Miriam paused the cruiser at the DCA entrance, giving Alex time to take it all in.
Two large poles held up a wooden sign that read Daniels Canine Academy. A silhouette of a German shepherd also graced the sign. A long driveway led to a trio of buildings: Emma’s ranch house and two buildings just a short distance away from an outdoor training ring.
“Looks nice. Must take a lot to maintain it,” Alex said, the inference clear from the tone of his voice.
She wanted to tell him it was none of his business how Emma managed the finances for the DCA and yet it was as the investigator on the case. “When Emma’s mother passed, Emma inherited the ranch and some insurance money. She and Piper, her friend and fellow trainer, are also well-respected in the canine training industry. They have quite a number of clients, including Jasper PD. They helped me train Lily,” she said and motioned to the pittie sitting in the back of her cruiser.
Alex peered at Miriam and nodded. “Thanks for that info.”
With a dip of her head, she drove down the driveway and parked across from Emma’s home. She exited the vehicle, leashed Lily and they walked past the outdoor training ring and to the larger of the two buildings that housed kennels, an indoor ring and the DCA offices.
As they entered, she noticed that her friends were playing with a litter of puppies in the center of the ring. Emma, Piper and Tashya, who must have come home early for the weekend.
The women faced them when they approached, and Miriam introduced them.
“Ladies, this is DEA Agent Alex Peterson,” Miriam said and gestured to the first woman. “Emma Daniels, the owner of the DCA.”
Emma held out her hand and Alex shook it. She was about five foot seven with sun-streaked light brown hair scraped back into a ponytail.
“Nice to meet you,” Emma said and motioned to the woman beside her, who had scooped up one puppy that had been persistently jumping onto her legs. “This is my best friend and fellow dog trainer, Piper Lambert.”
Piper was another thirty-something woman just a bit shorter than Emma. She had long, vibrant red hair and emerald eyes that looked troubled by their presence. She set the puppy down and shook his hand as Emma introduced the last woman. The puppy trotted over to climb on Lily, but the pit bull sat obediently beside Miriam.
“Tashya Pratt. Tashya is training to be a vet tech and we hope she’ll join us at the DCA once she finishes school in a few weeks,” Emma said.
Tashya shook his hand. She was much younger, barely out of her twenties if Alex had to guess, with a round baby face, beautiful light brown eyes and brown hair.
“Nice to meet you.” The vet tech trainee seemed unfazed by his presence. A good thing.
“You mentioned you’re with the DEA,” Emma began and eyed him carefully. “How can we help you?”
“Would you mind showing us where you keep the medications Dr. Beaumont provided to you?”
“Of course,” Emma said. He hurried with her back into the small reception area, Miriam, Lily, Piper and Tashya tagging behind them.
They exited the main section of the building and walked around to another door and as they entered, he realized it was a climate-controlled kennel area. There were several pens and a German shepherd lay on the floor of one roomy area. The dog perked up when they walked in, and Emma rubbed the dog’s head through the wire of the pen. “Good dog, Lacey,” she said and continued to the far end of the space.
A locked metal cabinet stood there. Emma reached into her pocket, took out keys and unlocked the cabinet, but immediately stiffened.
“Something wrong?” Alex asked at her reaction.
“Someone’s been in here.” Emma motioned to the bottles, some of which were laying on their sides, and to a shelf where there was a gap.
“Who else has access to this cabinet?” Alex asked and Emma looked over nervously to Piper and Tashya.
Alex tracked her gaze, faced the two women, and said, “Piper? Tashya? Can you explain what’s happened here?”
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