“So it had to be Mrs. Daws,” Tabitha said, still staring at the house from the car. “She and I are the only two people that feed him, and I didn’t do it.”
But what are the other ways he could have been poisoned, other than food?” Thistle prompted and Tabitha thought back over the days leading up to Mr. Daws’ death. “I always got the coffee,” she said carefully, “so it couldn’t have been that…but Mr. Daws forgot his heart pills the day before he died. Mrs. Daws brought them in for him--it must have been the pills!”
Tabitha fumbled for her cell phone and called Maya. “The poison had to be in his pills,” she explained excitedly.
“We checked every bottle in his house already,” Maya explained. “There was nothing.”
Tabitha felt her heart drop. “Nothing? At all?”
“There were pills for high blood pressure, cholesterol and heartburn, as well as some over the counter stuff. None of it tested positive.”
“Do you think Mrs. Daws did it?”
Maya was silent for a few moments. “I think that if she was going to murder her husband, she would have done it a long time ago.”
“Then it must have been Vanessa.”
“We don’t have any indication that she had the opportunity.”
ay,” Tabitha said with a sigh, thanking Maya and hanging up the phone. “Lets get out of here before someone thinks I’m a stalker.”
Tabitha drove a few blocks before she slammed on the breaks, sending Thistle flying off the seat. “What was that for?” he complained from the floor.
Tabitha was already dialing Maya’s number again. “What about vitamins?”
“Did you find any vitamins when you searched Mr. Daws’ house?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Tabitha felt lightheaded with excitement. “Vanessa bought him vitamins. She asked him if he was taking them.”
“We didn’t find any vitamins,” Maya assured. Her voice sounded a little higher--
she was excited herself.
“His pill box probably had them.”
“I know we didn’t find anything like that--only bottles.”
“The last time I saw it was in the conference room when Mrs. Daws brought it in. Maybe its still in the office somewhere.” Driving again, Tabitha changed directions, heading towards the office building. It was only four o’ clock--Vanessa would still be there.
“I’ll call Gould,” Maya said.
“Don’t you want to check yourself?”
Maya sighed on the other side of the line. “It’s not my case anymore. All I can do is pass on the info.”
“I’m getting sick and tired of people taking my arrests away from me.”
Poor Maya. “Do you want to get a drink tonight?” Tabitha asked suddenly. “I have a feeling I’m going to celebrate clearing my name.”
“I get off at eight.”
“Well, I’m not going to miss this,” Tabitha said to Thistle after she hung up. “Lets go.”
“I’m sure that’s a great idea.”
“Is that your sarcasm voice?”
“It sounds like your regular voice. I want to see that bitch get arrested.”
“What about me?”
“You can wait in the car.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“If I have to use the litter box and I’m still locked in here, I cant be held responsible for what I do,” Thistle said when Tabitha pulled into her usual parking spot. She was running on pure adrenaline now--she hardly heard him.
“Okay,” she said, and left him alone in the car.
“She’s going to get herself in trouble,” he told himself as he watched her walk away. He put his paws up on the arm rest of the door. She’d left the window cracked, and he tested it with his whiskers. He would just be able to slip through.
With some effort he squeezed out of the car and followed Tabitha. She took the elevator up and he noted the floor it came to rest on.. There was no door on the stairwell, thankfully, and he was able to follow her up using the stairs.
He came out into a small lobby area. Tabitha was arguing with the woman at the desk, and Thistle slipped past them into the office. “Come on Kim,” Tabitha said. “I want to see this.”
“You’re not allowed--” Kim said, but Tabitha ignored her, and soon was walking past Thistle. He hurried to catch up, and Thistle and Tabitha walked right in on three people talking. They were in a small office full of cardboard boxes--someone was moving. One of them was Caleb, and he assumed the others were Gould and Vanessa. “You shouldn’t be here,” Gould said immediately.
“Why is your cat here?” Caleb demanded, and Thistle froze inside the doorway.
Tabitha let out a heavy sigh. “I told you to wait in the car.” Thistle wanted to say something but didn’t dare, as usual. “I promise not to touch or say anything,” Tabitha said. “I’ve been cleared, right?”
“You’re looking pretty suspicious now,” Caleb said.
“Stop being an ass,” Tabitha snapped. “I didn’t do it and you know it, so just shut up. Did you find the pills?”
“They’re right here,” Vanessa said angrily, taking a huge plastic pill box out of one of the cardboard boxes. “They were under the table in the conference room. And I didn’t buy the vitamins, Lawrence did. He has a friend who runs a health food store and got a good deal. I even had him put them in the box for me--he‘d do anything I asked him.”
Gould, wearing rubber gloves, snapped open one of the little doors and picked up a green capsule. He pried the two sides apart and the powder spilled out of the flimsy halves. “It would be real easy to fill empty capsules with poison,” Caleb said. “You can buy them empty online.”
“I didn’t do it either,” Vanessa said. “I know I come across as a callous bitch, but I loved my grandpa,” Vanessa said. “Lawrence. It had to be Lawrence. If that is poison in those capsules, it was him.”
“Where is he?” Gould asked.
“Why would Lawrence do it?” Tabitha asked unable to help herself.
Vanessa gave her a haughty look. “That man worships me,” she said, and Thistle had to admire how unabashed she was when she said it. “Haven’t you noticed?”
“He certainly worships himself,” Tabitha said. “But yes, I will admit he’s got a loyalty. He actually likes his job in any case. I suppose that says a lot.”
“He knew I wanted the partnership. I was getting impatient.”
“Is this his desk?” Gould asked, and when she nodded he started checking the drawers. The desk was pushed up against the wall, and Thistle thought he saw something white underneath. No one way paying him any attention, so he slunk over and slipped under the desk. The white thing was a bottle, and he batted it out from under the desk. It made a slight rattling sound. “The cat,” Vanessa said when Thistle re-emerged. “Why the hell did you bring your cat?” she asked Tabitha, momentarily distracted.
“He’s special,” Tabitha said, openly smiling. Gould picked up the bottle and opened it.
“That’s the bottle of pills,” Vanessa said as Gould poured a few into his palm. “But they’re brown--not green.”
“He emptied them out,” Caleb said. “And replaced the insides with the poison.”
The four humans stared at the pills and Thistle sat down and started to give himself a bath. He had to do all of the work--it was exhausting.
Even Thistle was startled when the door clicked open, and Lawrence walked in with a cardboard tray of cups. “Officers--you’re still here.” He held up a Krispy Kreme bag. “I brought snacks. Tabitha,” he said, surprised. “They let you out of jail?”
“Because I didn’t kill him,” she said. “You’ve been spreading all the rumors about me, haven’t you? To take suspicion off yourself.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lawrence said, even as Gould took the cups and bag from his hands while Caleb brought out his handcuffs. “Of course you--” his voice cut off when the first cuff wrapped around his wrist.
“You are under arrest,” Caleb said, running though the Miranda Rights.
Lawrence stared at his cuffed wrists. “Vanessa?” he questioned.
She was staring at him. “You poisoned my grandfather so I could become partner?”
“We’re a great team,” Lawrence said. “I wanted us to be the best. You deserved it and so did I.” He glanced over at Tabitha. “She didn’t.”
“Come on,” Gould said, bagging the pill box and bottle and handing them off to Caleb so he could grab Lawrence roughly by the arm. “You’re toast.”
They were gone quickly, and Thistle walked over to Tabitha and meowed. She scooped him into her arms. “That was unexpected,” she said to Vanessa. “I really thought you did it.”
“I thought you did it,” Vanessa said. “Sorry.”
“Sorry enough to give me my job back?”
“I do seem to be short a secretary.”
Tabitha laughed and shook her head. “I hated being a secretary.”
“You’re happier selling sandwiches?”
“Yes. I am.”
Tabitha dumped Thistle into the car. “I told you to stay put.”
“You needed me,” Thistle said.
She was about to start the car when Vanessa ran up and tapped on the window. “We were keeping this under-wraps,” Vanessa said, handing Tabitha an envelope. “But now that I know…this is yours.”
Confused, Tabitha opened it and found a check for fifty-thousand dollars. “What is this?”
“Grandpa had you added to his will only a few weeks ago.”
“No wonder you all thought we were having an affair.”
“He really did like you,” Vanessa said. “Grandma thought he loved you.”
“I was just a secretary.”
“Well, you were a good one. Good luck with your new career.”
When Vanessa was gone Tabitha looked at Thistle. “This will pay off over half the house.”
“You have impossible luck,” Thistle said. “I can’t believe it.”
“Thank you for helping me. You’re a good cat.”
“I’m an amazing cat.”
That turned out better than I thought...
To answer Thrantor's question: Mysteries are just not my thing. I read dozens of them while researching Thistle and hated them all. I love the characters in this story and I had a lot of fun writing the first mystery, but this second one really grated on me, hence the shorter chapters and all of the late posts. Every update felt like a chore when it should have been fun, and I get that writing is supposed to be work, but if you dont enjoy what you're doing, you're doing something wrong.
I can't say I'll never pick up Thistle again. If I come up with a brilliant murder I will certainly come back and write another.
In the mean time, Secret Identities will launch as soon as I remember my flash drive (yep, forgot the damn thing again). Either this afternoon or this evening, I promise. Here is the link for it in any case: http://secretidentitynovel.blogspot.com/