Authors: Sofie Ryan
PRAISE FOR SOFIE RYAN WRITING AS SOFIE KELLY
NEW YORK TIMES
MAGICAL CATS MYSTERIES
“I’ve been a huge fan of this series from the very start, and I am delighted that this new book meets my expectations and then some . . . Cats with magic powers, a library, good friends who look out for each other, and small-town coziness come together in perfect unison. If you are a fan of Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks Mysteries, you will want to read [this series].”
“This is a really fun series, and I’ve read them all. Each book improves on the last one. Being a cat lover myself, I’m looking at my cat in a whole new light.”
—Once Upon a Romance
“A fun whodunit. . . . Fans will appreciate this entertaining amateur sleuth.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
“This charming series continues on a steady course as the intrepid Kathleen has two mysteries to snoop into. . . . Readers who are fans of cats and cozies will want to add this series to their must-read lists.”
Sleight of Paw
“This series is a winner.”
“If you are a fan of mysteries and cats, you need to be reading this series now!”
—Cozy Mystery Book Reviews
“Kelly’s appealing cozy features likable, relatable characters set in an amiable location. The author continues to build on the promise of her debut novel, carefully developing her characters and their relationships.”
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
“A great cozy that will quickly have you anxiously waiting for the next release so you can spend more time with the people of Mayville Heights.”
—Mysteries and My Musings
“If you love mystery and magic, this is the book for you!”
—Debbie’s Book Bag
“This start of a new series offers an engaging cast of human characters and two appealing, magically inclined felines. Kathleen is a likable, believable heroine and the magical cats are amusing.”
THE WHOLE CAT AND CABOODLE
A SECOND CHANCE CAT MYSTERY
AN OBSIDIAN MYSTERY
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014
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A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright © Darlene Ryan, 2014
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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.
This book began as a “what if” while I was prowling around one of my favorite thrift stores. I owe a huge hug and an equally huge thank-you to my friend, author Lynn Viehl, for her support and encouragement while I was writing it, and for her friendship, always. No matter what wild idea I come up with, fellow writer Laurie Cass will always say, “You should write that,” and then help me work out the details. Thanks, Laurie. Thank you to my agent, Kim Lionetti, who is one of my biggest cheerleaders. Thank you as well to everyone at my publisher, Penguin, who, as always, put their best efforts into this book. A special thank-you to my editor, Jessica Wade, who makes everything I write a little—and sometimes a lot—better.
I am indebted to Lauri McGivern and Phyllis Middleton, who generously answered my questions about medical examiners’ investigators. Any errors or deviation from real-world procedures are because reality didn’t fit the fictional world.
And most important, thank you to Patrick and Lauren for never complaining about all the times I walk around the house talking to imaginary people. Love you.
Elvis was sitting in the middle of my desk when I opened the door to my office. The cat, not the King of Rock and Roll, although the cat had an air of entitlement about him sometimes, as though he thought he was royalty. He had one jet-black paw on top of a small cardboard box—my new business cards, I was hoping.
“How did you get in here?” I asked.
His ears twitched but he didn’t look at me. His green eyes were fixed on the vintage Wonder Woman lunch box in my hand. I was having an early lunch, and Elvis seemed to want one as well.
“No,” I said firmly. I dropped onto the retro red womb chair I’d brought up from the shop downstairs, kicked off my sneakers, and propped my feet on the matching footstool. The chair was so comfortable. To me, the round shape was like being cupped in a soft, warm, giant hand. I knew the chair had to go back down to the shop, but I was still trying to figure out a way to keep it for myself.
Before I could get my sandwich out of the yellow vinyl lunch box, the big, black cat landed on my lap. He wiggled his back end, curled his tail around his feet and looked from the bag to me.
“No,” I said again. Like that was going to stop him.
He tipped his head to one side and gave me a pitiful look made all the sadder because he had a fairly awesome scar cutting across the bridge of his nose.
I took my sandwich out of the lunch can. It was roast beef on a hard roll with mustard, tomatoes and dill pickles. The cat’s whiskers quivered. “One bite,” I said sternly. “Cats eat cat food. People eat people food. Do you want to end up looking like the real Elvis in his chunky days?”
He shook his head, as if to say, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
I pulled a tiny bit of meat out of the roll and held it out. Elvis ate it from my hand, licked two of my fingers and then made a rumbly noise in his throat that sounded a lot like a sigh of satisfaction. He jumped over to the footstool, settled himself next to my feet and began to wash his face. After a couple of passes over his fur with one paw he paused and looked at me, eyes narrowed—his way of saying, “Are you going to eat that or what?”
By the time I’d finished my sandwich Elvis had finished his meticulous grooming of his face, paws and chest. I patted my legs. “C’mon over,” I said.
He swiped a paw at my jeans. There was no way he was going to hop onto my lap if he thought he might get a crumb on his inky black fur. I made an elaborate show of brushing off both legs. “Better?” I asked.
Elvis meowed his approval and walked his way up my legs, poking my thighs with his front paws—no claws, thankfully—and wiggling his back end until he was comfortable.
I reached for the box on my desk, keeping one hand on the cat. I’d guessed correctly. My new business cards were inside. I pulled one out and Elvis leaned sideways for a look. The cards were thick, brown, recycled card stock, with
angled across the top in heavy red letters, and
and my contact information, all in black, in the bottom right corner.
Second Chance was a cross between an antique store and a thrift shop. We sold furniture and housewares—many things repurposed from their original use, like the tub chair that in its previous life had actually been a tub. As for the name, the business was sort of a second chance—for the cat and for me. We’d been open only a few months and I was amazed at how busy we already were.
The shop was in a redbrick building from the late 1800s on Mill Street, in downtown North Harbor, Maine, just where the street curved and began to climb uphill. We were about a twenty-minute walk from the harbor front and easily accessed from the highway—the best of both worlds. My grandmother held the mortgage on the property and I wanted to pay her back as quickly as I could.
“What do you think?” I said, scratching behind Elvis’s right ear. He made a murping sound, cat-speak for “good,” and lifted his chin. I switched to stroking the fur on his chest.
He started to purr, eyes closed. It sounded a lot like there was a gas-powered generator running in the room.
“Mac and I went to look at the Harrington house,” I said to him. “I have to put together an offer, but there are some pieces I want to buy, and you’re definitely going with me next time.” Eighty-year-old Mabel Harrington was on a cruise with her new beau, a ninety- one-year-old retired doctor with a bad toupee and lots of money. They were moving to Florida when the cruise was over.
One green eye winked open and fixed on my face. Elvis’s unofficial job at Second
Chance was rodent wrangler.
“Given all the squeaks and scrambling sounds I heard when I poked my head through the trapdoor to the attic, I’m pretty sure the place is the hotel for some kind of mouse convention.”
Elvis straightened up, opened his other eye, and licked his lips. Chasing mice, birds, bats and the occasional bug was his idea of a very good time.
I’d had Elvis for about four months. As far as I could find out, the cat had spent several weeks on his own, scrounging around downtown North Harbor.
The town sits on the midcoast of Maine. “Where the hills touch the sea” is the way it’s been described for the past 250 years. North Harbor stretches from the Swift Hills in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. It was settled by Alexander Swift in the late 1760s. It’s full of beautiful, historic buildings, award-winning restaurants and quirky little shops. Where else could you buy a blueberry muffin, a rare book and fishing gear all on the same street?
The town’s population is about thirteen thousand, but that more than triples in the summer with tourists and summer residents. It grew by one black cat one evening in late May. Elvis just appeared at The Black Bear. Sam, who owns the pub, and his pickup band, The Hairy Bananas—long story on the name—were doing their Elvis Presley medley when Sam noticed a black cat sitting just inside the front door. He swore the cat stayed put through the entire set and left only when they launched into their version of the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”
The cat was back the next morning, in the narrow alley beside the shop, watching Sam as he took a pile of cardboard boxes to the recycling bin. “Hey, Elvis. Want some breakfast?” Sam had asked after tossing the last flattened box in the bin. To his surprise, the cat walked up to him and meowed a loud yes.
He showed up at the pub about every third day for the next couple of weeks. The cat clearly wasn’t wild—he didn’t run from people—but no one seemed to know who Elvis (the name had stuck) belonged to. The scar on his nose wasn’t new; neither were a couple of others on his back, hidden by his fur. Then someone remembered a guy in a van who had stayed two nights at the campgrounds up on Mount Batten. He’d had a cat with him. It was black. Or black and white. Or possibly gray. But it definitely had a scar on its nose. Or it was missing an ear. Or maybe part of a tail.
Elvis was still perched on my lap, staring off into space, thinking about stalking rodents out at the old Harrington house, I was guessing.
I glanced over at the carton sitting on the walnut sideboard that I used for storage in the office. The fact that it was still there meant that Arthur Fenety hadn’t come in while Mac and I had been gone. I was glad. I was hoping I’d be at the shop when Fenety came back for the silver tea service that was packed in the box.
A couple of days prior he had brought the tea set into my shop. Fenety had a charming story about the ornate pieces that he said had belonged to his mother. A bit too charming for my taste, like the man himself. Arthur Fenety was somewhere in his seventies, tall with a full head of white hair, a matching mustache and an engaging smile to go with his polished demeanor. He could have gotten a lot more for the tea set at an antique store or an auction. Something about the whole transaction felt off.
Elvis had been sitting on the counter by the cash register and Fenety had reached over to stroke his fur. The cat didn’t so much as twitch a whisker, but his ears had flattened and he’d looked at the older man with his green eyes half-lidded, pupils narrowed. He was the picture of skepticism.
The day after he’d brought the pieces in, Fenety had called to ask if he could buy them back. The more I thought about it, the more suspicious the whole thing felt. The tea set hadn’t been on the list of stolen items from the most recent police update, but I still had a niggling feeling about it and Arthur Fenety.
“Time to do some work,” I said to Elvis. “Let’s go downstairs and see what’s happening in the store.”
The cat jumped down to the floor and shook himself, and then he had to pause and pass a paw over his face. Elvis knew
meant “people,” especially tourists, and
meant “new people who would generally take one look at the scar on his face and be overcome with the urge to stroke his fur and tell him what a sweet kitty he was.”
I put on some lipstick and gave my head a shake. I’d gotten my thick, dark brown hair from my father and my dark eyes from my mom. I’d just cut my hair in long layers to my shoulders a couple of weeks previous. If we were moving furniture or I was going for a run I could still pull it back in a ponytail. Otherwise I could pretty much shake my head and my hair looked okay.
One of my part-time staff members, Avery, was by the cash register downstairs, nestling three mismatched soup bowls that had gotten a second life as herb planters into a box half-filled with shredded paper. Her hair was the color of cranberry sauce, and she’d shown up that morning with elaborate henna tattoos covering the backs of both hands. They were beautiful. (She claimed the look was all part of her “rebellious teenager” phase.) Avery worked afternoons in the store—her progressive private school had only morning classes—and full days when there was no school, like today.
I’d had a few rebellious moments myself as a teenager, so Avery’s style didn’t bother me. She was smart and hardworking, and even though one of the main reasons I’d hired her was because she was the granddaughter of one of my gram’s closest friends, I kept her because she did a good job. And my customers seemed to like her.
Mac, the store’s resident jack-of-all-trades, was showing a customer a tall metal postman’s desk that we’d reclaimed from the basement of a house near the harbor. We’d had to cut the desk apart to get it up the narrow, cramped steps and through the door to the kitchen. Mac had banged out all the dents, put everything back together and then painted the piece a deep sky blue, even though I’d voted for basic black. I watched him hand the customer a tape measure, then give me a knowing smile across the room.
I could see the muscles in his arms move under his long-sleeved gray T-shirt. He was tall and fit with close-cropped black hair and light brown skin. Avery had given Mac the nickname Wall Street. He’d been a financial planner but had ditched his high-powered life to come to Maine and sail. In his free time he crewed for pretty much anyone who asked. There were eight windjammer schooners based in North Harbor, along with dozens of other sailing vessels. Mac was looking for space where he could build his own boat. He worked for me because he said he liked fixing things.
Second Chance had been open for a little less than four months. The main floor was one big open area, with some storage behind the staircase to the second floor. My office was under the eaves on the second floor. There was also a minuscule staff room and one other large space that was being used for storage.
Some things we offered in the shop were vintage kitsch, like my yellow vinyl Wonder Woman lunch box—with matching thermos. Some things were like Elvis—working on a new incarnation, like the electric blue shelving unit that used to be a floor-model TV console. Everything in the store was on its second or sometimes third life.
Our stock came from lots of different places: flea markets, yard sales, people looking to downsize. Mac had even trash-picked a metal bed frame that we’d sold for a very nice profit. A couple of Dumpster divers had been stopping by fairly regularly and in the last month I’d bought items from the estates of three different people. So far, rummaging around in boxes and closets I’d found half a dozen wills, a diamond ring, a set of false teeth, a stuffed armadillo and a box of ashes that thankfully were the remains of someone’s long-ago love letters and not, well, the remains of someone.
We sold some items in the store on consignment. Others, like the post office desk, we’d buy outright and refurbish. Mac could repair just about anything, and I was pretty good at coming up with new ways to use old things. And if I ran out of ideas, I could just call my mom, who was a master at giving new life to other people’s discards.
Elvis had headed for a couple that was browsing near the guitars on the back wall. The young woman crouched down, stroking his fur and making sympathetic noises about his nose. The young man moved a couple of steps sideways to take a closer look at a Washburn mandolin from the ’70s, with a spruce top and ebony fingerboard.
Avery had finished with the customer at the counter. She walked over and lifted the mandolin down from its place on the wall and handed it to the young man. “Why don’t you give it a try?” she said. I knew as soon as he had it in his hands he’d be sold.
Avery glanced down at Elvis. He tipped his furry head to one side, leaning into the hand of the young woman who was scratching the top of his head, commanding all her attention, and it almost looked as though he winked at Avery.
A musical instrument was the reason I’d ended up with Elvis—that and his slightly devious nature. I’d taken a guitar down to Sam for a second opinion on what it was worth. Sam Newman and my dad had grown up together. I could play, and I knew a little about some of the older models, but Sam knew more about guitars than anyone I’d ever met. I’d found him sitting in one of the back booths with a cup of coffee and a pile of sheet music. The cat was on the opposite banquette, eating what looked suspiciously to me like scrambled eggs and salami.