Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (14 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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Andrew smiled, a genuine smile, not his I-am-so-damn-cute smile. “I have six more days to change your mind. I’m not going anywhere.”

He paid for breakfast and we went out to the car. As he pulled out of the parking lot I saw him glance up the hill.

“Don’t,” I said quietly.

He looked over at me. “Don’t what?”

“Don’t head for the bluff instead of taking me home and think I’ll be okay with it.”

He looked away and shook his head, not even trying to hide the smile. “See? You know me better than anybody.”

“It’s your big glass head,” I said lightly. “It’s like a fishbowl. I can see right through you.”

His expression grew serious. “That’s why we belong together.”

I sighed and shook my head. There didn’t seem to be any point in saying anything. Andrew didn’t want to listen.

“I’ll call you later,” he said when we got back to the house. “Maybe I’ll be able to persuade you to have dinner with me.”

“Call Detective Lind,” I said as I got out of the car. “It’s probably not important, but she still should know what you saw.”

“Okay,” he said with a shrug. “And I’ll talk to you later.”

I walked around the side of the house and sat on the back stairs. Hercules came across the grass, stopping every few steps to shake a paw. He sat beside me, a sour look on his face. I used the sleeve of my sweatshirt to wipe the top of his front paws, which seemed to appease him a little.

“I saw Burtis at the diner,” I said.

Herc murped softly, which I took to mean “Tell me more.”

“Abigail was driving one of his old trucks Friday night. The night she said her phone died. The night nobody knows where she was.”

Hercules leaned his head against my arm. “Merow,” he said softly.

“I know,” I said, reaching over to stroke his fur. “There’s no way this is good.”

15

I
made kitty crackers for the boys and chicken stew with dumplings for myself. When Andrew called after lunch I turned down his offer for dinner. Again.

The cats and I spent most of the afternoon out in the yard, working the compost Harry Junior had dropped off into the cold frame box where I was going to try growing lettuce and kale early in the spring. In midafternoon Rebecca walked over for a visit and we had cranberry scones and tea in her gazebo.

I tried not to think about Hannah or Abigail and their connections to Hugh Davis. There wasn’t anything I could do, so I vowed to follow my advice to Marcus and stay out of it.

I was up early the next morning to meet Ruby at River Arts and see her painting of Hercules. When I came downstairs he was sitting underneath the carrier bag.

I folded my arms and looked at him. “What are you doing?”

He looked up at the bag and then over at the back door.

“If you’re coming with me you need to have breakfast,” I said, picking up his and Owen’s water dishes.

He got up and walked over to the back door.

“I told you I’m not buying you a breakfast sandwich. You’re a cat. Cats eat cat food.”

He walked right through the door into the porch.

“Oh, like that’s going to work,” I called after him.

Owen came in then and rubbed against my leg.

“Hey, Fuzz Face,” I said, bending down to scratch the top of his head.

I got his breakfast and set the dishes in their place by the refrigerator. He looked around the room and checked under the table.

“He’s out in the porch,” I said.

Owen cocked his head to one side.

I measured coffee into the machine. “He’s sulking.”

He studied the back door for a moment—thoughtfully, it seemed to me. Then he dropped his head and started sniffing his food.

Once the coffee was ready I poured myself a cup and went out to the porch. Hercules was on the bench, looking into the yard. One ear twitched, but other than that he gave no indication he knew I was in the room.

“Ruby will probably have some of those kitty treats,” I said.

He jumped down and headed for his breakfast, pausing only to give me a look best described as patronizing as he passed me. I shook my head and followed him into the kitchen. Nobody had cats like mine. Sometimes they really were like little people in fur suits. Manipulative little people.

Ruby was waiting for me at the back door of the River Arts building. She smiled when she caught sight of the cat bag. “You brought Hercules,” she said, her eyes lighting up.

I shrugged. “I know it sounds weird, but I swear he knew I was coming to see you. He was sitting by the carrier when I came down this morning.”

“It doesn’t sound weird to me.” She leaned toward the mesh panel on the top of the bag. “Bonjour, mon petit,” she said.

From inside the bag he made a little murp.

Okay, so it appeared Hercules knew how to speak French, too.

Ruby took us up to her studio. The painting was on one of her easels, turned away from the door. I unzipped the carrier and Hercules climbed out, walked to the far side of the table and sat down. He looked expectantly at Ruby.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, just in case she was talking to me, even though I was fairly sure she wasn’t.

She swung the easel around and for a moment I was speechless. “Oh, Ruby, it’s incredible,” I said when I found my voice again. I hugged her and she beamed with pleasure. “I want to jump up and down and squeal,” I said, grinning back at her.

She’d painted Hercules in shades of purple from deepest indigo to a pale lavender. He was sitting up, head tipped slightly to one side. It looked just like him—except for the purple.

The cat himself was studying his likeness, squinting and leaning forward. “Well,” I asked. “What do you think?”

“Merow!” he said loudly, with much enthusiasm.

“We give it two paws up,” I said to Ruby.

Right on cue Hercules held up a paw and looked at me.

Ruby folded her arms over her chest and laughed. “Could I give him a treat?” she asked.

“Would there actually be any point in me saying no?”

She twisted her mouth to one side. “Not really. There are two of us to one of you. I think we could outvote you.”

“You have five minutes,” I said sternly to Hercules, holding up one hand, fingers spread apart. “Then we have to get to the library.”

“You’re not going to make him shelve books all morning, are you?” she asked in mock outrage, hands on her hips.

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Hercules is too short to shelve books. He’s going to update the card catalogue. You should see how fast those little black-and-white paws can move across a keyboard.”

Ruby laughed and reached for the bag of cat treats, already approved by Roma. Hercules gave me a look that said I wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought I was.

Susan was waiting at the bottom of the steps when I got to the library. She grinned when she saw the cat carrier bag slung over my shoulder. “Is it Bring Your Cat to Work Day already?” she asked. “I’m sorry. I forgot to get you a card.”

I made a face at her.

She gestured at the bag. “Owen or Hercules?”

“Hercules,” I said. I unlocked the front doors and turned off the alarm. “We were over at River Arts with Ruby.”

“How’s the painting coming?” Susan asked as we climbed the stairs.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “I hope it makes a lot of money for Cat People. They do good work.”

“Me too,” she said. “That’s really nice of Ruby to do the paintings for the auction.”

A muffled meow came from the cat carrier.

“And it was nice of you to pose for her, Hercules,” Susan said with a grin.

I took the cat to my office, where he jumped up onto my desk, sat down on the budget projections for next year and started to wash his face.

A few minutes after nine a woman came in, stopping just inside the doors. She looked around, smiling at the building. I was about to walk over and say hello when she caught sight of me and smiled even wider. She started toward me, still smiling as though she knew me. I didn’t know her, but I felt as though I should. Something about her was very familiar. She was tall and slender with auburn hair brushing her shoulders, and side-swept bangs. She looked to be in her early forties.

“You’re Kathleen, aren’t you?” she said.

“Yes, I am,” I said.

She nodded her head slightly. “You look like your mom, but you have John’s smile.” She held out her hand. “I’m Chloe Miller. I worked with your dad a couple of times.”

Now I knew who she was. Chloe Miller had been on a nighttime drama a few years back called
Vengeance
, playing the main character’s mother in flashbacks. I’d stopped at my parents’ house unannounced one Wednesday night and found my mother—who claimed she only watched PBS—glued to the TV. I confessed I was recording the show on my DVR at my apartment. A couple of weeks later I discovered that my little brother, Ethan, was a big fan as well.

The three of us started watching the show together every Wednesday night and then speculating about what was going to happen next for the following seven days. My dad and Ethan’s twin, Sara, thought we’d taken leave of our senses.

“I was a big fan of
Vengeance
,” I said. “I’m glad to meet you.”

“When Ben told me you were the librarian here I had to come say hello. I hope that’s okay.”

“Absolutely,” I said with a smile. “Are you here for the New Horizons festival?”

She nodded. “I am. I had another commitment and couldn’t get here until last night.” She looked around again. “The building is beautiful. How old is it?”

“We celebrated its centennial this past spring.” I couldn’t keep a touch of pride out of my voice.

“It’s a Carnegie library, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Yes, it is.”

“I thought so,” she said. “I spent a year in Scotland doing theater and I actually got to visit the very first Carnegie library, in Dunfermline.”

“I think I’m a little jealous.”

“I’m a little jealous that you get to work here every day.” She looked toward the stacks. “Would you have a minute to help me find something?” She loosened the black scarf at her neck. “I’m looking for a copy of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 10.”

“‘Death, be not proud.’”

She smiled again and shook her head. “I should have guessed you’d know it. I heard your dad quote Donne once.”

I led her over to the poetry section. “When did you work with Dad?” I asked.

“My very first job,” she said. Her cheeks turned red. “Promise you won’t laugh?”

I put my hand over my heart. “Librarian’s honor.”

“It was a cereal commercial.”

I shook my head and grinned. “You were in the raisin bran commercial. Were you a raisin or a flake?”

“I was a flake. John was a raisin.”

“A dried-up, wizened raisin with no sense of rhythm.”

Chloe laughed at the memory. “You know those commercials have a cult following online.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not surprised. I was at college when the first two aired and that Halloween everyone I knew dressed up as a raisin.”

“Now that they’ve revived the whole campaign, get ready for lots of dried-up raisins running around this Halloween, too.”

“What is it about those ads that people like so much?” I asked.

She frowned, narrowing her eyes as she thought about my question. “I don’t know. I think it’s because they’re funny even though they weren’t intended to be—at least not the first one.” She smiled again. “Ben said your mother’s coming to fill in for Hugh.”

“She is.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing her. We did a benefit reading together a couple of years ago for the Coles Island Theatre. She told a story about doing summer stock, outside in a public park.”

“The raccoon story.” I scanned the shelves looking for the book of poetry Chloe wanted.

She laughed. “That’s it.” Her expression grew serious again. “It’s really kind of her to offer to come like that, especially at the last minute.”

“She’s been friends with Ben a long time,” I said. “Ah, there it is.” I bent down and pulled the book I’d been looking for from the bottom shelf. “And we get to spend some time together, too,” I said, straightening up and handing her the book.

“Thank you,” Chloe said, turning it over in her hands. “Ben’s having a little . . . remembrance for Hugh this afternoon. I wanted to read ‘Death, be not proud,’ and I know it sounds silly, but Hugh would have hated it if I’d just printed the poem from somewhere online. He loved books.”

There was genuine sadness in her eyes and the set of her mouth.

“You were friends,” I said, reaching out to straighten the shelf of books closest to us.

“For a while we were more than friends.” She played with her scarf. “My life went in a different direction, but I’m always going to have a soft spot for Hugh.” She shook her head. “I wish I could have gotten here sooner. He worked so hard to convince me to take this job and we didn’t get to work together in the end.”

“Ben has some of Hugh’s notes,” I said. “They seem to have survived the fire. Once he gets them all sorted out maybe he’d let you read them to get an idea of what Hugh had in mind for your character.”

Chloe held the book of poetry against her chest. “That’s a good idea. I think I’ll do that. I don’t mean I won’t follow your mom’s direction, but I’d like to know what Hugh had been thinking. The play is about star-crossed lovers. Not the kind of part I usually play.”

“He must have thought you could handle the part or he wouldn’t have pushed you to take it.”

“He pushed so hard that I was starting to think maybe he was hoping we could get back together again.” She brushed her hair back behind one ear and pasted on a smile. “So thank you for this. It means a lot to me.”

“I’m glad I could help.”

“How do I check this out?” she asked.

“I’ll take you over to the desk and Susan will get you a temporary card,” I said.

We walked to the checkout desk and I introduced Chloe to Susan. “It was good to meet you, Chloe,” I said.

“You too, Kathleen,” she said. “I hope I’ll see you again.”

I nodded. “Me too.”

Abigail came in early for her shift. I went down to the staff room for a cup of coffee before I started in on the budget figures and found her leaning against the counter with a mug in one hand. She was rubbing the back of her neck with the other hand. She looked tired. There were dark circles, like smudges of soot, underneath her eyes.

“Hi, Kathleen,” she said. “I forgot to tell you—Ben is going to pick up your mom at the airport tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, reaching for the coffeepot. “I can rearrange the schedule and get her myself.”

“Thanks, but I think Ben wants to use the time to bring her up to speed.”

“How are things going?”

“The police took four boxes of Hugh’s notes, but they let us keep the costumes. And somehow Ben managed to organize a rehearsal for every one of the plays without resorting to cloning himself. And he’s planned a memorial for Hugh this afternoon.” She handed me the sugar, which was on the counter beside her. “I don’t know when he sleeps.”

“That sounds like Ben,” I said, adding milk and sugar to my cup. “What about you? Is everything okay?”

She smiled and I thought it looked a little forced. “I could use a bit more sleep and probably a lot less coffee, but I’m okay.”

“You sure?”

She nodded, but her smile wavered just a little.

“Abigail, what was going on between you and Hugh?” I said quietly.

It wasn’t a surprise to see her face flood with color.

She took a deep breath and let it out. “We were married.”

But that was.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
12.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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