Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (16 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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“Papers, as far as I can tell,” I said.

Marcus patted his pockets. I knew that gesture. He was feeling to see if he had a pair of disposable gloves.

“No,” I said, moving to stand in front of the steps.

He frowned at me. “What do you mean, ‘no’? I didn’t say a word.”

“I said no because you were looking for gloves so you could go upstairs and go through those papers.”

“I’m a police officer, Kathleen,” he said.

“Who’s been taken off this case,” I replied. “Don’t do something stupid.”

He looked around. “Could we go talk in your office?”

I nodded. “All right.”

We went upstairs. I saw Marcus glance in the direction of the workroom, but I knew there was nothing he could do. The door was locked and I didn’t think he’d try to wrestle the keys away from me.

On the other hand, I didn’t have quite as much control of Hercules. He wasn’t in my office and I had a sneaking suspicion I knew where the little fur ball had gone.

Marcus stood in the middle of the floor. I leaned against my desk. “Kathleen, I went to Red Wing this morning. I know the building inspector, Jeff Harris. He said Hannah was there on Friday to collect some boxes that hadn’t already been picked up.”

“So Andrew didn’t see her drive by the marina.” Either Andrew had been mistaken about the color of the SUV or someone else had the same car as Marcus.

“Jeff told me that she was there Friday afternoon. No one remembers seeing her Friday
.” He stressed the last word.

My stomach seemed to flip over and tie itself into a knot.

“He was at the theater. He helped her load everything in the back of the SUV. She told him she was heading back here, but she let me think she was in Red Wing all evening, including when Davis was killed.”

“She didn’t shoot Hugh Davis,” I said.

He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I know that. But if she was here when he was shot, maybe she saw something or she’s protecting someone.”

I didn’t have an answer for him and I was very aware how much he sounded like me. I walked over to him and laid my hand on his arm. “Have you talked to her?”

He looked down at me and his blue eyes were troubled. “I tried. She was angry when she found out I’d been to Red Wing. She said I was a jerk and I’d been a police officer too long and then she left.”

“So let Detective Lind figure this out. Just be Hannah’s big brother.”

He gave me a wry smile. “That sounds like something I’d say to you.”

I squeezed his arm. “Must be good advice, then.”

“It’s been a long time since I saw Hannah that angry.”

“She’ll get past it.”

“Are you sure?” he said.

I smiled at him. “Positive.” I wanted to throw my arms around him but I didn’t. I gave his arm another squeeze and then I dropped my hand and stepped back. “I didn’t always do everything right,” I said. “Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.”

The start of a smile played across his face. “Are you saying you should have listened to me?”

“I decline to answer on the grounds that . . . I don’t want to.”

He did smile at that. Then he reached out and touched my shoulder, just for a moment. “I’m going to go so you can call Detective Lind. Maybe I can find Hannah somewhere.”

“Give her a little bit of time,” I said.

He nodded. In the doorway he stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Kathleen,” he said, “maybe you can learn from my mistakes, too.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then I went down the hall to see if I could find Hercules. I unlocked the door to the workroom and looked inside. I couldn’t see him anywhere and I really didn’t think he’d be stubborn enough to walk through the door—so to speak—just because I’d told him not to. That was more Owen’s style.

I relocked the door, went back to my office and called the number I’d memorized from Detective Lind’s card. She told me she would send someone over for the box. When I stepped back into the hall, Hercules was standing in the staff room doorway.

“What were you doing in there?” I asked.

He looked back over his shoulder.

“Let me guess: being nosy, looking for something to eat that Roma has not okayed, and walking through walls just because you can.”

He gave an offhand meow. I took it as a
to all three.

I leaned forward. “Come here. You need to go back into my office. The police are on their way.”

Hercules leaned sideways and looked toward the stairs.

“No. Marcus is gone. Someone is coming to get that box.” I wasn’t sure if that was what he’d been asking, but I like to keep him in the loop.

He yawned and walked past me into the office. I knew there was no point in locking the office door, but I did it anyway.

“Stay here. Please,” I said as I left. Hercules was sitting in the middle of my desk again, meticulously washing his face. He gave no sign that he’d heard me say anything at all.

The afternoon passed in a blur of activity. When school let out there was a rush of eighth-grade students from two middle school history classes whose teachers had specified they had to use at least one real book as part of the research assigned for an essay on the First World War.

“Is there a DVD or something?” I heard one boy ask Mary as she handed him a book I knew was a young soldier’s diary from the last days of the war.

“Read five pages,” she said, holding up one hand. “And use your imagination.”

“I wouldn’t have to if there was a DVD,” he muttered.

She shooed him toward a chair by the window and rolled her eyes at me. Half an hour later he was still in the chair, bent over the book, engrossed in the story.

I put my arms around Mary’s shoulders and gave her a hug. “You’re good,” I said.

“Consider me a superhero of reading,” she said with a grin.

About half an hour before closing I went upstairs to clean off my desk. Hercules wasn’t sitting on top of it anymore, but he was in the room, curled up on my desk chair. He jumped down when I came in.

“Where are you going?” I said.

He ignored me, stopping only long enough to open the office door a little wider with one paw. At least he hadn’t walked right through it.

I followed him down the hall to the lunchroom. “There’s nothing in here you can eat,” I said.

He shot me a condescending look and kept going. Inside the room he went immediately to the metal shelving unit against the wall. It was going in the workroom one of these days. I made a mental note to get Mia to start sorting through all the stuff piled on the shelves.

Hercules put one paw under the bottom shelf, which was only a couple of inches above the floor, and batted a piece of paper into the middle of the room. It was almost as though he’d known it was there.

I bent down to pick it up. It looked like part of a page that had been torn from a magazine. The paper was crumpled and damp, like it had been in a cat’s mouth.

“Did you steal this from the box that was in the workroom?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

Hercules, to his credit, didn’t even try to bluff me. He looked at me, head up, furry chin jutting out, obviously proud of himself.

I studied the torn page, wondering what about it had caught the cat’s attention. Was it the image of the bowl of steaming
in the Korean restaurant ad? Or was it the article written by a young woman who worked with teenage alcoholics? I couldn’t see what either one could have had to do with Hugh Davis’s death.

I looked down at the little tuxedo cat. Just because he could walk through a solid wooden door into the workroom and swipe a piece of paper didn’t mean that piece of paper was important. Both Hercules and Owen had found “clues” before, but I didn’t see how this scrap of a magazine page was going to help me figure out what Hannah was hiding or who had shot Hugh Davis up at the Spruce Bluff lookout.

I bent down and picked the cat up. “Let’s go home,” I said.

He twisted in my arms and swatted the paper with one paw. “Yes, I see that,” I said. I frowned at him. “You shouldn’t have taken it.”

He made a huffy sound of indignation in his throat and refused to look at me. I folded the page, put it in my pocket, and went back to my office with my sulky cat.

I couldn’t help wishing that Hercules had found something that would help me make sense of everything. What I didn’t realize was that he had.


aggie had moved tai chi class from Tuesday evening to Monday, so I didn’t have a lot of time when I got home. I put the crumpled magazine page on the counter.

Hercules was still miffed. I crouched down next to him. He stared past me, aloof and unmoving like a black-and-white statue. I scratched his head just above his nose. “I’ll look at what you found when I get back tonight. I promise,” I said.

He made a disgruntled noise to show he still wasn’t happy with me, but he stayed for the head scratch so I knew I was pretty much back in his good graces.

I took the truck to tai chi class instead of walking, which meant I had to find a parking spot. That should have been easy on a Monday night, but I ended up on a side street partway up the hill and made it to the tai chi studio, half out of breath, just before Maggie was about to start class.

Everyone had made it, even with the change of day. Maggie was going to Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon to present her application for a grant so the artists’ co-op could renovate the store. If they got the money, they would be adding space where the various artists could give classes in the summer and fall, along with a small workspace so tourists could stop and see an artist at work.

Ruby had come up with the idea and Maggie had spent hours and hours on the grant application. I could see Ruby had lots of nervous energy—probably because of the upcoming presentation. She was walking around the studio space swinging her arms and flicking her fingers.

Maggie, on the other hand, was the picture of Zen-like calm, standing in the center of the room in a green tie-dye tank top and yoga pants, talking to Taylor King.

I walked over to them. “Taylor, that book you requested about accessories from the 1960s came in,” I said. She beamed at me. “That’s great. I could probably come get it after school tomorrow.”

“It’ll be at the front desk,” I said.

Taylor had a good eye for vintage bags. She’d found several classic bags at different flea markets and thrift stores in the area. She was trying to learn more, she’d confided to me, because she wanted to start selling bags online. She was determined to show her dad that her interest in fashion wasn’t just some teenage girl thing, but could actually be a career for her.

“Is there anything else I could do to help with the festival?” she asked.

“I’m not certain,” I said. “But Abigail might need some help with the costumes she got from the theater in Red Wing.”

Maggie made a face. “Everything probably smells like smoke.”

“It does.”

“Kitty litter’s really good for getting the musty smell out of purses and things you can’t put in a washing machine,” Taylor said. “I use it sometimes if I find a bag that’s been stored in, like, a basement or an attic for a long time.”

“Abigail could probably use you, then,” I said. I fished an elastic out of the pocket of my yoga pants.

“Do you think it would be okay to call her and ask?”

“I think she’d be very happy to hear from you.”

Taylor smiled. “I’ll call her right after class. Thanks, Kathleen.”

Maggie looked around the room. “I think everyone made it,” she said. She clapped her hands and called, “Circle, everyone.”

Just then Hannah appeared in the doorway. She was wearing gray sweatpants and a white T-shirt. Since she was dressed in workout clothes I guessed she’d decided to take Maggie up on her offer to try a class.

“I’ll go,” I said softly to Maggie.

“Thanks,” she mouthed, touching my arm as she moved to take her place in the circle that was already forming in the middle of the room.

I walked over to Hannah. “Hi,” I said. “I’m glad you came. We’re just about to get started.”

“I haven’t done any tai chi in a while,” Hannah said, looking around. “My form is a little wobbly.”

I smiled. “Come stand next to me, then. My form is a lot wobbly.”

We joined the circle, Roma moving sideways to make room for us.

“Everyone, this is Hannah,” Maggie said. “She’s here to try a class with us.”

Hannah raised one hand in a little wave of acknowledgment.

Maggie worked us hard. She got Ruby to practice Push Hands with me. I was getting better, but I was still having problems shifting my weight forward and back. Maggie stood behind me for a couple of minutes, making tiny adjustments to my stance with just two fingers. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be as fluid as she and Ruby were.

Hannah wasn’t nearly as rusty as she’d claimed. At one point I looked over to see her standing between Rebecca and Taylor, all three of them moving smoothly through Repulse Monkey.

When we finished the form at the end of class, Maggie smiled at all of us. “Good work, everyone,” she said. “I’ll see you all on Thursday.”

I walked over to her, wiping my forehead with the sleeve of my T-shirt. “What time are you leaving tomorrow?” I asked.

“Late morning.” Maggie stretched her arms up over her head. “That way I’ll have time to get lunch and get to the grant meeting early.”

I held up my right hand. “My fingers are crossed and Owen sends his love.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Kath. Give the fur ball a kiss from me.”

I hugged her. “Call me when you get back.”

“I will,” she said.

Ruby walked over to us and I went out to change my shoes. Rebecca was by the coat hooks pulling on a cream-colored sweater. She smiled when she caught sight of me. “Hello, Kathleen,” she said. She held out a canvas bag with blue handles.

“What’s this?” I asked, peering inside.

“I heard your mother is coming tomorrow. I made you some bread and a dozen blueberry muffins.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking the bag from her.

“And there’s a little treat for the boys in there as well.”

I shook my head. “You’re as bad as Maggie. The two of you are spoiling Owen and Hercules. And you’re spoiling me, too.”

Rebecca made a dismissive gesture with one hand. “A little indulgence once in a while isn’t going to hurt them—or you.” She gave me a slightly mischievous grin. “Everett says it’s not fair of me to pressure you to stay with us. So I won’t say a word about that. I’ll just say one of those loaves is cinnamon raisin bread.”

I wrapped her in a hug. “You are the nicest person I know.”

“No, I’m not. I’m turning into a nasty old woman trying to get this wedding planned.”

“You couldn’t be nasty if you tried,” I said.

She started buttoning her sweater. “I came close to it today. Everett suggested we have the wedding at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis. It’s a beautiful, beautiful church, but neither one of us is Catholic.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to wear a lacy dress with a train, or have a seven-course sit-down meal or, heaven forbid, hire a choreographer for our first dance. I just want to get married.”

“So tell Everett that.”

She adjusted the scarf at her neck. “I don’t want to hurt his feelings. All of the trappings are so important to him. He has Lita looking for someone to set off fireworks after the reception. Fireworks, for heaven’s sake.”

I gave her hand a squeeze. “Rebecca, he loves you and he wants the whole world to know that. But you’re the most important thing to him. I think he’d understand that you just want something small and quiet if you explain that to him.”

She sighed. “I wish we’d eloped weeks ago.”

“You’ll work it out.” I gave her an encouraging smile.

“As long as I don’t end up in twenty pounds of handmade Belgian lace.”

I slipped my tote bag over my shoulder and we started down the stairs. “I’ll tell you what,” I said. “If it looks like that’s going to happen the boys and I will help you grab Everett and elope. I have a tarp in the basement, lots of gas in the truck and I’m very good at knots.”

She grinned and gave my arm a squeeze. “Thank you, my dear. I just might take you up on that.”

Hannah was standing outside on the sidewalk, looking at her cell phone. She looked troubled, but when she saw me she smiled. “Your form didn’t look that wobbly to me,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. “Neither did yours.” I looked around and didn’t see Marcus’s SUV anywhere nearby. Since they’d argued, I guessed that Hannah wasn’t driving it. “Could I drop you somewhere?” I asked. “I’m just parked a little bit up the hill.” I pointed in the general direction of the truck.

She hesitated.

“Really, I don’t mind.”

She still had her phone in her hand. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with Abigail,” she said. “I was hoping I could get a drive out to Marcus’s with her.” She looked at the phone. “Could I get a ride over to the theater? Maybe I can catch her.”

“You don’t need to,” I said. “I’ll take you to Marcus’s.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to put you out of your way.”

I smiled. “Hannah, that’s one of the great things about Mayville Heights—nowhere is out of the way. Let’s go.”

I saw a little of the tension in her body ease. She smiled back at me. “Okay. Thank you.”

We started up the sidewalk. “How are rehearsals going?” I asked.

“Not that bad, under the circumstances, although I’m glad your mom’s going to be here tomorrow. Did you know Ben organized a little memorial for Hugh?”

I nodded.

“I thought it was nice, considering Ben didn’t really like him. Anyway, Chloe and I have been trying to help Ben as much as we can—the two of us have the most professional experience after him.” She stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Have you met Chloe?”

I nodded. “I have. I like her.”

“Everyone does. She’s a genuinely nice person, even after everything. And I think she could direct if that’s what she wanted to do. She has good instincts. Chloe and I supervised a run-through of all of the short plays that are going to be performed on the street. I just felt like I was stumbling in the dark, but she knew what she was doing.”

We turned the corner and started up the hill. “That’s my truck,” I said, pointing a little way up the grade on the other side of the street. We looked both ways and crossed the street. “So you don’t want to direct someday?” I asked. “I thought that was something a lot of actors wanted to do.”

She nodded. “It is, but no, I’d rather stick to acting and writing.”

“Writing for the stage or a screenplay?” I asked as we reached the truck.


I unlocked the passenger door and walked around to the driver’s side. “You should talk to my mom. She’s been a judge in several script-writing contests.” I grinned and raised my eyebrows at her over the hood of the truck. “She does have some ‘strong opinions’ on what sells and what doesn’t.”

“I don’t mind,” Hannah said. “That’s a lot better than someone who’ll waffle because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.”

That made me laugh. “Don’t worry,” I said, inserting the key in the ignition. “One thing my mother doesn’t do is waffle.”

I checked for traffic and pulled out. I heard Hannah give a soft sigh. “Is everything all right?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the road so she wouldn’t feel she was being interrogated.

For a moment she didn’t say anything. Then she spoke, her voice soft and low. “Have you talked to Marcus today?”

“Yes,” I said.

“So you know what he did.”

I nodded. “I do.”

“I told him I was in Red Wing. My word wasn’t enough for him. He went into police officer mode and checked up on me.”

I noticed she’d said she’d been in Red Wing, not that she’d been in Red Wing Friday night. I glanced over at her. Her face was flushed with annoyance.

I put on my blinker and turned right, toward Marcus’s house. “Hannah, you know Marcus a lot better than I do, so you probably know this. Being a police officer is wired into his DNA.” I let out a breath. “It took me a long time to understand that and for what it’s worth, I don’t think he was in police officer mode. I think he was in big brother mode.”

“I’m not six,” she said stubbornly and something in her tone made me think of her big brother.

I glanced over briefly at her again. Her head was up, shoulders rigid behind her seat belt. Hannah and Marcus were so much alike.

“Doesn’t make any difference,” I said. “I have a younger brother and sister—twins. I was fifteen when they were born and if you asked either one of them I know they’d say I still treat them like they were six.”

“So are you saying you’d do the same thing Marcus did?”

I slowed down to let the car in front of me make a left turn. “I’m saying that if I thought Ethan or Sara was mixed up in something that might hurt them, I’d do just about anything.”

She let the silence hang between us for a moment. “I didn’t kill Hugh Davis,” she said softly.

“I believe you,” I said. “And so does Marcus.” I hesitated. “But you haven’t been completely honest, either. Just now you said you were in Red Wing.”

I heard her shift in the seat. “Because I was.”

“You didn’t say you were in Red Wing Friday night.”

The silence lasted so long this time I thought she’d just stopped talking to me. “No, I didn’t,” she said finally.

Marcus’s house was just up ahead. As I pulled into the driveway I could see him, cleaning out the flower bed underneath the living room window. He got to his feet, wiping his hands on his paint-spattered jeans.

“Kathleen, could you stay for a minute?” Hannah asked.

“All right,” I said.

Marcus walked over to us and we both got out of the truck. “Hi, Kathleen,” he said with just a touch of a smile.

I nodded. “Hi, Marcus.”

He turned to Hannah. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Marcus, I’m not six anymore,” she said, folding her arms across her middle.

“I know that,” he said, frowning slightly.

“So don’t treat me like I am.” She held up a hand to stop him from speaking. “I’m not finished. Kathleen pointed out that it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not; you’re always going to get involved in my life. So since I can’t stop you, at least be straight with me from now on.”

Marcus’s eyes flicked over to me for a second. “Okay,” he said, “but it goes both ways. I expect you to be straight with me.”

“You want to know where I was Friday night.”

“I do.” He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands. He swiped them on his pants again.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
3.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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