Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (15 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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16

I
stared at her. “Married?”

“Yes.”

“You were married to Hugh Davis?” Of all the things Abigail could have said, this was the last thing I would have expected. “When? How?
How?

She pulled out a chair and sat down at the small table in the middle of the room, and I did the same because I had a feeling this was going to take a while.

“We were married when we were in college. It’s a lot of years ago.”

“You never said anything.”

Abigail stared into her cup. “It wasn’t my best moment.”

I waited until finally she met my gaze. “I was nineteen. We met on a Friday night in a script-writing workshop. Sunday afternoon when the workshop was over I moved my things into his apartment.”

“Love at first sight.”

She gave me a wry smile. “Or something like that.”

“So what happened?”

Abigail shook her head. “I guess you could say real life happened. Practicality intruded.” She laid both hands flat on the table. “I was already committed to doing a semester abroad in England. Hugh asked me to marry him before I left. By then my father had found out about the two of us. He said that if I married Hugh he’d take away his financial support. I would have had to drop out.”

“That was an awful choice to have to make.”

She nodded. “It would have been better if I’d actually made a choice.”

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t want to lose Hugh and I knew my father would follow through on his threat. So I found a minister who wasn’t licensed to marry us and then I left for London.”

“What happened?”

She shrugged. “The whole thing blew up in my face. My father found out that I had gotten ‘married.’ So I confessed it was a sham. He said I was too immature for college and stopped paying my tuition.”

“What about Hugh?”

“He was furious. And he was hurt. He wouldn’t listen to anything I said and I can’t blame him for that.” She sighed. “He stopped answering the phone. I flew back from London and the apartment was empty. I dropped out, got a job fitting bras in a department store, and spent the next six years finishing my degree a course at a time.”

My stomach hurt for the nineteen-year-old young woman Abigail had been. And I wanted to shake her father and Hugh for bailing on her. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I had no idea.”

She gave me the closest thing to a smile she could manage. “It gets worse, Kathleen,” she said.

“What do you mean, worse?”

“That first day that everyone involved with the festival arrived, Hugh asked me to meet him back at the theater after supper. I hadn’t seen him in years.” She started picking at the skin on the side of her right thumbnail. “He said we were still married.”

“What do you mean, ‘still married’? I thought the whole thing was a fake.”

Abigail nodded. “So did I. Hugh claimed it was because of some loophole in the law about solemnizing marriage. He had documents from a lawyer.” She kept picking at her thumb. “He wouldn’t let me keep them, but they looked legitimate.”

I felt my chest tighten as though I’d tried to put on a sweater three sizes too small. “What did he want?”

“Money. He was broke. He knew I’d inherited some when my father died. He said since we’d been husband and wife at the time, he wanted his half. I think he took the directing job with the festival just to have a way to get out here and blackmail me.”

I shook my head. “I wish you’d said something.”

She looked away for a moment. “I was embarrassed.”

I put my hand over hers. “It’s okay,” I said.

She looked at me then. “I faked a marriage, Kathleen. My brothers don’t even know that.”

“Okay, so not the smartest thing you’ve ever done.” I squeezed her hand. “We do dumb things when we’re young. That’s how we learn not to do dumb things when we get a little older.”

She gave me a small smile.

“Do you remember when Andrew told you we broke up because he accidentally married someone else?”

“I remember.”

I shook my bangs back off my face. “He didn’t tell you that he was drunk and the someone was a waitress he’d met in a fifties diner while he was on a fishing trip with two of his buddies. One of which was the best man at the ceremony. The other one was the flower girl.”

“Seriously?”

I nodded. “Seriously. There are pictures. That’s partly how I ended up here. The point is, Andrew wasn’t nineteen and he did something really, really stupid. So don’t be so hard on yourself.”

She sighed. “It’s not the only stupid thing I did.”

“It’s okay,” I said, giving her an encouraging smile. “Dumb mistakes are not limited to one to a customer. What else did you do?”

“Hugh had our original marriage certificate and the vows that we wrote. He said he even had a Polaroid that one of his friends had taken of us with the minister. I thought if I had those things maybe I could prove that neither one of us had taken the marriage seriously.”

She folded one arm across her chest like she was hugging herself. “I figured they had to be in Hugh’s room at the hotel. I needed to keep him away long enough for me to find everything. I managed to get his keycard out of his pocket.” She lowered her voice. “Burtis loaned me his truck. I convinced Hugh to go out to the lookout with me. I told him we could work something out about the money. I haven’t told anyone other than you, but the police are going to figure it out. Somebody probably saw us. I left him stranded out there, Kathleen. It’s my fault Hugh’s dead.”

“No, it’s not,” I said, shaking my head for emphasis. “Abigail, the person who killed Hugh is responsible. Not you.”

She started picking at her thumb again. “He would never have been out there if it hadn’t been for me.”

“He wouldn’t have been in Mayville Heights at all if there hadn’t been a fire at the theater in Red Wing. Does that mean the person who inspected that faulty circuit breaker and passed it is responsible for his death?”

“That’s not the same thing.”

“I think it is.”

“I lied to get Hugh out to the lookout. How’s that going to look to the police?” she said. “I heard Detective Lind’s taken over the case. What am I supposed to say to her? ‘Yes, I did lure the victim out to Spruce Bluff, but I didn’t kill him. I was busy ransacking his room instead’?”

“Actually, that’s exactly what you do tell her.”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “Why? You think she’ll just take my word on it?”

“What time did you get to the hotel?”

“I don’t know. Sometime just after six, I think. I had the radio on in Burtis’s truck and they were just finishing the news update.”

Ben had said that Hugh had tried to send him a text around six thirty.

“Detective Lind may not take your word on where you were, but she will believe the security cameras. They’re on every floor in every hallway in the hotel. Little tiny cameras, part of a state-of-the-art security system they put in when they did the renovations.”

“I didn’t see any cameras.”

“They’re there,” I said. I took my cell phone out of my pocket and pushed it across the table.

“Hugh tried to text Ben about six thirty, right about the time you were in his hotel room. Call Detective Lind, Abigail. Once she knows how Hugh ended up at Spruce Bluff, maybe she’ll be able to figure out who killed him.”

Abigail nodded and picked up the phone.

I felt a huge sense of relief that Abigail’s secret wasn’t that bad, overall. Now that I knew what she’d been hiding, all I needed to do was figure out Hannah’s secret.

Abigail left to talk to Detective Lind at the police station and I covered the circulation desk while Susan and Mary had lunch. I ate mine outside on a bench overlooking the water while Hercules nosed around the gazebo. The ground was dry and he seemed to have a fine time poking his whiskers into every nook and cranny.

I expected him to give me a hard time when we had to go back inside, but he climbed into the cat carrier with no complaint. I stopped to leave my coffee mug in the staff room and Hercules poked his head out of the bag and looked around.

“I’m not fooled,” I said to him as I rinsed the cup. “I know you’ve been in here before.”

He gave me a look of green-eyed kitty innocence.

“You don’t really think I believe you stayed in my office all morning, do you?”

He continued the innocence ruse, staring unblinkingly at me. “So you’re going for plausible deniability,” I said, giving him a little scratch behind one ear. “Good choice, but I know you were roaming around this morning. You heard what Abigail said to me, didn’t you?”

He was good. He kept his eyes fixed on my face as though he had nothing to be guilty about.

“I saw your tail when you were by the door,” I whispered. “There was a scrap of paper stuck to the tip.”

He turned to check it out, forgetting for the moment that the rest of him was still in the bag.

“Busted!” I hissed. I never won a staring contest with either Hercules or Owen. I wasn’t sure what it said about my character that I was tickled I’d won this one.

I should have known I’d pay for this victory. I stepped into the hallway and Hercules wriggled his way out of the bag. He jumped to the floor, flicked the end of his tail at me and disappeared through the door to the workroom.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said.

I put the empty carrier in my office and grabbed my keys. When I opened the workroom door Hercules was sitting on top of a cardboard box piled on a wooden storage crate, underneath the small stained-glass window in the far wall.

I crooked my finger at him. “Get over here,” I said sternly.

The only movement he made was to tip his head to one side. The distance between us made it look as though he was smirking at me.

“I’m not kidding,” I warned. “Get over here right now or there will be consequences. Serious consequences.”

The cat lifted one front paw, gave it a couple of licks, and looked at me again.

I could see my ultimatum hadn’t scared him one bit.

He scratched at the top of the cardboard box.

“Hey, don’t do that,” I said. “There might be books inside and you could tear the covers.” I actually had no idea what was in the box. I hadn’t put it there under the window and I didn’t know who had.

Hercules scraped the flap of cardboard again and meowed at me. I realized that maybe he was trying to tell me something. I threaded a path around a couple of partly assembled easels and the top half of the puppet theater that Abigail and Maggie had built and made my way over to the window. “Is there something you want me to see?” I asked him.

He jumped down off the box onto the wooden crate and looked expectantly at me.

I pulled open the top flaps and looked inside the carton. It was filled with papers. I knew at once they had nothing to do with the library. I recognized the tight, angular writing. The papers had belonged to Hugh Davis.

“How did this box get in here?” I said to Hercules.

He had no more idea than I did.

I sat down on the edge of the packing crate and the cat climbed onto my lap. “When he showed up, all he had was that big pilot’s case. Marcus sent people over to get that and all the papers Hugh had spread on the table and the desk.”

Hercules murped his agreement. I’d already told him that.

“So where did this come from?” I shifted him sideways a little so I could take a closer look at the box. The contents may have belonged to Hugh Davis, but the box was one of ours. I could see Mary’s handwriting on the side. It was one of the cartons we’d used for packing books for the library book sale.

I picked Hercules up and set him on the wooden crate. “Stay here for a second,” I said. “I just want to look for something.”

Of course he followed me, jumping down to nose around the boxes and bags and other detritus that had accumulated in the space. In the end, he was the one who found the books, stacked underneath a pile of folded tarps.

For some reason Hugh Davis had emptied a cardboard box and used it to hide his papers in my library. Why?

“So what’s in here?” I said to Hercules, opening the top flaps on the carton again. He stood on his back paws, put his front ones on the edge of the box and peered inside. I took a look as well. On top I could see a couple of yellowed pages covered with messy handwriting. Were those the wedding vows Abigail had been looking for? “Do you think Abigail and Hugh’s marriage license is in here?” I asked.

The only response was a muffled meow. It could have been a
yes
or a
no
.

Was that what Hugh had done? Hidden his important papers here at the library where no one would think to look for them? Pretty devious, hiding them in the building where Abigail worked.

I nudged Hercules very gently with my arm and after a moment he pulled his head out of the box and looked at me. His left ear was partly turned inside out.

“Ear,” I said, touching the side of my head.

He sat down and swiped at the ear with a paw, turning it right side out again, then made a move to take another look inside the carton.

I put my hand in front of him. “No,” I said. “Now that we know what this is, we have to call the police. We can’t go through it. It might have something to do with Hugh Davis’s death.”

Hercules glared at me for a moment. Then he jumped down and stalked off to my office. At least I hoped that’s where he was going.

I closed the top of the box, resisting the urge to see what else was in it. In all good conscience I didn’t want to lie to Detective Lind if she asked me if I’d done anything more than look inside. After I locked the door I went downstairs to tell Susan, Mary and Mia that the workroom was off-limits until the police came and decided whether there was anything important in that box.

I was about to go up to my office to call Detective Lind when Marcus walked into the library.

“Do you have a minute?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. “I just have to call Detective Lind.”

His blue eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“I found a box in the workroom that I think belongs—belonged—to Hugh Davis.”

He put his hand on my arm and steered me toward the stairs. “What’s in it?”

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
13.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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