By Dorothy Bodoin
Cozy Mystery, 365pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
A white collie puppy appears on the porch of the Ferguson Victorian farmhouse during a Christmas Eve snowstorm, and in another part of Foxglove Corners, a collie breeder’s show prospect disappears. Is there a connection between the two events?
In the meantime, the collie painting Jennet’s sister gave her for Christmas begins to exhibit strange qualities.
Julia’s mystery box was large enough to hold a dress or even a coat. I removed the paper carefully. The glossy green with its clever Nutcracker pattern was too pretty to end up burning in the fireplace.
“It’s heavy,” I said. “It doesn’t rattle. It isn’t a fruitcake. What could it be?”
Julia leaned forward eagerly, “For heaven’s sake, open it.”
I lifted the top and encountered sparkling green tissue paper and bubble wrap. Then another box. Finally a framed picture emerged from still more wrapping. It was an oil painting that instantly reached out to my heart, a masterly depiction of a girl in a pink dress and a collie family frolicking against a section of blue porch. I held it up to the light.
The bright chatter and rustle of paper around me ceased as everybody’s eyes came to rest on the painting.
Camille leaned forward for a better view. “Oh, how sweet!”
“It’s beautiful, my dear,” Gilbert said.
Created in shades of green and soft pastels, it was one of those scenes that invite the viewer to step through the frame and into the artist’s world. Like Alice through the Looking Glass, I felt as if I could almost do it.
One could imagine that beyond the canvas, the sun was shining and the scent of newly-mowed grass lay thick on the air. I could almost hear the high-pitched yelping of collies at play. This would be their first time out in the yard…
“More collies,” Brent said. His dessert plate was empty. “Speaking of more, is there any cake left?”
“I’ll cut you a slice of my Noel log,” Camille said quickly and went into the kitchen.
The chatter and paper rustle resumed while I sat quietly soaking in every detail of the painting. Three of the pups were sables like their dam; two were tricolors. The girl was attractive in a subdued way with radiant golden hair that fell in waves to her shoulders. She looked happily confused as if she didn’t know which puppy to play with first.
Not an old-fashioned girl, I decided, although the painting was reminiscent of sentimental turn-of-the-century art and the ornate frame had an antique look. The girl lacked that sweet rose-ivory beauty that vanished decades ago. This was a modern young lady in a dress rather than jeans and a skimpy top. It was the aura that invoked another age.
Now what did that mean?
The painting had a signature: ALL. Allison? Allinda?
“Do you like it?” Julia asked anxiously.
“I love it,” I said. “It’s the best present you ever gave me.”
Julia beamed. “I found it at your favorite shop, the Green House of Antiques. It isn’t really an antique. It just looks old. But you haven’t seen everything. Turn it over.”
I did. On the back, someone had scrawled a brief sentiment in black ink. I read it aloud. “Evil RIP.”