Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (7 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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“Yes, I’m sure,” I said.

I waited on the top step while he looked all around one last time, then jumped down and came across the grass.

There was no sign of Owen in the kitchen. “I’m home,” I called.

Nothing.

“Are you hungry?” I said to Hercules.

The cat meowed softly again and stretched, almost as though he was saying, “I could eat.”

I put away my sweater and briefcase, washed my hands and looked in the fridge for something quick and easy for a late supper. I felt a cat rub against my leg.

“Hi, Owen,” I said, reaching for the eggs and cheese.

“Merow,” he said.

“You hungry?”

That got another meow, with a slightly pitiful tone to it. I grabbed the little dish of sardines, too.

I scrambled a couple of eggs with some cheese and a bit of an orange pepper. While the eggs cooked, I toasted the last piece of Mary’s orange-raisin bread and put a sardine in each cat’s dish. Owen immediately began sniffing the oily little fish, the way he did with everything he ate. Hercules, on the other hand, cocked his head to one side and looked inquisitively at me almost as though he was wondering why I’d given them each a treat without suggesting they might be a little spoiled.

“Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘Don’t look a gift sardine in the mouth’?” I asked.

For a moment he seemed to be considering my words. Then he started to eat.

I sat at the table with my feet propped on another chair and picked up my fork. Owen had decided there was nothing “fishy” about his sardine and was blissfully eating it. Hercules was doing the same, although he kept shooting me little glances from time to time. Somehow he knew something was off. I’d finished about half my eggs when he came over to the table. Without waiting for an invitation, he jumped onto my lap, put his white-tipped paws on my chest and looked unblinkingly at me. I knew that look. It meant
What’s going on?

I stroked the soft black fur on the top of his head. “Do you remember me telling you about Hugh Davis?” I asked.

Hercules seemed to think for a moment, then he murped what I decided to believe was a
yes
.

“He’s dead,” I said, putting my fork down so I could rub the side of my head.

The cat’s green eyes stayed locked on my face.

I let out a breath. “Andrew and I found the body at the Spruce Point lookout.”

I wondered if Marcus was still at the marina. Did Ben or Abigail know what had happened yet? What would this do to the New Horizons Theatre Festival?

Hercules walked his front paws up my chest and bumped my chin with the top of his head. Either he was after more details or he wanted a bite of my scrambled eggs. I decided to go with the idea that he was looking for more information, since I knew Roma would frown on me feeding him eggs with cheese and peppers.

I picked up my fork and in between bites told the boys what had happened at the library, how Andrew and I had ended up in the marina parking lot, and how I’d raced him up the stairs and then almost fallen over Hugh Davis’s body.

Hercules turned his head to look at the schedule for feeding the cats at Wisteria Hill.

“Yes, Marcus was there,” I said.

Owen had finished his sardine and was licking the remaining fish oil out of his dish. At the sound of Marcus’s name his head whipped around like it was on a swivel and he and his brother locked eyes. Some kind of unspoken message seemed to pass between the two cats. Then Owen dropped his head again and Hercules brought his attention back to me. It seemed a little . . . well . . . crazy to think the two of them could somehow communicate without making a sound, but considering their other talents, it wasn’t really that far-fetched. Was it?

Hercules gave me another head butt.

I slid down in the chair and scratched the place just above his nose where the white fur of his face met the black fur on the top of his head. “And yes, I talked to him,” I said.

He made a small murp. “Nothing’s changed,” I said with a sigh. “Except I seem to be mixed up in one of his cases. Again.”

Owen had come to sit by my feet. He gave an enthusiastic meow.

“No, that’s not a good thing,” I said testily. More than once in the past couple of weeks I’d almost gotten the sense that the cats wanted Marcus and me to get back together. The rocking chair had been in the living room for more than a week now, but as far as I could tell neither cat had tried to sit in it, although they’d tried to herd me—deliberately, it seemed—to sit in it a couple of times.

I looked at one cat and then the other. “I’m not talking about Marcus,” I said firmly.

Owen stared at me for a minute, then turned to look expectantly at the back door. A second passed, and then another and then I heard a knock.

I stood up and set Hercules on the floor. “How do you do that?” I said, bending down to give Owen a quick scratch behind one ear. All I got for an answer was a twitch of his whiskers. I padded out to the porch door in my sock feet. Andrew didn’t give up easily. I rolled my head from one shoulder to the other and then opened the door.

It wasn’t Andrew standing there. It was Marcus.

6

“O
h
, hi,” I said stupidly.

“Do you have a few minutes?” he asked. “I have a couple more questions.” His hair was windblown and in the light I could see he needed a shave.

“Sure,” I said. “C’mon in.”

He followed me into the kitchen. Owen and Hercules were sitting by the refrigerator.

I gestured at the table. “Have a seat. I was about to make some hot chocolate. Would you like some? Or I could make coffee.”

“Hot chocolate’s fine. Thank you,” he said. Then he leaned forward, hands between his knees. “Hello,” he said to the cats.

“Meow,” Owen said. Hercules was content to just dip his head in acknowledgment.

I put milk in the microwave to warm and got two mugs and my stash of marshmallows out of the cupboard. Then I leaned against the counter. “You have questions.”

He nodded. “Tell me again how you found Hugh Davis’s body.”

I repeated the story while I waited for the milk to heat, leaving out how I’d tried to race Andrew to the top of the stairs.

“And you didn’t see anybody up on the lookout?” Marcus asked as I set a steaming mug in front of him.

“No. But it was starting to get dark.” I dropped a couple of marshmallows into my cup. The scent of vanilla mixed with the cocoa. I pushed the container across the table to him. “Would you like a marshmallow?”

Marcus squinted into the little china bowl. “They don’t look like marshmallows,” he said.

“That’s because they’re homemade.”

“You made marshmallows?” He still had that skeptical look on his face.

“I didn’t make them,” I said. “Maggie got them for me at the farmers’ market. The Jam Lady makes them.”

“What do they taste like?”

I laughed. “You’re as bad as Owen. Try one.” At the sound of his name, Owen, who had been washing his tail, lifted his head.

Marcus picked up the dish. “Well, what do you think?” he asked the cat.

Owen tipped his head to one side and his whiskers twitched as he sniffed the air.

Marcus held out the bowl. “They do smell pretty good.”

“Don’t do—”

Owen swiped one gray paw over the top of the small bowl and a plump marshmallow landed on the floor at his feet.

“—that,” I finished.

The cat immediately began to sniff his treasure.

“You better not put a paw on that marshmallow,” I warned, pushing back my chair and standing up.

Wrong thing to say.

Owen’s eyes flicked in my direction and then he dipped his head and licked the top of the marshmallow. He looked up at me, defiance in his gold eyes.

Marcus started to laugh as a look passed between man and cat.

“You better not have done that on purpose,” I said, glaring at Marcus. He picked up two marshmallows for himself and dropped them into his mug. “I didn’t. I swear,” he said, holding up a hand.

I reached for the marshmallow on the floor. Owen yowled his objections and raised a paw.

“Oh, c’mon, Kathleen,” Marcus said. “Let him have it.”

“You’re just as bad as Maggie,” I said. “Roma will have my head if she finds out I let Owen have marshmallows.”

He reached for his hot chocolate. “Well, I’m not going to tell her,” he said. He leaned sideways to look at the gray tabby, still guarding his prize, one paw ready to swat anyone (me) who tried to take it away.

“Marshmallows are not good for cats. They’re going to stick to his teeth. Are you planning on hanging around to brush them?”

Marcus’s expression turned thoughtful. “Maybe you could make a trade.”

Owen’s gaze had been shifting between Marcus and me. Now he meowed softly.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll trade half a sardine for that marshmallow.”

“One sardine,” Marcus countered.

“He already had one sardine. One half.”

“One. Fish is brain food.” Marcus leaned back in the chair and folded his arms over his chest. “You’re the one who pointed out that he’s going to have marshmallow stuck to his teeth if he eats it. Do you want to floss his teeth tonight?”

He glanced at Owen, who somehow seemed to be following the conversation and chose the perfect moment to lean down and lick the marshmallow again.

I knew when I was beaten, but I made them wait just a few moments longer before I gave in. “One sardine,” I said, holding up a finger. “One.” I leaned forward and snatched the marshmallow off the floor before the two of them tried to up the ante. Then I got Owen his sardine and another for Hercules, who had sat silently, watching and listening to the “negotiations” with a bemused expression on his black-and-white face.

I sat back down at the table and Marcus smiled at me. “You’re right,” he said. “These marshmallows are good.”

I made a face at him and reached for my own cup.

His expression grew serious. “Did you touch anything?” he said. I knew he meant when I’d stumbled over Hugh Davis’s body.

“The top of his head, when I put my hand out to steady myself. And the collar of his jacket, when I felt for a pulse.”

“What about Andrew?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Then what did you do?”

I explained about Andrew calling 911 and how we’d waited at the bottom of the stairs. Both cats had finished eating and were judiciously washing their paws. I knew by the way their ears were moving that they were also listening to everything I was saying.

Marcus traced a finger around the inside of the handle of his mug. “Did you see anyone? In the parking lot, maybe, or over by the marina?”

“No. I didn’t see anyone.”

“What about cars in the parking lot?”

I closed my eyes for a moment and pictured the almost deserted parking lot in my head. “There were two trucks that belong to the marina in the far corner of the lot, a little silver-colored car and a van. I think it was white. That’s it.” I opened my eyes. “Wait a minute. There were no other cars in the parking lot. How did Hugh get there?”

He gave a slight shrug. “That’s a good question.” He drained the last of his hot chocolate and stood up. “I have to get down to the station. Thank you for the hot chocolate.”

“Anytime,” I said. I got to my feet and came around the table. For a moment we just stood there, an awkward silence stretching between us.

“If you think of anything . . .” Marcus began.

I remembered the papers in the workroom. “I don’t know if it matters, but Hugh was working at the library this afternoon,” I said. “There was something wrong with the wi-fi at the Stratton. He left his briefcase and a bunch of papers in the workroom.”

“I’ll send someone over to get them first thing in the morning. Thanks.”

I walked him to the back door. “Have you talked to Abigail, or Ben Saroyan?” I asked.

“That’s where I’m going.”

“This doesn’t make any sense,” I said. “Hugh Davis has only been here for a week. Why would anybody want to kill him?”

Marcus pulled his keys out of his jacket pocket. “That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

It wasn’t until he was gone that I realized he hadn’t corrected me when I’d said someone had killed Hugh Davis.

Someone had killed Hugh Davis. Shot him on purpose.

Who?

Why?

I made another cup of hot chocolate and settled at the table with it. “What is this going to do to the festival?” I said aloud. Neither of the cats seemed to know. I didn’t see how Ben could continue without another director. There was one more week of rehearsals and he couldn’t be everywhere.

Owen stretched and launched himself onto my lap. “Hello,” I said. He was too busy sniffing my mug—probably hoping to snag another marshmallow—to pay any attention to me.

I reached for the cup, lifting it over his head and out of reach of his paws. “Get your nose out of that.”

He made an annoyed murp.

“Forget it,” I said. “You’ve had all the marshmallows and sardines you’re getting tonight.” I stroked his fur with my free hand and after a few moments of stubbornly looking the other way he leaned against my chest with a soft sigh.

His warm, purring body was comforting. I barely knew Hugh Davis, but I still felt unsettled by his death.

“‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,’” I said softly. At my feet, Hercules, who had been carefully washing his tail, lifted his head and looked at me. “John Donne,” I said. “He was a British poet.”

The cat seemed to think about that for a moment, as though he was storing the information in his kitty brain, and then went back to working the knots out of his tail.

I felt bad for Abigail, too. She’d put in so much effort on the festival over the past week. Now I didn’t see how it could continue. She’d told me that she wasn’t trying to steal the event from Red Wing, but she had hoped that if things went well, maybe the festival would expand and the two towns could share the performances—and the tourist dollars.

Abigail and Ben had hit it off and I knew he would have put in a good word for Mayville Heights. It mattered to Ben that things got done when they were promised, and Abigail didn’t make promises she didn’t keep. He had an excellent reputation in the theater community, so his word would carry weight with New Horizon’s producers.

“I wonder what Hugh would have said about Mayville Heights,” I said to Owen. He wrinkled his nose as he thought about it. Or maybe he was plotting world domination. It was hard to tell.

What had Abigail said about Hugh that day of the food tasting when Andrew had volunteered to build the stages for her? I closed my eyes for a moment and replayed the conversation in my head.
He’s still a control freak, I’ve discovered
.

Owen nudged my hand with his head because I’d stopped scratching behind his left ear.

“She said ‘still.’”

He looked at me blankly.

“Abigail said Hugh was ‘still a control freak.’
Still
. But how could she know that? How on earth could she know something like that?”

Owen looked at me. Thoughtfully, it seemed to me.

“They knew each other,” I said slowly, as pieces clicked together in a way I didn’t like. A knot tightened in my stomach. “Abigail and Hugh knew each other. So why did she say she didn’t know anyone involved with the festival?”

The cat didn’t have an answer to that question, either.

“It has to be a coincidence,” I told the small gray cat. “I know Abigail. She didn’t have anything to do with Hugh’s death.” The knot twisted in my stomach.

Up to now I would have said that Abigail wouldn’t lie, either. But it looked as if she had. Why? Why would she have lied about knowing Hugh? It didn’t make any sense.

Owen sat up, yawned, and then looked pointedly at the refrigerator again. I knew he wasn’t hinting for a treat.

“No, I’m not calling Marcus,” I said.

A look passed between the boys and then Hercules meowed softly.
Why?

“Because Marcus is a good police officer. If—
if
there was some kind of connection between Abigail and Hugh Davis, he’ll find it.” I got up and carried my dishes over to the sink. “I’m staying out of this—I’m staying out of all of Marcus’s cases.”

I looked over my shoulder to find two furry faces cocked to one side and two sets of unblinking eyes staring at me. “I’m serious,” I said, feeling a little silly explaining myself to a couple of cat skeptics.

Neither cat moved. How could they go so long without blinking? No wonder they won every staring contest I was foolish enough to get involved in with them.

“Will you two please look somewhere else?” I said. After a moment, Hercules dropped his head and studied the speckled pattern on the kitchen floor. Owen yawned again and stretched his neck up to stare at the ceiling.

“Thank you,” I said, turning back to the sink and putting the plug in the drain so I could wash the dishes by hand—the other way, aside from talking to the cats, that I worked things out in my head.

I knew the two of them didn’t believe I would really stay out of Marcus’s case. But I would, I told myself as the sink filled with hot water and bubbles. I ignored the little voice in the back of my head that was asking who was I trying to convince. Owen and Hercules?

Or myself?

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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