Welcome to the World of Pepe!

We’re so glad you arrived here at the official web site for the Barking Detective series of humorous mystery novels, which feature a talking Chihuahua, named Pepe, who is adopted by a young Seattle woman, Geri Sullivan, who has just begun working for an eccentric PI.

The first novel Dial C for Chihuahua explains how Pepe helps Geri solve the murder of a Microsoft millionaire and convinces her they are a dynamic detective team. The second book, Chihuahua Confidential, recounts the adventures of Geri and Pepe in LA performing in a reality TV show called Dancing for Dogs. In the third book, The Big Chihuahua, Geri and Pepe go undercover to investigate a cult that worships an ancient dog spirit known as Dogawanda. The fourth book, The Chihuahua Always Sniffs Twice, takes the dynamic duo to Sequim, Washington during the lavender festival where they are protecting a pack of spoiled dogs who have been left a fortune. And in the fifth book, The Silence of the Chihuahuas, Pepe stops talking to protect Geri (whose insistence that he talks is getting her in trouble) and starts blogging instead. You can order all of Pepe’s adventures: find the books at your favorite bookstore.

Thanks to Krista Brooks of RetroPets® for permission to use her art work for the header on our web site.
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Good Dogs Hunting

Curt and I are happy to publish another one of the stories that was a runner-up for the Pepe Prize 2018. This one was written by Linda McNab and Joanna Karaplis

found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fesign/3828462669/in/photolist-6QiSz4

After months of pouring rain, the sun finally came out and it seemed like all the dogs in the city were at the Riverside off-leash dog park. Pepe had run around in circles with the other dogs, chased seagulls off the beach, dug holes in the sand, played with his little yellow ball, and sniffed lots of doggie butts as he made new friends. Now he plopped down on the warm sand to soak up the sun next to his fellow Chihuahua, Millie.
Pepe was feeling that Life was Good. It hadn’t always been like this — only a short time ago, he was in a kill shelter in Los Angeles, and he woke up knowing each day could be his last. He had lost all hope. But then West Coast Dog Rescue arrived and he was chosen, along with his prison mate, Millie, and a few other lucky dogs. They were all put on a plane to Seattle to start new lives. Pepe was adopted by Geri Sullivan, a private investigator, and Millie was adopted by Geri’s friend, Jennifer. Jennifer had left yesterday for Vancouver, Canada to help her sister, who had just had a baby, so Geri had offered to look after Millie for a while, and Pepe was enjoying the company. Yes, he was a very lucky dog, he thought. He would never forget his good fortune.
His sleepy reverie was broken by the panicked cries of Maureen, a professional dog walker. “Help! Everyone, help! I can’t find Poppy. She was right here — now she’s gone!” Maureen had all her other dogs leashed and ready to go and was frantically striding up and down the beach calling Poppy’s name. The other dog owners came running to help.
As Maureen described the missing dog, Pepe exclaimed, “¡No tienes que decirme, Geri! Poppy was the white toy poodle that Millie and I were playing with earlier on the beach.”
“Where did you last see her?” Geri asked Maureen.
“Over this way,” said Maureen, leading Geri and the other dog owners away from the beach to the wooded trail nearby. “I was leashing all the dogs before we headed back to the van. That’s when I realized that Poppy was missing. She’s usually pretty good about coming when I call her, but this time she didn’t come. That’s why I’m asking for help… something must have happened to her.”
“Do not worry! We will help you find Poppy!” barked Pepe.
Everyone quickly agreed on a search plan and then spread out along the trail and the beach to look for Poppy.
“How disgusting!” snorted Geri as she almost stepped in a pile of black feces in the middle of the trail. “There are lots of signs telling people to clean up after their dogs, and the park even supplies doggie poo bags!”
Millie went up to the dog shit for a closer sniff. “Oh, Pepe! This is not from a dog. This is coyote scat. I do not like this!” She started to tremble.
Pepe came forward and sniffed the pile as well. “You are right, Millie! This is coyote scat, but it is not fresh. Do not be afraid. I will protect you! I will scare away any coyotes by barking and snarling like this.” He then proceeded to put on a ferocious display of barking and snarling and growling. Millie didn’t look convinced, but she stopped shaking.
Pepe stopped barking and returned to sniffing the area. After a moment, he exclaimed, “I have picked up Poppy’s scent. She went this way. ¡Vamos, Millie!” Before Geri could stop them, Pepe and Millie raced down the trail. Pepe barked, “I am picking up another scent now, Millie. Can you smell it? It is a human scent, so Poppy is not alone and that will give her some protection from any coyote that may be lurking in the woods.”
“Yes, I smell it too,” said Millie. “This way!”
The Chihuahuas arrived at the end of the trail just in time to see a little car zoom off from where the trail met a dirt road.
Geri caught up to them, a bit out of breath. Pepe told her, “I am sure that Poppy was taken by someone and they have driven off in a little Ford Fiesta — and no, Geri, I did not get the license number. There is only so much I can do. But I can tell you that the trail of Poppy’s scent ends here at the end of the trail, and that is where the little car was parked.”
“Good work, Pepe!” said Geri. “I caught a glimpse of the car, too. I couldn’t see the license number either, but the car was red.”
They returned to the beach, and Geri told everyone what they had seen. Maureen was distraught, and the other dog owners tried to comfort her. Pepe barked, “I am sure that Poppy is okay. I do not think she was a snack for a coyote.” Of course, Maureen didn’t understand his barks, but Geri did and she tried to reassure her that Poppy would be found alive.
They left the dog park in a somber mood. “I wish we could have found Poppy,” Pepe said to Millie.

The next morning, Geri received a phone call from Poppy’s owner, Colleen Malone.
“Maureen gave me your number,” said Colleen. “She says you’re a private investigator and that you were at the dog park yesterday when Poppy disappeared. I want to hire you to find Poppy. Can I come and see you right away?”
Geri agreed to meet with her and gave her directions to her house.
Colleen arrived barely forty-five minutes after the call. She was a petite brunette who looked equally prepared to run a 5K or deliver a sales pitch at a board meeting and she didn’t waste any time getting down to business: “I know who took Poppy — or arranged for her to be taken.”
“Who?”
“My ex-husband, Larry Malone, that’s who — the lying, cheating son-of-a bitch!”
“Why would he do that?” asked Geri.
“He wants to hurt me. Or he wants revenge. I don’t know! He’s a jerk. We had a nasty divorce, and I got the house, the kids and Poppy. It’s an understatement to say he was not pleased. I’m sure he is behind this. Yesterday I called him to ask where Poppy was and he said he didn’t know. But he’s lying. I wouldn’t believe a word he says!”
Geri took down Larry’s information and told Colleen that she would look into it. After Colleen left, Pepe said to Millie, “Maybe that is why Poppy was taken so easily. She knew her abductor.”
Geri said, “Maybe so, Pepe. We’re on the case! First, we’ll check whether or not Larry has Poppy.” She dialed his number.
“Yeah, Larry here,” he answered.
“Hello, this is Geri Sullivan, private investigator. I’m looking for Poppy, who was dognapped yesterday.”
“Oh, and you think I might have her? I bet my ex-wife told you that I took Poppy. I already told her I don’t have the dog, so leave me alone!” The line went dead.
“He says he doesn’t have Poppy,” Geri told Pepe and Millie, “but I think we need to see for ourselves. Time for a stake-out!”
“I love steak!” said Pepe.

That evening, they drove to Larry’s address, an older three-story apartment building. Geri showed Pepe and Millie the photo of him that Colleen had provided, and they waited outside to see if he would come out walking a toy poodle. Just when they were getting restless, and thinking about heading home, Millie barked, “That’s him!” A middle-aged man held the door for a much younger woman, then took her by the arm as they headed to a black car parked on the street. The woman had dyed blonde hair and wore a very short dress that clung to her curves, and Pepe observed that it was a good thing that Larry held her arm, because her heels were so high, it looked like she was going to topple over if he let go. Larry helped the woman into the car, then got in and drove off.
Pepe said, “Hmm, I wonder if his lady friend had anything to do with the divorce.”
“That’s not our problem, Pepe,” said Geri. “We’re looking for Poppy.” She took a closer look at the apartment sign, which stated that there were no vacancies, and that there was a waiting list. It also stated, in large letters, NO PETS ALLOWED.
Geri said, “Well, maybe he’s telling the truth and he doesn’t have Poppy. He certainly doesn’t drive a red Ford Fiesta. But we need more evidence to be sure.”

The next day, Geri started to check out the ads on Craigslist to see if any toy poodles were listed for sale. She answered several of the ads, but the dogs were male, or were puppies. No luck there.
Geri, Pepe and Millie were feeling discouraged. For several days, they went back to Larry’s apartment building in hopes of seeing him with Poppy, and Geri was able to question several of his neighbors, but no one had seen a toy poodle in the building. Everyone said the same thing: “We aren’t allowed pets here. Management is quite strict about it.”
They checked the ads daily, but could find nothing. Geri phoned Colleen to report on her progress… or rather, her lack of progress. “Have you received any ransom notes for Poppy? Or anybody calling asking for a reward if they find her?”
“No, nothing,” said Colleen.
“Shall I continue looking?”
Colleen implored her to stay on the case. “Our family isn’t the same without Poppy. The kids and I are devastated. We miss her terribly!”
Geri reassured Colleen that she would keep looking for Poppy. But she was beginning to lose hope.

Driving by the park the next day, Geri saw a man put a small white dog in his little red car. She immediately parked and ran up to him, with Pepe and Millie in tow, and demanded to see the dog.
The man seemed a bit taken aback by her tone, but he smiled when he saw the Chihuahaus. “Of course,” he said, “this is Chérie. She’s a Bichon Frise.” He held her out for Geri to get a closer look.
“What a cute dog! Thank you.” Geri slunk away, feeling her face redden with embarrassment.
“Geri, that was not Poppy — she was not even a poodle!” barked Pepe. “And the car was not even the right one. It was a Toyota Echo, not a Ford Fiesta. I may not be able to see colors clearly, but I know my cars!”

“We all make mistakes, Pepe,” said Geri. “The case continues.”
Over the next two weeks, people in the town began to notice that more dogs were disappearing. Missing posters, with mug shots of beloved pets, began appearing on telephone poles and in shop windows. Pepe was glad that Millie was staying with them for a while so he could keep an eye on her. Geri was such a good person to let Millie stay with them, Pepe thought.
One morning at breakfast, Geri was reading the community newspaper and found an article about the missing dogs. She summarized it for Pepe and Millie: “Evidently, they are all small breed dogs; no large dogs have been reported missing. They are also disappearing from back yards and off-leash dog parks. But the dognappings are slowing down, as people are keeping their dogs on leashes.” She paused. “It seems strange that so many little dogs are going missing. Maybe Poppy wasn’t abducted… I wonder if the coyotes are getting them after all,” she mused.
“Dios mío, Geri, do not think that. It is too terrible. I am sure that Poppy was taken by a human, and that same person might be taking the other dogs as well,” said Pepe.
“Yes, it’s definitely a little-dog-napper!” barked Millie. “But why? What is the dognapper doing with all those dogs?”
Geri couldn’t understand what Millie was saying but she was thinking the exact same thoughts. “But why would someone take all those little dogs? There haven’t been any ransom notes, and the dogs haven’t been listed for sale. It’s a real mystery, but somebody must know something,” she said. “Anyway, let’s go to the pet store. I have to get some things and maybe people there will have more news.”
At the mention of “pet store,” Pepe and Millie wagged their tails so energetically that their entire bodies wiggled. It was always a good idea to go to the pet store!

At the store, while Geri was discussing the mysterious dog disappearances with other pet owners and the staff, Pepe was interested in a middle-aged woman in a Snoopy sweatshirt who was buying two giant bags of dog food and three small bags of liver treats. Pepe loved liver treats and he went closer to the woman to get a closer whiff. The liver aroma tickled his nose, but there was another scent that caught his attention, too. “I know this human’s scent,” he thought. “I have smelled her before, quite recently, but where?”
Pepe followed the woman to the exit and watched as she wheeled her shopping cart to her car and loaded up the trunk with dog food and treats. Her car looked familiar somehow. Was it…? Yes! It was a red Ford Fiesta!
“Geri, Geri! Come quick! It is the car from the dog park. I think this is the human that took Poppy!” barked Pepe. The woman was already closing the trunk and walking around to the driver’s side of the car as Geri and Millie rushed out of the pet store. By the time Geri started her car, the Ford Fiesta was already leaving the parking lot.
“Do not lose sight of her, Geri, but do not let her know that we are following her,” Pepe advised.
“I know how to drive, Pepe!” retorted Geri, keeping an even distance from the red car. She was doing a great job until they came to a yellow light — the little red car sped through the intersection, while Geri slammed on the brakes as the light turned red.
“Oh no! We will never find the little red car now!” said Millie.
“We can try,” said Pepe. “It must be here somewhere, Geri. Drive around. We need to find it.”
After driving up and down the streets, they came to a wooded area of the suburb that ended in a dead end. There was no traffic, and Geri was ready to give up. But then Millie spotted the little red car peeking out from a covered carport next to one of the houses. “There it is, Geri!” she barked. Geri didn’t understand her, but the barking caught her attention and she followed Millie’s gaze, gasping when she saw the car.
“Go on, Geri, go and see if she has Poppy and the other stolen dogs in the house,” barked Pepe.
“I can’t just go up and knock on the door and ask her that! Of course she would deny it,” said Geri. “I should just call the SPCA and leave it to them.”
“No,” said Pepe, “we have to find out first if the dogs are in her house. If the SPCA comes and the dogs are not there, we might never find them. Maybe she is hiding them somewhere else.”
“Okay. How about this: I’ll keep her busy while you and Millie check out the backyard and see if you can find any evidence that Poppy and the other dogs are on the property.”
“¡Vamos, Millie, we are on a reconnaissance mission!” said Pepe as the Chihuahuas raced to the backyard.
Geri took out her clipboard and pen, walked up the front steps, and knocked loudly on the door.
The woman in the Snoopy sweatshirt opened the door. She was clutching a timid-looking white and black Papillon, and she didn’t look very happy to see Geri standing on her doorstep.
“Yes? What is it?”
“I’m Geri Smith, Animal Control Officer from the city. We’re checking that all pets are licensed. Is this your dog and do you have a license for it?”
“Of course, Panda is mine and his license is up-to-date.”
“Could I see it, please?” asked Geri.
The woman leaned forward and showed Geri the license tag on Panda’s collar. “There! See?!”
“Do you have any other dogs?”
The woman looked at Geri suspiciously. “No, I don’t, and I would like to see your identification.”
While Geri was fumbling in her purse, pretending to get out her ID, Pepe and Millie came running from around the corner of the house barking excitedly, “The dogs are here! They are in the basement!” They ran right past her into the house. Geri tried to run in after them, but the woman grabbed her arm.
“You can’t come in! Get out of my house! I am calling the police!” she yelled.
“Go right ahead,” said Geri, “I have to get my dogs!”
“I can hear them! They are in here! Quick, Geri, come and open the door,” barked Pepe.
The woman in the Snoopy sweatshirt was still holding Panda, and couldn’t get a good grip on Geri. After a brief struggle, Geri broke free, raced to the door Pepe was barking in front of, and opened it. A ball of white fur bolted out of the door, followed by a motley crew of small dogs. “Look, Geri, it is Poppy!” cried Pepe.
The dogs were panicked and scared, but Pepe and Millie quickly herded them out of the house.
Geri sighed with relief, then turned around to confront the dognapper, who was standing frozen in shock. “What have you done?!” Geri cried.
The woman yelled, “I did nothing wrong! People shouldn’t have dogs if they don’t look after them properly. Imagine, leaving them all alone in backyards, or giving them to dog walkers, who let the dogs run loose where there are coyotes. I was saving them!”
“You took them from their families,” said Geri.
“They were happy living with me. I gave them a home,” she wailed.
“They already had homes!” Geri retorted.
Now that the dogs were out of her house, the woman seemed deflated. She sat on the steps, rocking back and forth and clasping Panda to her chest.
Geri called the police and the SPCA. Although it seemed to take forever for them to arrive, it was only 20 minutes. The police took the woman into custody, and the SPCA officers began to gather up all the small dogs.
“Into the car, please,” Geri told Pepe and Millie. “I don’t want the SPCA taking you, too!” But the Chihuahuas eyed the approaching SPCA officers and refused to leave Poppy’s side. “Oh, I see,” said Geri. She scooped up Poppy and approached the nearest SPCA officer. “This is Poppy, and she belongs to my client Colleen Malone,” she said. “I’ll take her home, but here’s my card in case you need to contact me.”
As soon as she started towards the car with Poppy in her arms, Pepe and Millie bounded joyfully after her.
“Ooh, Pepe and Millie! Thank you for finding me,” said Poppy. “I was so scared. I didn’t know if I would ever go home again.”
“Sí, I know that feeling,” said Pepe, “but you are safe now, and you will be back home soon.”
Geri phoned Colleen to tell her the good news. Colleen immediately burst into happy tears, and Geri could hear children’s voices chanting “Poppy’s back! Poppy’s back!” in the background.
“What’s your address? I’ll come drop Poppy off,” she said, once Colleen had composed herself.
“I’m actually at a park near your place with the kids,” said Colleen. “Can we all come over?”

When Geri arrived home, Colleen was already waiting on her front steps. “Poppy!” shrieked the children, running to greet their beloved pet. Geri invited the family in for some tea. Poppy was having a great time, rolling and jumping around in the living room with the children while Colleen thanked Geri over tea and cookies. But Pepe and Millie made a beeline for Geri’s bedroom and stayed hidden from the excited children. They only emerged once Colleen finally finished thanking Geri and left with her children and their cherished pet.

The next day, the headline in the community newspaper read: Kidnapped Dogs Found! Local P.I. Solves Case. Geri read the article aloud to Pepe and Millie. “Looks like all the dogs will be reunited with their families… and who knows, maybe I’ll get a few more clients with the publicity!”
“¡Típico!” said Pepe. “If it was not for us, Millie, those dogs would still be hidden away in that woman’s basement.”
“Yes, you two should be rewarded,” said Geri. She pulled out a bag of liver treats, and Pepe and Millie happily wagged their tails. Life was Good!

Linda and Millie

Linda McNab is a retired social worker and avid reader. Now that her three daughters have grown up and left home, she is slowly filling her house with more and more books. She volunteers at the Vancouver Writers Fest, leads a mystery book club, and has recently discovered that attending Left Coast Crime mystery fan conventions can be addictive (so much so that she is one of the organizers for the 2019 Left Coast Crime conference in Vancouver, B.C.. Her non-book activities include spoiling her grandchildren, playing Scrabble, swimming, and learning languages (Greek and Spanish). Linda lives in Richmond, B.C., with her husband, three elderly finches, and a cranky lovebird named Kiwi. She also enjoys dog-sitting her youngest daughter’s Chihuahua, Millie, who was a rescue dog from L.A.(like Pepe!).

Joanna Karaplis is the author of Fractured: Happily Never After (2010) and Chester Gets A Pet (2016). She began her career in the Canadian book publishing industry, working at publishing houses in Vancouver and then Toronto. She now works in internal communications and lives in Toronto with her husband, son, and two cats. Her non-book hobbies include swing dancing and learning new languages (current project: Spanish). You can visit her at www.joannakaraplis.com.

 

 

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A Chihuahua for All Seasons

Rex looks on as Chelle sets up a Pepe Prize display

Rex looks on as Chelle sets up a Pepe Prize display

This charming short story by Chelle Martin is the Winner of the Pepe Prize contest. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.

“Geri, the mail is here,” Pepe said, as he watched an array of envelopes, magazines, and supermarket circulars fall through the brass slot in the front door. Sorting through the delivery, he sniffed out a particular envelope with a canine odor.

“This one is addressed to me.” Pepe gnawed on a corner to open it. “My first solo case!”

“What are you talking about, Pepe? We’re a team. Sullivan and Sullivan.”

“That is true, Geri. But I wanted to expand our business any way I could, so I took out a national newspaper ad. As you know, dogs spend a lot of time on the paper. They are bound to see our ad.”

“I never knew you read the paper, Pepe.”

Chelle, Sassy & Rex

Chelle, Sassy & Rex

“Mostly I just do the crossword puzzle,” Pepe replied while reading the letter. “Oh, no. This is very bad. Dogs have been disappearing from the beach. A fellow Chihuahua needs my help. His name is Rex, and his sister Sassy is one of the missing dogs.” He showed Geri the enclosed photo of Rex, Sassy, and their owner, Chelle, sitting on a boardwalk bench with the ocean behind them.

“I don’t think I ever saw black and white Chihuahuas,” Geri said. “Rex resembles a Papillon with his long hair, and Sassy looks like a Rat Terrier. But I wonder why we haven’t heard about missing dogs. We go to the beach.”

“Rex lives in New Jersey.”

“New Jersey! Oh, no, Pepe. We’re not licensed to work in New Jersey.”

“Geri, I am not licensed at all—except for my dog license—but it has not stopped me from solving cases. I will go and meet with Rex. Who knows? We might even be related.”

Geri took the letter from Pepe and looked it over. “There is nothing I can do to talk you out of this, is there?”

“I am afraid not.”

“Well, you aren’t flying to New Jersey by yourself. I’ll go book us a flight.”

***

After landing at Newark Liberty International Airport, Geri rented a mid-size sedan, loaded Pepe into the passenger seat, placed a suitcase in the trunk, and headed down the New Jersey Turnpike looking for the Garden State Parkway.

Forty minutes later, Pepe commented on the change of landscape. “It is hard to believe that we landed in an industrial area and are now on this beautiful highway. Why do people make fun of this state? Look at the colorful trees. The fall foliage is beautiful.”

“Some people are quick to judge.”

“I know. Some people think Chihuahuas are yappy little dogs.” He shook his head. “Is this Parkway taking us to the dog park?”

“It’s taking us to the beach.”

“Then why is it not called a Beachway?”

“The dog park is part of one of the local beaches.”
“Humans make things more complicated than they should be.”

Geri smiled, obviously in awe of his astute observation.

Pepe sat silently for a while, thinking about the missing dogs. A beach should be a happy place. He and Geri went to their own beach on occasion where he flirted with the lady dogs and played ball and Frisbee. He’d even ventured out on a surfboard once or twice.

“Geri, did I ever tell you about my job as a lifeguard?”

Pepe had had many jobs before coming to live with Geri and never ceased to amaze her with tales from his brightly colored past.

“I was the mascot of a hotel along the California coast and—”

“Hotels don’t have mascots. Teams have mascots.”

“Geri, please do not interrupt. I was part of the hotel team. That is why on one terribly hot summer day, I was lounging by the pool supervising the hotel guests. I must have dozed off because when I awoke, all the adults had left the pool and now stood around an outdoor barbecue pit.

“None of them saw a toddler fall into the water. I could not let that little girl drown, so I ran to the end of the pool, grabbed a floatie and dove in. My barking caught the attention of her father and he helped me pull her out.”

“That was very brave of you. Was the little girl okay?”

“Yes, she was perfectly fine,” he answered with teary eyes.

“Then why are you so sad?”

“I was blamed for the accident. They thought the girl had followed me to the pool and jumped in after me. I lost my home that day.”

“Oh, that’s horrible,” Geri said. “How could they do that to you?”

Pepe dried his eyes on a hoodie that Geri had draped on the seat. “It is okay. I know the truth. And we will also find the truth where the missing dogs are concerned. I will not let Rex down.”

***

Geri and Pepe arrived at The Atlantic Breeze Inn, a cheerful bed-and-breakfast located a block from the Atlantic Ocean in a Jersey shore town called Avon-by-the-Sea.

Photo by Robert McGovern

Photo of Avon-by-the-Sea y Robert McGovern

The three-story structure was clad in shake-shingles painted white, with grand columns for an entrance and a gray slate roof sporting several chimney stacks.

“I hope our room has a fireplace,” Geri said. “It’s a little chilly.”

Pepe shivered in agreement. “Perhaps I should have packed a sweater. I am not used to October in New Jersey.”

“Don’t worry, Pepe. I brought you a sweater and a sweatshirt.”

“I hope it is the red one. I look muy guapo in the red one. Also, the ladies love it.”

Geri reminded him, “We’re here on official business.”

“Of course.”

They were greeted inside by Eileen and Matthew McKenzie.

“Your inn is lovely,” Geri told the middle-aged couple.

“We both grew up in town and always admired it,” Eileen said. “Then shortly after we were married, the owner decided to sell and we couldn’t resist.”

“Twenty years ago,” Matthew added. “Helps me to remember our anniversary.”

“And we agreed to make the inn dog-friendly. We have a small bed for Pepe in your room. And some special treats.”

“I’m sure Pepe will love that,” Geri said, while signing in.

Eileen assigned them a room on the second floor, and Matthew carried their suitcase up the stairs. After depositing it on a stand at the foot of the bed, he said, “If there’s anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Geri noticed a courtesy newspaper on a wicker table. A small headline read, Dogs Stolen from Beach.

Matthew noticed her concerned look. “Be careful if you take Pepe to the Manasquan dog beach. A few dogs have gone missing recently.”

“Geri, ask him if he knows any of them,” Pepe said.

“You wouldn’t happen to know any of the owners of the missing pets?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Matthew said. “Her name is Catherine Delmonica, and her dog’s name is Rudy. She lives two blocks over, third house from the ocean. Poor Catherine is just devastated. It’s a friendly town and we’re all hoping she gets her Rudy back.”

“Thanks, Matthew. I hope they catch the guy.”

“We will get him, Geri,” Pepe said. “Dogs should not feel unsafe in their own neighborhood.”

***

Catherine Delmonica’s front yard was decorated with colorful fall mums, corn stalks and pumpkins. A yard sign proclaimed A Very Spoiled Poodle and His Owner Live Here.
Pepe and Geri climbed the brick steps and stepped onto the mahogany porch of a Victorian-style home. Geri pressed the buzzer and a Westminster chime echoed within.

“Coming!” called a voice. Seconds later, a tiny woman with shoulder-length white hair peered out through the glass storm door. “Hello?”

“Mrs. Delmonica? My name is Geri Sullivan and this is my Chihuahua, Pepe. I understand your dog Rudy is one of the dogs taken from Manasquan Beach. May I speak with you for a moment?”

Pepe noticed Catherine’s face light up at the mention of Rudy. “Oh, my, yes. Do you have any news?” she asked. She ushered them into a cozy living room where a fire blazed in a brick hearth. “Please, sit down.” She motioned toward a couch and chairs.

Once Geri situated herself on the couch, Pepe jumped into her lap. He, like Geri, was eager to hear first-hand about the dognappings.

“Are you an investigator?” Catherine asked.

“I’m a private investigator,” Geri explained. “I was alerted to the case by”—she glanced at Pepe—“a fellow dog lover.”

Catherine nodded. “I found out from speaking with the other owners, that all of the missing dogs are pedigreed. My Poodle, Rudy. Also, a Yorkshire Terrier, a Maltese, and a Chihuahua.”

“The Chihuahua must be Sassy,” Pepe said.

“Do you personally know the other dog owners?” Geri asked Catherine.

“No, but we met after the police started to investigate. My Poodle is a toy, and it seems whoever is doing this is targeting small dogs.”

“That makes sense,” Geri said. “They’d be easier to grab.”

Catherine pulled a tissue from her cardigan pocket and wiped at her eyes. “Why would someone do this?”

“Have you received any ransom notes?” Geri asked. “I’m assuming you had tags on Rudy’s collar with his contact info? Or maybe he was microchipped?”

“Yes, all of the owners’ dogs had tags. I think only the Yorkie was microchipped. But none of us has heard a word. We’ve all kept in touch with one another.”

Pepe wondered if perhaps the dognappers were planning to sell the pedigreed dogs. If so, they could be half way across the country. It would be difficult to sell them locally without getting caught.

It was sad seeing Catherine cry over her beloved pet. Framed pictures of Rudy, some with Catherine, decorated the walls and table. Pepe wondered if Rudy was her only fur-child. Some people preferred fur-children to the human kind.

Geri asked Catherine for her phone number and promised her that they’d do their best to bring Rudy home again.

As they walked back to the bed-and-breakfast, Pepe said. “Well, now we must visit this dog beach. If I have to, I will act as a decoy and see if we can lure the dognapper out of hiding.”

***

Manasquan’s Rocky Cove Beach provided a place for dogs to run in the sand and surf. Most days, dogs had to be leashed, but instructions were posted that, for a few hours each week, they could have the run of the fenced-off area. Small dogs under twenty-five pounds were allowed specified times on Tuesday and Thursday. Dogs over that size were granted Wednesday and Friday.

“Today is Tuesday,” said Pepe excitedly, as Geri drove past the large sign and found a parking spot.

Geri grabbed her handbag and opened the door, and Pepe bounded from the car and hurried towards the sand. “Come on, Geri. Hurry up!”

“Pepe, you need your sweater!” Geri called.

“Perhaps you are right.” He shivered as Geri caught up and slipped the red knit over his head and gently pulled his paws through the openings. “Ah, much better. Now I will go speak with that pretty Shih Tzu over there, while you interrogate the owners.”

Geri watched Pepe trot over the sand, his short legs sinking in the soft grains until he reached the harder surface near the water’s edge.

“Your Chihuahua is adorable,” a woman said. “Be sure to keep an eye on him though. Someone has been stealing dogs from this beach.”

Geri immediately recognized Chelle from the photo Rex had sent, but couldn’t very well tell the woman her dog had contacted a private investigator from a newspaper ad.

“I saw an article about the missing dogs. My name is Geri Sullivan. I’m a PI, and I’d like to help. I spoke with Catherine Delmonica this morning.”

“I’m Chelle Martin, and I’ve met Catherine. My little Sassy is one of the missing dogs. I still have her brother, Rex. He’s locked in my SUV right there.” She nodded over her shoulder at a nearby vehicle. “I won’t chance losing him, too. I keep coming back here hoping…”

Geri kept her eyes glued to Pepe who frolicked with the Shih Tzu just out of reach of the surely chilly waves. “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened on the day you lost Sassy?”

Chelle shook her head. “It was awful. We’ve come here for years without any trouble. Then one day my friend and I stopped here to let our dogs run. The three of them—Sassy, Rex, and my friend’s dog, Bonnie—were having a grand time. Then the next thing we knew, Sassy was gone. It had been a particularly busy afternoon. Lots of people. I’m not sure how she was lured away, but a man remembers seeing a woman wearing a bulky coat. He’d never seen her before.”

“And you think she may have hidden Sassy under her coat?”

“It’s quite possible. But other than the coat, the witness wasn’t able to provide a description of her face, so no sketch could be made.”

“Well, don’t give up hope,” Geri said.

She watched as Pepe and the Shih Tzu did final sniffs of one another and headed back from the water’s edge.

“Geri,” he panted, out of breath. “That was Winnie. She was here the day Sassy went missing. She remembers the smell of liverwurst. In fact, she was following the scent along with Sassy, but Sassy was the one who was grabbed.”

Geri nodded, then said to Chelle, “This is Pepe.”

“Hi Pepe! Would you like to meet my Chihuahua?”

“Si,” Pepe barked and wagged his tail. “I will ask him directly about his sister. This couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.”

chelleandrex2Chelle led them to her SUV where Rex sat in an elevated dog seat keeping an eye on the beach.

“Rex, this is Pepe.” Chelle snapped a leash onto his harness and lowered him to the pavement.

Pepe greeted him nose to nose. Then he quickly related that he and Geri were the private investigators he had contacted through the advertisement.

Chelle smiled. “Wow! Rex seems really happy to meet Pepe. It must be a Chihuahua thing.”

Geri continued to speak with Chelle, while Rex told Pepe about Sassy and what he thought might have happened on the day she went missing.

As visiting hours at the dog park came to a close, owners and their little dogs headed for their vehicles.

“We should be going as well,” Chelle said. She reached into her bag and handed Geri a business card. “I know Rex misses his play dates on the beach, and he seems to have hit it off with Pepe. So, if I can be of any help, or you just want to grab a cup of coffee while you’re here, please call me.”

“That would be great,” Geri said. She handed Chelle her own business card. “And please call me day or night if you hear anything.”

***

Over a continental breakfast the following morning, Pepe and Geri discussed what they had learned since arriving in New Jersey.

“To summarize, a woman is targeting toy breed pedigreed dogs,” Geri said.

“And using liverwurst to lure them away,” Pepe said, as he nibbled on a danish. “Liverwurst to dogs is like catnip to cats. Whoever this woman is, she knows a dog’s weakness. I think we should go back to the beach today. The trail is hot, and we do not want any more dogs to go missing.”

Geri slipped into her hoodie and dressed Pepe in his favorite blue sweatshirt. He didn’t want to be seen in the same outfit twice in case Winnie was there again.

“We must go now before it is beach time for the big dogs.”

“But you’ll have to stay in the car or wear a leash.”

Pepe frowned. “Leashes! It is very humiliating to be walked on a string.”

Geri smiled. “Sometimes leashes are necessary, Pepe. Not all dogs are as well-mannered as you.”

“That is true.”

Photo by Judith Ann Monahan

Photo by Judith Ann Monahan

Eileen and Matthew bid them a good day as they left the inn and headed south again. Geri turned onto Ocean Avenue for the easy commute through Belmar and Spring Lake, then Sea Girt and into the town of Manasquan. To their disappointment, the beach was empty except for a few seagulls sunning themselves.

“I think we should still look for clues,” Pepe said.

Geri attached Pepe’s leash and they walked the perimeter of the area, looking for anything of value.

“Geri, over there! I smell something interesting. Cheese…ham…and liverwurst!”

Stuck against an area of fencing was a brown paper bag. Geri retrieved it and peered inside to find a supermarket receipt and a plastic bag. “Let’s go back to the car. I don’t want to touch anything that might provide a clue.”

“Good thinking.”

Inside the car, Geri opened her handbag and removed a pair of gloves, then grabbed the plastic bag by its edges. “ShopRite deli counter. You’re right, Pepe. The label is marked liverwurst.”

“Perhaps the dognapper’s prints are on the plastic bag. We must take this evidence to the police.”

Geri put the plastic bag inside the larger brown bag for safe keeping. “There are problems with that plan. First of all, we don’t know anybody here who will take your word for it that liverwurst was used to lure the dogs. Even if we could convince them, there’s no guarantee this person has a criminal record on file.”

“I hate to say this, but maybe Jimmy G knows someone we could contact.”

“It’s a long shot,” but Geri was already dialing their quirky PI friend on her cell phone. Jimmy G answered on the third ring.

“It’s Geri. I need a favor.”

“Jimmy G does favors,” he replied, referring to himself in third-person.

“Pepe and I are on a case. Do you have a connection in New Jersey where we could run some fingerprints?”

“Jimmy G knows people all over. Give me a minute.”

Geri had put her phone on speaker so she and Pepe could listen simultaneously. After what sounded like a stack of boxes hitting the floor and several file doors slamming, he was back on the line.

“Call this number and tell them Jimmy G sent you. Good luck,” he said, then disconnected.

***

A man simply known as Bucky met with Geri and Pepe in a small office in a newly renovated area of Asbury Park. The business’s phone number was printed on the plate glass window, but no business name.

“So, you’re friends of Jimmy G,” Bucky said from behind his desk. Two men and a woman meandered about the office, taking calls and typing on laptops.

Geri quickly explained the reason for their visit.

“Rocco, you want to see if you can get some prints off the deli bag inside here. And if you get any, give them a run through the data base and see what comes up.”

Rocco, a sprightly thin man of about thirty-five, left his keyboard and took the bag from Geri. “You got it, boss.”

Once his employee had left, Bucky told Geri, “If we’re lucky, you’ll have an answer by tomorrow, Thursday at the latest.”

As Geri helped Pepe back into their rental car, he assured her, “We will have the missing dogs back in no time.”

***

Waiting around for information was like watching paint dry. Geri and Pepe took a walk around the streets of Avon-by-the-Sea and visited a few quaint shops to pass the time.
“I could get used to living near the beach,” Pepe said. “Perhaps we should vacation here sometime.”

“This has nothing to do with Winnie the Shih Tzu?”

“Of course not.”

Inside a store called Me ’n My Dog, Geri had helped Pepe into a denim jacket with Bad to the Bone embroidered on the back. He admired himself in a full-length mirror. “This is me, is it not?”

Geri agreed and, after a bit more browsing, handed the jacket along with a sweatshirt for herself to the clerk at the register. Geri had just run her credit card through the payment processor when her phone rang. The number was unfamiliar, but it was a New Jersey area code.

“Hello?”

“Geri, this is Chelle. Sassy is home! Can you come over? My address is on the card I gave you.”

“Pepe and I will be right there.” Geri ended the call, signed the merchandise receipt, and thanked the clerk. She told Pepe about the break in their case as they hurried to their rental car.

Chelle lived a few blocks away in the southern part of Avon-by-the-Sea. She greeted them at the door with a huge smile, holding Sassy in her arms. “I don’t want to put her down. I’ve missed her so much.”

Sassy fussed over Chelle, kissing her face and rubbing her body against her chest.

“I’m so glad she’s back,” Geri said. “What happened?”

Chelle invited Geri into the kitchen and offered her a seat at the table while she brewed some coffee pods. In the meantime, Sassy went to mingle with Rex and Pepe.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Chelle said. “I heard a bark by the back door and there she was. I called the other owners to let them know, and to ask if maybe their dogs had also returned.” She placed creamer and sugar on the table. “Their dogs aren’t back, so Sassy must have escaped.”

Pepe returned from conversing with the dogs in the next room and confirmed Chelle’s assumption. “Geri, Sassy told me that she slipped out the door when the dogs were being moved to another house. They are on the other side of the railroad tracks in Belmar. The lady who took her has an accomplice and they were talking about setting up puppy mills for designer dogs. That is why they wanted small dogs. It did not matter if they were the same breed.”

Geri asked Chelle, “Sassy isn’t spayed, is she?”

“Well, no, not yet. We were in a few dog shows. I planned on having her spayed eventually, but you can’t show if your dog is spayed or neutered.”

Geri placed a hand on her arm. “What about the other missing dogs?”

“I don’t think the two missing males were fixed. I’m not sure about the female. Why? What are you thinking?”

“That maybe the dogs were stolen for breeding purposes. Designer dogs sell for a lot of money these days. Puggles, for example, are a combination of Pugs and Beagles.”

“You might be right. I wish Sassy could tell us who took her and where she was kept.”

Geri related her and Pepe’s earlier search of the beach and how they’d come upon the discarded deli bag from the ShopRite. If only she could tell her how brave and smart Sassy had been, outwitting her dognappers! “It might still be too early, but let me make a call.”

Geri excused herself to the privacy of the backyard and dialed Bucky’s number. To her surprise, he answered on the first ring.

“Ms. Sullivan, I was just about to phone you. We’ve got a match on the prints. I’m texting you a photo and rap sheet.”

***

Geri didn’t want to waste any time, so she apologized to Chelle for having to leave so abruptly, grabbed Pepe and drove into the neighboring town of Belmar to see if they could find the missing pets. Now that she knew the identity of the woman, a Bea Maxwell, she might be able to spot her from the information that Sassy had provided to Pepe. The woman had previous arrests for petty larceny, receiving stolen goods, and check fraud. Her last known address had been in Brooklyn, New York, so that was of no help. Geri set the rental car’s GPS for the Belmar train station.

“Sassy said it is a very big place,” Pepe said. “And she remembers the smell of pizza. Like me, cheese and tomatoes are among her favorite foods.”

“I’m not sure that’s going to help. There are lots of restaurants with Italian food and lots of pizzerias. Did she mention the color of the house, or any other type of landmark?”
Pepe thought back to their conversation. “Yes! A white house with umbrella fringe. And she did say something about a lighthouse.”

“Umbrella fringe? That makes no sense. And a lighthouse?” Geri followed the GPS voice until she found a train platform behind a small shopping area. “Are you sure?”

“I speak fluent Chihuahua, Geri. Of course, I am sure. Those are the clues. Do not forget she was running for her life.” Pepe pushed the power button for the window and rolled it down. “I am not smelling any pizza, Geri. Try driving up and down the streets where the tracks meet.”

“A lighthouse. Could she see water from a window in the house?”

“I do not think so. She and the others were in a room with mini-blinds.”

Geri drove along numerous streets on both sides of the railroad tracks, until Pepe caught a scent. “Pizza! With extra cheese! We must be close.”
Geri turned the corner and maneuvered half-way up the block.

“There!” Pepe shouted.

“That’s what Sassy must have meant.” A miniature lighthouse cast in concrete sat on the lawn of a white vinyl-sided home with blue and white striped awnings. “She was right. The house has umbrella fringe on the windows.”

Geri pulled the car to the curb and looked around. The place appeared to be deserted. “I hope we aren’t too late.” She headed up the walkway with Pepe following. The house had a Summer/Winter Rental sign posted outside.

“Wait! I hear a dog. He is barking for help. They are still here.”

Geri hit the button and a loud bell rang within. Nobody answered. She tried the doorknob, but it was locked.

“Let us try around back,” Pepe suggested.

Geri unlatched a white gate and they found a back porch with a doggie door. “I will go in,” Pepe said.

“I don’t like that idea. The dognapper could still be inside.”

“We are so close. I cannot let them down, and you cannot fit through the opening. No offense.” Before Geri could stop him, Pepe darted through the door and into the house. She could hear his familiar bark, followed by a frenzied chorus of replies.

While she awaited Pepe’s return, a car pulled into the driveway. Geri ducked behind the porch and watched Bea Maxwell and another man, presumably her accomplice, head for the front door.

“C’mon, Pepe,” she whispered. “Where are you?” When he didn’t reappear, Geri returned to the front door as it closed. She immediately rang the bell.

The man answered, “Yeah?” He wasn’t smiling.

“I saw your sign. I’m looking for a winter rental.”

“You gotta call the owner.”

“Oh, you’re not the owner? Because I was ready to give a deposit today.” Geri needed to stall and give Pepe some time. She noticed the house had grown suspiciously quiet.

“Who is it Alan?” A woman’s gravelly voice.

A sound caught Geri’s attention and she turned to see Pepe poised at the side of the house surrounded by three furry faces.

“I’m sorry, my mistake.” Geri backed down the front steps.

Bea joined her accomplice at the front door. “Alan, someone was here. The mutts are gone!”

“Winter rental my—”

“Pepe, get to the car!” Geri shouted. She raced to the driver’s side door and heard a commotion behind her.

Bea and Alan were on the ground in a tangled heap, apparently tripped up on the stairs by Pepe and the pack of little dogs.

Two Belmar police cars pulled up to the house, one blocking the driveway.

Pepe ran to Geri’s side. “I called for backup while I was in the house.”

“But they can’t hear you speak. Only I can hear you.”

“That is true, but I can still dial 9-1-1. Do you not remember the story about the dog who saved his owner’s life that way? The operator sent the police to investigate the call because all she heard was a barking dog. The police found the owner passed out on the floor.”

Geri approached the cops and showed them the text message with the rap sheet and photo of Bea Maxwell. Both criminals were still down on the ground. Alan, must have hit his head during his fall, and Bea was clutching her knee and moaning.

The two officers recognized the three missing dogs from news reports. Geri provided them with Chelle and Catherine’s phone numbers, so they could vouch for her working on solving the case.

“You’re a long way from home, Miss Sullivan. You must really love dogs to travel across the country.”

“I do. And I especially love one dog in particular,” she said, lifting Pepe into her arms.

***

The Atlantic Breeze Inn held a party in Geri and Pepe’s honor for their excellent sleuthing skills in solving the case of the missing pedigreed pets. The dogs and their owners, now happily reunited, shared a tasty vanilla cake in the shape of a bone. And Eileen had made some cheese and tomato flavored dog biscuits after hearing how much Pepe and Sassy loved Italian food.

“You must get this recipe,” Pepe said. “These are the best treats I have ever had. Next to real pizza, of course.”

Rex and Sassy barked their agreement, and Sassy gave Pepe a kiss on the nose as a special thank-you.

He said, “I am going to miss both of you. You would make good investigators.”

Catherine, Chelle, and the other grateful pet owners showered Pepe with gifts for his service, including new toys, clothes and a memory foam dog bed. They wanted to present Geri with a very generous gift certificate, but she insisted they donate the money to a local animal shelter.

Later that evening, back in their room at the inn, Pepe said, “Geri, I know this was supposed to be my first solo case. But I now realize, I could not have done it without you.”

Geri hugged him. “That’s why we’re Sullivan and Sullivan. I couldn’t have done it without you, either.”

chelleChelle Martin is the author of many short stories appearing in numerous mystery and romance anthologies. A past President and Vice President of the New Jersey chapter of Sisters in Crime, she’s also a member of Romance Writers of American and Mystery Writers of America. Born a Jersey Girl, she loves spending time at the shore while working on her novels. She’s currently writing the Dog Mom mysteries featuring her Chihuahuas, Rex and Sassy. For more information, check out her website.

The photos of the beach came from the Avon-by-the-Sea website.

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Pepe Prize Winner

Chelle, Sassy & Rex

Chelle, Sassy & Rex

We’re thrilled to announce the winner of the Pepe Prize: Chelle Martin of New Jersey whose short story was titled: “A Chihuahua for All Seasons.”

In this story, Pepe receives a request for help from a Chihuahua named Rex who lives in New Jersey. Rex’s sister, Sassy, is one of several dogs who have disappeared off the Mansasquan beach on the Jersey shore. Geri and Pepe fly to New Jersey and begin interviewing people who have lost their dogs, including Chelle Martin, the human who lives with Rex and Sassy. Pepe meets an attractive Shih Tzu, tells Geri a new story about his past, and convinces Geri to buy him a new jacket, all the while tracking down clues. When Sassy escapes from her kidnappers, she is able to help Geri and Pepe find the missing dogs, just in the nick of time.

One of the things that elevated this story above the second place story was the sweet opening and ending, where we see Geri and Pepe working as a team.

chelleWe had no idea when we chose Chelle as the winner that she is currently working on the Dog Mom Mysteries, featuring her two Chihuahuas, Rex and Sassy. She is also the past vice-president of the New Jersey Sisters in Crime. Her short stories have been published in many anthologies and she has won awards in several writing contests. You can learn about her writing projects at her website or her Amazon author page.

The Pepe Prize is on its way to Chelle and we will post the entire story, “A Chihuahua for All Seasons,” later this week. We are grateful to all those who entered the contest and thank all of the four finalists for agreeing to let us publish their stories who you will get a chance to read the runners-up one a month for the next three months.

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Announcing Four Finalists for the Pepe Prize

Curt and Waverly and Pepe were delighted by the response to the Pepe Prize contest which closed on June 1. We were amazed by the quality of the submissions and amused by the predicaments in which Pepe found himself and happy to meet some other talented dogs (oddly, no cats entered the contest). 

Pepe & Shaw discuss the contest results

Pepe & Shaw discuss the entries

We chose four finalists and our head judge, Shaw Fitzgerald, the person who adopted Pepe, the Chihuahua who inspired the series, is currently reading them. We will announce a winner in two weeks.

The four finalists are:

  • “Good Dogs Hunting,” by Linda McNab and Joanna Karaplis
  • “The Chihuahua Who Knew Too Much,” by Evelyn Clark
  • “A Chihuahua for All Seasons,” by Chelle Martin
  • “The Good, the Bad and the Chihuahua,” by Gaynol Flora

 

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Announcing the Pepe Prize

20180418_162555

We know you’ve been waiting patiently for another Pepe novel or story, so while you are waiting, we wanted to give you a chance to write your own Pepe story. The Pepe Prize will go to the best short story which features your pet solving crimes with Pepe. For more information, check out the PepePrize page. The deadline is June 1st.

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The Pepe Prize

headhonchoCurt and I are happy to announce the Pepe Prize. It’s a concept we’ve been tossing around for almost a year, knowing that our fans have been eagerly waiting for another book. We’re working on a book now but the writing and publishing process both take about a year. So we came up with the Pepe Prize. A chance for you to write a story about you and your pet solving crimes with Pepe and his people. And the best story will win fabulous prizes.

For more information, go here.

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Sale of A Chihuahua in Every Stocking

A Chihuahua in every stockingGood news for those of you who have e-readers and like Christmas stories. Our Christmas story, “A Chihuahua in Every Stocking,” is available right now at Kensington for only $1.99. The Nook version is only .99 for the next two weeks.

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The Silence of the Chihuahuas KOBO promotion

Another great option for those of you who have not yet read the fifth book in the Barking Detective series and who have a KOBO e-reader. The Silence of the Chihuahuas is on sale for 1.99 from August 18 through August 23.coversilence

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Special Promotion

Dial C for Chihuahua Mech.inddFor four days from May 5 through May 9, 2016, Dial C for Chihuahua will be for sale on KOBO for $1.99. And you can order here.

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The Voice of Pepe: Laura Darrell

_MG_7860instaWe’ve been delighted by listening to the audio versions of our books which are available from Audible. All of them have been read by the same talented actress, Laura Darrell. Waverly was curious about how Laura began doing this work and what she enjoyed about it so we interviewed her.

How did you get started reading books for Audible?
My voice and speech teacher Susan Cameron at NYU Tisch thought I would make an excellent narrator so when the school hosted visitors from Audible talking about the process and setting up auditions, she referred me! Shortly thereafter, I took the train to Newark, auditioned for them and they hired me! My first audiobook was an Amish romance!

What are the challenges?
The biggest vocal challenge is of course protecting and taking care of my voice. Since I use it so much as both a narrator and an actor, I have to make sure to stay very hydrated, well rested, and take breaks every hour. The engineers and producers I have worked with have been really good about respecting the need for breaks. On an acting level, the challenge is always differentiating the voices, whether it be pitch, tempo, or just tone of voice so readers don’t have to guess for too long about who’s speaking.

What do you find rewarding about it?
The rewarding part and my favorite part of being a narrator is being able to get lost in a great story. I have always loved reading; I started at a very early age. I remember going into classrooms and reading to the lower grades in grade school, and I absolutely loved it. I love how reading, and reading aloud, allows everyone’s imaginations to really blossom, which gives everyone a unique and personal experience, more so than any other medium in my opinion.

laurareadingHow long does it typically take to read an entire book?
It really depends on the book. How many crazy words or names there are, how well the sentences flow… Every now and then a narrator inevitably stutters or mispronounces something and has to start the phrase or sentence over again, so generally I say about 1.5 times the finished hour.

Do you have to go back and make corrections afterwards?
If I make a mistake, and we’re aware of it, we re-do it right away. That’s why it helps to have a great engineer working with you because they’re an important second set of ears. On rare occasion we might get something back from Audible with a few minor corrections, which of course we attend to right away.

What skills or experiences did you bring to this job?
I would say before I started reading audiobooks, my greatest skill set came from being a theater actor. As an actor who works on stage, I’ve had to focus a lot on articulation, diction, making smart vocal choices, clarity of tone and thought, as well as a lot of character work. It’s the best training in the world!

Do you learn things from this work that you can use elsewhere?
I think since doing a lot of audiobook work, my number of character voices has grown. Before this I never had a Pepe Sullivan voice, but I do now and it’s tons of fun! I think my vocal creativity has also grown. I’m still figuring out new ways of differentiating characters.

We love the way you subtly change voices when reading different characters. Do you have any special techniques you use to get in character?
To me it’s all in the writing. Great writing means vivid characters, and once I have a strong mental image of the character I make quick choices on how they talk, often changing my body posture in the recording studio to help me. For instance, I’ve noticed I lean forward in my seat a lot more when reading Pepe, as opposed to a character who is more languid and laid back. Pepe is usually very high energy and alert so I can’t read him lounging in a recording chair. For me it just doesn’t work. 🙂

We know you probably liked our books best, but could you tell me about other books you’ve enjoyed reading?
Your series is absolutely one of my favorites. I love a good mystery and a smart, funny talking dog, even better! I’ve also really enjoyed reading a series of books by Ginger Scott. I just read one called Wild Reckless, and before that was Going Long and Waiting on the Sidelines. Her genre is young adult, teen romance, which I admit I love, and her characters are also so vivid and relatable. There’s tons of humor, a lot of emotional depth in them, and I have a lot of fun digging into my inner teenage angst 🙂

What’s your favorite of our books?
Oo, this is a hard one,  I don’t know if I could possibly have a favorite! That’s like choosing between my children! I always feel like the last one I read becomes my favorite. I really loved The Silence of the Chihuahuas. Pepe’s blog posts cracked me up and the rehab center freaked me out a little bit in a good way. The Big Chihuahua has stayed with me too. Dogawanda was a lot of fun and extremely memorable. Of course, the dancing with dogs show was a brilliant concept too.

lauraandsamwise2We’re also curious about if you have a favorite character from our books?
My favorite character has to be Pepe Sullivan. There’s simply no one like him. I love his passion, his talent for sniffing out a crime, and his humor is simply the best. I am a proud owner of a mischievously smart mini poodle named Samwise (yes Lord of the Rings fan, I know, I know) and my mother owns a chihuahua named Ella, who is definitely “the queen.” So I have tons of inspiration!

To hear Laura’s interpretation of Geri and Pepe, here’s a link to the Audible version of A Chihuahua in Every Stocking. You can also hear excerpts and purchase the audio versions of Dial C for Chihuahua, Chihuahua Confidential, The Big Chihuahua, The Chihuahua Always Sniffs Twice and The Silence of the Chihuahuas at Audible.

_MG_7689instaLaura trained as an actress at top drama schools in LA, NY and the UK (BADA), splitting her undergrad between Tisch, NYU and USC in Los Angeles, graduating a Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude scholar. Laura has acted in dozens of independent features and shorts (most notably “Creedmoria” staring Stef Dawson of the “Hunger Games” series) many of which have appeared in major festivals, including Sundance. She has also performed lead roles in theaters off-Broadway, across the country, and internationally (Canada)! In addition to theater and film, she helped raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program with a Maine PBS special, for which she was nominated for a New England/Boston Emmy Award. She also can be heard in an animated feature film, “A Very Wompkee Christmas”, produced by Con Fullam, as well as in several professional video games and audiobooks sold internationally. (From Laura’s IMDB bio which was written by Tsu Tsu Stanton)

 

 

 

 

 

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