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Authors: Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Playing Cupid

BOOK: Cat Playing Cupid
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Cat Playing Cupid

A Joe Grey Mystery

Shirley Rousseau Murphy

For E.L.T.,

who runs faster, climbs higher,
eats more greedily, is more loving,
and sleeps with her paws in the air.

May your Joy last forever.

Cupid drew from his quiver two arrows of different workmanship—one to excite love, the other to repel it. The former was of gold and sharp pointed, the latter blunt and tipped with lead. With the leaden shaft he struck the nymph Daphne…and with the golden one [he pierced] Apollo…Forthwith the god was seized with love for the maiden, but she, more than ever, abhorred the thought of loving.

Charles Mills Gayley,
The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art,
1893, Ginn and Company



THE NEWSPAPER CLIPPING was yellowed and tearing at the folds,…


INDEED, ON THE day of the wedding there was no…


MIKE FLANNERY'S retirement party, the night before the wedding, had…


FIRETTI'S VETERINARY CLINIC occupied two small old cottages just behind…


AT ABOUT THE TIME Charlie entered Dr. Firetti's clinic, Mike Flannery was…


AFTER THE BLOODLETTING, as Joe Grey thought of his stress-filled donation…


FROM THE LIVING ROOM, through the big, open kitchen, and…


CHARLIE FOUND LUCINDA in the kitchen setting out a plate…


DON'T LET THE EXPLOSION at the Harpers' wedding eat at…


WHAT A JOYOUS wedding it had been, with all the…


THE MOMENT MIKE went into the bathroom to brush his…


ABOVE THE RACING CATS, the Molena Point hills rose green…


CHARLIE STOOD at the top of the cliff watching the…


AT LEAST CHARLIE'S acting sensibly, Joe thought as he leaped…


IN CHARLIE'S BIG family kitchen, the coffee was freshly brewed;…


THAT EARLY AFTERNOON while Charlie and Wilma examined the rare…


DINNER AT LUPE'S PLAYA didn't turn out as the tomcat…


DESPITE DULCIE'S DISAPPROVAL of the plan she was there the…


IT TOOK ALL of Joe's and Dulcie's strength to tip…


IT WAS LATE the next morning when Clyde and Ryan…


THREE THINGS HAPPENED the morning after the honeymooners returned home.


IT WAS JUST dawn when Ryan's red pickup headed up…


RYAN KNELT BESIDE Rock, holding him while Mike pulled aside…


IT HAD BEEN two hours earlier that morning when Dallas…


AS DALLAS AND LINDSEY headed for the Pamillon ruins, down…


CORONER JOHN BERN'S bald head and glasses caught the light as…


ALONE IN THE BARN, wishing Sage would hobble out and…


IN THE COURT HOUSE parking lot, Lindsey waited in her…


RIDING CROUCHED on the floor of the backseat, Joe couldn't…


THEY WERE ON the highway again, still moving north. Joe…


PAWING AT the driver's-door handle of the Mercedes, Joe was…


DALLAS'S BLAZER had just passed the Soquel exit on Highway…


IN THE NIGHT-DARK woods, Charlie headed back toward home carrying…


AS DALLAS AND Mike ran for the Blazer, Joe raced…


GULLS SWOOPED LOW over Fisherman's Wharf, winging beneath the low…


HAVING PRESSED her last twenty into the waitress's hand, Lindsey…


MUCH EARLIER that evening, Dulcie had stood on the roof…


THE EVENING WAS pushing on toward nine when Charlie got…


NOW, AS CHARLIE dropped into a tired sleep again snuggled…


IN THE ALLEYWAY of the Harper stable, Kit and Sage…


THE JOURNEY HOME was silent. Kit rode in Charlie's arms,…

was yellowed and tearing at the folds, though it had been handled carefully over the years by the detectives who worked the case or who, during the preceding decade, had taken a fresh look at the cold file, reading the missing report on Carson Chappell, and making additional inquiries. Unable to come up with any new leads, each had committed the folder once again to limbo among the department's unresolved cases.


Local resident Carson Chappell, senior partner of the accounting firm of Chappell & Gibbs, did not appear for his wedding on Sunday afternoon at Community Church and has not been heard from for nearly a week. His fiancée, Lindsey Wolf, also of Molena Point, told reporters she last saw Chappell five days earlier, when he set out alone on a camping trip into state park land east of the village…

The file contained a dozen such articles clipped from central California papers, as well as the detective's original interview with the would-be bride, his case notes, random notes by the various officers who had later studied the case, and several human-interest pieces published over the intervening years. The fact that a well-known accountant and financial adviser had disappeared, and that any prospective bridegroom would go off camping, alone, a week before his wedding, certainly provided reporters with ample questions around which to weave a story.

The most recent clipping in the file, however, did not mention Carson Chappell. It was dated just this previous week, ten years after Chappell's disappearance, and had been cut from the
San Francisco Chronicle
. This was the article that currently interested Detective Dallas Garza as he sat at his desk talking on the phone with Lindsey Wolf, the clipping lying on the desk before him:


The skeleton of a man was discovered last evening in a makeshift tree house shelter on the central Oregon coast by a group of Boy Scouts on a weekend camping trip. The victim had apparently died from gunshot wounds, and two bullets were recovered by sheriff's deputies. The heavily wooded acreage is on private land and is a new campsite for the Scouts' yearly outings. The body had been disturbed by small animals and possibly a bobcat, but enough of the bones remain
for possible identification. Neither the Oregon Bureau of Investigation, Oregon sheriffs' departments, nor Oregon police have outstanding missing reports of hikers in that area. “All past missing cases have been resolved,” said OBI agent Henley Mills when interviewed at the scene.

This three-pronged congruence of players and events—the sudden availability of someone to work the department's cold files, the discovery of this body though it was not likely related, and the phone call from Lindsey Wolf—held Garza's interest. He sat staring at the article as he spoke with Lindsey; she had faxed it to him just a few moments earlier, and then had followed up with the call.

He knew Lindsey casually, she had dated his brother-in-law several years back, starting some months after Chappell disappeared. That was nearly nine years ago. Now, Dallas wondered if he'd been smart to include her file among the cold cases he'd given Mike to work, wondered if it was wise to stir up that old and painful relationship.

But Mike had seemed okay with it, as if he was completely over Lindsey—and Dallas wondered, for a moment, amused at himself, if he hesitated to put Mike on the case because of his own sudden surge of interest. Lindsey Wolf was the kind of woman who too easily stirred a man's blood, a tall, lovely, creamy-skinned woman in her forties, quiet and self-assured.

He'd already seen the article she'd sent him, he had read it over breakfast a couple of hours before her fax arrived. Now, when he'd asked Lindsey on the phone if she
had information on the Oregon body, she'd said, “Not information, no. But I have questions, Detective Garza. Are you familiar with the disappearance of Carson Chappell some ten years ago?”

“I know the case. I wasn't with the department then, but I've read the cold file.”

“I'm on my way up to the city on business—I'm an accountant, as you may remember. I worked for Carson until just before he…Before our planned wedding. We're into tax season now, and I can't put that off. I'd like to call you as soon as I return, make an appointment to come in. I have no information on the dead man in Oregon. But I think…I have such a strong feeling that that body in Oregon could be Carson. I can't get past that idea. I know that seems far-fetched and unlikely, when he was supposed to be up on the state park land, here. That's what he told me, but…” She paused, her voice breaking. Then, “I need to talk with you about it, I need to talk with someone.”

“Call me when you get back,” Dallas said. “You can try me on the weekend if you like, but I may be hard to reach.”

“Your niece is getting married this weekend?”

“She is,” Dallas said, knowing there had been no announcement in the paper. “I guess you've talked with Ryan?” Ryan and Clyde, wanting a low-key wedding without a lot of village interest, had given no notice to the local paper; they meant to send in a brief mention when they returned from their honeymoon.

“It's a small village,” Lindsey said easily. “I think I heard the news at Jolly's Deli. Isn't he doing the catering?”

“I believe he is,” Dallas said. “Call me when you get back, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the Oregon case.”

Hanging up, he sat quietly, his square face and dark eyes solemn, wondering exactly how Lindsey Wolf had felt when Chappell didn't show for the wedding. Angry. Cheated. Mad enough to…What? Then his thoughts turned to his niece's wedding, and he smiled. That would be a far different matter; there was no chance that Ryan or Clyde would back out.

This would be Ryan's second marriage and, he hoped—he knew, damn it—that this would be the right and final one; and Clyde wasn't about to run out on her. Ryan's first husband had been a tyrant, a bully, and Clyde was nothing like that—he was funny, low key, completely honest, and without any social pretension whatever—that in itself was refreshing. And Clyde had sufficient determination to make a good match for Ryan's stubborn nature.

When his thoughts turned back at last to Lindsey Wolf, several questions nagged him. On the phone she had sounded wound tight, her voice sharp and quick, not the way he remembered her—her words now were harsh with raw, untempered emotion that seemed strange considering that she'd had ten years to come to terms with Chappell's disappearance, with his possible injury or death. Or with the possibility that he'd abandoned her. Her distress seemed too fresh, too overwrought after so long a time.

When the department's original investigation had come up with nothing on Chappell's disappearance, Lindsey kept up the search on her own, had kept at it for nearly a year, making contacts, even hiring a private
investigator—though at the same time, she'd seemed to get on with her life. After some months of searching and grieving, she'd started dating Mike, apparently needing someone, and they'd grown pretty serious.

But then suddenly something had happened between them that Mike would never afterward talk about. Lindsey had left the village, had moved down to L.A., there'd been no phone calls, no contact that Dallas knew of. She'd started her own accounting service down there, apparently successfully.

And then, almost nine years later, she'd moved back to central California, back to the village, where she wasted no time opening office quarters in a small cottage in the mixed-business area of the casual village, a nice office with living quarters conveniently located above, and she had slipped quickly back into the life of the village.

He'd seen her only from a distance; he wondered if she'd changed much. Was she still as beautiful? His own quickening interest annoyed him. Turning in his swivel chair to face the bookcase behind him, Dallas reached for the other cold files he'd shoved out of the way between copies of the California Civil Code, his hand brushing against the gray tomcat where Joe lay curled up, dozing. Damned cat really had taken up residence, Dallas thought, amused.

Maybe Joe Grey's nose was out of joint, with Clyde about to be married. Maybe home had already changed, probably the house was in an uproar. Knowing Ryan, they might already be rearranging furniture, cleaning out cupboards to accommodate her belongings. If cats were
anything like dogs, the gray tom wouldn't like any disturbance in his home and routine. Change, to an animal, translated into threat.

With enough provocation, who knew?
The tomcat,
Dallas thought,
might move into the station full-time.

“Things bad at home?” he asked the tomcat, scratching Joe's ear. “Ryan won't throw you out, you know. Or,” he said, looking into Joe's yellow eyes, “could you be jealous of her?”

Joe glared at him, and Dallas grinned. “You've had your own way around the house for a long time. Maybe you don't like competition from a new roommate and her dog?”

The tomcat studied him almost as if he understood.

“And why aren't you out catching mice instead of schlepping around in here sleeping and cadging treats from the dispatchers? The time you spend in the department, Joe, you might as
move in and get yourself on the payroll.”

The tomcat turned to lick his paw, and then looked at Dallas sleepily—as if willing him to get on with his own business and leave a cat to nap in peace. Dallas scratched Joe's head until Joe tired of the attention, sat up, licked the other white paw and gray leg, then washed the white strip down his dark nose.

“Strange,” Dallas said companionably, “that Lindsey was so uptight. I hope that wasn't guilt talking.”

The gray cat, still washing, raised his yellow eyes to Dallas.

“This wouldn't be the first time a guilty party brought
evidence to the attention of the law,” Dallas told him, “trying to turn away any new suspicions.”

Joe Grey yawned in Dallas's face, lay down again on the bookshelf, and seemed to go back to sleep. Dallas watched him, a grin touching his stern Hispanic face—he found he liked having the cat to talk to.

He'd never cared much for cats until this one, he'd always been a dog man. Pointers, fine gundogs. But this cat, in some ways, seemed more like a dog than a cat. Joe was, for one thing, a pretty good listener, more attentive than Dallas expected cats to be—the gray tom seemed, in fact, nearly as responsive to his moods as were his dogs.

Part of the comfort in talking to an animal—dog, cat, or horse—was that they didn't offer advice, didn't tell you what to do. Animals were sympathetic and willing listeners, but they couldn't repeat what they heard. Couldn't pass on some casual remark, or the contents of a phone conversation or high-security interview—and as Dallas stroked Joe Grey, appreciating the cat's admirably mute ways, he didn't see, when the tomcat ducked his head under the detective's stroking hand, the cat's sly and knowing smile.


already read the faxed newspaper article over the detective's shoulder, and from his position on the shelf just behind Dallas's left ear, he'd clearly heard both sides of Lindsey's phone call, had heard her tension just as Dallas had, and was equally puzzled by her apparent nervousness and stress.

From what Joe had heard around the village, he thought of Lindsey Wolf as a soft-spoken lady always in charge of herself, a fascinating woman nicely reined in, always in command of her emotions. He knew that his tabby lady had cadged occasional tidbits from Lindsey's hand in restaurant patios, and that Dulcie liked her gentle ways—but today, Lindsey sounded harsh and nervous, almost brittle.

Dropping down onto Dallas's desk, Joe watched the detective set the Chappell file aside and dig into his overloaded in-box. “We'll see what Mike can do with the case,” Dallas said, half to himself.

Joe thought it interesting that Dallas's brother-in-law, having just retired from Federal Probation, didn't take a sensible rest, as any cat would do. That Mike wanted to get right back to work, didn't want to be idle when he moved down to the village.

Admittedly he'd be working his own hours, though, investigating the department's cold cases.

“Maybe he won't want to work the case,” Dallas said, stroking Joe. “Maybe he'll change his mind, decide not to have anything more to do with Lindsey. Whatever blew up between them,” he told the tomcat, “left him cranky as hell for a long time.”

Joe Grey twitched an ear and rubbed his whiskers against Dallas's hand; Dallas scowled at the stack of paperwork that seemed to grow taller every day.
Cops always had too much paperwork,
Joe thought, curling up on the blotter, directly in Dallas's way, so that the detective had to work around him; when Dallas pushed him gently aside, Joe didn't get up and move, but stretched out, taking up more
space and shoving away papers with his hind feet, as he lay thinking about Mike Flannery and Lindsey Wolf.

Maybe when the two had started dating, after Chappell disappeared, it was because Lindsey had needed someone, needed a friend who didn't make cutting remarks about how Chappell had run out on her, as, apparently, most of Lindsey's women friends and her sister liked to do. Joe picked up a lot of information among Clyde's friends, from casual remarks at parties or over poker games. He knew that Mike would come down from San Francisco to spend his summer weekends in the village, and that he'd been pretty serious about her. Joe thought the two must have made a handsome couple—tall, sandy-haired Mike Flannery and willowy Lindsey Wolf.

But then suddenly she'd pulled up stakes and moved to L.A., and the way Joe heard it, Mike had never talked about what happened between them.

BOOK: Cat Playing Cupid
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