she turned right toward the entrance to K&K. There was nobody at the reception desk yet, but Tom would already be hard at work in his office. The door was open, so she strolled right in and sat in one of the wing chairs facing his desk.

“Kate, what’s up? Nothing wrong with Harry, is there? You’re still getting married?”

“Everything is fine with us, and the wedding is still on. I got a call from Cathy this morning about something more in your or Harry’s skill set than in mine. A nasty email was sent to the membership of the Samoyed club casting aspersions on the ethics of four people running for board positions in the current election. The problem is the person who supposedly sent the email swears she didn’t do it. How hard is it to steal someone’s email identity this way?”

“Not hard at all, if you have some talent as a hacker. The problem lies in tracing it back to find out who the hacker is. Sometimes it’s impossible. It could be someone in another part of the country, or it could be her best friend who visits her home on a regular basis. I take it you haven’t asked Harry about it yet.”

“No, he’s in the air, flying back from Germany. He’s due to land at Logan in a few hours then he’s probably going to want to sleep for a while.”

“After what he did on the case, not only trapping the guy online but then chasing him across Europe, I’d say Harry deserves some sleep before you get him involved with this. Will can’t help you since he’s knee-deep in classes, trying to finish his degree while taking advanced work toward his PhD. Tim is spending every spare minute at basketball practice. Why don’t you ask Seamus if he’ll check on it? I’d do it, but I’m leaving in three hours for four days in Austin with a new client. Seamus might find it fun to do some searching for you. He’s toying with the idea of working for Harry after college, and this might be good practice.”

Kate thanked him and wished him a safe trip then went to visit her grandmother. Seamus wouldn’t be home until later since he, along with his twin brother, Tim, was in his senior year in high school.

Though Kate had loved her father and grandfather dearly, it was Grandma Grace whom she considered God’s gift to her sanity. Grace would sit and listen but never judge. She allowed her to talk out any problem without trying to tell her how to think. But she was also a marvelous cook, so these discussion sessions were always accompanied by something delicious. This morning, a plate of sweet bread sat next to Kate’s cup of tea. She loved these long buns made from the same recipe Grace used for hot cross buns at Easter time, only without the dried fruit.

Kate asked Grace about all her activities, including teaching knitting and crochet at the senior center. Then they discussed the wedding and the invitations. Grace had taken charge of those.

Grace, in her early seventies, appeared much younger and often seemed to have more energy than her grandchildren. She expressed horror on hearing what had happened with the email, especially since Cathy had been her guest earlier this month. She warned Kate not to let Seamus get so caught up in her investigation he neglected his own life. They knew he wouldn’t shirk his studies; it wasn’t his style. However, he didn’t have an active social life. He swore his twin had gotten all the social genes of the pair when they were born. Kate knew better than to let him use working with her as an excuse to miss out on the many of the activities of senior year. She had avoided all the high school activities in favor of showing dogs, and it had left her completely unprepared when confronting life and love. Luckily, she fell for Harry, who understood and cherished her anyway.

On her way back to the kennel, Kate texted Cathy, telling her she’d have more information for her by the end of the day. Then she took Shelagh, Dillon’s half-sister, a Liam daughter out of Kelly, from the exercise yard and, slipping a show collar on her, she headed toward the barn to practice gaiting, stacking, waiting patiently, and coming to perfect four-square finishes when they moved. Next came their favorite part of the work session—the games. Shelagh was lightning fast and deadly in all the games of catch and fetch. Her leaps to catch the toy before it hit the floor were even higher than Dillon’s. Ten minutes of one-on-one jumping, and racing around with toys to shake and throw up in the air had her happy as a lark. So it was a smug bitch Kate let back into the exercise yard to brag to the others about how she had been spoiled.

Dillon and Quinn managed to take advantage of Shelagh’s exit to slip through the door into the kennel. They followed Kate into her office where she had been working on the schedule for the fall search-and-rescue training dates. She decided she’d skip lunch since she was full of Grandma Grace’s treats. Wrestling her chair from Hecate, her twenty-five-pound Maine Coon cat, she opened her laptop.

But when she clicked on email, a flood of more than a hundred messages appeared. There was a firestorm of protest against the email from this morning. She started reading the angry replies and realized Krystyn had a serious problem. About thirty minutes into reading the mountain of outraged responses, Kate scrolled down the list of emails until she came to some from her cousin Agnes.

As a former supermodel who had become a bank president, the assumption might be made she would have become more staid and sober-minded. Not Agnes. She was still a lady on a mission, and her latest mission, unfortunately, was Kate’s wedding. When Harry and Kate announced they were getting married on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Agnes freaked. She screamed there wasn’t enough time to plan the catering, much less a whole wedding.

Kate and Harry disagreed. Working around their schedule, they got organized. They sat down that night and made a spreadsheet of those whom they’d invite to the wedding. Then they chose a design for the invitation, ordered rolls of stamps and, at her request, placed the invitation and reply job in the willing hands of Grandma Grace.

Kate’s brother Will had claimed the job of catering. He knew what they liked and was a top chef—though his career focus was on math. His contacts in food services would make everything work smoothly.

One of the dogs Kate had trained last year belonged to the owner of the town’s only florist. When Dina heard about the wedding, she insisted on doing the flowers. In five minutes, she’d discovered what Kate liked, and all the floral plans were complete.

Attendants weren’t a problem. Agnes would be her maid of honor. Cathy, as well as Harry’s sister Sarah, would be bridesmaids. Rufus, Harry’s best friend, would be best man, the twins, Seamus and Tim, would be groomsmen, and Tom would give her away. Kate insisted Agnes, Cathy, and Sarah work together choosing what to wear in the way of bridesmaid dresses. She’d only be looking at Harry.

That left the bridal gown. Today’s six emails from Agnes, aka “Her Highness,” would all contain photos of gowns from the top designers in the world, all of whom Agnes modeled for over the years. She could have her choice of any one of them. The dresses were all gorgeous, but Kate had been resisting the suggestions and so far was putting her off.

Unsure what she wanted, she but thought it should be something reflecting who she was. An idea had been flitting around in her brain for the last couple of days. Since she didn’t have anything pressing at the moment, she decided to steal some time and play with it. She pulled up her design program, chose her measurements from the files, and began to fiddle with a possible design for a wedding dress.

Since the weather would be colder by Thanksgiving, the dress should have long sleeves tapering to a point at the wrist. The fitted bodice would extend up from a natural waistline to just below the bust. There it would join a yoke of knitted lace. The front of the dress itself would have a scooped neck, while the lace overlay would continue up the neck to just below the chin. In the back, the dress and the lace yoke would descend in a V to mid-back where a knitted lace rose would mark the attachment of a short train of the same knitted lace. The skirt would flow from the natural waist straight to the floor in front. However, in the back, it would divide into six gores, allowing fullness for dancing. Harry was a wonderful dancer.

As she tweaked the design of the hemline, her phone buzzing in her pocket jerked her attention from the fantasy creation. It was Harry. Quickly, she saved the design and answered the call.

“Hi, love. How’s my bride-to-be?”

“She’s probably a lot less tired than her groom-to-be. How was your flight? Did you get everything finished up in Munich?”

“It’s all done. The police have the man in jail, and the client is delighted. I’m in a taxi on my way home from the airport. I’ll do laundry, take a nap, and pack for next week. I should be on your doorstep by eight-thirty or nine.”

“It sounds wonderful if you’re not too tired to drive here. In fact, I have some questions about hacking I need to ask when you get here. A problem has come up involving one of my friends. You go get some rest, and I’ll see you later. I love you.”

“Love you more,” he said.

The connection ended, and Kate checked her incoming emails again only to find a posting from the Samoyed club president.

Notice to all members.

It has come to our attention an email was sent to the membership, supposedly from Krystyn Machnicki. It was not from Krystyn. This is a case of identity theft. Someone, purporting to be Krystyn, sent out the email without her knowledge. We will be setting up an investigation. In the meantime, please do not encourage this malicious act by believing the contents or source of the email.

Robert Bicknell, President

Kate’s phone rang again. It was Cathy.

“Hey there. Did you see Bob’s email calling off the dogs, so to speak?”

“Well, hopefully, it will work. Krystyn is a basket case. She called to say she was taking her phone off the hook, turning off her computer, and locking herself and her dogs in the house. Her husband is away on business, so she’s alone. I’ve got my kennel help coming here in an hour. A couple of us from the local club are going over to her place to give her some support. I texted her so she’ll know we’re coming.”

“Harry will get here later this evening. I’ll tell him the problem. Maybe he’ll know how to find this person and stop him or her.”

She hung up and was just about to take a tea break when the intercom buzzed. Ellen wanted her in the design studio, immediately. Kate headed to the barn and jogged up the stairs to her studio on the second floor. Ellen Martin wasn’t in her manager’s office but rather sitting at the computer Kate used, on the work floor. Nobody was knitting. All the women were gathered around Ellen, talking in hushed tones. As Kate walked in, they all stopped and stared at her. Startled, she asked, “What’s up. Is there a problem?”

“Everything is fine. In fact, everything is perfect,” Ellen said as the women all smiled.

Kate walked around so she could see what had everyone’s attention and there, on the oversized monitor, was the dress she’d been playing with earlier. She’d been so distracted when the phone rang, she’d saved it automatically to her design files. Ellen must have thought it was something new for the upcoming fashion show and opened it to begin planning what the design would need in yardage per size and color.

“Oh,” Kate said. “I was just playing around with an idea. I didn’t mean to send it over here. I was just rebelling against Agnes sending me so many pictures of these over-the-top dresses. I was fiddling around trying to come up with an idea of what was more my style.”

“Oh my God, it’s perfect,” Ellen whispered. “We have to make it. I can have the yarn here by Monday, and Anna has just passed her test on the new lace machine. I think an ultrafine merino on the fine gauge machine makes a fabric supple enough to flow. You will be the most beautiful bride in the world.”

“But I leave on Saturday for the National. In only two days,”

“No problem. You’ll be gone a week. We can fit it to you when you get back. This is our chance to be part of the wedding like everyone else. Please, Kate. Let us do this for you.”

Tears filled her eyes. She was so choked up, she couldn’t say anything, just hugged each of them, nodded at Ellen, and, before she started crying, quickly headed out and back to the dogs.

On the way into the kennel, she scooped up a stack of mail from the basket by the door. Leafing through the stack, she saw a letter from Krystyn dated three days ago. Curious, she tore it open, hoping for some insight on what was going on.

Kate,

This is just a quick note. Something of vital importance has come up, and only you can help me. We will discuss the details at the National, but though I know this might put you in a tenuous position, I must ask for your help. Your being at the National is essential. I will meet you on Monday afternoon in the hotel lobby and fill you in. Don’t tell anyone about this meeting. It could be risky.

Krystyn

She read the letter again. What was vitally important? What did Krystyn want? How could meeting her at the National be risky? Why was it essential she be there? Kate was reading the letter for the third time, feeling no less confused, when her phone buzzed. Relieved, she saw it was Cathy again.

“Hi, Cathy,” she said. “How’s Krystyn?”

“Krystyn’s dead.”

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