Authors: Karen Anne Golden
The Cats That Stalked a Ghost
Karen Anne Golden
This book or eBook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, persons or cats, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Edited by Vicki Braun
Book cover concept by Karen Anne Golden
Book cover design by Ramona Lockwood (Covers by Ramona)
Copyright © 2015 Karen Anne Golden
All rights reserved.
Max and Dee Dee
Pee Wee and Iris
Table of Contents
“No-o-o,” Katherine screamed, waking up. She sat up on the cot, sweat pouring off her brow.
I was having the worst nightmare
. But then she thought she heard a cat wail. It sounded like her Siamese cat, Scout.
That’s impossible. I’m hallucinating.
But something was outside the door, jiggling the exterior latch to the abandoned storm cellar.
“Help me,” she called in a weak voice. “I can’t get out.”
“Waugh,” Scout cried.
Katherine got up and slowly climbed the steps until her head nearly touched the cellar doors. She swallowed hard and bit back tears. “This isn’t happening. I’m dreaming again.”
Scout muttered something in Siamese, and went back to jiggling the latch.
Katherine heard the sound of metal scraping, and then a thump on the ground. She took her cue, pushed the left-hand door, and opened it. She picked up Scout and hugged her. “I love you, sweet girl.”
Katherine squinted and adjusted her eyes to the daylight. Glancing at the burned-out shell of a two-story building, she wondered where she was. Behind her was an overgrown yard, with a rusted barbed wire fence in front. She could make out weathered tombstones; some of them had toppled to the ground. When she looked back at the building, an apparition appeared behind a glassless window. First, the figure pointed to the cemetery, then gestured toward a dirt lane that went around the building.
Scout chattered, “At-at-at-at!” Her long, pencil-thin tail quivered against Katherine’s side.
“You see her, too,” Katherine whispered, relieved that she wasn’t seeing things. “It’s going to be okay, Scout.” She was too frightened to speak any louder. Then the spirit disappeared.
Katherine “Katz” Kendall, heiress to a fortune, wasn’t your stereotypical “high-maintenance” millionaire. You could count on one hand the number of reasons why she didn’t fit into the new-to-wealth model.
First, Katherine didn’t need the money to live comfortably. She had a computer sciences degree, and a stellar work history in Manhattan. Second, she didn’t seek fame, nor did she want to be a celebrity. She was a private person, happy to live a modest life with a few, select friends. Third, she wasn’t a material girl. She didn’t own an expensive car, dress in designer clothes, or drip in diamond jewelry.
What set Katherine apart from the norm, and moved her to the head of her class, was her attitude: she genuinely cared about other people. She’d give the shirt off her back to help the disadvantaged. She secretly sought out the needy — those who were too proud to ask for help — and she’d anonymously get them back on their feet financially.
When Katherine’s great-aunt, Orvenia Colfax, passed away, she willed most of her estate to a relative she’d never met. Katherine was the daughter of Orvenia’s niece and lived in New York City. Orvenia lived in the small town of Erie, Indiana, northwest of Indianapolis. She went through several wills, but ultimately left millions to her twenty-six-year-old great-niece.
Katherine also inherited a seventeen-room, pink Victorian mansion, and a golden-eyed Abyssinian cat named Abigail. She already had three cats of her own, two seal points, and a lilac-point Siamese. Because she loved cats, the inheritance made it easier for her to give up living in the big city and move to the Midwest. Since then, she’d met the love of her life, Jake Cokenberger, a history professor at the City University. The couple had recently adopted two male Siamese kittens.
Today was Friday, and Katherine’s last computer training class. She sat behind a desk, watching her last student collect his belongings.
“Thanks for everything,” he said, as he stopped and came over to her desk. “Hey, Ms. Kendall, I’d like to take the advanced class.”
“You’re quite welcome, Anthony. You scored very well on the tests,” Katherine said. “I’ll put your name in for next session’s lottery.” She offered training at a minimum price, so townspeople could find better jobs. So many sent in applications, Katherine had to devise a lottery to select four names for each class. She didn’t mention that two of her cats did the final drawing. She’d write the candidates’ names on an index card, fold it, and throw each card into a large glass bowl. Then her two Siamese, Scout and Abra, would pull out several cards, play with them, and bless the winning candidates with a fang-marked edge.
“Great,” Anthony smiled. “Oh, I guess I should ask, when is the next session?”
“The advanced class starts in November. I’m taking a few months off —”
“To get married to Jake Cokenberger,” he finished boldly. “Congratulations! That’s way too cool, taking a long honeymoon.”
Katherine laughed. “Actually, we’re not. Jake doesn’t get a break from the university until December.” She thought the student was too nosy, but all the townspeople were just like him. They never felt too timid to ask a personal question.
She kept it to herself that Jake and she would initially take a short, romantic holiday to coincide with Jake’s fall break, with plans for a longer vacation later, to include the cats. But the student didn’t need to know this.
“I’ll be off then. Thanks again.” The young man walked out the door, and closed it behind him. Katherine got up, walked over, and locked it. She began tidying the workstations, stashing training manuals underneath the top of the desks, in their special
Scout and Abra — seal-point Siamese sisters — trotted in and began their daily inspection. Judging from the cobwebs on their noses, it was apparent they’d already checked out other rooms in the basement. Now with the students gone, they did a quick once-over around the classroom.
Abra was interested in the smell wafting from under the exterior door. She stretched up and stood very tall on hind legs. She held her jaw slightly open and flared her nostrils. Scout joined her and did the same thing. They looked like they just stepped off the set of
. They both sniffed disapprovingly.
“It’s smoke, my treasures. I hope there isn’t another house fire.” She peered out the window and scanned the back yard, making sure the carriage house wasn’t ablaze, or one of her neighbors’ houses. She startled as the town-wide fire siren began wailing its warning for volunteers to rush to the station.
Scout growled at the loud sound.
Someone pounded loudly on the door, and Katherine moved from the window. She wondered who it might be, thinking a student had left something behind. She looked out the door’s security viewer, recognized who it was, and opened the door.
“Hi, Cokey,” she said to her handyman.
Cokey stood outside, clutching two buckets. Scout made a mad dash for the door, but Katherine caught her. “Hey, you, you’re not going out,” she said adamantly. Then to Cokey, “I’m sorry. Come in. I’ve got to take these two rascals upstairs before another one tries to escape,” she said, seizing Abra as well.
“No problem,” Cokey said. “I’ll make my way to the back.”
“Give me a sec,” Katherine said, taking the Siamese upstairs to her back office. The cats squirmed to be free. “Quit it,” she scolded. “Scout, I don’t want you to go outside. There are all sorts of dangers lurking out there.” She carried the cats into the office, past her computer desk, and into an all-season sun porch. She set the cats down.
“Waugh,” the Siamese sassed, then jumped on Abra, biting her sister on the ear.
“Brat! Stop that!”
Abra squealed and turned, punching Scout with the equivalent of her left hook. The two wrestled for a split-second, stopped, and began grooming each other.
“Cats! To think I have seven of them,” Katherine muttered, returning to the basement.
Cokey stood by the water heater, dumping the contents of a small waste basket into a two-wheeled garbage cart. “Hey Katz, what’s with Scout tryin’ to run out? Usually when I come over, she’s too interested in what I’m doin’ to even think about runnin’ outside.”
“Last July, when I was at the cabin and totally out of it, Scout got a taste of being outside. Both Scout and Abra explored the area, and even went catfishing in the pond.”
Cokey grinned. “Scout got her adventure fix, and it sounds like she wants more. Maybe you should buy a leash and take her on walks.”
“You read my mind. I just ordered seven harnesses and leashes online.”
Cokey continued grinning. “You’re taking seven cats for a walk at the same time?”
“No, I think I’ll start with Scout.” Katherine giggled.
“Margie and I tried the leash thing with our cat, Spitfire, but the orange lug collapsed on the carpet, and acted like we were trying to kill him or somethin’. He wouldn’t budge until we took the dang thing off.”
“Too funny,” Katherine said, then changed the subject. “I wonder where the fire is?”
“Considering the smoke in the air, I’d say pretty close. I wouldn’t worry about it. Probably someone burned lunch,” Cokey said, trying to make light of the situation. Recently the small town of Erie had its share of mysterious fires, probably intentionally started. Because the town had been besieged by an arsonist in the past, everyone, including the fire chief, prayed another firebug hadn’t been born.
“I hope not, either. I read in the paper that the serial arsonist’s trial is coming up.”
“It’s a shame. Max Taylor is only
eighteen-years-old. I know his parents. They hired the best attorney — they’ve got money, they can do that,” Cokey digressed. “Max got his kicks setting fire to abandoned farm buildings. I think he burned twenty to the ground.”
“What do you mean by burn to the ground? Didn’t the fire department put them out?”
“You gotta remember. Out in the country, the building could be beyond saving before anyone knew it was on fire, especially at night when people were asleep, and didn’t see the smoke, or smell it.”
“I take it he set all the fires at night?”
“Yep. Right now Max’s parents’ greatest concern is the judge.”
“Why?” Katherine asked inquisitively.
“Everyone in these parts calls Judge Hartman the hanging judge. She’ll show no mercy.”
Katherine wondered if Cokey had been in front of this judge before, but didn’t comment. Cokey had his own troubles with the law, but that was in his past. Instead, she asked, “Did you know Judge Hartman is going to preside over our wedding?”