Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (6 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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I smiled at him. “Mary has a stapler at the circulation desk.”

He nodded. “Good.” He handed me the papers and went back upstairs.

Susan smirked at me. “I was wrong,” she said, shaking her head so her topknot, secured with a red plastic pitchfork, bobbed at me. “It’s really not that hard to dislike him after all.”

Hugh left for an early supper about half an hour later. I made sure that he knew what time we closed and I crossed my fingers that the wi-fi would be working at the theater in the morning.

Andrew came in about six thirty, just as I was going to warm up some chicken soup in the staff room. There was a day’s worth of stubble on his face, but he was one of those men who look good with a bit of scruff. “Hey, Kathleen,” he said, “you think I could borrow your truck for half an hour? I have to move a piece of staging. Oren’s gone somewhere with his truck and I have no idea where Abigail is. She’s not answering her cell.”

“Sure,” I said. “Where are you taking it?”

“The marina.” He looked around. “It’s that way, right?” he asked, pointing upriver.

“No. That way,” I said, indicating a hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction.

He sighed loudly. “Explain to me the difference between Main Street and Old Main Street. I can’t keep the two of them straight. I take it Old Main Street is the original street and Main Street is some kind of extension.”

I shook my head. “Nope. Main Street is the original.”

He frowned. “That makes no sense.”

“It does when you know the history of the names. Old Main Street used to be Olde Street, with an E at the end. It was the main route from the lumber camps to where the marina is now. Over time it turned into Old Main Street.”

“Okay, so how do I get there?”

“Just turn left and go straight until you see the sign for the marina.” I pulled my keys out of my pocket. “No, wait a minute,” I said. “You can’t do that. There was a water main break right in front of the hotel. The street’s dug up. You’ll have to go around.”

He groaned. “Kathleen, please don’t make me drive around town in circles.”

I held up a hand. “Hang on. Let me see if Mary can stay a little longer and I’ll just come with you.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I can’t believe how easy it is to get turned around in such a small place.”

Mary was happy to stay later. I grabbed my sweater and purse and Andrew and I went out to the truck.

“I’ll drive,” he said, holding out his hand for the keys. “You can direct me.”

“Or, since I know where we’re going, I can just drive.” I made a shooing motion and reached around him to unlock the driver’s-side door.

We drove back to the Stratton and I helped Andrew get the extra section of staging into the back of the truck. Luckily it wasn’t that heavy. We drove across town to the marina, managing to avoid most of the detoured traffic.

“Where are you putting this thing?” I asked as I turned into the marina driveway.

“Right down there at the far end of the parking lot.” Andrew pointed to a grassy space just beyond the pavement. “Just by those stairs. You can’t see them, but the other pieces are already there.”

I backed the truck up to the edge of the grass so we didn’t have far to carry the load. The view over the river was beautiful as the sun sank in the evening sky. Three sailboats bobbed in the water, their masts bathed in amber light.

I knew that Burtis Chapman and two of his sons would be at the marina the next morning with the crane to lift the boats out of the water. Abigail had persuaded Burtis to do the job a week early so it wouldn’t interfere with any of the festival performances.

Andrew came to stand beside me. “It is a pretty spot. I’ll give you that,” he said.

“What? No speech about the sunsets over Boston Harbor?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nope. But they are pretty spectacular.”

I poked him in the ribs with my elbow, but he just laughed.

“Where do they go?” he asked, pointing at the stairs.

“They’ll take you up to the first lookout.”

“C’mon,” he said. “Let’s climb up and watch the sunset.”

I shook my head. “I have to get back to the library.”

“Don’t be a stick in the mud, Kathleen,” he said. “Come with me. Watch the sunset. See the pretty colors.” He reached for my hand. “Please?”

He was extremely annoying, but I knew the sunset would be gorgeous from the lookout and there really was no big hurry to get back to the library. Friday was almost always our quietest night.

“Fine,” I said.

Andrew gave me a self-satisfied smile and pulled me toward the steps. It felt odd, holding his hand again, and I let go of it to grab the railing.

“You getting soft?” he teased. “Do you need to hold on to pull yourself up?”

I stopped a step below him. “Who are you calling soft?” I challenged. Andrew had always brought out my competitive side. “Seems to me I heard a lot of heavy breathing while we were unloading that piece of staging.”

He leaned forward, raising one eyebrow in a leer. “That heavy breathing was just because I was so close to you.”

I rolled my eyes. “What a load of . . . lumber,” I said. Then before he knew what was happening, I faked left, darted around him on the right and tore up the steps.

“Hey!” he yelled.

I took the stairs two at a time, glad that I had long legs because I could hear him gaining on me, his feet pounding on the weathered wooden treads.

I lunged for the top step, sticking my arm out to the right so he couldn’t dart past me the way I’d done with him. When I looked back over my shoulder, he was maybe a couple of steps behind me, laughing and breathing hard. I reached blindly for the top of the railing that ran along the edge of the lookout and stumbled over something I couldn’t see clearly in the waning light. Instead of landing on wood, weathered smooth by rain and snow, my hand landed on something soft.

Hair. Skin.

I jerked away and Andrew banged into my back, grabbing my shoulders to steady himself.

“Whoa! You okay?” he said.

I nodded, and took a second to catch my breath.

Then Andrew saw what I’d fallen over. “Is that . . . ?” He didn’t finish the sentence.

I nodded. “Yes.”

It was Hugh Davis.

It was pretty clear that he was dead.

5

A
ndrew swore
under his breath and fumbled for his cell phone. “We need an ambulance.”

I caught his arm. “No, we don’t,” I said. “We just . . .” I swallowed. “We just need the police.”

The color drained from his face. “Is he dead?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

Andrew was already punching in 911 on his phone.

“Tell them we’re at the first lookout on Spruce Bluff,” I said.

He swallowed and put the phone to his ear. “Okay.”

I looked at the body—Hugh’s body—again. It was half sitting, slumped sideways against the lookout railing at the top of the stairs, almost as though his legs had given out after climbing up and he’d had to sit down fast. His eyes were closed and I could see what looked like blood on the collar of his jacket. There was some kind of ragged open wound just below his left ear.

I leaned over for a closer look. Was it a bullet hole? My stomach clenched and I could taste something sour in the back of my throat.

Had Hugh been shot? He’d left the library no more than about three hours before. What could have happened in that amount of time that had ended with him up here with a bullet hole in the side of his head? I shivered.

Andrew put a hand on my shoulder. “They’re coming.”

We moved a few steps away from the body. “Do you know who it is?” he asked.

“It’s Hugh Davis,” I said.

He frowned. “You mean that director from the theater festival?”

I nodded.

“He seemed like a bit of a control freak. He must have come over to check out the stage. You think he had a heart attack or something?”

I could hear the sirens wailing in the distance. I shook my head. “I . . . No.”

“So? What? You think he fell?” Andrew stared up at the jagged rock face of the bluff rising above us.

“I think someone might have shot him,” I said quietly.

“Shot him?” His grip on my shoulder tightened.

I dug my fingers into the knots of muscle in my neck. “I . . . uh. It looks like there’s a bullet hole just behind his ear.”

“Let’s go.” His hand moved to my back and he pushed me toward the stairs.

“The police will be here in a couple of minutes,” I said. “I don’t think we should just leave the body.”

Andrew shook his head, his mouth pulled into a thin line. “Kathleen, if he was shot, whoever did it could still be around. I’m sorry, but we can’t help him. It’ll be safer down in the parking lot.”

I knew he was right. Still, it felt wrong to leave Hugh’s body slumped against the lookout railing. I took one last look over my shoulder for any sign of another person or any clue to what had happened and then I went down the steps.

We stood against the side of the bluff at the bottom of the stairs. The automatic streetlights had come on, washing the parking lot in a weird pinkish-orange light. I remembered Maggie saying the odd-colored bulbs saved energy.

The paramedics arrived first, but Officer Derek Craig was right behind them in his squad car. “Stay here,” Andrew said.

I ignored him and started toward the police car.

He stepped in front of me. “Kathleen, I can take care of this. Just wait.”

“I’m not going to have an attack of the vapors,” I said, shaking off his hand. “This isn’t the first dead body I’ve seen, and I know these people. You don’t.” I stopped, realizing how abrupt my voice sounded. I took a deep breath. “It’s okay, Andrew. I can do this.”

After a moment he nodded.

I recognized one of the paramedics coming toward us. He’d taken care of me when an embankment out at Wisteria Hill had collapsed after days and days of rain this past spring. Ric nodded at me and I pointed back over my shoulder. “The top of the stairs.” I knew Hugh Davis was past any help Ric and his partner could give him.

Derek Craig walked around the front of his police car. “What happened?” he asked as I reached him.

“We—my friend Andrew and I—brought a piece of staging over in my truck for the theater festival. Then we decided to walk up to the lookout. The body was at the top of the steps.” I stopped to clear my throat. “It’s . . . His name is Hugh Davis.”

He nodded as he made notes in a small ring-bound notebook, then looked up at me. “Did either of you touch anything?”

I nodded slowly. “I did. I almost fell over hi—the body. My hand touched the top of his head.”

Derek tucked the notebook back in his shirt pocket. “I’ll be right back. I need you and your friend to wait here.” He gave me a half smile. “You know how this works.”

I did.

I walked back to Andrew, who stood with his hands in his pockets, looking out over the water.

“We have to wait a little longer,” I said.

“How can you stay here?” he asked, not looking at me.

I knew he didn’t mean here in the parking lot.

“I like it here,” I said. “I have a life here.”

He gestured toward the bluff behind us and his green eyes met mine then. “Kathleen, there’s a dead person up there. Dead.” There were two deep frown lines between his eyes. “This is the last place I would have expected to find someone shot.” He swiped a hand over the side of his face. “This is stupid. You need to come home.”

I pressed my lips together and took a couple of deep breaths before I answered. “People get shot in Boston.”

“I know that,” he said, his voice tight. “But when was the last time you fell over a body in Boston?”

“I’m not having this conversation right now,” I said. I couldn’t keep the edge of anger completely out of my voice. From the corner of my eye I saw a black car I didn’t recognize pull in next to Derek Craig’s police cruiser. Marcus got out of the driver’s side.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Andrew. I didn’t wait to see if he had anything to say.

A feeling of déjà vu washed over me as I walked up to Marcus. “Hi,” I said. “Where’s your car?”

He smiled. Not a big smile, but a smile nonetheless. It chased away a little of the anger I was feeling.

“Hi,” he said. “Hannah has it, so I’m driving a station car. What happened?”

I gestured over my shoulder. “It’s Hugh Davis. Andrew and I found his body at the lookout.”

He glanced briefly over at Andrew and then his eyes came back to me. “What were you doing here?”

“Andrew had a piece of staging to bring over. He needed my truck. I drove because of the water main break in front of the hotel.”

“Did you see anyone?”

I shook my head and tucked a strand of windblown hair behind one ear. “No. We unloaded the section of staging. Then we decided to climb up to the lookout for the view. I didn’t see anyone.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m just glad you’re all right.” His hand moved as though he was going to touch me and then he stopped himself. “I’m going to talk to your friend for a minute. Stay here. Please?”

I nodded. “Okay.”

I wrapped my arms around my midsection and watched him walk over to Andrew. They talked for a couple of minutes and then Andrew started toward me. “We can go,” he said when he got within earshot.

Marcus was just starting up the wooden steps to the lookout. As though he could feel my eyes on him, he turned and looked over his shoulder. After a moment’s hesitation I raised a hand and he did the same.

I fished the keys to the truck out of my pocket. I couldn’t believe Hugh Davis was dead. I thought about him showing the little girl at the library how to be a cat just a few hours ago. What was he doing up on the lookout? Why would anyone have wanted to shoot him? He had been a bit of a diva, but that wasn’t really a reason to kill someone.

I had a lot of questions and no answers. I couldn’t help glancing back toward the bluff one more time as I unlocked the truck.

“He’s the reason you’re thinking of staying, isn’t he?” Andrew said.

I stared at him across the bed of the truck. “What?”

“The detective. He’s why you’re thinking about not coming home.”

I sighed, tipped my head back and looked up at the stars just winking on overhead. I was thinking about not going back to Boston because of Maggie. And because of Roma. And Rebecca and Susan and every other friend I’d made in Mayville Heights. Because of all the work I’d put into the library. Because of my little house, and Owen and Hercules. And yes, because of Marcus.

After a moment I dropped my head and looked at Andrew again. “No. There’s nothing going on between Marcus and me.”

I slid onto the bench seat and leaned across to unlock the passenger door. Andrew got in, fastened his belt and then shifted sideways a little to look at me.

“There was something, though,” he said. He held up a hand. “And don’t say no, because even if I hadn’t heard a few things around town, I’d be able to tell just watching the two of you.” He rested one hand, palm down on the dashboard. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because there’s nothing to tell. Marcus and I are friends. We went out a few times, but that’s it.”

I didn’t want to talk about Marcus with Andrew. I didn’t really want to talk about him with anyone—not Maggie, not Roma. Even Owen and Hercules seemed to have an opinion. I didn’t want to hear that we could work things out. Because we couldn’t.

Andrew didn’t say anything else until I pulled out of the lot. “So what went wrong?” he asked. “Don’t tell me he got drunk and married a waitress he’d just met?” I knew he was trying to lighten the mood. It was something he always did when things got tense or angry.

“No, you’re the only person I know who’s done that.” I shot him a quick glance. “Marcus and I just don’t look at life the same way, that’s all.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw him nod his head. “I’d take it back if I could,” he said after another silence.

I slowed down to let a car turn in front of us. “I believe you,” I said, this time keeping my eyes fixed on the road.

“Then give me another chance. I swear I won’t screw it up again.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“It can be,” he said, his voice low and intense. “Just think about it. You and I were happy once. And we could be again. Come home. And I’m not saying that because we found a dead body. Come home for us. Maybe he doesn’t appreciate you, but I do.”

“A year and a half is a long time, Andrew,” I said, turning my blinker on. “I’m not the person I used to be.”

He took his hand away. “You’re not as different as you think you are, Kathleen. Think about what I said, okay? Just think about it.”

I dropped Andrew at the theater and went back to the library. Mary was at the checkout desk getting the requests ready to be put on the pick-up shelf. “I’m sorry we took so long,” I said, pulling off my sweater.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I think we’ve had maybe half a dozen people in all evening. Even for a Friday it’s been quiet.” She held out a yellow message slip. “Abigail called.”

I rubbed the top of my left shoulder. It was still a little stiff. “I’ll go call her,” I said.

Mary shook her gray curls. “She said she’ll call you in the morning. She’s having problems with her phone.”

Abigail was going to have a lot on her plate once news got out that Hugh Davis was dead. Marcus hadn’t asked me to keep that information to myself, but I knew that’s what he’d want. I made a mental note to check in with Abigail in the morning if I didn’t hear from her.

It was almost time to close up for the night. “Where’s Susan?” I asked.

“Shelving over in cookbooks,” Mary said, waving a hand in the direction of the nonfiction section.

I threaded my way around the magazines, stopping to put a couple of back issues of
National Geographic
into their slot. Susan came toward me, pushing an empty book cart.

I tapped my watch. “It’s almost time to close.”

“Want me to shut down the computers?” she asked. Her glasses were stuck on the top of her head and her topknot was listing to one side.

“Please,” I said. All of a sudden I was tired. It had been a long day and I just remembered that I hadn’t had any supper. I rolled my neck from one side to the other.

Susan frowned. “You okay, Kathleen?” she asked.

“Just tired,” I said. “I think I’ll go home, fill the tub full of bubbles and eat brownies while I soak.”

“Take me with you,” she said. “I have to go home and put the boys in the tub. No bubbles.”

“They figure they’re too old for that stuff now?” I asked.

She made a face. “Not exactly.”

I folded my arms over my chest. “What did they do? Fill the bathroom with bubbles?”

“The washing machine. And the laundry room. And half the basement.” She pulled her glasses down onto her nose. “Trust me, don’t say ‘bubbles’ to Eric.” She rolled her eyes and set out for the circulation desk with her cart.

Upstairs, Hugh Davis’s things were still in the workroom. The door was locked, so I decided I’d just leave things the way they were and call Marcus once I was home.

Hercules was in the backyard when I came around the side of the house, but I didn’t see him at first. I was unlocking the door when he meowed from somewhere behind me. I looked around and discovered he was sitting on the wooden bench under the maple tree. If it hadn’t been for the white fur on his face and chest he would have blended into the darkness.

“Are you coming in?” I asked. Because of his wall-walking ability, he came and went as he pleased.

He looked up into the branches over his head. The war between Herc and a particularly brazen grackle had been heating up over the past few weeks. Hercules had apparently snagged one of the bird’s tail feathers and the grackle—which I’d named Professor Moriarty—had come this close to getting a tuft of hair from the cat’s head. For Hercules the bigger affront was his nemesis stealing two sardine cat crackers that he’d been about to eat.

“I think Professor Moriarty has probably turned in for the night,” I said. “Why don’t you come inside?”

A bat zipped by, probably coming from the bat house in the Justasons’ backyard, one house above me on the hill. Hercules whipped his head in my direction. I couldn’t see the glare in his green eyes, but I knew it was there.

“No, that wasn’t Professor Moriarty. That was a bat.”

“Meow?” he said. Was I just imagining the question in that meow?

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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