Ghost of a Purr [Lucky Pierre Mystery Series Book 2]
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by J. D. Crayne
Description: The Cat Who Loved to Solve Crimes Returns! Lucky Pierre, that feline arch sleuth, faces another murder in this lighthearted mystery. In this second installment of his adventures, Pierre's loyal human friends Linda and Jeremy Austin, are hosting a group of spiritualists for a three-day stay at their Honeysuckle House Bed and Breakfast. No one expected any problems beyond a few tipped tables and an occasional lewd word on the Ouija board. They certainly didn't expect to find the group's channeler (a medium, but rather tall) sprawled in her bed, reeking of bitter almonds, and dead as a doornail. The body of the channeler is hardly cold when Jeremy discovers another member of the ghost group dead in the shrubbery with a silk scarf knotted around her neck. Things are not looking good for either the spook hunters or the Austin's finances. If this keeps up, people will be staying away in droves. What's worse, they won't be contributing to the bank account that pays for Lucky Pierre's cat chow. There are some things that no respectable feline can ignore. Who is the vile killer that's threatening Lucky Pierre's dinner? Is it roly-poly little Duane Barbashire, who wears a pinky ring and prides himself on his business sense? Could it be Horace and Eunice Kidley, who used to practice necromancy but claim they've reformed? Maybe it's the mysterious writer, Guy Trenton, who claims he's there as an impartial observer but has a personal interest in at least one member of the group. Adding to the problems is the presence of Pawnee, an overweight gray tabby with a bottomless appetite. The Austins are cat-sitting Pawnee for a week and discover to their horror that he is a master of concealment and a shameless thief as well. Thereby hangs a tale--a cat tail, of course.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Pageturner Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: June 2008
8 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [155 KB]
Reading time: 92-129 min.
Jeremy Austin was sitting in front of his computer screen, working on the household accounts. The Austin cat, Lucky Pierre, was half-sprawled across the mouse pad, alternately butting his head against the mouse-causing the cursor to skitter wildly across the screen-and stretching out one lazy front paw to tap Jeremy on the arm.
"Terrorist cat!" Jeremy muttered absently, scratching the black and white feline behind the ears.
The accounting news was not good. After four months--and a shaky start that involved three corpses and attempted murder--Honeysuckle House Bed and Breakfast, the newest hostelry in Pomo, California, was still in the red.
Not by much, admittedly, but the out-go still exceeded the income. Travelers were beginning to show up who said that they had heard about the place from a friend or relation, which was good advertising, but it was now September. Families were headed home after the summer holidays and the slack tourism season was upon them.
Out of desperation, the Austins had swallowed their pride and cashed in on the corpses, renting rooms to a few wide-eyed and ghoulish ghost-hunters who wanted to gawk at the old Victorian house from the inside and try to experience some contact with the Other Side. That made Jeremy feel a little bit guilty-because there wasn't an iota of proof that the house was haunted-but he ruthlessly crushed his finer feelings and banked the checks.
He set his jaw and led new guests to the crime scenes in the barn (concussion and exposure), at the old well shaft (strangulation), and in the upstairs parlor (fractured skull). Another body, bopped with a tire iron, had once been found at the bottom of the cellar stairs, but since his wife, Linda, didn't know about that one, Jeremy left the location off of the tour. In any event, the bopped body had been reduced to cadaverdom elsewhere and merely dumped in the house, so it didn't really count as far as spiritual remains were concerned.
He assumed that the ghost of the walloped body, if it hadn't Gone On to some other existence (or simply vanished like the flame of an extinguished candle) was now languishing around the cheap apartment building where it spent its last living hours. He wondered sometimes just what a ghost did to haunt an apartment building. Maybe it was ghostly interference that accounted for the erratic behavior of apartment house washers and dryers and made bathroom faucets drip at night.
Sometimes Jeremy even showed guests the 19th Century bronze figurine of a dog that almost figured in his own demise, and which he kept under lock and key to thwart the light-fingered. The lady who once aimed it at his head was resting comfortably in a nice room at a state home for the chronically bewildered.
Lucky Pierre was always pointed out as "the cat that solved the crime," and the black and white feline, neatly furred in a tuxedo pattern that made him look like a fuzzy penguin or a Monte Carlo lounge lizard (Jeremy had never decided which, but the cat's black mustache made him lean toward the latter) accepted his new-found celebrity with dignity and aplomb.
The Austins were hanging onto their business by a fingernail, and if something didn't happen to reverse the downturn, they stood a good chance of losing the splendid old golden-oak Victorian home plus all of the sweat equity that they had put into it.
Another party of ghost hunters, nine of them, were arriving that afternoon and had booked rooms for the long Labor Day weekend. That would keep the wolf from the door for another couple of weeks, but beyond that the outlook was bleak.
The phone rang in the front parlor. Jeremy fumbled among his papers for a moment, and realized with exasperation that he'd left the cordless phone upstairs in the murder room. That was one thing to be said for non-cordless phones; at least you always knew where they were. He heard his wife's footsteps on the old polished oak flooring, heading for the phone in the parlor, and went back to musing over their finances. Lucky Pierre stepped over onto to his lap and began kneading his thighs.
Linda's voice floated along the hall and through the open office door. "Of course we can! It wouldn't be any trouble at all."
Jeremy winced. That did not sound good. Things which were passed off as no trouble often turned out to be a royal pain in the behind.
"Why don't you just bring him over here? I think it would be easier."
Bring who ... whom ... over here? Jeremy wondered. A slavering pit bull? A landscape-eating goat? Someone's attention-deficit nephew who'd just been expelled from secondary school?
"I don't think so," his wife went on cheerfully. "We've got plenty of room and they can stay out of each other's way. We can keep him locked up in a spare room if there's any trouble."
And probably have the welfare people on our necks for child abuse, Jeremy thought to himself.
"Wonderful!" Linda said. "We'll see you in a little while then." Jeremy heard the click-click-click of her heels on the floor and a moment later she showed up at the office door.
Jeremy looked around at her, eyebrows raised questioningly. She was petite and just past her twenty-fifth birthday, with curly blonde hair and a figure that had curves in all the right places. Her eyes were hazel, her nose had an upward tilt, and her face was just a little too square to be called beautiful. Jeremy thought she looked absolutely perfect.
"What was all that about?" he asked.
"That was Mark Stoddard. The police department is sending him off to Sacramento for a week-long training session on DNA preservation at crime scenes, and he wanted to ask if we'd feed his cat while he's gone. Felicity usually does it, but she's in Los Angeles because of some family emergency."
"So you suggested that he bring his purry pal over here."
"I think that's better than driving over once or twice a day to be sure that Pawnee isn't dying of boredom and shredding the curtains to get even."
Jeremy grimaced, although he was relieved that the household addition was merely another feline and not some juvenile delinquent with a bad attitude and non-existent table manners. "What is Pierre going to think about that? I've met Pawnee. He's bull-necked, bowlegged, and built like a weight-lifter! Didn't Mark say that he weighs nineteen pounds?"
"So now he's a consultant?" Jeremy said with a snicker.
"...and he's an old softy!" Linda said, whapping her husband lightly on the arm. "Just like Pierre!" She walked the rest of the way into the study, dropped a kiss on top of Jeremy's dark-haired head, and scratched the back of Pierre's neck. "Aren't you, sweety-pie kittykins!"
"I hope you meant that for Pierre and not me."
"I did. You're my brave and bold knight errant. He's a kittykins."
"It depends on your point of view," Jeremy said judiciously, as Pierre jumped lightly down off of his lap and began wreathing around Linda's ankles. "If you happen to be a small rodent, Pierre is a terrifying, ravening, monster from hell. Remember the time he tried to give a dead mouse to that nervous woman from Philadelphia?"
Linda chortled. "And her a member of some animal rescue league besides! Don't worry so much, Pierre and Pawnee will be just like brothers in no time!"
Jeremy, who knew all about sibling rivalry, did his best to shake off a sense of foreboding. "I hope he's going to be okay with that party of spook hunters. We've got the nine of them checking in tonight, and they'll be here through the weekend, remember?"
"Ghost hunters all adore cats," Linda said. "Cats are supposed to be especially attuned to the spiritual plane, or something like that."
"Well, that's what the occult enthusiasts say!" She leaned over his shoulder to peer at the computer screen. "How does it look?"
"Not very good, but with this new group coming in I think we'll squeak through for the month."
"Maybe we shouldn't have bought all of those books and things."
"Honey, that was a drop in the bucket, and they do spruce up the ghost room, so don't worry about it."
"What do you think the new group will be like?" she asked.
"The ghostie groupies? Who knows? Who cares? They can be eccentric as all get-out as long as they pay their bills and don't scribble on the walls."
"Oh, come on! Guess!"
"Okay, there will be an emotional one who'll sob over any evidence of the afterlife, a couple of serious intellectual types with meters and infrared cameras, and at least one who's writing a book about hauntings and will promise to give us a separate chapter."
"I hope he'll let us put in an advertisement for the bed and breakfast. What about the medium?"
"Channeler, please!" Jeremy admonished her gently. "Mediums-no stale jokes, please-are old fashioned these days. The up-to-date ones channel spirits."
"Makes them sound like long distance swimmers," Linda said with a derisive sniff, "or rum runners."
"Maybe they can call up Gertrude Ederle."
Linda's eyes twinkled. "How about Esther Williams and a ghostly water ballet!"
"Not bad," Jeremy conceded. "If they play their tarot cards right, they might be able to get the spirit of Busby Berkeley to do the choreography."
"But really now, Jer, do you think we're going to get a plump, motherly, sort of channeler, with rosy cheeks and lots of bright colored fringy shawls, or will she be thin and bony, dressed all in gray veils and looking starved?"
"You're already assuming it's going to be some woman."
"Aren't they, usually? All the movies and books that I've read have women doing that table-tipping Ouija stuff, not men."
"That's because men aren't as good as putting on an act."
Jeremy shrugged. "Okay, I'll bet you loading the dishwasher for the rest of the week that we get the motherly kind. She'll whitter on and on about doing a service by putting people in touch with their departed loved ones."
"It's a bet!"