Catnapped, an Excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Catnapped. I hope this leaves you wanting more:

“It’s okay, Max,” Margaret crooned while leaning forward and placing a hand of comfort on his arm. “We’ll get to the bottom of this. You know we will.”

“What’s going on, Auntie?” Savannah asked quietly.

“We’ll talk about it, later. In fact, you may learn more about human nature before the week is out than you ever wanted to know.” She gave her niece a knowing wink.
smokey2-012 I should have expected there would be more to this visit than playing nursemaid for my aunt, Savannah thought to herself.

“Well, good morning, Lady Layla,” Max said in a sing-song voice as Margaret’s faux golden Persian strolled in, looked around the room, and headed for Max’s shoes.

Rags, who had been lounging nearby, jumped to his paws and greeted her, as well. At least he tried to be cordial. His attempt at rubbing up against her was met with a hiss.
The visiting cat seemed puzzled by Layla’s reaction to his friendly overtures and he sat down, cocked his head, and stared at her, as if contemplating his next move.

Time to intervene, lest we wear out our welcome, Savannah thought. “Auntie, why don’t you two visit? I’ll be down in a minute. I want to hear more about your cats, Max. Come on, Rags.” She motioned for the cat to follow, as if he actually understood. Maybe he did, for he ran after her into the living room and bounded up the stairs ahead of her. When she neared the top of the wide staircase, she noticed that he sat waiting for her on the landing. “Show off,” she said with a laugh. She stared into his quizzical face for a few seconds and then, in a more serious tone, she asked, “Now I want to know, where did you put Auntie Marg’s glasses, you naughty boy?”

As Savannah rounded the corner into her guestroom, Rags leaped onto the bed, walked over to the headboard and stretched up as tall as he could toward the window. She put her hands on her hips and scolded, “Rags, move on. I want to make the bed.”
He responded by jumping in the middle of the bed, rolling onto his side, grabbing a wad of the sheet between his front paws, and kicking at it playfully. Savannah wanted to be annoyed, but couldn’t help laughing at his antics. She picked up the pencil she’d used to work a crossword puzzle the night before and tossed it on the floor. Just as she thought he would, the frisky cat dove off the bed after it. She took that opportunity to pull the blankets up and cover them with the handmade quilt that had adorned the spare rooms in Aunt Marg’s homes for years. Savannah had lost track of who made the now slightly faded patchwork quilt—a great-grand or great-aunt somebody. But she remembered having seen it in every house her aunt had lived in since Savannah was old enough to notice the intricate design of the pretty pastel-print fabrics. In fact, the pattern became imprinted in her memory the summer old Jed Forster died in a barn fire on the property.

The Brannon siblings and their families had all converged on Tom and Margaret’s home for a weeklong stay. Savannah had just turned eleven; her sister Brianna was nine. The two girls shared this room with their twin girl cousins Melanie and Roxy, while the boy cousins slept on the screened-in porch. Each set of parents had their own rooms. Since Savannah was the oldest of the children, she got her own bed. The others shared beds and used sleeping bags. At that time, Savannah was devouring Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mystery books. She was practically addicted to suspense and anything mysterious. And she had a rather morbid curiosity about the details of her great-uncle’s demise. She took every opportunity that week to listen when the adults spoke about the details of the deadly fire that had occurred a month or so earlier. One detail she wishes to this day she hadn’t heard was the speculation and possibility that someone had set the fire on purpose and killed the old man.

That was her first lesson in the dangers of eavesdropping. Yes, she remembered the quilt. I could probably describe every inch of it if I had to in a court of law, after lying awake staring at it every night that week afraid that the murderer would come back and burn me alive inside this big, old wood-frame house, she thought. I wonder what ever happened to the clue we found the day we were digging around out there in the fire area. We should have told someone about it, but we didn’t want to get into trouble for going near the burned-down barn. It was off-limits to us kids, and way too tempting for a junior sleuth like me to ignore.

As Savannah pulled a soft blue tee shirt and a pair of her comfiest jeans out of the suitcase, she remembered something else. Her two boy cousins, Jake and Jimmy, hid the clue the day they all left for home. Oh my gosh, I remember where they hid it. Could it still be there?

Her thoughts were interrupted by her aunt’s voice over the room-to-room intercom. “Savannah, your coffee’s getting cold and Layla is hungry.”

“I’ll be right down,” Savannah called into the speaker. I should unpack and hang up my clothes, she considered. And then, Later, she decided. I want to hear more about Max’s cats. She stopped, a thoughtful look crossing her face. And what did Auntie mean about getting to the bottom of it? The bottom of what? It’s obviously something about cats…and human nature. Max and Aunt Marg seem so concerned. What could be going on?

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