Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm moving the updates to Wednesdays to better utilize the internet, and because I went slightly crazy this weekend.

Anyone want a cat?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ch. 3: In which Mr. Daws Dies

Tabitha was surprised to find her office light still off when she got into work the next morning, and even more surprised to see a light shining under Mr. Daws’ door. He always beat her to the office and he always had the light on when she came in. She set down her purse at her desk and knocked on his door. “Mr. Daws?” she called when he didn’t answer. “Hello?”

She felt a prickle of fear shoot through her. He just forgot to turn off his light and is having a late start, she told herself, knowing that the words ‘forget’ and ‘late’ were not in the man’s vocabulary.

Opening the door Tabitha bit back a scream. Mr. Daws was slumped over in his chair, forehead down on his notes, pen still grasped in his hand. She found her legs weak as she crossed the room. “Mr. Daws,” she whispered, and touched his hand. It was cold and stiff. He was dead.

Tabitha staggered backwards, the phrase ‘not again’ echoing in her mind. What were the chances of walking in on dead people twice in one year? She managed to make it back to her desk and reached for the phone only to pause, not knowing who to call first. Ambulance, police? Mr. Daws Jr.?

Eventually she decided on the latter and dialed his extension. His secretary, Susan, answered. “This is Tabitha,” she said. “I need to speak to Mr. Daws right now.”

“He’s with a client.”

“The--the other Mr. Daws is dead.”

Susan went silent on the other side of the line. “Are you sure?” she said finally.

“Quite sure.”

“I’ll send him right over.”

“Thank you.” Tabitha hung up the phone and started pacing the office. It wasn’t long before Mr. Daws Jr. was in the office, asking her what the hell had happened. “I’m sorry,” she said, and opened the door to his father’s office for him.

Adam Daws was still next to her, staring at his father’s body. Tabitha stood silent and awkward a few paces behind him. “Call Vanessa,” he said. “And my mother--don’t tell her what happened if you can avoid it. And Dr. Rosenberg. His number should be in my father’s files.” It was. Tabitha remembered typing his information when she transferred Mr. Daws’ Rolodex to the computer.

Tabitha called the doctor first, since it seemed like the most straightforward call. She explained exactly what happened and he promised he would be over as soon as possible. Tabitha apparently caught Vanessa just as she was walking in the door, late. “What?” Vanessa snapped. “I have a billion things to do today--dammit!” Tabitha heard the slither-crash of papers falling across the floor. “Lawrence!” She yelled his name into the phone and Tabitha had to hold it away from her ear.

“I’m sorry Vanessa,” Tabitha said, being patient because of the situation. “Your grandfather--he passed away last night. At his desk.” There was silence at the other end of the phone. “Vanessa?”

“Well, that’s the way the bastard would have wanted to go,” she said, her voice more subdued. “I’m coming.”

Vanessa entered the office while Tabitha was steeling herself to call Mrs. Daws. “Your dad is already in there,” Tabitha said. “Do you want to call your grandmother?”

“Not really.”

Tabitha took a deep breath and dialed. “Hello?”

“Mrs. Daws?”

“Who is this?”

“Tabitha Silverstein, you husband’s sec--”

She was cut off when Mrs. Daws started screaming into the phone. “You little whore--I knew that’s where he was! Fifty-three years with the man, and this is what I get? It’s been one secretary after another since 1959. You are not special, missy. You’re one in a line of many.”

“Mrs. Daws,” Tabitha said, aghast. “I wasn’t having an affair with your husband.”

“Is that so? Then where the hell was he last night? Working late? Ha. I don’t believe it. I’ve kept every hotel recept, every credit card statement. I have evidence, Mr. Lawyer. This is the very last straw. I want a divorce!”

“Ma’am,” she said, head reeling with the accusations. “I’m so sorry. But your husband is dead.”

Mrs. Daws finally went silent on the other end of the phone, and Tabitha immediately worried that she had messed up. But she could hardly let the woman keep screaming at her for something she would never do. “Dead?” Mrs. Daws whispered, and hung up.

Tabitha tried to call her back but she refused to pick up and Tabitha wondered if maybe Adam Daws should try calling his mother. Tabitha entered her boss’s office. Mr. Daws Jr. had pulled another chair around to his father’s side of the desk. He had adjusted his father so he was upright in the chair, leaning back with his eyes closed. Adam Daws had his head down and he was holding his father’s hand. Vanessa was prowling the office, eying the furnishings, the big beautiful antique desk.

It occurred to Tabitha that now that her grandfather was gone Vanessa was sure to take his place as a partner. She was young--only twenty-eight--but Tabitha had heard Mr. Daws remark that she was almost as good as her father already. That meant that this was now Vanessa’s office, and Vanessa already had an assistant--Lawrence. What did she need Tabitha for?

With that cold thought dawning in her mind Tabitha noticed that Vanessa was holding a piece of paper that she hadn’t had when she went into the office. Vanessa smiled at Tabitha a little when she turned to see who had walked into the room. “I’m sorry to hear that you are leaving us,” she said, her voice sticky-sweet. She held up the paper and Tabitha’s stomach dropped out from under her when she saw it was her resignation letter. How had she gotten it?

“Actually, that was just supposed to be a little joke,” Tabitha said quickly. “It’s nothing.”

“Grandpa had it in his hand,” Vanessa said. “Two weeks notice, you’re no longer happy with your position in the company blah blah blah. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.”

“Later Vanessa,” her father snapped, looking up.

“Two weeks should give you just enough time to help me sort out all my grandfathers’ cases.”

“I didn’t quit,” Tabitha said.

“Come now. It’s so much less hassle if you quit than if I fired you.”


Thistle finished his blog post and jumped off the vanity to visit Fritz outside. Without Janine the blog was much more tame. I need to spice things up around here, Thistle thought as he passed through the kitchen. But how?

The Jack Russel was snapping at falling leaves, straining against his chain. It was a comfortable sixty-five degrees out, no need for the air conditioning unit that now took up a few feet of backyard space, but Thistle was immensely proud of his air conditioning and sat on the silent contraption while he visited with Fritz.

“I’ve been thinking,” Thistle said. “Now that Tabitha knows about the credit card, I can buy anything I want and send it to the house. What have you always wanted?”

“A new bone.”

“Of course you do. Cant you think a little bigger than that? What about one of those pink dog houses shaped like a castle? I can order you one.”

“I have a house,” Fritz said, referring to the ugly plastic igloo Tabitha found on Craigslist for free.

“Another dog probably died in that house,” Thistle said helpfully, and Fritz shivered.

“Do you think it’s haunted?”

“Definitely. And you know what, why stop at presents for ourselves? We can buy things for the whole neighborhood. We’ll order Kyle a geriatric hooker and send Playboy subscriptions to Mrs. Garret.”

Fritz gave him a long look. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Thistle said, going back inside. Money could do so many things….


Tabitha couldn’t stay in the room with Mr. Daws dead and Vanessa firing her. She collapsed at her desk, and, not knowing what else to do, tried to call Mrs. Daws again. The woman might have had a heart attack or something.

Tabitha felt the tears start to slide down her face and soon she couldn’t stop them, and they turned into sobs. She put her head in her arms on top of her keyboard and cried. She didn’t even hear the door open but she heard Mrs. Daws’ voice over her, loud and solid and furious. “Poor dear,” the woman said with no pity in her voice. Tabitha looked up and saw her tight-lipped, wearing a pink velour track suit. She’d obviously left the house in a hurry. “Don’t cry over him. He didn’t love you. He was still in love with Marta.”

“I didn’t--” Tabitha managed to sputter, but Mrs. Daws went on past her into the office that was now a tomb. Tabitha couldn’t take it anymore. She gathered up her things and hurried out of the room, trying to wipe away the traces of her tears as she went down the hallway.

She was looking down at the floor and wiping her nose on her sleeve when she nearly ran into Lawrence. “Hey, watch it,” he said, catching her by the shoulders so she wouldn’t fall. She looked up at him and she saw his face brighten. “Wow, you’re really broken up about the old bastard kicking it, huh? I guess I win the office pool.”


“Tabitha, people have been talking about you and Mr. Daws for years.”

“Go to hell, Lawrence.”

Tabitha felt completely empty when she crossed the street to The Sandwich Shop. She didn’t even notice the cars honking at her, simply walked across and opened the door and leaned against the counter in front of Denise, the girl who worked mornings three days a week before going to class at noon. “Is your boss here?” Tabitha asked.

“Jerry is,” she offered. “Leticia just went to the bank for change.”

“Okay. I’ll wait.” Tabitha paced the length of the store while Denise served two people coming in for early lunches.

“Can I get you anything?” Denise said doubtfully.

“I guess a coffee would be good.”

“Are you sure caffeine is a good idea right now? How ‘bout hot chocolate?”

“Sure. Whatever.” Denise emptied an envelope of cocoa mix into a real mug and added hot water and whipped cream. She finished it off with real chocolate shavings. “Pretty,” Tabitha managed. It felt good to hold something hot and heavy in her hands, something to keep her grounded. She managed to sit down at one of the tables and sipped the cocoa. It was very good.

Leticia returned, coming in through the kitchen with a handful of ones and another of quarter rolls. Tabitha knocked over her chair when she stood up, the crash causing Leticia’s head to jerk up and notice her. “Tabitha, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tabitha giggled. It was too ridiculous, and once she started she couldn’t stop. Tears rolled down her face as she went over to the counter, leaning on it to hold herself up as the giggles evolved into out and out maniacal laughter, and Denise took a few steps back. “I’m sorry,” Tabitha managed to gasp. “I accidentally quit my job to a dead man.”

“What on earth do you mean?” Leticia handed the money off to Denise and went around to Tabitha’s side of the counter.

“Mr. Daws is dead,” Tabitha said. “I found him dead at his desk this morning. He had a heart attack or a stroke or something.” As she told the story she reached out for her sanity. Bad things had happened. There could be worse things. Could there? Mr. Daws was dead, Vanessa had more or less fired her, and the entire world thought she had been sleeping with her boss.

“My offer still stands,” Leticia told her when she finished. “Do you want to come work here?”

“I think so,” Tabitha said. “Yes, I do.”


A/N: Very sorry about the lateness. Won’t happen again. I started school yesterday and it was a little overwhelming.

Thistle and Fritz arent going to have a lot to do in this mystery (they’ll be doing a bit more in the next one though) so I think I’m just going to let them play a little bit.

So, news--Now starts my career as a cat toy artist. You can buy "I <3 Thistledown Copperbottoms Most Excellent and Refined Catnip. So if you wanna help support Thistledown, me, or my cats, but want something out of the deal, you're good to go.

(You will notice that to the left there is a tiny picture of all 15 of my cats. Ain't they cute?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ch. 2: In which Options are Considered

Thistle watched the clock on the wall, willing the hands to slow down. As a talking cat he could only do so much--he still needed Tabitha to answer the door and hand over the credit card, and she was late. The air conditioner guy was supposed to show at six.

Tabitha walked through the door at ten till. “Finally,” Thistle remarked as she shut the door and dropped her purse. She kicked off Janine’s shoes and collapsed onto the couch. “I can’t deal with you today, Thistle,” she groaned. “I hate Mr. Daws. And Vanessa. I wish they would just die.”

“If I had thumbs I might be able to arrange something,” Thistle said, jumping up into her lap. Sometimes it was best to be a pet and he simply sat there and let Tabitha stroke his back. He began to purr, enjoying the attention while he had it, because soon she was going to be very mad indeed. “So I’ve been thinking,” he said eventually. “How much does central air cost?”

“I already told you--if you can’t pay for it we’re not getting it.”

“Well, what if I can?”

“You have many talents, Thistle,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure making money is not one of them.”

“Actually it’s one of my better talents.” Thistle felt Tabitha’s body stiffen beneath him.

“Thistle, what have you done?” Instead of answering her he got up and pawed the computer to life. He had left his bank account balance open on the screen and Tabitha followed him over, growing very silent when she saw the balance and her name at the top of the page. “Identity theft is illegal you know,” she said finally.

“I am above the law,” he told her. “The credit card for the account is under the sofa and the central air guy is coming this afternoon. We’re getting an end-of-the-season deal. I bring in between five hundred and a thousand a month, depending on the market. But it’s your money technically. Everything is in your name.”

He waited for her to start yelling, maybe even hit him, but she did neither. “You are a truly remarkable animal, Thistledown.”

“I know,” Thistle said, thinking she was a rather remarkable human. “We should go outside and tell Fritz that we can afford to feed him. He hasn’t touched his food dish all day you know.”


On her way to work the next morning Tabitha’s mind was still reeling with the not small pile of money that Thistle had amassed, and what it meant. She had never seen a five digit number in a bank account with her name on it that didn't include a decimal. Tabitha looked across the street at The Sandwich Shop. Surely what Thistle made would be enough to cover the difference between working at Daws, Daws, and Billings, or making sandwiches for a living.

Tabitha tried to make herself laugh for even considering it, but the letter of resignation was still in her desk. Instead of deleting the file like a sane person she had even printed it out and signed it, wistfully thinking about the freedom in her hands. “It wouldn’t be freedom, not really,” she said to herself as she walked into the building, turning her back onto her possible future. It was better to be financially stable than happy forty hours a week, wasn’t it?

She felt heavy as she sat down at her desk and booted up the computer. She checked the phone for messages but there were none, and once the computer was running she copied out all of Mr. Daws’ appointments for the day. He was meeting with one client in the morning and then had a big meeting with his son Adam (the other Daws in the company’s name), Vanessa, and Mr. Billings. They were in the middle of a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Lowbridge Chemicals that had all of the higher-ups on edge, and even though it was technically Adam Daws’ case everyone had a hand or foot in it.

Tabitha knocked and went into Mr. Daws’ office. He was leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed—something she had never seen him do. “Are you alright sir?” she asked, passing his schedule across his desk to him.

“Of course I am,” he said, wincing as he leaned forward to reach for the paper. “Just send my first appointment straight in when they get here.” He looked older that morning, and she wondered if everything was okay.

“Yes sir.”

At ten she showed his client in, checked both her and Mr. Daws’ emails, answered a half dozen phone calls. The client left, and Mr. Daws had been uncommonly quiet, but when she checked on him before going to lunch he was sitting up as straight as ever, working. “Tabitha,” he said. “I think I want soup for lunch today.”

“Soup?” He had never, in four years, deviated from his tuna salad regimen.

“Yes. Can that sandwich store make a decent cup of soup?”

“Of course,” she answered. Jerry could cook anything. “They always have chicken noodle or chili, and I think the Tuesday soup is minestrone or French onion.”

“If they don't have French onion, chicken is fine,” he said. She noticed his hand was shaking when he picked up his pen.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” She wondered if she should call his son in to check on him.

“I forgot my heart pills this morning, that’s all. I’ll be fine.”


She backed out of the room uncertainly and grabbed her purse before heading out. At The Sandwich Shop Leticia gave her an almost flirting smile when she got to the counter. “Change your mind yet?” she asked.

“Nearly,” Tabitha said. “But it’s no good. Maybe if I didn't have a mortgage, but I do. Mr. Daws would like French onion soup instead of his sandwich.”

Leticia raised her eyebrows. “I’m shocked,” she said, but turned to ladle the soup out of a big electric cauldron.

“I just want you to know that I am flattered,” Tabitha continued. “You thinking of me for this job. But you know, I don't know anything about running a restaurant.”

“Didn’t you tell me once that you worked at Taco King in college?”

“For three years,” Tabitha admitted. “But I wasn’t in charge or anything, and it was a lot different than this place. For example, it killed my soul faster than working for Mr. Daws.”

Leticia didn't laugh at her joke. “It’s no fun doing grunt work if you’re not enjoying yourself,” she agreed. “I don’t care about your lack of experience. You’re a hard worker, you never call in sick, and you stick things out. I know you’re dependable, and I like you. I won’t be going on maternity leave until spring, and I’m sure you can learn the ropes faster than that, right?”

“Of course,” Tabitha said, knowing that Leticia listing her virtues was both flattering and convincing. “There are still people better than me. You should hire one of them.”


Mr. Daws wasn’t doing any better when she got back, but he didn't seem worse either. After getting her head bitten off again for asking how he was she decided that Mr. Daws Jr and Vanessa could deal with him at their meeting. It was less than an hour away in any case.

He had just gone into his meeting when a woman walked into the outer office. She was in her sixties and looked it, but she was dressed like someone who could afford plastic surgery, wearing a well-tailored navy blue suit and smart low heels. She completely ignored Tabitha when she entered the room, crossing to Mr. Daws’ office and throwing the door open. “Ma’am?” Tabitha said, getting up.

The woman reappeared. “Where is Adam Daws?” Tabitha wasn’t sure if she was referring to Junior or Senior, but since they were in the same place…

“At a meeting. Do you have an appointment?” But the woman was already out the door and marching down the hall. Not sure what to do, Tabitha followed. Her quarry seemed to know where she was going and slammed into the big conference room with the same single-minded determination that she had used on Tabitha’s office door. Tabitha followed her in, ready to apologize for the crazy woman crashing their meeting.

“You forgot your pills, dear,” the woman said and fished out a pillbox from her purse, and passed them along to Mr. Daws. “You secretary is pretty, but very rude.”

I am not, Tabitha wanted to say from behind her, but knew it would sound petty. And she was fairly sure her looks didn't matter when it came to being Mr. Daws’ personal slave. So this was Mrs. Daws. It was the first time Tabitha had ever seen her at the office, or ever for that matter. Though she was pretty enough, Tabitha could see why Mr. Daws had had an affair with Marta. Mrs. Daws was pushy and rude…Tabitha felt a little bit of sympathy go out to her boss, especially since he looked even sicker.

“My pills,” he said. “I’ll be fine now.” It took him two tries to get the box open, and he downed a handful of various tablets and capsules without water.

“Are you taking the vitamins I bought you?” Vanessa asked him. He nodded. “You don’t eat right,” she continued. “I worry you know.”

“I am fine,” Mr. Daws said, growing annoyed. “Thank you,” he told his wife. “I’ll be along late tonight. Don’t hold dinner for me.”

“Working like you do will kill you,” Mrs. Daws snapped back, but she gave Tabitha a dirty look before stalking out of the room. Tabitha looked at the round table of people. Vanessa looked disgusted at her, Lawrence pleased. Only Adam Daws jr. was paying any attention to his father, who had his head in his hands.

“Can I get anyone anything?” Tabitha said, her voice as bright as possible, wondering what on earth the look was for. Tabitha definitely was no Marta, and they must know that. Mr. Daws might think she was a good secretary, but as a person he had nothing but contempt for her. The idea of him having an affair with her was laughable.

“An iced mocha would be wonderful,” Vanessa said, her voice as icy as her order. “A real one—no fast-food garbage.” Mr. Daws jr, and Mr. Billings took this as a cue to make drink orders as well, and even Lawrence gave her an evil grin and ordered a cappuccino.

“Coming right up,” Tabitha muttered between her teeth. Somehow she knew that fetching coffee wouldn’t be nearly as degrading if she work working in a sandwich shop. She stopped at her desk and took the letter of resignation out of the drawer. It would be so simple to set it down on Mr. Daws’ desk, walk away and never come back. She set it down next to her keyboard instead and picked up her purse out of its drawer.

Across the street she watched Leticia make up the drink order, working the shiny cappuccino machine. “Hey,” Tabitha said. “Can you show me how that thing works?”

Leticia gave her a big smile. “Sure. Get your butt back here.”


Lets see...made up a better table of contents. easier to navigate.

There were a couple donations last week. Thank you. Really and seriously.

I'm an aunt again! My neice was born on saturday, so here's a picture of me with a baby (and her brother). You can tell my family is made up of geeks--his name is Logan Xavier, hers is River Serenity.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chapter 1: In Which Tabitha has Issues

Tabitha was glad summer was over. June had gone straight to hell and July and August hadn’t been much better. After nearly sleeping with a murderer and losing her boyfriend she ended up dealing with one of the hottest summers in fifty years--with no air conditioning. Her dog Fritz spent the summer with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, while the cat, Thistledown Copperbottom, complained at the top of his lungs. “If you go another summer without putting in central air I will kill you with my bare claws,” Thistle promised one Sunday afternoon in mid-October. Things were finally cooling down, but he wasn’t done talking about it.

“Yeah, well, you pay for it--and the electric bill--and you can have it,” she replied, trying to ignore him while she worked on a painting of the old apple tree in the back yard, its leaves a swirl of color. The window was open letting in a comfortable breeze, and she was still wearing t-shirts on a regular basis. “Money is tight right now,” she continued, daubing some orange paint onto her canvas. “Money is always tight and we have an extra mouth to feed,” she couldn’t help but add. Fritz was a new addition after the death of her neighbor that summer.

At her feet Fritz was chewing on a ball, but he stopped to whimper. “He understood that,” Thistle told her.

“Sorry. But I mean it. We can’t afford air conditioning. I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford heat this winter. So you’d better hope the weather holds.” She’d told Thistle that every year for the three years she’d had him, but she wondered if she meant it this year. Everything was getting more expensive, and she hadn’t had a raise in those three years. “Maybe you’re a jinx.”

“I am no such thing,” Thistle said, getting up in a huff and stalking out of the room. Fritz got up and followed him, ball wedged in his mouth. Tabitha turned her attention to her painting. It looked like crap.

She sank down into a chair, brush hanging lose in her grip. Her brain was spiraling out of control, and the worst part was that she didn’t even know why. It wasn’t as though she couldn’t handle being single, she did it all the time. Her life had just grown as stifling as the heat of the summer, but apparently her soul couldn’t afford central air either.


“I hate being poor,” Thistle muttered as he slinked down the stairs to the living room.

“Me too,” Fritz bemoaned, following him. “Tabitha loves me, even though I eat, right?”


“Because I like eating. But I could stop, if it would make her feel better.”

“She was just saying that,” Thistle said. Tabitha’s laptop was sitting open on the vanity by the stairs and he jumped up to paw at a few buttons, bringing it to life. “Go play with your ball.”

“I loves my ball,” Fritz said, dropping it so it would bounce across the old and scarred hardwood floor.

Ignoring the cat hair all over the keyboard Thistle went to his banking site and keyed in his info. Since he was a cat he didn’t put much thought into money. It was something to play with, like a catnip mouse or Fritz’s disgusting ball. Thistle had discovered that he was very good at playing with money.

He had a Cheshire cat grin as he did an internet search then found Tabitha’s cell phone, very carefully keying in a number with his claw. “Mr. Chilly heating and cooling, how may I help you?”

“Hi,” Thistle said. “I’m interested in a price quote for a central air?”


Tabitha checked the seams of her stockings in the mirror the next morning. If she had to wear drab clothes to work, the least she could do was jazz things up. She put on a string of cultured pearls, slid her feet into a pair of retro two-toned heels, and she was down the stairs for her coffee before leaving for work in her boring black suit. “Nice shoes,” Thistle said as she opened cans of food for the animals while the coffee brewed. “Janine’s, right?”

Somehow, in all of the chaos of Danny being arrested, Tabitha had made a point of sneaking back into Janine’s house and snagging the garbage bags of clothes she had been promised. Behind Tabitha Fritz howled. “Stop it,” Tabitha told Thistle. “He’s been through enough--why do you have to bring it up?”

“He says your feet smell like her,” Thistle said, and this made Tabitha pause.

“Do they really?”

“Yes, but he finds it comforting. He likes that you wear her clothes.”

“Good.” She patted Fritz on the head and picked up his food dish. “C’mon Fritz. Out you go.” He skipped out the door easily enough and let her attach him to the dog run in the tiny back yard. Tabitha set the food down next to him and made sure he had water. Fritz couldn’t be left alone for too long without ripping things up, and Thistle promised that the little dog didn’t mind being tied up.

I never wanted a dog anymore than I wanted a cat, Tabitha thought on he way back in, but she didn’t mind, not really. She would be so lonely without them. You need to get out more, start meeting people. You need friends, Tabitha Silverstein. Not just talking animals.


Mr. Daws liked filing cabinets. He kept extensive files, about everything, in very pretty wooden cabinets with brass fittings in the outer office behind Tabitha’s desk. She was bending over to shove something into one of the bottom drawers when Mr. Daws came back from his morning meeting.

She could feel him hovering behind her. “Nice shoes,” he said to her. “Love the stockings.” Tabitha was glad she had her back to him, even if he was looking at her butt, because at least she didn’t have to hide the face she made. “Get me a cup of coffee will you?”

“Of course sir,” she said, straightening up and turning to give him a smile. He looked at her mildly behind his glasses, leaning on a cane that he didn’t really need. (After watching House on TV he had decided it made him look smart and dashing. Tabitha thought it made him look old.) “Anything else?”

“When you get my lunch, make sure they put enough mayo on my sandwich. It was a little dry on Friday.”

“Sure.” She could feel his eyes on her as she walked out of the room, and wondered at how he could be so casual in his sexism. She put up with it because she needed the job--she could deal with a lot to keep her beautiful old house.

Mr. Daws was (thankfully) back in his office when she returned. He had a computer--a top of the line, expensive laptop, but it sat closed and untouched on his massive oak desk, and he made notes on a yellow legal pad, as he had been for the last forty-five years. “Your coffee,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“Mr. Daws,” she said, thinking about central air and the heating bill, “I’ve been here a long time.”

“Yes. Who knew you would ever be able to replace poor Marta,” he said, referring to his old secretary. She’d worked for him from 1963 up to her death in 2003. Mr. Daws had gone through a lot of temps before he had found someone who could order his sandwiches perfectly and not mind him dictating every aspect of their dress.

“I was thinking, since I’ve been here for so long, and you are so happy with what I do here, maybe I could have a bit of a raise.”

“A ‘bit’ of a raise?” he questioned, not looking up from his notes. “Marta never asked for a raise.” Tabitha suspected it was because of the affair she had heard whispers about, but said nothing. “I don’t know. The quarter has already started.”

“Sir, I do think I deserve it.”

“Maybe next quarter, if your performance continues to be exemplary. And I do mean exemplary. You went home early once over the summer after all.”

“My friend died!”

“My friends die all the time,” he said, his attitude jumping from suave employer to crotchety old man. “Don’t try to get any sympathy from me there. It’s lunchtime. I’m hungry.”

It was very hard to keep her temper as she stalked out of the office and down the hall. Daws, Daws, and Billings was a large firm. They took up an entire floor of the downtown high rise, between the lawyers, assistants, secretaries, and interns. Even though Tabitha had been there for five years she hadn’t made close friends with any of the other employees. She wasn't the corporate type and had nothing in common with them. “Hi Lawrence,” she said as she passed Vanessa Daws’ assistant.

“What’s new Silverstein?” he drawled in a lazy voice.

“I just wanna kill Mr. Daws. The usual.” As soon as it was out of her mouth she regretted saying it. Death threats were not ‘exemplary performance’ she was sure, and Lawrence would tell Vanessa, who would go running to her grandfather to tattle like a little girl.

Tabitha took the elevator down to the ground floor, waving to Teddy, the security guy at the door, as she exited the building. “Stupid, stupid,” she moaned, dodging traffic as she hurried to The Sandwich Shop across the street.

The Sandwich Shop was a little slice of paradise after being cooped up in that awful office building all morning. There were tables at the window and a shining new cappuccino machine sitting on the counter like a trophy behind the cases of refrigerated salads and desserts.

Leticia was wiping down the cappuccino machine when Tabitha came in. She wasn’t ready to give in to fall, wearing a bright yellow sundress that seemed to glow against her dark chocolaty skin. She was a bright spot in Tabitha's day, always cheerful and ready to offer advice. It was like having a therapist that served food.

“Still can’t get used to it, huh?” Tabitha asked. Leticia and her husband had only owned the shop for two years and the machine was a sign things were going well.

“It’s so shiny,” Leticia insisted, turning to take her order. “The Boss’s usual,” she said, ringing up the tuna sandwich. “And anything for you?”

“A new job,” Tabitha said, trying to smile.

“I can do that,” Leticia said, looking at her with serious brown eyes. “No, really, I can. I need a second daytime person to help me out.” Aside from Leticia a tiny black-haired girl usually worked in the mornings. Apparently she had called off.

“I wish I could,” Tabitha said. At that moment Leticia’s cheerful demeanor and the shiny new cappuccino machine had a lot of draw. “I bet you would let me wear anything I want.”

“Within health codes.”

“And you wouldn’t leer at my butt every time I bent over.”

“I’d try my damnedest not to.”

“And I’d get raises?”

“Every Christmas.”

Tabitha smiled. “You have no idea how much I’d love to work at your store.”

“That makes two of us,” Leticia said. She leaned on the counter. “I can offer you management opportunities. Look, the truth of the matter is, Jerry and I are having a baby.”

“That’s wonderful!” She waved at Jerry though the window separating the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. He and Leticia made a perfect team. They would be great parents as well.

“We’ve been waiting until the store was in the black. Well, we are, and while we’re not rich, we can afford for me to take some time off.”

“Order up!” Jerry called at the window and Leticia collected Mr. Daws’s sandwich, passing it across the counter to Tabitha.

“I probably can't pay you what you make over there, but I can give you a living wage. Think about it,” she told Tabitha. “If you’re so miserable…”

“Not that miserable,” Tabitha said. “Not yet. But I'll think about it.”

Back at the office Tabitha passed Vanessa in the halls. Vanessa was a year younger than her, but she had a hard look to her face that made her seem older. She wore her honey-blond hair in a harsh chignon and tended to look at people over the tops of her glasses like they were smaller than her. She was a younger, fiercer Mr. Daws in designer suits and heels.

“You be nice to my grandpa,” she demanded when Tabitha tried to pretend she wasn’t there. “He loves you, and you should have the decency to appreciate all he does.”

“Yes ma’am,” Tabitha grumbled, saluting with the paper-wrapped sandwich.

“I mean it.” Vanessa shook a French-tipped finger at her. “I’m watching you.”

Tabitha tossed the sandwich in front of Mr. Daws and went back to her desk. She took a deep breath and opened up a new document. She was going to write a resignation letter.


Okay. First chapter of Fat Cats is up. Enjoy. I'll leave 'Cat in Cougar Country' up for a few more weeks before making it available for download only.

The donate link has been fixed. I've signed up for classes and filed my financial aid and I'm not going to have enough to cover the whole semester. I know you guys can't come up with $900, but every bit helps.

Some individual notes:

Arielle: It is very short. I planned the series to be in a novella form, between 20k and 30k per story. The idea is that once I have 3 or 4 of them done, I'll stick them together in one print volume.

Fiona: Cats are rarely nice and never as cute and fluffy as they make themselves out to be. Anyway, Thistle has a good soul, but cat's are selfish creatures.

Slammer: Character or story depth? The series will be ongoing and the characters will develop. As for the story, there might be room for improvement. I know mysteries are supposed to be plot-driven, but that might be why I dont like them. I'm trying to develop a more character-friendly series.

Thrantor: I started the series wanting the animals to be the detectives, pulling Tabitha grudgingly along. With plotting Fat Cats I know that will not be the case, but Thistle and Fritz will solve a few of the mysteries. Cat in Cougar Country was my first ever mystery. I'm going to try to do better with Fat Cats. I've been reading and watching a lot of mysteries lately (I hate them) so that hopefully will help.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chapter 9: The End of the Beginning

Tabitha felt empty as she fumbled with the locks on the front door, dialing Caleb as she walked to the back door to do the same. She wasn’t sure she could speak when he picked up. “Tabitha?” he asked when he said hello and she didn’t respond. “Are you okay?”

“No,” she said finally. “I need you to come over.”

“I can’t, I’m on duty. What’s wrong?”

“I know who killed Janine,” she said quickly. “I can’t tell you how I know, I just do. I don’t have any evidence to back me up. I just know that it was Danny. Danny killed her, and I need you to come over because he is next door waiting for me to sleep with him and I’m afraid he’s going to come looking for me when I don’t show, and he’s a freakin’ murderer.” She didn’t care what words came out of her mouth, she just needed Caleb there to arrest him or protect her, one or the other.

“You were going to sleep with him?” It was amazing how the murderer part skipped over his head.

“I’m really sorry. You have no idea how sorry. Oh my God—I made out with a murderer.”

“You made out with him.” Caleb’s voice was flat. He was either mad, or he didn’t believe what
she was saying.

“Caleb, focus!” As she spoke someone knocked at the door and she let out a scream straight into the phone.

“My God!” Caleb exclaimed.

“He’s here, Caleb please. There’s no way I can hide that I know, and that means he’ll probably kill me to try to cover it up and then I’ll be dead and who would take care of the animals, because my mother hates cats and—“

“I’m coming,” he told her, and she could hear the sound of a siren in the background. It made her feel better.

“Tabitha?” Danny called through the front window, and Tabitha felt the blood in her entire body stop flowing. All of the windows were open. There was nothing between them except some nylon screen.

Tabitha pressed herself against the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, clutching the phone. “Are you still there?” Caleb asked on the other end of the line.

“Yeah, where are you?”

“High Street. It’s going to be a few minutes. Just try to stay calm, okay?”

“Calm. Right.”

“Go away,” Tabitha heard Thistle say, and she hoped Danny’s murderous tendencies didn’t run towards talking cats.

“What was that?” Caleb asked. “Is he in the house? I thought I heard a man’s voice.”

“Tabitha, what’s going on?” Danny called. “Are you okay? Look, if you think we’re rushing
things we can just slow down—I don’t want you to get in trouble. If this Caleb guy is dangerous—“ Tabitha let loose a sharp laugh.

“I just heard you laugh,” Danny said. “Do you think this is a game? If you don’t come out I’m going to have to come through this window--”

“I’m in the German Village now,” Caleb said into the phone. “I’m gonna hang up and be there in a few minutes, okay?”

“Okay,” she said.

Knowing Caleb was close, and not wanting her window busted in, Tabitha stepped into the living room. Danny was peering into the window, while Thistle and Fritz both stood guard under it. Fritz was growling. “There you are,” he said. “Are you going to let me in?”

Tabitha shook her head, not able to speak. She looked around the room and stepped closer to the little table beside the couch and the lamp with the cast iron base on top of it.

“You look like I’ve done something terrible. I haven’t done anything.”

“Not to me,” she whispered. “She was your mother.”

Danny’s face changed expressions, from one of exasperation to a look of fear. “How did you know?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“She had sex with my best friend in my bedroom. When I was sixteen. How do you think that made me feel? How do you think my father felt? He pays her thousands of dollars a month so she can go sleep with anyone she pleases. I’ve been reading your blog, Tabitha.”

“What blog?” She forgot to be terrified and for a split second she was confused.

Tails Around Town? A friend pointed it out to me one day and said that ‘J’ reminded him of my mother. I started reading, got a good idea of what neighborhood it was talking about, and sure enough, ‘J’ was my mother. Having sex with high school boys again.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So you’ll play dumb when I suggest that it’s your fault I came to visit dear old ma. Okay, that’s fair.”

Tabitha held back a gasp when she saw Caleb’s cruiser pull up silently behind Danny on the street. She hoped that Danny would keep talking, but he just stood there, considering. How he’s going to kill me I suspect. “Why don’t you come with me?” Danny asked. “I’m taking an extended vacation.”

Caleb was out of the car and walking across the tiny lawn. When he put his foot on the top step of the porch the wood squeaked, and Danny spun around.

“What are you doing here?” Danny asked.

“Danny Bukowski, I’m placing you under arrest,” Tabitha heard Caleb through the window. She couldn’t see him but a moment later found Danny pressed face against her window screen, Caleb behind him and pulling his cuffs from his belt.

“You can’t arrest me for sleeping with your girlfriend.” Danny struggled, not making Caleb’s job easy.

“Almost,” Tabitha amended, feeling bolder with Caleb there.

“But I can arrest you for murder.”

As soon as Caleb spoke Danny threw his whole weight backwards against him, throwing him off balance. Caleb was on his feet at once as Danny bolted, a cuff around one wrist. Tabitha, caught up in the excitement, rushed to the front door and pulled it open.

Fritz was out the door in a flash, concentrating too hard to even bark as he rushed across the lawn and grabbed Danny by the ankle. Danny screamed and fell, but Fritz only bit down harder. Tabitha, Caleb, and Thistle reached them in moments, Caleb cuffing him the rest of the way while Tabitha grabbed for the dog, forcing her fingers into his mouth to release him and nearly getting bitten in the process. “I want you to bite him too,” she comforted, “but you can’t.”

She hugged the dog tight to her and tried to pay attention to what was going on at their feet. Caleb was straddling Danny’s back, cuffing him properly “…anything you say can be used against you in the court of law. You have a right to an attorney…”

God, I hope Mr. Daws doesn’t want to take this case, Tabitha thought.

Caleb pulled Danny to his feet and shoved him into the back of the patrol car. “You better be right about this,” he told Tabitha once the door was shut.

“I am. He confessed to me. I can testify in court that he did.”

“Well, good. You were going to sleep with this guy?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Women don’t cheat on me,” Caleb said. “No one’s ever cheated on me.”

“I was going to break up with you first, honest. It just didn't—“

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”

Tabitha shook her head. “Never mind. I’ll just go back into the house.”

Once Caleb left Tabitha collapsed on the couch and gathered Thistle into her arms. Fritz dropped to the floor over her feet. For once, Thistle didn't speak.


“So you see dear readers,” Thistle typed the next day, “crime does not pay.” He glanced over at the couch where Tabitha was curled up in a ball, hair unbrushed and still in her pajamas. She had one arm thrown over Fritz, who looked only marginally less pitiful. “Especially,” Thistle continued, “if you’re trying to have an affair with it.”

He considered not updating any more. He didn't like that Danny had discovered his mother’s activities from his blog, but in the end he decided it wasn’t his fault the man was unhinged. And it made for a great blog entry.


Monday afternoon Maya came to see Tabitha at work. “No visitors,” Mr. Daws crowed from his open office door, but even he shut up when Maya flashed her badge.

“Got a minute?” Tabitha pushed away the phone and the keyboard to give Maya her full concentration. Maya ignored Mr. Daws’ protests when she shut his door. “When we searched his car and apartment it was glaringly obvious. He had a suitcase and boxes in the back of his car.”

“I know,” Tabitha said, suddenly recalling that there had been boxes in the back of Danny’s car when they went over to Janine’s. She thought they were for moving things from the house. “So what?”

“He was going to run. He just wanted to get into the house for any valuables the victim might have had, and he was going to take off. You caught him just in time.”

“But what about me?” Tabitha said, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking. “We were—“

“A bit of fun before he took off, I’m afraid.” Her voice was gentle and less cop-ish, but hearing it still hurt. She’d sat up late the last two nights thinking about what she had almost done, and how charming he was and—she fantasized about having kids with the bastard! “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Tabitha said with a sigh.

“I just thought you should know, since you’ve been so crucial to this case, that we have DNA evidence against him. We got the labs back this morning. There was skin under Janine’s fingernails, and some blood on the vase that turned out not to be hers. It’s male DNA, and a close enough match to Janine that it has to be a relative.”

“So we’ve got him for real? Not just my insane ramblings?”

“Your insane ramblings kept him from running. We might not have caught him otherwise. But I have to ask, how did you know?”

“Fritz was acting funny at Janine’s house,” Tabitha said after a long pause. “I knew something was wrong, and suddenly I knew. That’s all. It was…instinct.”

“Some good instinct. You’d make an okay cop. But,” she continued, “you are not a cop.”

“The whole catching Danny thing was an accident,” Tabitha protested. “And I didn't make him confess to me.”

“You questioned every suspect on this case. You kept calling us, trying to tell us how to do our jobs—“

“No I wasn’t!”

“You were,” Maya shot back with her new detective fierceness. “Cut it out. You can get seriously
hurt doing stuff like that.”

“I’m sorry,” Tabitha said, meaning it. If she had just stayed out of all of it—the case, Danny--she wouldn’t be feeling so rotten.

Maya gave her a long look and nodded. “Okay. I’ll—“ she was interrupted by her cell phone. “Excellent,” she said at the end of the conversation. “Meet me at the station.”

“What was that?” Tabitha asked, and Maya gave her that look again. “Sorry, sorry.”

“I sent Caleb dumpster diving for the murder weapon. He found the fireplace poker in the dumpster outside of Danny’s building. He probably panicked and dropped it there right after the murder.”

“You sent Caleb into a dumpster?”

“He brought in my murder suspect. Mine. Do you know what its like to be a new detective and have a uniform catch your perp?”

“Only because of me,” Tabitha countered. “I knew you wouldn’t take me seriously. But he had to—he was my boyfriend.”

“I heard that was in the past tense.”

“Another reason why you shouldn’t have made him flail around in garbage all day. I cheated on him with a murderer!”

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Maya said kindly. “So you’re single now?”

Surprise jolted through Tabitha. “That sounded like you were hitting on me.”

“Maybe a little,” Maya said. “You know where to find me. I have to go do paperwork on our murder. I’ll see you later.”

“As long as it’s not another crime scene.” Maya was laughing as she left. Tabitha wasn’t sure she had any humor left. She’d hoped the ‘you know where to find me’ was a joke. She was so done with cops. Or any anyone else who wanted to sleep with her. It was time to be single for a while. After all, she had a talking cat and a crime-solving dog. What more did she need?


More apologies for the lateness. It was raining today too, but I braved the weather--just for you guys. :)

Okay. That was my first murder mystery. How did I do?