Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (13 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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He shifted from one foot to the other. “I was just going to ask you if you’ve told Everett whether you’re going to stay.”

“He said it could wait until the theater festival is over.”

Marcus nodded. “That’s probably a good idea.” I waited for him to tell me to stay, to sweep me into a kiss complete with a dramatic dip, even though Maggie insisted that was bad for the back.

Of course he didn’t do either of those things. He just said, “Have a good day,” and walked over to his car.

I got into the truck and started it. I’d been watching way too many old movies with Maggie if I thought that Marcus would actually sweep me into his arms and kiss me until I swooned. Not that I was exactly the swooning type.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help wondering just exactly what I would have done if he had.


was sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs in the backyard when Andrew arrived. Hercules was perched on the chair’s wide arm.

“Hey, Kath,” he said when he came around the house and caught sight of me. “Am I late?”

“No,” I said. “I was ready early and it was just so nice I decided to wait out here.” There were some streaks of cloud across the deepening blue sky and I had a feeling it was going to be warmer than usual for the end of September.

Andrew walked over as I got to my feet. “Hey, cat,” he said to Hercules.

The little tuxedo cat gave him a look of disdain that Andrew completely missed. Herc didn’t like being called “cat” as a form of address. He glanced at me, green eyes narrowed. I took that to mean I should remind Andrew of his name.

“Hercules,” I said.

“After the Greek god, right?” Andrew said, looking around the yard.

Hercules didn’t exactly roll his eyes, but he came pretty close.

“Um, Roman, actually,” I said. As played by the very yummy Kevin Sorbo in the campy TV series, to be exact, but I didn’t see any point in mentioning that.

“Where’s the other one?” he asked.

The other one? Hercules looked at Andrew like he was the dust-covered head from one of Owen’s funky chickens. He made a huffy sound through his nose, jumped down and headed across the lawn toward Rebecca’s backyard, placing each foot down carefully on the damp grass. That he was willing to chance getting his paws wet showed just how annoyed he was.

Hercules and Owen seemed convinced that they were—if not people—then certainly not someone’s pets. And they expected to be treated accordingly.

Andrew pointed across the yard. “How old is the gazebo in your neighbor’s yard? I’ve never seen a design quite like it.” He walked partway across the lawn to get a better look.

I went over to stand beside him. “I’m not sure,” I said. “I could ask Rebecca for you.”

“I’d love to know how he worked out the overhang,” he said, squinting at the gazebo roof. “I don’t suppose there’s still a set of plans around anywhere.”

I smiled and shook my head. “No. There never were any plans. Harrison Taylor built that gazebo and the only plans he had were in his head.”

Andrew turned to look at me. “You’re kidding.”

I tucked my hands in the pockets of my sweatshirt. “No, I’m not. I’d take you to meet him, but he’s out of town.”

He glanced back for another look as we walked toward the driveway. “I’m sorry about that. The guy’s good.”

I thought about Harry Senior, who always reminded me of Santa Claus. “Yes, he is,” I said.

“So are we going to Eric’s?” Andrew asked as we walked around the side of the house.

“I thought I’d take you over to Fern’s Diner this morning.”

He started for his rental car and I followed instead of arguing that we should take my truck.

“Diner?” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Does that mean old-fashioned diner food?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “Their motto is ‘Food just like Mom used to make—Maybe better.’”

He laughed. “Okay. I have to try this place.”

“They have a big breakfast like nothing else you’ve ever had. You probably won’t be able to finish it.”

He paused, hand on the top of the driver’s door. “Is that a challenge?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, I guess it is,” I finally said with a smile.

Andrew grinned. “You’re on, then.”

Other than the morning I’d had breakfast with Burtis Chapman, the only other times I’d been to the diner was for Meatloaf Tuesday with Roma. Fern’s had been part of the landscape of Mayville Heights for a long time. About six years ago it had been restored to its 1950s glory, or as Roma had put it, “Just exactly like it never was.”

The building was long and low with a decent-size parking lot in back. It had windows on three sides, and the front glowed with neon after dark. Inside there was the requisite jukebox, a counter with gleaming chrome stools and cozy booths with red vinyl seats.

To my surprise, Burtis Chapman was perched on a stool at the counter, one massive hand wrapped around a coffee cup. The first time I’d ever taken notice of those huge hands it had occurred to me that he could probably squeeze my head between his thumb and index finger and make my brains come squirting out of my ears. I was very glad that he seemed to like me.

We walked over to the counter and Burtis smiled when he caught sight of me. He was a big block of a man and his smile didn’t make him look any less intimidating. I remembered that the crocodile had smiled at Captain Hook right before he’d swallowed the pirate’s hand.

“Kathleen, girl, it’s good to see you,” Burtis said. “What in heck are you doing here?”

“Good to see you, too, Burtis,” I said. “I came for breakfast. What about you? Isn’t it a little past your breakfast time?”

He gave me a sly grin. “Well, for breakfast number one, but not number two.”

I turned to Andrew, who had been watching us like he was discovering another culture in a National Geographic special. “Burtis, this is my friend Andrew Reid. He’s here from Boston. Andrew, this is Burtis Chapman.”

Andrew took the hand Burtis offered and did his best not to wince as they shook.

“So you’re the young man who was a big enough asshole to let Kathleen get away,” Burtis said. I should have known that if he’d heard the story—and who in town hadn’t by now—he’d say something.

Andrew’s face reddened but he held the older man’s gaze.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “I am the asshole who let her go. And now I’m trying to win her back.”

“And how’s that workin’ for you?” Burtis asked.

“Not well,” Andrew said with a shake of his head. I saw him surreptitiously clench and unclench the hand Burtis had just shaken. Probably trying to figure out if there were any intact bones left in it.

Burtis laughed. “I gotta give you credit for trying,” he said. “But I can’t wish you good luck because we want to keep Kathleen here.”

Andrew nodded. “Well, then, may the best man win.”

“That’s what I’m counting on,” Burtis said. He winked at me.

I slipped onto the stool beside him and Andrew took the one on the other side of me.

The waitress came out of the kitchen and slid a plate of fried tomatoes and what looked to be sourdough toast in front of Burtis. She was wearing a short-sleeved white shirt with
embroidered over the pocket, hot pink pedal pushers, and red open-toe wedgies.

She smiled at me. “Hi, hon, what can I get you?”

It probably would have surprised a lot of people to know that Peggy had read every issue of
Scientific American
the library had and all of Stephen Hawking’s books on quantum physics.

“The big breakfast for each of us,” I said, gesturing at Andrew. “And coffee, please, when you have a minute.”

“Sure thing,” she said.

“Peggy Sue?” Andrew said softly in my ear.

“It’s her real name.”

He caught sight of the jukebox at the far end of the diner. “Does that work?”

I nodded. “Do you have quarters?”

He patted his pockets and slid down off the stool. “I do. I’ll be right back.”

Burtis set his mug on the countertop and looked at me. “Did Brady take care of your friend yesterday?”

“Yes, he did,” I said. “I like him.”

The sly smile was back. “The boy gets his charm from me.”

Peggy put a huge mug of coffee in front of me and I reached for the sugar. “Burtis, I have a feeling that’s not all Brady gets from you.”

He laughed. “If Brady was here he’d tell me not to say anything that might incriminate myself, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”

I smiled back at him, added cream to my cup and took a long drink. Fern’s had excellent coffee.

“Burtis, did you loan your truck to Abigail Pierce the other night?” I asked.

The grin disappeared. “Now who exactly wants to know? You or Detective Marcus Gordon?”

I took another sip of coffee before I answered. “Me,” I said. I set the cup down and leaned one elbow on the counter. Andrew was still looking through selections on the jukebox, but I wanted to finish the conversation with Burtis before he came back. “You heard about Hugh Davis, the director from the theater festival Abigail is helping to organize?”

He nodded. “I know who you mean.”

“Abigail’s my friend. I don’t want anything from his death to splash back on her. If you’d rather I ask her, I will.”

Burtis shook his head. “No need. Yeah, I loaned her one of my trucks. She had some stuff she needed to move for the festival and I have more than one truck. She picked it up Friday afternoon and brought it back that same night. Didn’t look like she’d moved any dead bodies with it, by the way.”

“Good to know,” I said.

Andrew had finally made his song choice. The first few notes of the music came out of the speakers and I had the urge to pull my shirt up over my head. It was “My Girl” by the Temptations.

“Not exactly subtle, is he?” Burtis said, picking up his fork again.

Peggy returned with our food just as Andrew got back to the counter. She set an oversize oval plate in front of each of us. Andrew looked at his and blinked. I’d already picked up my fork.

There were scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes with onions, tomato and some fresh rosemary, and two thick slices of raisin toast. I knew from past experience that the eggs would be fluffy, the bacon crisp and the potatoes golden on the outside and fork soft on the inside.

Burtis made short work of the last of his fried tomatoes and drained his coffee. He climbed off his stool and put one hand on my shoulder. “You have a good day, Kathleen,” he said.

I smiled. “You too, Burtis,” I said.

He nodded at Andrew and walked over to the cash register.

“I no longer have any feeling in my right hand,” Andrew said once Burtis was out of earshot.

“Count yourself lucky then,” I said, reaching for my coffee. “I’m pretty sure he could break it if he wanted to.”

We ate in silence after that until Andrew groaned and leaned his forearms on the countertop. “Oh, man, that was good,” he said. “Do they make that bread here? And where the heck do they get tomatoes that don’t taste like Styrofoam?”

There was part of a sausage and half a piece of bread left on his plate. “Yes on the bread and I don’t know about the tomatoes.”

I leaned sideways, speared the sausage with my fork and ate it. Then I broke the bread in half and ate that, too.

Andrew rolled his eyes. “You win, and where the heck did you put all that?”

I patted my midsection. “I was hungry.”

Peggy came back and refilled my cup and after I’d added cream and sugar I swung around so I was facing Andrew.

“I have a question about Friday night,” I said.

“Sure,” he said, turning his cup in slow circles on the green Formica.

“What else did you see?”

“Aside from that SUV on the highway? Nothing.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure. Just the dark blue SUV.”

“Close your eyes,” I said.

Andrew narrowed his gaze at me. “Why?” he asked suspiciously.

“Because it will help you concentrate.”

“And I’m concentrating on what, exactly?”

I made a face. “Will you just do it, please?”

He closed his eyes.

“Okay, we’re driving toward the water. The marina is coming up on the left side. What do you remember?”

“How good you smelled,” he said at once.

“That’s not helping.”

He shrugged. “You asked what I remembered. That’s what I remembered.”

I flexed both hands, squeezed them into fists and resisted the urge to slug him.

“We’re turning into the driveway. Do you see any cars coming out?”

He shook his head. “No.”

I didn’t remember any vehicles passing us, either. “What about in the parking lot?”

“Two half-ton trucks with some kind of logo on the door, a white cargo van and a silver sedan. The car had a flat.”

I could picture both vehicles, although I hadn’t noticed the car had a flat tire. “Anything else?”

“Three sailboats out in the water.” He opened his eyes. “I’m sorry, Kathleen. I didn’t see anything.”

I folded my fingers around the heavy stoneware mug. “It’s okay. You should call Detective Lind, though, and tell her about the SUV.” I still had Hope Lind’s card in my pocket. I pulled it out and handed it to him.

He turned the cardboard rectangle over and frowned at me. “Who’s this Detective Lind? I thought your friend was investigating.”

“Detective Lind is in charge for now,” I said. “Marcus is working on something else.”

He shrugged and tucked the card in his shirt pocket.

I drank the last of my coffee and set the mug back on the counter. “Thank you for breakfast,” I said, “but I need to get home.”

“I was hoping you’d show me around,” Andrew said, slipping off his stool.

“I think you’ve pretty much seen all of Mayville Heights in the last week.” I brushed crumbs from my jeans as I stood up.

“I guess I have,” he said, dipping his head and giving me that killer smile. “I was hoping to go to the top of the bluff. I heard there’re some good hiking trails. And after that I thought we could drive into Minneapolis for a late dinner.”

“Thanks, but I can’t,” I said, pulling my wallet out of my purse.

Andrew held up a hand and shook his head. “No, Kath. I invited you.”

I hesitated.

“You may as well say yes,” he said with a gleam in his green eyes. “My legs are longer. I can get to the cash register before you can.”

“All right. Thank you.”

He took a step closer to me. “C’mon, Kath. It’s Sunday. Come with me.” He held out both hands. “Show me what’s so great about this place.”

“I already have plans,” I said. My plans were to make more sardine crackers for Owen and Hercules and to scrub the kitchen floor, but they were still plans. I twisted my watch around my wrist. “Go home, Andrew,” I said. “I mean go home to Boston. I’m glad that you came, but I won’t change my mind. It’s . . . The time for us has passed.”

It sounded like a line from a bad novel, but it was true. We were never, ever getting back together. I think I’d heard that line in a song.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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