Read How To Tail a Cat Online

Authors: Rebecca M. Hale

How To Tail a Cat

ADS
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

More praise for the
New York Times
bestselling Cats and Curios Mysteries

“Written with verve and panache.”

—Carolyn Hart, author of
Ghost in Trouble

“Quirky characters, an enjoyable mystery with plenty of twists, and cats, too! A fun read.”

—Linda O. Johnston, author of the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries

“[A] wild, refreshing over-the-top-of-Nob-Hill thriller.”


The Best Reviews

“This exciting road trip goes from danger to humor and back as the adorable cats are brilliant tacticians who amusingly but cleverly maneuver the niece somewhat for treats but often to keep her safe. Fast-paced cozy readers who enjoy something different will relish the charming Cats and Curios Mysteries (see
Nine Lives Last Forever
and
How to Wash a Cat
) as Oscar’s niece continues her dangerous adventures into the weird, whimsical world of her late uncle.”


Genre Go Round Reviews

Titles by Rebecca M. Hale

Cats and Curios Mysteries

HOW TO WASH A CAT

NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER

HOW TO MOON A CAT

HOW TO TAIL A CAT

Mysteries in the Islands

ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

HOW TO TAIL A CAT

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / September 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Hale.

Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-0-425-25129-4

eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-58106-3

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Contents

Also By

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Introduction

 

Chapter 1: THE LAMP

Chapter 2: A CONSTANT CRAVING

Chapter 3: A DISTINGUISHED DINER

Chapter 4: THE MILLIONAIRE TRAMP

Chapter 5: THE FROG WHISPERER

Chapter 6: A CONTENTED CAT

Chapter 7: THE MISSION

Chapter 8: A PENDING VACANCY

Chapter 9: HOXTON FIN

Chapter 10: A SPIDER’S INTUITION

Chapter 11: THE DOCTOR IS IN

Chapter 12: MORE THAN CHICKEN

Chapter 13: THE LONG SHOT

Chapter 14: A CULINARY CHALLENGE

Chapter 15: A LITTLE FELINE ASSISTANCE

Chapter 16: THE STEINHART CONNECTION

Chapter 17: THE SWAMP

Chapter 18: OFF THE EMBARCADERO

Chapter 19: THE BAVARIAN BROTHERS

Chapter 20: THE FRIED-CHICKEN ENTREPRENEUR

Chapter 21: THE GATOR-NAPPING

Chapter 22: A CRUEL CHICKEN

Chapter 23: PIER SEVEN

Chapter 24: THE SWORD

Chapter 25: THE JAPANESE TEA GARDENS

Chapter 26: THE BEST OF FRIENDS

Chapter 27: JACKSON SQUARE ASSIGNMENT

Chapter 28: A BUSY SCHEDULE

Chapter 29: A SCALY VISITOR

Chapter 30: EVERYONE LIKES CHICKEN

Chapter 31: SPINNING THE STORY

Chapter 32: A GATOR’S GOTTA EAT

Chapter 33: PORTRAIT OF A MAYOR

Chapter 34: AN ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE

Chapter 35: FEEDING THE BEAST

Chapter 36: THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Chapter 37: SPIDER MAN

Chapter 38: HELLO, HELLO

Chapter 39: A DIFFICULT PEST TO ERADICATE

Chapter 40: THE FLOWER SHOP

Chapter 41: A HOLLOW STOMACH

Chapter 42: A LONG WHITE TAIL

Chapter 43: FASHION CLIVE

Chapter 44: A DISTINCTIVE ACCESSORY

Chapter 45: A CONVINCING CLIVE

Chapter 46: THE GOLDEN GATOR

Chapter 47: THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

Chapter 48: MORE THAN FROGS

Chapter 49: THE BEARD IS WEIRD

Chapter 50: POWERED BY PELLETS

Chapter 51: A SECRET PROJECT

Chapter 52: INTO THE SWAMP

Chapter 53: THE OBSERVERS

Chapter 54: THE MARCHING HORSES

Chapter 55: THE STEINHART REWARD

Chapter 56: A STRANGE DUCK

Chapter 57: AN ANONYMOUS TIP

Chapter 58: THE LAST CHICKEN

Chapter 59: A DISCORDANT GROUP

Chapter 60: BUSKER CLIVE

Chapter 61: THE ALLIGATOR LINE

Chapter 62: THE NOMINATIONS

Chapter 63: COMMUTER CLIVE

Chapter 64: HIS BEST CHANCE

Chapter 65: THE VOTE

Chapter 66: A RECOUNT

Chapter 67: THE NOTE

Chapter 68: ALL THINGS IN MODERATION

Chapter 69: THE CEREMONIAL ROTUNDA

Chapter 70: CURIOSITY KILLED THE . . .

Chapter 71: A LIFE CUT SHORT

Chapter 72: AN EMPTY BELLY

Chapter 73: THE PIED PIPER

Chapter 74: HOW TO TAIL A CAT

For Ashley

Introduction

A VELVET FOG
draped over San Francisco’s steep hills, the blank canvas forming the curtained backdrop to a theater’s stage.

November had begun with a few short days of Indian summer, but the opening act had been whisked away by the month’s main attraction, a mysterious gray character who skulked through the shrouded streets, erasing the sky and blurring the edges of the city’s pastel-colored buildings.

Off in the distance, a foghorn bellowed out a warning to a ship approaching the Golden Gate Bridge. The low hooting
honk
echoed through the bay, floating up into the mist-masked hills that housed the Presidio’s former military post before sinking into the murky depths of Mountain Lake.

A slender white cat with orange-tipped ears and tail sat on a bench near the lake’s southern rim, staring intently through the soupy haze at an object floating in the water about twenty feet from the shoreline.

The tip end of Isabella’s long pipelike tail strummed the bench, an outer sign of her inner contemplation. Her slim shoulders hunched forward; her front claws dug into the seat’s worn wooden planks. Blue eyes glittering, she tilted her head inquisitively.

There was something decidedly unnatural about the ghostly creature inhabiting the lake.

• • •

ON THE BENCH
beside Isabella, a fluffy feline of similar coloring and far greater girth let out a satisfied
burp
as he rolled himself into an upright position. Rupert smacked his lips and let loose a wide, sloppy yawn. His belly was still digesting the fried-chicken dinner he’d devoured a few hours earlier.

Isabella issued a disparaging glance at her brother’s bulging stomach; then she resumed her surveillance of the lake.

On a short rise above the far embankment, a streetlight lit a jungle gym’s shiny metal bars and, in the parking lot beyond, gave a dim glow to the large white van that had carried the cats, their person, and the vehicle’s owner to this isolated spot at the heart of the crowded city.

The moist, pink padding on Isabella’s nose quivered as she sniffed the scents of the surrounding wildlife. Her ears widened, taking in the sounds of the night.

A pair of squirrels rustled in the leaves beneath a wooly grove of cypress . . . a raccoon rummaged through a nearby Dumpster . . . a homeless man asleep on the grass let out a whiffling snore . . . and a tall, skinny fellow in a rubber wet suit and flippers clomped through the brush at the edge of the lake.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Isabella heard her person ask as Montgomery Carmichael stopped to fit a snorkel mask over his narrow face.

Isabella glanced up at the vacant sky and pondered the question.

Would it be such a terrible thing if their pesky neighbor was devoured by a hungry albino alligator?

Isabella’s whiskers twitched skeptically as Monty turned toward the bench, stretched his arms out in front of his chest, and flexed his meager muscles. In her opinion, he didn’t stand much of a chance against the ravenous reptile awaiting him in the water.

Her tiny face crimped into a dubious expression.

Eh
, she concluded indifferently.

After a moment’s consideration, however, Isabella appeared to take a different view on the matter. Pawing the air, she opened her mouth to form a series of sharp clicking sounds that terminated in an instructive “
Mrao
.”

Her person glanced down at the bench and sighed ruefully.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said with a grimace. “The gator might choke on his snorkel.”

The woman placed her hands on her hips and pursed her lips, as if considering.

Finally, she called out, “Monty, wait!”

• • •

A PALE, LUMINOUS
beast with colorless eyes and a snaggletoothed grin swam through the muddy water near Mountain Lake’s southern shoreline. The twelve-foot-long, torpedo-shaped body looked like a moldy, bump-ridden log—until you focused in on its sharp claws and prominent jawline.

Clive, San Francisco’s reigning celebrity albino alligator, floated comfortably in the darkness, humming to himself as he bobbed in the water. His pointed snout beamed a radiant, if somewhat menacing, smile.

He had enjoyed his short stay at Mountain Lake. Other than the occasional stray golf ball bouncing into the pond from the nearby course and a few distant shrieks from the children at the playground, his visit had been blissfully undisturbed.

Of course, the recent change in diet had left his insides feeling a tad unsettled, and the sudden onset of cooler weather had made him long for his heated rock back at the aquarium’s Swamp Exhibit. But, overall, he had welcomed the rest and relaxation at this idyllic retreat. He would have to see about booking these accommodations again next year.

A hungry growl rumbled through Clive’s midsection, and his thoughts turned to more immediate issues. It was time for his late-night snack.

With a paddling stroke of his front legs, the yellow nodes of his nostrils rose from the water, prompting a pair of ducks to squawk out a warning.

The alligator’s gray eyes rotated halfheartedly toward the skittish birds. They were hardly worth the effort, he thought, remembering the digestive complications he’d suffered after his last avian meal. And besides, he generally preferred fish to feathers.

Clive flicked his tail, rotating his body in a reluctant pursuit of the ducks—but a rippling in the surface of the lake caused him to stop, mid-motion. A commotion near the beach had generated the telltale disturbance of a creature unaccustomed to maneuvering in the water.

He focused his eardrums on the stilted splashing movements emanating from the reeds, his sense of hearing being far keener than his albino-diminished vision. After honing in on his target, he optimistically reversed course and began gliding in the direction of the noise.

His jagged mouth cracked open with eager anticipation. The animal who had just entered the lake promised a far more substantial and easier-to-catch meal than that of the elusive ducks.

Even better, Clive thought, squinting at the creature’s smooth silhouette—it appeared to be completely free of feathers.

• • •

MONTGOMERY CARMICHAEL FLOUNDERED
through the reeds in his wet suit and flippers, anxiously fiddling with his snorkel mask as he scanned the water for Clive’s waxy white skin. He stepped awkwardly into the lake, struggling to keep his balance as the water seeped up to his knees.

“Nothing to worry about,” he hollered, an effort to assure the bystanders on the shore as well as himself. “This critter’s been all over San Francisco the last couple of days. He’s perfectly harmless.”

Surely, the future mayor of San Francisco could handle a meek, domesticated alligator, Monty thought brashly. Heck, he could probably carry the beast back to the van using nothing but his bare hands.

Monty turned toward the beach and flexed his muscles, a show of bravado for his doubting observers. Then, he returned his attention to the lake and whispered coaxingly.


Cllliii-iive
. Over here,
ally-gator
,
ally-gator
.”

A pair of ducks squawked to his left, drowning out the concerned voice of the woman standing next to the cat-occupied bench.

“Just like a puppy dog,” Monty muttered under his breath as he adjusted the snorkel and prepared to dive below the surface.

Awash in bolstered confidence, he failed to notice the neon glow stalking him in the reeds.

A single sound broke through the night, its sharp staccato ricocheting across the lake to the craning spectators at the water’s edge.

Chomp
.

Other books

Pawn of the Billionaire by Frasier, Kristin, Moore, Abigail
Laughed ’Til He Died by Carolyn Hart
SimplyIrresistible by Evanne Lorraine
The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
Milkshake by Matt Hammond
Tithe by Holly Black
On the Hills of God by Fawal, Ibrahim