I sleep where I want, and go where I want. But most of the time, I’m drawn to the Busy Place. That’s where Theodore works.

The Busy Place doesn’t actually get busy until well into the afternoon. Someone unlocks the door, turns on the lights, starts up the machines that hum and thump. Sometimes I’m too comfortable to move, tail curled over my nose, and the noises ease me back to sleep.

Today, though, when I hear Theodore’s voice rising through the rafters, my eyes open, and I stretch, stiff-legged, shaking off last night’s indulgences. A quick grooming, and I slide through the crawlspaces and down into the bar.

Theodore is there, and so is Georgie’s human, Ginny. It’s later than usual, or she’s here early: Theodore works here, but Ginny doesn’t. If she’s here, they must have a job.

They’re sniffers, what Ginny calls Investigators. Humans come to them with their problems, and the two of them find the answers. They’re good at it, too. Ginny knows where to look, and Theodore knows who to ask, and between the two of them, they can do anything.

Well, the two of them, and me and Georgie. We help, too.

“No, seriously, Tonica.”

“Seriously, Mallard.” He clinks glassware, putting things away. Nobody else is in the bar – my whiskers twitch. No, someone is in the back room. The old man who serves food. He doesn’t like me. I ignore him.

I lay on the top shelf, letting my paw dangle over the side, and consider the tops of their heads, listening.

“I’m not carrying business cards.”

“I’m not saying you should hand them out to everyone you meet. Just if someone asks. Or maybe leave them on the bar, so when people are crying out their woes to you, you can pass them a card. No pressure, no sales blitz, just… in case they’re interested.”

“And they’ll say what, these cards? Tonica and Mallard Investigations: Two Drink Minimum?”

“Please. Mallard and Tonica Investigations. I’m senior partner, here.”

“There is no here, here. I agreed to help you for one job. One job only.”

“mmmhmmmm.”

I knew that purr. My whiskers twitched again, this time in amusement. My human is many things, all good, but he insists on dragging himself tail-first into things, rather than leaping in gracefully.

That’s Ginny’s job, the dragging. Although I do it too, sometimes.

I’ve heard as much as I need to. I get up and leap down onto the bartop, accepting Ginny’s scratch behind my ears as my due.

“Good morning, Mistress Penny Drops,” Theodore says, and finds a treat in his pocket to offer me. I ate already, but it’s only good manners to accept treats. I sniff at Ginny’s rink, and pull my whiskers back. Gin and tonic and lime, I know those smells.

They go back to discussing the case they’re working on, the one with the man who has disappeared. They haven’t learned anything new since last I eavesdropped, so I leap down to the floor and head for the door. It’s propped open, and I go outside.

Georgie lifted her head when I came out, her jaw dropping open, the way dogs do, and she shook herself, the loose folds of skin around her neck and shoulders settling over her muscles. “Penny. Oh, Penny, hi! I was hoping you’d come out soon. Is there news on the case? Ginny seemed like there was news, when we were walking over here, she was walking fast-and-happy, the way she does.”

Georgie always talked like that, at first. She’s sweet, and smarter than she sounds, but she gets excited really easy. She was settled in her usual place, where some of the humans leave their bicycles, and there was a bowl of fresh water next to her. She’s a dog, so they don’t let her into the Busy Place except sometimes, when nobody else is around. Georgie doesn’t mind: she says it’s nicer out here on the street, where people come by all the time and talk to her, and pet her.

I’d never let someone tie me up to anything, but dogs are different. And Georgie gets to go where I can’t, and protects our humans.

“I don’t know,” I said, settling down between her front paws, my tail curled up so nobody would step on it as they walk by. “But something will come up soon. We just have to be ready.”

Humans are smart, but they’re not as smart as they think. But that’s okay, they have us.


You can read more about Miss Penny in COLLARED, the first book in the new “Gin & Tonic” mystery series.

** L. A. is giving away one (1) copy of COLLARED. Contest open to US residents only and ends November 16. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Meet the author
L. A. Kornetsky lives in New York City with two cats and a time-share dog, none of whom could catch a mouse, much less a criminal. L. A. Kornetsky also writes fantasy fiction under the name Laura Anne Gilman. She welcomes visitors to her website at www.lauraannegilman.net and to follow her on Twitter. You can also connect with L. A. Kornetsky on her Facebook page.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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