By Stephen Halpert
Sippi looked at Aunt Bea and grinned.” Was that phone call from your gentleman caller?”
“More than that,” she smiled and Sippi saw that far away look in her eyes—like a woman in love. “Yes, Sippi, considerably more than that. I have to say that I’m one of his one and onlies.”
Raven caught on and grinned. “Is he why you’ve come back after all these years?”
“One of them,” Bea said. “I’d say the major one now that miscegenation and disinheritance won’t keep us from spending our golden years together.
Sippi was poised to hear more. “One of ‘um, what? What I don’t know about you Aunt Bea!”
The doorbell rang. Sippi sighed and went to answer it. She came back with a big bulky package for Aunt Bea from Victoria’s Hideaway.
“My new dress, cape and shoes. Now I’m all set. Then she laughed. “Set as I’ll ever be.”
“Set for what?” Sippi asked.
“Set to see him again?” Raven said.” Set to throw her arms around the man of her dreams.”
“That all goes without saying,” Bea said.
I went over and sniffed the box. It had a perfume smell that made me want to sneeze.
With a flourish Aunt Bea opened it, pulled out her dress and held it against herself. Raven whistled approvingly.
Sippi’s eyes widened. “Sheer! You goin’ in for that revealing Josephine Baker look?”
“Ya think?” Bea chuckled. “Believe me Sippi I wouldn’t be wearing this number to the Sunday school recital. But I figure for tomorrow night, it being Halloween as well as the twentieth fifth anniversary of our first meeting that anything goes for me and my size 14. Besides it’s got a cape.”
Sippi chuckled. “Oh sure,” she said as she ran her hands over the clingy
material. “That’ll make a big difference I’m sure.”
Raven looked at Aunt Bea. “You’re one fine looking woman.”
“You oughta be saying that to Sippi not me.”
Raven’s sighed. “If only she’d let me. I’m not perfect. The right looks and I’m distracted. But with Sippi it’s different. I love her and I hope she knows it. I’ll follow after her to the ends of this earth.” But Sippi turned her head away.
Bea patted his hand. “Then you have to convince her.”
“Will you two stop!” Sippi’s lips tightened. “It’s best to let things be.” She stared at the tall sequined heels and laughed. “I’d be lame for a week if I dared try dancing in those.”
Bea grinned. “All the better to strut my stuff, my dear. I bought them so as to accentuate my positive.”
Raven smiled.”Kind of reminds me of what Tina Turner wore for her Amsterdam concert only her dress was way shorter.”
“You’d rather I wore my Girl Scout uniform?”
Sippi laughed. “Aunt Bea, if you were a girl scout you’d win a badge for minding other people’s business.”
All that talk they were doing. It was time for a treat. I yawned and began to whine–just a whimper really, but enough to get Sippi’s attention.
She disappointed me. “Forget it Magee. You’ve just had supper.”
Bea put her hand on Raven’s arm. “A part of you feels like he never gets enough! No wonder you’re not ready yet to settle down.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just keep on showing that niece of mine love and heartfelt affection. Slowly that part of you will realize what you have is better than anything you could find by looking and won’t feel the need to go elsewhere.”
“Aunt Bea did you smoke something today?” Sippi said. “You sound a little overly enthusiastic.”
Bea paid Sippi no mind. Instead she looked warmly at Raven and patted his hand.
Sippi sniffed. “Please, Aunt Bea! Please don’t give him encouragement. Raven and I are on different paths.”
“Doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.
“Oh Sippi be forgiving,” Bea said. “He’s just a man for goodness sake.”
“That’s right,” Raven said.”It’s always been you, Sippi even when it wasn’t.”
“Don’t go there Raven.”
Sippi’s cell phone interrupted them. Chief Mallory’s voice boomed. “Bopp get Magee over here! I’m at the municipal tennis courts by the high school. We’ve found the missing head. I want Magee to do his sniffing before the crime lab gets here.”
I saw the excitement in Sippi’s eyes and knew we were finally afoot.
“I’ll drive,” Raven said. “If you’ll let me, that is?”
Sippi sighed. “Sure.” She attached my leash, then to make nice she tossed me a spicy shrimp ball.
“Ok Magee,” she said, “Show time.”
Sippi sat in front beside Raven. I was in the back on cold, firm leather seats. I wished there was a blanket but who asked me? I’m only a dog.
When we arrived at the tennis courts people were standing around, clutching their tennis rackets, looking nervous. Several patrolmen were taking names and gathering data. Mallory joined us at Raven’s car.
“Over there.” He pointed to the last court. Down at the end.” We started walking.
“Two women came by after work and discovered it. Someone for sure has a sick sense of the macabre.”
When we got there we saw a man’s head jammed on the top of a dead branch. He had long, thick matted hair. Dried blood had congealed in his beard. There were two gaping holes where his eyes had been.
Sippi removed my leash. I went to the branch and started to sniff. Like I usually do, I was sniffing to find a scent that didn’t belong there. Then I detected a whiff of perfume. It was barely noticeable, but this time enough to make me sneeze. I followed it past the tennis courts, back to the parking lot, then down a stretch of dirt road that wound behind the gym.
“Right behind you Magee,” Raven said.
The scent was very faint, but enough for me to follow. I scurried down a dirt path As I got closer the scent was stronger. There was something under a clump of bushes. I barked to make them notice. Then I tried to get my teeth around it to pull it out. Mallory, Sippi and Raven caught up with me. Mallory aimed his flashlight.
“Give me a hand you two.” Together they managed to yank out an old rusty ax with a wooden handle. There was dried blood on the blade.
“Good work Sherlock.” Mallory started talking into his phone and I knew the crime lab was on its way. I yawned. Time to go home.
(To be continued)