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) (9 page)

BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
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The cutter released her hold on the paper trimmer and lay her head down on the table. “I can’t do this anymore,” she mumbled. “We’ve been working all day.”

“You want more cash to spend, we have to pump out more twenties,” a harsh voice responded.

“And that’ll mean I have to
spend
more twenties. I am so tired of this.” The person sat up straight and glared at her partner. “Already got caught a handful of times. Now folks are threatening to turn me in if I don’t stop giving them fakes. At least no one’s caught me in town. But they will, okay. And I’m going to go to jail. For
you
. Do you even understand that?”

“Quit your moaning,” the other person snapped. “This is for the
both
of us. You think we’re going to get rich off our miserable jobs? This is the only way we’re ever going to have our own house, our own car, vacations to Mexico—whatever we want. Otherwise we are always going to be broke, always going to be losers. You want that?”

“I don’t want to get rich like this. I was stupid, okay? I thought it was going to be a bit of fun. Wasn’t ‘til I got caught that I realized that this all ends in
jail
. I can’t…”

The man stood up and kicked his chair over. He didn’t say anything. He just stood there, hatred in his eyes. His partner recoiled and began fidgeting with the paper cutter, hand shaking.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I lost my head. I’m sorry…”

1

“That’s eighteen dollars change,” Beatrice said, handing over the bills.

Reggie stuffed them into his wallet and smiled at her awkwardly. He came into her café for coffee every morning, even though she knew his mother would have been happy to brew him a cup at home. Reggie had been electrocuted at work when he was younger and had been on disability benefits for decades. His main occupation was as head volunteer at the local church—meaning that he had plenty of time to stop by the Cozy Cat Café.

It was hard to avoid anyone in Ashbrook, a small town of 2000 people in New Hampshire near the White Mountain National Forest. Most of the town’s residents had been born there, gone to school together, and now either worked at the park or in various tourism-related jobs.

Reggie limped out, casting a look over his shoulder as he went. Beatrice sighed as she closed the register. Part of the reason she ran the café was to keep tabs on everyone in town. Yet sometimes, as in the case of Reggie, that plan backfired and made
her
the center of attention.

An insistent meow came from Beatrice’s feet. She smiled, reached down, and groaned as she picked up Hamish, her enormous Maine Coon cat. He meowed again as she kissed his silky head. At sixty-two years old, and with no husband or children, Beatrice Young was free to devote herself to her three passions: her café, her cats, and solving local mysteries.

Hamish was a gorgeous animal with tabby markings, black tufts sticking from the ends of his ears, intelligent golden eyes, and a tan ruff around his neck that made him look like a tiny lion. He was strong and smart to boot and never lost his signature cool.

He was also famous, in Ashbook at least, for his crime-solving skills. With Hamish’s keen sense of smell and uncanny ability to locate missing items, together they had managed to find lost dogs, recover misplaced wallets, and sniff out who had been shoplifting from the local hardware store. Small stuff, but Hamish and Beatrice both enjoyed the task.

She knew that teaming up with her Maine Coon to solve mysteries gave her a reputation as a crazy cat lady. It didn’t help that she had another cat, a black shorthair named Lucky. It didn’t bother Beatrice. She had learned not to care what people thought—it was one of the benefits of being over sixty.

Not that she felt that old. Long walks and home-cooked food had kept her healthy and she still had plenty of energy.

“Reggie after you again?” Zoe asked, coming out of the kitchen. Flour covered her white apron and her shoulder-length dark hair was a mess, as per usual.

Beatrice rolled her eyes at her young assistant and put Hamish back down. “Please don’t remind me,” she said, pushing her long gray hair out of her eyes. “He’s a nice guy but I’m not on the market.”

Zoe sighed. “Dating sucks. Believe me, I know.”

Beatrice struggled not to laugh. Zoe Murphy was all of twenty-three years old. She hadn’t even had a proper boyfriend yet, while Beatrice had already been married and divorced—though that had happened a good forty years earlier.

Speak of the devil. A bell jangled as the heavy wooden front door opened and in came a tall man in his early sixties with a full head of gray hair, a white beard, and bright blue eyes. He was tanned and strong, hallmarks of a life spent outside. In fact, he worked at the nearby national park as a ranger.

He also happened to be Beatrice’s ex-husband.

Matthew Thompson approached the cash with a big smile on his face. He came in for his coffee every morning too and, believe it or not, he and Beatrice were best friends.

They had been high school sweethearts who had married young and divorced in their early twenties. In Beatrice’s opinion, they had been mere kids and too young to get hitched.

Matthew had gone on to remarry and have two children. His wife had died of a sudden brain aneurysm in her early forties. Their grown-up son and daughter lived in the nearby city of Plymouth.

Beatrice unconsciously smoothed her cream knit fisherman’s sweater and smiled as he approached. It always brightened her day to see Matthew. He was a consistent and much-needed source of straightforward opinions, gentle jokes, and best of all—local gossip.

“The usual, Bee,” Matthew said in his deep, warm voice as he approached the counter. “Did Reggie beat me in here?”

Beatrice laughed. “He was here just fifteen minutes ago, wouldn’t you know.”

She spooned in ground beans into the portafilter, tamped the beans down, and then fixed the attachment into the espresso machine. The shiny silver device whirred and clicked, steam flooded out, and the earthy, potent smell of coffee filled the air.

Hamish came from behind the cash and began rubbing up against Matthew’s leg while looking up at him affectionately with his golden eyes. Matthew wasn’t much of a cat person, which was probably why the big Maine Coon paid him so much attention, as some ornery cats tend to do.

“Reggie has a crush on Bee,” Zoe said as she brought in a tray of freshly-baked cranberry and white chocolate scones from the kitchen. Under Beatrice’s guidance, she had become an excellent baker. Too bad Zoe couldn’t be taught to keep her thoughts to herself.

“And the grass is green and the sky is blue,” Matthew said, eyeing Beatrice with amusement.

“Reggie’s harmless,” Beatrice said, tipping the hot espresso into a travel mug . “And at my age I’m lucky to have any admirers at all.”

“Now Bee, you know you’re beautiful,” he replied with a smile. “I married you after all, didn’t I?”

“And divorced me too.”

A tinge of color came into Matthew’s already ruddy cheeks. Beatrice resolutely ignored him as she topped the espresso with boiling water from a carafe.

Zoe looked up from the display case, where she was transferring the scones from the tray with tongs. “That’s not fair, Bee. You told me that you loved each other but you were too young to get married.”

“That’s enough scones for now. Do you mind making another batch of blueberry oat bran muffins?” Beatrice said, a bit more sharply than she intended.

Zoe frowned and then tromped back off into the kitchen, tray held aloft.

“She’s not afraid to speak her mind,” Matthew said, the corner of his mouth curving into a smile.

“I know and I shouldn’t snap at her for it. Zoe’s a wonderful friend, a reliable worker, and an all-round honest person, you know?”

“Maybe too honest?”

“Sometimes.” Beatrice sighed and put Matthew’s travel mug on the counter. “Extra-strong Americano,” she said, fitting the lid back on. “Just the way you like it.”

“Thanks. I don’t know how I’d start my day without one of these things.” His kind blue eyes met hers. “How’re you doing, Bee? You seem a little stressed.”

“I’m alright.” He arched a heavy eyebrow at her. “No really. Just a busy Tuesday morning. Listen, you want to come over for dinner after work? I made a huge pot of stew last night and if you don’t save me I’ll eat the whole thing myself.”

Matthew laughed, a deep, booming sound. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll bring a bottle of red.” He fished in his back pocket for his wallet.

“You put that away,” Beatrice said, crossing her arms, her blue-gray eyes narrowing. “Your money’s no good here.”

“Last time I heard this was a business, not a charity for under-caffeinated park rangers.” Matthew thrust a twenty at her. “Don’t be stubborn, Bee. Heaven knows I’d starve without you feeding me.”

She smiled and reluctantly took the money. Immediately, Hamish jumped up from by Matthew’s feet and landed with a thump on the counter. He took the bill from Beatrice’s fingers with his teeth, put it on the counter, anchored it with his weighty paws, and began sniffing it intently.

Beatrice and Matthew’s eyes widened as they took in this strange sight. “Hamish, don’t be silly,” she said, trying to pull the bill from under his paws. He growled and refused to move.

“It’s Sherlock Hamish in action again,” Matthew joked.

Beatrice glared at him. He was always teasing her about her love of solving local mysteries and her belief that Hamish (and Lucky too, on occasion) knew how to find clues.

“He’s a smart cat, maybe smarter than the both of us put together, so don’t you go putting him down,” she said, tugging harder at the bill. “Enough, Hammy. Let me see.”

The cat reluctantly let the money go. Beatrice peered at it closely and then held it up to the light. “Looks okay. I wonder what’s wrong.”

Matthew took the bill back and rubbed it between his fingers. He then took another bill from his wallet and held it against the other. “The texture is a bit different. Rougher. And look, it’s longer.”

Beatrice leaned forward. “Heavens, you’re right. Do you think it’s a fake?’

He shrugged. “Maybe. I’ve never seen counterfeits around here before.”

An idea came to her. She rummaged around under the cash for the counterfeit detection pen she had bought on a whim months ago but never used. She ran the pen over the bill and immediately a black line appeared.

“It
is
fake,” Beatrice said in wonder.

A line appeared between Matthew’s brows. “Hold onto that bill. And call the sheriff while you’re at it.” He leaned over the cash and kissed her cheek. “I’ll have to pay you later—that’s all I have on me. Have a good one, Bee. I’ll see you tonight.”

He walked out with his coffee. “Get that good Chilean red I like,” she called after him. “And mind it’s not a forgery.”

He paused at the door and winked. “Demanding, aren’t you?”

 

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BOOK: The Extortion Cat-astrophe: A Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mystery (Beatrice Young Cozy Cat Mysteries Book 2)
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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