Full Scoop(10)

By: Janet Evanovich


Maggie decided to try a different approach. She smiled and stroked Butterbean just above her nose. "I know you're scared and confused and probably miss your goat friends," she said softly, "but my life has gone to hell 'cause there's this really bad guy I used to know, and he might be coming after me. I'm trying to deal with that right now," she added. "So, if you could just work with me, okay?"

In response, the goat began expelling marble-sized goat poop. Maggie stared. "Wait! You can't do that here."

Butterbean proved her wrong. "Oh, great," Maggie mumbled. "Now what am I going to do?" There was nothing she could do at the moment but hope nobody was looking. The thought had barely left her mind before she spied Herman Bates, owner of Bates' Furniture and a city council member, cruising by slowly in his new Town Car. His eyes fixed on the goat; Maggie gave a weak smile.

Finally, Butterbean finished her business, and they trudged on. Maggie's feet hurt by the time she reached her house. Of all days to try to break in a pair of new shoes, she thought. She spied her neighbors across the street, Ben and Lydia Green, working in their flower beds.

They looked up. "Nice little pygmy goat you got there," Ben called out, as if it were an everyday occurrence to find Maggie leading a goat up their street. Of course, he probably wasn't surprised since he'd helped her build a chicken coop. Lydia just stared.

"Thanks." Maggie felt their eyes on her as she coaxed the animal up her driveway and to her backyard. The lightweight, twenty-foot chain was a tangled ball that Maggie had to undo before she hooked it around a shade tree. "I'm sorry to have to leave you like this, but it's only for a little while," she said, checking to make sure Butterbean had enough room to walk around. She filled a bucket with fresh water and grabbed a bag of carrots from her refrigerator. "This should tide you over until dinnertime," she said, shaking the carrots from the bag. Butterbean wasted no time chomping down.

Maggie entered the simple farmhouse that had belonged to her grandparents. She filled a glass with water and sipped slowly, trying to cool off. She was in dire need of a shower; her white skirt and melon-colored jacket were damp with perspiration, and her dark hair felt like a woolen shawl against the back of her neck and shoulders. The temperatures had soared all summer, and even though September had brought some relief, humidity still weighted the air.

Her mind went back to Carl Lee Stanton. Her gut told her he was headed her way. What would she do? She needed to grab her daughter and leave town. Yes, that was the answer.

Maggie sighed. If only she didn't have a ton of patients scheduled for next week: checkups, new mothers coming in for the first time with their babies, and a young boy in the hospital undergoing a myriad of tests for his weakened immune system. That didn't include her walk-in patients; it seemed half the kids in town had colds.

And now she had a goat to worry about.

Damn.

She would send Mel away, she decided. Maggie opened a drawer that her daughter referred to as the junk drawer. It was the catchall, the keeper of all things they never used but couldn't throw away because one never knew. At the very back, beneath a tangled wad of lime-green yarn and a package of pipe cleaners, was her stash of miniature candy bars. She needed her endorphin, serotonin, dopamine lift. How could she be expected to deal with this kind of stress without a chocolate fix now and then? She finished off the bar in two bites, only to reach for another. She put it back.

She was absolutely not going to use chocolate as a crutch to get through this.

She was strong.

She was brave.

"Yeah, right," she muttered, and snatched the candy from the drawer once more before she could change her mind. She was scared to smithereens; that's what she was.

The wall clock snapped her to attention. Twenty minutes, and the bell would ring at Mel's school.

Maggie hurried into her bedroom, stripped off her office clothes, and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that read yes, i am the center of the universe, a gift from Mel on Maggie's last birthday. She pulled on her Nikes and put her hair into a ponytail. In the kitchen, she grabbed several plastic grocery sacks and a small handheld gardening shovel so she could take care of the goat poop. Finally, she took off in the direction of her office at a fast jog, only to slow down after one block when she became winded.

If only she would follow the advice she gave others and begin an exercise program of her own.

Reaching her office, Maggie dropped the poop-filled bag into the trash can in back, dug her keys from her pocket, and jumped into her white Toyota. She started the engine and pulled a travel packet of hand wipes from the glove compartment. She mopped her face, cleaned her hands, and put the car in reverse. A horn blasted from behind, scaring the wits out of her.

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