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Authors: Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Judas Cat

PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF DOROTHY SALISBURY DAVIS

“Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Josephine Tey … Dorothy Salisbury Davis belongs in the same company. She writes with great insight into the psychological motivations of all her characters.” —
The Denver Post

“Dorothy Salisbury Davis may very well be the best mystery novelist around.” —
The Miami Herald

“Davis has few equals in setting up a puzzle, complete with misdirection and surprises.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“Davis is one of the truly distinguished writers in the medium; what may be more important, she is one of the few who can build suspense to a sonic peak.” —Dorothy B. Hughes,
Los Angeles Times

“A joyous and unqualified success.” —
The New York Times
on
Death of an Old Sinner

“An intelligent, well-written thriller.” —
Daily Mirror
(London) on
Death of an Old Sinner

“At once gentle and suspenseful, warmly humorous and tensely perplexing.” —
The New York Times
on
A Gentleman Called

“Superbly developed, gruesomely upsetting.” —
Chicago Tribune
on
A Gentleman Called

“An excellent, well-controlled piece of work.” —
The New Yorker
on
The Judas Cat

“A book to be long remembered.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
on
A Town of Masks

“Mrs. Davis has belied the old publishing saying that an author’s second novel is usually less good than the first. Since her first ranked among last year’s best, what more need be said?” —
The New York Times
on
The Clay Hand

“Ingeniously plotted … A story of a young woman discovering what is real in life and in herself.” —
The New York Times
on
A Death in the Life

“Davis brings together all the elements needed for a good suspense story to make this, her fourth Julie Hayes, her best.” —
Library Journal
on
The Habit of Fear

“Mrs. Davis is one of the admired writers of American mystery fiction, and
Shock Wave
is up to her best. She has a cultured style, handles dialogue with a sure ear, and understands people better than most of her colleagues.” —
The New York Times Book Review
on
Shock Wave

The Judas Cat
Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

About the Author

Chapter 1

H
ILLSIDE IS A SMALL
Midwestern town lying among the green hills almost an equal distance from two great cities. In the summer of 1948 the town’s chief claim to renown was the annual visit of a famous inventor. He had been known to spend at least one day out of every year with Andrew Mattson, who, legend had it, loaned him five hundred dollars to help finance his first invention.

It was little enough, the people said, referring to the visit. Some even wondered if he had ever repaid the five hundred dollars, for he parted with money uneasily and Andy lived a frugal life. Others said that Andy would have lived that way if he had had the inventor’s millions, which, obviously, he did not … Or did he? In any case, the inventor had died that spring, and throughout the state a thirty-day mourning period had been observed. But old Andy sat day after day in the sun on his front porch rubbing the soft neck of his cat with a leathery finger.

“Old Andy hasn’t got much to look forward to in this world,” the neighbors said.

“Or in the next if you ask me,” Mabel Turnsby always added. “Hasn’t set foot inside a church for seventy years.”

No one ever asked her, but Mabel was a great one for opinions. She lived next door to Andrew Mattson, and at almost any hour of the day you could see her white knob of hair poking above the half curtains on her kitchen windows. Naturally, it was Mabel who called Chief of Police Waterman that day when Andy had not taken his customary place on the porch by noon.

“Maybe he’s got a cold,” the chief said. “Why don’t you just be neighborly, and drop over and see him?”

“Me in his house?” said Mabel. “It wouldn’t be proper.”

“He’s an old man,” the chief said. He might have added that she was no chicken, but Waterman was a kind man. “Call it charity. Say you’re collecting for the church.”

“I did that thirty years ago,” said Mabel, “and I’d like never to have been so humiliated. No. I’m not going near the place. It’s your duty when a body reports something unusual.”

“What’s unusual about an old man staying in bed till noon?”

“And the cat. That’s another thing, Fred Waterman. That cat’s been at the window looking at me like it was human, pleading with me.”

“Mabel, I don’t like to be ornery about this,” the chief said, “but I can’t help thinking maybe your imagination’s playing tricks again. Remember the fire on Pasteriki’s barn roof?”

“You promised,” she said. “You promised me you’d never mention that again.”

On the occasion of which he spoke, Mabel had watched the smoke for half an hour. After she had turned in the alarm, she discovered it was from the smoke funnel on the toy factory, half a mile over the hill from Pasteriki’s.

Before he hung up the chief agreed that if Mabel had not seen the old man by twelve-thirty he would stop by.

“I suppose that’s how it’ll happen one of these days,” the chief said to Gilbert, his one assistant. “Andy’s ninety-two. Go to lunch, boy. When you get back I’ll drop over there.”

Gilbert banged the screen door behind him, the door skipping its catch. Waterman was fastening it when the twelve o’clock siren sounded overhead, the noise of it surrounding him as though his head were in a bucket. It was about time they did something about the building. All the town offices were tucked in as tight as a picnic lunch in a shoe box, someone said at the last council meeting. There had been talk of floating a bond issue and building a separate police and fire department, and possibly a library. At the present time the library occupied the whole top floor of the two-story building. It was a bit snug, the mayor admitted, but he was not one for saddling the town with a debt for his comfort. That diverted the issue. Sometimes Altman had a way of diverting issues. His attitude irked the other officials who stayed in their offices from nine until five each day. The mayor spent very little time at the executive desk—two or three hours at most. The rest he devoted to his hardware store. This was only reasonable, he said, since the office was largely honorary, and by no means lucrative enough to meet the needs of his wife and six children.

The men felt much the same about their incomes from the town, but prices were not high, comparatively, in Hillside, and they got by on it. Their real complaint was the lack of space and air where they had to work, and the mayor’s attitude.

Chief Waterman went outdoors and sat down on the steps where he could hear the telephone. Agnes Baldwin, the mayor’s secretary, was calling the librarian from the bottom of the stairs.

“Miss Woods. Oh, Miss Woods. It’s after twelve.”

Agnes came out twirling a key impatiently. She had to lock up that wing of the building during the noon hour.

“Ain’t the siren loud enough for her?” the chief said.

“She always does this,” said Agnes. “Waits till the siren blows and then picks up.”

Presently Miss Woods came out, brushing half a dozen children out ahead of her. “Tomorrow morning at ten-thirty,” she said. “Now watch yourselves crossing the highway. Look both ways.”

She nodded to Waterman and disappeared around the side of the building. She had been librarian since half the town could read, he thought. She was a pert little thing when he became police chief. The young fellows did a lot of reading those days and now their kids were attending her summer reading sessions. Agnes was already at the door of Cooley’s drugstore. That was where Gilbert hung out too. The chief could hear the juke box all the way from where he was sitting. For a few moments he watched Cooley’s fill up with the youngsters who worked around the town, clerks in the two super markets, the Emporium, stenographers in the real estate office and the bank, Fabry’s lumber yard, the Whiting Press. Without his realizing it, his eyes moved directly from the door of Cooley’s to the town square in front of him and rested a moment on the servicemen’s plaque still standing at the edge of the square opposite the memorial to the Hillside dead in World War I. He gathered his long legs under him and got up. It suddenly occurred to him that his skepticism of Mabel’s calls had distracted him from the possibility that the old man might be ill and helpless. He went in to the phone and gave the operator the number of the Whiting Press.

Alex Whiting was in the plant when Maude called him to the phone. “Fred Waterman wants to talk to you,” she said. “I wish I could find you that way when I want you.”

“See if you can open up that Durkin ad, will you, Maudie?” Alex said. “It looks like a death notice.”

“The only way you can open it up is to throw out half his copy … ‘Specialties for intimate occasions’ … What’s intimate about sardines and Camembert cheese? …”

Alex winked at Joan Elliot as he passed her desk on the way to the phone. If Maude found anything to be cheerful about these days, she kept it to herself. She had been with the Whiting Press since it was started in 1910 by Charles Whiting. When Alex returned from service, he had taken over the business from his father, but Maude refused a pension. Alex was just as glad. She knew more about printing than he would learn in twenty years, and he was more interested in the
Weekly Sentinel
editorially, than in the printing business.

“I don’t know if it’s another of Mabel’s wild goose calls, Alex,” Waterman said over the phone, “but she says she hasn’t seen old Mattson around his place all day. I’m going over there now and I thought you might give me a hand in case anything’s happened to him.”

“I’ll be right over,” Alex said. “I’ll call you in a little while,” he said to Joan. “Waterman thinks something may have happened to old Mattson.”

“If you’re going to the station, Alex,” Maude called, “stop up and see Stella Woods. You got yourself into that … I told you not to run that letter …”

Waterman was standing at the curb when Alex drove up. He drove his own car getting an annual allowance from the town for it. Alex drove to Mattson’s behind him. A couple of minutes after they had parked in front of the house, a dozen people gathered on the sidewalk outside the old iron fence.

The chief knocked at the front door. He didn’t look across the yard, but out of the corner of his eye he could see Mabel maneuvering behind the curtains for a better view. “I was sitting at the station thinking about Andy,” he said to Alex. “It’s funny how we get to take people for granted. He ain’t had any visible source of income the thirty years he’s lived here, and Dan Casey was saying at the last Legion meeting the old fellow hasn’t got mail ten times since he’s been on the route.”

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