Thursday, September 30, 2010

ugh.

forgot my flash drive again. update tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just to Let You Know

I want to post the last chapter of Thistledown and the first chapter of my new project, Secret Identity, at the same time. Both will go up tomorrow nite--I just want one more day to fiddle with the new story.

Thanks to everyone who read Thistledown--I'm sorry it didn't work out, but mysteries are not my thing.

A bit about Secret Identity (you're going to love it--I love it):

Glory Hart and Lola Merriweather are best friends in high school, but things change when they start at The University Noir. Glory has been accepted into the training program for the League of Heroes, her dream since she discovered her super-speed as a child.

Despite Lola's impressive mind control skills she did not receive an invitation to join the League, nor does she want to take after her mother, notorious bank robber Mesmera. Lola has bigger plans--she want to take over the world.

Lawrence Lawrence wants nothing more than to escape from small town hell and a family that doesn't understand him, but he doesn't know where. He never even considers his powers of telekinesis to be anything more than a freak accident, but receiving a letter from the League of Heroes gives him direction and meaning, plus he meets a girl!

Super villain Dark Lothario has just been released from the mental institution and he's determined to pick up where he left off, but not if Glory has anything to do with it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ch 7 In which Suspects are Observed

Tabitha had to admit that the last thing she wanted to do was go into work the next morning, but she couldn’t let Leticia down, so she stumbled out of bed and got dressed in a pair of jeans and a green t-shirt, finding her most comfortable shoes to better stand a day on her feet. She barely had time to get food for Thistle and Fritz and put the dog outside. “We’re talking about what you did last night when I get home,” she told Thistle. “And you’d better be here.”

The world was washed clean from the rain the night before. Normally Tabitha would have taken great joy in the freshness, but she was preoccupied as she drove. It had to be a family member, she decided. No one else would benefit from it. And from the Sandwich Shop, she was in the perfect position to spy on the one most likely to have done it--Vanessa.

“You okay?” Leticia asked when Tabitha came into the shop.

“Sure,” she answered.

“You look like you want to kill someone, that’s all. Not that you would do that,” she added quickly. “This will all blow over sooner or later. Don’t let it stress you.”

Tabitha was given a time card and a name tag before Leticia set her up to use the cash register, exactly where she wanted to be when at eight-thirty Vanessa walked in, staring at her phone as she texted someone. “Double-shot espresso,” she said without looking up, “and a cheese Danish.”

“Your total is five dollars, ninety-five cents,” Tabitha said, hiding a smile.

Vanessa’s head jolted up and her cell phone clattered across the counter. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“You fired me, remember? I had to get a new job. Will that be cash or credit?”

“You can’t work here!” Tabitha grabbed a danish out of the cooler case and put it in a wax paper bag. Behind her Leticia was making Vanessa’s drink, her back to them. Tabitha knew she was laughing by her reflection shaking in the door of the cooler. “It’s not right! You should be in jail.”

“Because of the poison they found in my desk, right? The police aren’t stupid Vanessa. I know you planted that poison to frame me, and they do too.”

“I did no such thing!” Vanessa sputtered, turning red.

“You had the most to gain from your grandfather’s death,” Tabitha continued, unable to help herself. “You weren’t going to be made partner until he was gone. It had to have been you. And as soon as I figure out how you did it, you’re going down.”

“My grandfather was pushing eighty with a bad heart. Why would I have poisoned him? You did it, for revenge.”

Revenge. It did make more sense. Tabitha looked at Vanessa. She was still not her polished self. Something had to be wrong, it had to be her. But it could have been Mrs. Daws.

“I didn’t kill your grandfather,” Tabitha insisted. “I didn’t like him, true, but I was not having an affair with him and I didn’t kill him. The fact that none of you people will believe me is ridiculous. Now, here’s your Danish and your coffee. That’ll be five ninety-five.”

Vanessa glared at her and stalked out of the restaurant, leaving her order on the counter. “Sorry about that,” Tabitha told Leticia, who plucked up the danish and took a bite of it. “I think I might have cost you a customer.”

“I’ll live. Hey, at least with you here things wont be boring. This is what I’ve been craving all morning.” She leaned against the counter, closing her eyes as she chewed the pastry. “This pregnancy thing is great for an excuse to eat anything I want.”

*****

Tabitha was tired again when she got home at two o’ clock, and she knew her day wasn’t over yet. She sat down with Thistle and Fritz. “Okay,” she said, mostly addressing Thistle, but knowing the dog would get something out of the conversation, even if it was only her tone of voice. “What the hell happened last night?”

“We tried to go spy on the wife,” Thistle admitted. “But Kyle caught us before we even got off the street.” Fritz barked. “Fritz says he likes walking in the rain, but not the dark.”

Tabitha frowned. “You’re not a person, Thistle,” she said finally. “You can’t just go off like that--it’s dangerous. What if you’d gotten lost? You could have been hit by a car, or picked up by animal control--especially with Fritz with you. People don’t like strange animals wandering around.

“We’re both micro chipped,” Thistle offered. “I memorized the map, I look both ways before crossing the street. It would have been fine.”

“The Daws’s house is miles away--what did you think I was going to do when I came home and you were gone? I was panicking! If you had decided to dissapear for the night I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep.”

“I’m sorry,” Thistle said, but she couldn’t tell if he meant it or not. How much of a concience did a cat have? “I promise I wont do it again.”

“No, you won’t. You’re an indoor cat now.”

Thistle surprised her--he growled. “You can’t do that.”

“Watch me. Does he understand what I’m saying?” she asked, referring to Fritz.

“He knows we did bad last night,” Thistle replied. “He thinks it’s my fault.”

“It is.”

“You have to let me check out the wife. She might have done it.”

“Forget it.”

“You can drive me and wait for me outside the house--I just want to know what she’s doing now that her husband is gone. You want to know too, don’t you? Don’t you want to clear your name?”

“I hate you,” Tabitha replied.

******

Riding in the car Thistle had the faintest fear that he was on the way to the vet, and this fear carried him across town, until Tabitha pulled over at the end of a tree lined street full of huge Victorian mansions. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Tabitha said as she turned off the engine.

Thistle looked at her from his perch on the passenger seat. “I know what I’m doing.”

“No you don’t!”

“I do,” Thistle insisted. “I write a gossip column, remember? I spy on people all the time. I
know just what to do.”

“Be careful,” she said. “I’m going to drive around the neighborhood and come back, okay? I don’t want to look suspicious. I’ve been doing that enough.”

“I‘m not suspicious,” Thistle said, eager to be out of the car. It felt awfully claustrophobic.

“It’s the house in the middle of the street, with the green door,” Tabitha said, and leaned over him to open up the car door. “You have fifteen minutes.”

“Got it, boss,” Thistle said and jumped out of the car, walking down the strange street like he owned it. The Daws residence had a slightly wild front yard of trees and ivy, surrounded by a cast iron fence that Thistle slipped through easily. It was mid-afternoon and suprisingly warm (much better spy weather than the night before) so Thistle hoped for an open window or door.

He circled the house to a large brick patio surrounded by more trees. At first glance he could see that the house was shut up tight, but Thistle's eyes were immediately drawn to the Siamese sunning himself on top of a glass topped table near the kitchen window. "Hey you," Thistle said, stepping up to the other cat.

The Siamese raised his head, a bell on a pink collar jingling from the movement. "Go away alley cat."

Thistle tried to stay calm. "Is this your place?" Thistle asked, waltzing up to the table. "Its a nice place."

"Don't bother. My mistress will have nothing to do with strays," the Siamese said, purposefully ignoring Thistle's own collar. Thistle didnt know who he was kidding--no cat cared about who was owned and who wasn't. Except for purebred assholes like this guy. He was probably neutered. The toms with the biggest attitudes always were. The Siamese stretched and Thistle noted he had no front claws. The poor bastard.

"I wouldn't eat anything your mistress brought me," Thistle continued. "This the Daws place?"

"Why?"

"Heard you had a death in the family. It must be very sad."

"Hardly!" the other cat exclaimed.

"So everything has been peachy-keen around here?"

The cat swished his tail. "I wouldn't go that far. Too many people, too much arguing. Too much new stuff." He looked up at the sky. "Good thing the weather's nice."

"Got kicked out, huh?" Thistle said.

"Of course not!" The Siamese sat up. Thistle got a good look at his tag--it read "Pookie." Poor, poor bastard. "I simply slipped out the basement window to get away from it all. It's nice out. I like it."

"Basement window?" The cat was suddenly less interesting, and Thistle left him to his own devices and poor neutered, claw-less Pookie didnt try to follow. The broken window was on the other side of the house, barely wide enough for Thistle to squeeze through. He dropped about five feet into a slightly damp basement featuring an ancient furnace and not much else. The basement door was open and he hurried up the stairs, coming up in a laundry room featuring brand-new appliances. The dryer still had stickers on it. < Interesting. >

He moved carefully through the kitchen (new refrigerator) and into the dining room, keeping low to the floor. He found Mrs. Daws in a half-decorated sitting room, talking on the phone with a wireless headset while opening a large box. "I just got the new curtains in the mail," she was telling someone on the other line, "and I'm having men come next week to re-paint. It's so nice to do everything I've always wanted to." Boxes littered the room, more flowing into the front hall. Apparently Mrs. Daws had been doing some shopping since her husband's death. "Vanessa is being difficult--the girl is so much like her grandfather--she wants to keep that moldy old study just like it was before, but I've always wanted an exercise room. I daresay I'll just dump all those books in the attic and she can do what she will with the place when she owns it. Lord knows my days are numbered."

Vanessa caring about her grandfather's things didn't fit with what Tabitha had told him.
Thistle wanted to listen more, but the doorbell rang and Mrs. Daws got off the phone, and
Thistle figured he had been gone longer than fifteen minutes anyway.

He went back the way he came, heading to the front of the house without going back to see Pookie again. At the front of the house there was a large truck and two men in uniform struggled with a large, flat package that might have been a painting. Thistle contemplated tripping one of them but decided against it and hurried up the sidewalk to where Tabitha's car was waiting.

"Well?" she asked when he jumped in through the window she had rolled down.

"I think motive is all well and good," Thistle said, "She has motive--the entire family does--but we are forgetting. Who--besides you--had opportunity?"

*****

A/N:
Sorry for the hold up. I am feeling better today, but I still have a nasty cough.

I think this will be wrapped up in one or two more chapters. In case you havent figured it out, mysteries are apparently not my thing, so this will be the last Thistledown for the time being. I havent given up on it entirely, just probably.

I'm fairly certain you guys will like my next project. It should be launching by the time I finish up here. I'm going back to slightly more familiar territory with a super hero genre, called The Talented. (I think that's what its called.) More info with next week's post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ch 6: In Which Maya Saves the Day

Chapter 5: In Which

By two o’ clock Tabitha was dragging. What had started out as fun had turned into real work, and she wasn’t used to the manual labor. Plus there was the whole what-did-Detective-Gould-want hanging over her head. Leticia sent her home.

“Eight AM if you still want the job,” she said merrily as she sent Tabitha out the door.

Tabitha collected her car from across the street and went home, letting Fritz into the house immediately because it looked like rain. She collapsed on the couch as soon as she walked into the living room. Thistle jumped up next to her. “Good, you’re here. I just got off the phone with the guy at Broadway Security. He says he can have our surveillance equipment by this afternoon.”

“What?” Tabitha woke back up again. “You’re a cat, Thistle. Why can’t you act like one for once? How much did you spend?”

He was silent and she groaned. “I havent paid for it yet,” he said finally. “Don’t you want to catch who did this?”

“Yes! But you can’t do stuff like that. It’s not admissible in court for one. For another, we can’t afford it. I’m making sandwiches for a living now. We need that money to do things like pay the mortgage.”

“You shouldn’t have bought this place,” Thistle said. “Stuff’s always breaking, and the bank gave you a terrible rate.”

“Too late, too bad.”

Someone knocked on the door and a flash of fear shot through Tabitha. She peeked through the window and saw her fears were valid. A stern man in a suit stood at her doorstep. Caleb was still with him. How did he manage to stay on the case when Maya got kicked off? Tabitha wondered and opened the door.

“Can I help you officers?” she asked, trying to keep her voice cool and collected.

“Miss Silverstein,” Caleb said, “You need to come down to the station.”

She clutched the doorknob. “You can ask me any questions here.”

“I’m afraid we can’t,” Gould said. “Please come with us.”

Tabitha looked back at Thistle but the cat offered her no advice, nor would he in front of people. She sighed and grabbed her purse and locked the door. Across the street Mrs. Garret was standing in her yard, not even hiding the fact that she was staring as Tabitha followed the two police to their car. Caleb opened the door and she got into the back seat, immediately feeling trapped by the cage separating her from the front seat. This is so not happening, Tabitha thought.

“This is silly,” she tried to tell the two men in the front seat as they drove. “I didn’t do it--Caleb, you know I didn’t do it.”

“Last summer she had an affair with a guy who bashed his mother’s head in,” Caleb told Gould, ignoring Tabitha’s pleas.

“That’s not fair!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t know--Caleb. I’m sorry. I already told you I was sorry. Our relationship had been on the rocks forever before last summer, and you know that fully well.” She frowned. “You never even liked me much.”

“Shut up.”

Deciding it would be best to not antagonize the man with the gun and handcuffs Tabitha was silent until they sat her down in a bare interrogation room at the police station. “Please state your relationship with the victim,” Gould said, sitting down across from her. Tabitha was relived to see that Caleb would not be joining them.

She spent the next hour going over every minute detail of her relationship with Mr. Daws and his family. “I’ve gone over all of this with Detective Vargas,” Tabitha said finally. “You could have just talked to her.”

“Well, it’s not exactly wise for friends to interrogate friends,” he said. “And Detective Vargas missed something vital.”

“What’s that?”

“A can of rat poison we found in your desk, and we still don’t know how the poison was administered. But you brought him lunch every day.”

“Are you insane? Even if I did do it, why on earth would I keep the murder weapon in my desk?”

“You think someone is trying to frame you?”

“Obviously. You should be dusting for Vanessa’s prints, not mine. I didn’t kill him. I swear.”

“Okay.” He didn’t sound convinced. “Then you don’t mind if we take your prints?”

“I insist on it,” Tabitha said, a sick, empty feeling in her stomach.

“Okay then.”

*****

Thistle could hardly sit by idyll while Tabitha was hauled off by the police. He was online and soon had the route to the Dawses house committed to memory. They lived in the Victorian Village on the other side of downtown. “Come on,” he told Fritz. “We have a mission.”

“A what?”

“I want to check out Mrs. Daws. People kill over three things--jealousy, money, and revenge. She had three reasons to kill her husband, which means she probably did.”

“But Thistle,” Fritz said, looking out the front window. “I think its going to rain.” All the same he followed Thistle to the back door, as the cat knew he would. Thistle slipped through the cat door and waited on the other side for Fritz to join him. The dog popped his head out the door. “I don’t think I’ll fit.”

“If your head fit’s the rest of you will,” Thistle replied knowingly.

After some struggle Thistle had to concede that though this might be true for cats, dogs didn’t follow the same rule. “My butt is stuck,” Fritz complained, scrabbling for a grip on concrete in front of the door. Eventually he managed to work his way through, though Thistle doubted he would be able to get back in again.

He looked up at the sky, way too dark for early afternoon. It was going to rain. He hated rain. “Come on,” he said to Fritz. “Listen, you don’t do anything unless I tell you to. It’s a big, dangerous city out there, and we have to cross it.”

Thistle led the way down the street at a fairly fast clip, concerned with getting back to the house before Tabitha did. They hadn’t even gotten off the street, however, when Thistle was taken surprise by a pair of strong hands wrapping around his middle.

*****

Tabitha’s panic did not subside when they actually put her in a holding cell. The cell was ten by ten feet with nothing in it but a hard plastic bench, one of half a dozen in the room. There was a large woman with tattoos napping in the cell opposite her, but besides that she was alone. Alone and freaking out.

Their evidence is circumstantial, she told herself sitting on her bench. That Gould character can’t possibly think I had anything to do with it. My fingerprints are definitely not on that can. Why did they put me in here and forget about me? I want my phone call. The door of the room clanked open and Tabitha got to her feet. “I want my phone call,” she said before she saw who it was, and let out a breath of relief when she saw it was Maya.

“I can’t believe they still have you in here,” Maya said. “I pushed the paperwork through. You’ll be out in an hour. If I‘d known I would have been here sooner.”

“Thank you,” she said, relief flooding her. “I could kiss you through these bars.”

“I’d be sure to get fired for that,” Maya said with a smile. “You’re nowhere near the main suspect. Gould thinks you’re telling the truth and your prints weren’t on the can. No one’s were. We think it was planted to incriminate you.”

“No kidding. So why have I been here all afternoon?”

“Evening,” Maya admitted. “Its after eight. Caleb. He ‘forgot’ to file your paperwork. We’ve had words.”

“I’m going to have more words,” Tabitha bristled.

“My advice is to let it go and stay out of the way of the investigation.”

“My pleasure.”

Maya gave her a long look. “Are you sure?”

“As long as I’m not going be arrested and sent to death row I don’t really care that much.”

“You weren’t wanted for murder when you went over my head about your neighbor.”

“That was for a friend.”

“Okay. I’m gonna go see if I can let you out yet.”

“Thank you.”

*****

Tabitha felt drained when Maya dropped her off at home later that evening. It was raining now, a heavy downpour that did not improve her mood. She expected Fritz and Thistle to be waiting for her at the door, demanding their dinners, but no cat and no dog greeted her. “Thistle?” she called through the empty house. “Fritz? Here kitty-kitty!” They were gone. “I don’t need this,” Tabitha moaned, trying to bite back tears. She went out the back door to call for them outside--nothing. It was raining harder now, and she was soaked immediately. “Thistle you stupid cat!” The mental and physical exhaustion of the day piled up on her all at once and she began to cry, her hot tears mingling with the cold rain as it hit her face. She stumbled back inside. Surely they were simply hiding from the rain, and would be home as soon as it stopped.

It was all she could tell herself as she collapsed on the sofa, too tired to do anything but stare at the ceiling. Only a few minutes passed before the doorbell rang. “If they’re back to arrest me, I just don’t care anymore,” she moaned. “At this point I’d welcome the electric chair.”

It wasn’t the police at the door. It was Kyle--holding a pissed off and bedraggled Thistledown, Fritz at his side. “Oh my God, Kyle, thank you!” Thistle jumped out of his arms and walked into the house completely composed. Fritz began to jump frantically at her legs.

“They were wandering around outside,” Kyle said. “I know how much you care about them so I--”

“I could kiss you,” Tabitha said. “How are you doing? Please, come in out of the rain.”

“I do okay, I guess. I gotta get going though,” he said apologetically. “My mom thought I was insane when I brought them inside.”

“I’m so very glad you did,” Tabitha said.

“Maybe you’d like to go out for coffee sometime?” Kyle asked, looking shy and suddenly younger in his damp Hollister shirt. Oh god, Tabitha thought. What have I done?

“Yeah, maybe,” she answered carefully, not wanting to hurt his feelings. After all, he was very fragile after loosing Janine.

“I’ll see you around then.”

“Thank you,” she said, and shut the door. She turned to Thistle and Fritz, who were trying to look innocent. “Where the hell did you two go?”

“Nowhere,” Thistle remarked, but Fritz replied with several barks.

“You’re not going to translate that for me, are you?” she asked Thistle.

“Never,” he admitted. “What’s for dinner?”

******

Tabitha fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, but she woke up slowly from dreams about the murder, and she started thinking. Her entire life had been blown apart in two short weeks. She’d quit, been fired, she found a new job, she’d been a suspected murderer and a suspected mistress. And when it got down to it, it was no one’s fault…but the person who killed Mr. Daws. She wasn’t just mad, she was furious.

And she couldn’t take it out on whoever did it unless she knew who they were.

*****

A/N:

Look, the chapter is on time and an appropriate length this week! I'm feeling better now, in case anyone was worried. I have gotten all but one of my school problems squared away, my personal life is back in order, and I've found homes for 3 of my cats. Life is still not good, but its better.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ch 5: In which Jobs are Lost

Tabitha’s head ached and her throat felt raw when she walked up to her front door a short time later. She had already cried--she did that in the parking deck before she left. Now she just felt alone. She didn’t even notice the large box on her porch until she tripped over it.

“What the hell?” She picked it up and went inside. Thistle was sitting on the back of the couch, alert and waiting for her.

“Why are you home so early? Is that my package?”

She set it down on the couch and dropped her purse beside it, kicking off her shoes in the same movements. “Well, it’s not mine.”

“Great. Go get Fritz and we can open it.”

There was no point in arguing. She went to the back yard and freed him from his chain. The little dog rushed into the house, barking excitedly and jumping up on the couch to sniff at the box. He turned back at her and barked again. “He wants you to open it,” Thistle said.

Tabitha ripped open the tape and pulled away a sheet of bubble wrap. The box was filled to the brim with pet toys. As soon as Tabitha picked up a rawhide bone Fritz was grabbing it from her hand and falling to the floor. There were balls and bits of cured animal for fritz, toy mice made of real fur and feathers for Thistle. At the bottom of the box there were two large packages tightly wrapped in plastic. They appeared to be of dried plant material. “Are you running a pot ring too?” Tabitha asked Thistle.

“It’s catnip,” he said. “Which you very well know. I want to bathe in it--so go one, fill up the sink for me.”

Tabitha let the packages fall back into the box. “I really am not in the mood for this, Thistle.” She picked up the invoice at the bottom of the box and glanced at the price total. “Two hundred dollars on pet toys?” She was too tired and too upset for it to even phase her. “Thistle, really.”

“I make no apologies,” he said as he jumped into the box and started to dig his claws into the catnip.

“I’m a murder suspect,” she said, sitting down on the couch. “Someone killed Mr. Daws and Maya thinks it was me.”

“What?”

She explained to him what had happened, and, catnip momentarily forgotten, Thistle listened completely. “We’ll get you off,” he told her seriously. “That bitch can’t do this to you.“

“Is ‘that bitch’ Vanessa or Maya?”

“It’s Maya! She’s supposed to be a friend--she asked you out on a date. And now she’s questioning you for murder?”

“She’s just doing her job,” Tabitha said, getting up to find some aspirin. “I can’t blame her for doing her job.” Despite all that was going on Tabitha couldn’t help but think about the date proposal. If Maya was bringing it up did that mean she was still interested? Tabitha had never been a lesbian, and it had been so long since she had been with a woman she wasn’t even sure she could call herself bisexual. She wasn’t even sure if she liked Maya. She was a good person, but so cold… And then there was poor Caleb--she had treated him terribly. She had no right to go out with his old partner, none at all.

Tabitha gulped down twice the recommended dosage of pills and returned to the living room. Fritz was happily oblivious, but Thistle had a brooding expression on his face. “I’ll help,” he said. “With the investigation. I’ll help find out who did it.”

“That’s sweet of you Thistle. But what can you do?”

“I figured it out last time, didn’t I?”

“Fritz did.”

“So he can help too. Take us to work tomorrow, let us check things out.”

“I can’t go back there,” Tabitha protested. “They think I’m a boss-scewing murderer.”

“And the only way we can prove them wrong is by finding out who it really is.” He jumped over to the computer and pawed it on. “Alright. Who are the suspects?” he asked, and started setting up a spreadsheet.

*****

It took Tabitha every ounce of willpower to go into work the next day, and a preternatural amount to actually stay in the building once she was there. As she walked down the hall it felt like all eyes were on her. She did her best to ignore the stares and made her way to her office. She wasn’t even sure she would be allowed in it, but the crime scene tape was gone--apparently they had collected all of the evidence they needed.

As soon as she walked in the door Vanessa exited Mr. Daws’ office. She was not her usual self--her suit looked rumpled an Tabitha noticed that she was missing two acrylics from her right hand. There were dark circles under her eyes, like she’d been crying.

Tabitha felt sorry for her for about ten seconds. As soon as Vanessa set eyes on Tabitha she began to scream. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here, coming back after what’s happened? I don’t want to look at you, I don t want to speak to you. You make me sick! If you are not out of this office in thirty seconds I’m calling security.”

“Does this mean I’m fired?” Tabitha asked.

“You murdered my grandpa! Of course you’re fucking fired! Get out. Out!”

Tabitha backpedaled out the door, not the least bit upset that she was no longer welcome in the building. It wasn’t until she was crossing the street to The Sandwich Shop that a small smile broke across her face. “I’m fired,” she said to herself.

“I’ve been fired,” she said to Leticia when she entered the restaurant. “I was fired for murdering my boss. I can sue for wrongful termination.”

Leticia stared at her. “Congratulations?”

Tabitha laughed. “Thank you. Being wanted for murder has never felt so good!”

“Girl, if you don’t explain right now there will be hell to pay. I can’t hire a murderer.”

Tabitha knew fully well that Letica was joking, and stepped behind the counter to make herself a cappuccino as she explained the situation. “I suppose you’ll be wanting to take a few weeks off before you start here, then,” Leticia asked, “until everything blows over?”

“Oh no,” Tabitha said. “I want to start immediately. “Almost the entire office comes here for lunch or coffee--it will be the perfect place to spy on them and figure out what was going on.”

“You think it was someone in the office?”

“I think it was someone in his family.” Tabitha was already starting to second guess her suspicions about Vanessa. She had looked upset and not at all herself that morning. Could it be that she was finally mourning her grandfather’s death? Tabitha wasn’t sure about Mr. Daws Jr. He seemed level-headed and pleasant enough. Was there some deep, dark psychosis deep down inside him?

But Mrs. Daws was her prime suspect, when all was said and done. She was just so bitter, which, Tabitha supposed, she had every right to be. But bitter enough to kill? It was definitely something to mull over, but she didn’t have the time.

After finishing her cappacino she went back into the kitchen and helped Jerry finish the morning prep until the other cook, a friend of Jerry’s from his short stint as a boxer, came in. Vince and Jerry were both wide and muscular and quite filled up the tiny kitchen with their bulk when they were both there. Vince only worked part time--he was writing his second book.

I wish I could do something like that, Tabitha thought as she took a bag of garbage out to the dumpster behind the building. Work part time and do my art. That would be a dream.

She worked the register with Leticia and Denise, she went around the dining room wiping off tables and picking up trash--she learned to work the dish machine. Her afternoon was spent cutting up and plating frozen desserts. She was standing at a tiny counter in a corner of the kitchen. Her feet hurt and her back was starting to ache, but it was so much better to be moving around and doing something than it would be to go home and mope, listening to Thistle rave about things that as a cat he wasn’t capable of doing.

“Hey, Tabitha,” Leticia called through the window separating the kitchen from the front. “Someone here to see you.”

“See me?” She set down her knife and pulled off her plastic gloves. She found Maya standing at the counter, holding a ticket and waiting for a sandwich.

“Not on purpose,” Maya said. “I saw you through the window there--what the hell are you doing?”

“I have a new job,” Tabitha said. “I got fired today.”

“Me too,” Maya’s voice was glum.

“What!”

“Not really fired,” she said. “But I’ve been kicked off the case.”

Behind them Vince set out Maya’s plate and Tabitha passed it over to her. “Take a break,” Leticia offered to Tabitha, and she went to sit down at one of the tables with Maya.

“Why were you kicked off the case?”

“People tend to freak out when the detective in charge has been asking suspects out on dates.”

Tabitha flushed. “I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to get you into trouble.”

Maya sighed. “It doesn’t matter. The fact that you were involved with Caleb made the entire situation unstable anyway. But I don’t like having my cases taken away from me. I was just over here to introduce my replacement to the Dawses and show him the crime scene.” She grimaced. “Which he insisted on going over again with a fine-tooted comb. Like I was going to miss anything.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“Yeah. Well, it’s John Gould, so you should be sorry. They guy is an ass. A much bigger pain in the ass than I am.” Maya let herself smile. “I know I play too tough out there. But it’s hard to be accepted as a woman cop. You have to be one of the guys, on top of everything. And if you don’t do as well as they do you’re seen as weak. If you do better than them you’re a threat. It’s pretty stressful to find that fine line and then walk it.” Her phone rang and Maya excused herself getting up from her half-eaten sandwich, but even a few steps away Tabitha could still hear that something terrible had happened.

The voice on the other end of the phone was talking loud and fast, and half-way though Maya’s expression darkened. “I didn’t miss anything,” she said. “If you found something it was put there last night.” More talking. “Have fun with that. Goodbye.”

“What was that?” Tabitha asked when Maya returned to her lunch.

Maya frowned and picked at a loose piece of lettuce on her plate. “I’m not supposed to tell you. I’m not supposed to talk about the case, especially to the suspects.” She sighed. “You’re going to get a visit from Gould today. And you’re not going to like it.”

*****

A/N:

Can I quit life now? Thank you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ch. 4: In Which Things Get Serious

Tabitha barely noticed Thistle’s dry laugh until it occurred to her that cats, as a rule, didn’t tend to giggle manically. She muted the television and turned to find Thistle at the computer. “What’s so funny?”

Thistle snorted at the screen. “I’ve been thinking about poor Jacques, Mrs. Garret’s pitiful poodle. I thought I’d buy him some Neuticles.” The laughing started over again.

“What the hell is a Neuticle?”

“Testicular implants for dogs. You know, so he can lick himself and pretend he didn’t have his balls chopped off by a madwoman.”

“Maybe I should get you some,” Tabitha offered, and the laughing stopped. “I mean it. It’s irresponsible of me to have an outdoor cat that hasn’t been fixed.”

“That is a barbaric term for a barbaric custom,” Thistle told her. He jumped down from the table and made his way to the couch to dig his claws into her leg.

“Yeah, well, not all animals can control themselves the way you do.” She unhooked his claws from her flesh. “It’s necessary. It should be done to people too. I should get you declawed as well.” Thistle bristled and hissed at her. “I wouldn’t and you know it,” she promised. “People shouldn’t go mutilating cats with no just cause.”

“I hate people sometimes,” he said, settling down on her leg.

“Me too.”

******

Tabitha went to work the next morning, Friday, feeling stretched thin and anxious. Her last week had been spent going though Mr. Daws’ files, helping Vanessa redistribute his caseloads, and calling all of his clients to inform them of the changes. Vanessa had been somewhat chagrined when two of them refused to take her on, instead demanding her father. Vanessa was now at the top, but the good ol’ boys her grandfather worked for weren’t comfortable with a young woman.

Tabitha would have hired her. She didn’t like Vanessa as a person, but she was efficient, smart, and good at her job. Very much her grandfathers’ granddaughter. But she was also just as demanding of Tabitha’s time, and there were just as many inappropriate comments, this time about Tabitha’s supposed relationship with Mr. Daws.

Now that the man was dead, rumors that had been kept on the down low seemed to fly through the office. Lawrence was the worst, in her office every day measuring and planning to redecorate, all the while chatting freely.

“I can see what you have to offer,” he said. “You’re pretty, in your own way. Not my type of course--”

“I wasn’t aware your type was even of my gender,” Tabitha couldn’t help but snap as he held up fabric swatches to the walls.

“Do you really think the metrosexual man can be phased by gay insinuations?”

“I wasn’t sleeping with Mr. Daws,” she said. “What on earth would I get out of it?”

“Money, fancy dinners. That pretty little house of yours in the German Village.”

Tabitha could feel her face grow red. “I bought that house with my own money,” she growled. “It’s all mine, okay? I work for every penny that goes into that place. Every penny.”

“If you say so.”

“And it’s not as nice as you think it is,” she couldn’t help but add. She’d done a lot of work on the place, most of it by hand. “Mr. Daws was just my boss. You know that. You just want to give me a hard time because you’re the secretary of a partner now, and think you’re better than me.”

“Personal assistant,” he said, and Tabitha tried not to scream. He took a measuring tape out of his jacket pocket and started measuring her desk.

“I’m taking my break,” she snapped, and stormed out of the office. Across the street in the Sandwich Shop life was much more pleasant. Tabitha stood in the kitchen with a cappucino and watched Jerry make sandwiches, learning the menu and how everything was put together. “Everyone ends up doing everything here eventually,” Jerry said reaching for a large, frightening knife hanging from a magnetic strip on the wall. Jerry was tall and solidly built, and wore a hairnet over his shaved head. “You might as well learn now.”

“Can I try the next order?” Tabitha asked, and Jerry offered her a box of hairnets and some plastic gloves.

*****

Tabitha didn’t go back to work for over an hour. She was starting to get excited about her new job, even if her pay was almost being cut by a third. She knew she was lucky to have a job at all, and really though that things were going to work out with Leticia and Jerry.

When she did return, expecting to have either Lawrence or Vanessa yelling at her for being away so long, she was surprised to find a gathering of cops in her office, among them her ex, Caleb, and Detective Maya Vargas. “What’s going on?” Tabitha demanded. Besides the police stringing crime scene tape across the door, Vanessa, Lawrence, and Mr. Daws Jr. were all standing around her desk. Mr. Daws Jr. looked a little overwhelmed by the police intrusion. Vanessa looked annoyed.

“Ms. Silverstein,” Maya said, stepping forward. The others all stared at her. “I’d like to ask you a few questions about your employer’s death.”

“What do you mean?” Tabitha said. “He had a heart attack, didn’t he? He was seventy-seven.”

“According to the autopsy, it was murder.”

*****

Thistle finished updating his blog and went outside to check on Fritz. He found him snapping at leaves as they fell from the trees. “You are a simple creature, aren’t you?” he remarked before heading out to the front of the house. It was rather windy and the ‘for sale’ sign next door rattled. Thistle caught a flash of red out of the corner of his eye and sighed.

Her turned his attention to the front porch of the empty house, and poor Kyle Harding. He was sitting on the top step of Janine Bukowski’s house, a textbook open in his lap. To the extreme dissapointment of his mother, Kyle refused to return to Brown that fall. He was taking classes at OSU and living at home. He was not taking Janine’s death well.

Thistle wanted to talk to him, to try to make him see sense in what he was doing--but he couldn’t betray his secret, no matter how pitiful Kyle was. He hopped up on the steps and rubbed up against Kyle’s leg. “Hey cat,” he said, running his hand along Thistle’s back. Scrawny to begin with, Kyle had lost weight over the summer, and he was beginning to grow a beard. Poor, pitiful kid, Thistle thought. He sat with Kyle for a while before heading inside and ordering him a pizza.

*****

“Someone killed Mr. Daws?” Tabitha said, incredulous.

“Some people tend to think it was you,” Caleb said, his voice cold. It hadn’t been the best of breakups after all. Tabitha looked over his shoulder at the Daws family and Lawrence. He was smiling.

“We’d like to take you down to the station for questioning,” Maya said.

Tabitha felt a flash of anger for every person in the room. Bad enough she was losing her job. Now she gets accused of murder by people who were supposed to be her friends? “Am I being charged?”

“Of course not,” Maya said. “I just think it would be better if we did things over there, Ms. Silverstein.”

“So it’s ‘Ms. Silverstein’ now?” Tabitha snapped. “A few months ago you were asking me out on a date.”

“Yes,” Maya said, her voice low as Vanessa and Lawrence immediately started muttering to each other. “And you never called me.” She took Tabitha by the arm and led her out of the room. “That was just what I was trying to avoid happening,” Maya nearly growled as they walked towards the elevator. “These are important people here. I can’t afford to screw up in front of them.

“Is that why they even bothered to do an autopsy? Because Mr. Daws was important?”

“It was the son’s suggestion.” Tabitha knew Mr. Daws Jr enough to know that he liked to see the whole picture. He didn’t like not knowing things.

“So what did they find?”

“Rat poison.”

“Rat poison!”

“Given to him over the course of several days. Ms. Daws says that you brought the victim his lunch every day, and that you were having an affair--”

“Caleb,” Tabitha snapped. “Do you think I was having an affair with my boss while we were dating?”

“I don’t know Tabby,” he said. “You were having affairs with murderers.” He glanced over at Maya. “You asked her out? What happened to loyalty to your partner?”

“You’re not my partner anymore,” Maya said. “ I let you come with me because I’m nice, remember?”

“This how I always wanted to be arrested for murder,” Tabitha groaned. “Look--I wasn’t sleeping with my boss. I hated my boss--”

“Which gives you even more motive,” Maya said. “And you’re not under arrest yet.”

“Good. Because I didn’t do it.”

“We just need to ask you some questions.”

“Fine, but I’m not going to the station. You can ask me right here.” The elevators were next to an empty conference room and Tabitha led the two cops inside, locking the door behind them. “Where should I start? I bought him lunch across the street every day. He made me wear ugly clothes and fake nails and he liked being a sexist asshole, but I wouldn’t kill someone over that. I don’t have enough to gain.”

“We know,” Maya said. “This is just how murder investigations work. You know that.”

“Right.”

“And you found the body?”

“Yes. I’m good at that sort of thing.”

“It is rotten luck,” Maya admitted. “Two bodies in five months. So you’re leaving Daws, Daws, and Billings.”

“I’m getting fired,” Tabitha said. “But I accidentally quit first so I wont get any compensation. Rotten luck indeed. Vanessa is the one you should be questioning. She had the most to gain. Now that her grandfather is dead she’ll make partner. She and Lawrence have been circling the office like vultures.”

“She’s at the top of my list,” Maya admitted. “Now what do you know about the wife?”

“She could have done it,” Tabitha told her. “That woman is terrifying, and paranoid. She thinks I was sleeping with Mr. Daws too. He had an affair with his old secretary, Marta. More than an affair, I think. It lasted thirty years, until she died. That’s when I got the job here.”

“How did Marta die?”

“I don’t know,” Tabitha admitted. “You don’t think the deaths are connected?”

“Who knows,” Maya said. “Just an idea. Okay Ms. Silverstein. Thank you for your time, but we do have to ask you not to leave town.”

“So I am a suspect,” Tabitha said. “Peachy.”

“It’s just the rules,” Maya assured her. “We’re looking into everyone.”

“Okay,” Tabitha said. “I’m going to go home now, and pretend this isn’t happening to me, okay?”

“You do that,” Maya told her.

“And as for me not calling you--I almost had sex with a murderer. I’m just not seeing anyone right now. So no offence.”

“None taken,” Maya said.

“I’m going home,” Tabitha said again, and left them there in the conference room.

*****

A/N:
Neuticles are fairly well known on the internets, but if you haven't heard of them: http://www.neuticles.com/ Yeah. I know.

So sorry for the lateness everyone. I had a bad day yesterday, and a bad day before that, and so on. I'm making big, big changes to fix my life, but there's a lot broken and its a stressful and painful process. (Yes, this is the same crazy from the weekend. It's a messy, emotional, girly type crazy, Thrantor. You don't want to know.)

And then there's this: http://savethecatlady.blogspot.com/ My neighbors are threatening to call the human society on me so I'm trying to find homes for some of the cats. I'd really appreciate it if you guys could post a link on your facebook/twitter/ect. I dont want to be famous on the internet for being a cat lady, but if it gets my life back on track, so be it.