Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (4 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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His face flushed. “Sorry,” he said softly.

We walked in uncomfortable silence to the corner. I was trying to think of some new way to tell Andrew to go home and I wasn’t paying any attention to people coming down the hill. So I didn’t see Marcus until I literally walked into him.

He caught me by my shoulders to steady me. “I’m sorry, Kathleen,” he said. “I wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you all right?”

I nodded. “It’s not your fault. I wasn’t paying attention, either.” I stared up into his blue eyes, feeling ridiculously happy just to be standing there.

He seemed to realize then that he was still holding on to me. He dropped his hands and I caught the scent of his citrusy aftershave before he stepped back.

“You did hurt your arm.” He gestured at the sling.

“It’s not serious,” I said, rubbing the shoulder where his hand had rested just a moment before. Was I imagining that I could still feel the warmth from his fingers?

“It looks serious.”

“It’s not—I promise. Roma and Maggie took me to the emergency room. The sling is just to keep me from using my arm for a few days.”

“That’s good.” He jammed both hands in the pockets of his jacket, his gaze never leaving my face. “I’m glad you’re all right.” I waited for him to say he’d gotten my messages, that he was sorry, angry, anything. But he didn’t.

Beside me Andrew shifted from one foot to the other.

I cleared my throat. “Marcus, this is my friend Andrew Reid. He’s here from Boston.” I turned to Andrew. “Andrew, this is Detective Marcus Gordon.”

It seemed to me that Marcus stood just a little straighter as he held out his hand. Andrew definitely did, squaring his shoulders and taking a step forward to shake hands.

“Welcome to Mayville Heights,” Marcus said. “Are you here for the food tasting?”

“No, I’m not,” Andrew said with a cool smile that was nothing like the charming grin he’d used on Maggie at the café. He shot me a quick sideways glance.

I’d never told Marcus about my relationship with Andrew, but it was clear from the way his face shifted into his unreadable police officer expression that he’d figured out there had been something between us. Both men were sizing each other up and not being very subtle about it. I felt a little like they were a couple of German shepherds and I was a fire hydrant.

“I need to get to the station,” Marcus said abruptly. “Take care of your arm, Kathleen.” He gave Andrew an almost imperceptible nod and continued down the sidewalk.

Andrew and I crossed the street and continued on to the library. “I suppose in a small place like this you get to know pretty much everyone,” he said after a couple of minutes of silence.

I knew a fishing expedition when I heard one. “That’s one of the things I like about Mayville Heights.”

“You know a lot of people in Boston.”

We were almost at the library. “I know that,” I said, stopping again so I could look at him full-on. “I know my family is there. And Lise, and a lot of other people I care about. But you’re still wasting your time. I’m not going to fall into your arms and ride off into the sunset with you.” I started walking again and he scrambled to keep up with me.

“Sunrise,” he said after a moment.

I frowned at him. “Excuse me?”

“Sunrise.” He made a gesture in the general direction of the river. “We’d be going east, so we’d be riding off into the sunrise.”

I took a deep breath and turned toward the library steps. I thought it was a better idea than pushing him into the nearest flower bed, which was what I’d suddenly had an intense urge to do.

Mary was just coming from the parking lot. “Good morning, Kathleen,” she said. She smiled at Andrew and offered her right hand. There was a mischievous gleam in her eye. “Hello, I’m Mary Lowe,” she said. “And you are?”

Tiny and gray-haired, Mary looked like she should be in the kitchen baking apple pies—which she did like to do. She was also the state kickboxing champion for her age and weight class. She may have looked like a sweet little grandmother, but she also had what she called her don’t-give-a-flying-fig-newton side.

Andrew shook her hand and introduced himself. I went up the steps, unlocked the main doors and turned off the alarm.

He stepped through the second set of doors and stopped. I watched him take in the wide wooden trim, the stained-glass windows and the mosaic tile floor. “Oh, Kath, this is nice work. Very nice work,” he said, nodding his head as he continued to look around.

I grinned as though I’d actually been the one to repair the mosaic floor tiles and sand the gleaming woodwork.

“This is one of the Carnegie libraries.”

Mary nodded, shifting her quilted tote bag from one hand to the other. “It was built a hundred years ago.”

Andrew gestured toward the curve of windows in the computer area overlooking the water. “All that trim can’t be original.”

“It’s not.” You could hear the pride in Mary’s voice and see it in her smile.

“Someone did some excellent work in here.”

“That would be Oren Kenyon,” I said.

“And Kathleen,” Mary added, beaming at me. “None of this would have happened without her.” She turned her attention back to Andrew. “You like old buildings.”

He nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“Mary, would you do me a favor?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said at once. “What is it?”

“Could you put together a little walking tour of town for Andrew and give him directions?”

“I’d love to.”

“I don’t want to put you out,” he said.

“Nonsense.” She waved away his objection with her free hand. “In fact, I think Susan put a few of those new walking maps of the downtown out here.” She moved behind the circulation desk to take a look.

Andrew walked over to me. He propped one arm on my right shoulder. “Very nice, but you can’t get rid of me that easily,” he whispered.

I smiled sweetly and gave a noncommittal shrug, which also managed to dislodge his arm.

“Found them,” Mary said. She beckoned to Andrew. “Since you like old buildings, I think the place to start is the Stratton Theater.”

I picked up my briefcase. “Enjoy your tour,” I said to Andrew.

“I will,” he said. Then he raised his voice a little. “And don’t worry, I’ll be back in plenty of time for us to go to the food tasting. You said one o’clock, right?”

His gaze met mine and I could see the challenge in his green eyes, daring me to say no.

“One thirty,” I said tightly, narrowing my own gaze back at him.

“The food tasting is going to be splendid,” Mary said. She patted Andrew’s arm. “I think you got here at just the perfect time.”

His eyes slid away from me and he grinned at her, giving her the full-on charming-boy-next-door smile. “You know,” he said, “I think you’re right.”

3

E
verett Henderson called at exactly one minute after nine. Susan had arrived and was working the circulation desk. “I’ll take it in my office,” I told her.

“What did you do with that tasty treat you had breakfast with?” she asked after she’d told Everett I’d be right with him and put him on hold.

“That what?” I said, staring at her.

“The guy you had breakfast with. That’s what Claire called him, and from her description I’m guessing it wasn’t your dad or your brother.” She propped an elbow on the desktop and leaned her chin on her hand. “So who was it? A husband you never told us you had? Your Internet love from Mismatch.com? The guy who had a crush on you in first grade and never forgot you so he hired a private detective to track you down?”

My sling meant I couldn’t cross my arms and give her my best stern-librarian look, so I settled for folding my free arm over my chest and wrinkling my nose at her. “No more old-movie marathons for you,” I said. “They make your imagination go into overdrive.” I started for the stairs. “I’m going to take Everett’s call.”

“I’m not letting this go,” Susan called after me.

“I didn’t think you would,” I said, waving over my shoulder in case she hadn’t heard me. Upstairs I unlocked my office door and immediately reached for the phone. I didn’t want to keep Everett waiting.

“Good morning, Everett,” I said, pulling the phone closer and sinking down onto the corner of the desk. “I was just about to call you.”

“I take it you’ve talked to Abigail.” He had a deep, strong voice and a clipped way of speaking that made him sound younger than his seventy-odd years.

“I have.”

“Good. Then I don’t have to give you all the details.” I could hear papers being moved and I guessed that he was in his office just up the hill from Maggie’s studio in the River Arts Center. “I’ve talked to everyone and the library board is fully behind using the building and the grounds to help make this festival a success. Wouldn’t hurt to bring some tourist dollars to town this time of year.”

“I’ll help in any way I can,” I said, picking gray cat hair off my gray trousers, proof that Owen had been sitting in the bedroom chair on top of the pants while I’d been brushing my teeth.

“I knew I could count on you, Kathleen. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. “Abigail’s already talking about using the new gazebo as a stage.”

He laughed. “That idea came from Rebecca.”

I really wasn’t surprised. Rebecca, my backyard neighbor and Everett’s soon-to-be wife, was a very creative person and she was usually involved in whatever was happening around town in one way or the other.

“How are the wedding plans coming?” I asked.

“I think we have a date . . . maybe.”

“You could always run off to Las Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator.”

Everett laughed. “You’ve been talking to Rebecca. She’s the only woman I’ve ever come across who’s getting married but doesn’t care about the details.”

“All Rebecca wants is to be married to you.” The edge of my desk wasn’t made for sitting on in any kind of comfort so I stood up and turned to look out the window. The clouds were clearing away. It was going to be a nice afternoon.

“I want that, too,” he said. “I’ve wanted it for a long time.”

“I’ll see if I can put in a good word for you,” I said.

“I appreciate that.” His tone turned serious. “Kathleen, with Abigail working on the theater festival for the next couple of weeks, you’re going to be stretched a little thin. Why don’t we put off our conversation about your future here until it’s over?”

“That’s fine with me, Everett,” I said. He reminded me, as he always did, to call Lita if I needed anything and we said good-bye. I hung up the phone and went to sit in my desk chair.

Having a couple of extra weeks to decide whether I was going to stay in Mayville Heights was just what I needed. It gave me time to figure things out with Marcus.

I reached for the photo that Lise had taken when I’d been back in Boston over the summer, the day that Andrew had seen us in the park. My mother was laughing, leaning back against Dad’s shoulder. When they were working on a play together they tended to get a little too caught up in their characters, which meant things could get decidedly odd around the house, but they were crazy about each other, even when they drove each other crazy. Always had been, which was why they’d been married twice—to each other.

Marcus made me crazy sometimes. I liked him—a lot more than I’d been willing to admit to anyone, especially myself. Well, Owen and Hercules appeared to have figured it out. But we always seemed to bang heads over his cases. Being a police officer was more than Marcus’s job; it was part of who he was. Just the way wanting to help the people I cared about was part of who I was. Were we crazy enough about each other to work through the things that made us crazy? I wasn’t sure.

I rubbed the space between my eyebrows with the heel of my hand. What had Maggie said to me?
What’s meant to be always finds a way to be
. Maybe what I needed to do was take a step back and let whatever was meant to be just happen. I just wasn’t very good at that.

It was late morning and I had my head in the book drop—literally—trying to figure out why it kept jamming when it was half full of books, when I heard a group of people come into the library. I straightened up to find a tall man dressed all in black—leather jacket, jeans and tee—smiling at me.

“Kathleen Paulson, what on earth are you doing here?” he said.

“I work here,” I said, beaming back at him. “Are you part of the theater festival?”

He nodded. “I’m the artistic director. When Abigail Pierce said the librarian’s name was Kathleen, I had no idea it was going to be you.”

I hadn’t seen Ben Saroyan in years. He’d directed my parents in several productions and he’d given my mother her first directing job. He looked exactly the same, very tall and thin with a lined, craggy face, dark eyes and short, iron gray hair that seemed to grow straight up from his head.

“How are Thea and John?” he asked. Ben had a deep, booming voice that seemed a bit at odds with his long, lanky frame.

“Dad is in rehearsals for
Noises Off
and Mom’s in Los Angeles working on
Wild and Wonderful
.” The soap happened to be one of Maggie’s favorite shows.

He slid his round wire-rimmed glasses up his nose and laughed. “I seem to remember Thea saying she was never doing a soap again after the last time. How did they change her mind?”

There were bits of paper stuck to the front of my shirt. I brushed them away with my free hand. “It’s a short-term contract,” I said. “And the executive producer sent her a chocolate cheesecake every day for a week until she said yes.” I laughed at the memory. “Mom was ready to sign by the second day, but she held out for an entire week for all the cheesecake.”

Ben laughed, the sound bouncing off the library walls. “That sounds like Thea.” He seemed to realize then that he hadn’t introduced the man and woman who had come in with him. “I’m sorry, Kathleen,” he said. “This is Hugh Davis. He’s my other director, and Hannah Walker, who’s one of our actors.” He smiled at me. “Kathleen is Thea and John Paulson’s daughter.”

Hugh Davis held out his hand. He was a couple of inches shorter than Ben. His brown hair was on the longish side, streaked with white at the temples. And there was some gray in his close-cropped goatee. “I saw your mother years ago in
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
,” he said. “She’s very talented.”

“Thank you.” I shook his hand. I could hear just a hint of a British accent in his voice, which made me wonder if he’d worked or studied in Great Britain. I didn’t recognize his face or his name, but I knew my mother would. She knew everyone in the theater world.

I did recognize Hannah Walker, though. I’d seen her in a couple of commercials, and I was fairly certain she’d had a role on an episode of
Law & Order
.

“Hi, Kathleen. It’s nice to meet you,” she said with a smile.

“You too,” I said. Hannah was somewhere in her twenties, with dark, wavy hair to her shoulders and deep blue eyes. There was something instantly likable about her. Maybe it was the genuine warmth in her smile and the interest in her gaze.

Ben had one hand in his jacket pocket, jiggling his keys or something. I remembered then that he wasn’t a very patient person.

“You didn’t come here just to see me, Ben,” I said. “What can I do for you?”

“Abigail said there’s a gazebo here that we could use for one of the outdoor performances.”

I nodded. “It’s at the back, overlooking the water.”

Hugh Davis made a sour face. “The acoustics are going to be deplorable,” he said to Ben.

I shook my head. “Not necessarily. The river actually curves at this point.” I gestured toward the back of the library. “We’re sheltered from both the wind and the street noise.”

“Good,” Ben said, as though the issue had been settled.

Hugh still looked unhappy. “How much space is there? Where are people going to sit? I’m not convinced that this is the best way to showcase our productions.”

I was starting to be irritated by the man already, and he’d been in the building for only a few minutes. He didn’t seem to know much about the theater world’s history of taking performances to the street. The Romans had celebrated festival performances of street theater. During the Middle Ages professional theater companies were traveling and performing all over England.

I opened my mouth to say something, changed my mind and closed it again, glancing at Hannah as I did so. Her body language suggested she didn’t like Hugh very much. She’d folded her arms across her chest and she was leaning just slightly away from him.

I took a deep breath, exhaled and pasted on my best polite-librarian smile. “The gazebo is probably bigger than you’re expecting.” I pointed again toward the tall bank of windows that rimmed the computer area. “There’s lots of lawn out there and we have folding chairs you’re welcome to use. Why don’t I take you around and let you see for yourself?”

Ben rolled his left arm over to look at his watch. “I have about five minutes,” he said. He turned to Hugh. “Let’s take a look.”

Hugh shrugged. “Fine.”

I stepped sideways so I could see Susan at the desk. “We’re just going out to take a look at the gazebo.”

She nodded.

As I turned back around I caught sight of Marcus coming through the front doors. His face lit up with a smile as he looked in our direction and I felt my heart start to pound like a rock band drum solo. Without really thinking about it, I took a couple of steps toward him—and then stopped.

Because Hannah had already beaten me to him. She threw herself into Marcus’s arms and he wrapped her in a bear hug, leaning down to kiss the top of her head.

They knew each other. Obviously very well.

She broke out of the hug, still grinning from ear to ear at him. Her arm went around his waist and with his arm across her shoulders they walked over to us.

Marcus’s eyes darted to my face. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing in his expression—embarrassment or uncertainty, or maybe a bit of both.

Hannah leaned against him with the familiarity of someone who’d known him a long time. And looking at them I got it, just as she started to speak.

“Everyone, this is my big brother, Marcus.” She introduced Ben and Hugh and then turned to me. “Kathleen, you probably already know each other.”

“Yes, we do,” I said, rubbing the top of my left shoulder, which had suddenly started to ache again.

Hannah didn’t know anything about me. Which in an odd way made sense, since I didn’t know anything about her. I’d known that Marcus had a sister, but I didn’t know her name or that she was an actress. He was a very private person, but the fact that I didn’t even know his sister’s name was more than a little odd.

My mouth was suddenly dry and I had to swallow before I spoke. “Marcus, I need to take Ben and Hugh outside to look at the gazebo. You could take Hannah over to the chairs by the windows and catch up.”

“Sure,” he said. His hair was a shade darker than his sister’s, but they had the same blue eyes.

Before he could say anything else, I touched Ben’s arm. “Let’s go,” I said. I could feel Marcus’s eyes on me as we moved toward the door, warming my back as though I were standing in a beam of sunlight. Or maybe it was my imagination. I didn’t turn around to find out.

Ben seemed happy with the gazebo and the wide expanse of lawn around it. The trees and the rock wall acted as a natural sound barrier and to me it seemed like a perfect place to stage a short play. Even Hugh couldn’t find real fault with the space, although he did try.

When we walked back around the building I saw Hannah waiting beside a silver SUV in the parking lot.

“Abigail will be in touch about the schedule and what we need for chairs and space and”—Ben flung his hands into the air—“everything.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll work it all out.”

“Give my best to your mother and father.” He pulled a set of keys out of his jacket pocket. “If Thea weren’t in Los Angeles, I’d get a cheesecake and try to lure her here.”

“It would probably work,” I said with a laugh.

They walked in the direction of the parking lot and I headed for the main doors. Marcus was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

“Kathleen, do you have a couple of minutes?” he asked.

“Of course,” I said. I pointed toward the stone path that curved around the building. “Do you want to walk?”

He nodded. “Your arm hurts,” he said as we started along the walkway.

I’d been rubbing my shoulder again and didn’t even realize it. “I’m all right,” I said.

He continued to look at me but didn’t say anything.

“Okay, so it aches, but just a little. I swear.”

“Don’t overdo it, please,” he said.

“I’m not . . . I won’t.”

We followed the path back to the gazebo and over to the rock wall. Farther along the shoreline I could see the large warehouses, built from stone cut at Wild Rose Bluff, that had stored lumber for shipping downriver back in Mayville Heights’s heyday as a lumber town.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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