Full Scoop(4)

By: Janet Evanovich


Queenie opened the door and stepped inside. She was breathing heavily. "Henry Filbert is gone."

Maggie looked at her. "Gone where?"

"Soon as I showed up with that booster injection you ordered, he shot out the door like a bottle rocket. After he gave me the finger and called me an ugly black witch doctor."

"Oh, gur-reat!" Maggie said. "Did you happen to see which way he went?"

"In the direction of that little strip shopping center," Queenie said. "I chased that boy for two blocks before I gave up. Just look what the humidity did to my new perm." She pointed to her hair. The once-tight curls had come unsprung and jutted from her head like tiny mattress springs. "Mrs. Filbert is having a conniption fit out front. Somebody needs to put that woman on Valium."

Maggie looked at Dee Dee. "Would you excuse me for a minute?" She opened the door and started down the hall. She could hear Henry's mother wailing from the reception room. "Hurry, Queenie! We have to find him."

Even as tall and lanky as she was, Queenie could not keep up with Maggie. "Hurry, hell," she muttered. "I'm too old for this nonsense. I should be sitting home watching the Shopping Network and collecting Social Security. I ought to put the root on that boy. I ought to—"

Maggie skidded to a stop and Queenie slammed into her. They both gave a giant ugh. "Quiet!" Maggie whispered. "His mother might hear you."

"Yeah? The way I see it, she owes me a hundred dollars for not bringing him back."

Maggie threw open the door to the reception room where Ann Filbert was in the throes of hysteria and frantically punching numbers on her cell phone. She gave Maggie a dark look and pointed at Queenie. "That woman frightened my son. I demand that you fire her immediately."

"Everything is going to be okay, Mrs. Filbert," Maggie said, noting the openmouthed stares coming from the other parents. A toddler in a pink dress yowled and reached for her mother.

"What if he gets lost or falls into a drainage sewer?" the woman cried, flailing her arms. "He's just a little boy. He has his whole life ahead of him. He has never been to a prom or fallen in love. He doesn't even have a 401-K." She put the phone to her ear. "Hello? Is anybody there? Hellooo!" she shouted. She looked at Maggie. "Just wait until I tell my husband. We'll sue. We'll own this building before it's over."

Maggie glanced at her fresh-out-of-business-college receptionist, who was in the process of repairing a fingernail and seemed oblivious to the situation. "Fran, please take Mrs. Filbert into my office and offer her something to drink," Maggie said, wishing she had straight whiskey on hand.

" 'Kay," the girl said without looking up.

Maggie opened the front door, stepped out, and tried to decide where she and Queenie should start looking. She blinked at the sight of a small, caramel-colored goat tethered to a tree and feeding on Maggie's azalea bushes. She turned to Queenie.

The woman shrugged. "I forgot to tell you. Joe Higgins stopped by to pay on his daughter's bill just as I was returning from chasing Henry. Her name is Butterbean. She's a little cockeyed."

Maggie just stood there for a minute. Joe was a down-and-out farmer who insisted on paying his account with beast and fowl. He was not a man to take handouts, he'd told her proudly. Which was why Maggie had a dozen laying hens in an outbuilding at the back of her property that she'd turned into a henhouse. Not to mention a cage of floppy-eared rabbits, she reminded herself. Her daughter, Mel, referred to her as Mrs. Old McDonald and her farm.

"On second thought," Maggie said, realizing Queenie had no business running about in the heat. "Please hide the goat so our patients don't see her."

"Mind telling me where to hide her?" Queenie asked.

"Take her around back. Be sure to give her water. And Frankie Jr. needs his DPT."

"Okay."

"I'll be back as soon as I find Henry."

"Oh, yeah, don't be surprised if you ran into people dressed like Elvis," Queenie said. "That convention is in town."

Maggie had no time to worry about men in Elvis suits. She hit the pavement at a dead run, heading toward the strip mall. Ten minutes later she spied Henry sitting at a table inside the Full Scoop ice-cream parlor. She threw open the door and marched in, unable to miss the two men sitting at the back. They were black-haired with long sideburns, and wore white rhinestone-laden jumpsuits and capes.

She turned to Henry, giving him her most menacing look. "Excuse me?"

"I'm not taking that stupid tetanus shot, and you can't make me." He scraped the bottom of the dessert dish, obviously determined to get the very last bite.

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