"Wilma's in danger!
You think I'm going to sit here polishing my claws?"
When she first hears the news that convict Cage Jones has escaped from prison, Dulcie's fur stands on end. She knows he's after her human companion, Wilma, whom he blames for his stint in jail. She tries to enlist the help of her friend Joe Grey, but the tomcat's got his paws full investigating two local murders. It's only when Wilma disappears after an afternoon shopping trip—and Cage is found lurking at her house—that Joe realizes the two crimes might be more connected than he thought. Paw in hand with the unsuspecting cops, the fantastic felines must untangle Cage's devilish agenda and snare a killer if they ever want to curl up with their friend again and bring peace to their seaside village.
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Cat Pay the DevilA Joe Grey Mystery
By Shirley Murphy
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Shirley Murphy
All right reserved.
At the edge of the sea, the small village, even among the shadows of its lush oaks and pines, seemed smothered by the unseasonal summer heat that had baked into every stairway and crevice and shop wall. The rising coastal temperatures, mixed with high humidity from the sullen Pacific, produced a sweltering steam bath that had lasted through all of July, and was not typical for the central California coast. The scent of hot pinesap was mixed sharply with the salty stink of iodine at low tide. And from the narrow streets, the scent of suntan oil rose unpleasantly to the three cats where they sprawled on a cottage rooftop, in the ineffectual shade of a stone chimney, indolently washing their paws—avoiding the crush of tourists' feet and the scorching sidewalks, which felt like a giant griddle; if a cat stood for a moment on the concrete, he'd come away with blistered paws—Joe Grey's white paws felt blistered. The gray tomcat sprawled, limp, across the shingles, his white belly turned up to the nonexistent breeze as he tried to imagine cool sea winds.
Near Joe, the long-haired tortoiseshell lifted her head occasionally to lick one mottled black-and-brown paw. Kit had the longest coat of the three, so she was sure she suffered themost. Only dark tabby Dulcie was up and moving, irritably pacing. Joe watched her, convinced she was fretting for no reason.
But you couldn't tell Dulcie anything; she'd worked herself into a state over her housemate and nothing he could say seemed to help.
Below them on the narrow streets, the din of strangers' voices- reached them, and the shrill laughter of a group of children. Tourists wandered by the dozens, dressed in shorts and sandals, lapping up ice cream and slipping into small shops looking for a breath of cooler air; the restaurant patios were crowded with visitors enjoying iced drinks, their leashed dogs panting beneath the tables. Strangers stared in through the windows of shaded cottages that were tucked among bright gardens, into shadowed sitting rooms and bedrooms that looked cool and inviting. Lazily- Joe rose to peer over at a pair of loud-voiced, sweating joggers heading for the beach to run on the damp sand, as if they might catch up to an ocean breeze.
With a soft hush of paws, Dulcie came to stand beside him at the edge of the roof, silent and frowning, looking not at the busy streets below but up at the round hills that rose above the village—hills burnt dry now, humping against the sky as brown as grazing beasts.
They could see nothing moving there, no human hiking the dusty trails, no rider on horseback; the deer and small wild creatures would be asleep in the shade, if they could find any shade. Even among the ruins hidden among the highest slopes, the feral cats would be holed up in cool caverns beneath the fallen walls. For a long time Dulcie stood looking in that direction, her peach-tinted ears sharply forward, her head tilted in a puzzled frown.
"What?" Joe said, watching her.
"I don't know." She turned to look at him, her green eyes wide and perplexed. "I feel like . . . As if they're thinking of us." She blinked and lashed her tail. "As if Willow is thinking of us, as if she knows how I feel." She narrowed her green eyes at him, but then she rubbed against his shoulder, brushing her whiskers against his. "I guess that makes no sense; maybe it's the heat."
Joe didn't answer. He knew she was upset—and females were prone to fancies. Who knew what two females together, even at such a distance, could conjure between them? Maybe both Dulcie and the pale calico had that fey quality humans found so mysterious in the feline. Maybe their wild, feral friend, with her unusual talents of perception and speech that matched their own, maybe she did indeed sense that Dulcie was worried and fretting. Who knew what Willow was capable of?
But Dulcie was worrying over nothing, as far as Joe could see. Dulcie's human housemate had gone off before, for the weekend, driving up the coast to the city, and Dulcie had never fretted as she did now.
Now, Dulcie thought she had reason, and Joe looked at her intently. "Prisoners have escaped from jail before, Dulcie. That, and the fact that Wilma is later than she promised, does not add up to disaster. You're building a mountain out of pebbles."
Dulcie turned, hissing at him. "Cage Jones better keep away from her. Wilma's done with supervising him and too many bad-ass convicts like him, done with the kind of stress they dumped on her for twenty years. She doesn't need any more ugly tangles and ugly people messing up her life."
But despite what either Dulcie or Joe thought, tangles were building, complications that would indeed snare Dulcie's housemate. The scenario had started two months earlier on the East Coast, when an old man entered the continental U.S. When Greeley Urzey stepped off that plane, he set in motion events that would weave themselves into Wilma Getz's destiny as surely as a cat's paw will snarl a skein of yarn.
The old man's flight from Central America entered the States officially at Miami, where passengers would connect with other flights after lining up to go through customs inspection. Deplaning, Greeley smiled, sure of himself and cocky. He'd slip through customs clean as a whistle, as he always did, not an ounce of contraband on him, this time, for the feds to find. Even if he'd had anything tucked away, he'd have waltzed right on through slick as a greased porker, always had, always would, he'd never yet got caught. And, he thought, smiling, there were better ways to bring what he wanted into the States.
He'd gotten most of it through over a period of years, tucked in among household furnishings in them big metal overseas containers. Them feds couldn't search everything.
Excerpted from Cat Pay the Devil by Shirley Murphy Copyright © 2007 by Shirley Murphy. Excerpted by permission.
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