Read The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2) Online

Authors: Alannah Rogers

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The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2) (2 page)

BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
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Matthew gripped her elbow gently and stopped her. He looked down at her with a concerned expression in his blue eyes. “Bee, I said I would come with you on this reconnaissance mission as long as there was no scene. Is there going to be a scene? Are you going to flip some tables in there?”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort. Have I ever done something like that before? Ye of little faith.”

Hamish meowed anxiously at the door and then stood up on his hind legs and scratched at the glass. “What is it Hams? Oh, I see…” A sign prominently placed on the door declared ‘No Pets Allowed.’ “Right, forgot about that. Okay kids, you’re out of luck. Guess it’s the patio for you.”

Hamish looked at her disdainfully and marched over to where a long, fat dachshund tied to a post was lapping up water from a bowl. He swatted lightly at the dog’s face. The dachshund tried to run away but his leash didn’t allow much distance. Hamish calmly squatted down at the bowl and began to lap the water contentedly. Lucky stood next to him as if keeping guard.

“I can’t go anywhere with you all,” Matthew muttered.

Beatrice pushed open the front door. She had to admit that the space was quite posh. It was long and narrow so there wasn’t exactly a lot of room. But it had beautiful exposed brick and an enormous lilac mural on one wall. The opposite side had antique mirrors of various sizes and shapes scattered over it.

Yet, the room itself didn’t concern her, not really. She beetled forward to the display counter and took a deep breath as she took in the contents. There was a salted caramel and chocolate fudge cake, triple chocolate banana bread, Nutella brownies, cake batter truffles, and a million other drool-worthy desserts. Beatrice took in each item with mounting concern.

“Any one of these items could take first prize,” she whispered to Matthew.

“Can I help you?” asked a painfully thin woman in heavy black plastic-framed glasses. It was Abigail Freedman, the owner of the Purple Lilac Café. “Oh, it’s you Beatrice. Goodness, I didn’t expect to see you in here.”

“We went for a little stroll and couldn’t resist the idea of a salted caramel tart,” Matthew said.

“Of course,” Abigail said with a sly look at Beatrice. “I hear you make quite a good one yourself.”

Beatrice went to say something but Matthew cut her off with a long and detailed order. He then practically dragged her back to the patio.

“Breathe, Bee,” he said, sitting opposite her. “Be the bigger person.”

But Beatrice was scanning through the photos she had covertly shot with her smartphone. “Red velvet and cheesecake layer cake,” she muttered. “Brilliant!
Too
brilliant.”

Just then Lucky launched himself into her lap and began kneading and purring while looking up at her lovingly with round green eyes. Beatrice sighed and kissed him soundly. “Okay, okay, I’m being silly.” She sighed. “How are
you
, Matthew? I’m sorry, I’m such a nutcase today.”

He gave her his characteristic toothy smile that was only partly obscured by his silver beard. “I’m fine but obviously you’re not. Did something happen today?”

“Now that you mention it, yes. First of all, Zoe is all hung up on that sponge of a boyfriend of hers…”

Matthew rolled his eyes. “Kids these days.”

“…and second, Nate Moore came into the café today. He was in a right state. Sweaty, paranoid, panicked. I’ve never seen him like that. Usually he’s the sweetest, most laid-back man I know. Do you know what’s going on?”

He shook his head. “No idea. He hasn’t said anything to me.”

“I’m a little worried about him,” she said, taking a sip of her latte. “He suggested that someone has been taking advantage of him financially. Nate’s such a nice guy. Maybe
too
nice. Even if something was wrong I don’t see him complaining about it.”

Matthew took a bite of a cake batter truffle and moaned theatrically. “Ohhhh. This should be illegal.”

“Focus!”

“Sorry. Listen, I saw Nate just last weekend for a drink at Johnny’s Place. We talked about our kids, watched a football game on TV. He looked fine to me. But if you say something’s out of the ordinary Bee, I believe you. Heavens knows you have a nose for these things.”

“That and they tend to fall into my lap.” Beatrice took a bite from Matthew’s truffle. “Hell and hay fever, this
is
good!” She groaned. “I am such a goner for the Fall Fair. Please, shoot me with a pastry gun now.”

4

“Nathan, we’re coming over,” Matthew said into his cell as they got into the car. “Why? Because you freaked Bee out today. And frankly I’m worried now too. Let’s not make this difficult. You provide the Peak Frean cookies, Bee will bring the cat hair. Oh right, you don’t like cats. Okay, okay, fine. I get it. We’ll see you in ten.”

Beatrice was trying to stuff Lucky in his cat carrier but he was maintaining a death grip on the wire door and wouldn’t let go. Hamish watched the proceedings from the back seat with what can only be described as the most condescending look a cat could muster. Lucky finally relented with an agonizing yelp and Beatrice slammed the door shut and locked it.

“I swear, if I ever get another cat—which I’m
not
, by the way—but if I do, he or she has to be car ready,” Beatrice complained as she got in the front with Matthew.

A smile curved over his lips as he turned on the car and drove slowly out of the parking space. “Bee, I’m surprised you don’t have ten cats by now.”

She frowned at him. “I’m not going to dignify that with a response. What did Nate say?”

“He wants us to park in the alley behind his house and come in the back door.”

Beatrice rolled her eyes and actively ignored Matthew for the rest of the trip. She didn’t like when he, or anyone else, insinuated that she was a crazy cat lady. That was just an easy way to dismiss her. She knew that Matthew took her seriously but sometimes, well, he bugged her. Then again, she bugged him too—
that
she knew for certain. It was miracle that after a divorce and many years of friendship they were still close.

Matthew parked his truck in a little alley behind a row of prim and proper brick Victorian houses. It was a nice street and Nate had a detached three-floor house all to himself with a leafy back yard. Obviously, selling insurance was profitable.

Nate met them at the back door, looking as sweaty and miserable as he did earlier. “Come in quickly,” he hissed. He eyed the cats sitting pertly on the doorstep with something approaching terror. “Uh, them too?”

“I can’t leave them in the truck,” Beatrice said. “Listen, we’ll just put them in the kitchen and shut the door. As long as you don’t have any unsealed food or cabinets with loose doors we’ll be fine.”

And so Lucky and Hamish were left to prowl happily around the kitchen while Nathan took his friends down to the basement rec room. It was a real bachelor’s pad complete with flat screen TV, overstuffed brown corduroy couches, shag carpet, and what looked to be a model of a battlefield set up in one corner.

On the heavy coffee table was a box of unopened Peak Frean cookies. Beatrice reflexively grabbed it and tore the cellophane open. She was stuffed but she could never resist the biscuits with the red jam in the center. Matthew sat on the couch next to her and grabbed his favorite: the long chocolate-filled cookies.

Nathan settled into a reclining chair and rubbed his hands together nervously. “What I tell you doesn’t leave this room,” he said. “Matt, do you remember about ten years ago when I was caught in a snowstorm outside of town? I was coming back from a trip to Plymouth in January and my car battery conked out a few miles from Ashbrook. It was a near white out and cold as anything. I had no heat, my cell battery was dead, and no one was on the road.”

Matthew was nodding. “Yeah I remember that. Didn’t some random guy save you?”

“Yep. Tony Parsons came along out of the blue and drove me back to my place. I didn’t really know him at the time. He lived in the next town, was kind of a sketchy guy. Pot dealer. Scrawny fellow. But there he came, out of that snowstorm, and saved my life.”

Nathan took a deep breath. “This was after my wife left me, after the kids had moved out. I didn’t have a lot of people to call, even if my phone was working. So I felt really grateful towards this guy. A down-and-out guy with a heart of gold, or at least that’s how I saw it. Looking back, I was a real target.”

Matthew and Beatrice exchanged glances. “But this guy didn’t just accept your thanks and disappear, did he?” Beatrice asked. “That’s what you were trying to tell me earlier today?”

Nathan nodded. “That’s right. A couple of days later I asked him if I could do anything for him, anything at all. He said he was behind on his rent so I offered to give him the cash. I was happy to do it.”

He sighed. “Over the next while he kept making small asks—money for his phone bill or rent or something for his kid. I didn’t mind. I figured I was helping a guy who really needed it. After all, I had more money than I could spend. Why shouldn’t I do something for the man who saved my life?”

Matthew leaned back in the sofa and folded his hands. His eyebrows knit together, a sure sign he was distressed. “How long did this go on?”

“Well, a few years.” Nathan ran a hand through his thinning gray hair. “Until the asks got higher and higher. Eventually he was asking for more than I could give. I tried to cut him off. That’s when he turned. Called me on the phone screaming abuse, keyed my car, even sent someone to smash my windows in the middle of the night.”

“And you didn’t call the cops?” Beatrice asked.

Nathan shook his head sadly. “No. I … felt like such a fool. That I hadn’t caught on all those years to how he was using me. That I kept giving him cash for no good reason.”

He shrugged. “I just decided that I didn’t want to involve anyone else in my problems. I had gotten myself into this mess and I was going to handle it on my own. So I gave him the money he wanted. And he went away for a while. But of course he came back again and again…”

Nathan buried his head in his hands and exhaled deeply.

“Nate, you never even thought to tell me about it?” Matthew asked. “All those times we went out for beers—you never said anything. I could have helped you.”

“I just … I didn’t want to create problems for anyone else. I thought it was all my fault.”

“Listen Nate, I’m glad at least that you told us now,” Beatrice cut in, leaning forward. “We need to find this Tony Parsons and stop this
now
.”

Nathan chuckled darkly. “Well, I wish it was that easy, Bee. But, you see, Tony Parsons is in jail. He’s not my problem, it’s whoever’s taken over for him that I’m worried about.”

5

Beatrice and Matthew were at a lost for words. For a few moments, the only sound in the room came from an ancient clock, ticking on the wall, and the faint hum of electronics.

“Wait, wait,” Matthew broke in. “Did
you
send him to jail?”

“No, I wish. About a year ago he stopped asking for money. I thought maybe he’d moved on. Then I read in the paper that he was arrested for holding up an electronic store and locked up.”

Nate took a deep breath. “Not long after, I started getting the emails and letters. Someone
else
was demanding cash. They wouldn’t reveal their name, talk on the phone, or meet in person. I tried to shake them off but then one night a guy in a mask stopped me in the driveway and held me at gunpoint, told me if I didn’t pay up he was going to make my life hell.”

Matthew rubbed his temples. “Man Nate, I wish I’d known about this earlier.”

Nathan shrugged helplessly. “I know. I wanted to tell you and go to the cops so many times. But then I thought, what kind of fool allows himself to be extorted for
ten years
? And if anyone else knew, maybe the guy would attack me. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“What’s important is that you told us now,” Beatrice said, trying for a reassuring smile. “We will get to the bottom of this, Nate. Do you have any idea who this person could be?”

Nathan tapped his fingertips together. “I imagine it must be someone close to Tony. Someone who knew what he was up to and decided to take advantage of his absence. He has parents, siblings, cousins, friends, and acquaintances he knows through dealing. It could be any one of them.”

Beatrice nodded. “Well, that’s a start. I’ll need you to give me all your correspondence. I’ll go to Tony’s town and do a little digging about who he was close to. See what I can find out. And we have to meet with Sheriff Roy…”

“No!” Nathan said, leaping out of his chair. His bloodshot eyes bulged out of his head. “I can’t involve the cops. When you see the letters you’ll understand. All the things he threatened to do to me and anyone else if I went to the cops. This person is
dangerous
, Bee.”

Beatrice took a deep breath. She and the sheriff were already on unsteady ground. He tolerated her sleuthing and, after closing the local counterfeiting case, even seemed to have a grudging respect for her. She didn’t want to lose that by shutting him out of a matter that was rightfully his to solve.

Still, it was Nathan’s life and she had to respect his wishes. She looked over at Matthew and tried to read his expression. He looked worried; she reached for his hand.

“We will have to involve the sheriff at some point,” she said softly. “If these people are really that dangerous, I don’t see Matt and I bagging him and taking him to jail ourselves.”

“Didn’t you just hold somebody at gunpoint?” Nate asked hopefully, his eyes meeting hers. “In the parking lot by the trail…”

Were these the kind of rumors circulating in Ashbrook—that she was holding people up at gunpoint? Beatrice decided she would have to worry about that later.

“Uh, no. Hamish pushed a gun out of someone’s reach and I grabbed it.”

Just then the basement door creaked open dramatically and there was a series of thumps as someone came down the carpeted stairs. Nathan leapt up and made for the baseball bat resting by the TV.

BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
10.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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