Read A Picture-Purrfect Christmas (A Klepto Cat Mystery Book 13) Online
Authors: Patricia Fry
by Patricia Fry
Author: Patricia Fry
All rights reserved
© 2015 Matilija Press
Savannah shook her head. She swallowed hard and peered into Shelly’s eyes. “He said… this would be a good time to pray.”
Blinking back tears, Shelly reached for Savannah’s hand. “Let’s start now, shall we?” And the two women bowed their heads; each silently praying for the child’s safe return.
Savannah couldn’t help but think back to the day she and Shelly had met and the subsequent events that led to this heartbreaking moment.
It was about ten days earlier. She and her Aunt Margaret were mall-walking with Savannah’s toddler Lily asleep in the stroller.
“Hey, mama-long-legs,” Margaret complained, “I can’t keep up when you walk so fast. Can you slow those stilts down a little?”
“Sorry,” Savannah said with a sigh. “I forgot I was walking with a munchkin.”
“Not funny,” Margaret said pouting. She straightened. “I’m five five-and-a-half in these shoes, you know.”
“Then why can’t you keep pace with me?”
She looked up at her niece. “’Cause those legs of yours are about as long as I am tall, that’s why. Now slow down, will ya?”
“Okay, okay. Slow enough?” Savannah asked.
Margaret relaxed a little. “Better.” After a few moments she grumbled, “Dang, I hate this time of year. It’s confining, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I prefer sunshiny days when you can get outside and walk. But then I’m not crazy about the mud.”
Margaret glanced up at her niece. “Mud?”
“Yes. I never thought much about mud before moving back here. This time of year, it’s either raining or it’s muddy. About the time the mud dries up, it’s raining again.”
Margaret smirked good-naturedly. “Welcome to Northern California. Now, it could be worse. What if we lived…”
Without warning, Savannah stopped. “Look at those great photographs. I want to take a peek; do you mind?”
“I guess not,” Margaret said, feigning a sarcastic tone. She moved closer to the display. “Hey, I know that photographer. Russell Boll belongs to our church.”
Savannah continued gazing at the framed photographs. “Wow, those are stunning. He sure has an eye for capturing the beauty of this area, even in the wintertime. Impressive.” She elbow-nudged her aunt. “There are more inside; want to take a look?” Without waiting for a response, Savannah wheeled the stroller into the camera shop.
Margaret followed, shaking her head and mumbling, “Yeah, that’s another problem with mall-walking; too many distractions.”
“I think there are more distractions outside on a pretty day,” Savannah said.
“Yes.” She stared into space while saying, “Birds hanging upside down eating berries from a vine, the way the sun reflects off the quaking aspen leaves…” She laughed. “Even the mud looks more…interesting on a sunny day.”
“Sounds like you’ve had your camera out lately. Are you doing some photography?”
“Uh-huh, as much as Lily will let me. Of course, most of my photos are of her and the animals this time of year.” Savannah peeked at her baby, who still slept soundly, then addressed her aunt again, “I’m hoping to find a Roy’s Camera Store gift card in my Christmas stocking this year. I have my eye on that lens right there.” Grinning slyly, she added, “I’ve been dropping Michael hints all month.”
“Oh, pshaw,” Margaret said. “Men don’t respond to a hint, unless you slap them alongside the head with it. They need explicit instructions.” She mimicked, “Go to the camera store at the mall and buy a gift card.”
Savannah joined her in laughter. “So what are you asking for this year, Auntie?”
Margaret looked smug for a moment. “If you must know, a new dishwasher.”
Savannah frowned. “That’s not very glamorous.”
“And a camera doodad is?”
Moving closer to one of the photos on display, Savannah said, “Look at the lighting on this one.”
“Are you a photographer?”
Savannah turned to face a slightly stocky man of about forty. He had a soul patch under his thin lips and wore a gold hoop earring in his left ear. Wrapped around his head was a gold kerchief, and nearly every inch of his exposed skin was tattooed. When she noticed a Roy’s Camera Store emblem on his shirt, she said, “Oh, hi. No, I’m not a photographer. I just enjoy playing around with my camera.” She glanced at the exhibit. “And I appreciate good work.”
“She’s lying,” Margaret insisted. “She has a definite eye for photography. She even makes
look good in her pictures,” she bragged, pulling out her phone and showing off a couple of photos Savannah had taken of her standing next to a peach tree loaded with fruit.
“You took this with your phone?” he asked.
“No,” Savannah said, chuckling. “I used my Canon. I sent it to my aunt and she put it on her phone.”
He glanced up at her. “That’s good. Do you have others you can show me?”
Hesitating only for a moment, Savannah pulled her phone out of her purse and showed the clerk a recent shot of a sunset, a close-up of Lily, and a picture of her cat, Rags, posing like an Egyptian sphinx.
“You’ve got a good eye, there,” he said. “You ought to enter the contest.”
Margaret turned to face the clerk. “Contest?”
He glanced at her, then handed Savannah a flyer. “Yeah, this tells about it. Grand prize is a photography tour to Hawaii, all expenses paid. It’s an annual trip for local amateur photographers. Last year it was in Flagstaff; the year before in Victoria, British Columbia. This year, the Hawaiian Islands.”
Savannah raised her eyebrows. “Sounds wonderful. Sure, I’ll take a look at the flyer and see if I have anything that would qualify.” She gestured toward the photo display. “It’s doubtful I could compete with someone of this caliber, but thank you. I’ll consider it.”
The clerk winked. “Don’t be too sure, young lady. It takes just one lucky shot.”
“Yeah, after a gazillion shots, right?”
He leaned toward her. “Aren’t you glad we’re no longer using film and paying for developing?”
“Oh, yes.” Savannah said smiling.
Margaret laughed a little. “It’s sure a new generation of photography; one I never thought I’d see in
Suddenly, the trio heard a new voice. “Well, Maggie Forster.”
They turned to see a woman of about thirty-five walking into the shop toward them.
“Hi, Shelly,” Margaret responded cordially. She hugged the young woman. “It’s been ages. How are you?”
“Good,” she responded. “And you?” She looked from Margaret to Savannah, asking, “Is this your daughter?”
“Close,” Margaret said, smiling. “This is my niece Savannah,” she motioned toward the child still sleeping in the stroller, “and my grandniece Lily. Savannah is my sister, Gladys’s, daughter. Vannie, this is Shelly Carson.” She said to Shelly, “Your mom would have remembered Gladys. They were on the same basketball team in high school.”
“Mom played basketball?” Savannah asked, disbelieving.
“Yeah, they weren’t as fussy about height then.” She looked at Shelly. “…although your mom was tall like you are.”
Shelly smiled. “Did you know my mom went on to play college basketball? She actually earned a scholarship, which she used to study education.”
“That’s right, I remember that,” Margaret said. “And you became a teacher too, didn’t you? Are you still teaching?”
“Yes, teaching is my life.” She shrugged. “…teaching and my animals.”
“No kids?” Margaret asked.
“No, just of the fur-type—cats and dogs…” Shelly stared for a moment at Savannah before asking, “Aren’t you a veterinarian?”
“Yes,” Savannah said. Motioning toward Lily, she added, “…out on mommy leave.” She tilted her head, her blond ponytail swishing to one side. “Why, have you brought your critters to us?”
“Yes. I remember seeing you at the clinic when I came in with one of my Aussies.” She became more solemn. “Dr. Mike actually saved her life. Your husband?” she asked.
Savannah smiled and nodded.
“He’s the best. He sure loves animals, and that means a lot to me.”
“Yes, he does,” Savannah agreed.
Margaret grinned. “They have a house full of them.”
“Not as many as
have,” Savannah quipped. She turned to Shelly. “She runs a cat-rescue facility.”
“That’s right, I remember reading about you in the paper. That’s wonderful, Maggie.” She looked at her inquisitively. “And you remarried, right?”
“Yes, to Max Sheridan. It’s Maggie Sheridan now. We run the shelter together.”
“Congratulations,” Shelly said. “My mom would be pleased for you.”
Margaret spoke more softly. “She died so young. It was a difficult time for you and your dad.”
Shelly let out a breath. “Yeah, cancer is a horrible thing. I miss her. Seeing you reminds me of her; you two were inseparable there for a while. Then you were such a trouper and a help while she was ill. I’ll be forever grateful to you for that.” When Shelly started to choke up, she quickly changed the subject. “So which one of you is interested in photography?”
“We just came in to look at the display,” Savannah explained.
“Yes, aren’t they great? Russell and I sometimes go on photo shoots together.”
“You’re a photographer now, Shelly?” Margaret asked.
“Yeah, well, even when you’re doing something you love day in and day out, you need a departure from it… a creative outlet, if you will. I enjoyed photographing my animals so much, I got hooked. Now I take pictures at horse shows, I do portraits of animals and sometimes people.” Shelly’s face lit up. “I especially enjoy wildlife photography.”
“Me, too,” Savannah said, excitedly. “I know what you mean about the creative outlet. I’d love to get more involved.” She held up the flyer. “In fact, I took step one. I’m considering entering this contest.”
“She’s good, Shelly,” the clerk confirmed.
“Oh?” Shelly flipped her straight dark-brown hair behind one ear.
“Yeah, show her your photos,” the clerk urged.
Savannah touched her phone screen a couple of times. “Well, here are a few.”
After viewing the photos, Shelly pulled back and looked at Savannah again. “Girl, these are wonderful.” She was silent for a moment, as if considering something. She then asked, “How would you like to help me with a project?”
Savannah’s eyes widened. “What sort of project…involving photography?”
Shelly nodded. “I volunteered to lead a photography workshop for a group of…shall we say…at-risk or underprivileged kids, for the recreation department. They wanted to offer something that would hold their interest during winter break.” She pursed her lips. “I could sure use some help. There are eight kids signed up, and I’d really like to develop a genuine hands-on approach with them—something more personal than I could probably do alone.”
When Savannah hesitated, Shelly said, “I’ve worked with these students before—in fact, some of them are in my fifth-grade class. They’re a lively bunch, but good kids who just need the right kind of guidance and influence.”
Margaret nudged her niece. “You’d be good at that. You have such a great rapport with Adam.” She turned to Shelly. “That’s her stepson. He’s ten, isn’t he, Vannie?”
“And you worked with the kids at the library last year in that reading program with the cats,” Margaret continued.
Shelly suddenly expressed a renewed interest in Savannah. “That was you? I heard about that program and thought it was such a great idea. Is it still going on?”
“Yes,” Savannah said, “but without me. My goal was to get it started and train others to carry on.” She looked at Shelly. “Your project sounds like a fun and worthwhile one. What would the time commitment be?”
“What difference does that make? Just do it,” Margaret urged. “Go get some
time with your photography. It would be good for you—make you more well-rounded.”
Pretending to be offended, Savannah faced her aunt. “I’m not well-rounded enough?” She added, “I do have a busy toddler, you know.”
Margaret grinned. “Oh pshaw, Vannie, you have no shortage of willing babysitters, and Lily goes to Barbara’s daycare once a week, doesn’t she?”
“To answer your question, Savannah,” Shelly said, “we’ll meet twice a week in the afternoon for two hours for the next three weeks.”
“How long are the kids out of school for winter break, anyway?” Margaret asked.
Shelly smiled at her. “It’s year-round school, so four weeks.” She then addressed Savannah. “I’d like to plan a field trip for the students. I’ll scout out a couple of places on horseback before the sessions start.”
“You ride?” Savannah asked.
Savannah’s face lit up. “I’ve been looking for another riding buddy.”
“Hey, you can never have too many riding buddies,” Shelly said, smiling. She then asked, “Why don’t you go with me—I mean to scout out a place to take the kids? Do you have a horse?”