How to Paint a Cat (Cats and Curios Mystery)

BOOK: How to Paint a Cat (Cats and Curios Mystery)
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

More praise for the
New York Times
Cats and Curios Mysteries

“Written with verve and panache.”

—Carolyn Hart, national bestselling author of
What the Cat Saw

“Quirky characters, an enjoyable mystery with plenty of twists, and cats, too! A fun read.”

—Linda O. Johnston, author of the Pet Rescue Mysteries

“[A] wild, refreshing over-the-top-of-Nob-Hill thriller.”

The Best Reviews

“This exciting road trip goes from danger to humor and back as the adorable cats are brilliant tacticians who amusingly but cleverly maneuver the niece somewhat for treats but often to keep her safe. Fast-paced cozy readers who enjoy something different will relish the charming Cats and Curios Mysteries (see
Nine Lives Last Forever
How to Wash a Cat
) as Oscar’s niece continues her dangerous adventures into the weird, whimsical world of her late uncle.”

Genre Go Round Reviews

“Whimsical . . . Contains a stunning clever twist . . . Cozy readers who enjoy something amusingly, satirically different will relish this.”

Gumshoe Review

“Full of quirky, yet credibly described characters . . . Intriguing . . . Doubly fun for those familiar with this beautiful city . . . This is a PURR-fect treat for feline and mystery fans alike! Warning: Like cat treats, this series may prove to be addictive!”

Fresh Fiction

“[A] neatly constructed mystery . . . Cat fanciers will find plenty to love in these personified felines . . . The setting is very well drawn, old town San Francisco is well detailed, neatly blending into the more modern city.”

The Mystery Reader

Titles by Rebecca M. Hale

Cats and Curios Mysteries






Mysteries in the Islands




Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

A Penguin Random House Company


A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2014 by Rebecca Hale.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-60095-5


Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2014

Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


For Helen Hale, my grandmother


Praise for the Cats and Curios Mysteries

Also by Rebecca M. Hale

Title Page





The Portrait Sketch

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

The Reporter

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

The Nose

Chapter 11

The Previous Mayor

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

The Mural

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

The Painted Words

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

The Newsroom

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

The Interim Mayor

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

The Green Vase

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

City Hall

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

The Lieutenant Governor

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

The Green Vase

Chapter 32

City Hall

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

The Sonoma Woods

Chapter 35

Following the Murals

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

The Lieutenant Governor’s Residence

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

New Deal Art

Chapter 43

A Lunch Date

Chapter 44

The Rincon Center

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Jackson Square

Chapter 47

Chapter 48


Chapter 49


Chapter 50

The Beach Chalet

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

The Inauguration

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

The Conservatory of Flowers

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

The Murderer

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73


corner of the Sonoma woods, far from the nearest public road, a man’s humming floated up through the branches of an ancient redwood grove.

It was the only sound in the otherwise quiet forest. A damp winter mist hung in the air, an acoustic insulator that soaked up all but the most vigorously transmitted noise.

The source of the happy humming knelt by a fire pit in the middle of a small clearing. Built like a lumberjack, Sam Eckles sported a thick overgrown beard and a mass of tangled red hair, both of which threatened to ignite as he paused his singing to puff on the embers in the bottom of the pit.

The rest of the rustic campsite featured a tiny tin-roofed cabin, a few fallen logs used as benches, and a hammock strung between the gnarled trunks of two redwoods.

“Ah, there she is,” Sam whispered as a flame flickered in the charred remains of the fire he’d stoked earlier that morning. Leaning back on the heels of his thick-soled hiking boots, he placed a metal rack over the pit and positioned its foldout legs so that the grated surface would be centered over the heat.

Two bright green frogs sat on a log a few feet away, watching as Sam nursed the flame, slowly feeding in kindling. They had observed the procedure countless times since the group’s arrival at the campsite last November, but the amphibian pair never seemed to tire of staring at the fire’s dancing orange light.

Before long, Sam had built a blaze suitable for cooking. He slid a cast-iron skillet filled with cooking grease onto the grate and waited for its temperature to rise. Once the grease melted and began to pop in the pan, he reached for a paper bag containing two dozen raw chicken legs mixed with a specially formulated flour coating. Folding over the bag’s top edges to secure the contents inside, he gave the bag a vigorous shake. Despite the sealing precaution, a cloud of flour filled the air, leaving a white dusting on his red beard.

After a few choking coughs, Sam picked up a pair of metal tongs, slid the pointed ends into the sack, and began fishing out the legs. It was a tricky procedure, but he missed only once as he dropped each piece of battered meat into the hot skillet. Then he covered the meal with a metal lid and sat back to wait.

As the legs began to simmer, the scent of crisping chicken wafted toward the cabin, drifting through its open doors and windows.

Inside, an elderly man with thinning white hair and short rounded shoulders stood in front of a two-by-six canvas propped onto an easel. Holding a pencil-thin paintbrush in his hand, he leaned toward the painting, squinting at the densely populated street scene spread across much of its surface.

A weariness tinged the man’s graying blue eyes, and there was a tired slump to his already bent posture. He felt as if he had aged more in the past two months than in the previous two years combined.

Painting was strenuous work, even for someone with his skills, but it was critical that he get each brushstroke right. The finished product was destined for a public location in downtown San Francisco, where it would have an important message to convey.

The piece was a re-creation of a much larger mural, one composed during the Great Depression for the interior of a well-known San Francisco landmark. It was an exact replica—with a few subtle differences.

The painter checked the emerging image against a color photocopy of the original; then he dabbed his brush into a palette of paints.

His arthritic hands ached from the hours of tension, but he ignored the pain, spurred on by the knowledge that this project might be his life’s last significant contribution.

“Hey, Oscar. You ready for a break?” Sam called out from his cooking station by the fire. “Lunch will be ready soon.”

The old man set down his brush and stepped to the cabin door. Massaging a stitch in his lower back, he looked out over the campsite. As he breathed in the welcome aroma smoking up from the fire pit, he glanced into the woods.

A white cargo van was parked in the brush beyond the clearing. He and Sam had covered the roof with camouflage-colored netting to ensure that the vehicle wouldn’t be spotted from the air.

He stroked his chin, pondering the rash of fresh dents along the van’s metal sides and front bumper.

The vehicle had taken a beating during their off-road journey through the woods to the campsite, but it had managed the task admirably. Whether the van would survive the return trip, however, was still an open question.

Putting those concerns aside, Oscar joined Sam by the fire. For the time being, all that mattered was that they were safely hidden.

An owl hooted down from the dizzying heights above the camp, and the old man craned his neck to look up, marveling at the site’s concealed location. He and Sam were but two dots of flesh in a vast wilderness of green.

Their campsite was situated on a private parcel of land, which was, in turn, surrounded by acres of public forest. For the last century, the property had been owned by a secretive group of artists, businessmen, and politicians, formally known as the Bohemian Club. The members valued seclusion over ease of access, and the camp was located in one of the property’s most remote locations.

It was the perfect hiding spot for a pair of fugitives.

The duo had fled San Francisco in November following the gruesome murder of a City Hall intern. So far, the police had been unable to definitively link them to the young man’s slaying, but as they had last been seen fleeing the crime scene, they were now the primary suspects.

In the eyes of the investigators, the pair’s sudden disappearance had only confirmed their guilt.

The humans’, that is—the frogs were just along for the ride.

BOOK: How to Paint a Cat (Cats and Curios Mystery)
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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