30 days from today I’ll be nervous. I’ll be practicing reading, testing out different chapters to see which has the most appeal. I’ll be choosing which dress to wear and hoping it doesn’t rain. I’ll be worrying about finding a parking place in the busy Mississippi neighborhood.
I’ll be lugging a suitcase full of shiny new books up a long flight of wooden stairs and spreading them out on a table, admiring their colorful Leslie Cobb covers. I’ll help Elisa set out the champagne and sparkling cider, cat-print cupcakes on a plate. (Hopefully) People will come and I’ll greet them. And finally, I’ll introduce my new book, Cat Call, into the reading world.
“When a friend suffers a bizarre accident on the set of a television pilot, Lynley takes over as cat handler, only to find out the show is “hexed” and murder is waiting in the wings.”
If you are in the Portland area on October 26th, I hope you can stop by. If not, Cat Call will be available from Amazon both for Kindle and in print on that day. In the meantime, this is how it begins:
CAT CALL, Chapter 1
The message contained only three intelligible words: Call… Cat… Help! Interspersed was a garbled squawking that I recognized as the voice of my friend, Rhonda Kane. She sounded drunk, terrified, or both, blithering away like the Simpson’s crazy cat lady, which was ironic because usually I’m the lady considered crazy for cats. I have eight cats; Rhonda has only two, though hers happen to be movie stars.
My name is Lynley Cannon, and I’ll be the first to admit, eight is a lot of cats, but they are all well cared for and healthy. I have to take out a second mortgage on my Old Portland home when it’s time for their dentals, but that’s part of the deal. I love them dearly and they love me, each in his or her own catly way.
It began innocently enough with Dirty Harry. After life as a street stray, Harry was territorial, and I just assumed he wouldn’t tolerate a second cat encroaching on his space. As a shelter volunteer, I’d often heard statements like Missy won’t stand for another cat in the house, or Tom doesn’t get along with other kitties, or I’d love to have a kitten but Spot would throw a hissy-fit—he needs to be the only one, you know. I believed it for the longest time; then I got my little sweetheart, Little.
Granted, it took a while for Harry to get off his high horse and accept he could still be king, but I’ll never forget the first moment I saw them playing together. There was such joy in their antics. It took time but they became friends and now that Harry has hit his senior years, Little warms and grooms him like a sister. I don’t know what he would do without her.
The adoption of Little opened the gate to multiple cats. Next came Big Red, the orange tabby male who moved in on my side porch, then Solo, ghost-white, deaf, and totally reclusive, from a needy friend. Violet arrived sometime later, all twenty-two pounds of her, and then sweet Tinkerbelle. I rescued Mab, the Siamese kitten, from a disreputable breeder, and picked up Emilio when I was on an art retreat at the famous—and infamous—Cloverleaf Animal Sanctuary. So far, all good.
As a retiree in my sixtieth year, I have time for the cats. I have time for anything I please and manage to fill the hours with love and good works, volunteering, family, and friends. I was born for retirement and thank God every day I didn’t wait until I was sixty five—or seventy!—to take it.
But back to the voicemail message. I hadn’t seen Rhonda Kane for quite some time. We’d met at a feline behavior lecture series, and though she was nearly a decade younger than me, we immediately bonded. Ours was one of those friendships that just picks up where it left off, whether it’s been a week or a year. This time it was closer to the year.
Rhonda had continued the behavior training and become one of Portland’s only working cat handlers. With the Northwest’s budding film and television industry, it was turning out to be a rewarding if not lucrative pursuit. Her highly trained pair of actor-cats had starred in a few commercials, held a small but reoccurring role in the IFC production, Portlandia, and had even hit the big time once in an episode of Grimm. Since Clark Gable and Cary Grant were identical neutered males, they often played one part interchangeably.
Cat handling was meticulous work and Rhonda was the best, which was why the crazy communication was such a surprise and, yes, a shock. I recognize the sound of panic when I hear it. Something was very wrong with Rhonda Kane.
I’d just finished a shift at Friends of Felines cat shelter where I spent a big chunk of my time playing with cats and helping to keep them happy during their scary interim between homes. Without thought, I sank down on the bench in the volunteer locker room and hit redial. I held my breath as I waited for her to answer. One ring, three, seven. Just when I was sure it was going to cut off and give me the generic computer-generated click-Rhonda-click is not available at this time, she picked up.
“Lynley!” she gasped. “Thank goodness you called back.”
“Rhonda, what’s the matter? What’s happened?”
“Oh, Lynley!” She was crying now. “It’s so awful! You’ve got to help. You’ve got to… I don’t know. Come, quick as you can…” The voice wavered and threatened to devolve into crazy-cat-lady-speak again.
“Rhonda, hold on,” I commanded. “Just take your time and tell me what’s going on. Of course I’ll help, but first I have to know what’s up. Are you hurt? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Worse!” she hissed in a harsh whisper. “It’s Cary Grant!” Through the phone I heard her gulp. “He’s gone!”