Friday, March 20, 2015

Find the Clover, Win a Prize!

Meow Mayhem
Lisa Lickel

Cozy Mystery
January 2013

Ivy Preston keeps other people’s secrets for a living. When a small town mayor invites Ivy Preston and True Thompson to move their businesses to Apple Grove, can their love survive the sudden rise in crime?

After being left at the altar, Ivy Amanda McTeague Preston uproots herself and her cat, an Egyptian Mau named Memnet, from her boring and lonely life to start over at the urging of Mayor Conklin, a fellow pedigreed Mau owner. Truesdale Thompson is ready to move in a fresh direction with his life. A private man whose physical wounds are the only outward sign of a tragic accident in his past, True and his cat, Isis, open a branch of his trendy little bookstore and coffee shop in Apple Grove. When Ivy takes a mysterious message while the mayor is away on business, only Ivy’s criminology professor mom and True believe there’s something rotten in Apple Grove. Can Ivy carry on her romance with True while saving the town from further Mayhem?


***SOMEWHERE ON MY WEBSITE: IS A PICTURE WITH A CAT ON A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER. Finders, e-mail me with the location BY 9 PM EASTERN STANDARD TIME FRIDAY MARCH 20 2015, and I'll enter you in a drawing for a $10 Amazon Gift Card to be made public on Saturday March 21, 2015.

ISBN-13: 978-1-936167-84-5
Print: 12.95
Ebook: 3.99

My next hint that something was wrong was that Donald’s secretary, Marion Green, was not at her usual post. If the mayor’s office was open for business, Marion at least should be here, even if she supposedly had the week off. Donald joked that she was the one who really ran the town. The stern-looking black-haired woman who infringed on Marion’s space made me wait fifteen minutes. Donald usually came out of his office when he heard my voice. The light was on; I could see it shining under his door. I suppose Margaret—Mrs. Bader-Conklin—could have been making an urgent call.
I heard a distinct sneeze from inside the office. Then the tap of high heels.

Why had I waited so long before getting concerned enough about Donald to call the police? Final registration for CAT was in two days. Donald never missed. He hadn’t registered yet—I checked. And he told me before he left town that it was the one thing he looked forward to all summer. He could take his cat, Tut, out of his wife’s hair for a while, and since she claimed she was allergic to animals she didn’t insist on coming along. He never said anything negative, but I got the impression the vacation was a three-way blessing between him, his wife, and Tut.

A woman opened the door to the mayor’s office. I recognized her from a photo that Donald had showed me: Margaret. She studied me over half-glasses perched on a razor-thin nose, Joan Crawford eyebrows raised toward her curled-under bangs. I shivered.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Preston. Please.” She gestured to me to follow her. And then she invited me to sit in the ugly straight-back chair on the opposite side of Donald’s desk instead of the comfy one in front of the computer. Donald had never done that.

I warily started a conversation. “I hope Marion isn’t sick.”

“I gave Mrs. Green the week off. My personal assistant is with me.” The wife of the mayor of Apple Grove leaned back in her husband’s leather chair. “Now, what can I do for you, Miss…Preston?”

I swallowed hard. “Uh, well, Don-the mayor asked me to take messages, as he was going to be out of the office all week. I wondered…if you’ve heard from him?” Dang, I tried hard not to squeak with nerves at the end. I couldn’t help it, yet instinct told me that I must not show fear. I hoped she wouldn’t get the wrong impression.

“May I know the nature of your business with the mayor?”

No wonder Donald needed an annual break from this woman. Did she act like such an iceberg at home, too? Margaret sneezed again and took out a dainty laced handkerchief. “Something in the air,” she muttered, sniffling. “You must have a cat or a dog at home. I’m allergic.”

“Oh?” I said, stopping before I mentioned I already knew that. Wrong impressions, and all.
“I recall Donald speaking of you,” she said. “From that little group he goes to, right? So, did you?”
“Did I what?”

“Bring the messages you’ve been supposedly taking.”

“Sorry.” I handed over eight yellow and green carbons. I kept the pink copies locked in a safe for three months, per contractual agreement. “Mrs. Lendler wants her neighbor’s box elder tree cut down as a public menace because of the bugs—”

“Thank you. I can read. Was there anything else?”

“So, am I still on the job for the rest of the week? And Don—the mayor—will be back on Saturday? He’s all right?”

“Of course he’s all right. Why wouldn’t he be? Letty can handle business.”

Letty must be the battleaxe up front. Margaret stood and I had to follow suit. She was taller than me. I supposed if I had on heels instead of tennies, I could have looked at her nose instead of her chin. She had three black hairs sprouting under her makeup. I pressed my lips tight to hold in the grin while she turned to open the door to her office.

“How’s Tut these days?” I asked, testing her out on a whim.

“Tut? Oh—fine, just fine.”

Mmhmm. “Mem’s just fine, too.”
“Mem? Memo? I don’t underst—” She looked over my shoulder. “Oh, ah, good to know. Excuse me while I, ah….”

I followed her line of sight to see Letty in the doorway, frowning, while her left hand came to rest on her folded elbow. We locked brown-eyed stares. Her irises had weird little gold flecks in them. She blinked first. She went back to her desk.

“I’ll be glad to care for Tut,” I said, a bit giddy with my victory in the stare down, “since you’re allergic and all, while the mayor’s away. Our cats get along swell.”

She bit the corner of her lip, just for an instant, but enough to give me the feeling that something was amiss.

“Tut’s all right, isn’t he? Or is he with Donald?”

She frowned when I said ‘Donald.’ Oops. “I mean, the mayor.”

She pushed forward, forcing me to move to the door. “Of course. If you’ll excuse me, we have a great deal of work. Good-bye, now. Take care.”

I nodded to Letty on my way out. I got turned around in the maze of staircases and hallways and ended up leaving city hall by the back door. In my muse I had to dodge a dark-colored delivery van squealing right up to the back door before I found the walk that went around to the side parking lot where I had left my car. What on earth would Mrs. Bader-Conklin do in her husband’s office?

How I got home, I’m not sure. I don’t think I ran into anyone on the way. I paced my tiny kitchen, three steps forward and back, as the evening wore on, deciding how much further to get involved in this business.

Judging by the officer’s response to my initial phone call, I wondered if I would ever rate any respect for my theory that the mayor needed help. I only hoped it would not be too late for Donald. I needed to find a better way to explain my dilemma to the police if I felt like I had to call again.

I could talk to someone else. Of course! Someone else. True! He’d know what to do. How could I have forgotten Truesdale Thompson, Donald’s other pet project. Grin. True moved to Apple Grove not long after I did. Mea Cuppa, his little bookshop and fancy coffee joint, needed more prep time than my machines, so he only recently opened. I spent my odd hours helping him sort merchandise and stock shelves.

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