Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (3 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
3.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The cats were sitting by the coat hooks in the kitchen. I got them fresh water and draped my blue sweater over my shoulders while they watched, turning their heads in perfect synchronization to follow me.

“I’ll tell you all about it tonight.” I reached over to scratch Hercules under his chin. “Have a good day,” I said.

Owen leaned sideways and seemed to be looking at the piece of paper stuck to the front of the refrigerator that listed the days Marcus and I fed the feral cat colony out at Wisteria Hill. Was he asking about Marcus or thinking about the sardines that were in the fridge?

I leaned down and stroked the top of his head. “Yes, I’m going to talk to Marcus—or at least try to—and no, you can’t have any sardines.”

He turned his back on me and started washing his tail. Whatever he’d been asking, he hadn’t liked my answer.

Andrew was a contractor who specialized in old houses, and he kept the conversation to his latest restoration project as we drove to the restaurant. “Where are we going?” he asked, as we came to the intersection at the bottom of the hill.

“Turn right,” I said. We were going to Eric’s Place, my favorite spot for breakfast.

Andrew found a parking space on the street and managed to wedge the little red car he was driving into it. We got out and headed for the restaurant. “What’s the food like?” he asked.

“Excellent,” I said, as we stepped inside.

“Oh, good.” His tone told me that he didn’t exactly believe me. He looked around, taking in the space that looked more like a small-town coffee shop than a five-star restaurant.

Claire smiled from behind the counter. She grabbed a menu and came toward us. “Hey, Kathleen. What happened to your arm?” she asked.

“I twisted my shoulder. It’s nothing serious,” I said.

The smile got wider. “I’m glad. Table for two?”

I nodded.

She gave Andrew a quick appraising glance. “Window or wall?”

“Window,” I said before Andrew could suggest we get a slightly more private table along the end wall of the small café.

Claire showed us to the table with the best view of the sidewalk. “Welcome to Eric’s,” she said to Andrew as she handed him a menu.

He gave her the full power of that smile. “Thank you.”

“Claire, this is my friend Andrew from Boston,” I said.

“Nice to meet you,” she said. Her eyes flicked from me to Andrew, but that was the only giveaway that she was curious about who he was and what he was doing in town. She turned to me. “Would you like a couple of minutes for your friend to look through the menu before you order?”

“Actually, no,” I said. I looked across the table at Andrew, who was still checking the place out but trying not to be obvious about it. “How about letting me order for you?”

“Uh . . . okay,” he said slowly.

I knew if Andrew ordered his own breakfast he would go for ham and eggs, and while Eric did a good job with that breakfast basic, I wanted to show off just a little.

“Two breakfast sandwiches,” I told Claire. “The new one.”

She nodded approvingly. “Good choice.” Then she picked up the menu, tucked it under her arm and turned to Andrew. “Coffee?” she asked. She didn’t have to ask me that question.

“Please,” he said.

“I’ll be right back.”

Eric came out of the kitchen then and raised his hand in hello when he caught sight of me. I lifted my good hand in return. I saw him give Andrew a second look and then say something to Claire before she returned with the coffeepot and a little pitcher of cream.

“I heard what happened last night,” she said quietly as she poured my cup.

For a moment I wondered how on earth she could know what had happened between Marcus and me. Then I realized she meant what happened before that, at the tent set up for the food tasting that was scheduled for this afternoon.

The tasting—and an art show—had been planned as part of the town’s presentation to a corporate tour company—before one of the partners in the firm had been killed down near the Riverwalk.

“Did Liam cancel everything?” I asked.

Claire shook her head. “Nope. The tasting is starting an hour later, but otherwise everything is a go. Mary was in about an hour ago. They’re already starting to get the booths ready.” She gave Andrew a curious glance. “You’re still coming, right?”

“Absolutely.”

She smiled. “I’ll save you a bowl of pudding cake.”

Andrew added sugar to his coffee and took a sip. “Hey, this is good,” he said.

I folded my free arm across my chest and studied him across the table without speaking.

“What?” he said, holding out both hands. “I said it was good.”

I continued to stare silently at him.

His face flushed. “Okay, so I thought I was going to end up with a cup of something closer to paint thinner. How did you know that?”

I gave him my Mr. Spock eyebrow and reached for my own cup. “I know you.”

“Yes, you do,” he said, his expression serious.

I took a sip of my coffee so I wouldn’t have to say anything.

“What’s so great about this breakfast sandwich?” Andrew asked after the silence had gone on just a little bit too long.

“You’ll have to wait and see,” I said. “But if you don’t like it, I’ll buy you anything else on the menu.”

He grinned. “You’re on.” Then he shifted sideways in his chair and reached for his cup. “Tell me about this tasting thing you were talking about to our waitress.”

“It’s this afternoon, by the boardwalk along the water. A Taste of Mayville Heights.” I folded my hand around my mug. “Where are you staying?”

“The St. James Hotel.”

“Did you see the tents across the street?”

He nodded.

“That’s where it is.”

“Sounds like fun,” he said. “How about showing me around?”

“I have to work.” I shifted to one side so the back of the chair wasn’t digging into my shoulder.

“I heard you say you were going.”

“On my lunch hour.”

“I’ll meet you at the library, then. What time?”

I shook my head. “You don’t give up, do you?”

“Nope.” He tented his fingers over the top of his cup. “I told you—I came here to get you back. I’m not giving up. I’m just getting started.”

I didn’t have a chance to answer because Eric was on his way to the table with our order. “Hey, Kathleen,” he said with a smile as he put a heavy oval plate in front of me.

The aroma of pan-toasted sourdough bread and bacon tickled my nose. “Hi, Eric,” I said. “It smells wonderful.”

“Thanks.” He eyed my left arm. “You okay?”

“It looks worse than it really is.” It struck me that maybe I should make a little sign that read
I’M ALL RIGHT
and stick it on the front of the nylon sling so I didn’t have to keep explaining myself all day. On the other hand, it was nice to have so many people who cared about me.

Eric slid Andrew’s plate in front of him, assessed him with a quick look and then held out his hand. “Welcome. I’m Eric.”

“Andrew,” he said.

They shook hands.

“Andrew’s a friend from Boston,” I added.

“Good to meet you,” Eric said. “Enjoy your breakfast.” He looked at me and his eyebrows went up just slightly, but all he said was, “Claire will be over in a minute with more coffee.”

Andrew reached for half of his sandwich and took a large bite. That was followed, after a moment, by a grunt of pleasure. “This is good.” He gestured at the plate. “What’s in it?”

I moved my own plate a little closer. “Bacon, tomatoes, a little fresh mozzarella, a little thyme, and sourdough bread.”

“Don’t tell me everything on the menu is this good.” He took another huge bite.

“Just make sure you try the chocolate pudding cake if you go to the food tasting.” As I looked over his shoulder, the front door opened and Maggie and Roma came in.

Perfect timing.

2

M
aggie and Roma looked around, smiling when they caught sight of me.

I waved hello and they made their way over to us.

“Hi,” Maggie said. She looked from me to Andrew, curiosity obvious in her blue eyes.

“Hi, Mags,” I said. I smiled up at Roma. “Hi.”

“How’s your shoulder?” she asked.

“Better,” I said.

“Honestly?”

“Yes.”

“Can you move it?”

I nodded.

She reached out a hand and then stopped herself. “May I?”

“Go ahead.” I shifted forward in my seat so she could lean down and feel my shoulder. Her fingers were gentle as they probed around the joint.

“I think most of the swelling has gone down,” she said, straightening up after a moment.

“Are you Kathleen’s doctor?” Andrew asked.

Maggie laughed. “In a manner of speaking, she is.”

I leaned back in the chair again. “Actually, Roma is Hercules and Owen’s doctor.”

“You’re a—?”

“Veterinarian,” Roma finished.

“And a first-aid responder,” I added. “She knows how to take care of four-legged and two-legged patients.”

“Good to know you have friends who have your back,” Andrew said. He stood up. “I’m Andrew. I’m a friend of Kathleen’s from Boston. Would you two like to join us?”

Roma smiled and offered her hand. “It’s good to meet you. I’m Roma Davidson.”

“And I’m Maggie Adams,” Maggie said. “Welcome to Mayville Heights, and yes, we’d love to join you.”

Andrew moved aside and Maggie slipped into the chair next to him. Roma came around the table and took the seat next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Claire, already on her way over with coffee, along with a teapot and hot water for Maggie, who didn’t drink coffee.

“Hi, guys,” she said, giving Maggie her tea and pouring coffee for Roma without setting down the tray she’d carried everything over on. “What can I get for you?”

“I’ll have what they’re having,” Maggie said, tipping her head toward the last half of the sandwich on my plate.

“It smells wonderful,” Roma said. “Me too.”

“It’ll just be a couple of minutes,” Claire said. She topped up my cup and Andrew’s. I saw her hold up two fingers to Eric as she went back to the kitchen.

“So what are you doing in Mayville Heights?” Maggie asked, dropping a tea bag into the little stoneware pot and pouring in the hot water. “Are you here for business or is this a vacation?” Subtlety was not one of Maggie’s strengths.

“I came to win Kathleen back,” Andrew said. Then he tipped his head to one side and gave me a sweet—and very phony—smile across the table.

Beside me Roma cleared her throat and picked up her coffee. Since Maggie wasn’t the type of person to beat around the bush, Andrew’s directness didn’t faze her. “So what took you so long?” she asked.

I blew out a breath. “Mags,” I said softly. I should have guessed she’d ask a question like that.

Andrew was already shaking his head. “It’s okay, Kathleen,” he said. “I don’t mind answering your friend’s questions.” He propped his elbow on the back of the chair so he was turned partly toward Maggie. “You know about the fishing trip.”

She nodded, reaching for her cup to pour the tea.

“At first I was still married. It took a while to have the whole thing annulled.”

“And after that?”

He played with his fork. “After that I was mad.”

“At Kathleen,” Maggie said. She took a sip of her tea and watched him over the top of the cup.

“Yes.”

“She’s not the one who married a waitress from a fifties diner,” Maggie said, her blue eyes locked on his face.

He blushed, but he didn’t look away. “No, she wasn’t,” he said. “Look, I know I’m the one who messed up. I’m not saying I had a right to be mad because Kathleen left Boston. I’m just saying that I was.”

“Okay, I can understand that,” Maggie said.

Claire returned then with Roma’s and Maggie’s breakfast orders and more hot coffee. Once she’d taken a couple of bites of her sandwich, Maggie turned her attention back to Andrew.

“So, when did you stop being angry? I’m assuming that you’re not anymore.”

He smiled at me across the table, a genuine smile this time. I remembered when that look used to make my heart race and, truth be told, it was thumping just a beat or two faster now.

“No, I’m not angry anymore,” he said, letting his gaze slide off my face and back to Maggie.

Was I imagining that he did it with just a bit of reluctance?

“I stopped being mad the first time I saw her again.”

“The first time you saw me again was less than twelve hours ago,” I said. I’d thought he was going to say it was when we’d talked on the phone several months ago.

Andrew’s face flushed.

“You saw Kathleen when she was back in Boston this summer,” Roma said.

He exhaled slowly before he answered. “Yes.”

“When?” I asked.

He ducked his head. “You were playing football in the park with Ethan and Sara. Your mother and father were there, too.”

And my best friend in Boston, Lise.

I remembered that day. Lise had taken a photo of the five of us and surprised me with it, in a small frame, the day I’d flown back to Mayville Heights. I kept it on my desk at the library. It was one of my favorite photographs of my crazy family.

“Why didn’t you come say hello?” I asked, adding more sugar to my coffee.

He made a face. “Oh yeah, that would have been a good idea. Walk over and say, how the heck have you been, after a year and a half, with your whole family standing there.”

I nodded and smiled, picturing in my mind what might have happened if he’d just walked up to us in the park that day. “He’s right about that.”

Heaven knows what the twins would have done, not to mention my mother. She’d always thought Andrew was good for me, but when it came to taking sides she was one hundred percent on mine.

He leaned back in the chair so he was facing all three of us. “Short version of a long story—when I saw Kathleen in the park it showed me just how much I’d screwed up, and just how much I’d lost. So I moved my schedule around and decided I’d come here in person and try to win her back.”

“What if she doesn’t want you back?” Maggie asked. She looked around for Claire and when she caught the waitress’s eye pointed at the little stainless-steel water pot.

“I have two weeks before I have to deal with that,” Andrew said. “I plan to spend those two weeks trying to show Kathleen that I’ve changed.”

Maggie looked at me.

“I already told Andrew to go back to Boston.”

He folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. Not yet.”

Claire appeared at the table with a carafe of hot water for Maggie’s tea. As she stirred the tea, Maggie began asking Andrew about his life in Boston. Roma took the opportunity to lean over to me. “He’s determined,” she said softly.

“That he is,” I whispered. “I’m not sure what to do.”

She gave a small shrug. “Why do you have to do anything?”

I thought about it for a moment. Maybe I didn’t. I hadn’t led Andrew on or given him any reason to think he could win me back like I was a big plush dog at the county fair. I couldn’t stop him from trying, though. Marcus had told me once that I liked to control things. Maybe this time I needed to take my hands off the steering wheel and see what happened.

Thinking about Marcus, I automatically looked out the window, hoping I’d see him headed up the sidewalk for a cup of take-out coffee and one of Eric’s famous cinnamon rolls. All I saw was Burtis Chapman driving by in his truck.

Seeing Burtis made me think about Lita. I’d seen Everett’s secretary and Burtis in the library parking lot a few days ago, and I now had a suspicion that the two of them might be a couple. I wasn’t sure if they’d seen me because I’d done a swan dive onto the front seat of my truck when I caught sight of them standing close together in what looked like a very private moment. I felt a little embarrassed about that. Burtis and Lita were adults, and there was no reason for them not to see each other. If they were a couple, though, how had they managed to keep it from the entire town? Again, none of my business. I had library business with Lita. That was all.

Roma was studying my face. “Have you talked to Marcus yet?” she asked. There was concern in her dark brown eyes.

“Maggie told you what happened.” I shifted again in my chair and rubbed my shoulder.

“Last night.” She paused as though she was weighing her words before she committed to them. “Kathleen, Marcus is an intense man and being a police officer isn’t just what he does; it’s part of who he is. But he does care about you. I’m certain about that. You’ll work it out.”

I thought about the rocking chair that Marcus had to have spent hours fixing for me. I thought about the one and only time we’d kissed. “I hope so,” I said.

I reached for my mug, drank the last of my coffee and glanced at my watch. It was time to head to the library.

Roma had seen me check the time. “I have to get going as well,” she said. Across the table Maggie and Andrew were still deep in conversation.

“Thank you for coming,” I said, turning sideways in my chair so I was facing her. The meeting wasn’t just by chance. I’d called Roma and Maggie and asked them to meet us at the café.

“You’re welcome. You’d do the same for me.” She smiled and put her napkin on the table. “Andrew isn’t what I expected.”

“What did you expect?”

“I don’t know, exactly. Someone a little . . . cockier, maybe.” She folded her napkin and set it next to her plate. “He seems genuinely sorry.”

I turned to look at Andrew for a moment. As if he could somehow feel my eyes on him, his gaze flicked in my direction and he smiled at me before giving Maggie all his attention again.

“Yes, he does,” I said. I pushed back from the table and got to my feet.

Andrew stood up as well and gave Roma and Maggie his killer smile. “It was good to meet you both,” he said. “Breakfast is on me.”

That got him three “no’s” in response.

He looked at me. “Yes. I invited you.”

Roma nodded. “You invited Kathleen. Not Maggie and me.”

“Kathleen invited you,” he said with a slight shrug. He looked at me. “I’ll be right back and I’ll walk you to the library.” He was on his way to the cash register before I had a chance to object to that, too.

Maggie came around the table and hugged me, careful not to squeeze my left arm. “How are you?” she asked, concern making tiny lines around her eyes.

“I’m okay.”

“I don’t just mean your arm.”

“I know,” I said.

She pointed at Andrew, who was at the counter talking to Eric. “He’s nice. I tried to dislike him, but I couldn’t.”

“It’s all right. He is nice.” I reached for my sweater. “And he’s wasting his time. Things were over between us a long time ago.” I slid my right arm into the sleeve and Roma draped the other side over my sling.

“Don’t overdo it, Kathleen,” she warned.

“I won’t,” I promised. “If I need extra help Abigail already offered to come in for a few hours.”

She still looked skeptical.

I held up three fingers. “Librarian’s honor.”

Roma laughed then. “Oh well,
that
puts my mind at ease.” She turned to Maggie. “Would you like a ride over to River Arts?”

Maggie shook her head, making her blond curls jiggle. “Thanks, but I’ll walk. I need to stop at the co-op store. You’re coming to the tasting this afternoon?”

Roma nodded. “Absolutely. I have to go out to the Kings’ after lunch to check on Taylor’s horse and the rest of my afternoon is clear, assuming there are no emergencies.”

They both looked at me. Roma had had to use her medical skills on me more than once. “I’m not going to do anything risky,” I said solemnly. Then I held up the three fingers again.

“I better get going,” Roma said. She squeezed my good arm. “I’ll talk to you later.”

Maggie wrapped her in a hug. “Call me if anything changes,” she said.

Roma nodded and threaded her way through the tables to go say good-bye to Andrew.

“Have you spoken to Marcus?” Maggie asked.

I shook my head.

“It’ll work out.”

“I don’t know, Mags,” I said. “Marcus and I have some pretty big differences. Maybe there isn’t any way to work them out.”

She was wearing three twisted silver bracelets and she pushed them up her arm. “It’ll work out,” she repeated. “What’s meant to be always finds a way to be.”

I waved at Roma as she headed out the door. “So you think Marcus and I are meant to be?”

Maggie laughed. “Where have you been for the last year and a half?”

Andrew joined us again.

“I’ll see you this afternoon,” I said to Maggie.

“I’ll be back and forth between the tents and the community center,” she said. She leaned around me to speak to Andrew. “Are you coming to the food tasting and art show this afternoon?”

“Yes, I am,” he said. He shot me a sideways look. “If someone takes pity on me and agrees to show me around.”

At that moment, outside the diner, Burtis Chapman was coming up the sidewalk, likely on his way back to his truck. Burtis was a big block of a man. He looked as though he could wrench the top off a bottle with one hand. Or someone’s head off his neck.

“I think I could find someone to do that,” Maggie said sweetly. She pointed out the window. “There’s Burtis. I’m sure he’d be happy to show you around.”

Andrew just laughed. “It was good to meet you, Maggie,” he said.

She smiled. “You too.”

We walked out together. Maggie went down the street and Andrew and I turned left toward the library. “So did I pass inspection?” he asked after we’d walked a few feet.

“They liked you,” I said.

He wiggled his eyebrows. “I’m very likable.”

I ignored the comment. “How did you know I asked them to meet us?”

“I know you,” he said. “You haven’t changed that much.” He reached over and brushed a stray piece of hair off my face. Andrew had made that same gesture dozens of times when we were going out, but it felt too personal this time. Without really thinking about it, I took a step sideways, putting a little more space between us.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
3.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Mortality Bridge by Boyett, Steven R.
Approaching Omega by Eric Brown
The Void by Kivak, Albert, Bray, Michael
Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall
My Best Friend by Ancelli
Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist
Curse Not the King by Evelyn Anthony
False Memory by Dan Krokos