Sydney McCall left behind an ex-fiancé and a New York advertising job to return home to Deer Park, North Carolina and help her sister, Kat, run the local animal shelter, Friendly Paws. Determined to save the shelter from financial trouble, Sydney and Kat organize a cat café fundraising event at a local coffee shop. Things are looking up until their landlord, Trowbridge Littleton, threatens to shut down the event. When Sydney drops by his art gallery to make peace, she finds Kat--along with Littleton's dead body.
Local homicide detective Will Worthington--who just happens to be Sydney's old high school crush--is highly suspicious of the sisters' involvement. Desperate to clear their names from the suspect list, Sydney pounces on the investigation. With the help of one of the shelter cats, a savvy orange tabby named Toby, Sydney begins poking her nose into other local businesses whose owners may have benefited from Littleton's death--until the killer notices she's pawing a little too closely at the truth.
We were in the doorway now. A large desk was at the far end of what appeared to be an office. The light was coming from a small lamp perched on the edge of the desk, and as we crossed the threshold, it flickered and then went out. Kat shone the pencil thin beam of the flashlight around the room, letting out a sharp cry as it hit the wall nearest us. “Lightswitch,” she squealed, and a minute later the room was filled with a harsh fluorescent light.
I glanced around. Yes, this was definitely an office, and not a very tidy one at that. There were several file cabinets pushed up against the far wall, and two of the drawers in the one on the left were half open. Papers were strewn across the desk, and some file folders had dropped onto the floor and were scattered across the Oriental rug.
“Good Lord,” my sister exclaimed. “For someone always so fastidious about his appearance, he certainly likes to work in a mess.”
I frowned. “It looks more to me like it’s been ransacked. Someone was searching for something. What do you think, Kat? Kat?”
My sister had moved over to the far corner of the room and was standing before a large wardrobe. “Wow, this is beautiful,” she said, lifting a hand to run it over the smooth exterior. She balled her hand into a fist and rapped it against the wood. “Solid oak. I saw a picture of one like this in a catalog. French, dates back to the late 1800’s. I wonder what it’s doing in his office?”
“Who knows? Maybe he keeps his suit jackets in it,” I said. “Why do you care, anyway?”
“It’s such a beautiful piece,” my sister murmured. “Too good for that rotter. It seems out of place in this office.”
“Maybe it just came in and he’s got it here for pricing,” I ventured.
“Maybe. I wouldn’t mind having something like this,” Kat said, running her hand once again across the smooth wood. “It looks deep enough – I wonder if the doors swing out all the way? It would be great to put a TV in.”
I eyed the piece. “That thing looks hand-carved. He probably wants an arm and a leg for it.”
“Probably.” She gave the handle a tug. “Hm. The doors seem to be stuck.”
I waved my hand impatiently. “Oh for goodness sakes, leave it alone. Must you examine it now?”
Her lower lip thrust forward. “Yes. Who knows, I might not get another chance.”
I shot her a sharp look. “You’re not thinking of buying this, are you?”
She sighed deeply. “I suppose not. Littleton will probably want some astronomical figure for it. But I might never get another opportunity to see such a finely made one up close.” She shot me an appealing look. “Give me a hand, won’t you? You’re strong. Maybe if we both pull on the handle at the same time it’ll open.”
I knew my sister. Once Kat made up her mind about something she was like a pitbull with a bone. I knew when it was futile to argue with her. “Okay, fine. But if we get this open, one quick look and then we’re out of here.”
She nodded and I placed my hand on top of hers. “On the count of three, give it all you’ve got. One, two—three.”
We both tugged at the same time and suddenly the door flew open. We went staggering backwards at the same time the body of Trowbridge Littleton, his eyes bulging almost out of their sockets, tongue lolling to the side, hit the floor at our feet.
About the Author
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuted Dec. 2, 2014. Followed by #2, CLAWS FOR ALARM. #3, CRIME AND CATNIP, is out this December. She, Rocco and Maxx make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them at www.tclotempio.com and www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com
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