Authors: Karen Golden
The Cats that Surfed the Web
Karen Anne Golden
This ebook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or deceased, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2013 by Karen Anne Golden
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover design by Christy Carlyle of Gilded Heart Design
Table of Contents
I wish to thank my husband, Jeff Dible, who painstakingly edited this book and enthusiastically supported this project.
My appreciation also goes to my sister, Linda Golden, who read the novel and offered suggestions on how to make it better. And I thank Megan Golden, Melissa McGee and Bryan Putnam for their advice and support.
Thank you, Vicki Braun, my editor and Christy Carlyle, my book cover designer. It’s been my pleasure to work with the two of you.
Finally, I want to express my appreciation to my family and friends. I am grateful to my cats, without whose antics I wouldn’t have a story.
The driver jammed on the brakes of his rental car in front of the pink mansion on Lincoln Street. “This can’t be it,” he said incredulously, shocked by the massive size of the three-story Victorian house.
A few minutes earlier he had left the town’s hotel and restaurant, then tapped an address into his GPS. The feminine voice had told him to take a wrong turn and he’d almost driven into the Wabash River. Now, even more annoyed at being in this hick town with only two stop lights, he double-checked the address. The brass house numbers above the columned veranda matched, so he backed up the car, turned into the snow-covered driveway, and parked behind an older model Toyota with New York plates.
As he wrestled on his coat, he climbed out of the driver’s seat, wincing at a sudden, searing pain that began in his right side. A blast of cold Indiana air penetrated his coat, making him focus on the task at hand. As he looked through the arches of the covered carport, he saw a figure wearing a hooded parka dart from the far end of the driveway, out-of-sight behind the corner of the house. He thought it was his ex-girlfriend, Katherine, who was the main reason for his surprise visit. “Katherine,” he yelled. “Katz, is that you, honey?” he asked in a charming voice.
Trudging to the back of the house, he called out her name again. The back door was slightly ajar, so he pushed it open and stepped down several steps into a windowed sunroom. Stamping his boots on the welcome mat, he cried out as the pain returned. Holding onto his side, he found another door that led to a mechanical room; it was illuminated by a florescent bulb, which flickered on and off with a loud buzz.
He heard footsteps back in the dark basement.
“Stop playing games,” he shouted. “I know you’re here, Katz. I really need to talk to you.” Motionless he stood, held his breath, and listened. He heard no answer or further movement.
Now he was getting angry. And the pain just wouldn’t go away.
What the hell is happening to me
?” he thought. “Look, give me a break. It was hell getting out here. My flight from LaGuardia was delayed. I was supposed to fly into Indianapolis, but we were re-routed to Chicago. The freaking rental place was a zoo. The drive down here to Hicksville was the worst.”
Something fell to the floor, and he thought he heard a hissing sound. Heading toward the noise, he stumbled into a small room with thick stone walls. The room was dimly lit by a frosted glass window, set high above the floor. His eyes quickly adjusted to the semi-darkness. He could make out the vague shape of someone standing in the corner.
“Why are you acting so freaking weird?” he asked, teetering forward.
An eerie shaft of light shone through the window, revealing a large Siamese cat, which had arched its back. Now it was swaying from side-to-side in some kind of strange dance. The cat’s eyes were red and almost seemed to glow. It murmured a long, low growl.
“Call off your cat!” he cried. His own words rang painfully in his ears as a shadow fell across the room.
The figure in the parka emerged from the corner, holding a small, rusty-colored cat by the scruff of its neck; she was attempting to stab it with a knife. “Get out of here!” the woman yelled.
“Stop that!” the man demanded. “You’re hurting it!”
The hooded figure threw the cat at him. When he put his arms up to catch the cat, the woman stabbed him in his left side, high under his armpit. A sharp pain ripped through his chest and he gasped for air. He stumbled backward, then collapsed to the floor.
The Siamese cat shrieked and lunged at the attacker, who tried to escape. But the cat dug its claws into the parka, pulling the hood down and drawing blood from the attacker’s head. She dislodged the Siamese and threw the cat against the wall. The attacker leaned over the man’s body and inserted a gold object in his mouth. She then ran out, blood trickling from her scalp.
The rusty-colored cat moaned and staggered to the corner while the Siamese circled the body once, wildly sniffing the air with its fangs bared. It began to wail a throaty growl.
Katherine Kendall struggled with a stack of instruction manuals and a laptop computer case as she jostled her way along the crowded sidewalk on Fifth Avenue. Reaching her office building, she leaned into the revolving door and was nearly whisked away by the same bicycle-riding messenger who had almost flattened her in the middle of Madison Avenue. Katherine stumbled forward and fell on one knee. The laptop case went sailing through the air and skidded to a dead stop fifteen feet away. The manuals scattered across the highly polished marble floor.
me,” the woman said sarcastically to the perpetrator in blue biker's tights.
The messenger darted to the right to avoid tripping over her and said, “You again!” Dashing to the first elevator bank, he hurtled into the crowded elevator as its doors closed.
The Colombian doorman started to run after the biker, but was too late. He went over to the woman to offer assistance. “Are you okay?”
“I’ve been better,” she said, getting up. She rubbed her knee through the large tear in her new suit pants. “I hope my computer is okay.”
The doorman retrieved the laptop and handed it to her. “I think it’s all right, being in a padded case and all.”
“Thanks, Fernando,” she said, leaning over to pick up manuals.
“Here, let me do that,” he said, collecting the remaining booklets and stacking them on her computer. “Want me to help you to the eighteenth floor?”
“No, that’s fine. Really,” she said. “I’m okay.” Attempting a smile, she walked to the elevator bank. She pressed the button with her chin, then waited a few seconds for the next elevator. When an elevator opened, she slipped inside and tried to press the floor number with her nose.
A smartly dressed businessman hurried behind her and said, “What floor?”
“Eighteen,” she answered.
He pressed two buttons: eighteen and twenty-three. He smiled and stood back in the corner. “I'll be on the lookout for the messenger from Hell,” he said with a wink.
“I wish hail the size of golf balls to fall on his head,” she muttered.
“And a flat tire in the middle of Fifth Avenue,” the businessman added.
The doors swished open and she walked into an expensively decorated receiving area. Striding past the receptionist, Katherine rounded the corner and headed for her cubicle, which was down the hall.
The receptionist called after her, “Ms. Kendall, I’ve got a message for you here at the front desk.”
“One second,” Katherine answered. She deposited the heavy burden on her desk, then walked back to the receptionist. “Rosemary, this is a computer company. We want you to get used to sending and receiving email,” she explained. “Please email short phone messages from your computer. Anything longer, just send the caller to my voice mail.”
Rosemary was in her mid-seventies, with ramrod posture and patrician bearing. She was from the old school of reception and loved to write on pink slips of paper. “An attorney from Indiana telephoned and said that he urgently needs to speak to you.” She handed Katherine a pink message slip.
“Mark Dunn,” Katherine read out loud. “In reference to Orvenia Colfax.” She looked up from the message slip. “He didn’t leave a number?”
“He said he’d call you back,” the receptionist added.
“Great Aunt Orvenia,” Katherine said curiously. “What on earth could she possibly want?”
The phone rang on the receptionist’s PBX board. “Computer Net. How may I direct your call?” Rosemary answered cheerily. “Oh yes, Sir. She just returned. Hold on, please.” To Katherine she mouthed the words, “It’s him again.”
“Put it through to my line, Rosemary. Thanks,” she said, as she rushed back to her desk and answered the call. “Katherine Kendall.”
“Hello, Ms. Kendall. My name is Mark Dunn. I’m a lawyer in Erie, Indiana. I represent your Great Aunt Orvenia’s estate.”
“Estate?” Katherine said uncertainly. “Is my great aunt trying to get a hold of me?”
“I’ve been trying to reach you, but we had little to go on except that you live in New York.”
“So how did you find me?” she asked warily.
“I did various online searches, but found out where you worked on your
page. . .”
“What can I do for you?” she asked abruptly, cutting him off.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” he said, pausing for a moment, “but your great aunt passed away several weeks ago.”
“I'm sorry,” he said.
“Massive coronary. She died very peacefully,” he said. “Ms. Kendall, the reason I’m calling is that I’m handling your great aunt’s estate. Over the past year she had me draft several versions of her will, but several months ago, she listed you as her most significant residuary beneficiary.”
“Me?” Katherine asked dubiously. “I never met the woman. Why would she list me as a . . . excuse me . . . what’s a residuary beneficiary?”
“It means that you’re the sole heir to receive the bulk of your great aunt’s estate, provided you abide by one condition—”
“Condition?” she interrupted.
“In order to receive monies from the estate, you must reside in her house and take care of her cat for one year—”
“Take care of a cat,” Katherine said skeptically.
“Yes, a cat,” he repeated. “In one year you’ll have full control of your residuary legacy—the money—and can dispose of the property in any manner you see fit. However, during the first year you’ll receive thirty thousand dollars immediately, plus seventy thousand at the end of six months’ time. Provided you take good care of the cat, you’ll receive full use of your great aunt’s house, plus the rest of your money at the end of the year. The estate will pay the utilities, insurance and property taxes so long as the estate is open.”
“One hundred thousand dollars,” Katherine repeated in disbelief. “Money, a house, and a cat! I find this very difficult to believe. And by the way, one of the few things I specifically remember about my great aunt from my mom is that she was allergic to cats.”
“Apparently not too allergic,” he said. “Two years ago she bought an Abyssinian female from a breeder in Wisconsin. I personally drove her up there to pick up the kitten.”
“I already have my hands full with three Siamese,” she said, still in shock. “Two seal-points and one lilac-point,” she added quickly.
“What’s one more?” the attorney joked.
“Where’s the cat now?” Katherine asked with sudden interest.
“She’s staying at a local veterinarian’s office. Orvenia provided that the cat be boarded for no longer than ninety days. I’m hoping that we can get her back home as soon as possible after you move.”
“Move? You want me to move where?”
“Into my great aunt’s house? I just signed a two-year lease on my apartment in Manhattan.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Kendall, we can’t wait that long. I might be able to get you out of your lease. I have a colleague who’s an attorney in New York,” he explained. “Have you ever seen your great aunt’s house?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “I’ve never even been to the state of Indiana.”
“Orvenia was a very wealthy lady and lived in a mansion built in 1897. The house has three floors and seventeen rooms.”
“Seventeen rooms!” she said aghast. “Listen, Mr. Dunn. This is too much to absorb in one phone call.”
“Please call me ‘Mark,’” he said amicably.
“Only if you stop calling me ‘Ms. Kendall.’ My name is Katherine,” she replied.
“Okay, Katherine, I need an answer soon,” he urged. “The cat is currently being boarded at the vet’s office, in a cage, which isn’t the ideal place to keep an energetic pet,” he reminded.
“What’s the cat’s name? You keep referring to her as the cat.”
“Her name is Abigail,” he said. “Orvenia thought it would be a good name for an Abyssinian.”
I wonder how my Siamese would get along with her
, she thought. “What happens to the estate when Abigail dies?”
“The will specifies that when the cat—I’m sorry—when Abigail dies, she’s to be cremated and placed in your great aunt’s burial crypt.”
“Orvenia must have adored that cat,” Katherine said.
“But after you’ve cared for Abigail for one full year, you’ll receive the rest of the residuary legacy, which consists of full legal title to the house, plus securities currently valued at . . .” he hesitated, then said, “Forty-four million.”
“Forty-four million dollars!” she shouted over the phone. “Are you crazy? My great aunt, who I’ve never met, left me forty-four million dollars?”
“Remember, the will made that gift conditional,” the attorney said.
“Okay, what happens if I don’t accept the terms?”
“In that case I must hire full-time, live-in help to take care of the animal. This person would receive the hundred thousand dollars that would otherwise go to you, plus full use of the house. And because you wouldn’t be entitled to the forty-four million, sixty percent of it would go to the town of Erie, ten percent to the County Animal Welfare Society, and thirty percent would be added to a trust set up for the benefit of your great aunt’s housekeeper.”
“Mr. Dunn, I mean Mark . . . I’m late for a training class I’m teaching. This is very complicated and bewildering. I must have time to gather my thoughts. Is there any way you can email me the provisions of the will?”
“Certainly. What’s the address?”
Katherine gave it to him, as well as her cell phone number. “If you can’t reach me on my cell, here’s my home number.”
“Expect an email within the hour,” he said.
“If you try to reach me at home and you keep getting a busy signal, text me and I’ll call you right back. Sometimes one of my cats kicks the receiver off the hook.”
Mark laughed. “Your cat answers the phone?”
“Scout, my cat, that is, used to belong to a magician who used her in his act. One of her tricks was to answer a telephone, but that has nothing to do with this conversation.”
Mark said seriously, “Perhaps you’ll tell me the rest of that story someday. It’s been very nice speaking to you, Katherine, but I need an answer from you as soon as possible.”
“Thanks for calling,” she said, hanging up the phone.
She immediately sent a text message to her best friend, Colleen. With thumbs flying, she keyed in, “Can you meet me after work at that wine and cheese place on 53rd Street? I’ve got news that will blow you away.”
* * * *
“I got here as soon as I could,” Colleen said, darting to the table. Her long red hair was wind-blown and matted against her face. “My boss gave me this last-minute project and insisted I finish before I left. How long have you been waiting?” she asked, taking her coat off and throwing it over a chair.
“Not long. Just a few minutes,” Katherine answered.
“So what’s the news? A love interest, perhaps?” Colleen asked mischievously.
“Oh, please,” Katherine said, slightly annoyed. “Sit down and brace yourself.”
The waiter came over and said to Colleen, “What will it be?”
“Bring me a Guinness,” she said.
“Draught or bottle?” he asked.
He looked at Katherine.
“I’m still nursing my Cabernet. Please bring us some Boursin and Carr crackers.”
He nodded and headed to the bar.
“What is it, Katz?” Colleen asked, slightly out-of-breath. “You’re as pale as a ghost.”
“What would you do if you received word that an elderly great aunt who you’ve never met left you her house, money and property?”
“Shut the door,” Colleen said dismissively. “I have three aunts back in Ireland, and if I'm lucky they’ll leave me their sacred recipe for Irish Soda Bread.”
“My great aunt in Indiana passed away several weeks ago and left me everything.”
“I'm sorry to hear that, Katz. Why didn't you ever mention her?”
“She was my mother’s aunt, and became the black sheep of the family when she ran off to the Midwest to marry an older man.”
“Why would that make her a black sheep?”
Katherine shrugged, “I don't know. My mom rarely talked about her. Anyway, my great aunt’s attorney called today and said she’d left me—”
“How much are we talking about here?” Colleen interrupted.
“An incredible amount of money,” Katherine said. She leaned in and whispered, “Forty-four million dollars!”
Colleen's mouth dropped open. “You can’t be serious,” she said, then added, “I’d take the money and run.”
“But there’s a condition,” Katherine said.
“Whatever.” Colleen stated. “I'd take the money and run
The waiter returned with the beer, opened the bottle and poured it into a glass. He left, then returned with a tray of assorted cheeses, Boursin, grapes and two kinds of crackers.
Colleen drummed her fingers impatiently until the waiter left. “What’s the catch?” she asked.