Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery (9 page)

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
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Maggie dipped a piece of the corn bread in her own bowl, took a bite and gave a little groan of happiness. “Abigail’s not a deceitful person,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “So her lying about this doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not like she can keep it up. Marcus is a good detective. He’ll figure it out.”

“So tell her that.”

“I’m trying not to get mixed up in another one of Marcus’s cases.” I glanced out the window, wondering where Marcus was right now.

Maggie leaned forward, resting one elbow on the table. “Kath, I didn’t ask you a lot of questions about why things didn’t work out with Marcus because that’s none of my business, but I think I have a pretty good idea. All I’m going to say is it’s not wrong to care about your friends.”

I nodded. “Thanks.” I’d told Marcus more than once that I couldn’t turn away if someone I cared about was in trouble. It helped to hear Maggie say that wasn’t wrong.

I picked up my spoon again. “There’s something else that bothers me about this whole thing.”

Maggie sipped her tea and then added a little more honey. “What?” she asked.

“Abigail was lying about knowing Hugh,” I said. “But why was he lying about knowing her?”

9

“A
nd he did act like they didn’t know each other, didn’t he?” Maggie said thoughtfully. “When we were painting the stage the other night Hugh came in looking for Abigail. Remember? He called her Ms. Pierce.”

“I remember,” I said.

She shrugged. “Maybe it was as simple as they had a thing and were embarrassed about it.”

“A thing?”

“You know Abigail loves the theater.” Maggie gestured with her cup, almost spilling her tea. “She went on that tour to New York in the spring. Maybe she met Hugh, they had a wild and torrid affair over a long weekend, and then they were both mortified at what they’d done so they agreed to pretend it never happened.”

I tried to get a mental picture of Abigail having a torrid affair with Hugh—and couldn’t. I shook my head. “If we were talking about Mary, maybe,” I said. “But I just can’t picture Abigail doing something so impulsive.”

“No one could picture you leaving Boston for the wilds of Minnesota, but you did.”

Because I’d been hurt over Andrew’s drunken marriage and tired of always being practical and sensible. Maybe Maggie was right. Maybe the same thing had happened to Abigail, minus someone marrying a waitress they’d just met. Maybe I was seeing mysterious connections where there weren’t any.

“Point taken,” I said with a smile. “I’m going to ask her what’s going on. Thanks, Mags.”

She smiled back at me. “Anytime.”

We finished lunch without talking anymore about Abigail or Hugh. Maggie got a take-out cup of chai tea for Ruby, along with a cinnamon roll still warm from the oven.

“Why don’t you come for supper tomorrow night?” she said once we were outside on the sidewalk. “I feel like pizza.”

Maggie made wonderful pizza. Every pot, pan and dish in her apartment would be dirty, but the result would be delicious. “Umm, yes,” I said. “What can I bring?”

“I wouldn’t say no to brownies.”

“When have you ever said no to brownies?”

She grinned. “Consistency is the key to a happy life.”

I wiggled one finger at her. “Emerson said ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’”

Maggie laughed. “The man obviously wasn’t eating enough brownies.” She hugged me. “I’ll see you tomorrow night. I’ll call Roma too and see if she can come.”

Andrew’s red rental car was just circling the parking lot as I came up the sidewalk in front of the library. I walked over to my truck and he pulled into the empty space beside me and got out.

He was wearing jeans and a blue henley shirt with the sleeves pushed back. His hair was damp and he looked like a sheepish little boy. “Hi,” he said. “I was looking for you.”

“You found me,” I said, fishing out my keys. “What do you need?”

“To say I’m sorry for acting like a caveman last night.”

He really did look contrite, standing there with his feet apart and his hands jammed in his pockets. “You were more of a jerk than a caveman,” I said. “It’s not like you threw me over your shoulder and carried me back to your cave.”

“I thought about it for a minute,” he said, the start of a smile stretching across his face.

It was hard not to smile back. “I really can take care of myself, Andrew.”

“I do know that.” His expression grew serious again. “It’s just . . . someone shot that man, Hugh Davis. Shot him, Kath.”

“And I know that,” I said.

“Have you heard if the police have any suspects?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although it’s hard to think of this little place as being any kind of hotbed of criminal activity.”

I shifted my keys from one hand to the other. “Did you notice anything . . . odd last night?”

He kicked a rock and sent it skittering across the pavement. “Not really.”

Something in his voice made me frown at him. “What do you mean, not really?”

“I didn’t see anyone in the parking lot or up on the lookout.”

I pushed back the sleeves of my sweater. “But you did see someone somewhere else.”

“It wasn’t a person.” He shifted from one foot to the other. “But I did see a car, a navy blue SUV, with roof racks actually. It drove past out on the road a couple of times while we were unloading.”

I tried to picture the parking lot at the marina and the road that curved around the bluff just above it. It was well lit by streetlights all around the curve. “I don’t remember seeing any SUV,” I said. My heart was suddenly pounding in my chest, but I didn’t think Andrew could tell.

“That’s because you were in the bed of the truck pushing the staging out to me. Your back was to the road.” He narrowed his gaze. “C’mon, Kath, you don’t think that SUV had anything to do with that Davis guy, do you?”

“Most people use the highway if they’re heading east,” I said with a shrug. “But there’s still a fair amount of traffic on that road. People around here actually use it as a shortcut.”

“Whoever it was, she probably just forgot something at home and went back to get whatever it was,” Andrew said.

The laces on my left boot were untied and I bent down to fix them. “Probably,” I agreed, pulling the laces tight and knotting them carefully before I stood up again.

He smiled. “Have dinner with me tonight?”

I needed to make the bed in my spare bedroom, do some laundry and vacuum up the cat hair before my mother arrived. Not to mention find out exactly when she would be arriving. But mostly, I just needed to go. I needed to think.

I shook my head. “I can’t. My mother’s coming.”

“Seriously?” Andrew said. “Thea’s coming here?”

I nodded. “She’s going to step in for Hugh Davis.” I was glad to have the subject changed.

“I haven’t seen her for a while.” He shot me an inquiring look. “Does she know I’m here?”

“I was asking her to give up her time off to come here and step into a directing job at the last minute. I wasn’t sure how I could work in the fact that you were here trying to charm me back into your arms, so, no, she doesn’t.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll remember to duck and move in a zigzag pattern when I see her.”

“C’mon, she always liked you,” I said.

“I don’t know about that,” he said, with a slight eye roll. “I think she blames me a little for you coming here.” He gave me a sly sideways look. “Of course, if you came home with me I’d be back on her good side.”

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

“When it comes to you, never.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me. “Since you won’t have dinner with me, how about breakfast tomorrow morning?”

I hesitated.

“C’mon, Kathleen. It’s breakfast, not a lifetime commitment. At least not right now.”

I waffled for another half a minute. If we had breakfast maybe I’d be able to find out a little more about that SUV he’d seen, because I really needed to know how certain he was about it. We settled on a time and I didn’t even argue when he said he’d pick me up.

I got in the truck and drove up the hill. Andrew had said he noticed a navy blue SUV drive back and forth along the road above the marina. Navy blue with roof racks. Maybe he was wrong, although I didn’t see how he could be. Andrew was the kind of guy who noticed cars and that stretch of road was certainly lit well enough for him to be able to tell a navy SUV from a black one. Or whether the driver was a man or a woman. I’d noticed he’d used “she” when he talked about the driver.

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, but it didn’t make me feel any better. A lot of people in Mayville Heights drove half-ton trucks, like I did. There were actually a couple of trucks identical to mine in town—Ruby had one. They’d originally been part of a special order that had ended up being sold off by a local car dealer a few years ago. But I knew only one person in town who drove a navy blue SUV with roof racks.

Marcus.

Marcus, who had loaned his SUV to Hannah, who had made a point of telling me she’d been in Red Wing when Hugh Davis had been killed. But clearly hadn’t been.

• • •

“Tell me I’m wrong,” I said to Hercules. I was sitting in the big chair in the living room. He was sprawled on my lap, while Owen lay across my legs.

Hercules suddenly became very busy washing the splash of white fur on his chest. I looked at Owen. His golden eyes were closed and he was pretending to be asleep, although I knew from the way his whiskers were twitching that he was very much awake.

I scratched the top of Hercules’s head and he began to purr. “Maybe Andrew was mistaken,” I said. “Maybe the SUV was a different color. Or there weren’t any roof racks. And just because he said ‘she’ doesn’t mean the driver was a woman.”

He made a rumbly sound that made me think he didn’t agree. At least that’s what I decided it meant.

I sighed. “It’s possible he was wrong, but it’s not that likely. If I’d dyed my hair purple it would have taken a week for him to notice, but he could tell the difference between a gray car and a silver one from the opposite end of a parking lot. That’s just the way Andrew is.”

The cat batted a strand of my hair with one paw and tipped his black-and-white head back to look up at me. “No, I didn’t actually dye my hair purple,” I said because he seemed to be wondering.

The phone rang then. Owen jumped at the sound and almost ended up on the floor. He shook himself, then sent a daggers look at the phone. “Don’t laugh,” I whispered to Hercules, who was leaning forward to look at his brother as I reached for the receiver.

It was Ben Saroyan. “Kathleen, you said if there was any way you could help, to let you know,” he said, his voice rumbling against my ear. “I’m calling to take you up on your offer. I could use your help with a couple of things.”

“Of course,” I said, shifting slightly in the chair, which netted me a disgruntled look from Owen. “What do you need?”

“Hannah brought back some boxes and bags from the theater in Red Wing and we’ve started going through them. I have a couple more I actually salvaged the night of the fire. Hugh was meticulous about keeping notes on a production and I’d like to overnight some of them to Thea so she can look at them before she gets here on Tuesday, but I haven’t been able to find very much so far.”

“And you’d like some help looking through the boxes.”

“I would,” he said. “If I dropped off those two I have in my rental car, could you sort through them? You know the sort of thing your mother would find useful.”

Owen decided then that he had other things to do. He jumped down and made a beeline for the stairs. Either he was going to look for a Fred the Funky Chicken—Rebecca was always finding an excuse to buy him one of the neon yellow catnip chickens that he loved—or he was planning to prowl around in my closet.

“Of course I could,” I said. “Would it help if I came and got them?”

I heard Ben exhale. “Honestly? Yes.”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes then.” He thanked me and I hung up. I gave Hercules one last scratch and set him on the floor, where he stretched and yawned. “So what are your plans for the afternoon?” I asked.

He cocked his head to one side as though he was considering his options.

“Lie in the sunshine by the front door, maybe? Hide a funky chicken from Owen?”

The cat gave me a blank look.

“Yes, I know you do that,” I said.

He ducked his head and looked a little sheepish. At least as sheepish as a little tuxedo cat could look.

“You could go take a little nap in Rebecca’s gazebo.”

He lifted a paw and gave it a shake. Hercules was a total wuss about wet feet.

“Yes, I know I said it’s going to rain, but not until later,” I told him. “There’s still a lot of blue sky out there.”

His whiskers twitched as though he was considering the nap.

“Or you could go out and look for Professor Moriarty.”

His green eyes narrowed. Even though their little war had escalated during the past couple of weeks, I was beginning to think both the cat and the bird were enjoying the battle. Hercules could be pretty fast on his paws when he wanted to be and I’d seen the grackle fly over literally inches above the cat’s head, but they were both, for the most part, unscathed from their encounters. I had discovered Hercules with one of the bird’s tail feathers recently, but that didn’t mean it was a prize of war, so to speak.

Now he was headed for the kitchen like a cat with a purpose. Clearly, the game was afoot. Or in this case, maybe apaw. I turned to head upstairs and it hit me. I’d invited my mother to stay here, for a week, with me . . . and Hercules and Owen. She wouldn’t think it was odd that I talked to them or that Hercules liked Barry Manilow and Owen didn’t—although I knew she’d be firmly in Owen’s camp on that. But I was pretty sure she wouldn’t understand if Hercules walked through the porch door or Owen suddenly became invisible.

“Hercules,” I said.

He had one paw on the kitchen floor and he stopped and looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Come back here for a minute,” I said.

He sat down and gave me an expectant look. I knew that meant
you come over here.
So I did, because I didn’t have a lot of time.

I crouched down beside him. “My mother’s coming to stay with us for a few days,” I said.

“Merow,” he said. Translation:
I know
.

“I need you not to walk through any walls or doors or anything like that while she’s here.”

I felt a little foolish. I knew the cats understood a lot more words than the average house cat, which made a certain sense because they weren’t average house cats. On the other hand, I had no idea if Hercules could comprehend anything I’d just said. For all I knew, what he’d heard was
la, la, la doors
.

He gave me a green-eyed blink and started for the porch again. I got the feeling that he had understood every single word. Of course, even if he’d understood what I said, that didn’t mean he would actually
do
what I said.

I went upstairs to get my sweater. Owen’s back end was sticking out of the half-open closet door. It struck me that I wouldn’t mind taking some furry company with me. I pulled the door open a little farther. He seemed to be studying my clothes and he looked at me with a slightly miffed expression at the interruption.

BOOK: Final Catcall: A Magical Cats Mystery
9.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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