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

Authors: Alannah Rogers

Tags: #cozy mysteries, #cozy mystery series, #cat mystery, #cozy mysteries new releases, #cozy mysteries women sleuths, #mystery series books, #mystery novels, #cozy cat mystery books, #cozy cat mysteries

The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
4.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Beatrice screamed and rushed to the stage. She accepted the medal, shook the judges’ hands, and pumped her fist while mouthing to Matthew:
I’m number two!

Oddly enough, Beatrice felt elated. She had placed number two for the third year in a row but at least someone
new
had beaten her. A very grumpy Abigail was called up for third place and she sourly shook hands, all the while giving her ex-husband dirty looks.

The festivities were interrupted, though, by the appearance of the sheriff at her elbow.

“Deputy lost the woman’s trail,” he panted. “He just called me with all the details. I hope you all have seen what you wanted of the fair because we have to get back to the precinct. Now.”

16

The sheriff threw the blonde wig into a zip-lock bag and sat heavily behind his desk. “If only I had a lab right here, we could get this analyzed in a jiffy. Not that lucky. Matthew, email me that photo you took. It’s pretty fuzzy but we may be able to find a match in the system. At least we have
that
technology.”

“Is there any coffee?” Beatrice asked.

“What do you think this is, the Cozy Sheriff’s Café? No. Focus, people. And Bee, do you really have to bring the cats in here?”

“Yes, I really do. Now cut it with the attitude. I know you have a coffee maker around here somewhere.”

Beatrice went off to find the necessary materials to make coffee, the cats hot on her trail. The sheriff ran Matthew’s photo of the wigged woman in the system. He slammed his fist down on the desk.

“Bingo! Match with one Leah Moore. Wait … this is Tony’s ex. The one he had a kid with”

Beatrice stuck her head back in. “Of course! That’s why Lucky showed us that toy. He was trying to tell us that the mother of Tony’s child was involved.”

Nathan frowned. “That seems like a roundabout way to do it.”

“He’s still learning, what can I say?” Beatrice said.

Matthew leaned forward. “How was she not on our radar?”

“She hasn’t been living in town for some time, not since she divorced Tony,” the sheriff said. “She was on my radar before she had a kid for shoplifting, mostly. She was arrested for credit card fraud, but never convicted because of a technicality.”

He paused as he scanned her file. “It says her last known address was in New Jersey. She must have come back, though. We need to figure out who’s been in touch with her and when.”

He stood up and grabbed his jacket. “Who’s with me?”

“I just made some coffee,” Beatrice said, coming back into the office.

“Put it in travel mugs. C’mon folks, we’re going on a road trip to Waitsfield.”

“Why am I already tired of going to Waitsfield?” Matthew grumbled.

“Aren’t you glad I monopolize your days off?” Beatrice asked, hooking her arm through his.

He shook his head. “Let me put it this way,
I’m
picking out an activity for next Sunday and it can’t involve cats, crime solving, extortion, or baking competitions. Deal?”

“Doesn’t sound like much fun, but okay.”

The four of them loaded into the police cruiser. Beatrice sat in the back with Nathan, Hamish at her side and Lucky in her lap on a leash.

“Nate, did you ever have any indication that it was a woman contacting you?” she asked as they rolled out of the parking lot.

He shook his head slowly as he patted down his rumpled comb-over with a shaking hand. “None. She was actually scarier than Tony—made a lot more physical threats. Demanded more money. Over email and letter, of course. I just assumed it was a guy.”

Beatrice sighed and grasped for Nathan’s hand. “You know that Matthew and I are your family, right? You can tell us anything. Even embarrassing stuff like being extorted for ten years and doing nothing about it.”

Nathan snorted with laughter. “When you put it that way, Bee…”

“No but seriously.” She squeezed his hand. “No one should be alone in this world. Problems are lighter when shared. So you have to let us in, okay?”

“Seconded,” Matthew said from the front.

“But tell me first since it’s actually my job,” the sheriff added. “Unless it’s like, trouble with a woman. I can’t help with that. If she’s beating you up, maybe.”

Nathan flushed crimson again. “If only I had something to complain about,” he muttered.

“Not dating, huh?” Matthew asked.

“I work too much, I guess. Never seem to meet anyone.”

“Matthew said he wants to get married again,” Beatrice said. “Fancy that?”

The sheriff looked over at Matthew in surprise. Since his wife’s death, Matthew had been a consummate bachelor. “Don’t rush into anything. It’s not all a walk in the park,” Sheriff Roy said gruffly.

“I know. I’ve been married twice, remember?”

Beatrice frowned at him. “Which sounds like enough times, really. I don’t see the rush to get back on that horse again.”

“I’m not exactly swimming in a luxury of time,” Matthew returned. “At this point, everything should be a rush job.”

Silence fell over the car as they neared Waitsfield. “Alright, we’re going to Leah’s last address in town,” the sheriff said as they pulled into a down-and-out apartment block. “Maybe the super will know something.”

They all piled out, cats included. Lucky pulled at his leash anxiously, glad to be out of the car. The sheriff knocked on the super’s apartment on the ground floor. The door opened, revealing a squat little man with a few tufts of gray hair.

“Whaddya want?” he barked.

The sheriff drew himself up straight. “I’m looking for Leah Moore. She used to live here a couple of years ago. You know her whereabouts?”

“Leah? Can’t tell you exactly. She hasn’t been around here. That said, I heard one of the tenants talking about seeing her recently. Ada, it was, up in apartment 14. Be my guest.”

The sheriff thanked him and they mounted the stairway to the aforementioned unit. The woman who opened the door, a talkative lady with brassy blonde hair, invited them in immediately.

“Boy, do I have an axe to grind with Leah Moore,” she said as she ushered them to sit on her faded floral couches. “That woman used to be my best friend in high school. We did everything together. But she turned out bad.”

“How so?” the sheriff asked, sinking far into the cushions. The cats sniffed around the apartment relentlessly.

“She used to borrow money from me she’d never pay back. Said her ex-husband was tight fisted as anything, never gave her money to spend on their kid. I never liked him. And look what happened—in jail! I saw
that
coming.”

“So Leah had money problems?” Beatrice asked.

“Sure did. She worked part-time at the dollar store downtown but she didn’t make a lot. Tony was dealing drugs, of course. He always had new toys – nice cars, flashy clothes, hunting and fishing trips with his buddies. Leah had to count every penny to pay the bills, buy food, and take care of all the other necessities. He sure was tight-fisted. No wonder she left him. I guess once he was put in the slammer she figured it was safe to come back.”

The sheriff folded his hands. “Has she been in touch with his mother or brother, Rick?”

Ada shrugged and lit a cigarette, her long, fake peach nails highlighted against coarse hands. “Not sure. Don’t think so. She had just as big a beef with them. From what I heard, Tony was giving them money instead of her. I doubt they’d be in touch.”

“Ma’am, this is really important. Leah is under suspicion for extortion and property damage. Do you have any idea where I can find her?”

“With her new boyfriend, of course.” Ada blew out a perfect ring of smoke. “He’s got a camp just out of town on Williams Road. Number 145, if I remember correctly. You go there, be careful. That boyfriend of hers is a real mean snake and they have pit bulls. Three of them.”

17

Williams Road was a go-nowhere county road that snaked through dense spruce amid the mountains. The few higgledy-piggledy houses along it were trailers or tiny cabins.

Beatrice had never driven along this road, though she promised herself she would again—if she survived the day. The twist and turns revealed expansive views of crimson sugar maples and deep blue streams filled with whitecaps from the many rapids.

Not that she had a lot of time to look at the view. Without the help of the cat carrier, Lucky was an emotional mess. He kept yowling and pulling at his leash, probably aware of the great heights they were ascending. Hamish eventually got so frustrated that he swatted him right in the face, which set the black cat cowering on Beatrice’s lap.

“Now what I want to know is, if Leah Moore making money off of Nate, what’s she doing living all the way out here in some shack?” Beatrice said.

They turned off at number 145, with the deputy behind them as back up. After a couple of minutes crawling along the rutted dirt road they got their answer.

“Oh,” the sheriff said as they parked in front of a structure that used to be a trailer and had been lavishly expanded with various extensions and outbuildings. “Well, at least you can see now where your money’s been going, Nate.”

Nathan didn’t look pleased. His face was pinched and worried. Just then the sound of barking erupted as three pit bulls ran out of the forest, gnashing their teeth and salivating, fury in their eyes.

“Anyone have a plan to deal with this?” Matthew asked.

Hamish immediately threw himself at the window and began to claw at it wildly while hissing as if his life depended on it. He then looked pointedly over his shoulder at Lucky, who was still huddled on Beatrice’s lap. The black cat got up reluctantly, positioned himself at the window, and began hissing, his tail inflated to twice its normal size.

The pit bulls drew back from the car, uncertainty in their eyes. Unexpectedly, the sheriff got out of the car, large umbrella in hand, and the deputy followed him.

Hamish threw himself out of the car before Beatrice could snatch him. He went right up into the dogs’ faces, puffed himself up like a blowfish, and began hissing and growling in a way that made him sound more like a little bear than a cat. He swatted the nose of the middle pit bull, drawing blood.

Beatrice grasped Matthew’s arm. “I have to get him! Hammy’s going to get killed out there.”

As Hamish stalked the retreating dogs, Matthew chuckled. “I don’t think so. That big Maine Coon has the situation firmly under control.”

Once the dogs were out of the way, the sheriff and deputy marched towards the main door. They never made it all the way, though—gunshots rang through the air. The two men flattened themselves on the ground and motioned for the rest of them to do the same. Matthew leapt into the back and pulled Beatrice down onto the seat. Nathan trembled on the floor.

“Not another gunfight,” Matthew grumbled. “I thought I’d seen my last one.”

“I’m sorry,” Beatrice whispered. “I really should get back into investigating lost cats and dogs again, shouldn’t I?”

“I’m the one who should be sorry,” Nathan said, his voice shaking. “I got you all into this mess.”

“I’ll put it this way—buy us a round the next time we’re at Johnny’s Place and I’ll call it even, okay?” Matthew replied, trying to put his friend as ease.

More gunfire rang through the air. Beatrice peeked up hesitantly. The sheriff was flattened behind one of Leah’s cars along with the deputy. They fired back sporadically but it was hard to pinpoint the source of the shots.

“We can’t just stay here,” Beatrice said. “They need us.”

Nathan looked at them both for a moment and then pulled a handgun out of his bag. His two friends stared at him in shock.

“Years living in fear makes a man desperate,” he said, shrugging. “I wasn’t sure a baseball bat would cut the mustard anymore.”

“Do you know how to use it?” Matthew asked.

Nathan looked at the gun for a moment. “Sort of. I guess now’s the time to try it out.”

He crept out of the car, then turned around and asked in a low shaky voice: “What do I do?”

“Go around the back,” Beatrice said. “That’s what they do in the movies. Surprise them.”

He considered that. “Do you think your cat will come with me?”

“Hammy is
not
a bodyguard,” Beatrice snapped back. But Nathan was already gone and from what she could see, Hamish was trotting after him. Even worse, Lucky had leapt out after Nathan. Beatrice felt like her heart was going to fall into her stomach.

“Matt, I can’t watch this,” she said, covering her eyes. “I am such a bad cat mom right now.”

Matthew drew his arm around her. “It’s okay, Bee. Those cats are too smart to get themselves in any trouble. Just hold on a moment.”

Well, it was a
long
moment. Gunshots rang out and Beatrice peeked up to see Sheriff Roy kicking down the front door. There were sounds of high-pitched yowling, swearing, a woman screaming, and then, perhaps worst of all, deafening silence.

Beatrice couldn’t take the suspense any longer. She flung open the door and ran helter-skelter towards the house. What she saw inside shocked her. Several of the windows in the dim kitchen had bullet holes, the table and chairs were all knocked over, and what appeared to be Leah and a tattooed man were sitting on the floor.

Nathan was standing next to them, feet planted apart, with the gun pointed squarely at the pair. For once he hadn’t broken out into a sweat. Hamish and Lucky stood on either side of him looking fierce.

As soon as Leah spotted Beatrice she started swearing a blue streak, shaking her finger at her and threatening everything from death to bankruptcy to kidnapping and skinning her cats. Beatrice merely crossed her arms and stared down at her.

“Quit your cussing,” she cut in. “You have nothing to say to me and everything to say to my friend Nate here. We know you’ve been extorting him!”

“Well why not?” yelled the infuriated woman, her pale face in sharp contrast to her purple-black hair. “He has plenty of money to go around. For years Tony squeezed him and never gave a drop to me. My son and I couldn’t even buy toothpaste we were so poor. That man is just giving us what we’re owed.”

BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
4.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

To Charm a Naughty Countess by Theresa Romain
Claimed by Elizabeth Hendricks
Absaroka Ambush by William W. Johnstone
The Reckoning by Len Levinson
The Key by Geraldine O'Hara
Not Yet by Laura Ward