I have no idea how these things happen to me.
I mean, seriously. Here I am, minding my own business, home for the first time in nearly a year for my grandmother’s funeral, and all of a sudden I’m tasked with saving my grandfather’s house from a conniving, chauvinistic turd of a man. As if that weren’t bad enough, when said turd gets himself dead, it opens up a whole world of problems—for all of us.
My name is Maddie James, and home is Daybreak Island, Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful island, and I’m so blessed to have grown up here. Over the years, more and more people realized how beautiful it was, and now it’s crammed to the gills with tourists all summer long. But there are worse problems to have, especially since the tourists spend a lot of money here. A savvy businessperson can work for four months of the year and make his or her living, if they’re good with money the remainder of the time.
But like a lot of island kids, I thought it was too small for me. I left for college in New York, then headed west. I never thought I’d be back for any length of time. Two weeks max to see to the funeral and spend some time with Grandpa Leo, the love of my life, and make sure he was doing okay before returning to my sunny life in San Francisco, where I owned a juice bar.
The best laid plans, right? Instead, I’m heading into week three with no end in sight, on my way to Bean for coffee and to meet my high-school-boyfriend-turned-cop Craig Tomlin, hoping to pick his brain about why the department was harassing my grandfather—the former police chief!—about Frank O’Malley’s murder.
Sure, my grandfather had every right to want to see Frank gone. As head of the island Chamber of Commerce, Frank considered himself the unofficial head of tourism—and king of everything related. Frank was intent on getting Grandpa’s property to be the site of a transportation center, which meant taking his house and using unsavory tactics to do so. But seriously? My grandpa had spent his life protecting this island and its people, so just the thought of him killing someone was ludicrous. Even though Frank had it coming, I have to say.
My best friend Becky, the editor of the Daybreak Island Chronicle, says the police are just bluffing. But I get the sense she’s worried too, even though she won’t admit it to me. It was all so crazy. Grandpa doesn’t need any of this now. He’s just lost his best friend in the world, and now he has to worry about losing his house and being a murder suspect?
I was happy to have my new friend, JJ the cat, with me to take some of the stress away. He walked so well on his harness, you’d have thought he’d been born wearing one. But really, he’d appeared from behind a tree at my grandmother’s grave last week, and decided to come home with me. I don’t think people around here are used to seeing cats on harnesses; we’re getting some funny looks as we walk through town. But I don’t care. He’s my pal.
I paused outside Bean, my eyes scanning the patrons sitting at tables for Craig. There he was, by himself, intent on something he read on his phone. He hadn’t seen me yet. I used the time to do a quick breathing exercise my guru, Cass, had taught me years ago, hoping to approach this conversation calmly.
Then I heard someone say my name.
I opened my eyes to find Lucas, the hot dog groomer and new boy in town, smiling at me. All thoughts of calm flew out of my head.
“Hey,” I said, glancing nervously inside at Craig again. He still hadn’t noticed me.
“It’s good to see you again. Want to grab a cup of coffee?” Lucas asked.
At that moment I wished fervently for the whole Frank mess to vanish so I could say yes and sit down with this hot guy and have a conversation about nothing important. But the timing was terrible.
“I wish I could,” I said. “Really. But I’m meeting someone here.”
Craig noticed me just then. I could feel his eyes boring into us through the glass and shifted uncomfortably. Lucas noticed too, and the smile dimmed a bit.
“Oh. Sure. No problem,” he said. “I’ll see you around.” He started to walk away.
He turned. “Yeah?”
I smiled weakly. “Another time?”
He nodded. “Sure.”
I watched him go, cursing the universe for not being on my side, then went in to deal with Craig.
You can read more about Maddie in Cat About Town, the first book in the NEW “Cat Café” mystery series.
The first novel in a frisky new mystery series set in a small New England town, where an unlikely citizen is called in to solve the purrfect crime. . .
Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own business―and maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat café. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the loose―and on her path?
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About the author
Liz Mugavero writes the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the first of which was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. The sixth book in the series, Purring Around the Christmas Tree, is out in October of this year. As Cate Conte, Liz also writes the Cat Cafe Mysteries, the first of which, Cat About Town, was released August 1. She lives in Connecticut with her rescue pals.
All comments are welcomed.