By Saturday Thistle still hadn’t gotten over missing the funeral and Kyle’s impromptu proposal to the corpse. He had related the story on his blog of course, but it wasn’t the same thing as being there and getting all of the juicy details. Still, he hoped this would win him an award of some sort. People liked hearing gossip about ordinary people. The celebrity gossip blogs had nothing on Thistledown Copperbottom.
Tabitha was not painting that day. She was dressed up in a skirt and heels and kept pacing around the house, sitting down on the couch and trying to watch TV, getting up again a few moments later. Fritz followed at her heels every time she got up, and would lay down next to her when she sat down again.
“I can’t take it anymore!” Thistle said finally, as Tabitha returned from walking around the kitchen.
“Why are you pacing?”
Tabitha blushed. “Danny said he might come over. He wanted to go over his mom’s house, but its nearly two and--” With that the doorbell rang and she jumped, nearly falling over in her high shoes.
“You’re pathetic,” Thistle told her, and she hushed him as she opened the door.
Danny was indeed at the door when she answered, holding a large flower arrangement. “Hi,” he said. “Don’t get too excited. They’re funeral flowers. My apartment is full of these things.”
“They’re still beautiful,” Tabitha assured, and Thistle wondered if he could manage to throw up a hairball on her shoes at that very minute. She put them on the fireplace mantle behind the TV and glanced at Thistle. He wanted so badly to say something, and he knew that if he did, she’d deserve it. Bouncing around with this Danny character behind Caleb’s back. Thistle had no concept of infidelity of course, as related to himself--cats didn’t care. But he was fully aware that humans found it to nearly be a crime. He didn’t like to put Tabitha in his blog very often. But if she was going to do something this stupid, he had little choice.
Tabitha felt a nervous buzzing in her chest as she walked with Danny across her yard towards Janine’s. The grass hadn’t been mowed since the day before she died and it was getting scraggly. Mrs. Garret was probably having fits.
“So we’re going to go through Janine’s stuff?” she asked.
“It has to be done sooner or later,” Danny said. “I prefer sooner, myself.”
She hadn’t been in the house since the murder. There was still blood on the carpet in the living room. She tried not to look at it, instead focusing on the task at hand. Janine’s furniture was all nice, but nor really Tabitha’s taste. It was modern and new, while she preferred old stuff from flea markets. Janine didn’t decorate in pictures of her family, like most people (even Tabitha, who avoided going home as much as she could, kept a few snapshots). Instead she had art on the walls, mostly framed prints, in the bold colors of red, purple and royal blue that she loved so much. Danny wandered into the kitchen and came back with a box of garbage bags. “Mostly I thought we’d do the upstairs today, and I want to clean out the fridge. There’s stuff starting to grow in there.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Thank you for helping me yet again,“ he said. He was standing close enough to her that she could feel his body heat. The nervous buzzing she’d been feeling melted into a different, more pleasant type of buzz.
“Really, it’s not a big deal. We‘re friends.” She stepped back.
“Friends, huh? What kind of friends?” She knew he was going to kiss her, could tell by the way his eyes burned. She didn’t give him the chance and hurried upstairs.
She had never been upstairs in Janine’s house. Janine had three bedrooms to Tabitha’s two, and a huge bathroom. Janine had replaced the old claw foot tub like Tabitha’s with a new whirlpool, and even though Tabitha loved her tub she was instantly jealous. “Mom liked luxury,” Danny said with an edge in his voice. “Check this out.” He pulled Tabitha into the bedroom. The queen sized bed was unmade and there were dirty clothes strewn about, but Danny steered Tabitha towards the closet and she could see what he meant. The back wall had been knocked out and now opened up into the smallest of the bedrooms. She had turned the entire room into a closet, including a wall of shoes going up to the ceiling.
“Look at all the shoes,” Tabitha breathed, eyes wide. Janine had shoes in every color and style imaginable. Tabitha knew they were all expensive--Janine used to criticize her Discount Shoe Shack footwear.
“If they fit, you can have them,” Danny said, a small smile playing on his face.
“Really?” she breathed.
“You can have anything you want. It’s just going to Goodwill otherwise.”
Tabitha felt a little guilty about the greed welling up inside her, but it was easily stamped down. She picked up a pair of alligator skin pumps and, kicking off her own shoes, slipped them on. They fit her perfectly.
Suddenly the chore was no longer a chore. Even though Janine was shorter than Tabitha they both wore a size eight, so she knew most of the clothes would fit her. “I feel like I’m taking advantage,” Tabitha said as she shook open a second garbage bag for herself. The Goodwill bag was only half-full.
“I kind of enjoy watching you get excited,” Danny said. “Even though I don’t see the appeal.” Danny’s idea of fashion, Tabitha had learned, was a black t-shirt with something written on it, and a pair of jeans. He’d worn the same shoes every time they’d met.
“Clothes are like art,” she explained. “I like being a walking masterpiece and expressing myself.”
“I won’t complain. That dress you wore on Wednesday--wow.”
“Caleb didn’t think it was appropriate.”
“Caleb is an ass,” Danny insisted. “When are you going to dump him?”
“Soon,” she said, her nervous feeling coming back. She felt Danny’s hand on her waist and he spun her around.
“Why don’t you break up with him right now, and just not tell him about it until later?”
“Thistle, I wanna go,” Fritz whined. “It’s my house and I wanna go!”
Thistle peered out the window. He couldn’t see what was going on in the house, but it looked like they might have left the front door slightly ajar. “Okay then,” he said. “Let’s go.” He led Fritz around to the back and slipped through the cat door easily. Fritz followed. He was a small dog, but not tiny.
“My butt is stuck,” Fritz cried out, wiggling.
“If your head fit, the rest of you can fit,” Thistle said knowingly.
It took Fritz a long time to get through the door, but soon they were slipping between the houses and hopping up onto Janine’s porch. Thistle was right, they hadn’t shut the door all the way. Fritz shoved his nose into the door and pushed.
The room just smelled like dried blood to Thistle, but Fritz sighed happily. “Janine,” he said.
“Do you smell the alive her, or the dead her?” Thistle asked as Fritz circled the room with his nose to the carpet.
“My Janine,” Fritz said again, ignoring his friend’s insensitive comments.
Thistle wondered where Tabitha and Danny had gotten to when he heard giggling from upstairs. “That can’t be good,” he said, but Fritz barked at him before he could get more than half-way up the stairs. “Not now Fritz.”
“Something’s wrong,” Fritz said.
“Yeah, I know.” He glanced up the stairwell. “They’re doing it, I know it. I can feel it in my whiskers.” He shook his head. “She’s forcing me to do a blog on her.”
“No no no. Really wrong, Thistle. Wrong. The smells don’t add up.” Thistle finally gave Fritz his full attention as the little dog continued to sniff around the room, following a scent into the kitchen and back over to the stairs. “I think—I think its bad.”
“What! What’s bad?” Thistle sniffed around where Fritz was standing. He could only smell Tabitha and Danny.
“I can smell Janine all over,” Fritz said with a low whine. “There are other people smells, not from this week. Police smells. And it smells like Tabitha over here—“ he buried his nose in the carpet at the foot of the stairs. “And over here.” He trotted over to the dining room, where Tabitha had taken the phone from Janine’s purse.
“Over here is old. Days old.”
“Right. Tabitha found the body, remember?”
Fritz ignored him and rushed over to where the carpet was stained with blood. “I—I can smell Danny here. He was here a week ago.”
Danny shouldn’t have been there, Thistle knew immediately. “The son! I knew it was the son! But why?”
“Danny hated my Janine,” Fritz said with a small growl. “She was very nice to his best friend in high school, whatever that means, and he’s never forgiven her.”
Thistle had to hold back the urge to hit Fritz, claws outstretched. “Why didn’t you say so before? That’s motive, Fritz!”
There was a thump upstairs. “She has to know he did it,” Thistle said. “She can’t do 'it' with a murderer.”
“What’s 'it'?” Fritz asked, following him upstairs. “He was there the night Janine died. He did it, didn’t he?”
“Yes. It was Danny.”
Janine’s bedroom door was shut, and Thistle could hear lovemaking noises from the other side. He wanted to yell and shout, but Danny couldn’t find out his secret, so he meowed at the top of his lungs. Fritz caught on immediately and started barking.
Tabitha forgot about Caleb entirely when Danny pulled her over to Janine’s bed and they fell into it together. This is so wrong, she thought, but only because they were in a dead woman’s bed. Her boyfriend was so far from her mind. As they struggled out of their clothes she started having wild fantasies about dating Danny, maybe even settling down permanently and having a few kids that wore black t-shirts and glasses.
Danny was fumbling with the button on his jeans when a racket came up on the other side of the door--first meowing and then furious barking. “What the hell is that?” Danny asked, distracted.
Tabitha’s heart sank. Thistledown was up to something, and ruining her plans. As the meows and barks became even more frantic she knew she couldn’t ignore them. “Those would be my animals,” she said, pushing him off her and reaching for her shirt.
“What a mood killer,” Danny said. “Take them back to your house and come back.”
“Okay,” she said.
She opened the door and immediately caught Fritz as he launched himself into the room. “What the hell is going on?” she demanded, scooping up Thistle in the other arm and carrying them down the hall. Thistle stopped meowing immediately, but Fritz continued as they went down the stairs.
“He did it,” Thistle whispered to her, wiggling out of her grasp and climbing up on her shoulders so she could grip Fritz more firmly. “It was Danny. He killed his mother.”
Tabitha nearly dropped Fritz. “No. It was Sylvia and Zach. I thought we’d decided.”
“We were wrong.”
Tabitha picked up her pace and left the house, crossing to her own yard and shifting Fritz to get the door open. With Fritz barking it was hard to concentrate. She had to be misunderstanding something. Like the part where her future murdered his own mother. “Thistle,” she said, “just because you don’t like me seeing Danny doesn’t mean you can tell lies about him.” Denial was so much easier.
“Fritz can smell him in the house. He was there the night she was killed. He hates her for shtupping his best friend in high school. You told me yourself how he didn’t like the way she treated his father!”
Tabitha dropped Fritz on the couch and pulled Thistle off her back so she could see him. “It’s not him. It can’t be.”
“I’m sorry,” he told her, and it was only then that she believed him, because Thistle was rarely sorry about anything.
This chapter ended up covering more than I had originally planned, so we might be finished in 9 chapters instead of ten. I'm not sure yet.
Thrantor: DES has been cut down into 3 shorter books instead of one long one. The one I just finished is about David and Heather, so Sprite's personal issues are pretty much out. The second book will be about Katy and Lex, and the third book will be about Sprite and Gabby. The fourth book is about David's vampire friend Millie and her brother Sam. I think the series will end after that.
Fiona: Are you sure you want your cats to talk? I certainly wouldn't. Thistle has shorter hair, like Morris the 9 Lives cat.
Arielle: I believe you guessed the murderer a couple chapters ago. Gold star!