Jane started for the forest edge; the mysterious animal that took them by surprise was a large German Shepherd, seemingly weary and stepped back as Jane drew nearer.
“Come here, boy, don’t be afraid!” she said, attempting to draw him out into the open.
The dog backed up again, and darted into the trees before Jane could even catch another glimpse.
“Margaret, did you see that?”
Margaret was a good fifteen feet behind Jane; and shook her head.
“Thought I did, but I couldn’t describe it to you. What was it?”
“I just bet that was Trooper, from Zack’s description, it couldn’t have been anyone else. Unless you know of someone who’s missing a pedigree German Shepherd!”
“Do you think Trooper escaped his dognapper?” Margaret thought aloud.
“The poor dear must have been frightened, to have run away so quickly. I think we should check in with Zack, and see if he’s heard anything about him.”
It wasn’t long before they had returned to the museum; and once again Jane ventured into the dusty interior on a desperate search for clues. At first when she stepped foot into the back storeroom, she hoped to see Zack; but instead she was greeted by a partially broken fan spinning in the corner on a table, a passel of unpacked cardboard boxes and scattered newspapers.
Zack appeared to be gone. Jane contemplated asking the other staff there at the museum, then decided against it when she saw something on the desk.
It was an ultrasonic dog whistle, placed on top of the freshly unpacked packing materials and newspapers. Jane thought to herself, without a new dog on site for training, what was Zack doing with a dog whistle out in the open?
Jane picked it up from the desk, and inspected it closer when she heard something from afar. She quickly tucked the dog whistle into her purse, when suddenly Zack walked in through the door.
He was holding a camera, and pulling the roll of film out with the opposite hand when he looked up at Jane. He appeared nervous, and out of sorts.
“Hello Jane!” he began with a shy grin, tucking the roll of film into his back pocket. “What are you doing here?”
It seemed to Jane, cameras were very popular this summer.
“I didn’t know you were into photography!” Jane said, pointing to the camera in his hands.
“It’s a hobby of mine,” he laughed, “I only picked it up last fall.”
“Is there any other reason why you might be taking pictures?”
Zack’s expression changed, and Jane could tell he had an ulterior motive. Just at that moment, somebody rolled by with a dolly full of crates, asking for Zack’s help; and he used their arrival as a pretext for not answering Jane’s question.
After Zack excused himself from the room and headed down the hall, Jane couldn’t help but wonder what he had been using that camera for. Was Trooper actually stolen, or had Zack only made it appear that way?
Jane exited the building and joined Margaret in the nearby sedan, to return to Josh’s camera shop.
“Jane, something about the way you said Zack acted; it doesn’t add up. Why would he steal his own dog?” Margaret asked.
“I’m not sure. The whole thing is puzzling. The gang in the woods, the mysterious Ted Hayden character; and not to mention, Sadie skipping town!”
“I bet Josh has those photos developed. Maybe they’ll help clear everything up.”
“Maybe. And what about that dog behind the truck stop? Could it have belonged to the man following us in the green car? What if the man in the green car was actually Zack?”
“Oh no it couldn’t have been!” exclaimed Margaret, “What motive would he have in following us?”
Jane shrugged her shoulders, “Beats me, but whatever he’s up to it can’t be any good. I don’t trust anyone in town right now!”
Zack’s suspicious behavior had set Jane’s active mind to working. With Sadie out of town, it could mean they’d uncovered something big; or possibly, something dangerous.
The sun was just beginning to set, and the hot summer heat had started to cool off when they arrived back at Josh’s camera shop. Long shadows were stretching across the gravel when they pulled up and parked outside.
With hope, those photos would reveal something useful; but what?