The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat

BOOK: The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat
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The Case of the Tough-Talking Turkey

“Dr. McKenzie…has a dry and biting humor that makes him a very entertaining narrator. His wife and assistants at the vet practice are excellent foils for him. There are plenty of suspects on hand, and a large cast of characters makes this an engaging cozy.”

CA Reviews

The Case of the Roasted Onion

“A savvy sleuth with a kind heart…An intriguing blend of violence and veterinary medicine, this novel will appeal to animal lovers as well as fans of the genre.”

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“A cleverly constructed who-done-it with so many layers to peel…Austin and Madeline [are] two passionate seniors who care about one another and life in general.”

Midwest Book Review

“A swift gallop through the interconnecting worlds of both high-society horse events and veterinary practice…Fascinating…There is quite a lot to enjoy in here as well as some interesting characters.”


“[A] diverting mystery…From protagonist Austin McKenzie and his wife, Madeline, to their collie, Lincoln, each of these well-developed characters leaps off the page.”

Romantic Times

Hemlock Falls Mysteries by Claudia Bishop
















The Casebooks of Dr. McKenzie Mysteries
by Claudia Bishop




The Case of the ILL-GOTTEN GOAT


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2008 by Mary Stanton.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-1012-0732-1

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

For Frank Pinkerton, PhD
aka “The Goat Man”


A lot of people tried to help me get it right. My thanks to: Suzanne Messmer of Lively Run Goat Dairies for the tour of a working dairy; Christiane Nussbaumer for the translations into Italian; Tatiana Stanton, PhD, of the Cornell Goat and Sheep Extension Service.

Cast of Characters

At McKenzie Veterinary Practice, Inc.

Austin McKenzie,
DVM, PhD, professor emeritus

Madeline McKenzie,
his wife

Allegra Fulbright,
veterinary assistant

Joe Turnblad,
veterinary assistant

Citizens of Summersville

Victor Bergland,
DVM, PhD, head of the Department of Bovine Sciences

Thelma Bergland,
his wife

George and Phyllis Best,
owners and operators of Best's Boers

Doucetta Capretti,
owner and head cheese maker at the Tre Sorelle Dairy

Marietta Capretti,
Doucetta's granddaughter

Frank Celestine,
a contractor

Caterina Capretti Celestine,
his wife and Doucetta's daughter

Tony and Pietro Celestine,
Caterina's sons and Doucetta's grandsons

Neville Brandstetter,

Anna Luisa Capretti Brandstetter,
his wife and Doucetta's daughter

Melvin Staples,
a New York state milk inspector

Kelly Staples,
his wife

Brian Folk,
tax assessor for Summersville

Gordy Rassmussen,
town supervisor for Summersville

Mary Ellen Lochmeyer,
assistant to the town clerk

Jonathan and Penelope Swinford,
owners and operators of Swinford Vineyard

Ashley Swinford,
their daughter and a computer expert

Rita Santelli,
editor and publisher of the
Summersville Sentinel

Rudy Schwartz,
owner of the Monrovian Embassy diner

Deirdre Franklin,
Embassy waitress

Lt. Simon Provost,
Summersville Police Department

Kevin Kiddermeister,
a policeman

Nigel Fish,
a reporter

Leslie Chou,
a second-year veterinary student

And Friends

a Quarterhorse

a Shetland pony

a collie

a house cat

a Swedish Warmblood



like, a total old bat anyway.” Ashley Swinford ran one hand through her blonde hair. Her fingernails were bright red. She'd painted tiny enameled flames on each nail and to Melvin Staples the flames peeking through her tousled curls were a temptation to sin and damnation. She was the daughter of the wealthy vineyard owner Jonathan Swinford, and she'd landed the data entry job at Tre Sorelle Dairy for the summer. That hair and that body were totally beyond Melvin's reach.

“I mean, like,
mean and rotten. Not to mention that she's totally pissed off at
. Especially since that new tax assessor's been sniffing around, she's been, like, totally out of control.” Ashley leaned across the desk, her blue eyes narrowed, her luscious mouth pursed. “This is, like, the worst possible day you could have picked to come in and check the milk.” She sat back and shook her head with a malicious smirk. “I don't know why somebody hasn't run her over with a truck already.”

“Hey! You!” Doucetta Capretti marched into the dairy office like a Scud after a weapons depot. A mini Scud, Melvin thought. She can't weigh more than ninety pounds dripping wet. Miserable old bi—

“I seen your car in the drive.” Doucetta's birdy black eyes locked onto Melvin's brown ones. A malice-laden smile flickered over her face. She couldn't really read his mind; nobody could know what was in your mind, not if you kept your trap shut and a dirt-eating grin on your face.

Mrs. C.” Melvin stepped away from Ashley's desk and nodded politely. “How've you been?”

“I seen your car in the drive and I ask myself, can this fool be back already?”

Behind him, Ashley gave a pretend cough and messed around with some papers. Melvin had good ears, despite the two years he'd spent in the shrieking chaos of the first war in Iraq. That cough covered a giggle. He kept a tight hold of his temper.

Doucetta thumped her cane on the cement floor. It wasn't the cane of your typical little old lady. It was old, probably older than the ninety-year-old Doucetta herself. The shaft was heavy iron oak. The handle was a big, old brass goat's head, the outlines blurred a little with years of wear. “I call your boss, last time. And I tell him, if you send this arsehole back to test my milk, I send him back to you with a broken head.” She thumped so close to him he could smell the garlic she'd had for lunch. “And yet here you are.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

She hissed, like a snake. “So. Arsehole. You think you're going to find something funny this time? You find something funny in my milk, and you find nothing funny in the milk of those fools down the road?”

“Testing procedure's the same for everybody, ma'am,” Melvin said woodenly. “And I couldn't tell you the results of the testing down to Culver's Dairy, ma'am. Besides, they got cows. You've got goats.”

“I've got goats,” Doucetta said bitterly. “Pft!” She stamped to the heavy door that led to the milk room and hauled it open. “Go in! Test! You'll find all is correct!”

Melvin picked up his testing kit and followed her inside. The milk room was all concrete, like a bunker: concrete floor, still damp after the morning's sluicing off; concrete walls hung with the hoses that delivered the milk from the milking parlor; concrete ceiling hung with florescent lights. The room held three four-hundred-gallon stainless-steel bulk tanks. The Tre Sorelle Dairy milked twice a day, beginning at six in the morning, and again at six at night. The tanks brimmed with the milk collected that morning. A low-pitched rumble assured Melvin that the paddles inside the tanks stirred the contents. The ventilation fans rattled in counterpoint to the sloshing milk.

“You been mixing awhile?” he asked. The rules required at least twenty minutes of mixing before the milk was tested. You went by the book with Doucetta.

Doucetta shrugged. Melvin'd seen all three parts of
The Godfather
movies, and he wasn't surprised that Doucetta always wore black. That was what old Italian ladies did. Black blouse, draggy black skirt, and a ratty black sweater, despite the fact that it was mid-August and ninety degrees in the shade. “A hour, maybe more,” she said. “Go. Do your test. Arsehole.”

Melvin set his kit on the floor. He carried his long stainless-steel testing ladle in a tall, skinny jar filled with a bleach solution. He removed the ladle and held it up to let it dry in the draft from the fans. Then he unlatched the top of the tank nearest the door and heaved it open. The milk swirled in the tank, releasing a warm, almost yeasty scent into the air. Melvin lowered the ladle carefully into the bluish white depths, raised it carefully, and stepped back. Doucetta darted forward and slammed the heavy cover shut. Melvin poured the milk sample into a sterile specimen jar, capped it, and placed it inside a heavy plastic bag, which he sealed with tape. He wrote the date, time, and location on the bag and put it in his kit.

“That milk is good milk,” Doucetta said. She had maybe a million wrinkles and they all folded together as she directed a malignant glare at him. “That milk is good milk, and if your tests say it is not, it is because you have peed in the sample, perhaps. This test comes back no good, I'll get your job yet. Arsehole.”

Melvin nodded politely. “Ma'am.” He pulled open the heavy door to the office and made his way past the luscious Ashley to his van outside. As he pulled down the driveway, Doucetta shook her cane in the air and shrieked after him: “Arsehole!”


“We've got to do something, Frank, or she's going to bankrupt us all.” Caterina held the kitchen drape slightly aside and peered out the window at her mother and Melvin Staples. The milk inspector got into his van and pulled the driver's door closed with the carefully controlled movements of a man about to blow. Caterina watched Doucetta's mouth move in silent imprecation. “She's calling him a pile of names,” Caterina said over her shoulder. “You can just tell. If she doesn't ease up, I don't know what's going to happen to us all. I told you about the tax assessor's visit, didn't I? She almost took the guy's head off with that cane. And the language!”

“So?” her husband said indifferently. Frank Celestine sat at the long cherry kitchen table, in front of a tuna sandwich. He wore a gray cotton T-shirt with Celestine Builders and his name stitched on the chest pocket. Frank owned two dozen of them. Every morning Caterina set out a clean dress shirt for Frank to wear, and every morning he pulled on a Celestine Builders gray cotton T-shirt. After thirty-five years, she knew Frank figured that she'd give it up. She hadn't yet. He shoveled the remains of his lunch into his mouth, and then swallowed. “She insults everybody. Forget about it.”

Caterina watched as her mother waved her cane over her head, then slammed it cane-point down on the concrete step in front of the dairy office door. Then the old lady went back into the office and banged the door so hard the
sign bounced.

From this vantage point, Caterina could see all the way down the drive to Route 333. The taillights of the milk inspector's van flashed briefly red as he stopped before pulling out into traffic. He turned left and disappeared from Caterina's sight.

“You want me to forget about it? You'll be sorry that you wanted me to forget about it when we end up homeless on the street.” She let the drapes close, pressed her forefingers into her temples, and shut her eyes. “If the somatic cell count comes back too high this time, we're in for it.”

Frank grunted. It was a bored, yeah-yeah-yeah-what-ever grunt, as opposed to an actively hostile don't-bother-me grunt. Mildly encouraged, Caterina continued: “This would make three times in a row we've missed the target, Frank. And you know what that means.” She crossed the kitchen and sat down opposite him. Frank cut into the sour cream coffee cake she'd made that morning, and then held the slice aloft. He looked at it in a considering way, then bit into it. “The state will bring in the people from Cornell and they'll be poking their noses all over the dairy. Mamma will pitch a fit. Frank? Are you listening to me? We need to talk to her. All of us, Anna Luisa, Marietta, and you, too.”

“Yeah? Fat lot of good that's going to do you. She'll just call you a fat dumb
, and you'll cry…” Here he screwed one knuckle into his eye and went “boo-hoo-hoo” in a high, effeminate voice. “And Anna Luisa will screech like a crow and Marietta will look down that long nose of hers at the lot of you, and you'll end up looking dumber than you already are.”

“Somebody's got to pay attention to what's going on,” Caterina said with soft stubbornness.

Frank shoved himself away from the table. “You know what you should pay attention to?” He leaned over her and patted her shoulder, too hard. “You oughta forget about making that coffee cake six times a week. You quit making that coffee cake, you might get rid of some of that extra flab.” He pinched her upper arm, and she winced. He straightened his shoulders.

There were several reasons why Frank wore his Celestine Builders T-shirts every day. One was to let people think he ran his own business and that he didn't live off the money from her mother's dairy. (A lie. And a big one.) Another was Frank thought he was in pretty good shape and the T-shirt let people know that, too. That wasn't so much of a lie. He spent a lot of time at the Summersville Country Club alternating between the bar and the gym.

Frank headed toward the back door, shoulders back, belly sucked in.

Caterina tried to keep the high note of worry out of her voice. “Where are you going?”

“Gotta see a guy about a job.”

Caterina couldn't help herself. “What job? Where?”

“Just butt out, will ya?”

The door slammed behind him.

She got to her feet, picked up Frank's dirty dishes, and took them to the sink. The kitchen had a dishwasher, two of them, in fact, but she filled the sink with hot, soapy water and began the ritual of washing up. She loved this kitchen, loved baking in it, eating in it, cleaning up in it. She had a sixty-inch dual-fuel Viking range. A forty-eight-inch Viking refrigerator. The tiles on the floor were handmade, sent all the way over to Summersville, New York, from Mamma's old village in Tuscany. The granite countertops were bevel-edged, with fleur-de-lys carved in each corner. And the dishes she washed with such love and attention were Rosenthal china.

Caterina discovered she was crying into the sink.

And it was all the milk inspector's fault.


“I can't imagine living like this,” gushed the woman from New York. “It's paradise.”

Marietta kept her smile carefully in place. She'd been keeping the smile in place all morning long. Tuesdays were tour days at the Tre Sorelle Dairy and in August, the tours overflowed with skinny, condescending urban professionals in trendy Tod's and shriekingly expensive little linen shifts. June tours meant a lot of schoolkids with sticky fingers and earsplitting shouts. July was young families with barfing toddlers. August was urban refugees like this particular woman; a stockbroker, she'd informed Marietta just once too often. September meant retirees, who at least got tired sooner rather than later.

All of them got up her nose.

Marietta flexed the left rein and Peter the Percheron obligingly hawed to the left, bumping the tour wagon over a large pothole. The stockbroker yelled, “Ow!” and looked daggers.

“Those of you on a first visit to the Finger Lakes may want to know why this region carries the name.” Marietta pulled Peter to a halt. She gestured at the lake spreading its glories before them. “There are five large freshwater lakes here in upstate New York, and on the map, the lakes look like a hand.” She held up her hand, palm flat, fingers outspread. She wriggled her middle finger. “We're overlooking Cayuga, which is between Keuka and Seneca. The water is that deep, lucid blue because of the glaciers that moved through this part of the continent millions of years ago.”

There was an appreciative murmur from the fifteen people jammed into the farm wagon.

“Most of you know that Tompkins County is wine country, of course. Our whites in particular have an international reputation. And we are gaining a reputation for our goat cheese, as well.” Marietta turned from the lake to the acres of Tre Sorelle behind them. The barns that housed the dairy herd formed a U at the top of a long, thickly grassed pasture surrounded by white fences. The dairy, the office, and the produce shop formed another U around a bricked courtyard with a fountain in the middle and a latticework roof draped with blooming wisteria. The ground rose on the opposite side of the driveway to a sprawling house. “And I am proud to say that Tre Sorelle cheeses are at the forefront of the industry.”

“Tre Sorelle means ‘three sisters' in English,” the man who accompanied the stockbroker said officiously. He wore flip-flops, designer jeans that Marietta knew started at five hundred dollars a pair, and sunglasses so expensive she had no idea who made them. He gestured at the Tre Sorelle logo emblazoned on the barn—three pretty brunettes with gold hoop earrings and head scarves tied jauntily around their curls. “I take it you're one of the three? Do you milk the goats between tours?”

BOOK: The Case of the Ill-Gotten Goat
3.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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