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.
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?”
“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.”
“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.
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.