Authors: Lisa Orchard
by Lisa Orchard
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
THE SUPER SPIES AND THE CAT LADY KILLER
Copyright Â© 2012 LISA ORCHARD
Cover Art Designed by Elaina Lee
Edited by Laura Heritage
This book is dedicated to my wonderful husband Steve, and two boys Kyle and Ethan.
To my family and friends who encouraged me and read my first drafts of this book and offered suggestions.
“Do you know who that was?”
Sarah Cole whirled around and spied a tall, skinny girl standing a few feet behind her. “Are you talking to me?” Shading her eyes, Sarah cocked her head to get a better look at the girl.
The skinny girl nodded, her mop of wild curls dancing with her movements. “Yeah, do you know who she is?”
Sarah gazed down the street at the wizened old woman shuffling away. She wore a faded housedress, which appeared to have been slept in for at least a couple of nights. It looked like the wrinkles had wrinkles.
The woman's hair was a listless gray, trapped in a feeble bun at the nape of her neck. Some of it had escaped and trailed behind her as she walked, the limp strands swaying with the old woman's faltering steps. Minutes ago, Sarah had helped her with her cartâit had gotten stuck on the doorjamb as she left the corner drug store.
Pulling her honey colored hair out of her eyes, Sarah spun and studied the skinny girl, not quite sure what to make of her. “No, I don't.”
Sarah continued her scrutiny and noticed the skinny girl stood at least five inches taller than she did. Her curly hair burst from her scalp in a frantic frenzy. She looks like an exploded cotton swab.
Pursing her lips, Sarah suppressed a bubble of laughter.
“She's the Cat Lady,” the bony girl said, an expression of guarded curiosity mixed with fear on her face.
“Who's the Cat Lady?”
The skinny girl pointed at the old woman shuffling away. “She's a crazy lady. A witch.”
“A witch?” Sarah scoffed. “I don't believe in witches.”
“It's true,” the skinny girl whispered emphatically. She stared at Sarah, her dark eyes reflecting the conviction behind her words.
“I don't believe you.”
“No one has seen her in years. She never leaves her home.” The skinny girl glanced toward the Cat Lady again, and then walked closer to Sarah.
Realizing the skinny girl was scared, Sarah glanced down the street a second time. She watched the hunched, old woman make her painful shuffle down the sidewalk. The Cat Lady didn't look dangerous to Sarah. She appeared to be a weary old lady making her way home.
“There's no such thing as witches,” Sarah said.
“She's a witch, an evil witch,” the scrawny girl insisted. She nodded her head again, sending her dark curls into another wild dance.
Sarah glanced down the street a third time and watched the old woman limp away. She didn't look like she had the strength to pull her cart, let alone perform black magic.
“How do you know? Does she practice voodoo or something?” Sarah smirked at the skinny girl, realizing she had a flair for the theatrical. “And if she never leaves her homeâ¦why is she out on the street now?”
The girl opened her mouth to speak, and then shut it again as if she realized Sarah had a point. “Wellâ¦the delivery boy must have quit.” She pulled on a wayward curl and frowned. “Because there's no way she leaves her home. I haven't seen her in years.”
“Uh huh,” Sarah said, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips.
The skinny girl must have seen the doubt in Sarah's expression, because she crossed her arms over her bony chest and moved another step closer. “Just let me tell you the whole story; I'm sure you'll change your mind. My name's Jacqueline Jenkins.” She drew out the syllables emphasizing her name like a movie star or the Queen of England, JAAAQUELEENE JEEENKIINS. Jutting out her hip, she faced Sarah as if she were posing for a magazine. “What's yours?”
Speaking through tight lips, Sarah was able to stifle another bubble of laughter.
“You can call me Jackie, though. That's what my friends call me.” She studied Sarah for a moment. “You're new in town, aren't you?”
“Yeah. We're staying with my aunt and uncle while my parents are on vacation.”
“Me and my sister, Lacey.” Sarah scrutinized her surroundings. “Is this the whole town of Harrisburg?”
“Yep, this is it,” Jackie said. She opened her arms wide as if she were presenting the town to her.
Sarah stifled another giggle.
She looks like Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune.
“Where are you from?”
Sarah cleared her throat and sighed. She wasn't looking forward to being stuck in this podunk town for the summer. Looking down the street, she realized there were only two traffic lights in the tiny burg.
“We're from Walker, you know, the big city.” Sarah held up her hands and formed quotes with her fingers when she said the words âbig city'. “Do you guys have a bookstore?”
“Nope, but we do have a library.” Jackie pointed to a weathered, old building standing on the corner. “But no one goes there this time of year.”
“Why not?” Sarah's spirits sank even lower as she realized she wouldn't be able to buy her True Crime novels.
“Because, it's summer, silly.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Oh, I thought you were going to say it was haunted by the Cat Lady.”
Jackie cracked a wide grin. “Nope, she never comes out of her house.”
“Except for today.” Sarah shot Jackie a skeptical look.
“Once I tell you the whole story, you'll be a believer.” Jackie hooked her arm through Sarah's. “Good thing you ran into me, otherwise you would have gone the whole summer without this knowledge. Come on, let's follow her home.”
Sarah chewed on her thumbnail. “I don't knowâ.”
Jackie pulled on her arm. “Come onâ¦she's a legend in this town. Don't you want to see her house? People have gone inâ¦and never come out.” Jackie's eyes darkened with the mystery and her voice dropped for emphasis.
Sarah continued chewing on her nail; she thought about her options and realized she didn't have many. She could go home and hang out with her younger sister,
, or check out the
crazy Cat Lady's house.
Sarah's inquisitive nature got the better of her and she pulled her thumb out of her mouth. “Okay, let's go.”
Jackie beamed and pulled Sarah down the sidewalk. “So, what grade are you in?”
“Hey, me too.” Jackie put her arm around Sarah.
The girls trailed the crazy lady, staying a good block behind her. As they walked Jackie filled her in on the Cat Lady legend. According to Jackie, at least three people had mysteriously disappeared from the town of Harrisburg, all of them victims of the Cat Lady curse. Sarah couldn't help but be drawn in by the stories. There was the former grocery delivery boy, Gus, who delivered her groceries and never returned to the store. The next victim was the good doctor, who used to do house calls until he disappeared inside her house, and then last but not least, old lady Farnsworth who was discovered dead after a dispute with the Cat Lady.
Listening to her new friend drone on, Sarah watched the infamous woman wind her way home. She couldn't help but notice how frail she appeared as she shuffled down the street. The poor woman didn't look strong enough to make anyone disappear, let alone cause the death of a grouchy old lady.
The air was thick with humidity. Sweat formed on Sarah's brow as she rounded the corner toward the Cat Lady's place. Sighing, she wiped it away.
How much farther do we have to go?
Glancing at the huge oak trees lining the sidewalk, Sarah realized this was an old part of town just because the trees were so big. Sunlight dappled the walkway, leaving dark shadows as it forced its light between the leaves. No one roamed the streets; Sarah thought this was odd and her heart picked up its pace.
Jackie's stories are getting to me.
“Okay,” Jackie whispered, clutching Sarah's arm. “We're almost there.” Jackie stopped and cast a skittish glance around her. “Let's cross the street.”
Strolling across the street, Jackie tried to appear casual by swinging her arms and whistling, but Sarah knew she was faking it.
Sarah stopped her when they reached the opposite sidewalk. “Okay, what are we going to do?”
“We're going to watch her.”
Jackie pulled on one of her curls. “Yeah, see if she does anything...you knowâ¦witchy.”
Sarah furrowed her brow. “Won't she see us?”
“Trust me.” Jackie winked.
Sarah followed her new friend to an old church, reaching it just after the Cat Lady disappeared inside her home. They scurried behind an old oak tree growing on the church's lawn. With a thudding heart, Sarah hugged the tree.
These stories are definitely getting to me
. Feeling the rough bark of the tree calmed her. She was hidden and this made her feel safe.
After all, what could happen in broad daylight?
Peeking out from behind the tree, Sarah stared at the house. It sat in the middle of the block on Jefferson Street in a state of disrepair. Ancient gutters sagged at one end, and it needed a fresh coat of paint. The front porch ran the full length of the structure, settling on the south side. It reminded
Sarah of a drooping smile, the kind of smile she might get from someone whose mouth had been shot full of novocaine. Dirty windows, which resembled sinister eyes, peered at the girls with their unblinking stare. A chill ran down Sarah's spine.
It's like the house knows we're here.
She noticed the grass hadn't been mowed in weeks and the house appeared abandoned. Cats dawdled on the stoop, the only signs of life around the place.
“Go up on the porch,” Jackie urged.
Sarah raised her eyebrow and smirked. “You go up on the porch.”
Jackie shook her head. “No way.”
“Are you scared?” Sa
rah teased, grinning at her.
“Absolutely. I could go up on her porch and never be seen again.” Jackie's solemn expression told Sarah she believed her own words.
The girls watched the house, waiting for a glimpse of the infamous witch. After what seemed like hours, there was still no sign of her.
Sighing, Sarah fidgeted. She was antsy, her legs cramping from staying in one position for so long. “Let's go,” she said, doing a deep knee bend. “I've got to get home. My aunt and uncle will wonder where I am.”
“Okay, we can come back tomorrow.”
Just as the girls were about to leave, three rough looking boys swooped down the street on their bikes. Jackie grabbed Sarah's arm and pulled her back behind the oak.
“It's the Wykowski boys.”
Sarah didn't move. She had no idea who the boys were, but from Jackie's reaction she figured they were trouble.
“These guys are total creeps,” Jackie whispered as she peered out from behind the tree.
Sarah hoped they would ride past them and be on their way. Much to her dismay, they slowed and began circling in front of the Cat Lady's house. She groaned.
We're never getting out of here.
The three boys stopped circling and Sarah poked her head out to see what was happening. They were in the middle of the street whispering to each other.
Jackie pointed at a tall boy with dark, shaggy hair. “That's Tim. He's like the leader.”
Suddenly, Tim yelled at the house. “Hey! Cat Lady! Do you eat cat food with all your cats?”
The boys hooted with wicked laughter and then grew quiet. Sarah could tell they were waiting for a reaction from the withered old woman. When one didn't come they took up their screams once again, yelling for the Cat Lady to come out on her porch.
After several minutes of ranting and getting no response the boys produced three huge, overripe tomatoes. They glanced up and down the street, and then hurled the tomatoes at the house. A couple of them hit with a loud splat, smearing red pulp all over the dingy siding. Sarah's heart skipped a beat.
This will definitely get the Cat Lady out of her house.
The rowdy boys took off on their bikes, laughing at their prank. Tim, the shaggy haired boy, rode ahead of the other two and jumped the curb, as if by coming closer to the house he dared the Cat Lady to come out. Glancing back he laughed, a
nd the two other boys joined in
. He didn't pay attention to where he was going and Sarah watched as he smacked right into a stop sign.
Yelping, he fell in a heap and his brothers stopped to help him. They weren't laughing now. Climbing back on their bikes, the boys took off down the road.
Sarah noticed Tim glanced back at the house, his expression filled with a mixture of fear and bewilderment.
“See, I told you she was a witch,” Jackie whispered.
“That kid ran into the stop sign all by himself,” Sarah scoffed.
“No way. He's lived in this town all his life. He knew the stop sign was there. It was the curse of the Cat Lady.”
“Whatever.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “I have to get home.”